ARLINGTON– Families commuting between Arlington and Darrington for work and school are struggling to come to terms with the roadblock on state Highway 530 created by last Saturday’s mudslide.
Jeff Voter, a fence repairman who lives in Darrington, says that his family is beginning to grasp the emotional and financial toll of a long and circuitous detour between both communities; in fact, his family has been temporarily split by the mudslide.
His fiancée works as a teacher at Haller Middle School in Arlington. “Her commute went from 35 minutes one way to two hours one way minimum,” Voter said. The cost is not only time, it’s money. She’s now looking at having to fill her gas tank every two days, instead of once a week.
“It threw everything off,” Voter said. “What if this is costing us all the extra money we have each month for her to go to work?” he said.
After the slide, his fiancée and his eldest son stayed with another teacher in Arlington.
If authorities can’t clear up the highway soon, he might consider moving back to Arlington, where his son has basketball practice three times a week, Voter said.
Authorities have said that transportation to Darrington is a top priority, but clearing the huge mudslide will take time. A task force has been created to figure out how to “most effectively and respectfully” open the highway, said John Pennington, Snohomish County’s head of emergency management, at a media briefing Wednesday.
Darrington travel involves taking Highway 530 north to Highway 20 at Rockport, and the state Department of Transportation says that’s the preferred route. The Mountain Loop Highway, a southbound route out of Darrington, has been opened, but “highway” is a misnomer. You have to drive slowly and carefully, and in parts it’s a single-lane gravel road.
Community Transit, the local bus service, will start a new bus route — 231 — on Friday to connect Darrington residents with grocery and medical services in Skagit County as well as their jobs in Arlington and Everett.
Community Transit is also offering vans for vanpools, and has said that so far this week three new vanpools have been formed between Darrington and Arlington.
It’s not the same as a car, though.
“People are starting off with some carpools, but it’s not a ton,” Voter said. “On baseball days (for his son), what are you going to do?”