MARBLEMOUNT, Wash. – The North Cascades Highway reopened for the season Thursday, the earliest spring opening since the road was completed through North Cascades National Park in 1972.
The state Transportation Department said traffic barriers on Washington Highway 20 between Marblemount and Mazama were removed just before 11 a.m. Thursday.
That’s 12 days earlier than the old record, set in 2001, not counting the winter of 1976-77, when there was so little snow the highway was never closed. The latest reopening on record was June 14, 1974.
“It will double business,” said Lonnie Sopher, a co-owner of Sandy’s Country Store in Marblemount.
Some of the last road clearing was near 5,477-foot Washington Pass, where a road grader with a blade fitted with teeth chewed through a patch of solid ice Wednesday.
Jeff Adamson, a department spokesman, said the reopening was delayed by about a week because of the unexpected ice, which was 2 to 14 inches thick.
Motorists won’t have completely clear sailing.
Transportation officials said traffic will be limited to one lane over a short stretch just east of Newhalem, and periodic delays are likely well into the summer as road crews repair damage from a huge rockslide in November 2003.
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