Traffic makes its way along a newly resurfaced section of U.S. Highway 101 around Sledge Hammer Point at Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Traffic makes its way along a newly resurfaced section of U.S. Highway 101 around Sledge Hammer Point at Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Three-year project on Highway 101 comes to a close

Work at Lake Crescent yields road that is ‘a dream to drive on’

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — After three years of traffic delays and long detours from spring through fall, the restoration of U.S. Highway 101 around Lake Crescent is complete.

It’s all over. No more four-hour delays four days a week necessitating detours on the coastline-hugging, winding state Highway 112 for those traveling to and from the West End of Clallam County. No more half-hour delays, traffic signals, pilot cars and flaggers.

“We’re all singing Glorias on high,” said Rod Fleck, Forks city attorney and planner, on Friday.

“I’m looking for the medal we get for enduring this.

“Having to plan days around four-hour closures really became a challenge.”

The project is all done — except for one bit: the final paving of the 2½-inch wearing surface and striping for the short section of road at milepost 229 is scheduled for next spring.

Contractor Strider Construction’s final work on the $27 million Lake Crescent Highway 101 Rehabilitation Project was restoring the width and shoulder area of Highway 101 in front of the rock wall near milepost 229.

Fleck said the contractor was “remarkable,” taking on, along with Olympic National Park, the task of providing daily updates.

“We were blessed with a contractor that got how it was impacting people on the West End,” he said, telling of his admiration of the hard “and sometimes frightening” work done by the road crews.

The project, which began in 2017 after West End residents objected to the initially proposed yearlong closure, was necessary for the aging roadway, Olympic National Park officials said.

A section of U.S. Highway 101 at milepost 229 beneath a feature known as the rock wall is the only stretch of the road around Lake Crescent remaining to be repaved. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

A section of U.S. Highway 101 at milepost 229 beneath a feature known as the rock wall is the only stretch of the road around Lake Crescent remaining to be repaved. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The project replaced sections of road bed, removed rock-fall hazards, repaired or replaced failing retaining walls and rotten guardrails, and repaired culverts on 12.3 miles of the route around the lake.

“We’re all very glad this necessary construction is done,” said Connie Beauvais of Joyce, who represents the West End on the Port of Port Angeles commission and who said she makes a round-trip at least once a week.

“It not only limited and delayed resident and business traffic to and from Forks, it affected tourism traffic as well,” she said.

“The roller-coaster Highway 112 route is not favored by those in Forks nor by the log truck traffic.”

This was the final season of the three-year road rehabilitation project managed by the National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration.

Work for 2019 included completing the guardrail replacement, paving the 12-mile work zone except for the section at milepost 229, striping, sign replacement and restoring the road width near milepost 229.

The result is “beautiful,” Beauvais said. She praised the new reflectors that mark the guardrails.

“It’s virtually a new road.

“Not only is the road around the lake safer, hazard tree removal from the hillside was part of the project.

“If the rocks will hang firm to the rock wall we’ll be quite happy,” she added, expressing some concern about the area near milepost 229.

“That is the one area where there remains a community angst because even folks who have gone through there the last week have seen chunks on the road,” said Fleck, who is looking forward to seeing the paving on the stretch near what many call the rock wall at milepost 229.

However, the highway now “is a dream to drive on,” Fleck said.

“Fortunately it should last another 20-plus years.”

For more information, see www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm.

________

Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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