Priest Road may be widened, flattened in 2009

It is the hump that goes bump in the night ... and in the day, too.

It is the north section of Priest Road.

A slated improvement project for the stretch of county road may flatten the hump, which channels an irrigation ditch, and improve the road with wider shoulders for pedestrians, if approved by the Clallam County commissioners

The project is one of 18 on the county's transportation improvement plan that may begin in the next two years if funded in the budget.

Toward the end of each year staff updates the county's six-year transportation improvement plan, requesting funding through the annual budget to begin on the listed projects.

The commissioners and the public works staff recently took the improvement plan and the county's preliminary 2009 budget on a road show, stopping at Sequim's Guy Cole Convention Center on Oct. 9.

Six of the 18 proposed projects are on the east end of the county. Clallam County Public Works director Craig Jacobs said he and his staff are concentrating on projects that have a majority of their funding coming from state and federal programs or grants while limiting the number of projects the county funds on its own.

One of the few county-funded projects, at a cost of $283,000, is the one on Priest Road. As for other projects, the county would end up paying in the neighborhood of 20-25 percent of the total cost because of matched state or federal funding.

County engineer Ross Tyler said the county will fund the Priest Road improvement because of safety concerns related to nonmotorized traffic interfacing with vehicles on the narrow roadway, which also contains a large hump that can obscure the view of smaller or low-riding pedestrians or bicyclists.

"(For now) we put a bridge over the ditch so that people can avoid the potentially hazardous situation," Ross said. "It is a temporary fix" until the road is improved.

Ross said once the road is improved the bridge will be taken back out and put into storage.

The improvement project is slated to have funding next year. A final decision on which projects will be funded will come when Clallam County commissioners approve the plan along with the 2009 budget.

Public input

Many in the audience Oct. 9 were there to talk about budgeting in general, but a few had ideas, or themes, they wanted staff to consider as it updates the plan.

A Carlsborg man asked the planners and engineers to constantly consider pedestrian or nonmotorized transportation routes as they improve county rights of way.

The man, who declined to be identified, cited Cays Road's wide shoulders as a good example of providing room for walkers and bikers alike while improving a road.

"It's a quality of life and economic issue," the man said to the Gazette. "With forethought, these improvements can serve a greater population for a longer period of time in a changing landscape and can really bring in more activities like the marathons that have been doing so well."

County Transportation Program manager Rich James said he and Tyler often pore over slated projects, new land acquisitions and requests from landowners that the county sell a chunk of its right of way.

"We try to think as far ahead as possible whenever the issue comes up that we may lose or gain a potentially beneficial connector to our nonmotorized transportation infrastructure," James said. "As for improvement projects, providing room for bicycles or pedestrians is always on our mind."

James compared the Olympic Discovery Trail to the U.S. Highway 101.

"We're concentrating on a major east-went connector," he said. "Then, as we finish putting that in place, we begin to move to north-south connectors between the trail and other amenities people will want to visit, like the Dungeness Recreation Area."

Other east end projects

Other projects in the area include a Dryke Road turn pocket. It would be installed at the road's intersection with U.S. Highway 101 just west of Carlsborg. The intersection, like many along the highway, has posed a high safety risk for motorists, especially with Robin Hill Farm Park in the vicinity.

The county also may improve Kitchen-Dick Road between Woodcock and Lotzgesell roads. Planners said the finished project would resemble the widened sections of Cays Road. There also are slated improvements to Towne Road and Old Olympic Highway.

For more information, check for ongoing budget updates under the "budget and finance" link and visit a public hearing on the matter in November.

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