ROAD CLOSURES AND long delays are inconvenient for all who use U.S. Highway 101 to and from the West End.
However, sometimes delays can hold life in the balance.
“We have a great plan,” said Laura Kripinski, the chief nursing officer and paramedic for Forks Community Hospital.
She said before the work began she was able to sit down with all involved parties to discuss and prepare for different scenarios.
When a patient needs services beyond the scope available on the West End, Kripinski explained that airplanes and helicopters are not always viable options because of weather.
Rushing around state Highway 112 is avoided because its twists and turns would make for a worse situation: “You’d have a sick patient, sick nurse and sick paramedic,” said Kripinski.
The current working plan for the urgent transportation of a patient is for the nurse to call the lead flagger at the Lake Crescent construction site and give her an expected time of arrival.
This usually gives the construction crew at least a half-hour heads-up.
The ambulance will again call the flagger when they get to Fairholme.
Kripinski said one time she was along when this plan had to be put into action, the construction pilot car was waiting for the ambulance and escorted them around the lake.
In a worst-case scenario, one in which Highway 101 is completely blocked, the plan is to call ahead to ambulance crews in Port Angeles and have them meet the Forks ambulance at the job site.
The crews then would transport just the patient by hand through the work site to the waiting ambulance.
Laura Huling, postmaster for Forks and administrative postmaster for La Push and Beaver said, “I think the locals have a good attitude about it,” though the mail is coming later each day.
“People have asked a few questions, but no real gripes at all.”
The work at the Forks office runs on a tight schedule.
Huling said the morning mail used to arrive at 8:05 a.m. but now it is regularly more than 40 minutes later and still has to be sorted and delivered throughout the West End.
“We have one carrier who does a 140-mile route south of town all the way to Clearwater, so a 48-minute delay really impacts her day,” said Huling.
“We were expecting worse and I am totally positive at this point,” she added.
Clallam Transit route 14 shuttles back and forth between Port Angeles and Forks along Highway 101.
On a weekday, the bus line usually has eight trips that leave the Gateway Transit Center and another eight leaving Forks, according to the bus schedule.
According to Kevin Gallacci, general manager of Clallam Transit, the highway work at Lake Crescent has impacted these routes causing them to run 20 to 25 minutes late on average and up to an hour at times.
He said the mornings are better at keeping to the schedule and afternoons are worse.
“We are doing our best to get our drivers some relief,” Gallacci explained.
He added, “Normally there is a 30-minute layover for them to get out of the bus at the end of each run but that is now gone because of the delays.”
Clallam Transit has completely eliminated the 1:30 p.m. runs leaving from both Port Angeles and Forks.
This, Gallacci said, has “freed up” the schedule and allowed time for the drivers to catch up for the afternoon runs.
As far as passengers and drivers, “They’re still in good spirits about the situation,” Gallacci said.
Bill Peach, Clallam County commissioner and West End resident said, “My commute from Beaver to PA was 50 minutes and now it is two hours.”
He added that though this is inconvenient and hard on tires and vehicles, the state Department of Transportation has been good about sharing information about delays and “the road repair will make that segment of road much safer.”
Over at the Dahlgren Logging office, Cheri Dahlgren said most of their trucks are taking Highway 112 and the drivers are still trying to get their three loads to the log yards, just as before the construction began.
Dahlgren explained that it is difficult for the drivers to get the last load to the log yards and it would be a big help if the dumps at Interfor Inc. and by the Fairchild International Airport would stay open later to receive those later loads.
“It’s hard on the truckers, but they are doing the best they can,” Dahlgren said, acknowledging the work could go on for three years.
She said her office receives a report via email each morning alerting them to what work is taking place each day around the lake. She said she puts it out where the drivers can read it, but they get most of their information from conversations on CB radios.
RockSol Consulting Group out of Denver is one of the companies involved with the multifaceted work of rehabilitating Highway 101 around Lake Crescent.
They are part of the construction inspection and have done this type of work all over the western United States.
Saeid Saeb, owner of RockSol, said of efforts to address peoples’ concerns, “This is usually a challenge for all road projects as the road is people’s livelihoods.”
Zorina Barker lives in the Sol Duc Valley with her husband, a logger, and two children she home-schools.
Submit items and ideas for the column to her at zorina [email protected], or phone her at 360-327-3702. West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.
Her next column will be Oct 31.