The Skokomish Indian Tribe is leading an effort to greatly improve byway traveler and pedestrian safety at a place of cultural significance along the heavily-traveled Pacific Coast Scenic Byway's north-south Hood Canal corridor.
The Tribe is working with Washington State Parks, Washington State Department of Transportation, and the engineering/design firms of Shea, Carr & Jewell, Inc. of Olympia, Washington, and Cascade Design Professionals, Inc. of Milwaukie, Oregon, to design and construct a turn lane on US Highway 101 at the east and west entrances to Potlatch State Park. The park's location on the Skokomish Indian Reservation is the site the Tribe's ancestral villages of t3ba'das and Enetai, and a contemporary place of diverse recreational activities including oyster and clam digging, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, picnicing and tent and RV camping. (See Attachment 1 for project location.)
US Highway 101 splits Potlatch State Park in two. The park's eastern side is predominantly flat shoreline terrain that provides picnic spots and 9,570 feet of saltwater beach access along the Hood Canal. Its western side's up-sloped and woody terrain provides shaded tent and RV sites in close proximity to Potlatch Creek. The new turn lane will provide overall public safety and accessibility to the park for byway travelers in vehicles, on motorcycles and bicycles, and on foot. In addition, it will provide improved safe ingress and egress at the Tribe's new t3ba'das residential neighborhood entrance, a shared entry road at the park's western entrance. Byway travelers will greatly outnumber the total number of t3ba'das residents using the shared entrance for many years because the Tribe is just beginning to develop this new neighborhood. The number of t3ba'das residences will number about 25 homes by July 2009 with an expected 25 or fewer homes being built annually over the next ten years, for a total of 178 homes. The annual visitor rate to Potlatch State Park is over 125,000 individuals.
The proposed project will widen US Highway 101 by 14 feet to create exclusive north- and south-bound left turn lanes, expanded roadway shoulders and right-turn tapers for the eastern and western entrances into the park and the shared entry road. Other safety improvements include improved sight distance, intersection illumination, and advance warning devices to signal drivers that pedestrians are crossing US Highway 101 from one side of the park to the other. The pedestrian crossing area will meet ADA requirements.
The Skokomish traveler and pedestrian safety improvements plan and design for Potlatch State Park are underway. All needed environmental clearances are being obtained. There are no encumbrances on the project land. Contracts for engineering, design and construction follow Tribal contracting policy and reflect any funder requirements.
URGENCY OF THE PROJECT
Of the limited number of access routes onto the Olympic Peninsula and the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, the two most heavily traveled are via the Hood Canal Bridge/SR104 (to the north end of the Peninsula) and US Highway 101 through Olympia, WA (to the south end of the Peninsula). The Hood Canal Bridge, the longest floating bridge in the world located in a saltwater tidal basin, is slated for repair 2009-2010. In May 2009, the bridge will close for six to eight weeks for replacement of concrete pontoons. Rehabilitation of the west half will continue through 2010. Closure of the bridge means traffic onto the Peninsula must be routed along US 101 through Olympia or south on SR 3 to SR106 then to US 101. (See Attachment 2 for Hood Canal Bridge closure routes.)
According to WA Department of Transportation (WSDOT) projections, traffic flow on US Highway 101 between SR 104 (at the western side of the closed Bridge) and SR 106 on the Skokomish Reservation, including the Potlatch State Park project site, will increase by 60% due to the 2009-2010 Hood Canal Bridge work. Added traffic of 4000 vehicles per day will exacerbate an already severely hazardous location (see Attachment 3 for Bridge closure impact analysis) reinforcing the urgency to complete the Tribe's proposed turn lane project in 2008. The Hood Canal Bridge is located 64 miles north and east of the Potlatch State Park project site along the Hood Canal Corridor.
Recent analysis by the Skokomish Tribe (See Attachment 11), demonstrates that Average Annual Daily Traffic increased by 21% at a short-duration traffic count station 1.93 miles south of the project site during the three years immediately following designation of the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway. The Tribe modeled traffic at Potlatch Park for six-year periods before and after the Byway designation, and determined that for the peak season traffic along the Byway at Potlatch State Park for the three years immediately following designation of the Byway increased by 25%. Further detail is provided in Attachment 11.
Project site accident data, given in Attachment 4, illustrates the need for the proposed safety improvements to US Highway 101 at Potlatch State Park. Byway funds for this project would not be used to correct pre-existing problems, but rather to improve safety conditions at a site where increases in traffic volumes are increasing the frequency of severe accidents. An in depth analysis of the accident and fatality rates at the project site is given in Attachment 5.
