Highway 14 project is nearly finished, but more work is ahead

A couple of weeks ago, elected officials from nearly every level of government, from local city council members and the mayor to representatives from Congress and the governor’s office, descended on Highway 14 in Washougal to mark the completion of the $52 million safety improvement project. Construction work had been going on for 1.5 years, but the lobbying and planning for this endeavor started many years before.

The message during the ribbon cutting event on Oct. 23 was clear. This was a massive project that took the work, dedication, persistence and time of many different people.

In scope, the improvements to State Route 14 between the Northwest Sixth Avenue interchange in Camas and Sixth Street in Washougal are amazing to comprehend.

They will be beneficial in several different ways, from decreasing the number of fatal vehicle accidents to improving the flow of traffic in a way that will provide economic benefits to current and future businesses.

But to truly make this section of highway that runs through Camas and Washougal completely safe, more will need to be done. And it isn’t going to be cheap.

As Camas Mayor Scott Higgins recently pointed out, Highway 14 will not be as safe as it should be until improvements are made along the entire stretch of roadway within Camas and Washougal city limits. Right now those improvements stop at Sixth Avenue in Washougal, but there are safety issues that need to be addressed beyond that farther east to 32nd Street.

Another element that remains on the “to do” list is the widening of the Camas Slough Bridge, which is estimated to cost $25 million to $30 million. While it was originally included in the recent project’s scope, in 2008 those improvements were cut due to budget issues.

According to WSDOT, the great expense can be attributed to the need to stabilize the bridge so that it is retrofitted to meet current seismic standards. Efforts must also must stabilize the soil underneath the bridge and strengthen the footings and columns before adding the weight of new concrete, steel and asphalt to the bridge deck. Engineers estimate that it will be 15 to 20 years before bottleneck at the West Camas Slough Bridge causes any significant problems. Still, this must remain a priority.

In regards to both of these issues, it will be up to our local elected leaders to continue “making noise,” and remain steadfast and persistent in their commitments to get these other important aspects of Highway 14 safety complete in the years to come.