If all goes well, by late 2014 U.S. Highway 101 will be four lanes from Sequim to Port Angeles.
It’s been a long time coming, said Jerry Moore, the project engineer who is overseeing the work for the Washington Department of Transportation.
The plan to complete the four-lane project has been around since 1990. Other stretches of the roadwork have been completed — some of it decades ago — with just the approximately 3.5 miles of road from Shore Road to Kitchen-Dick Road remaining to be widened.
The two-lane stretch has been more than an inconvenient bottleneck that slowed traffic.
In a 2011 Sequim Gazette story, reporter Amanda Winters called it “the most dangerous stretch of the highway.”
Her analysis of a decade of Department of Transportation data — from Jan. 1, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2010 — revealed 304 accidents occurred in the stretch of highway from east of Kitchen-Dick Road to Shore Road. Some 216 people were injured in those accidents. Another eight were killed.
“That’s another reason to get it done,” said Moore.
He said the speed limit, now 55 miles per hour, will be unchanged.
Scarsella Bros., a Kent construction firm, won the contract in December 2012 with a bid of just more than $27 million.
From Shore Road to Peninsula Septic Tanks, at 259492 Highway 101, they’ll add two lanes to the south of the existing highway. From there to Kitchen-Dick the new lanes will run along the north side of the existing highway.
The work will include much more than simply adding two lanes, with the intersections of the adjoining roads largely reconfigured. Because there will be a median through most of the stretch, cars approaching Highway 101 from several of the adjoining streets will be precluded from turning left. Instead they’ll be required to turn right and use one of the six new U-turns that will be constructed. (See diagram.)
The U-turns also will be utilized by those leaving the highway as they turn onto several of the adjoining roads.
The first major project is a new bridge over McDonald Creek. Moore said once it’s done, they’ll swap traffic to the new bridge, then tear down the old one. “It’s a timber bridge that’s deteriorating,” he said.
Moore said the current schedule calls for tearing out the old bridge by early 2014, with the new bridge built by the end of summer 2014.
“By the end of 2014 it should all be done,” he said.
Moore said some additional project paperwork remains to be completed, including the purchase of “one or two parcels.”
That will be done by April 1 of this year, he said.
Moore said local businesses should enjoy a bump from the project. Lakeside Industries in Port Angeles will handle the asphalt paving, while Jordan Excavating will install much of the drainage. Construction supplies, including gravel, also will be purchased locally.
Moore said drivers should enjoy watching the progress as the work is accomplished, but he added one reminder: “Drive carefully through the job.”