N. Cascades Hwy. opens for the summer, regional road construction projects continue

Apr. 19—WINTHROP — In one of those signs that spring really is coming, the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) will open for travel today.

The gates at either end of the 33-mile section will swing open at 10 a.m., according to a press release from the Washington Department of Transportation.

"This section of SR 20 from milepost 134 to 171 closes every winter due to safety and access concerns," the press release said. "The road closed for the winter Nov. 30; spring cleaning began March 25."

The North Cross-state, as it's sometimes called, is the northernmost east-west route over the Cascades. It's far enough north that it's still a little wintry up there, and travelers should be prepared for possible snow and ice, the press release said. In addition, many of the National Parks Service and U.S. Forest Service facilities haven't opened for the summer yet.

"(Department of Transportation) crews will clear the road and shoulder and any pullout areas needed for maintenance work, but otherwise there are few facilities open and no cell service through the mountain passes." the press release said.

Even though it's mid-April there is still the potential for avalanches along the North Cascades, the release said, and people should take that into account when making the trip.

Construction work is already in full swing down in the valleys, and — at least along State Route 17 between the Lake Lenore Caves and the Soap Lake city limits — has been since mid-February. A project to stabilize the rock slope along the 10-mile section of SR 17 is expected to continue through September or October.

Single-lane traffic is being allowed through the construction zone during working hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Sebastian Moraga, WSDOT public information, said the current schedule will be in effect until further notice.

Drivers are stopped for 20 minutes, traffic is let through in one direction, then the other direction, then traffic is stopped for 20 minutes. Loads more than 12 feet wide are prohibited in the construction zone during work hours. There are no traffic restrictions before and after work hours.

There are alternate north-south routes between Soap Lake and Coulee City, but the DOT does not have a designated detour.

State Route 17 also is getting some upgrades through Moses Lake, with road resurfacing along SR 17 in the four-lane section where it runs through the city limits. It's a night job, with crews working from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The top couple of inches of asphalt will be removed and replaced and upgraded pedestrian ramps are being added at intersections along the seven-mile stretch of road. The project started April 1, and replacing the ramps is the first step. The on-ramps and off-ramps at Stratford Road also will be resurfaced during the project. Detours will be in place when that part of the project starts, said Jeff Deal, WSDOT lead engineer on the project. Drivers can expect closures of the right lane, shoulder and pedestrian crossings, according to the DOT's website.

Completion of a project to widen Road 9 Northwest between Road E Northwest and Dodson Road has been pushed back to May 1, according to information from Grant County Public Works. Rebuilding and widening the road also required a new bridge, according to the public works website. Local traffic is allowed on Road 9 Northwest.

Work continues on the installation of a new pedestrian crosswalk along South Daisy Street and Third Avenue Southwest in Soap Lake. Completion is scheduled for about May 10.

South Daisy Street is SR 17 where the road passes through the city limits. The upgraded pedestrian crossing is designed to improve safety for people walking across the street, said city consulting engineer Michael Woodkey in a presentation to the Soap Lake City Council in February.

Soap Lake Mayor Allan DuPuy said sidewalks are being replaced on the east side of Daisy Street between First and Third avenues as part of the project. Upgraded curbs, gutters and pedestrian ramps also are part of the project. The total project cost is about $282,000.

The first year of four years of work on the Vantage Bridge is underway and will be ongoing through the fall. The bridge deck is in poor condition and is being replaced with new concrete panels. The work requires closing one lane in each direction over the bridge and reducing the speed limit to 40 miles per hour in the open lane through the construction zone during work hours. Loads more than 10 feet wide are prohibited.

The traffic restrictions will be in effect from 5 a.m. Monday through 8 p.m. Friday until the end of May, when construction crews will start working seven days per week. Both lanes will be open the week of July 1 through 8 and for Labor Day weekend. But the one-lane restrictions will be in effect for all other summer weekends, including scheduled concerts at the Gorge Amphitheater.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.