The Tribe investigated the efficacy of its proposed safety counter-measures at Potlatch State Park in terms of research literature identifying anticipated reduction in crash incidence from the installation of a countermeasure, but we were unable to locate such a specific study. We also submitted requests to the Washington State Department of Transportation and the FHWA Washington Division regarding their awareness of any such study or studies. We discussed the question with the project design engineer, and he advised that he was unaware of any such study in regard to the turn lane. He suggested, however, that in the design review process he was required to provide "warrants" to WSDOT plan reviewers to demonstrate that the countermeasures were indeed warranted according to WSDOT design standard specifications. In addition to the two-way left turn lane additional safety countermeasures include: better geometrics, illumination, a pedestrian warning signal for motorists, guardrails, and signs and markings.
SKOKOMISH TRANSPORTATION AND ROADS PLANNING
The Skokomish Indian Tribe maintains an Indian Reservation Roads inventory with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, annually updates its Tribal Transportation Plan, and prioritizes transportation and road projects in need of funding on its High Priority Projects roster. The seven-member Skokomish Tribal Council, the governing body of the Tribe, holds approval authority for all Tribal transportation and roads plans.
STATE PLANS ADDRESSING VISITOR EXPERIENCES
The Washington Coastal Corridor US 101 Corridor Master Plan (revised March 1997) is guiding document of the collected visions and goals expressed by community members for enhancements and improvements along US 101. In this Master Plan, Potlatch State Park falls in to "Planning Area 5" which we have described above as the Hood Canal Corridor--that part of the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway running north from Olympia, along the Hood Canal, to the Straight of Juan de Fuca. The US 101 Corridor Master Plan defines well the road conditions common in Planning Area 5, and certainly the unsafe conditions found at the Potlatch Project site: "Along most of the Hood Canal, many slow-vehicle turnouts are poorly marked and are non-standard. This, combined with the rolling and winding nature of the road, presents a frustrating and potentially hazardous situation. Mobility improvement strategies for the sub corridor address turnout-related issues, and also include widening shoulders, and establishing pedestrian walkways...." (Washington Coastal Corridor Master Plan, March 1997 revised summary, p. S-26)
The Skokomish safety initiative at Potlatch State Park enhances the Washington State Parks' Classification and Management Planning (CAMP) land-use planning project underway for the lower Hood Canal area parks, including Potlatch. CAMP is aimed at assessing "overall visitor experiences, natural and cultural resources, use of the park's buildings, recreation areas, and trails, and other topics of interest to the community and park visitors." (http://www.parks.wa.gov/plans/) Improved safety is a strong foundational base from which to make other park improvements.
BACKGROUND ON THE BYWAY
The Pacific Coast Scenic Byway is a 360.0 mile / 579.4 km stretch of US Highway 101 that loops Washington State's dramatically beautiful mountains, forests, beaches and waterways of the Olympic Peninsula. This byway, a part of the Pacific Coast Highway, is also known as the Olympic Peninsula Highway. The Pacific Coast Scenic Byway holds various designations including National Forest Byway (2000) and Washington State Scenic Byway (2000). (See NSBP map; Attachment 8)
Throughout its entire length, US Highway 101 is also designated as one of Washington State's Scenic and Recreational Highways, overseen by Washington's Heritage Corridor Program.
Among the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway's many popular traveler destinations around the Olympic Peninsula Loop are the Olympic National Park, Olympic National Forest, eight (8) Native American communities and nineteen (19) Washington State Parks on or near the byway. Of the nineteen State Parks, four are on the byway's Hood Canal north-south US101 corridor.
Potlatch State Park, the site of this proposed scenic byway project, is a 57-acre camping park that offers year-round recreation. The Park's 9,570 feet of saltwater shoreline along the Hood Canal enhance the Byway traveler's experience with such activities as harvesting oysters and clams; catching fish, crab and shrimp; scuba diving, kayaking, boating and swimming. Potlatch State Park Ranger/Manager Darrela Standfill reports the Park had 140,225 visitors in 2007, broken down as: 8,222 utility site users; 3,717 standard site users; and 128,286 day-use visitors.
As expressed above, the proposed improvements at Potlatch State Park will provide overall public safety and accessibility to the park for byway travelers in vehicles, on motorcycles and bicycles, and on foot. In addition, it will provide improved safe ingress and egress at the Tribe's new t3ba'das residential neighborhood entrance—a shared entry road at the park's western entrance. (See Attachment 9 for photos of the project site on US Highway 101 at Potlatch State Park; and A letter of support from Darrela Standfill, Potlatch State Park Manager & Ranger is given in Attachment 10.)