Hazel Dell road project raises access concerns

Work to upgrade Northeast 88th Street will begin in June

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Work on a long-awaited upgrade to a section of Northeast 88th Street in Hazel Dell will get under way in June, and the most frequently asked question at an open house was, “How will I get to my house during construction?”

The section of 88th Street from St. Johns Road to Andresen Road was completed a few years ago, and workers will now widen and upgrade a 1.7-mile stretch from Highway 99 to St. Johns Road. This work will be more complicated than the eastern portion because it’s primarily residential, said Jeff Mize, spokesman for Clark County Public Works.

There’s a number of driveways along 88th Street, as well as homes on adjacent streets that can only be accessed by 88th Street, Mize said.

“We estimate there are more than 300 homes that will need to have access maintained during a project that will span two seasons,” Mize said.

That count doesn’t include a large apartment complex along the north side of 88th Street just east of Highway 99.

A bid is expected to be awarded June 5 and construction is expected to start in mid-June. Workers from Northwest Natural Gas Co. have been relocating gas lines before road construction begins, Mize said. When one construction season ends and another begins depends on weather, he said. Currently, the county expects the project to be completed by October 2013, but lousy weather and other factors could cause construction to extend into 2014.

Clark County Public Works Director Pete Capell said efforts will be made to minimize disruption, and that the county has reached out to affected residents by sending mailers and alerting them to the three-hour open house, which was May 9. People can also register for e-mail updates through the county’s website.

Still, there are always a few people who will say they didn’t know anything about the project, Capell said.

To minimize the impact, the county will build the project in three phases, with workers concentrating on one road section and, when possible, leaving the rest of the road open to traffic, Mize said.

Based on 2009 counts, almost 7,000 vehicles a day drive on the 1.7-mile section.

Only emergency vehicles, school buses and private vehicles for those who have no other way to reach homes or businesses will be allowed in the construction area.

Drivers who don’t need to use 88th Street between Highway 99 and St. Johns are encouraged to use Northeast 78th Street, which has two lanes of traffic in each direction and connects to Padden Parkway.

“If you don’t need to drive on 88th Street, then please consider an alternate route when you head to Costco or other destinations,” Mize said. “It will be easier on you and safer for construction workers.”

The county will also prohibit the contractor from working past 7 p.m. and require the contractor to have a community liaison who can respond to questions, complaints and concerns.

Although a schedule has not been set, Mize said the county expects the contractor will start on the western segment between Highway 99 and 25th Avenue.

He said drivers who must go through the construction zone should plan on being inconvenienced by delays and expect to follow the direction of flaggers.

The $17.5 million project includes plans to rebuild one travel lane in each direction and add a continuous left-turn lane. Bicycle lanes and sidewalks — currently there are only intermittent sidewalks — will be added, as well as stormwater improvements such as rain gardens. The project is being paid for largely through the county’s road fund and federal grants, in addition to local traffic impact fees and state grants.

Updating the stretch of road has been on the county’s to-do list for 10 years, Mize said, as it has become a well-traveled arterial and residents have expressed concerns about children who walk along the road on the sections that don’t have sidewalks.

At this point, schools plan to use regular bus routes. Construction will require C-Tran Route 25 (Fruit Valley/St. Johns) to use a detour. Buses will not serve Northeast 88th Street between Northeast 25th Avenue and Highway 99 during construction. Riders may need to catch the No. 25 bus on Northeast 99th Street or the No. 78 bus on Northeast 78th Street.

For more information on this road project, go to http://www.clark.wa.gov/publicworks/roads/88th.html.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.