Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Immense gratitude for your help during US 101 work near Gardiner

By Doug Adamson

We asked for the community’s help while we closed a lane of US 101 at Eagle Creek on the Olympic Peninsula, and the community listened. We’re incredibly appreciative of the help, understanding and advance planning travelers took during our work.

We removed a culvert that was a barrier to fish at Eagle Creek. With your help, we were able to install a culvert that has the potential to increase habitat for fish.

We have some more work to do. It mostly involves rebuilding the streambed to benefit all life cycles of fish. While we’ll still need some overnight one-way alternating traffic, major construction that affects travel is complete. Everyone working together helped ease some of the construction disruption. Thank you.

Crews worked around-the-clock to finish culvert construction on US 101 near Gardiner.

Lane closure equaled hours-long backups

Whether you sat in traffic for 90 minutes or three hours, we can all agree that Monday, Aug. 14 – the first day of the one-lane bypass – was brutal. The hours-long delays were awful. We heard from a lot of people about the situation. After seeing backups, we quickly retimed the traffic signal at each end of the bypass road based on travel patterns. While that helped, it’s travelers who get the credit for helping reduce backups in the following days.

And about that 90-minute estimate. …we arrived at that time based on traffic modeling. There are big variables, such as the independent actions of each traveler. There is no way to predict what every person will do. Traffic modeling is based on data and trends we’ve historically seen. A lot of people travel across the Olympic Peninsula on Mondays during the summer. Tuesday and Wednesday traffic volumes are lower, but things start to build again on Thursday as we approach the weekend.

Why do this work in the summer travel season?

If we could do this work in November, we probably would. Fish passage projects restrict dates for when crews can work in the water. The so-called “fish window” is typically mid-July through September. For Eagle Creek, the narrow window was July 16 to Aug. 30. In-stream work windows are intended to minimize impacts to aquatic species.

For most of the year, we aren’t able to do significant work on fish passages.
For Eagle Creek, time was even more limited.

Plus, we need to divert the stream into a pipe during the work. It’s a meandering sleepy stream in the summer. The stream can turn into a torrent during our screaming rains seen between November and March. It’s a real balancing act to keep people moving and excavate both lanes of the road. If we miss our fish window, it can delay the project an entire year. That’s something we want to avoid.

One culvert down, five to go on US 101 between Sequim and Discovery Bay

We have so many fish barrier removal locations on the Olympic Peninsula, we’ve grouped several into bundled projects. This work near Gardiner (Eagle Creek) was one culvert in a project that has six locations. They are located over a 10-mile section of US 101 in both Clallam and Jefferson counties.

So are we going to close one lane of US 101 five more times? No. This was the only location. The rest of the work will have two-lane bypass roads as crews build new bridges over each creek.

Before work starts, crews capture fish so they can be relocated prior to construction.
This was among those moved at Eagle Creek.

Each culvert location is different. This includes right-of-way limitations, topography to nearby infrastructure and riparian habitat. There are many items considered when determining if a one-lane or two-lane bypass road will be used around the work zone. Another consideration is a signed detour.

Eagle Creek was a tough location because of a nearby secondary culvert that is not known to have fish. The secondary culvert would have been impacted by construction. The tough decision was made to keep the bypass at one-lane, which meant crews used the accelerated ‘get in, get out’ approach.

Eagle Creek had been confined to this small pipe that ran under US 101. The new culvert (right)
will allow fish passage beyond the highway.

Our contractor worked around-the-clock to remove the old culvert (some call it a pipe) and install a 20-foot-wide x 70-foot-long x 7-foot-high pre-cast concrete box culvert. This helped us build the improvements as quickly as possible. It was hard work, and we know it took a lot of cooperation with the community to get this done.

The remaining culvert locations require construction of new bridges. We’ll keep people moving on two-lane bypass roads for the remainder of this project. Drivers will see reduced speed limits and some nighttime one-way alternating traffic.

The locations of six culverts in the US 101 Jefferson-Clallam Fish Barrier Removal project

The next culvert location we will start work on this fall is location No. 2 on the above map. The remaining culverts will have work starting in 2024.

No surprises approach

Our goal is a heavy lift – no surprises. That meant coordinating with emergency services, Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, and Clallam County. We got coverage in local and regional media. We created blogs, used every social media platform that our agency uses, and reached out to a lot of community partners. Our ferries division had displays on their video signs at the Port Townsend Ferry Terminal. We also sent thousands of mailers to homes and businesses in the areas near the work zone.

All this doesn’t really matter if you were surprised. Going forward, we hope you’ll consider signing up for our email alerts. It’s for major roadwork in Clallam and Jefferson Counties. Considering how many emails we get each day, please know we send our alerts only when necessary. Others tools include our app, and Travel Center Map. Want to know about other construction projects? We have it broken down by county.

These travel tools are intended to help you plan ahead and make the best decisions for you and your circumstances.

We'll keep you updated on the specific dates via our email updates and project web page.

Please help keep road workers safe. Anytime you’re approaching a work zone please remember to:

Slow down – drive the posted speeds, they are there for your safety.

Be kind – our workers are out there helping to keep you safe and improve the roadways.

Pay attention – both to workers directing you and surrounding traffic; put your phone down when behind the wheel.

Stay calm – expect delays, leave early or take an alternate route if possible; no meeting or appointment is worth risking someone’s life.