By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Clallam County commissioners Tuesday issued a call for bids to build a new county road that will duck under U.S. Highway 101 through a concrete arch tunnel near the Deer Park Cinema at the top of the Morse Creek “S” curve.
Proposals for the $7 million construction are due before the May 28 commissioners’ meeting.
The work is scheduled to start in early July, County Engineer Ross Tyler has said.
The federally funded safety-improvement project will eliminate the hazardous left turns across the four-lane highway from Deer Park Road and Buchanan Drive.
“It should be a great project for our community,” said Commissioner Mike Chapman, whose central district includes the Deer Park area.
Chapman said it took “a lot of work, a lot of public input and a lot of design changes from the road department” to get to the bidding process.
The county collected data to show that the Deer Park and Buchanan intersections are dangerous for motorists and pedestrians.
The highway corridor near C’est Si Bon restaurant, Wilder Auto Center and the cinema had four fatalities and numerous wrecks between 2001 and 2009.
“Not only is there that anxiety in crossing, especially in the morning if you have kids in the car, but the fact is that if the record had gone back a few more years, we would have been higher on the state’s list [for funding] because of the fatalities there,” Commissioner Mike Doherty said.
County Transportation Program Manager Rich James, who has worked on the Deer Park project since 1998, “kept trying every year, and finally, it was funded,” Doherty said.
In a recent interview, James said local contractors had expressed an interest in the project. He expected “several of them to bid on it.”
Even if the county awards the bid to an out-of-town contractor, local companies will be in line for major subcontracting work, James added.
$9.2 million overall
The $9.2 million overall cost includes preliminary engineering, right-of-way acquisition and design.
Federal funds account for about 80 percent of the total cost, with Clallam County covering the rest through real estate excise taxes.
The scenic overlook and rest stop on the westbound side of the highway also will be upgraded.
Public input received in 2009 helped convince the county to scratch an earlier plan to build an overpass rather than an underpass.
Some area residents lobbied for a traffic signal at Deer Park Road, but the road department and local trucking industry determined that a traffic light on the highway “wouldn’t have been a good fix,” Chapman said.
“In the winter, you’d have traffic backed up down the hill and trucks that couldn’t get started,” he said.
“The folks that I talked to in the transportation industry are very grateful that we didn’t put a traffic light there.”
Highway 101 will reclaim its existing alignment when the project is finished in the spring or early summer of 2014.
Highway traffic will be detoured onto a vacant lot just off the existing road during construction of the precast concrete arch tunnel.
A 10-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle path will run along the county road to provide safe access from Deer Park Road to the Olympic Discovery Trail on the north side of the highway.
“Thanks for all the work that got us to today,” Commissioner Jim McEntire said in Tuesday’s meeting.
“Press the start button.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.