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Camas plans ‘aggressive’ timeline for roundabout construction

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
4 Photos
Traffic drives Jan. 23 through the intersection of Northeast Everett Street and Northeast Lake Road in Camas at the site of a proposed roundabout.
Traffic drives Jan. 23 through the intersection of Northeast Everett Street and Northeast Lake Road in Camas at the site of a proposed roundabout. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

CAMAS — A highly anticipated roundabout at Northeast Lake Road and Northeast Everett Street is expected to start taking shape in a couple of months.

Roughly 100 people viewed the final design of the roundabout during a meeting Thursday at Lacamas Lake Lodge. City officials are pushing for construction to begin in March and finish in October.

With the design in hand, next steps include completing the permitting process and opening bids for construction contracts in what Public Works Director Steve Wall called an “aggressive” timeline.

“We’re moving quickly here at the end to be able to get everything in place so that we can open bids and then have a contractor there as quickly as possible,” Wall said at the meeting.

From late March through July, workers will remove roughly 201 trees — before later planting 524 trees. Traffic will continue to flow through the current intersection during the first construction phase, said Greg Jellison, principal civil engineer with PBS Engineering.

“A lot of work is going to be happening while you’re still using the same, existing roadway,” Jellison said.

Commuters will notice the largest impact in August before school begins, Jellison said. The roundabout — southeast of the current intersection — is expected to be partially open to traffic, and workers will install a temporary street signal.

By September, the roundabout should be near fully operational, leaving some cleanup and landscaping work.

The roundabout is expected to reduce congestion at an important traffic point in the city’s transportation network. The intersection, which often backs up at peak traffic hours, connects the north and south shores of Lacamas Lake and is near downtown and several recreation areas.

“It, kind of, connects the city all the way around,” Wall said. “It’s definitely key.”

Improvements to the intersection have been on the city’s radar for several years, Public Works Project Manager Jim Hodges said. About 1,500 people responded to online surveys while the city crafted plans, and, in addition to numerous other city meetings, officials held three open houses –including Thursday’s — that drew between 90 to 120 people each.

A page on the city’s website also features a detailed history of the project and several informational links.

“People have a lot of questions about roundabouts and how we came to the conclusion to install a roundabout there,” Hodges said. “We knew there was going to be a lot of interest in what we did at that intersection.”

Residents’ top priority at the intersection, revealed in the online surveys, is to reduce congestion. A close second was maintaining traffic flow during construction. The city also hoped to make the roundabout fit with the wooded area surrounding it, and Wall said the roundabout plan reduces environmental impacts and is safer than signals.

Before plans were finalized, the city considered three designs involving traffic signals, three with roundabouts and one that involved no new construction. The final design preserves some things — such as a historic chestnut tree that will be situated in the middle of the roundabout — and adds others — an extended sidewalk from Lacamas Lake Lodge to the nearby park and a left-turn lane to funnel traffic to nearby businesses.

Wall added that the intersection could accommodate future expansion.

“We wanted to make sure that it fits with the feel, the natural environment and what the community wants to see here,” Wall said.

The project is estimated to cost between $7 million and $8 million, Wall said. The state Transportation Improvement Board provided $3.3 million in grants, and the state Public Works Board approved a 20-year loan at 1.58 percent interest to cover the remaining costs. The city plans to pay off the loan through transportation impact fees and real estate excise taxes.

Judging by the reaction at the open houses, residents appear to strongly support the plan.

“I’m very thrilled about this project, and I think you’ve done a wonderful job,” said Rick Hoffman, of Camas, to Wall. The comment was followed by a round of applause.

Columbian county government and small cities reporter