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Clark County proposed project at Northeast 179th Street draws ire from neighbors

Public Works meets with residents to discuss concerns about proposal

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Residents filled the Clark County Council chambers with more attending online, as many expressed their dissatisfaction and frustration about the Northeast 179th Street improvement project to Public Works.

The meeting, which took place on Aug. 11, came after the Clark County Council directed staff to revisit the public outreach process after residents expressed that they had been left out of the notification process.

“We actually live in this community, and I feel like there is a lot of active disenfranchisement happening,” one resident said at the meeting.

Scott Sawyer, the capital project manager for Public Works, said that as a resident of the area he understands the frustration.

“We’re a growing community, and sometimes there are going to be growing pains associated with it,” Sawyer said. “We’re doing the best we can to meet the needs of the community.”

What is the N.E. 179th Street project?

The 179th Street project consists of a series of individual projects along Northeast 179th Street from Delfel Road west of Interstate 5 east to Northeast 50th Avenue, encompassing roughly two miles in total.

As the area along 179th Street grows, the improvements along the corridor should improve travel times, stimulate economic development and bring the road up to current standards. Five roundabouts on 179th Street are scheduled to be constructed by 2025, with another at Northeast 50th Avenue planned for 2035. In addition, the road will be widened to four lanes.

The work along the corridor is being done in conjunction between the Public Works, Washington State Department of Transportation and developers.

The Clark County Council lifted the urban holding designation from 2,220 acres near the I-5 interchange, allowing for more development along the corridor.

Traffic Engineering Manager Rob Klug said that although Public Works is short staffed — they are currently hiring for more than 10 positions including a director — they have relied on contractors to ease the burden, and have two engineers starting in the next three weeks to lighten it even more.

“Where we’ve been crunched, we’re going to have a little more capacity to be able to take these on and continue on with the planning and engineering,” Klug said.

What do residents say?

Dean Hergesheimer, a retired engineer who worked with Battle Ground, Ridgefield and Washougal, can see Northeast 179th Street from his backyard.

Hergesheimer is a vocal critic of the project, arguing that because the county has incorrectly classified streets in the 179th Street plan, there will be a negative effect on public safety specifically for pedestrians and first responders.

He said that, in spite of the countless emails and testimonies, straight answers to his questions and concerns are rare.

“I feel like I’m standing at the beach shouting into waves,” he said.

Another area of contention is roundabouts.

Although roundabouts are often safer and better at providing a continuous flow of traffic through an intersection than a traffic light, stop sign or left turn lane, according to Klug, they are not popular.

One drawback to roundabouts, however, is that they require more space than the other options.

Eric Cook, who purchased a home that will be impacted by the planned intersection between Northeast 179th Street and Northeast 50th Avenue said that he was unaware about the roundabout when he bought his house.

“Had I known about this thing three days earlier, before signing my papers, maybe I wouldn’t have bought that property,” Cook said at the meeting.

The feedback raised by the residents will be passed along to the Clark County Council and will be discussed in a September workshop.

For more information about the project or links to the open house, go to https://clark.wa.gov/public-works/179th-st-access-management-and-circulation-plan.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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