Washington’s State Route 20, the North Cascades Highway, was reopened to traffic again Thursday after crews cleaned up after the latest mudslide.
Blasting rock on highway; WSDOT photo
The process was slowed by bicyclists and hikers who took advantage of the road closure to enjoy the majestic scenery without having to deal with car traffic, reported the state Department of Transportation.
“Blasting and other clearing work was interrupted several times each day by bicyclists and hikers who assumed the closure only applied to motor vehicles. Travelers are encouraged to remember that, for their safety and that of WSDOT crewmembers, emergency highway closures apply to everyone.”
It’s hard to blame bicyclists for using the opportunity of the closure to visit the road. The North Cascade Highway is one of the most scenic in the state, as it crosses several passes through the Cascades. It would be even more awe-inspiring without having to worry about traffic.
It also carries several bike routes popular with traveling bicyclists. The Northern Tier Bicycle Route, for instance, uses the highway as it crosses the US between Anacortes, Washington, and Bar Harbor, Maine.
With the highway closed, the detour for the Northern Tier Bicycle Route adds another 60-some miles to the remote route. Given the terrain that adds at least a day of travel time. Adventure Cycling Association’s Washington Parks and Sierra Cascade bicycle routes also use State Route 20.
The highway closed Friday morning after torrential rains caused mud slides. It was the second time this summer that the road was closed.
A crew of 18 worked through the daylight hours to clear the mud, boulders, trees and other debris that ended up on the highway.
The stretch between Rainy Pass and Granite Creek posed the biggest problem, where six slides as deep as 6 feet had to be removed. Several boulders were too big to be moved and had to be blasted.
We should all be grateful for the great job these highway crews perform to keep the highway open. It will close in a couple of months when high-country snowfalls begin to accumulate. In the spring, the crews return to plow through drifts more than 10 feet high.