Skagit County will look into building a one-lane road to replace about 685 feet of failing road just north of Lake Cavanaugh, though construction likely can’t start until 2023.
This stretch of North Shore Drive has been closed since Sept. 2, after a number of landslides in recent years have continued to erode the land under the road, causing extensive damage.
“Tree root systems are essentially holding the road up in a bunch of these spots,” project manager Sonny Andrew said in a meeting Tuesday with the county commissioners.
Andrew said more study is needed to determine whether a one-lane road with alternating traffic is feasible, and how the cost of such a road would compare to building a two-lane road.
He said even the cheapest option to stabilize the soil under the road is expensive, because of the level of erosion, instability of the slope and the environmental permits required to build so close to the lake.
Building a stabilized earthen wall along the length of the damage would cost between $3.8 million and $4.8 million, though costs will surely go up by the time project design would be completed and construction would be ready in 2023, he said.
In the meantime, residents east of the closed section of road have to drive around the lake to access the main road west out of the area.
County Public Works has seen a need to rebuild North Shore Road since at least 2018 to address issues with erosion, according to the county’s project page.
The road hugs the north side of Lake Cavanaugh and was built in the early 1900s. Old-style materials and inadequate drainage have damaged the road in ways that exceed the ability of county staff to maintain it.
Commissioner Lisa Janicki said the cost of this project should make staff consider alternatives, such as moving the road away from the lake. This would require blasting holes in the adjacent rock wall, but would avoid continuing erosion issues and may be cheaper.
Engineering Division Manager Grace Kane said this solution would come with its own complexities, and it isn’t clear it would be less expensive.
An open house was held Aug. 20 at the Lake Cavanaugh Community Hall to inform residents of the county’s plans.
Residents complained that since the start of the closure they’ve been told by garbage collectors to drive their trash to a pick-up area, according to Commissioner Peter Browning, who was at the open house.
Older residents said they were concerned with the closure’s impact on ambulance response times, he said.
Kane said because of the complexity of the site, there really are no temporary solutions available. Substantial reconstruction is required to get the road usable at all.
Getting a consultant on board and ready to work on design will likely take six more months on its own, she said.
Andrew said there are three more locations along the lake that in the future could see similar levels of damage due to erosion.
Janicki said with the North Shore Drive closure more traffic is now diverted to the southern route where two of these trouble spots are located, and this could speed up their failure.
Browning said considering these issues, it’s about time Lake Cavanaugh residents consider forming a local improvement district and contribute funding for repairs. The county would be neglecting road issues elsewhere if it committed all the funding needed to fix the issues along Lake Cavanaugh.
“Honestly we just don’t have enough dollars in the road fund,” he said.