Clallam eligible for more funding to replace McDonald Creek bridge; closure expected to begin in May

Clallam County is eligible for more federal funding to replace the Old Olympic Highway bridge over McDonald Creek.

Commissioners Mark Ozias and Bill Peach voted Dec. 20 — with Mike Chapman excused — to approve a revised local agency agreement with the state Department of Transportation for the bridge replacement project.

The $4.7 million safety improvement likely will require a six- to eight-month closure of Old Olympic Highway at the bridge in 2017, assistant county engineer Joe Donisi said. The closure likely would begin in May.

The modified agreement with Transportation changes the way that money is allocated for preliminary engineering. It positions the county to receive future federal funding beyond the $160,000 maximum as listed in the old pact.

“When the incoming federal administration successfully cuts taxes and invests a trillion dollars in infrastructure projects, the McDonald Creek bridge project will be ready to receive some of that federal infrastructure spending,” Ozias said in a work session Dec. 19.

Donisi told commissioners that there would be no change in the overall cost.

“It was suggested that we set it up in this way in case additional federal funding could be put toward the project,” he said.

Donisi said the odds of getting more federal funding for McDonald Creek were “kind of a long shot.”

A county contractor will remove the 60-year-old bridge and replace it with a 40-foot-wide span. Clallam County will pay about $3 million of the construction cost with real estate excise taxes.

The new bridge will be about five feet higher than the existing bridge to match the grade of the road leading up to it.

Drivers will detour from Old Olympic Highway onto U.S. Highway 101 during the expected six- to eight-month closure at the bridge.

The Road Department plans to hold a neighborhood meeting in January to discuss the project and possible detours with area residents, county engineer Ross Tyler said Monday.

No date for that meeting has been set.

Donisi said it would be too costly to build a temporary bridge and complete the project in 2017. A temporary bridge would cost an estimated $1.7 million.

“We’re going to try and do as much work as possible, obviously, without closing the road,” Donisi told commissioners.

“Then, just as soon as we have to pull the actual bridge, then we’ve got to close it.”

Open dialogue and well-marked detours will help the county ease the concerns of affected residents, Tyler said.

He added that no final decisions on the bridge closure have been made.

“We haven’t had the neighborhood meeting yet,” Tyler said.

“At this point, we’re open to all input and we have to remain open essentially right up through the project as far as I’m concerned.

“I think that up until the time that we pull everything out of the way and open the road back up again, we’re in very fluid dialogue with property owners to make sure things are working well,” Tyler added.

Ozias said he had heard from a number of constituents who had expressed concerns about the “logistical challenges” of the project.

“I think as long as we do a good job to be communicative and make sure we’re listening and get the project done as quickly as possible then we’ll be alright,” Ozias said.

In other county road news, commissioners established a new section of Sequim-Dungeness Way at 3 Crabs Road.

The action completes the county’s process of vacating the northernmost section of the road and an old bridge that are being removed in a North Olympic Salmon Coalition-led habitat restoration project.

Drivers already were using the new section of county road and new bridge over Meadowbrook Creek.

Rob Ollikainen is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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