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Washington Timber Truck Route Reopened


State Route 530 after the March 22 landslide. WSDOT/Flickr

Washington has reopened one lane of a main timber industry highway buried by the March landslide that left 41 people dead and two missing in the community of Oso northeast of Everett.

State Route 530, which connects Oso and Darrington to Arlington and Interstate 5, was reopened May 31 to traffic, including log trucks, lumber haulers, and dump trucks carrying compost and wood chips.

Only one lane, much of it gravel, is open and a pilot car must lead cars and trucks through at a speed of only 25 miles per hour.

Still, the reopening was welcomed by truckers, hard hit by detours so costly that in April the state — in order to keep the largest mill in the area operating — sent emergency funds to help the mill pay for the extra fuel truckers had to buy.

“It’s actually going pretty good,” a trucking firm owner, Buck Thoms, reported early last week, “About every 15 minutes we’re getting through there.”

Until the reopening, trucks were using a one-way narrow forest road owned by a utility company that the state opened weeks after the March 22 slide to help the loggers.

“You could only get through there every hour, now we’re getting through every 15 minutes,” said Thoms, whose 13-unit fleet, Buck Thoms Trucking, is located in Darrington on the east side of the slide.

“If you were eastbound, it was the bottom of the hour and if you were westbound, it was the top of the hour and if you missed it by 10 minutes you, waited 50 minutes,” he said.

Last week, Thoms was also reassembling his fleet at its Darrington terminal. After the landslide the trucks couldn’t get home which meant renting another shop on the west side of the slide, in addition to paying higher fuel bills.

“For a little guy like me it cost me a lot of money,” he said of the impact on his business.

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By Michele Fuetsch
Staff Reporter

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