Highway 530 to reopen Saturday through mudslide zone

Highway 530 to reopen Saturday through mudslide zone
This stretch of Highway 530 will reopen Saturday to alternating 25 mph single-lane traffic. (WSDOT photo)
DARRINGTON, Wash. (AP) - The highway that was covered by debris during the deadly Oso mudslide two months ago is set to reopen Saturday morning after a moment of silence and a community walk along the 1 ½ -mile patch of road.

Only one lane of State Highway 530 will reopen and pilot cars will guide vehicles back and forth, Transportation Department spokeswoman Kris Reitmann said on Friday. The road is expected to reopen entirely in October after reconstruction is complete.

Drivers should be prepared to travel over a 600-foot stretch of just gravel where the roadway was completely destroyed, but there are no height or size restrictions on vehicles traveling on Highway 530 between Arlington and Darrington, Reitmann said.

The March 22 mudslide that covered the road in debris killed 42 people. One other person, Kris Regelbrugge, is still missing.

Since last month, many vehicles traveling from Darringon to Arlington have been driving around the slide, by traveling on a gravel Seattle City Light access road.

The reopening of Highway 530, even as a one-lane route, will shorten travel times considerably. Before the slide, about 4,000 vehicles traveled that section of road on a typical day, Reitmann said.

After about 100,000 cubic yards of debris was removed from the roadway, transportation officials found it mostly intact but in need of repair, except for the missing 600 feet, Reitmann said.

There isn't enough room to open two lanes and keep reconstruction work going, she said.

During reconstruction, some of the new two-lane highway will be elevated to accommodate flooding and changes in the Stillaguamish River.

Before the one-lane of Highway 530 reopens Saturday morning, the community will hold a moment of silence and then community members and first responders will walk with Gov. Jay Inslee and other officials along the 1 ½-mile stretch before motor vehicles are allowed to travel the highway.

Reitmann called the ceremony an organic event.

"It's really just an opportunity for everybody to walk the road together," she said, adding that Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin wanted to do something to acknowledge the emotions the community feels about reopening the road.

"He felt people should take those first steps together," Reitmann said.