The view down South Elderberry Avenue in Forks. This is a main access road for the football field and multiple school buildings. The unpaved surface is not part of the plan to begin the new school year. (Zorina Barker/for Peninsula Daily News)

The view down South Elderberry Avenue in Forks. This is a main access road for the football field and multiple school buildings. The unpaved surface is not part of the plan to begin the new school year. (Zorina Barker/for Peninsula Daily News)

WEST END NEIGHBOR: Still a bumpy path to jobs’ completion in Forks

WHEN SOMEBODY SAYS “the best laid plans” and leaves the words to hang in the air like smoke, they are generally not describing a successful outcome. Or certainly not describing the predicted outcome.

Audrey Grafstrom, clerk and treasurer for the city of Forks, left those words suspended in the air after explaining the impact of a recent union strike on planned paving projects intended to smooth the way for people shuttling to and from school.

“We had it all timed to be done before school started,” Grafstrom said.

Picture the scene: There are only a few streets that access the football field and the parking lot for the school commons.

There is only one street that accesses the elementary school without driving through a parking lot — Elderberry Avenue. This street to the elementary school was so chuckholed most West End users had begun to ask if it was the city’s road or a logging road.

Parents, school buses and teachers use Elderberry daily, as one can imagine.

It was simply fabulous news to realize the powers of Forks chose to make the roadbed a priority.

Plus, they had decided to install brand-new, ADA-approved sidewalks.

The sidewalk is ready to be used, but where the pavement should go is nothing but a gravel surface, a very smooth version of a logging road.

The paving was scheduled to be done Aug. 22 as a one-day job.

However, when Local 302 of the International Union of Operating Engineers in Western Washington voted to strike, they began that strike at 6 a.m. Aug. 21.

Tough break for the morning elementary school commute come Thursday, the first day of school.

These most recent sidewalk and paving projects are part of a plan that began back in 1994, according to Rod Fleck, attorney/planner for the city of Forks.

Cities are not just born with sidewalks and cities whose lifetime extends back into the 1800s. They don’t arrive on the scene with paved streets, either.

Paved streets had more urgency in the past of Forks’ growth and sidewalks have been a more recent addition.

With each new section of sidewalk, there is a purpose to connect sections of town to existing sidewalk.

“That has been the continual driver,” said Fleck.

At first, there was only the main street, U.S. Highway 101, that got sidewalk for its “core” of downtown.

Fleck explained, “We are trying to get to neighborhoods to get people to use the sidewalks to get to services.”

In time, the downtown sidewalk extended all the way down the west side of Highway 101 to the Thriftway grocery store.

There were sidewalks added when Forks High School had its big rebuild.

Sidewalks were enlarged when the new Rainforest Arts Center was built.

According to Fleck, the city has communicated back and forth with Clallam Transit to discuss placement of bus shelters on its routes.

“Occasionally, we have had to acquire right of way and easement permission from property owners,” Fleck said.

He declined to give details on the responses the city has received to their requests.

Fleck merely chuckled and said, “It all depends.”

In a town with a history so steeped in logging, the road surfaces literally take a pounding from heavy trucks hauling equipment and logs.

Often, it makes sense to strip down and replace the entire road surface when adding a new sidewalk to the edge.

Fleck said the cost of a “state-approved and funded sidewalk, including the sidewalk, curb, gutter and drainage” is “staggering.”

He said I should ask Grafstrom for the cost per linear foot.

Grafstrom didn’t have that kind of figure at hand: “It’s more complicated than just the cost of a sidewalk because there is asphalt patching as well, so it’s difficult to separate.”

She did say that 95 percent of the total project costs came from the state Transportation Improvement Board and 5 percent was paid for by the city of Forks.

Grafstrom outlined three projects of paving and sidewalks going on around Forks.

Two involved sidewalks and paving directly linking main school access veins which are paid for by both the transportation board and the city.

The board’s share of the bill is $900,015.

Forks share is $47,369, to which the city opted to add one more short paving section at a cost of $40,100.

When this work is finally complete, the eastern side streets from the main drag will be paved with sidewalks to all main access points of all major school buildings.

What’s next in the city’s sidewalk development?

“You can get off the bus at the transit center and see the hospital, but currently people are walking in the street,” said Fleck.

The city hopes to remedy that by connecting those two points with a safe walking space.


Zorina Barker has lived on the West End for most of her life. She is married to a Forks native who works in the timber industry. Both of her kids have been homeschooled in the wilds of the SolDuc Valley. She can be reached at 360-461-7928 or [email protected]

West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.

Her next column will be Sept. 18.

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