Crews hope to reopen North Cascades Highway on Friday

WINTHROP, Wash. (AP) — Washington state Transportation Department crews hope to reopen the North Cascades Highway on Friday after its winter closure.

That would be one of the fastest reopening efforts in the highway's 42-year history.

The department says crews began clearing the snow from State Route 20 just three weeks ago. Last year it took nearly six weeks to clear the highway and it opened May 8. In 2013, with a light snowpack, it opened April 16. In 1977, a drought meant that the highway never closed during the winter.

A maintenance supervisor, Don Becker, says the crews know it's important for local businesses to have the highway open for Easter, for an upcoming fishing season and for the '49er Days Festival in Winthrop.

A foot of snow fell in some locations along the route during the past few days, so crews performed avalanche control as well.