Lauridsen Boulevard bridge design draws concerns over safety

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A lack of guard rails between the sidewalk and the street in the design plans for a new Lauridsen Boulevard bridge, slated for construction next summer, attracted pedestrian safety worries from Port Angeles residents who attended a recent open house on the project.

About two dozen people attended the Thursday open house on the replacement of the bridge spanning Peabody Creek on East Lauridsen Boulevard.

The bridge is just west of the Lauridsen Boulevard intersection with South Race Street.

The $4.6 million project, 80 percent of which is funded through a federal grant, is expected to start in March or April of next year and wrap up by fall.

Need for replacement

The 43-year-old bridge’s structural integrity has declined over the years, said Roger Horton, the lead designer on the project for Lacey-based design firm Exeltech Consulting.

Horton said the bridge’s structural rating has dropped down to 23 points out of a possible 100 points, which qualifies its replacement for federal funding help.

“As you keep dropping [in rating], you have to just replace it,” Horton said.

For comparison, the recently replaced Eighth Street bridges are structurally rated between 92 and 93.

As designed, the road surface of the new bridge will be 18 feet wider than the current surface and include a center turn lane on the eastbound side, two 12-foot-wide vehicle lanes and two 5-foot-wide bike lanes, Horton said.

It’s what was missing from the new design and present in the old bridge, however, that drew the most comment from those attending the open house.

Damaris Rodriguez was one of a handful of individuals who asked why the new design is missing handrails between the sidewalks and traffic lanes.

Bridge near school

Rodriguez, who lives about 200 feet from the bridge, said she was concerned about children walking to or from nearby Franklin Elementary School.

“I’m afraid if you don’t have safety rails, you’re going to have kids crossing in the middle of the bridge,” Rodriguez said.

Port Angeles resident Via Weigel echoed Rodriguez’s concerns, saying she would feel more comfortable with some sort of pedestrian overpass spanning Lauridsen Boulevard.

In response, Horton said the width of the new road and the bike lanes between cars and pedestrians would put at least 5 feet between a car and a pedestrian on the sidewalk, which would be widened to 6 feet.

Horton said he thinks pedestrians walking across the new bridge would be in no more danger of being hit by a car than if they were walking down any other city road with a bike lane.

Neither, he said, would they be more likely to cross outside of a crosswalk.

The crosswalk and traffic signal at the intersection of East Lauridsen Boulevard and South Race Street is to be maintained.

Glenn Cutler, Port Angeles public works director, said similar concerns were raised about the replacement of the Eighth Street bridges, and the city has not seen increases in pedestrians crossing in the middle of the street there.

Closures, detours

The Lauridsen bridge replacement will necessitate five to six months of a closure of the stretch of road, with the main detour route planned for East Eighth Street to the north via South Eunice Street, said Kendra Breiland, an associate with the Seattle-based traffic planning firm Fehr & Peers who worked on the detour plan and traffic study for the project.

Breiland said traffic delays are likely but expects they will not heavily inconvenience those living in the immediate vicinity of the construction.

“What we found is that it’s not [going to be] Armageddon out there,” Breiland said at the open house.

“This is one of the smoother operations I’ve seen.”

The city most likely will temporarily change the timing of the traffic signal at South Race and South Eighth streets, Breiland said, so the intersection will be able to handle the expected increase in traffic.

Additionally, a temporary four-way stop will be added to the intersection of South Race Street and East Park Avenue, as Park Avenue has been designated an alternate detour route, Breiland said.

For more information on the project and to view the presentation given at the open house, visit the city’s website dedicated to the project at http://bit.ly/RKqiSs.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 17. 2012 5:32PM
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