No lasting state fix coming for Highway 112

Lawmakers give update

Rep. Steve Tharinger.

Rep. Steve Tharinger.

PORT ANGELES — A permanent fix for slide-prone state Highway 112, a portion of which has been closed since Nov. 15 near Clallam Bay, is out of the question for the foreseeable future, state Rep. Mike Chapman said Wednesday.

The Port Angeles Democrat’s legislative update Wednesday included discussion of the Democratic Party’s $16 billion, 16-year Move Ahead Washington plan to combat climate change through vehicle and ferry electrification and a mandate for hospital nurse-patient ratios that is proceeding through the state Legislature.

Democratic State Rep. Steve Tharinger of Port Townsend joined Chapman in the Clallam County Economic Development Council’s “Coffee with Colleen” program via Zoom as they fielded questions on the status of the 60-day virtual legislative session, which is at its midpoint, and impacts on the 24th district. The hour-long program is at

Kent-based Scarsella Bros. Inc. began removing 40,000 cubic yards of slide debris this week to reopen 112 at Milepost 15.8 under a $1.3 million state Department of Transportation emergency contract.

Work will include rebuilding a portion of the road, stabilizing an adjacent slope and conducting drainage and guardrail repairs.

Steve Roark, state Department of Transportation region administrator, told Clallam County officials that Highway 112 “presents maintenance challenges every year” because it sits on an active slide zone, according to Roark’s slide presentation.

“Hwy 112 is a consistent problem,” Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Chair Ron Allen said in the chat section during Wednesday’s program. “Just ask Makah.”

EDC Executive Director Colleen McAleer asked Chapman if it was too late to get anything in the state capital budget to fund an engineering estimate to relocate the roadway at six locations, ensuring access to the West End.

“There’s no money to move the road,” Chapman said, adding that three slide-prone areas are in the district, which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and the northern half of Grays Harbor County.

“We do more on emergency repairs than we do to actually move roads,” said Chapman, a member of the House Transportation Committee.

“It’s a difficult and somewhat of a failure for those of us in the rural areas who serve on the Transportation Committee,” he said.

“It’s been a failure to get those funds in the budget. I’ll take responsibility for that,” Chapman added.

“Without a new gas tax at which dollars could be bonded, it makes it difficult.”

A $30.5 million appropriation for the U.S. Highway 101-Simdars bypass is Project 13 on a list of 26 projects released Tuesday for the Move Ahead Washington plan by the bipartisan Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program Committee.

“I do think you probably need to expect to see some roundabouts through that area,” he predicted.

But without a gas tax, there are not many new paving projects.

“This is a transportation project heavy on preservation [and] repair,” Chapman said.

“Some modernization of our ferry fleet, certainly as we move to more electrified ferries, four new electric ferries will be funded and changing ferries over to hybrid,” he said.

It is funded by 17 sources, the largest of which is the 2021 Climate Commitment Act.

The 16-year package includes grants for transit agencies as they begin to electrify transit systems.

“It continues to move toward the goal of only electric vehicles being sold in Washington by 2030,” Chapman said.

“Should the state mandate it? I think that will be the debate. It doesn’t mandate it right now,” Chapman said.

Nurse-patient ratio

HB 1868, which mandates nurse-to-patient ratios, is opposed by Olympic Medical Center, Jefferson Healthcare hospital and Forks Community Hospital. It was passed Monday out of the House Committee on Appropriations and moved on to the Rules Committee, which must vote to put it on the floor-vote calendar.

The last day for lawmakers to consider passing legislation out of the house of origin is Tuesday.

“Obviously, staffing, nurses staffing, is a big issue,” said Tharinger, an Appropriations Committee member who voted to advance the bill. Chapman has said he also supports the legislation.

Tharinger said lawmakers put $600,000 into the nursing program at Peninsula College, and OMC and Jefferson Healthcare “stepped up” as part of that effort. And in the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers increased the salaries of nursing instructors, he added.

OMC hospital officials have warned that HB 1868 would result in cuts in services, pointing to dozens of nursing positions that are already going unfilled and saying local control would be taken away from hospitals and nursing staffs already required to jointly produce staffing plans.

It also takes away nurses’ “clinical judgment” to provide care where needed, they have said.

OMC Chief Nursing Officer Vickie Swanson said Wednesday that while the ratios would not go into effect until 2023, any help lawmakers might add next year to make the transition smoother will not cover the lag time needed to train nurses, given the existing shortage in the field.

And with a median age of 50-58, “we have an aging population that requires more health care,” she said.

Chapman said he does not believe HB 1868 will pass in its current form.

“The disagreement would be what do the hospitals have to do if they can’t find the nurses,” he said, adding that housing may not be available even if nurses can be hired.

“They may figure this out,” he said.

“The cuts, the services may not be as great,” he added.

“This is one where the more the public weighs in definitely would make my job easier.”

He said union leaders have portrayed to him how nurses feel.

A poll of Washington voters found that 74 percent favor establishing “minimum staffing standards that limit the number of patients any one nurse or healthcare worker is taking care of at a time,” a spokesperson for SEUI 1199 said Wednesday in a press release.

“We need to pass the safe staffing standards healthcare workers have asked for to protect both workers and patients,” said Jane Hopkins, a nurse and executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW.


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at