PORT ANGELES — Thirteen intersections between Oak Street in downtown Port Angeles and Del Guzzi Drive on U.S. Highway 101 will receive upgraded traffic signal devices, including cameras and software that will recognize patterns with the aim of improving flow.
The $5.6 million project, expected to start in the next month and last up to a year and a half, also will include more than 50 new curb ramps that will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Mike Healy, city Public Works and Utilities director.
The Port Angeles City Council approved the project Tuesday in addition to a downtown tree and sidewalk replacement project that will cost about $400,000.
Both are part of downtown efforts that will cost between $9 million and $10 million, including the paving of Marine Drive in June, Healy said.
Paving and chip sealing will take place in neighborhoods throughout the city this summer, he added.
The signal project, included in the city’s 2024-2029 Transportation Improvement Plan and fully funded with a grant from the Highway Safety Improvement Program of the state Department of Transportation (DOT), won’t have much of an impact on traffic, Healy said.
“There will be concrete work for the sidewalk corners, but very little traffic interruption on the signal side,” he said Wednesday.
The current signals, about 20 years old, are “antiquated,” Healy said.
Each new signal will come with a camera and updated software that calculates where traffic is located and how the intersection can best operate.
“This will allow us to be more traffic-centered to where, if there are cars stacking up in the turn pocket, it’ll see that and it will allow a few more cars through,” he said.
The cameras don’t have the capability to record, nor will they take photos for possible red-light violations, Healy said.
“It’s not Big Brother watching you, but we’re counting you” and working to make traffic more efficient, he said.
ADA-compliant audible actuators also will be installed in areas where they don’t already exist, and they will work on an on-demand basis.
“They are regimented signals right now and the timing is such that it automatically broadcasts the beeps and coo coos,” Healy said. “Now they will be on demand. They won’t be on 24 hours a day, just when somebody activates them.”
Healy praised the work of city engineer Jonathan Boehme, who negotiated with DOT throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to increase the grant from $1.5 million to $2 million — without a local match — to $5.6 million.
“He just worked hard on them on the importance of this and the pedestrian benefits on behalf of the citizens of this community, and he was able to keep the no match so we didn’t have to cheapen the program,” Healy said.
The city awarded the construction bid to TITAN Earthwork, LLC of Pacific for $4,197,795.
“The greatest thing about it is we can take the backbone of First and Front (streets), and over time and subsequent projects, we can spread that out to the southerly side and the westerly side of the city,” Healy said.
Also starting within the next month and lasting into the summer is a sidewalk replacement project that will occur in the right of way of Front Street, Railroad Avenue, Oak and Laurel streets.
The goal is to remove trip hazards and replace dead or dying trees within the corridor, Healy said.
A similar project was completed in 2016 along First Street, according to city documents.
“We’ve got a number of trees downtown, and they really make for a neat environment for not only pedestrians but also shoppers and tourists,” Healy said. “We try to create the best we can for the Port Angeles experience.”
Council member Lindsay Schromen-Wawrin said he walked around some of the project sites with a city engineer to understand the project and see if other mitigation measures would be possible.
“What I took away from that conversation is that street trees in an area like downtown Port Angeles are basically in giant underground pots, and once they burst free of those underground pots, they go wild and they tear up the street and sidewalk,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“We need to make sure there aren’t any cracks in those pots and then put trees back in, which means different trees.”
Healy said the environment that includes automobile exhaust can be particularly tough on trees.
“We want something that will survive,” he said. “There are some species we are aware of that fare better than others.”
Out of seven bids, the city awarded the construction contract Tuesday night to Interwest Construction Inc. of Burlington for $396,890.
The project is phase 3 of the downtown tree and sidewalk replacement that was approved in the 2024-2029 Transportation Improvement Plan.
“It’s maintenance, but it’s also beautification,” Healy said.
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