Sequim seeks state help for Simdars Road bypass

SEQUIM — Sequim city leaders hope local legislators can help them grant a long-standing wish to complete the Simdars Road Interchange on the east side of the city.

After two decades of discussions, city leaders and area stakeholders plan to send a letter to state Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, in the coming weeks, encouraging him and other leaders in Olympia to back a conceptual design for three sizable road projects in the Sequim area.

“We have a level of support from Olympia that we haven’t seen before,” David Garlington, Sequim Public Works director, told the Sequim City Council in December.

Council members told Chapman, state Rep. Steve Tharinger of Port Townsend, and Sen. Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim, in late 2018 that improving the corridor from U.S. Highway 101 milepost 266.1 to milepost 267.7 is the council’s top legislative priority for this session.

The three Democrats represent the Legislative District 24, which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties.

The letter to Chapman will say that city leaders and stakeholders seek:

• Completion of the Simdars Road interchange;

• Construction of a frontage road to connect Palo Alto and Happy Valley Roads to the Simdars Road Interchange and eliminate their direct connection to Highway 101.

• Landscaping of the Sequim bypass between Simdars Road and River Road.

Garlington said city leaders and staff with the state Department of Transportation, Clallam County and Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe have agreed upon a conceptual design for the corridor.

They met with Chapman shortly thereafter in early December, and he seemed “supportive of the project,” Garlington said.

“As a member of the House Transportation Committee, he’ll see if there’s way to get funding for design work in this coming session,” Garlington said.

Garlington and Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush plan to meet with state leaders this month, and develop a brochure telling the corridor’s history to share with legislators and community members.

“Our legislators are all showing support for this, but you need other legislators to show support as well,” Garlington said in an interview.

To help further the city and stakeholders’ cause, city councilors agreed to hire lobbyist Davor Gjurasic in November at $3,000 per month plus approved expenses for one year in 2019 to focus on receiving funding for the corridor’s design and construction projects.

Simdars background

The Simdars Road interchange was originally set for completion with the opening of the $18 million, 4.6-mile Highway 101 bypass Aug. 18, 1999.

However, the Department of Transportation (DOT) was unable to complete construction on Simdars’ eastbound off-ramp because of a lack of funds.

The city’s draft letter, says that completing the bypass would help “fully support economic development on the east side of Sequim including in the recently created Emerald Coast Economic Opportunity Zone.”

It also says that DOT recognized in the 1990s that the highway geometrics are substandard, making travel hazardous on the highway and at the intersections of Palo Alto and Happy Valley Roads.

City officials say in their letter that one possible alternative for Palo Alto Road could include creating a new underpass/overpass east of Johnson Creek that connects Palo Alto Road to Whitefeather Way for Highway 101 access.

The final request for the corridor project would finish landscaping that wasn’t completed on the “gateways” to Sequim when the bypass was finished in 1999.

“Let’s have the highway reflect the beauty that tourists come to see,” the city’s letter says.

Next steps

Clallam County commissioners plan to discuss the letter in their work session on Monday.

Garlington said the city will take it to other agencies, such as the Port of Port Angeles, to seek support for the projects.

The asking price for design work, he said, is about $3 million prior to going to bid and he estimates it being a two-year effort.

“Ideally, if it plays out well we go back in 2021 with a shovel-ready project seeking funding,” Garlington said.

City officials said the corridor project could fit well with DOT’s 2022-23 plan to replace a culvert for Johnson Creek on U.S. Highway 101.

Garlington said if both projects were to go at the same time, it would minimize traffic disruptions.

“Everything would work out nicely if we got some money on this project,” he said.

Garlington said a more specific construction estimate is hard to estimate at this time but said it could cost the state about $20 million extra to the planned Johnson Creek project to improve fish passage.

For more information, contact the city of Sequim at 360-683-4908.

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Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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