Council has harsh words on rest area

It's been debated for 10 years, but don't expect the issue of a rest area coming to Sequim - which is being heralded as "absolute, utter and complete folly" by at least one city council member - getting resolved anytime soon.

The proposed safety rest area would be located on the southwest corner of Lofgrin Road and Spy Glass Lane. The state's Department of Transportation selected the site because it met a variety of needs, including water and sewer hookup. If all goes according to plan, work on the project is set to begin in January 2009 and be completed by the end of the year. The project would cost a total of $4.1 million. Currently, the DOT is completing a traffic analysis and environmental review.

The purpose of the rest area is to provide a place for fatigued or impaired drivers to pull over and therefore reduce the state's vehicular fatality rate. There's just one problem: The Sequim City Council is strongly opposed to the project.

"I'm even more flabbergasted that this project continues to move forward," Councilman Ken Hays said during a March 17 study session. DOT representatives Kevin Dayton and Yvonne Medina gave an update on the project during the session. "It seems forced at best."

Hays, who described the project as "complete folly," said his concerns rest largely with the fact that the location is in the middle of an area poised for dramatic residential growth. The rest area would include space for large commercial vehicles that have to keep their engines running at all times. Hays worried what the effects would be on surrounding homes. Hays lives in the vicinity of the site.

"These are neighborhoods, including mine," Hays said. "I can't conceal my anxiety over this."

Hays was not the only one anxious about the project.

Mayor Laura Dubois asked what was being done to mitigate noise, air and light pollution.

"Where are the headlights going to be as they're making one, two, three turns?" Dubois asked.

According to Medina, there is currently no mitigation plan regarding light or noise pollution.

Councilmen Walt Schubert and Bill Huizinga expressed concern about the rest area's accessibility, especially for travelers heading east. According to Medina, eastbound traffic would be funneled through Sequim Avenue. The construction of an interchange, Schubert and Huizinga said, would solve accessibility issues, but according to Dayton there is no DOT funding available for such a project.

"It is not funded in the six-year plan, I'll tell you that much," Dayton said. "I'm the lone guy out there with a vision but no budget."

Dubois suggested that the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe be approached about relieving some of the rest area's traffic with their Longhouse Deli, which is set to open in May. According to Annette Nesse, the tribe's director of planning, the tribe anticipates capturing a lot of traffic from the rest area but the deli would not provide for large commercial traffic.

Schubert said he was concerned that there would be no barrier preventing those visiting the rest area from visiting the surrounding residential neighborhoods.

"This is a unique development where you don't just get on or off the roadway," Medina admitted. "But it is not our plan to create anything unsafe."

Finally Dayton said to the council that if they were intending to take legal action against the project, to please let the DOT as soon as possible, so they could revise the plans, find another location or throw the entire thing out.

"The sooner the DOT knows about it, the better it is," Dayton said.

There was no formal response from the council.

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