DOT open to solutions other than roundabouts

The state Department of Transportation is willing to listen to other safety solutions for U.S. Highway 101 besides roundabouts, Steve Roark, the department’s Olympic Region Administrator, told the Clallam County commissioners.

Roark’s visit via Zoom on March 18 was part of a regular dialogue requested last year by the commissioners to maintain communication regarding DOT projects along Highway 101 and throughout the county.

Roark said the agency has a pavement preservation project coming up, possibly in 2026, and the state is required to consider Complete Streets design improvements in conjunction with the repaving.

Complete Streets is a design policy required of all projects that cost more than $500,000. It focuses on making sure all modes of travel on the state’s highway system are safe. It is part of Target Zero, which aims to reduce traffic deaths in the state to zero by 2030.

Roark’s presentation showed pavement preservation projects along U.S. Highway 101 between Kolonels Way and Shore Road near Port Angeles, about a 6.1-mile stretch, and Kitchen-Dick Road and Simdars Road near Sequim, about an 8.3-mile stretch.

Current strategies for the first segment are intersection improvements at Carlsborg and Mills roads, a two-lane roundabout at Taylor Cut-Off Road and ramp intersection improvements at River Road and Sequim Avenue.

Future strategies are two-lane roundabouts at the Boyce Road and Carlsborg Road intersections, a separated shared-use path in Carlsborg and a connection shared-use path between Sequim and Carlsborg.

Current strategies for the second segment are Kolonels Way intersection improvements and a two-lane roundabout at Old Olympic Highway.

Future strategies are a two-lane roundabout at Kolonels Way and another at North Masters Road.

“With regard to the projects between Sequim and Port Angeles, in each of your depictions you show roundabouts,” commissioner Mike French said. “Is your team open to considering other options to accomplish those (highway safety) goals other than a roundabout?”

“We are,” Roark said.

“The issue from a Complete Streets standpoint is those trying to get across the road. Roundabouts do perform better from a safety standpoint because they keep the traffic flowing,” he said.

“So, yeah, we haven’t decided yet. We will look at other options. I know that at a meeting a while ago I said let’s look at a dedicated pedestrian-type crossing. So, we are open to the conversation. Absolutely,” Roark said.

“We are trying to balance the safety concerns you mentioned with the fact that it’s still a highway, really the only highway, and hopefully the highway doesn’t relegate itself to being 35 mph from one end of the county to the other,” French said.

Roark said DOT also is looking at intersection control.

“We have crash data and pedestrian movement across U.S. 101,” he said. “We have a pre-design team here working on ideas for the corridor.

“We’re going to be launching an online open house in May that’s really going to start generating ideas from the community.”

DOT has identified $50 million in Complete Streets improvements, but it can afford maybe $20 million, Roark said.

“We may have to defer some of the improvements,” he said.

Commissioner Mark Ozias said, “The biggest question I have, and I am generally a fan of roundabouts, is they doesn’t necessarily seem to be conducive to pedestrian safety. Maybe I’m wrong about that?”

Roark said they are a safety improvement, not just for crashes but for pedestrians as well.