After deadly slide, state will wrestle with how to re-open SR 530

by: Graham Johnson Updated:

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OSO, Wash. —

Before the hillside came down on State Route 530 in Oso, log truck driver Jerry Curtis drove by it all the time.

"The fact is that mountain could slide some more," Curtis said.

The Washington State Department of Transportation said when the time comes to talk seriously about reopening the roadway, a vital link between Arlington and Darrington, it will consult the experts about the long-term stability of the slope, and others, along the route.

"Whatever the future of 530 holds, we need to get out there and do some homework," said WSDOT spokesman Travis Phelps.

While WSDOT watches hillsides near highways around the state, it was not tracking the one that gave way because the road was a mile away and across the Stillaguamish River.

After the disaster, geologists are now using instruments to watch the hill very closely for signs of movement.

"We have not seen much movement," said Rick LaHusen, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Cascades Volcano Observatory.

"We've seen basically expected regression. The head scarf is very, very steep and we expect it to kind of work back, erode a little bit. It's loose sands at the very top," LaHusen said.

USGS is monitoring the hillside during the recovery operation but is not tasked with evaluating the slope's future stability.

State transportation officials said in the weeks ahead, before they begin long-term planning for SR530, they'll meet with residents of Oso, Darrington and Arlington to learn their vision for the future of the corridor.

There is no timeline.

 The condition of the roadway is unknown beneath the deep debris field.

 State officials know re-opening the road is a sensitive matter, because the Oso section of the roadway is now sacred ground.

"WSDOT and Snohomish County are going to do this in a very respectful manner because a lot of folks lost their lives here," Phelps said.