Clallam County commissioners agree to finish Towne Road in 2024

SEQUIM — Barring any setbacks, completion of a key segment of Towne Road will be completed by the end of September.

Clallam County commissioners on Dec. 26 unanimously agreed to a resolution to pursue a “hybrid” option — as recommended by county staff based on a community survey — of a two-lane road and adjacent 6-foot-wide pedestrian path, with the goal of completing it by the end of this summer’s construction season.

“I think we realize the sooner we can complete the project the better for everybody,” Clallam County Commissioner Mike French said, considering the public’s desire to see it reopen and the costs involved.

The decision came at the end of a combined commissioner work session and regular meeting on a topic not featured on the agenda but the subject of much public debate in recent months.

Many of the two dozen attendees in the audience, speaking in the public comment portion at the meeting’s end, asked the commissioners to finish the project and expressed frustration over Towne Road’s uncertain future.

Jeff Tozzer, who helped organize neighborhood meetings and started a website, https://www.ccwatchdog.com/, detailing the project’s status, said following last week’s meeting that the resolution was a much better situation than having the project on the county’s to-do list without a timeline commitment.

He said the concerned residents speaking out was the driving force behind getting a resolution.

“That’s Sequim for you,” Tozzer said following the meeting. “For two or three years … we pushed really hard.”

“The day after Christmas, it’s hard to rally people. I’m amazed, but not surprised.”

The Lower Dungeness Floodplain Restoration Project reconnected and restored about 175 acres of former floodplain with the Dungeness River. It included removal and reconstruction of about 2.2 miles of new levee, generally divided into three segments: the North Levee (0.3 miles), the Towne Road Levee (0.8 miles) — the only one considered for vehicle use — and the River’s Edge Levee (1.1 miles).

County staff hosted a Sept. 26 meeting in Sequim to update the public on the status of the four alternatives for the surfacing and future use of the Towne Road Levee segment.

Option 1 would build a two-lane road with 10-foot lanes and 4-foot shoulders to connect the existing Towne Road to East Anderson Road. Option 2 would build a two-lane road and a separate 6-foot trail surface and include 10-foot-wide lanes with 1-foot-wide shoulders and 2-foot-wide guard rails. The third option would build a one-lane, 16-foot road surface southbound only, and a 12-foot-wide pedestrian trail surface. Option 4 would keep the levee as a pedestrian walking/hiking trail.

The first three options were initially marked as costing at least $3 million, and the fourth at about $750,000.

In late November, Bruce Emery — the county’s director of community development — recommended to commissioners Option 2, allowing for the two-lane roadway and the adjacent pedestrian path as a compromise.

County Commissioner Mark Ozias initially said the project would have to be put on hold because of its expense, noting in an early December meeting that “if the project cost is $3.5 million and $1 million is the gap, that still will take several years of reallocating money or not doing the project. Think of that time gap.”

At the Dec. 26 meeting, however, county staff said they may be able to do much of the work “in-house,” including a chip-seal roadway to complete the Towne Road segment.

“We’re working very hard to complete this (project) within the budget we have,” Ozias said then.

County administrator Todd Mielke said county staff led by engineer Joe Donisi will get a detailed look at the site to determine what can be done by Clallam County road crews and what will need to be put out to bid.

Emery said that while the project is complex and involves meeting design requirements by a number of entities including the Army Corps of Engineers and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, “we’ve committed to get that project done.”

Dinisi said he’ll be doing a site survey in the coming days to see where levee material has settled, and that it may need to be adjusted to meet shoulder and pedestrian width specifications while maintaining flood protection.

“(It will be) no higher and no lower than it needs to be,” Dinisi said of the levee.

Some attendees were concerned that the initial resolution left the construction date open-ended while commissioners and staff were hesitant to set a firm date.

Instead, French amended the resolution to add a phrase that the goal is to have the project complete by the end of the 2024 construction season, drawing applause from the audience.

Emery said interested residents can keep up to date about the project through a dedicated webpage on the Clallam County website (clallamcountywa.gov/184/Dungeness-Floodplain-Restoration).

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