Traffic makes its way along U.S. Highway 101 as it winds around Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park west of Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Traffic makes its way along U.S. Highway 101 as it winds around Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park west of Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Olympic National Park announces schedule for Lake Crescent road work

PORT ANGELES — Drivers can expect delays around Lake Crescent on weekdays during the spring, summer and fall of 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Olympic National Park announced Thursday a construction schedule for the rehabilitation of U.S. Highway 101 around the lake and East Beach Road. Work will begin in March.

The schedule includes half-hour delays during the workday and limited four- and six-hour closures that will be announced two weeks in advance.

“It’s going to be a long three years,” said Port of Port Angeles Commissioner Connie Beauvais, who represents the western third of the county.

The park, along with the Federal Highway Administration as a cooperating agency, plans to replace sections of road bed, remove rock-fall hazards, repair or replace failing retaining walls and rotten guardrails, and repair culverts on 12.3 miles of the tourist and commuting route around the lake.

“We understand the importance of the Lake Crescent highway to our neighbors and visitors alike,” Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said in a news release.

“Repairs are needed to address long-term safety and maintenance concerns, but minimizing short-term impacts and inconveniences is also a priority for us.”

Alternating, single-lane traffic will be in effect after work hours on weekdays.

No construction will be scheduled on holidays or weekends, park officials said.

The construction season for the Federal Highway Administration-led project runs from March through mid-November.

Despite the delays, West End residents say the three-year schedule is a far better plan than the yearlong closure that was initially considered.

“Their original proposal was not acceptable,” Forks City Attorney/Planner Rod Fleck said. “It’s a better option. I don’t think it’s the best option, but I’m not sure they had many best options, either.”

Clallam County Commissioner Bill Peach, whose district extends from Port Angeles to the Pacific Ocean, credited Creachbaum with listening to the concerns of West End residents and modifying the construction schedule.

“I was fearful that this thing could fall through the cracks without her being there,” Peach said, referring to Creachbaum’s special four-month assignment in Alaska that began in July, “yet she made sure the commitments she made to the community of Forks actually occurred.”

Fleck said the Forks Chamber of Commerce was “kind of the driver” in convincing the park that a long-term shutdown was a bad idea.

“The Forks Chamber of Commerce considers the rehab project a challenge for residents of the West End and visitors to the area but we are very happy the National Park made accommodations for our needs by not rerouting traffic,” Forks chamber Executive Director Lissy Andros said in an email.

“Between the Lake Crescent road rehab project and the Elwha River bridge project, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens over the next few years.”

The state Department of Transportation is mulling a series of options for replacing or retrofitting the 90-year-old Elwha River bridge between Lake Crescent and Port Angeles. Five of the seven options being considered would require detours along state Highway 112.

“The one known unknown is the bridge,” Fleck said.

Peach said he planned to attend an upcoming Transportation meeting in Olympia to pitch an option that would keep traffic flowing over the Elwha.

“The key issue that I want to bring to their attention is you’ve got to consider safety and commerce, but you’ve also got to consider what’s going on at Lake Crescent,” Peach said.

Here is an outline of the park’s construction schedule for Lake Crescent:

March: Half-hour delays during work hours with short delays after-hours for alternating single-lane traffic; limited four‐hour delays and six‐hour overnight delays may be scheduled and will be announced two weeks in advance.

April to late May: Half-hour delays during work hours with short delays after-hours for alternating single-lane traffic; limited four‐hour delays may be scheduled and will be announced two weeks in advance.

Summer season (Memorial Day to Labor Day): Half-hour delays during work hours with short delays after-hours for alternating single-lane traffic.

Early September to mid-November: Half-hour delays during work hours with short delays after-hours for alternating single-lane traffic; limited four‐hour delays and six‐hour overnight delays may be scheduled and will be announced two weeks in advance.

Between April 1 and Sept. 23, the contractor’s workday will begin at least two hours after sunrise and end at least two hours before sunset.

“While a contractor has not yet been selected for the project, key aspects of the construction schedule are dictated by the terms of the contract, and we have included a number of specific requirements to minimize traveler impacts,” Creachbaum said.

Up to 20 four-hour delays will occur each spring and each fall. Each of these delays will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The four‐hour delays will be for slope scaling, rock bolting, culvert replacement and deep patching across the road width, park officials said.

Incentives will be offered to the contractor for limiting the number of four‐hour delays, officials said.

The six‐hour overnight delays will be for culvert replacement and deep patching across the full road width.

Marc Abshire, Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce executive director, praised the park for releasing the construction schedule so far in advance.

“They’ve clearly made every attempt to minimize the impact of getting this important work done on the 101 by planning to limit delays to 30 minutes, only on the weekdays and giving two-week advance notice for the extended delays,” Abshire said.

“Highway 101 is a critical economic, cultural and quality-of-life asset of our community. It’s the only route that runs continuously through Clallam County, and we appreciate the national park’s stewardship to help keep this route, especially around Lake Crescent, safe and navigable well into the future.”

Jodi Minker, administrative assistant with the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce, said any closure of U.S. Highway 101 on the Olympic Peninsula affects residents and businesses alike.

“It’s important for us to continue to share this information as far and wide as we can so that our business community can start to factor in the closures and delays into their business plans, especially the businesses dependent on transportation of goods and those in the tourism field,” Minker said.

Clallam County Engineer Ross Tyler said the park’s construction schedule was “the best they could do.”

“It’s difficult to manage the traffic around the lake and get everything that needs to be done done,” Tyler said. “There no way to make it painless on those of us who use the facilities.

“Spreading it over three years is a more comfortable way to do it than cramming it into one year and having to close it,” Tyler added.

“It was the best solution.”

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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