Monday, July 17, 2023

Prepare for slowdowns on US 101 between Sequim and Gardiner

By Cara Mitchell

If you’re traveling on US 101 between Gardiner and Sequim in mid-August, we need your help.

From 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 13 through the evening of Friday, Aug. 18, we are reducing US 101 to a single lane near the Clallam and Jefferson County line in Gardiner. For five days, traffic on US 101 will alternate at Eagle Creek while crews open the road to remove a culvert and replace it with a large box culvert that is fish friendly.

The culvert at Eagle Creek will be removed and replaced with a large box culvert
that will be easier for fish to pass through.

You might think that closing one lane isn’t a big deal, right? Think again. Historically, every time our crews close a lane of US 101 for ongoing maintenance or emergency repairs, the traffic backups are very long. We know this, as do residents and businesses. Please help us spread the word about this upcoming lane closure and proactively prepare for delays by planning.

What to expect

Based on traffic volumes, our traffic engineers expect congestion to start building after 9 a.m. each day on US 101 between Chicken Coop/Diamond Point Road and Guiles/Knapp Road. This is where the work zone is located. Backups approaching the work zone will continue late into each evening.

Some of the heaviest congestion is expected from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. each day

  • Monday, Aug. 14
    - 7-mile back up approaching the work zone – 1-hour 15-minute delay
  • Tuesday, Aug. 15
    - 3-mile backup approaching the work zone – Up to 50-minute delay
  • Wednesday, Aug. 16
    - 6-mile backup approaching the work zone – 50-minute delay
  • Thursday, Aug. 17
    - 6-mile backup approaching the work zone – 1-hour 15-minute delay
  • Friday, Aug. 18
    - 8-mile backup approaching the work zone – More than 1-hour 45-minute delay

We need help from travelers

The projected backups will happen if people don’t change their plans. Drivers can help improve travel times by:

  • Running errands early in the morning or late in the evening
  • Give yourself plenty of extra time to reach your destination if you can’t delay travel.
  • Consolidating travel, or carpool
  • Working from home or remote office locations if possible
  • Carrying extra food and water as an added precaution for emergencies or unexpected stops
  • Staying calm. Delays are frustrating, but no meeting or event is worth risking injury or death.
  • Have a full tank of gas

We don’t have another state highway that can easily detour traffic around the work zone. For this reason, we can’t close US 101 completely during this work. Instead, there will be one lane open. A traffic signal will move traffic through the work zone – please treat it as you would any signal, for everyone’s safely.

If a third-party app is telling you there’s a back route around the work zone, we ask that you consider not taking it. The communities on the Olympic Peninsula need their local county roads available for emergency response. We will have signs up reminding drivers that local roads are for local access only.

Olympic Discovery Trail

The nearby Olympic Discovery Trail and the Jefferson Transit bus stop at Diamond Point Road will remain open throughout construction. From Aug. 13 to Aug. 18, pedestrians and bicyclists may experience heavy congestion on the trail, including people accessing the trail via the Diamond Point Road parking lot. During this time, bicyclists and pedestrians will detour around the work zone on the Olympic Discovery Trail. The map below shows the bicycle detour and the nearby work zone on US 101.

We have many tools to help you stay informed both before you go and while traveling:

Why do this work in August?

There’s truly no good time for major roadwork on state highways. People rely on the highway for everything from moving freight to getting to their doctors’ appointments. We're mindful of the inconveniences.

We’re restricted to a short time when we can do this type of work. These kinds of projects have what we call “in-water work windows,” which is the time of year that we’re allowed to do this type of work due to environmental considerations. This window is usually in July or August.

To minimize disruption, we’re using the ‘get in, get out’ approach. Crews will work around-the-clock to get the work done as quickly as possible. This approach consolidates the work into shorter periods of time rather than months of construction.

During this time, we’re digging up the entire highway. We’ll remove the existing culvert and replace it with a new structure that will carry Eagle Creek under US 101. We then will rebuild the highway. Until that’s finished, we’ll keep travelers moving on a temporary one-lane bypass around the work zone.

Could this work get delayed?

Yes, it could get rescheduled because of weather. It could also get delayed due to unforeseen product availability or staffing issues. We’re working with the contractor to try to avoid these issues as best we can.

If the schedule changes, we will share the latest information once it becomes available via our project web page.

Crews preparing for correcting the Eagle Creek culvert located under US 101

For the fish and us

This project will remove barriers to fish passage by replacing culverts under US 101. A fish passage barrier is anything that hinders fish from moving upstream or downstream. Culverts, large pipes under roads, allow water to flow but may not allow fish to swim through. Culverts may block fish because the water flow is too swift, too shallow, or has a waterfall into or out of the culvert.

Correcting these barriers is an important part of the state’s efforts to restore salmon runs, ultimately benefiting the Olympic Peninsula’s landscape and economy.

Will more work zones see traffic backups like this?

Six culverts will be replaced under US 101 as part of this project. This is the only location, however, that requires days of one-way alternating traffic. The remainder will include crews building two-lane temporary bypass roads around each work zone. Each culvert location has unique characteristics that help determine the type of work zone needed to correct the fish barrier. We work with our contractors to keep traffic moving at each location.

Safety first

Please watch your speed in work zones. Travelers will begin seeing work crews near Eagle Creek starting the week of July 17 as they begin site preparations for replacing the culvert. The regulatory speed limit will be reduced from 55 mph to 25 mph in the work zone from Aug. 13-18. Traffic fines are double in work zones. Always give construction crews the room they need to get this work done. Keeping your eyes on the road and slowing down helps keep you, our crews and other drivers safe. Delays are frustrating, but we are encouraging people to stay calm. No meeting or event is worth risking injury or death. We need travelers help keeping everyone safe on our highways.