Local access to Darrington provided via former maintenance road

A map of the Seattle City Light maintenance road
A map of the Seattle City Light maintenance road's access around State Route 530.
— image credit: Courtesy graphic.

DARRINGTON — The Washington State Department of Transportation recognized the need for another route in and out of Darrington, so after five weeks of slide detours that added multiple hours and hundreds of miles to motorists’ commutes, WSDOT opened the Seattle City Light Access Road to local and emergency traffic starting at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, April 29, to bypass the section of State Route 530 still blocked by the slide.

WSDOT secured agreements with underlying property owners and Seattle City Light to ensure the route’s availability for use as a local emergency bypass for residents cut off by the March 22 Oso slide.

“From the very beginning, Seattle City Light has worked with emergency responders, to assist however it could,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said. “This agreement continues that support for community recovery efforts, by providing a vital transportation link, so residents can get to work and school, and businesses can make deliveries.”

Similar to the Mountain Loop Highway, this is a one-lane gravel road, and before it was opened to the public, Granite Construction was hired to maintain and operate the roadway for the next six months.

Granite Construction was the low bidder, selected for the $3.384 million contract. Emergency funds from the Federal Highway Administration will cover the cost of this temporary road, until traffic is restored on State Route 530.

This road will be open for local traffic only.

Pilot cars will guide drivers through the route.

Drivers will be escorted through, westbound at the top of the hour, and eastbound on the half-hour, around the clock.

The speed limit is 10 miles per hour.

Drivers will not be allowed to stop or pull over along the road.

No trailers or vehicles weighing more than 15,000 pounds are permitted.

Logging trucks will be allowed on the road from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Washington State Patrol troopers and private security staff will assist in escorting vehicles on the route.

Make sure you arrive early. Once the pilot vehicles have left, you will need to wait about an hour.

Trips through the local access road are averaging between 15-20 minutes, but those times could increase if non-local traffic begins using the route for recreational trips.

“Everyone needs to do their part to keep this critical lifeline open to the local community during the reconstruction of SR 530,” WSDOT Chief Construction Engineer Linea Laird said. “The temporary bypass will not carry high volumes, and that’s why we are asking drivers who don’t have local community ties, or local business interests, to use State Route 20 to detour around the slide zone.”

WSDOT is expected to award a contract for the clearing of material from State Route 530 within the week to come. The low bid contractor will be required to follow the removal plan developed by WSDOT and Snohomish County. This plan is designed to ensure the proper care and respectful recovery of any human remains, possessions or hazardous materials discovered while the roadway is cleared and reopened rapidly in an environmentally responsible manner. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover the majority of costs for this project, which should take about a month to complete.

In addition, WSDOT has compiled a short list of teams for the design-build contract to construct a permanent raised alignment of State Route 530 east of Oso. This list includes:

  • Guy F. Atkinson Construction.
  • Granite Construction.
  • Parson/Kuney, a joint venture.
  • Skanska-Scarsella, a joint venture.

WSDOT will determine the best-value proposal by the end of May, with the notice to proceed issued by early June. Completion is scheduled for early October. Funding for this portion will be paid for by the Federal Highway Administration.

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