Beginning the week of Monday, June 14th, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) geo-technical engineers will assess the condition of a crumbling wall that forced an early closure of Mt Baker Highway (SR542) in October last year. Their findings will determine when the road to Artists Point may fully reopen according to an announcement from WSDOT today, June 10th.
In October, hillside erosion caused a portion of the wall to crumble. The highway closed early, ahead of snowfall, to reduce the risks of an uncontrolled collapse over the winter. At that time, crews removed a section of the wall to keep it from falling on the outdoor recreational areas below. The wall sits above the Heather Meadows Visitor Center, Chain Lakes Loop trailhead and Austin Pass Picnic area.
Erosion below and behind the wall, built in the 1930s, requires extensive rehabilitation, but currently there is no available funding for the needed long-term repairs. This summer, contractor crews working for WSDOT will return to temporarily stabilize the slope and wall until funding becomes available for permanent repair work.
Typically, during the summer months WSDOT crews start clearing the final 2.7 miles of Mount Baker Highway as well as the Artist Point parking lot.
Maintenance crews are currently clearing snow on SR542 up to the Terminal Lake parking lot. Once the road is cleared, WSDOT will work with the US Forest Service to move the road closure gate from Heather Meadows parking lot to the Terminal Lake lot, but the rest of the roadway will stay closed until work can be done on the wall.