U.S. 101 widening expected by 2013, chamber told

PORT ANGELES — A state Department of Transportation official told Port Angeles business leaders Monday that long-awaited widening of two-lane U.S. Highway 101 between Kitchen-Dick and Shore roads will be finished in late 2013.

“We expect that it will be under construction by mid-2012, and it will be a two-season job,” Transportation’s Olympic Region manager, Kevin Dayton, told Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce members at their weekly luncheon at the Port Angeles CrabHouse Restaurant.

“We’ve just completed the environmental assessment. We’ve got a record of decision on that, and we’re moving into the design phase of that job.”

Dayton said the $90 million, 3.5-mile project to widen the highway to four lanes will go out to bid “sometime in 2012.”

The additional lanes are expected to alleviate congestion for the 19,000 motorists who travel the route daily.

A median will separate the four lanes to reduce the potential for head-on wrecks.

“It will really make a vast improvement out there,” Dayton said.

“It will widen to four lanes the last section of two-lane highway between Sequim and Port Angeles.”

The final section of highway widening along the two-city link has been discussed for the better part of a decade.

Barring more delays, the project is slated to be finished in November 2013, DOT regional spokeswoman Lisa Copeland said.

On the more immediate horizon, three smaller projects are planned in the Port Angeles area.

■ The Department of Transportation this summer will repave U.S. Highway 101 from west Port Angeles to Indian Creek.

“It will be what we call a mill and fill,” Dayton told the chamber audience of about 70. “We’ll grind the road down and pave it back. We find that’s a more economical way to do roads so we don’t continue to build the depth of the structure and have to upgrade the guardrail.”

The eastern half of the project — from Port Angeles to Laird’s Corner — will begin in July. Most of the work will take place at night.

The western half of the project will begin in August. Crews will work during the day, using alternating traffic, to complete the project by September, Dayton said.

■ The eastbound lanes of U.S. Highway 101 from Lincoln Street to Golf Course Road — known in Port Angeles as First Street — will be repaved this summer, Dayton said.

The upgrade will come with wheelchair-accessible curb ramps to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Most of the paving will take place at night, Dayton said.

■ Six U.S. traffic signals in Port Angeles — on Lincoln, First and Front streets — will be upgraded this summer.

“Some of those are pretty old, and if you look at them you can tell that they’re in need of some maintenance and preservation activities,” Dayton said.

Motorists will see little disruption as the signals are repaired, he said.

“We’ll flag traffic through as we’re doing the work,” Dayton said.

Of the state’s 37.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax, the DOT gets 8 cents per gallon for maintenance, preservation and the operation of the state highways and ferry system, Dayton said.

“Our region is responsible for design, construction, maintenance, preservation and planning,” said Dayton, who oversees Transportation operations in Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap, Pierce, Thurston, Mason and Grays Harbor counties.

As state transportation projects run out of funding, the Olympic Region division expects to lose 75 of its 800 employees next year and 75 more in 2013.

Dayton described “pretty devastating cuts” for

the department.

“But very necessary from the standpoint that the [transportation] program is really diminishing,” he said.

Dayton said the Hood Canal Bridge continues to pose long backups on state Highways 104 and 3.

In a pilot project that begins Friday and runs through September, the Coast Guard will prevent nonmilitary vessels from causing openings of the Hood Canal Bridge between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. daily.

“It’s my goal — unless there’s huge outcry from the pleasure boaters — to petition the Coast Guard to continue this,” Dayton said.

Next week’s Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon has been canceled for Memorial Day.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at [email protected]

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