Sunday, January 9, 2022

Snoqualmie Pass to reopen with the goal to get freight moving at 5 p.m. Sunday

By Mike Allende

After being closed for almost four days due to extreme avalanche danger and record-breaking snowfall and conditions, I-90 Snoqualmie Pass will reopen at 5 p.m. Sunday at 45 mph at the summit with traction tires advised. It is absolutely vital for travelers to understand that the priority is to get freight traffic moving; recreational or general traffic should continue to delay their travel. Blewett Pass on US 97 will also open at 5 p.m.

Crews continued to work throughout the day Sunday to manage the massive amounts of snow, trees, debris and ice that closed the passes last week. On Snoqualmie Pass, which was will have been closed for 90 hours, crews have been able to clear two narrow lanes across most of I-90. Shoulders, ramps and chain up areas are still mostly unusable and access to rest room facilities are limited. Heavy snow is also affecting multiple local roads in communities along the I-90 corridor, so all drivers need to be prepared to cross the pass without stopping.

Crews have opened two narrow lanes across most of Snoqualmie Pass so drivers must take it slow and give each other room.

Photo of two narrow lanes across Snoqualmie Pass

Although traffic camera views in some areas show roads that look clear, they don't show the whole story. There remain areas where several feet of snow still must be removed to open more lanes, shoulders, exits, etc. Crews will continue to work to clear roads, exits and rest areas. Workers and equipment from other parts of the state were shifted over the past few days to assist with the opening.

This won't be normal pass travel conditions

One of the things we often see upon reopening a highway is a race to get going, leading to collisions. We can't emphasize enough that a crash upon reopening Snoqualmie Pass could cause the highway to close again. It really only takes one driver going too fast or being unprepared to shut it back down.

There are just two narrow lanes – normally there are 5 eastbound and 3 westbound – and very narrow shoulders, so there is nowhere to move vehicles that become disabled. It is absolutely vital that drivers take it slow, give each other space, focus on the road and are prepared to drive the entire distance across the pass – in particular having enough gas and good traction tires appropriate for compact snow and ice.

There will be limited access to ramps, shoulders and rest room facilities so all drivers across Snoqualmie Pass should be prepared to drive the entire route without stopping.

Photo of limited access along Snoqualmie Pass

Stevens and White passes

Work continues on both Stevens and White passes. White Pass is on track to reopen late Monday afternoon while Stevens Pass and nearby Tumwater Canyon will likely not reopen before Wednesday.

While we've been able to clear the east side of Stevens Pass of snow and avalanche concerns, there is still ice that is 4-inches thick on the roadway that must be removed. On the west side of the pass there are snow slides 60-70 feet high and 100-200 feet wide along with more avalanche concerns that must be addressed before we can clear the highway.

In Tumwater Canyon we have seen 208 snow slides – about 25 per mile – and those must be cleared and we have to ensure that it is stable to safely open for traffic. Chumstick Highway – which is sometimes used as an alternate route in the area but has height and length restrictions – is a county road that is also dealing with significant snow issues and is not equipped to handle the level of traffic US 2 can, so we need to reopen Stevens and Tumwater Canyon at the same time, which likely won't be before Wednesday.

Huge snow slides – some measuring 60-70 feet tall – continue to be challenges in reopening Stevens Pass.

Photo of 70 foot snow slide on Stevens Pass

On White Pass avalanche issues have subsided and crews continue to plow and blow snow which in some slide areas measure 16-18 feet. We expect to reopen it late Monday afternoon.

Again, we recognize that everyone wants to get moving and to their destination. Our crews are working as hard and fast as they safely can in very challenging conditions, and we appreciate your continued patience.


Shawna Zlab said...

Thanks for your work. It's not your fault that Jay Inslee laid off hundreds of DOT workers around the state.

tina keeps writing said...

Thank you for the update!

Unknown said...

Thank you to all the crews out there working!

Unknown said...

Great job crews! Thank you for your hard work!

Unknown said...

As an essential RN coming to the west side to work, I was amazed at the fish-tailing, speeding semis without chains that passed me and others going the posted speed limit. It was a scary drive.

gmaJ said...

Is the traffic bumper to bumper?

WSDOT said...

gmaJ, it was when we reopened but it's not now. It's still slow-going though, as there are only two narrow lanes open in each direction.

BAM said...

Drove over 90 midday Jan 10 - you all did an amazing job! Safe roads to drive with monster piles of snow around. Thank you!

Unknown said...

Gracias a todo el equipo que anda trabajando para poder limpiar la carretera.

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