Chris Lehnertz, Pacific West region director for the National Park Service, has issued a decision and a finding of no significant impact for the Nisqually to Paradise Road rehabilitation environmental assessment.
While the assessment offered only two options – doing the work or not – the decision allows the rehabilitation of 17.6 miles of road between the Nisqually entrance to Mount Rainier National Park and Paradise to proceed.
The road was built between 1904 and 1915. Reconstruction work and many of the notable features along the road were added between 1925 and 1941. The road remains the busiest in the park with about 544,305 vehicles traveling the road in 2011. Peak two-way travel on the road during a busy summer weekend can reach almost 5,000 vehicles per day.
The road project, estimated at $25.9 million, is needed to address deficiencies in the condition of the road and safety concerns. Deteriorating road conditions are due to a number of factors including large volumes of traffic, abundant precipitation, structural and design deficiencies and normal wear, said a Park Service news release.
The project includes rehabilitation of pavement on Ricksecker Point Loop Road and Paradise Valley Road. Also included is the installation of in-road buried conduits and junction vaults for future electrical power and telecommunication upgrades. The project is also designed to protect adjacent natural and cultural resources, and will replace culverts to improve aquatic conditions.
The road work will be done in two phases. The first phase, from the Nisqually entrance to milepost 6.5 at Longmire, is scheduled to occur 2014-2015. This phase might also include reconstruction of a portion of guard wall on the Ricksecker Loop. The second phase of roadwork is scheduled to take place in 2016-2017 between milepost 6.5 and Paradise. This phase includes repaving of the parking lots at Paradise and repaving Paradise Valley Road. Ricksecker Loop Road paving and the Paradise Valley Road could be conducted during either phase.
The park hopes to advertise the first phase this summer, award a contract in the fall and begin work early in 2014, said Eric Walkinshaw, the park’s civil engineer. The goal is to have the first phase of the road work done by October 2015.
The Nisqually-Paradise Road corridor is an integral part of park operations and a component of the Mount Rainier National Historic Landmark District. The road is an example of park landscape design, embodying the complimentary styles of rustic architecture and naturalistic landscape architecture.
The finding, assessment and others related documents are available online via the Planning, Environment and Public Comment website at parkplanning.nps.gov/mora. For a printed copy of the finding, call the park at 360-569-6501.