No roundabout for Seaview junction, but improvements at Astoria Bridge finalized for next year

LONG BEACH - Responding to years of local comments and complaints about car crashes at the Sandridge Road/U.S. Highway 101 intersection, the Washington State Department of Transportation last week said it will begin planning to place a traffic signal there in 2007 or later.

This schedule means the intersection will remain substantially as it is throughout the upcoming Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.

At an open house Thursday at the Ilwaco Heritage Museum, WSDOT representatives also said the department is moving ahead with a traffic signal and other improvements at this end of the Astoria Bridge next June. WSDOT has no plans for changes in the US 101/State Route 103 junction in Seaview, however, where past thoughts of a traffic roundabout stirred public dissent.

If funds become available, WSDOT will continue to look at improvements at the 101/103 junction, including a traffic signal to function in conjunction with the Sandridge Road signal and the installation of median curbs on US 101 at N Street to prevent crossing-type accidents.

Summarizing WSDOT's Sand-ridge/101 decision, a spokesman told the Observer in writing that "The traffic signal analysis indicated that a signal would provide better traffic movement than an all-way stop and improve safety by reducing the cross traffic (T-bone) collisions."

The roundabout option would provide improved traffic flow and increased safety, but at a higher cost, WSDOT concluded. WSDOT is proceeding with the design of this signal project and construction could start in 2007, based on available funding. The department has said the signal will cost $200,000 to $300,000.

WSDOT also has considered other public suggestions raised at a brain-storming session earlier this year, including designating the Sandridge/101 vicinity as a Safety Corridor ("lights on for safety" zone). This idea still is under review by WSDOT, which said strong local support will help increase the chances of this request receiving a portion of the limited funding available.

The department also is pondering public remarks that signs around the intersection are confusing.

"Research indicates that these particular signs were originally installed at the request of area residents," according to the department's spokesman. "WSDOT is willing to change the signs to meet current standards if we receive adequate public support."

The public can voice support for changing the existing warning signs and for designating a portion of US 101 as a Safety Corridor by either sending a letter to WSDOT's Kelso Area Engineering Office, 2400 Talley Way, Kelso, WA 98626, or sending an e-mail to Kelso Area Engineer Amy Revis at: (revisa@wsdot.wa.gov).

But WSDOT does not intend to lower the speed limit in the area, and cannot help the Pacific County Sheriff's Office with a Hazard Elimination Safety program grant, as these grants can only be used for construction, not law enforcement.

"After a thorough review and analysis, WSDOT is not recommending a speed limit reduction at this time because current speed studies at this location show that the average speed is about 45 mph," the spokesman said. "WSDOT's traffic office will conduct another speed study to determine an appropriate speed after the new signal system is installed."

According to WSP statistics, between January 1997 and December 2001, there were 13 accidents at the intersection, which resulted in one evident injury and seven possible injuries. All but one of the accidents took place due to failure to yield. Two people were killed at the intersection in an accident which took place in the mid-80s. There was a rash of additional accidents there this summer, prompting renewed concern.

US 101 and State Route 401WSDOT outlined plans for improvements to the intersection at US 101 and State Route 401, at the north end of the Astoria-Megler Bridge. These plans have been confirmed and construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2004.

The plans include:

• Installing a permanent signal

• Installing new lighting at the intersection

• Providing a new right-turn lane on US 101 for southbound traffic to Astoria

• Providing a larger turning radius for large trucks

• Upgrading guardrails

• Upgrading and relocating intersection signs

• Repaving and striping the intersection

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