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10 days into 3.5 month Mt Baker Hwy closure, motorists continue to struggle with delays, crashes on detour route

Looking east on E Smith Road from Hannegan Road (June 14, 2023). Photo: Whatcom News

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — For the past 10 days, motorists who typically use the Mount Baker Highway (SR542) through northeast Bellingham have been forced to use a 9-mile detour route to bypass a 3-mile section closed 24/7 for about 3 months while crews replace a culvert.

According to Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office activity logs, deputies have been dispatched to locations on the detour route several times since the closure began on June 5th for traffic enforcement and reported crashes.

Detour and road closures map. Work area highlighted in orange. Source: WSDOT
Detour and road closures map. Work area highlighted in orange. Source: WSDOT

Additional closures were also set at the following intersections to deter motorists from bypassing the detour route.

  • Kelly Road and Hannegan Road
  • Van Wyck Road and Hannegan Road
  • Van Wyck Road and Noon Road

Motorists have reported significant delays resulting in drive times 3 and 4 times longer than the norm when the highway was open. Delays have been blamed on lengthy backups forming at intersections along the detour route.

Click for more information

Click for more information

E Smith and Hannegan Roads have been the locations of multiple crashes including at least 1 significant injury crash on June 13th.

WCSO Spokesperson Deb Slater told Whatcom News patrol deputies have been and will continue to provide extra traffic enforcement emphasis patrols on the detour route as calls and staffing allows.

Slater said there have been a couple meetings between Whatcom County and Washington Department of Transportation officials “to discuss the detour route and any improvements that need to be made or adjusted.” She did not say what, if any, changes could be expected.

Planning for major construction like this fish passage project begins more than a year in advance. Several factors are taken into consideration and together with our partners we consider all available options for detour routes.

Travelers should plan ahead and give themselves extra time to get through this work zone. If you have any questions about the project you can call the project office at 360-788-7400. Washington State Department of Transportation (June 15, 2023)

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