Gardiner passing lane shelved

Corinne Dennis, of Gardiner, was not ready to sell the state her land, which is why she was relieved Oct. 13 when she heard she might not have to.

The letter in her mailbox said she would have to sell her well and her wetlands because the state is making a truck-passing lane, causing the highway to widen into her property.

Dennis was worried about impacts to her land and costs associated with drilling a new well.

She began to oppose the idea and discovered she wasn't alone in wondering why the state needed another truck-passing lane between Discovery Bay and Sequim.

A group from the Discovery Bay Resort, which sits directly across U.S. Highway 101 from Dennis in Gardiner, formed earlier this year to oppose the 1.5-mile lane's construction.

The committee organized a meeting Sept. 3 to discuss the issue as a community and discover ways to contact the state with their concerns. But someone from the state was there, a Department of Transportation assistant engineer who had been working on the project, David Garlington.

Garlington said he understood the community's concerns and told them he would come back with an update from his superiors.

He came back to Gardiner on Oct. 13 with Olympic Region administrator Kevin Dayton, as well as state Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim.

Van De Wege and Dayton had good news and bad news for the crowd that packed into the Gardiner Community Center.

Good news

Dayton said he would do everything in his power to delay the project and keep it from going to the construction phase during the 2009 legislative session.

"This is a cop out, I know, but I do not have the power to cancel a project like this," he said, indicating the funds and project were dedicated by the Legislature. "But what I can do is tie it up and give the Legislature a chance to cancel the project."

Dayton said the cost-to-benefit ratio was good for the location but not as good as the state thought when initial planning started in the 1990s.

Van De Wege said he felt certain he and other area legislators, such as Rep. Lynn Kessler and Sen. Jim Hargrove, both D-Hoquiam, would be able to end the project entirely.

"I have a very good outlook that this project will be stopped in its tracks," Van De Wege said. "So be patient. The session starts Jan. 12 and goes for 105 days, at which point you will know whether or not we were able to make it happen."

Van De Wege said with budget constraints and other transportation projects facing a loss of funding, he could see the

$3 million dedicated to this project being moved to another project with no problem.

Bad news

"I have a lot of great ideas on my desk about how this money should be spent," Van De Wege said. "But unfortunately because of the financial climate, we will not be funding any new projects, like turning lanes, which I hear is needed here."

The lawmaker indicated the money could be channeled only to an existing project, such as the widening of the highway at its intersection with Kitchen-Dick Road.

The crowd was happy to hear there was a good chance the truck-passing lane would not go in but many were upset more would not be done to improve traffic in the Gardiner area.

"Everyone bypasses us to get to their destinations east or west of here," said Lynn Leon. "But we have no real entrance into our own community. We need turning lanes to these roads, otherwise safety problems will continue."

Leon brought her own hand-drawn schematic of the highway through Gardiner with turning lane and signage improvement suggestions.

Dayton said things such as signage improvements might not be considered a new construction project and accepted Leon's suggestions as well as those from others in the audience.

The truck-passing lane, now in limbo, would have been about 1.5 miles long in the westbound direction directly in front of the Discovery Bay Resort. It would have been one of four approved truck-passing lanes to be installed on the highway between Discovery Bay and Sequim.

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