PORT ANGELES — A lack of county support for a roundabout on U.S. Highway 101 in Blyn will not derail the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposal, Transportation Program Manager Annette Nesse said.
Clallam County commissioners decided last Monday not to sign a letter of support for the tribe’s planned $2.5 million roundabout at the Sophus Road intersection near the Longhouse Market & Deli.
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 single-lane roundabout on the highway was the best solution.
In a later interview, Nesse said the tribe would continue to work on the project. The roundabout concept is under state Department of Transportation review, she said.
“We’ll have to do some more public outreach, for sure, as we move forward,” Nesse said when reached by cell phone Wednesday.
“Contacting the jurisdictions and the stakeholders was just a first effort in advancing the project to get the attention of a funding opportunity.”
The tribe had sought a letter of support from county commissioners in a bid for federal funding.
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, had been collecting Community Project funding requests for projects estimated to cost between $500,000 and $3 million that would be completed in fiscal year 2022.
“The tribe and the county have worked together very well on multiple projects for many years, and we absolutely respect the commissioners’ reaction,” Nesse said. “We’ll continue to support them as they can support us as much as possible.”
“It’s very early in planning for some kind of traffic control at Sophus Road and Highway 101,” Nesse added. “So I understand folks’ hesitation if they feel they can’t support it as proposed right now.”
Commissioners said they received numerous comments from members of the local trucking industry and other citizens who were concerned about traffic backups.
Nesse said a roundabout was WSDOT’s preferred option for the Highway 101/Sophus Road intersection. Other options would be a stoplight or no change, she said.
County Engineer Ross Tyler has suggested an overpass may be the best long-term solution for the Sophus Road/U.S. Highway 101 intersection. The highway alone serves an average of 17,000 vehicles daily in the Blyn corridor.
Nesse said the tribe considered an overpass about 10 years ago, but it was shelved amid community opposition.
“We did an open house, and the public did not like that (overpass) option as designed,” Nesse said.
“They felt it was too restrictive as far as left- and right-turn opportunities off of 101 onto county roads. So at that point, both the county and WSDOT kind of backed away from that option.”
The tribe worked closely with Clallam County on “traffic calming” for Old Blyn Highway at the Jamestown campus and in 2018 completed a reconfigured highway intersection for Chicken Coop and Zaccardo county roads, Nesse said.
“I think everybody’s on the same page as far as safety and mobility,” Nesse said.
“Mobility is a big factor, too, and I think that’s where Ross was coming from as far as ‘What about big events? How are we going to move traffic through that area in an effective and efficient way when we have a Lavender Festival or an Irrigation Festival or a crab festival, when we have a lot of people coming onto and off of the Peninsula?’
“So those are all things that will have to be taken into consideration as we advance the roundabout idea,” Nesse added.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].