PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County commissioners and the Makah Tribe are preparing to send a letter to the state Department of Transportation asking it to repair state Highway 112 between Port Angeles and Clallam Bay.
The say that conditions on the highway — which begins west of Port Angeles, goes through Joyce and continues to Clallam Bay and Neah Bay — have become dangerous.
“I think it’s important for us to bring this safety issue to the state Department of Transportation,” said Clallam County Commissioner Bill Peach. “The reality is that that segment of road needs quite a bit of attention just to keep it safe.”
A draft letter by the Makah Tribal Council and Board of County Commissioners said that the Makah Reservation, which has limited merchants and health care, relies on Highway 112 to access the cities of Forks, Port Angeles and Sequim for basic grocery stores, low-cost retail stores, medical care and pharmacies.
The letter describes Highway 112 as “a road with beautiful views of the pristine areas,” that is also “a very curvy and treacherous road, and the increased travel across this highway has certainly taken a toll on its conditions.
“Numerous areas are faced with landslides each and every year,” the letter says.
A Transportation spokeswoman reached by phone Thursday afternoon said she could not immediately comment on efforts the state has taken to address conditions on the highway because it would take more time to research what has been done.
Last year the state spent nearly $1 million repairing about 40 miles of the highway.
Last winter storms closed the road on numerous occasions between mileposts 0 and 7, according to the letter.
“Often times, the people of Neah Bay must rely upon treacherous back country roads to gain access out of town due to Highway 112 being closed,” the letter says.
Peach said the lack of funding is related to the highway’s classification.
“Because it doesn’t have a tremendous amount of traffic, it gets lower funding,” he said.
The letter says the highway is seeing increased traffic. It sees commercial traffic every day, with logging trucks, public transportation and deliveries to Neah Bay taking the route.
The tourism industry also has increased traffic on the highway, according to the letter. More people are visiting the Makah Reservation year round, instead of only during fishing season, the letter says.
“During the annual Makah Days Celebration in August of each year, up to 10,000 visitors come to Neah Bay in one weekend alone,” the letter says.
Peach said officials in the past have looked at other routes for the highway and determined changing the route would be overly expensive.
Still, he said, the state needs to address the safety issues of the highway.
He said he is hopeful the letter would encourage the state to put more funding into maintaining the highway.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.