State crews have worked on opposite ends of the 37-mile closed off section of road since March 26th and finally met near Rainey Pass on Monday, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The state closes the North Cascades Highway, also known as Highway 20, every winter when snow conditions, weather and avalanche danger threaten the safety of drivers and maintenance crew. The highway provides travelers another route across the Cascades, reconnects US Bike Route 10 between eastern and western Washington, and improves access to North Cascades National Park.
Clearing the snow typically takes four to six weeks, according to Jeff Adamson, a WSDOT spokesman. This year it took seven weeks, and the crew got to work about a week earlier than it did last year. Soft snow and risky avalanche conditions were what took the snow clearing so long this year.
Starting today, an avalanche team will be clearing any remaining snow from above the roadway. Additional work will include cleaning ditches of debris, reinstalling signs and guardrail and clearing snow from turnouts all before the gates to the highway open later this week.
The gates will be opening up in time for this weekend’s ’49er Days in Winthrop. The highway will remain open until around Thanksgiving when avalanche dangers cause its closure during the winter months.