Federal, state and local officials will be in Camas today to cut the ceremonial ribbon that will officially re-open to traffic a newly built section of Highway 14.
Officials expected to attend the event include Shari Hildreth representing U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s office; Schuyler Hoss of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office; 18th District Rep. Liz Pike, Camas Mayor Scott Higgins, Port of Camas-Washougal Executive Director David Ripp and former 18th District Sen. Joe Zarelli.
Ripp said the 16-month construction process has produced good results.
“It is very exciting to see this project almost completed,” he said. “I am amazed how quickly it came together and how much it is going to improve the flow of traffic along SR-14.”
The highway will be open to traffic in time for the morning commute on Wednesday. Crews will still have some work to do, however, so only one lane will be open in each direction for a few weeks. All lanes will open after construction crews complete work including installing signs, guardrail and streetlights.
Work on the road will then stop for the winter, but the project isn’t completely finished. Once the dry weather returns in the spring, crews will return to complete paving and striping.
Since construction began in June 2011, crews working with the Washington State Department of Transportation have raised the highway 25 feet in elevation, added two lanes, eliminated two traffic signals and built three miles of median barrier to prevent cross-over collisions along SR-14 between the Northwest Sixth Avenue interchange in Camas and Sixth Street in Washougal.
Higgins, a lifelong resident of Camas, said while construction on the $50 million safety and mobility improvement project caused some headaches for commuters and business owners, he described the project’s overall benefits to the community as “substantial.”
“Maybe there have been some short-term negative impacts for local merchants, but if you look at the long-term success of the project I think in the end we will all feel this is a great benefit for our community.”
Ripp added that the project will improve access on the north and south sides of the highway at Union and Second streets.
“I feel that the businesses are going to benefit from the ease of flow from the traffic and this will also help spur additional economic development in Washougal,” he said. “Current and future businesses really look hard at access into their establishment and this is really going to open up our area for potential bu
Historically known as a dangerous section of road that was the site of many, sometimes fatal, accidents the changes to Highway 14 are expected to make driving much safer.
“Anyone who grew up in Camas, their parents told them not to drive the Slough Bridge because you could die,” he said. “That improvement alone is huge for our community.”
Higgins added that Camas will continue to be a proponent of expanding the safety improvements east through Washougal, and eliminating all stoplights within the local Highway 14 corridor (one stoplight will remain at 15th Street).
“We will continue to have life safety issues until it is fixed.”
For more information about the project, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov.