Major road projects get underway

Over the next two years there are two major road projects being undertaken that will help position Washougal and Camas to better accommodate traffic and infrastructure needs for many decades to come.

E Street Improvements

This project is already underway and is projected to be complete in the summer of 2011.

The major components of this project are installing continuous ADA sidewalks along the entire route on both the north and south sides of the street from Sixth Street to 32nd Street, installing a new water main under the same 26 blocks of street and resurfacing and re-striping of this street to allow for a center turn lane and proper bike lanes in both directions.

Many of our residents have already encountered work being done by NW Natural to ready their utilities for our construction project, as well as work on the curbing and sidewalk prep on the north side of the street by our contractor, Westech Construction.

While there are still some folks who scratch their heads to understand why the city is installing ADA sidewalks on both sides of the street and why we are putting bike lanes on one of the busiest streets in the city, the answer is easy. These two items were a requirement of the grant programs that we are using to fund the project. If these were not part of the project, the project would not have been funded.

Frankly, I am not a fan of the three-lane system with one center turn lane and the bike lanes but I feel that the funding we received to install these crucial sidewalks is worth the experiment to see if the lanes work, as we are assured they will by traffic engineers, and help to make vehicle traffic safer through this corridor.

I am assured, however, that if the lanes do not function as designed, after a proper time of evaluation, we can repaint the travel lanes back to what they are today or whatever might be deemed to be an appropriate fix.

As many of you know, the traffic roundabout at Washougal River Road and E Street was eliminated earlier this year from the project. As work progresses at this intersection, we will install systems to re-signal the stoplights at this intersection so traffic is allowed to flow freer than it does today rather than all waiting their turn in each direction.

The replacement of the water main under E Street is also critical to providing reliable, safe water to the homes and businesses that feed off the system. The present waterline was installed so long ago, and without numerous shutoff valves that a break today will close many businesses along long stretches of the roadway and cutoff water to the homes as well. The new waterline will have much better capabilities of locating leaks and breaks and isolating them until repairs can be made instead of shutting down the whole stretch of supply lines.

Highway 14

Staging for this project has also started as evidenced by the work being done at the park and ride area at Second Street. This construction project is scheduled to be completed in the Fall of 2012.

This important project will expand the highway to four lanes from the east side of the western slough bridge on through to Second Street and some changes to the Sixth Street interchange. The project includes two newly built frontage roads on the north and south sides of the highway with major on/off ramps at Union Street and Second Street.

For those who drive Highway 14 in the morning and evenings, you already know how congested and slow this highway is. This project will bring long needed safety improvements to the highway and will eliminate the light signals at Second and Union streets, thus freeing traffic up to flow much more efficiently and quickly.

In some areas, your views will even improve as the highway is brought up in height by 15 to 20 feet to accommodate underpasses and sidewalks at the two main intersections.

The project is being broken into two stages. In stage one, the frontage roads and roundabouts on the frontage roads at Union and Second (two roundabouts at each intersection, one each at the north and south sides) will be constructed while traffic continues to use the highway. In addition, a second two-lane bridge will be built where the east slough bridge is now at the mouth of the Washougal River. This construction will take approximately one year.

In stage two, all traffic from the highway will be diverted onto the frontage roads through this area while the highway itself is closed down, extra lanes installed and overpasses constructed to make it all work. This phase is also expected to take most of a year, completing and opening the new highway system in fall 2012.

While these construction projects are underway, there will be many days of traffic delays. I ask that all citizens plan appropriately and be patient as we reconstruct these two major roadways. In the end, we will see benefits decades into the future.

Sean Guard is the mayor of Washougal. He can be reached at 834-2533 or sguard@ci.washougal.wa.us.

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