Major Road Work Coming to Stevens Canyon In Mount Rainier National Park

Major road work is coming to Mount Rainier National Park, work that will at times make it impossible to drive the full length of the Stevens Canyon Road. NPS graphic.

Travel across the southern half of Mount Rainier National Park will become difficult, and impossible in some areas, this fall as needed roadwork leads to closure of some sections of the Stevens Canyon Road. More closures, and some delays, are scheduled for 2012 and 2013.

Prompting the closures and delays will be the rebuilding of nearly 11 miles of the road, work that's needed due to deterioration of the road surface and embankment creep. This is no small project, as contractors will be replacing culverts, doing bridgework, making retaining wall improvements, replacing guardrails, as well as resurfacing the road.

The work tentatively is scheduled to get under way this September and be wrapped up two years later. Here, courtesy of the Park Service, is a rundown on the proposed work:

The improvements will occur along two segments of the road, totaling 10.09 miles of the 19-mile road. Segment 1 begins at the Nisqually-Paradise Road intersection and extends east for 4.83 miles to the Stevens Creek Bridge. Segment 4 begins at the Backbone Ridge Viaduct (just east of the Backbone Ridge Viewpoint) and continues for 5.26 miles to the intersection with Washington State Route (SR) 123.

Ten sites in Segment 1 and 35 sites in Segment 4 have been identified as needing subsurface stabilization to halt roadway embankment creep that has resulted in surface tension cracks and appreciable horizontal and vertical displacement. Two of the 10 sites in Segment 1 require full roadway embankment replacement down to 22-foot depth and retaining/guard wall replacements. Most of the 35 sites in Segment 4 require either ¾- width or full road embankment replacement down to 5 foot depth, some of which require retaining/guard wall replacements.

Due to the scope of the extensive roadway embankment stabilization efforts, it will be necessary to close the east end (Segment 4) of Stevens Canyon Road from the gate located just west of the Grove of the Patriarchs (see attached map) to just east of the popular Backbone Ridge Viewpoint from September 6, 2011 to when the road is shut down for the winter (October 24th in 2010). The contractor will also be doing subsurface compaction grouting in both road segments to stabilize the roadway in 2011. Visitors will be able to access the Reflection Lakes area, Box Canyon and Backbone Ridge Viewpoint area and adjacent trailheads from the west during the 2011 closure period.

During the 2012 season, the subsurface stabilization work on the west end (Segment 1) will require a closure from just east of the Paradise Valley Road to the Box Canyon Area immediately following Labor Day to when the road is shut down for the winter. The contractor will also be repairing the tunnel walls at milepost 6.9 and 8.5 during the closure period. During this period, visitors will be able to access up to the Box Canyon area from the east. From approximately June 2012 to just before Labor Day 2012 the contractor will be conducting work in both segments, at which time visitors should anticipate 20 minute delays Mondays through Fridays.

During the 2013 season, the contractor will focus on drainage improvements, repair/stabilization and reconstruction of historic rock retaining walls, milling/recycling the asphalt surface as road base; and resurfacing with new hot-mix asphalt which will be accomplished while the roadway is open to the public. At this time visitors should again anticipate 20-minute delays Mondays through Fridays until project completion estimated in September 2013.

Stevens Canyon Road connects the east and west side of the park, extending for 19 miles from SR 123 at the east end to intersection with the Nisqually to Paradise Road at the west end, two miles south of Paradise. During the 2011 & 2012 closure periods, visitors are encouraged to access the Paradise area from the southwest via the Nisqually Entrance at east end of SR 706.

Visitors traveling from the east via SR 410, SR 123, and/or US 12 who wish to visit the Paradise area have two detour options: Via Gifford Pinchot National Forest Service Road 52 (Skate Creek Road) beginning on US 12 in Packwood and ending on SR 706 east of Ashford; or the longer route via SR 7 beginning in Morton on US 12 and ending on SR 706 at Elbe (see attached map).

While the construction and associated closures and traffic delays present an inconvenience, the rehabilitation work will not only improve the driving surface of the roadway, but ensure its longevity.

Updated information on this project may be obtained by calling Mount Rainier National Park at 360-569-2166. Information on this project, as well as general park information, is also available on Mount Rainier National Park’s Intranet Homepage (www.nps.gov/mora).

NOTE: Drivers can now get real time traffic and weather information by dialing 5-1-1 from most cell phones. This new traveler information system builds upon the highly successful Washington State Highway hotline that manages 4.6 million calls each year. Callers can also use 5-1-1 to get statewide construction, mountain pass conditions, and state ferry system information, as well as toll free numbers for passenger rail and airlines. TTY users can call 1-800-833-6388.