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Tuesday, October 09, 2012
Kelly Stowe , WSDOT Communications, 360-357-2716 (Tumwater)
EATONVILLE – Drivers in east Pierce County will again have access to a five-mile stretch of State Route 7 that has been closed since June. The Washington State Department of Transportation will open the highway to traffic on Wednesday, Oct. 10, but officials warn this could be only temporary.
This stretch of highway is a main route to and from Mount Rainier National Park and carries 1,600 motorists per day. WSDOT closed it between Alder and La Grande as a safety precaution due to movement on the hillside that runs above SR 7.
When the roadway reopens to traffic on Wednesday, it will have a reduced speed limit of 20 mph and 9-foot lanes in each direction. Due to the narrower lane widths, truck traffic is advised to continue using the detour routes on SR 161 and Alder Cut-off Road.
“We understand that this extended road closure has been a challenge for the local residents and for motorists traveling to Alder Lake or Mount Rainier National Park,” said Region Administrator Kevin Dayton. “We greatly appreciate everyone’s patience while we worked to find a way to reopen the highway.”
Geotechnical engineers have been monitoring the roadway since an initial slide closed the highway back in April. Their findings revealed that the slide had the potential for releasing significant amounts of debris onto the highway below.
Originally, WSDOT planned to make permanent repairs to the slope and earlier this summer, completed a design for repairs and advertised the project for bids. After bids came in much higher than cost estimates, WSDOT decided to make temporary repairs and reopen the highway with restrictions. The project will be re-advertised next spring.
WSDOT will continue to closely monitor the hillside for signs of movement and weighted shipping containers have been placed along the highway between the hillside and the jersey barrier to add an extra line of defense from potential falling debris reaching the roadway. Dayton cautions WSDOT will not hesitate to close the roadway again if the risk of a slide returns.
“I take the safety of the traveling public very seriously. If we see any reason for concern, we will shut the road down again.”
Real-time information about SR 7 or any state highway is available by dialing 511, signing up for email/text alerts via the Web or by visiting WSDOT’s Travel Alerts page.
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