Lowered speed limit safer on U.S. Highway 101, Sequim chamber audience told
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Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Kevin Dayton, regional administrator for the state Department of Transportation, discusses the U.S. Highway 101 widening project at the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce's luncheon meeting Tuesday.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Reduced speeds in the construction zone of the widening project of U.S. Highway 101 between Sequim and Port Angeles have made the construction zone safer, state Department of Transportation officials said Tuesday.

DOT chiefs briefed an audience of more than 50 people at the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon at SunLand Golf & Country Club.

Speed limits were lowered in May to 45 mph through the construction zone after several vehicle collisions occurred early in the project, including one that killed Bryan Crawford of Port Angeles, 52.

DOT originally had planned to leave the speed limit at 55 mph, but Moore said plans changed after it was realized that people slowing to watch the earth movers at work had led to other drivers suddenly having to slow down.

“There's less skidding now, and it just feels safer out there,” said Jerry Moore, engineer for the project, who is based in Port Angeles.

The $27.1 million project, being built by Kent-based Scarsella Bros., will replace the last stretch of two-lane highway between Sequim and Port Angeles with four lanes of divided highway between Kitchen-Dick and Shore roads.

On schedule

Ken Dayton, regional administrator for DOT, said Scarsella's progress on the job is ahead of schedule and under budget.

“We have a very aggressive contractor that's doing a very, very good job out there,” Dayton said.

Half of the raw land for the new lanes is close to subgrade, meaning it soon will have the base rock laid on it.

The project also includes two new bridges over McDonald Creek.

Moore said the four support pillars are finished, and girders soon will be laid on the bridge, which replaces a decaying 1939 timber trestle.

Once complete, likely in October, traffic will switch to the south lanes across the bridge to allow crews to build another new bridge in the existing north lanes.

Dayton noted DOT had trouble securing funding to replace the McDonald Creek bridge, which was not scheduled for replacement for another two years.

“We just kept telling them that we couldn't give them a four-lane highway only to take it back to two lanes two years later,” Dayton said.

“But there's not really a holistic look at the state's transportation system sometimes.”

4 lanes and a median

When finished in the fall of 2014, the four 12-foot-wide travel lanes will be separated by a 40-foot grass median.

The widening has been in the DOT's playbook since the Sequim bypass was engineered in 1990, Moore said.

Access to several county roads that intersect with the highway will be changed.

Instead of turning left onto the highway, drivers will be directed onto six “indirect left” U-turns to get on the highway, similar to the one east of Deer Park Road east of Port Angeles.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 25. 2013 5:55PM
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