SEQUIM — More details are falling into place for the long-planned reconstruction of a portion of Fir Street near Sequim School District’s campuses.
Designs to reconstruct the deteriorating stretch from Sequim Avenue to Fifth Avenue are anticipated to be complete this spring with construction beginning in July and slated to last around 18 months, said City Engineer Matt Klontz.
The project will be one of the city’s biggest road projects in recent years.
It will cost between $4.5 million and $5 million, with funding largely coming from grants to redo water, sewer and irrigation lines while reconstructing the pavement that encounters flooding and potholes throughout the year.
Some of the many aspects to the project include widening it to include bike lanes and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks/curbs on both sides of Fir Street, adding a traffic light at the intersection of Fir/Fifth Avenue and a pedestrian crossing signal with flashing strobe lights at Fir/Sequim Avenue, and moving utility poles underground.
Klontz said the street will be widened to 45 feet from Sequim Avenue to Fourth Avenue and 53 feet wide from Fourth to Fifth avenues.
Part of that includes two 5-foot wide bike lanes from Sequim to Fourth and two 6-foot bike lanes from Fourth to Fifth.
But the details of how construction will go down is largely left to the contractor who will be selected after bids go out in the spring, Klontz said.
“We don’t know if they’ll want to do it block by block or block off the whole stretch,” he said.
“We do know for traffic control, we’ll be making Fir Street one-way for westbound traffic. [Drivers] will be able to use Second, Third, and Fourth [Avenue] intersections to turn but they won’t be able to when [the contractor is] working in the intersections.”
With such a large project in the pipeline, Sequim school officials shared their concerns with Klontz and David Garlington, Sequim public works director, on Jan. 2, at a Sequim School Board meeting.
Before and after school, a bottleneck of traffic occurs at Helen Haller Elementary, Olympic Peninsula Academy and Sequim High School that could be intensified with construction, school officials said.
Part of the project opens up a staff- and disabled-only parking lot between the district’s bus drop-off area and the main parking lot to be one-way with its only entrance on Fir Street and exit into the main lot.
Helen Haller Principal Becky Stanton said she’s concerned about students walking along the sidewalks in the small lot during pick-up and drop off times.
“That’s a really huge concern for safety for us with 300 kids,” she said. “That’s our main through-way to that bus stadium parking lot.”
Board member Robin Henrikson asked if there was a disadvantage to leaving that parking lot blocked off to prevent traffic from coming through.
“Is there a way to keep a sort of a wider area so parents can line up along the side of the sidewalks before pickup and drop off times?” she asked.
“If that pullout is going away, is there an opportunity to build in a wider area that’s even bigger than the thing you are taking away?”
Klontz said there may be an opportunity to make sidewalks wider but it would likely shift more into the school’s property and cut down on parking.
City staff said they don’t want vehicles pulling into bike lanes to pick up children.
Henrikson said she anticipates traffic worsening in years to come as more parents opt to drop their children off.
“This is just an opportune time to think about more strategic ways to have that road help out,” she said.
Garlington said the possibility of having bike lanes and a parking lane will require another 10 feet of right of way.
“Maybe the city and the school district can work on some strategies of using the same configuration but different ways we can route people or maybe different pickup points,” he said.
“The traffic on Fir Street is a mess… It’s going to be exacerbated if [parents] are parking in a bike lane when kids are getting out of school and riding bikes.”
However, Garlington said “there’s really no good way to [add more lanes] without a whole lot more right of way because you’re asking for so many things to share that road.”
When the project is finished, the existing parking lots and fields will move 4 to 5 feet and include a landscaping buffer by the lots, Klontz said.
“Parking is at a premium,” he said, “so what we don’t want to do is take away parking.”
While traffic might be messy along Fir Street for more than a year, Klontz said the bus parking will remain unaffected.
For more information on construction, contact Sequim Public Works at 360-683-4908.
Matthew Nash and Erin Hawkins are reporters with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected]. Reach her at [email protected].