Drivers on state Route 14 in Camas and Washougal will see some major changes in their trips next week when crews start the second half of a $49 million construction project that when complete will improve safety and traffic flow between Vancouver, east Clark County and the Columbia River Gorge.
At 8 p.m. on Friday, all traffic on state Route 14 will shift to a new southern frontage road that runs parallel to the highway. Drivers will travel 25 mph through two roundabouts at Union and Second streets for nearly 10 months.
“The frontage road speed limit is lower than the speed limit on SR-14, so drivers will move more slowly than they’ve been used to,” said Washington State Department of Transportation Project Engineer Chris Tams. “But the good news is that they keep moving. If traffic stayed on SR-14, drivers would spend a year dealing with closures, delays and detours it would take to construct this half of the project.”
WSDOT officials recommend allowing extra time to get through the work zone once the traffic shift begins, especially during the morning and afternoon commutes. Initial delays could be as long as 20 minutes while drivers get used to changes.
According to WSDOT research of traffic patterns at roundabouts, even with the reduced speed limit, traffic flow will be similar to when drivers had to stop and wait for the signal lights at Union and Second.
In coming months, drivers will also encounter periodic weekend closures of Union and Second streets while crews excavate the existing streets across SR-14. Excavation is the first step in raising SR-14 by 25 feet and building two new half-interchanges.
The first closure of Union Street between the frontage road and Southeast Eighth Avenue starts at 8 p.m. Friday. Crews will be working around the clock, and expect to reopen the street to traffic by 6 a.m. Monday. However, that portion of the roadway won’t be paved for several months while crews continue working on the intersection.
Crews will stagger the closures of Union and Second streets so that, with the temporary signal at Sixth Street, drivers will always have two ways to cross SR-14.
During last night’s Camas City Council meeting, Mayor Scott Higgins said he has heard some complaints about the project’s traffic impacts.
“It is what it is,” Higgins said with dealing with the pitfalls of a long-term construction project. “It’s is going to be different than people are used to. Progress is painful sometimes. but I’m sure it’s going to be great when it’s done.
“If we all remember the driver behind this project, it may help,” Higgins added. “We are trying to save lives.”
The SR-14, Camas-Washougal widening and interchange project widens SR-14 and eliminates two of the three remaining traffic signals between I-5 and Bingen. A median barrier throughout the entire length of the project will also be added.
Construction began in June 2011, and the project is on schedule for completion in late 2012 or early 2013.