PORT ANGELES — A roadblock to Clallam County’s much-anticipated overpass of U.S. Highway 101 east of Port Angeles has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
A right-of-way conflict with the owners of the Port Angeles Gun Club forced county officials to get creative in their plans to eliminate the dangerous left turns onto the busy highway from Buchanan Drive and Deer Park Road just east of the Morse Creek “S” curve.
‘Very good thing’
Rather than building an overpass between the two roads — and skirting the gun club property — the county is ready to forge ahead with an underpass to the scenic overlook just west of C’est Si Bon restaurant at Buchanan and Highway 101.
“I think that in retrospect, that’s been a very good thing for the project,” said Rich James, Clallam County transportation program manager. “We had to come up with another alignment, and that alignment appears better in almost every way.”
Drivers headed westbound to Port Angeles from Deer Park Cinemas will turn down a two-lane county road behind the theater and follow it underneath the highway. The new road will loop around to Buchanan Drive, where vehicles will have a free right turn with an acceleration lane.
Eastbound drivers heading toward Sequim from C’est Si Bon restaurant or points north will take the underpass and merge onto the highway at Deer Park Road. The existing grade of the state highway will not change.
Pedestrians and cyclists will have a 10-foot-wide path to get from the theater to the Olympic Discovery Trail or bus stops without having to dart across the four-lane highway.
James said there are several other advantages to the new alignment:
• The grade is less steep so it will be easier for cars, pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate it.
• The route is more efficient with less looping around.
• Keeping traffic below the highway minimizes noise impacts.
• The new county road will not impede views.
The state Department of Transportation has allocated $871,416 in federal funds for the $8 million to $9 million safety improvement project. Construction is scheduled for next year.
County officials said the left turns across the highway have led to many wrecks at Deer Park Road and Buchanan Drive. James said there have been four wrecks at those intersections this year alone.
“It’s been a continuing problem,” he said.
Residents expressed support for the new alignment in a Sept. 24 open house, James said.
Under and over
Besides the county underpass — which the state calls an overcrossing since the highway goes over it — the safety-improvement project includes more parking, six vault toilets and running water at the scenic overlook.
County officials are wrapping up an environmental assessment, which will be followed by right-of-way acquisition and more design work. After the right-of-way phase is complete, county officials will move into a full design phase.
The three commissioners are expected to sign a resolution supporting the new alignment in today’s board meeting. The resolution essentially gives public works officials the go-ahead to proceed.
“Steam ahead,” Commissioner Mike Chapman told them in Monday’s work session.
The board will also vote today on change orders for improvements to the Clallam County Courthouse.
An additional $20,960.58 of work is needed on the boiler replacement project in the historic section of courthouse, off Lincoln Street.
The additional work includes a new sewer line, a concrete slab over the old boiler footprint, new trenching, venting and trap primers.
The change order brings the total project cost to $229,465.75.
The commissioners will also consider a $5,493.75 change order for a roof replacement project at the courthouse. The money would be used in part to funnel water into drains and the cleaning of the eight back-draft dampers.
County officials said the $502,035.75 new roof will make the courthouse more energy efficient and last for 30 years.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at firstname.lastname@example.org