Legislature approves $1 million for Morse Creek section of Highway 101

Nearly $1.3 million also cleared to improve the roadway east of Sequim

The state Legislature has approved $1 million that will be used to redesign the wreck-prone section of U.S. Highway 101 at Morse Creek east of Port Angeles and nearly $1.3 million to improve the highway east of Sequim.

The $1 million for Morse Creek is less than the $5 million Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, had hoped for, but he said he believes there’s also safety project money available to fund the project.

“We’ve had too many accidents and too many fatalities,” Chapman said. “Morse Creek has been a challenge for years. I don’t want to see anyone else lose their life on it.”

Chapman championed the project after the death of 19-year-old Sequim resident Brooke “Brookie” Bedinger, whose memorial still sits on the south side of the curve and is frequently visited by family.

According to the State Patrol, about 250 crashes have occurred from 2007-19 on the sweeping, uphill-downhill stretch of 101 between East Kolonels Way and just west of Deer Park Road.

The incidents have included four fatal vehicle wrecks since 2008 and seven motorcycle crashes.

The $5 million for the project was included in the House’s budget, but it did not make it into the final budget approved by the Legislature on April 28.

The $1 million isn’t enough to set a timeline for construction, but it does allow the state Department of Transportation to begin designing the improvements.

“I’ve been told there’s construction dollars for safety projects,” Chapman, a member of the House Transportation Committee said on May 6. “If not, I’m confident I can get the construction dollars in next year’s budget.”

Tina Werner, a DOT spokesperson for the Olympic Region, said officials are confident they can begin the design and environmental work for Morse Creek.

“It’s a little too soon to speculate when we will get additional funds,” she said. “I was talking with our traffic engineers, and we’re still confident we can begin design and environmental work for Morse Creek.

“We are still committed to working with Rep. Chapman in pursuing the remaining funding.”

She said DOT is still planning to move forward with a raised boulevard for the area, which she said will slow down traffic. DOT has said it will also help prevent head-on collisions.

She said the project is a “high priority” for the Olympic Region.

“We just don’t have a hard and fast timeline in terms of construction,” she said. “It’s not going to be something drivers would see, having construction happen this summer.”

She emphasized that though the state Legislature approved funding, Gov. Jay Inslee has not yet signed the bill. Changes could still be made within the next couple weeks, she said.

Sequim to Blyn

The state Legislature also approved $1.29 million for improvements on Highway 101 between Sequim and Blyn.

Werner said the funding will allow DOT to begin design of the estimated $7 million project that includes landscaping, connecting Happy Valley Road to Simdars Road and completing the interchange at Simdars Road.

“This isn’t a safety improvement, this has to do with supporting economic development, but we only have a portion of that funding right now,” Werner said.

The Simdars Road interchange was originally set for completion with the opening of the $18 million, 4.6-mile Highway 101 bypass Aug. 18, 1999.

However, the Department of Transportation was unable to complete construction on Simdars’ eastbound off-ramp because of a lack of funds.

“We feel we can begin the environmental permitting and begin design while we work toward getting the remaining balance funded,” Werner said.

The state Legislature has allocated $1 million for improving U.S. Highway 101 at Morse Creek. (Dave Pitman/Olympic Aerial Solutions)

The state Legislature has allocated $1 million for improving U.S. Highway 101 at Morse Creek. (Dave Pitman/Olympic Aerial Solutions)

More in News

Clallam County Courthouse workers hang bunting on the front of the historic Port Angeles courthouse on Wednesday in honor of Independence Day. Photo by Keith Thorpe/Olympic Peninsula News Group
Special events to mark amended Fourth of July celebrations

The COVID-19 pandemic has scuttled plans for many July Fourth celebrations across… Continue reading

OMC commissioner questions per diem testing policy

The two Olympic Medical Center employees who tested positive for COVID-19 were… Continue reading

Health officers urge caution on Fourth; Clallam adds two COVID-19 cases

North Olympic Peninsula health officers are urging caution during the Fourth of… Continue reading

Shelter resident, Serenity House employee test positive

Two people at Serenity House of Clallam County tested positive for COVID-19… Continue reading

More COVID-19 cases in Clallam; none new in Jefferson

Four more Clallam County residents have been reported Wednesday as having tested… Continue reading

Early-morning fire damages East Sequim Bay Road home

An early morning fire Wednesday, July 1, has left a 4,000-square-foot home… Continue reading

With 4 new COVID-19 cases, Clallam County to remain in Phase 2

Clallam County will remain in Phase 2 of the state’s COVID-19 reopening… Continue reading

Clallam’s childcare crunch: Community leaders explore options

Expanding locations, training some of the options discussed

Deputies seeking suspects in Fish Hatchery Road home burglary

Clallam County deputies are seeking two persons in connection with a June… Continue reading

Most Read