NORTH CASCADE, Wash. — If you’re planning to cross Highway 20 into the North Cascades this summer you’ll want to pack extra snacks for the kids and make an extended playlist because it could be a very long drive.
Amidst the breathtaking natural beauty of the North Cascades, the one thing that catches your eye the most these days is something quite unnatural.
A stoplight in the middle of Highway 20.
A short stretch of the highway at milepost 113.7 near Newhalem washed out during the historic November floods. One entire lane collapsed. The road is now down to a single lane with a stoplight alternating traffic.
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) crews have assessed the damage and are currently designing a fix that will include a costly new culvert. Work will start in July and last through October, but potentially longer.
"There is always the possibility of weather to contend with, and we do have some ongoing supply chain issues that I think everyone is pretty familiar with," said RB McKeon with WSDOT.
And that’s just the beginning.
The state says at certain points this summer there will be 4 or 5 projects along the highway between Sedro-Woolley and Winthrop at the same time.
"There’s sort of two approaches," explained McKeon. "We can cram it all together in one summer and ask people to be extra patient for one summer, or stretch it out to multiple summers and inconvenience people over and over and over again."
The extensive road work could mean a tough tourist season for cities like Winthrop that are still struggling with the fallout of recent wildfires.
As for how all those delays may impact crews traveling across the pass to fight wildfires, WSDOT says those crews will have top priority.
"We will change how we work if we need to," said McKeon. "We want to make sure they can get where they’re going and we’re not an impediment to that."
The road work will certainly mean extended delays for anyone planning to visit North Cascades National Park -- trying to get away from all of the traffic and congestion.
"We’re asking people to just be patient and maybe spend some extra time enjoying the scenery with the windows down as you’re stuck in traffic," said McKeon.