Work will help recover stranded vehicles, but public access will not be restored this summer
TOUTLE – Following the South Coldwater Slide on State Route 504, also called Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, initial cleanup work will begin this summer.
On Monday, June 26, contractors working for the Washington State Department of Transportation will begin an emergency contract for slope stabilization, critical site cleanup and reestablishing basic connectivity for SR 504 to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. This work will help with recovering stranded vehicles, support U.S. Forest Service infrastructure repairs, restore power and fiber communications with Mount St. Helens monitoring instruments and allow engineers to conduct field reconnaissance necessary for designing an eventual permanent solution in the coming years.
Shortly after 9 p.m. Sunday, May 14, more than 300,000 cubic yards of debris from an adjacent hillside fell approximately 2,000 feet above SR 504 and covered the roadway with rock, mud, ice and water, causing catastrophic damage to the 85-foot Spirit Lake Outlet Bridge at milepost 49.
“Recovery work to clear debris and rebuild the bridge at this location will take some time, but we are looking forward to these first few steps,” said WSDOT Assistant Regional Administrator for Development and Delivery Devin Reck. “While access to the Johnston Ridge Observatory will not be restored for public use this summer season, we plan on making the most of the fair weather to gather necessary information and begin work to design a permanent solution.”
This emergency contract, expected to complete in early August, will create temporary administrative access to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, but the road will not be open to the public this summer. The current closure point for vehicle traffic is the gate located at milepost 45.2, also known as the winter gate. WSDOT annually closes this upper portion of SR 504 at the winter gate each fall because the elevation and geography make it dangerous to clear the roadway. The emergency work is being done by Scarsella Brothers Inc.
For information on how to access U.S. Forest Service facilities, visit the Gifford Pinchot National Forest website.