Work is scheduled to resume on the rehabilitation of 10 miles of Stevens Canyon Road in Mount Rainier, which officials say will be an inconvenience for park visitors but well worth the trouble when the project is complete four months from now.
The $8.9 million project, funded through the Federal Highway Administration, began about this time last year. Work included improvements of the Ohanapecosh and Falls Creek bridges at the east end of the project. Also on the to-do list were upgrades of culverts, guard walls, retaining walls, turnouts and the short Wonderland Trail section adjacent to Reflection Lake.
In the second half of the two-part project that was supposed to start last Friday but was postponed by heavy snowfall and is scheduled to be finished in mid-September, contractor Tucci and Sons will focus on drainage improvements, stabilizing and rebuilding rock retaining walls, and leveling and resurfacing the roadway with new hot-mix asphalt. Repairs that officials describe as minor are also planned for road tunnels west of Box Canyon.
As was the case during last year’s construction, motorists should anticipate traffic delays of 20 minutes through on weekdays Mondays until the project is done, said park superintendent Randy King.
Stevens Canyon Road connects the east and west side of the park, extending for 19 miles from State Route 123 at the east end to the Nisqually to Paradise Road at the west end, two miles south of Paradise. Visitors who want to avoid the construction zone and the accompanying delays are can drive to the Paradise area from the southwest via the Nisqually entrance and State Route 706. Visitors traveling from the east via State Routes 410 and 123 and U.S. Highway 12 should find alternate routes if they want to go to Paradise, officials advised.
Bicyclists are strongly encouraged to avoid Stevens Canyon Road this summer due to frequent construction delays and traffic being escorted through certain areas. Bike and motorcycle riders who use the road will encounter slower than normal speeds because of loose gravel and oil surfaces.
While the roadwork will create an inconvenience, the finished product will be an improved driving surface that will last longer, officais said.
The schedule for starting work last Friday initially was pushed back a few hours because snowfall slowed the delivery of gravel to restore a dig-out east of Inspiration Point for public travel. Then the start was delayed until further notice because snow was continuing to fall, making conditions unsafe, a park spokeswoman said.
Updated information on the project is available by calling Mount Rainier National Park at 360-569-2166 and at www.nps.gov/mora/parknews/newsreleases.htm.
Drivers can also get realtime traffic and weather information by dialing 5-1-1 from most cell phones. The information system builds upon the highly successful Washington State Highway hotline that handles 4.6 million calls each year, officials said. The 5-1-1 service also provides statewide highway construction updates and mountain pass conditions.