The first piece of funding may be in place for the long-gestating Simdars Road Interchange project as local officials await Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature for the state’s transportation budget.
The Peninsula Daily News reported last week that the Washington State Department of Transportation could receive $1.29 million to help finish the eastbound ramp of the bypass, add landscaping and create a new frontage road from Happy Valley and Palo Alto Roads to the interchange.
The Simdars Road interchange was originally set for completion with the opening of the 4.6-mile US Highway 101 bypass in August 1999, but state officials couldn’t finish the Simdars’ eastbound off-ramp because of a lack of funds.
Tina Werner, WSDOT spokesperson for the Olympic Region, said the current funding is “enough to begin design and permitting work prior to any right-of-way construction.”
“We’re remaining optimistic,” she said. “(State Rep.) Mike Chapman remains very involved and we’re hopeful the legislature will continue to fund it.
“In regards to development, we’re now seeing a large influx of development in that area and this is going to be essential to keep the goods and people moving.”
Earlier this year, City of Sequim, Clallam County and Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe officials sent a letter to Chapman encouraging him and other state leaders to support the proposed highway projects.
The city’s letter said the bypass helps economic development in the city’s east side and increases safety for Palo Alto and Happy Valley roads.
“This long-needed project will provide a safe connection from Palo Alto and Happy Valley Roads to the interchange,” Sequim Public Works Director David Garlington said.
“It will increase mobility on (U.S. Highway 101) by separating local city and county traffic from highway traffic and will support economic growth by providing a direct connection from the highway into Sequim’s commercial and industrial zones.”
Last November, city councilors agreed to hire lobbyist Davor Gjurasic for the project, whom Garlington said “helped tremendously.”
“This funding wouldn’t have happened without him down (in Olympia),” Garlington said.
Garlington said the state will need around $1.7 million more for design and right-of-way for the Sequim area project and that WSDOT and the city’s lobbyist are looking at other avenues.
He said in conversations with state staff the total construction could cost as much as $20 million for the interchange, frontage road and new landscaping.
Garlington and other local officials hope to time construction with another state project to increase fish passage by installing a new culvert under US Highway 101 for threatened/endangered fish at Johnson Creek.
Werner said the Johnson Creek project, which is considered at zero percent passage for fish, is scheduled for construction in 2022, but that depends on Gov. Inslee’s transportation budget.
Johnson Creek is one of hundreds of culverts under roadways the Department of Transportation must replace after a 2013 federal injunction the U.S. District Court ordered the state to follow. That legislation came about after 21 tribes in Washington state requested entities observe a treaty to preserve fish runs by repairing or replacing culverts that negatively affect salmon migration.
As of July 2018, WSDOT finished 330 fish passage projects statewide, Werner said, and needs to correct another 415 culverts — or about 1,012 miles of potential fish habitats — by 2030.
If both Johnson Creek and Simdars are funded and scheduled at the same time, Garlington said, it would minimize traffic disruptions.
Werner said WSDOT does “look to bundle jobs to reduce traffic impacts if funding pools and timelines match up.”
“It’s too soon to comment if the US 101 Simdars Road Interchange project and Johnson Creek project will be bundled at this time,” she said.
However, Werner said it makes sense not to “rip up one part of the highway one summer and come back the next summer and rip up another portion.”
Garlington said he feels confident the Sequim project will be funded.
“I think it will mesh well with the Johnson Creek project and we just have to convince (the state) it’ll be the least expensive to go that route,” he said.
Current and future construction projects are reported at www.wsdot.wa.gov.
Clallam County WSDOT updates are also available at twitter.com/WSDOT Tacoma.
For more information about the potential US Highway 101 corridor project, contact the City of Sequim at 360-683-4908.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.