Note: This story has been revised since publication to include more accurate information about the noise levels related to the project.
Residents who live near U.S. Highway 101 in west Olympia can expect noise-reducing walls and less traffic congestion when the city eventually builds new highway ramps.
Construction is 10 to 15 years away for the new access ramps at Kaiser Road and Yauger Way. City officials expect the ramps to reduce traffic congestion during peak times on all of the west side’s main arterials — including the city’s busiest intersection at Cooper Point Road and Black Lake Boulevard.
The ramps also are expected to improve access to businesses and medical facilities.
The city has hired a consulting team to complete an environmental review and an Interchange Justification Report, at a cost of $1.5 million. The reports will define the scope of the project; the state Department of Transportation will need to approve them before any construction takes place.
The reports are slated for completion by April 2016. Consultants from Parametrix and SCJ Alliance joined city transportation officials Tuesday to brief the Olympia City Council on the project’s status.
Details are still being worked out, but the consultants agree that the Ken Lake community and the Coach Post Mobile Home Park will be most affected by the ramp construction. Preliminary plans call for noise-reducing walls 8 to 14 feet tall near the mobile home park and 6 to 12 feet tall near Ken Lake.
John Perlic, project manager for Parametrix, said the goal is to keep noise at levels below 67 decibels for homes closest to the ramps. That’s slightly louder than the volume of a normal conversation. Many of the existing decibel levels at this time approach the mid- to high-60s, according to consultants. Although the freeway construction would raise noise levels, the proposed noise-reduction walls are expected to reduce decibel levels to the low 60s, which would be lower than current levels.
City officials plan to meet with residents in Ken Lake and Coach Post in early 2016 to discuss the project, said Randy Wesselman, the city’s transportation and engineering planning manager.
Aside from noise, other discussion points will include environmental issues such as stormwater drainage and flooding, both of which have been a problem for the Ken Lake area.
The proposal also calls for removing about 400 trees, and not all of the trees will be replaced, the consultants said.
Another goal in 2016 is to come up with a funding package for construction and design, Wesselman said. The project’s cost has recently been estimated at $39 million.
“I’m not imagining a bucket of money falling out of the sky,” Wesselman told the council.
Wesselman reiterated the project’s goal of increasing economic vitality on the west side, especially as Olympia works to accommodate planners’ projections of 20,000 new residents in the next 20 years. The city reports that Olympia’s west side — which includes Capital Mall and the Olympia Auto Mall — generates about half of the total taxable retail sales in the city and supports 17,000 jobs.
The ramp project stems from the West Olympia Access Study, which was completed in 2010 by the city and WSDOT.