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Highway 542 to be redirected after Nooksack erodes nearby bank


Highway 542 to be redirected after Nooksack erodes nearby bank

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 2.32.30 PM Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Transportation

If you've driven to Mt. Baker the last couple weeks, you've seen the lane closure on Highway 542 near Glacier Springs, with a signal directing traffic through the single lane. The northbound lane was closed February 8 after the Nooksack River, running high with recent rain events, eroded the nearby bank dangerously close to the highway. This press release from WSDOT describes emergency efforts to relocate that section of highway, with work expected to be completed in April:

"Construction to realign SR 542 near Glacier Springs starts Feb. 19

Emergency contract work will take about six weeks to complete

MAPLE FALLS – Relief is in sight for drivers who use State Route 542 near Glacier Springs in Whatcom County. This week, under an emergency contract, contractor crews will begin realigning the highway away from the Nooksack River. The Washington State Department of Transportation selected Bellingham-based Ram Construction to permanently shift this section of the SR 542, the Mt. Baker Highway, 100 feet to the northeast. The work will be complete in April.

The Nooksack River is eroding land near the eastbound lane of the highway. To keep drivers safe, WSDOT reduced a 1,000 foot-long stretch of SR 542 to one lane on Feb. 8. Temporary signals are controlling traffic in that area.

“Both lanes of SR 542 still seem to be stable, but the erosion is close enough that, in the interest of safety, we decided to take action,” said WSDOT Project Engineer Chris Damitio. “Even with the temporary signals, drivers are experiencing only minor delays and all the businesses east of the one-lane section, including the Mount Baker Ski Area, remain open.”

WSDOT maintenance crews have been monitoring erosion at this site for many years. In 2006, WSDOT shifted SR 542 several feet to the north to move it away from the river. In late November and early December 2014, the Nooksack eroded several feet of the bluff, bringing the river closer to the current alignment. Recent heavy rains and high water levels brought further erosion, leading WSDOT to reduce the highway to one lane. WSDOT engineers believe the new highway alignment will not be affected by the river."