State Sen. Jim Hargrove, a Hoquiam Democrat, has entered the discussions about possible lane revisions for sections of the main thoroughfares through downtown Aberdeen, the primary route between ocean resorts and Puget Sound communities.
In a letter to state Sen. Steve Hobbs, Hargrove asked that a comprehensive study be done on the traffic through the area. Hobbs, a Lake Stevens Democrat, serves as vice co-chair of the Senate’s Transportation Committee.
The lane revisions, which the Aberdeen City Council unanimously supported at its July 22 meeting, are scheduled for late August. The project will cost the city $2,000, and will re-stripe sections of Wishkah and Heron streets, changing their lane configuration from three lanes to two for several blocks through downtown.
WSDOT officials said that since the highway is re-striped every year, the revision makes little difference to their workload.
City officials at the July meeting said the city has considered the revisions for decades. Proponents argue that the changes will make room for parking in downtown Aberdeen and provide incentive for passing tourists to stop and shop.
But critics are worried about the possible congestion that could result. Aberdeen Ward 4 Councilwoman Kathi Hoder, who rallied against the plan for months over concerns of what it could do to the trucking industry, eventually voted in favor of the plan, she said, after driving the route and learning more about the changes.
Hargrove, whose physical district ends at Myrtle Street, said he is concerned about more congestion along the highway that feeds tourism to much of the Peninsula.
“Aberdeen is the gateway to the ocean beaches and I want that gateway to remain open,” Hargrove said. “I’m not necessarily in opposition, but if we make that change and it negatively impacts the ocean beaches … we’d at least want to consider that.”
Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson said he hopes the study eases Hargrove’s concerns. Simpson said he also thought the lane revisions were a bad idea until he studied them closer, and points to roads that are only two lanes with one in each direction, like state Route 109 between Hoquiam and Ocean Shores.
“The more I started looking at it and going that way, it makes sense,” Simpson said.
Claudia Bingham Baker, communications manager for WSDOT’s Olympic Region, said the department needs to have an “internal discussion” before determining whether to move forward with Hargrove’s request.