Rebuilding the road that reconnects Oso, Darrington and Arlington begins with the people most affected by its absence. Together with Snohomish County, we have been working with those who lost loved ones and the communities and tribes affected to shape our plans for short-term access to and from Darrington and the clearing and rebuilding State Route 530.
Over the past several weeks, we’ve met with families, communities and tribes to listen to their priorities, concerns, comments and questions so that we could use that information to help us move forward. Based on those conversations, we were able to work with our partners at Seattle City Light to open the access road with a plan that fits within the needs of the community, such as daytime access for logging trucks, and around the clock availability for commuters. This short-term solution is a start. For many, this road is one small step back to a new normal.
Last night, we returned to Darrington to follow-up with the community as more work remains to fully reconnect Darrington in the long term.
Snohomish County updates
Snohomish County, in partnership with local geology experts, continues to monitor the slide area. Small pieces of the hill near the edges of the slide continue to slough off, which is expected. In addition, crews expect to complete their widening of the pilot channel for the river today, April 30. The new channel ranges in width from 60 to 80 feet. County engineers and river experts are studying at what the river will do this fall during high water flows, and how the slide has and will continue to affect fish runs.
The Seattle City Light Access road is open to LOCALS or those with business ties to local communities
Many folks are already seeing their commute times drop significantly now the emergency bypass road is open. We heard a number of suggestions going forward for how to manage the access road including revising the current schedule and watering down the road to prevent dust. Since this is Day Two, we are still keeping an eye on the traffic using the road to see if additional adjustments are needed. We will keep the local communities posted if there are changes to the schedule. Our SR 530 webpage will be updated with any new developments and provides information on using the access road.
Clearing SR 530
We provided an update on the contract for removing material from SR 530. That contract will remove roughly 90,000 cubic yards of material – which equates to nearly 9,000 dump truck loads of material, or 9 times the amount of concrete used to build CenturyLink Field. Bids close today and we hope to have a prime contractor in place by May 5.
Rebuilding SR 530
The long-term reconstruction of SR 530 is complex. The slide changed the entire geography and hydrology of the area. The river is in a different place and the soils around the roadway have changed considerably. All of these factors are being considered as we move forward in reconstruction. As a result, we will need to raise the height of the new road 10 to 20 feet in places to meet the new natural challenges of the area.
We will use a design-build contract for highway reconstruction. Part of the goal in that contract is determining a way to get people moving on the highway as it is reconstructed. Our goal is to award the contract by the end of May and have work start in early June. The beginning of that work will focus on the design of the new road and the goal is to open the road to both lanes of traffic by early October.
Why are we rebuilding SR 530 along the existing alignment?
Funds from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will reimburse rebuilding the road on its current alignment. If we built it elsewhere, we would need to find funding to do that work and that would take a considerable amount of time and legislative action.
In addition, the existing alignment is the best option relative to the river’s location and other areas where past slides have occurred.
Many have also asked if we can add shoulders and turning lanes. These are considered improvements to the road and may not be reimbursable. FHWA emergency funds allow for replacing a roadway as it was. This means, improvements must be agreed upon by both us and the FHWA. Raising the highway is also considered an improvement, however FHWA recognizes that the new road must be raised to accommodate the changes in conditions within the valley. We will continue to work on ‘betterments’ and update the community when we have news to share.
Local employment and contracting opportunities
There are a number of guidelines that we must follow to use federal funding. We know communities want the work to clear and rebuild the highway to remain local. While we can’t give preferential treatment to locals or incentivize prime contractors to hire local, we can work with prime contractors to create opportunities for sub-contractors. We will arrange a meet and greet forum for the prime contractors to meet with local interested subcontractors.
We know this is a priority to the communities and will continue to work on this important issue.
Please check our webpage to keep up-to-date with employment and contracting opportunities.