Dan Kelly Road urged as alternative to replacing Highway 101 bridge over Elwha River

PORT ANGELES — The state Department of Transporation should consider Dan Kelly Road an alternative to replacing the U.S. Highway 101 bridge over the Elwha River, Clallam County commissioners heard Monday.

A group of citizens told the board that a new highway on Dan Kelly Road would eliminate the need to replace the 91-year-old Highway 101 crossing, which is being undercut by the now free-flowing Elwha River.

The Dan Kelly highway would use the existing state Highway 112 bridge to cross the river west of Port Angeles.

“We believe the Dan Kelly route is not only cheaper, but also assures a much more stable Highway 101 leading to the West End,” said Glenn Wiggins, a former Port Angeles mayor, who suggested the route in a letter co-signed by Bill Kindler, John Teichert and Kevin Yancy.

“The power of this river will always present a significant risk to any new structure in the floodplain proposed by DOT, not so by using the existing 112 bridge.”

The Elwha River bed has dropped 12 feet since Lake Aldwell was drained in 2012, Transportation officials said.

Borings revealed that the Highway 101 bridge foundations were built on gravel instead of bedrock, contrary to the 1926 plans.

Transportation crews installed more than 3,300 tons of riprap to prevent further erosion around the bridge piers.

State officials are planning to replace the cracked bridge on a new, parallel or existing alignment.

Meanwhile, crews are monitoring the bridge with tilt meters. Transportation officials say the bridge is safe to drive on.

Last year, Transportation officials sought public feedback on seven design alternatives.

An overwhelming majority of Clallam County residents and several North Olympic Peninsula municipalities favored the option to build a new bridge on a new alignment just north of the existing span.

That option — No. 7 on DOT’s list — would allow traffic to flow on the existing bridge during construction and would eliminate the sharp corner just east of the bridge.

DOT officials said option 7 would cost between $18 million and $25 million and take one to two years to build.

Last December, DOT removed from consideration four other options, including an “alternate highway” that would put U.S. Highway 101 on or near Eden Valley Road, which is near Dan Kelly Road.

DOT estimated that the Eden Valley option would cost about $40 million and take two to three years to build.

Wiggins said the actual cost would be closer to $20 million.

“We believe that the cost of the Dan Kelly route is substantially less than the DOT proposal,” Wiggins said.

Commissioners took no action after a lengthy discussion on the alternate route, saying they would seek clarification from DOT on the cost estimates because they vary so widely.

Commissioner Bill Peach said he would attempt to organize a meeting with DOT officials to discuss the bridge project.

“We are powerless to stop this, but you the county commissioners are not,” Wiggins said.

“We believe that a thorough review by a non-biased third party is the recommended way to go.”

County citizen Kenneth Reandeau testified that the Dan Kelly highway option is a bad idea because state Highway 112 is inadequate to handle the additional traffic.

“I find this to be a real troubling conversation,” Reandeau said.

“The consensus so far has been Option 7. It’s been endorsed by municipalities and individuals, other entities.”

Clallam and Jefferson County commissioners, Port of Port Angeles commissioners and the Port Angeles and Forks city councils have formally endorsed option 7.

Transportation officials said Monday they were still evaluating the three remaining options using different approaches to the bridge.

“We do not have a firm timeline for a decision, but are moving forward aggressively,” Transportation officials said on the Elwha bridge project web site.

The state House and Senate approved $20 million to $30 million in funding for the Elwha bridge project in a transportation budget.

The amount of funding will depend on which design option is selected.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsula dailynews.com.

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