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U.S. Highway 101 widening project continues

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by AMANDA WINTERS
Sequim Gazette

The environmental assessment of a project to widen U.S. Highway 101 from Kitchen-Dick Road to Shore Road is complete. The assessment was presented at a March 17 open house at Greywolf Elementary School in Carlsborg.

 

Project Manager Steve Fuchs said the 294-page assessment studied different environmental elements of the project, including impacts to transportation, air quality, wetlands, fish, wildlife, vegetation and water resources.

 

Fuchs said the transportation impacts have received the most feedback from residents who are concerned about the indirect left-hand turns included in the project design.

Indirect lefts

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.

 

The indirect left turns are an alternative to overpasses, which are expensive, he said. Fuchs said the current road system allows for left-hand turns from county road onto Highway 101, which is dangerous.

“What it comes down to is the level of service,” he said. “Highway 101 has high traffic volume and people on county roads wait and wait and wait for a gap in traffic.”

 

Traffic models show the current road system is almost failing and by 2032 it will have failed, he said. The proposed widening and changes will be able to handle the traffic volume projected for 2032.

 

The $90 million project also includes replacing the McDonald Creek bridge and constructing a new one for the eastbound lanes.

 


Impacts to nature

While no major impacts to the environment were identified in the assessment, Fuchs said planners were creative in finding ways to have the least amount of impact to wetlands and other sensitive vegetative areas.

 

Instead of widening the road only to the north or only to the south, the determination of which side to widen is made by identifying where the wetlands lie, he said.

 

Most of the widening will occur on the south side of Highway 101, but it will shift to the north where necessary to avoid impacting wetlands.

 

Altogether about 2.57 acres of permanent impact and 0.21 acres of temporary impact are determined by the assessment.

 

The assessment found some wells will need to be decommissioned and relocated due to their proximity to the project. Additionally, 92 acres of land will be converted to transportation use only, resulting in a 0.01 percent loss of farmland in Clallam County. No impacts to fish, wildlife, visual quality, geology and soil are expected.

Noise impacts

While the environmental assessment found noise levels are expected to increase up to three decibels, which is barely humanly perceivable, one resident requested a noise barrier be considered for one point along the project.

 

During the public comment period, Yvonne Deforest, who lives on Barr Road, said she would like to see a noise buffer at the southeast corner of the MacDonald Creek bridge.

 

“The noise has been unbearable ever since they took down the old building that was there and it gets worse and worse with every tree that comes down,” she said. “I know they’ve compiled a report that says that the noise is supposedly at such-and-such a level, but I asked them and they said it was a computer-generated report and that they possibly need to come out and take a real reading so that they can tell how loud it is there.”

 

Deforest said the noise buffer also could protect the creek and the animals that inhabit the area from the noise and pollution of the highway.

 

To comment on the environmental assessment go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/US101/ShoreToKitchenDick/default.htm or e-mail Fuchs at FuchsS@wsdot.wa.gov.

 

The next step in the project after collecting public comment on the assessment is to finish environmental permitting and right-of-way appraisals and purchases. The project is expected to go out to bid in the beginning of 2012.

Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequimgazette.com.

 

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