Parts of the Mountain Loop Highway are paved and parts are gravel. (Federal Lands Highway, WSDOT)

Parts of the Mountain Loop Highway are paved and parts are gravel. (Federal Lands Highway, WSDOT)

Study to pave Mountain Loop heads to county, forest service

The two agencies now get to decide on the options and how to move forward with funding.

GRANITE FALLS — Nearly two years ago researchers started to look into paving parts of the Mountain Loop Highway, a byway that meanders through the wilderness between two mountain towns.

Now the study is complete.

In 2016, Snohomish County and the U.S. Forest Service received a $500,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to complete the Mountain Loop Highway Feasibility Study.

Soon after researchers began to look at nearly 40 miles of the road, with a focus on the 14-mile unpaved section.

The findings were presented during meetings last week in Darrington and Granite Falls. In all, more than 60 people attended the two sessions.

They learned about four different options, with a wide range of prices.

To maintain the gravel roads as-is would cost about $112,000 each year. The most expensive option, to completely pave and almost double the width of the roadway, could reach an estimated $70 million.

While the highway administration didn’t make any recommendations, project manager Jeff Key gave his opinion during the Granite Falls meeting Wednesday. He’s president of the civil engineering firm Robert Peccia & Associates.

The most extreme option would be to completely reconstruct the roadway and bring the speed limit up to about 40 mph.

Key doesn’t think that idea should move forward.

“I personally feel that leaving it exactly the way it is should drop off, too,” he said.

Currently the roadway is 16 to 22 feet wide and does not drain water very well, leaving potholes all over the road. It’s only comfortable to drive about 20 mph in that area.

Next, the county and forest service have to work together to choose what the highway could look like and then find funding.

They could request the same grant that paid for the study, called the Washington Federal Lands Access Program. Applications are due in May.

That may be a possibility, said Steve Dickson, the county’s transportation and environmental services director.

“It’s going to take some time for the county to review the recommendations and discuss with the forest service what the options are, get input from our county elected officials and reach some decisions,” he said.

For decades there have been talks about paving the Mountain Loop.

Some have said that a smoother path would bring in more tourism dollars to small towns near the route, and that it would be another point for emergency access.

That issue generated a lot of discussion after the 2014 Oso mudslide, when the closure of Highway 530 forced many drivers to and from Darrington to detour through Skagit County.

Others have been worried about negative effects the work could have on the forest. There are also concerns with natural hazards along the highway, such as slides, that could make construction and maintenance difficult.

The finished study is expected to be handed over to the county and Forest Service by the end of the month.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192;; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

Talk to us

More in Local News

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
‘White saviorhood’: Mukilteo schools end ‘Mockingbird’ requirement

The book is not banned in the school district. The last book brought before the school board was by Maya Angelou.

Jesse Spitzer (Snohomish County Sheriff's Office)
Wanted man fled from Gold Bar to Idaho, police say

Jesse Spitzer, 30, who has a history of violence against officers, is wanted for felonies in two states.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Guv will testify; a dinosaur is revived; GOP is resurgent

Here’s what’s happening on Day 17 of the 2022 session of the Washington Legislature.

Police looking for Mukilteo bank robber, seeking tips

The man appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s, white, slender, about 5-foot-8, with dark blond hair.

Police: Marysville Pilchuck student arrested for wielding knife

Neither of the students involved in the Wednesday morning fight was injured, police reported.

Registered nurse Estella Wilmarth tends to a patient in the acute care unit of Harborview Medical Center, Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, in Seattle. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is deploying 100 members of the state National Guard to hospitals across the state amid staff shortages due to an omicron-fueled spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Inslee announced Thursday that teams will be deployed to assist four overcrowded emergency departments at hospitals in Everett, Yakima, Wenatchee and Spokane, and that testing teams will be based at hospitals in Olympia, Richland, Seattle and Tacoma. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Past the omicron peak? Snohomish County’s COVID cases declining

Hospitalizations are still a concern, however, and infections in Eastern Washington and Idaho could have ripple effects here.

A map of city council districts and districting commission nominees put forth by the Everett City Council and mayor. (City of Everett)
Everett council, mayor pick districting commission nominees

Only one returns from the previous commission, while another is a former city council member.

Funko mascots Freddy Funko roll past on a conveyor belt in the Pop! Factory of the company's new flagship store on Aug. 18, 2017.  (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Despite Arizona move, Everett leaders expect Funko HQ to stay

The toymaker is closing Everett warehouses. But a recent “HQ2” expansion has the city confident Funko will remain rooted here.

Lynnwood Public Works employees on the snow plow crew sit in front of one of the city's two plows that will be named based on results of an online public vote. (City of Lynnwood)
Lynnwood snow plow names: Snowbi Wan Kenobi, Plowy McPlowface

They got the two highest votes in an online public survey by Lynnwood Public Works.

Most Read