Aberdeen gets $300,000 grant to study east Aberdeen traffic

The City of Aberdeen has received a $300,000 grant from the State Dept. of Transportation to complete the pre-engineering phase of the East Aberdeen Mobility Project to address the train and vehicle traffic on Wishkah Avenue.

At a recent City Council meeting, Mayor Erik Larson said the project, several years in the making, almost lost out on these funds because the project was on “hiatus” for some time. Recently, people like Vicki Cummings, Executive Director of the Grays Harbor Council of Governments, have resurrected the project and the grant, which comes without a matching funds requirement for the city, was awarded.

Larson said the funds will cover the pre-engineering stage. This phase will focus on placement and phasing of identified infrastructure improvements, updating cost estimates, identifying right of way, pedestrian and environmental issues, and updating traffic flow data in order to prepare for the preliminary engineering phase.

This phase of the project should be “the last piece for the city,” said Larson. Once all the data is gathered and environmental reviews are completed, that information will be handed over to the Dept. of Transportation for final engineering and construction.

“The study when completed will provide planning level estimates for transportation related needs in the area of Aberdeen,” said Dept. of Transportation spokeswoman Claudia Bingham Baker. “At the same time, there is no state funding for any projects that may be identified in the study.”

At the BHP potash open house at Hoquiam High School on Sept. 14, Cummings fielded questions about the current favored traffic design, selected about three years ago. Several in attendance expressed concern about the roundabout where Wishkah Street and Heron Street meet east of the Wishkah River. Why not a traffic light? Cummings explained that, because of the sharp turn on eastbound Heron, the Dept. of Transportation would not approve a light there because drivers wouldn’t see it until it was too late to react to.

The roundabout would offer access to an overpass at Chehalis Street. The overpass stretches south across the road and railroad tracks and deposits drivers into the parking lot between the McDonald’s and the Mazatlan restaurant, giving them access to everything in Gateway Plaza between the Tractor Supply Store and Walmart.

The traffic in east Aberdeen was a big topic of discussion at the BHP open house. When, and if, completed the potash storage and shipping facility at Terminal 3 at the Port of Grays Harbor would bring up to eight more trains, each more than a mile and a half long, through the area each week. And, at the Hoquiam City Council meeting Monday, Port spokeswoman Kayla Dunlap talked about the importance of mitigating congestion in east Aberdeen as Contanda, Renewable Energy Group and the grain shipping operation at the Port are all talking about potential expansion which would also increase train traffic.