Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Closing SR 542 in summer isn’t ideal, but it’s necessary

By Marqise Allen

Crews on SR 542 closed the roadway to repair this
large crack down the center of the highway.
Artist Point is a very well-known destination along State Route 542/Mount Baker Highway, but the highway offers access to numerous other trailheads and campgrounds. It's a popular destination, and so our decision to close it from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for much of this week was one we didn't take lightly. Still, I'm sure many folks are wondering.

Who's the genius that decided to completely close the road for a few days in late summer?!
There's never a perfect time to shut down a highway. Most of our paving can only happen during the summer when it's dry and warm enough. For SR 542, the work simply couldn't wait, as it's been 12 years since this area has been repaved. We prioritize potholes that are about an inch or two deep and about a foot in diameter. The centerline in this stretch near the Silver Fire Campground at Anderson Creek Road has a crack about an inch deep, two inches wide and can be 1,500 feet long in some areas. It resembles more of a fault line than a pothole. If it isn't fixed now, it's likely we'd have to come back at some point during the next year to make emergency repairs, which are unpredictable, are much more costly, and could cause a longer closure.

This stretch of roadway hasn’t been repaved in 12 years and the crack would've grown without being repaired.

So I get the whole safety thing, but why close the entire highway?
We try to keep at least one lane open during closures, but in this case it wasn't possible. Working in the center of a 22-foot-wide road (a few feet less in some spots) with no shoulders or guardrail means there's no room to do single-lane closures. The work area is almost 9-feet wide, leaving about 5 feet on either side. That's no enough room to safely squeeze vehicles past the work.
The entire roadway needed to be closed as there wasn't
enough space on either side to allow traffic
to safely move through.

From sun up to nearly sun down, crews have been grinding out the existing asphalt in the center of the road, sweeping up the leftover bits that aren't funneled directly into the truck from the grinder, and laying down new asphalt before smoothing it out. We managed to even out 3,000 feet of the centerline on Monday and another 3,200 feet on Tuesday, using about 200 tons of asphalt a day. There's been 20 truck loads hauling away the ground asphalt, with each truck holding about 12 yards of asphalt. If the weather continues to cooperate, the work should be done by Thursday afternoon.

We want to extend a huge thank you for your patience and understanding. We know this is an inconvenience to many, some of whom had made plans. Thank you for bearing with us and adjusting your schedule to help us get this very important work done.