By Jerry Cornfield, The Herald
OSO — The damaged stretch of Highway 530 closed since the deadly March mudslide will reopen to traffic this weekend, state transportation officials said Thursday.
Exactly when it will open is to be announced today by the state Department of Transportation, whose leaders had predicted it would be mid-June before enough slide debris could be removed to enable safe travel by drivers.
When it reopens, the road will be a single lane and a pilot car will lead vehicles in each direction, as is done now on the parallel Seattle City Light access road that has served as a temporary route for the past month.
The March 22 mudslide killed 42 people and entombed a mile-long stretch of the highway under more than 100,000 cubic yards of debris. One person, Kris Regelbrugge, is still missing.
IMCO Construction of Ferndale received a $4.9 million contract to clear the debris in preparation for another contractor to repair and reconstruct damaged sections. The state might award a contract for that work as early as today.
In recent days, as IMCO workers removed more and more material, state transportation officials got a better sense of the extent of damage.
Most of the original road is intact, with slightly more than 500 feet actually missing, said WSDOT spokesman Travis Phelps on Thursday. That section will be lined with gravel and rock when the single-lane road is reopened, he said.
The state isn’t expected to restrict who can use the one-lane road.
Meanwhile, residents and community leaders plan to gather along the closed road Saturday morning for a moment of silence. Then they, with Gov. Jay Inslee and Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, will walk the road.
This will be one of the final events before cars and trucks are allowed to drive by the Steelhead Haven neighborhood wiped out in the disaster.