The Mt. Baker Ski Area has opened for the season, but skiers and snowboarders should be prepared for some delays before they can hit the slopes.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) began work on November 20 to repair a section of road on eastbound State Route 542. The road was damaged early last week when the overflowing Nooksack River eroded approximately 90 feet of its bank along the eastbound shoulder and undermined the highway. Guardrail posts were left exposed along the eastbound lane between mile markers 39 and 40, approximately 6 miles east of Glacier.
WSDOT crews reduced traffic to one lane on November 17 to assess the damage. Crews are using portable traffic lights to alternate traffic through the westbound lane. Workers will use the eastbound lane for materials and equipment, and WSDOT officials caution skiers that some minor delays could slow down traffic during daylight hours.
“We are actively coordinating with the Mt. Baker Ski Area to minimize impacts to drivers as we respond to this emergency,” said WSDOT assistant regional administrator Todd Harrison. “We understand this could be an inconvenience for some skiers and snowboarders, but the river continues to wash away the bank and threaten the highway, so we need to make repairs immediately.”
To accommodate ski area traffic, portable traffic lights have been programmed to provide longer green lights for eastbound drivers starting at 8:30 a.m. and longer greens westbound after 3:30 p.m.
Crews began work on November 20 and are planning to work seven days a week, even through Thanksgiving, to restore the highway. Even so, the work could take several weeks, depending on the weather.
The exact cost of the emergency repairs is unknown, but it is expected to exceed $500,000, according to WSDOT. The state will make permanent repairs to the highway next summer.
To follow up on the repair process, visit wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR542/NooksackRiverBank.
Access to the ski area may be further slowed, as WSDOT announced Tuesday another section of road will need emergency repairs. Beginning at 8 a.m. on November 30, construction crews will repair a damaged underground culvert about six miles east of Nugent’s Corner. The construction will take around one month to complete.
According to WSDOT, a six-foot length of the 140-foot culvert was damaged by storm activity last week, and the leaking eroded some of the ground beneath the highway. Repair crews will be working 24 hours a day to repair the road, with an estimated cost of $500,000.
Traffic will be reduced to one-lane only. Flaggers will be stationed to direct traffic during the day, and an automated traffic signal will handle traffic at night.