PORT ANGELES — A project to restore fish passage in three Port Angeles creeks could interrupt traffic for up to two years, according to the state Department of Transportation, with work beginning the summer of 2023 at the earliest.
The work would be done at three culvert sites — Ennis Creek, Lee’s Creek and Tumwater Creek — all of which run under highly traveled roads and will present significant traffic challenges once construction begins.
The project was initially estimated to cost $50 million, but the addition of a culvert mitigation project in Chimacum has been added, raising the estimated cost to $65 million.
The current construction schedule, as presented by DOT, has the construction of these projects beginning in July 2023. However, this is subject to change if contractors propose alternative concepts to what the state has proposed.
“We have had a change in our delivery method,” said Piper Petit, assistant project engineer, told the Port Angeles Business Association (PABA) on Tuesday.
“Instead of doing the traditional design, bid, build (process), we are going to advertise as a design-build contract,” Petit said.
“What that leaves open is a little bit more room for innovation for contractors to come up with their own concepts and propose something that might be a betterment for the public,” she said.
“We are switching to this method to recoup some schedule because we have had some serious challenges with the geotechnical conditions out here.”
Petit said DOT will issue a Request for Proposal for contractors in the coming weeks.
Public comment is encouraged, she said.
Business owners or other members of the public who could be impacted by the traffic are asked to send email to [email protected].
During her update to PABA, Petit highlighted the work to be done, traffic impacts and mitigation, along with a preliminary schedule.
“What characterizes these jobs and makes them the particularly interesting and challenging project is that they are all characterized by being under an enormous amount of fill,” Petit said.
Tumwater Creek has about 75 feet of fill that goes under a two-lane highway, while Ennis and Lee’s creeks have about 50 feet of fill, which includes fiber, water and sewer connections; that presents challenges to the construction process, along with impacts to five lanes of traffic crossing U.S. Highway 101.
“Tumwater is on a two-lane section of Highway 101, right as it’s coming into town,” Petit said.
“Lee’s and Ennis are on a five-lane section, so a much wider cross-section, and we don’t really have much in the way of detours at Ennis and Lee’s,” she continued.
“We have the east Ennis cutoff road and Draper Road up over Lee’s Creek, but we wouldn’t consider those detours for highway traffic. Those are local roads, and we don’t want to impose highway traffic on local roads.”
The work being done in the culverts for Ennis and Lee’s creeks will mimic similar work done at Little Bear Creek in Woodinville, Petit said.
“What these are, are basically buried structures, so like a three-sided box but on a massive scale,” Petit said.
The structures will be constructed in multiple stages over the course of 12 to 24 months.
Some of the work will require the shifting of lanes or even temporary lane closures during the day, although night work is expected throughout the construction process as well to limit those daytime impacts.
For the work at Ennis Creek, it is expected that North Baker Street will be closed off where it meets Highway 101, requiring residents of the Gales neighborhood to use Gales Street or Pioneer Road as entry and exit points.
This is subject to change by the potential contractors.
“Since we switched from design, bid, build, this is the way we (DOT) have projected that it could be built. The contractor, of course, is allowed to come up with their own innovative strategy and manage traffic differently,” Petit said.
In terms of the work at Tumwater Creek, that will require the full closure of the truck route for about nine months, with routing onto state Highway 117 and Marine Drive. However, DOT is looking to mitigate the closure time by restricting the closure to low tourism time between October and April and encouraging potential contractors to get the work done sooner.
“We will favor proposals that will minimize impacts to the public,” Petit said.
The projects are all part of a requirement for the state to remove, repair or replace culverts that have impacted fish passage and salmon migration by 2030.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at [email protected]