Crews with the Washington Department of Transportation have begun clearing the North Cascades Highway, a key route for travelers from eastern Whatcom County to central Washington.
Despite some heavy late-season snow, department officials said they're optimistic the highway, also known as Highway 20, could be open by early May.
"Last year it took us less than four weeks to clear the highway, but this year there's twice as much snow at the summit," said Mike Stanford, avalanche control supervisor. "It's likely to take closer to the usual six weeks to reopen this year."
Crews began work on the west side of the highway April 1 by clearing snow that was as much as 20 feet deep in some places. As of April 7, the snowpack at Washington Pass had melted from 10 feet deep to about 7 inches. Workers also are getting avalanche refresher training.
The department closed the highway for the winter on Dec. 3, 2013. The highway is closed for about 40 miles each winter, due to avalanche danger, and typically reopens between mid-April and early May.
To monitor the progress, go to http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes/northcascades.
Photos of the work are available at the department's Flickr page, https://www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/. Click on the set for "SR20, North Cascades Highway."
Reach Jim Donaldson at 360-715-2288 or email@example.com.