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Rest stop talks continue





The state may begin shifting gears in the last stretch of a planning period before construction begins on a North Olympic Peninsula rest area.

In the 1990s, Sequim seemed like a satisfactory spot for a rest stop. The people were on board, the city could provide utilities and it was a gateway, so to speak, for the rest of the western peninsula, which has no rest stop.

But as the construction date of January 2009 approaches, the dynamics of the North Peninsula and Sequim city government have changed.

Blyn now has amenities for tired drivers. Eastern Sequim is beginning to become a residential spread of houses. Plus, Sequim’s Simdars Road interchange with U.S. Highway 101 never was finished.

“We’ve ridden a roller coaster with the city since first proposing this project more than a decade ago,” State Department of Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond said to City Councilor Ken Hays while visiting the

Sequim site May 19. “I’m willing to put the rest stop in the best place we can.”

“With all the interest in the Deer Park area, it seems that the tide is changing for the rest stop location, which is why I’m here to gauge the impacts of the projects and to get a feel for what the people involved have to say.”

Clallam County planners heard some Sequim city councilors were rejecting the idea of a rest stop and offered to take the project off their hands.

The offer places the rest stop just west of Deer Park Road on the north side of the highway, near the Morse Creek area. The county site would allow traffic from both directions to access the rest stop, while the Sequim site and its unfinished interchange would only allow access for westbound traffic, forcing eastbound drivers to access the site by driving through town from the Sequim Avenue exit.

“We don’t want to cause a safety problem in this city by trying to help solve a safety problem on the highway,” Hammond said, indicating she would have to look further into Sequim and highway traffic numbers.

“With that in mind and the fact that the Deer Park proposal may help solve two safety problems associated with the highway gives us pause and good reason to reconsider and look into the options again.”

Hammond toured the two sites, met with area leaders and spoke with the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce about the options. At each stop, those attending looked at maps of the locations.

The Deer Park map shows a new overpass would be built just east of the Morse Creek area to allow traffic from both directions to access the rest stop without causing a traffic hazard.

The addition of the overpass also would facilitate safe access to the highway for some Deer Park motorists who have been chancing a risky left turn to go west on the highway for years.

“Deer Park’s intersection with the highway is a high-

priority spot for us,” Clallam County Commissioner Mike Chapman said. “I believe the Peninsula Regional Transportation Planning Organization would allow the shift in funds from the Sequim site to the Deer Park site, but I can’t speak for everyone on the board.”

Chapman chairs the regional board, which has been searching for a way to improve the Deer Park intersection for years.

However, some people in

Sequim, like City Councilor Paul McHugh, see the site change as the loss of a $4.1 million rest stop that would cause the state to look at finishing the Simdars interchange.

“If we continue down this track, we will never see the Simdars Road interchange completed. We need to keep that money here,” McHugh said.

For now, DOT representatives are gathering additional information and comparing the costs of the two options. Dayton offered to come to Sequim again to discuss concerns from the council and planning staff and Chapman offered to bring up the topic to the Peninsula Regional Transportation Planning Organization.
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