By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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The county is building a two-lane road that travels under U.S. Highway 101 east of Port Angeles to eliminate the hazardous left turns across the four-lane highway from Deer Park Road and Buchanan Drive.
The three commissioners opened five bids for the long-planned safety improvement Tuesday. All five came in well below the $7.1 million engineer's estimate.
Scarsella Brothers of Kent submitted the lowest base bid: $4.79 million. The state Department of Transportation awarded the same company a $27.1 million bid to widen U.S. Highway 101 between Port Angeles and Sequim.
Bruch & Bruch Construction of Port Angeles bid $4.95 million for the county underpass, Primo Construction of Carlsborg bid $5.02 million, Seton Construction of Port Townsend bid $5.29 million, and DelHur Industries of Port Angeles bid $5.38 million.
Commissioners referred the proposals to the county road department for a review and a recommendation back to the board.
Bid award later in June
A bid will be awarded in a public meeting later this month, with the work beginning in July or August.
“We started on this a long time ago,” County Engineer Ross Tyler said.
Transportation Program Manager Rich James said the project dates back to 1998.
“I think the impetus for this was we kept seeing accidents happening at that [Deer Park] intersection, especially accidents with the left-turn movements,” James said.
“We saw one of our citizens killed while trying to come back from a movie. She was running across Highway 101 and got hit. And then we saw three other citizens that were killed for a lack of enough median space.”
County officials were concerned that a family eventually would get struck in the intersection and that more deaths would occur.
“So that kind of spurred us on to try to improve that intersection — not only that one but the intersection with Buchanan — and eliminate those left turns,” James said.
Rather than turning left from Deer Park Road, motorists will take the new county road and merge with westbound highway traffic from Buchanan Drive.
Instead of turning left from Buchanan Drive, drivers will use the same sweeping road to loop around Deer Park Cinema and merge with eastbound highway traffic.
A 10-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle lane will allow moviegoers to access the Olympic Discovery Trail on the north side of the highway.
Highway traffic will be detoured onto an adjacent lot for a maximum of 90 days during construction. Tyler said the construction schedule largely will depend on the weather.
U.S. Highway 101 will keep its existing grade and alignment when the work is finished sometime in 2014. The county is working closely with the state for the installation of the concrete-arch tunnel.
County engineers went through dozens of conceptual designs, including a highway overpass, and labeled the alternatives by letter. Public input was considered before the county decided to build an underpass.
“We used up the entire alphabet before we got to one that everybody could agree on,” James said.
“It's a good design and one that kind of fits the community.”
The project includes an upgrade to the westbound highway rest stop near C'est Si Bon restaurant.
“It took a long time to get it funded,” James added.
“A lot of people were involved in that. We wrote a lot of grants. [U.S. Sen.] Patty Murray was instrumental in getting us money. [Former U.S. Rep] Norm Dicks also got us money. There's quite a bit of federal money in this project.”
Federal funds account for about 80 percent of the total cost. The county has pledged $2 million in real estate excise taxes.
“I think people are going to have to get used to it, but hopefully, it will work out well as people do get used to it,” James said.
“It will be much safer than what we have right now.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com.