Signs of clearing along the future widened route of U.S. Highway 101 between Sequim and Port Angeles include this former home site. Jeff Chew/Peninsula Daily News

Signs of clearing along the future widened route of U.S. Highway 101 between Sequim and Port Angeles include this former home site. Jeff Chew/Peninsula Daily News

Highway 101 widening delayed at least 6 months

SEQUIM — Widening of the last stretch of U.S. Highway 101 between Sequim and Port Angeles has been delayed at least six months, the project’s chief engineer said.

Right-of-way acquisition is only about half complete, and the project design has changed, said Steve Fuchs, state Department of Transportation project engineer.

“Right now, we’re still planning to advertise the project in September,” Fuchs said.

“We still haven’t purchased all the property yet.

“That means construction will not start until the December time frame.”

Work on the $90 million project to widen the 3.5-mile highway segment to four lanes was originally scheduled to begin this summer, with completion expected in 2014.

Fuchs said much of the delay is on the design side, which changes the right-of-way plan and the securing of property appraisals before property can be purchased from private owners.

Design changes include the location of power utilities and stormwater ponds, even irrigation crossings, which required some purchases of utility easements, he said, but should not radically change the cost of the link.

Already, evidence of the new segment’s future corridor can be seen along the existing stretch where two of four homes have been razed to clear the way.

The project would require the relocation of two businesses on the south side of the existing highway — Midway Metals near Barr Road and PA Swimmin’ Hole and Fireplace near Pierson and Dryke roads.

A former lumberyard just east of the spa and fireplace shop and also in the future highway’s path already has closed.

Fuchs said about 70 parcels must be acquired along the widening stretch.

Widening is planned to run south of the existing two lanes until just east of Dryke Road, where it will shift north of the existing highway at the hill leading down to the intersection of Kitchen-Dick Road.

Construction of the final four-lane segment, which will include a median, is more challenging than the last widening portion between O’Brien and Lewis roads, where it narrows now to two lanes before Shore Road, because there are more hillsides to excavate, Fuchs said.

The new stretch will have some new safety features that motorists will have to get used to — such as right-turns-only off county roads with six U-turns.

That means motorists will have to turn right from Shore Road, Dryke Road and Kitchen-Dick Road onto Highway 101 and travel farther to U-turns to turn around and head in the opposite direction.

There is such a U-turn now east of Deer Park Road on Highway 101.

The new highway segment will reduce long-term traffic congestion by providing indirect left turns across opposing traffic, state officials contend.

A 32-foot median separating the four east-west lanes is expected to reduce the potential for head-on crashes.

Fuchs said last year the safety U-turns were perhaps the most contentious part of the 3.5-mile 101 redesign.

One of the first orders of construction is to build a new 300-foot bridge at McDonald Creek, widening it to four lanes, complete with a walkway underneath to allow pedestrians to cross to bus stops near Barr and Sherburne roads.

The bridge could be built in December because it requires little or no earth-moving around McDonald Creek during the wet winter months, Fuchs said.The improvements are planned for an increase in traffic more than 20 years ahead.

An estimated 19,000 motorists drive the 55-mph route between Sequim and Port Angeles each day, Transportation officials said.

________

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at [email protected]

“I hate missing this summer construction window,” he added.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at [email protected]

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