The Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) is still in the process of securing a contractor to conduct emergency repairs on U.S. Highway 2 (U.S. 2) approximately 19 miles east of Waterville.

The DOT began their search late last week after a section of the highway was washed away and rendered impassable by a mudslide last Monday (July 10).

Due to the damage, a 24-mile stretch of the road is currently closed from the junction of State Route 172 (SR-172) at Farmer (milepost 163) to the junction of State Route 17 (SR-17) just west of Coulee City (milepost 187).

DOT spokesperson Lauren Loebsack says travelers need to take heed of the closure points and use the singed detour routes.

"We've had some incidents of people going around the hard closure points and we don't want to see that. It's important to remember that the road is closed because it is currently not safe to travel. So anyone who goes into that area creates a challenging situation for our crews and potentially for first responders in the event something were to happen."

Westbound motorists on U.S. 2 are being diverted around the closure on SR-172, while eastbound travelers are being detoured to SR-17 south to State Route 28.

Loebsack says the DOT is well aware of how vital the highway is - both to cross-state commuters and local farmers - and they are diligently working to find a contractor who can fix the road and offer a timeline for when that might happen.

"We understand that's a pretty critical leg of U.S. 2 and that the alternate routes do mean additional travel times. So we're working hard for the farming communities out there, as well as for motorists in general, to figure out what the timeline will be to get the road reopen and so everyone can make plans around the closure."

Loebsack and Washington State Patrol Trooper Jeremy Weber say that using local roads to access some places within the closure zone, such as Jameson Lake, is permissible under most circumstances.

However, both add that driving the highway within the hard closure points is ill-advised and makes any motorist doing so subject to a $145 citation or even criminal misdemeanor charges that could possibly lead to arrest.

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