Fuchs, a project engineer with the Washington State Department of
Transportation, explains modifications to plans to widen U.S. Highway
101 between Shore and Kitchen-Dick roads. Sequim Gazette photo by Amanda Winters
The Washington State Department of Transportation unveiled modified plans Thursday to widen U.S. Highway 101 between Shore and Kitchen-Dick roads.
The $82 million project, expected to begin construction in the second quarter of 2012 and be completed by the start of 2014, will make what is now a two-lane highway a four-lane highway with a grassy median.
"This is a bottleneck," Project Engineer Steve Fuchs said of the stretch of highway.
The project is designed to reduce the rate of severe crashes from people trying to cross opposing lanes of traffic and rear-end collisions caused by congestion, and the grassy median will help prevent head-on collisions, he said.
According to Washington State Patrol data, between December 2005 and November 2008 there were four fatal accidents and one serious accident on Highway 101 between Shore and Kitchen-Dick roads. During that time there were 91 accidents total. The collision rate is 1.15 per million and the fatality rate is 5.05 per 100 million, compared to a state rural collision rate of 1.10 per million and a fatality rate of 1.99 per 100 million.
After the last public meeting, engineers made some modifications to the plan including a left-turn lane from Highway 101 to Shore Road and a left-turn lane from westbound Highway 101 to Kirk Road.
Indirect left-hand turns.
Engineers also are planning the removal and replacement of the 1939 timber trestle McDonald Creek bridge. The DOT was able to secure funding to replace the old bridge at the same time as the widening project, he said.
The modified plans include six indirect left turns, which replace current through and left-turn movements from county roads onto Highway 101. Instead of turning left, drivers will turn right and loop back around on the indirect left turns provided in order to go the direction they intended, Fuchs said.
Fuchs said some people want to continue to be able to turn left onto Highway 101 from county roads, but it is too dangerous and complicated. It's hard to explain through words, he said.
That is why the DOT made a computer simulation to show how Dryke Road at Highway 101 would look with indirect left turns as opposed to direct left turns. In the simulation, which uses today's peak traffic data, cars wanting to turn left onto the highway from Dryke Road have to wait for four lanes of traffic to clear, along with taking traffic on Pierson Road into consideration. Cars started lining up on Dryke Road in the simulation, waiting for an opportunity to turn.
"When people get frustrated and impatient, they may go when they shouldn't and have a crash," Fuchs said.
At Sherburne Road, for example, the indirect left turn would force drivers to turn right onto Highway 101 toward Sequim then move into the left lane onto the indirect left turn. Drivers would stop, cross over the left lanes onto the remaining indirect turn and take a right to head toward Port Angeles.
Fuchs said the expanded highway and indirect left turns will help ease congestion and make the road safer.
Ron Kallock, who lives on Blue Mountain Road, isn't sold on the project just yet.
Kallock said he sees the potential for accidents with the indirect left turns and wants more definitive answers on when the DOT will begin purchasing properties, starting the project and completing the project.
"There's a lot of unknowns," he said.
Fuchs said the DOT is expected to begin purchasing property along the highway late this summer or early this fall.
The project will go to bid in early 2012, he said.
Reach Amanda Winters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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