Clallam County withdraws support for Blyn roundabout

Commissioners in favor of safety but not traffic circle

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners have changed course on a proposed roundabout for U.S. Highway 101 in Blyn.

The three commissioners on Tuesday removed consideration of a letter of support for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s single-lane roundabout at the Sophus Road intersection from their meeting agenda.

Commissioners said they supported the tribe’s ongoing efforts to improve vehicle and pedestrian safety in the Blyn corridor but could not agree that a highway roundabout near the Longhouse Market & Deli was the best solution.

“I want to certainly work with the safety factor,” Commissioner Randy Johnson said in a Monday work session.

“But I’ll be honest, this alternative just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me.”

Commissioners agreed last week to pen a conditional letter of support that was general in nature on the tribe’s $2.5 million roundabout proposal.

Board Chairman Mark Ozias drafted the letter to U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, who had been collecting Community Project funding requests, as a “compromise,” he said.

“Please accept this as an enthusiastic letter of support for the goals of this project, with the recognition that we simply need to know more before endorsing a specific design solution,” the letter said.

Commissioners Bill Peach and Johnson said they had received numerous comments from county residents who were opposed to the roundabout.

“I share those concerns, and certainly have heard them as well,” Ozias said.

Johnson said the largest trucking company on the North Olympic Peninsula was “absolutely sure that this was not the alternative that makes any sense.”

“One of our local sand and gravel folks that are very involved with hauling trucks said, ‘Good luck,’ ” Johnson added.

“Someone else said, ‘I can hardly wait until you get a 15-mile lineup behind the roundabout.’ ”

Last week, Jamestown S’Klallam transportation officials told commissioners that if they could not provide a wholehearted endorsement for the roundabout, they should not send a letter.

Ozias said he would reach out to Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe Transportation Program Manager Annette Nesse to explain the board’s position.

Nesse declined to comment on the board’s decision to pull the letter Tuesday, saying she was out of the office and would be available for an interview today.

The proposed roundabout would serve 17,000 vehicles per day and provide access to the Longhouse and the tribe’s public safety building.

A crosswalk on the west side of the roundabout would connect the Olympic Discovery Trail to the south side of the highway.

An analysis by a tribal consultant found eight crashes — including one fatal wreck — occurred at the Highway 101-Sophus Road intersection from 2015-19.

The posted highway speed limit in the area is 45 mph.

A state Department of Transportation proposal to build a roundabout for state Highway 104 at Paradise Bay Road near the west end of Hood Canal Bridge in Jefferson County also was met with local opposition in 2019.

Transportation spokeswoman Tina Werner told the Peninsula Daily News last week that the agency supports the tribe’s roundabout in Blyn.

Meanwhile, Clallam County officials are preparing to build a $700,000 single-lane roundabout for the Sequim-Dungeness Way/Woodcock Road intersection north of Sequim. Construction is scheduled to begin in July.

County Engineer Ross Tyler said a roundabout makes sense at the Sequim-Dungeness Way/Woodcock Road intersection, but not at the U.S. Highway 101/Sophus Road intersection because of lower traffic volumes on the county road.

An average of 4,000 to 6,000 vehicles per day (VPD) use Sequim-Dungeness Way.

“Momentarily stopping traffic on a 6,000 VPD road is much less impactful than momentarily stopping traffic on a 17,000 VPD road,” Tyler said in a Tuesday email.

“The county is also designing the roundabout at Sequim-Dungeness Way/Woodcock Rd with a diameter of 160 feet, which should allow unimpeded traffic to transition through the roundabout at speeds up to 20 mph,” his email continued.

“In comparison, the roundabout proposed at U.S. 101/Sophus Rd. is designed with a diameter of 130 feet, which means the unimpeded transition speed will be (optimistically) around 15 mph for cars and much less than that for truck-and-trailer combinations.”

Tyler said a $10 million overpass would be the best long-term solution for U.S. Highway 101 in Blyn.

“Building an overpass at U.S. 101/Sophus Road is going to be expensive. However it is the appropriate investment necessary to retain the mobility of U.S. 101, and meet the safe ingress and egress needs of the tribe as they grow their facilities and businesses,” Tyler said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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