OUR VIEW: DOT: Let us know before you block the highway

  • Peninsula Daily News
  • Saturday, June 10, 2023 1:30am
  • Opinion

PORT ANGELES HAS had its second apology in a year from the state Department of Transportation for causing a traffic jam in town.

On Tuesday, traffic was backed up for miles after a maintenance crew closed the right lane of eastbound First Street at milepost 248.9 at Chambers Street shortly before 6 a.m. to repair the pavement.

The resultant mess also clogged side streets as people attempted to reach U.S. Highway 101. It delayed Clallam Transit bus routes, also.

“We didn’t anticipate a backup of that size,” said a state Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesperson, on Wednesday afternoon. “We apologize profusely to everyone involved and we are working to ensure that never happens again.”

The words were reminiscent of those said by a different DOT representative on June 21, 2022 after roadwork just west of Golf Course Road on Highway 101 backed up traffic coming into Port Angeles from the east for several miles that morning.

Workers had blocked off the left lane on Front Street to allow them to seal cracks in the pavement. Traffic was slowed to a crawl for many miles, making some late for work or appointments by as much as a half hour to 45 minutes.

“We want to apologize to those who were late,” said the spokesperson then. “That type of backup was not expected of the work we were doing.”

The spokesperson added that crew members are evaluating how to get the work done without causing a traffic snarl.

It’s been nearly a year and no way to prevent such a mess apparently had been discovered.

We have some suggestions.

The top one is to inform the city Public Works Department of the work planned, so that mitigation measures can be put into place.

For instance, on Tuesday, public works could have altered the signal timing to improve traffic flow and prohibited on-street parking so the parking lane or bike lane could be used for traffic.

Mike Healy, Port Angeles Public Works director, said that usually the city and DOT communicate very well about road projects but on Tuesday that didn’t happen. DOT did have it on its website but there was no communication with city officials about the impending road blockage.

We all want the federal highway running through Port Angeles to be well maintained.

It’s essential, since U.S. Highway 101 is the only way in or out of Port Angeles, as well as being the single connecting roadway through the North Olympic Peninsula,

We don’t have many detours. In some places, we have none.

This may be a point that escapes state officials who are accustomed to working in areas such as Olympia or Seattle with their numerous alternate routes.

We don’t have such routes.

If the highway is blocked, we are likely stopped in our tracks, perhaps for hours, even days, as we saw after storms in the fall of 2021.

To close even one lane of Highway 101 for hours is to cause a ferocious backup.

We know that DOT doesn’t want to cause problems. It’s job is to fix problems.

Here is a way to do that in areas that depend upon one primary highway: Let the proper people know what you plan.

That will go a long way to helping us stay on the move. And cutting down on the need for apologies.


The Peninsula Daily News editorial board consists of Publisher Terry Ward and Executive Editor Leah Leach.

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