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

FILE - A sign hangs at a Taco Bell on May 23, 2014, in Mount Lebanon, Pa. Declaring a mission to liberate "Taco Tuesday" for all, Taco Bell asked U.S. regulators Tuesday, May 16, 2023, to force Wyoming-based Taco John's to abandon its longstanding claim to the trademark. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Hepatitis A confirmed in Taco Bell worker in Everett, Lake Stevens

The health department sent out a public alert for diners at two Taco Bells on May 22 or 23.

VOLLI’s Director of Food & Beverage Kevin Aiello outside of the business on Friday, May 19, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Coming soon to Marysville: indoor pickleball, games, drinks

“We’re very confident this will be not just a hit, but a smash hit,” says co-owner Allan Jones, who is in the fun industry.

Detectives: Unresponsive baby was exposed to fentanyl at Everett hotel

An 11-month-old boy lost consciousness Tuesday afternoon. Later, the infant and a twin sibling both tested positive for fentanyl.

Cassie Franklin (left) and Nick Harper (right)
Report: No wrongdoing in Everett mayor’s romance with deputy mayor

An attorney hired by the city found no misuse of public funds. Texts between the two last year, however, were not saved on their personal phones.

Firearm discovered by TSA officers at Paine Field Thursday morning, May 11, 2023, during routine X-ray screening at the security checkpoint. (Transportation Security Administration)
3 guns caught by TSA at Paine Field this month — all loaded

Simple travel advice: Unpack before you pack to make sure there’s not a gun in your carry-on.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
To beat the rush this Memorial Day weekend, go early or late

AAA projects busy airports, ferries and roads over the holiday weekend this year, though still below pre-pandemic counts.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Troopers: DUI crash leaves 1 in critical condition in Maltby

A drunken driver, 34, was arrested after her pickup rear-ended another truck late Tuesday, injuring a Snohomish man, 28.

Housing Hope CEO Donna Moulton raises her hand in celebration of the groundbreaking of the Housing Hope Madrona Highlands on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$30M affordable housing project to start construction soon in Edmonds

Once built, dozens of families who are either homeless or in poverty will move in and receive social and work services.

A south-facing view of the proposed site for a new mental health facility on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, near 300th Street NW and 80th Avenue NW north of Stanwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
County Council OK’s Stanwood behavioral health center

After an unsuccessful appeal to block it, the Tulalip Tribes are now on the cusp of building the 32-bed center in farmland.

Most Read