ASHFORD, Wash. – Washington State Department of Transportation continued making progress repairing State Route 706 after it was damaged by two landslides. On Wednesday, officials announced crews were able to open a single lane through both slides for emergency vehicle access.
MaryLou Nebergall of WSDOT said the progress is significant in increasing access to communities impacted by the landslides. She also said the workload is far from finished.
“We do not know when we’ll be able to open the road but we’re working as quickly as possible considering safety elements,” she said.
Two landslides from heavy rain significantly damaged the road, and some parts have crumbled underneath. WSDOT said crews are working with extreme caution because the ground is unstable and so is the hillside.
While safety is the biggest concern, directors said working around excess water has been challenging.
“That water is flowing across the highway, is eroding the roadway embankment, it’s carrying massive amounts of silt. The forest service said they’ve never seen water in these ditches. These ditches are all full now and they’re overflowing,” said John Wynands of WSDOT.
Water running under the road forced Mount Rainier National Park to close two entrances because it’s unsafe to drive on. Park Service said Sunshine Point will need emergency repairs, and parts of the Carbon River area have been washed out.
“We did sustain some damage at the Longmire National Historic Landmark District and those were in the basements of several buildings that we had some flooding,” said Terry Wildy of Mount Rainier National Park Service
About 200 residents and Mount Rainier National Park employees have been dealing with the closure on State Route 706. Two areas at Mount Rainier National Park remain closed—the Nisqually entrance adjacent to State Route 706 and the northwest corner closest to Seattle. Two entrances near the eastern part of the park are open.
While Park Service reviews the damages, they’re also providing an escorted convoy for people who live near the landslides to get in and out of town.
WSDOT is asking those impacted to have patience since repairs won’t be a quick or easy fix.
“There’s a lot of damage to shoulders, there’s a lot of undermining of the roadway all of which has to be addressed before we can safely allow traffic on here,” said Wynands.
Pierce County Emergency Management is holding a public meeting Thursday, Feb. 13. It begins at 11 a.m. at the Gateway Inn, located at 38820 State Route 706 E. in Ashford. WSDOT will have representatives in attendance to answer questions.