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SEPTEMBER 29, 1997

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 Utilty work last week extended the closure of the Woodinville-Duvall Rd. two extra days. The road will be closed again for portions of this Wednesday and Thursday as well as all of next weekend.

Photo by Andrew Walgamott/Staff Photo

W-D detour frustrates motorists, residents

  by Andrew Walgamott
   COTTAGE LAKE--Traffic problems on Woodinville-Duvall Rd. two weeks ago had one woman dancing in the street while another said she was taking King County to court for expenses incurred navigating an often backed-up detour.
   Still, the county's work isn't through, and closures to the main thoroughfare between Woodinville and Duvall are planned for this Wednesday and Thursday, as well as over the weekend. At the center of residents and motorists' frustration was the county's prepatory work to replace an aging culvert that takes Daniels Creek underneath Woodinville-Duvall Rd. between 176th Ave. N.E. and 182nd Ave. N.E.
   Woodinville-Duvall is one of the main thoroughfare's between the two cities. The new culvert, one of the largest installed by county crews, will replace a drainage system which was damaged by storms last winter. The culvert will be better able to handle stormflows, and prevent the road from being washed out, according to county officials.
   Motorists were advised to take a detour that led through a residential area, creating major backups. But repairs continued September 22 and 23, two days longer than scheduled, to move gas and water lines. The hot weather, unexpected delay in re-opening the road and lack of traffic control combined to heat up more than car engines.
   Dancing in the street
   At the intersection of N.E. 165th St. and Avondale Road near Cottage Lake Elementary, traffic backed so far up N.E. 165th St. Saturday afternoon that Amy (last name withheld) took matters into her own hands when she heard honking and yelling from stopped drivers outside her home.
   A wiry 5'4" 37-year-old, Amy said she found five cars trying to go five different ways in the intersection. She stepped into traffic and nervously directed the vehicles on their way. But when she got out of the street, other drivers gave a her a look that said, 'help us, too.'
   So, pretending to be like a traffic light for the intersection, and dancing to a cadence of her own, Amy spent an hour-and-a-half directing cars with a stick. "It was amazing. Afterwards people were smiling. Almost everyone smiled or thanked me." She said among passing vehicles were four county police cars, none of which stopped.
   King County Police Capt. Dave Maehren said traffic control over the weekend had been the responsibility of King County Roads. Police were out Monday and Tuesday mornings and afternoons directing traffic at three key intersections along the detour. The road was open by 10 p.m. Tuesday night.
   Maehren said that when road work continues in October, off-duty officers would help with traffic. "We will be out there directing traffic. And we will have a sufficient number of people doing that," he said. Of Amy's antics, Maehren said, "We do not recommend that." A state flagger's license is required to direct traffic.
   Still, Amy wasn't quite finished with her volunteerism. She cleaned up trash alongside 165th last week, collecting three bags full of relatively new beer and pop cans, cigarette packs and snack food wrappers.
   Angry with the county
   At the other end of the spectrum, one angry caller to the Woodinville Weekly suggested that she was going to take the county to small claims court to reimburse her for mileage and time spent tooling along the detour. Though she didn't identify herself, the caller said the usual three minute drive between her house near 182nd (on the east side of the detour) and Woodinville took 25 minutes. She said, "There's no way (the detour) can accommodate the amount of traffic Woodinville-Duvall can."
   According to county figures, an average of 16,503 vehicles a day use Woodinville-Duvall between 171st and Avondale. Slightly over 2,000 vehicles a day travel 165th to and from Avondale. County Roads spokesperson Rochelle Ogershok sympathized with motorists, admitting that the detour was an inconvenience, but said the flip-side was that the county had to do the work near Daniels Creek during the so-called "fish window" when salmon haven't yet returned to spawn. Daniels Creeks is a salmon-bearing stream. "There's only a certain part of time in the summer and fall months that you can do that work," Ogershok said.
   The argument didn't assuage the caller to the Weekly. "Is it worth the fish? No," she said. Ogershok urged residents to look beyond the short-term inconvenience of the detours. "If there was an easier way to do this, we'd opt for the easier way."
   Upcoming closures
   This week, one lane of Woodinville-Duvall Rd. at the Daniels Creek project will be closed Oct. 1 and 2 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The closure will allow utility crews to move power and cable TV lines prior to installation of the culvert. The single-lane closure will likely be repeated the following week to move utilities back to their original location after the culvert is installed, according to Ogershok. This weekend, both lanes of Woodinville-Duvall will be closed between 171st Ave. N.E. and 182nd Ave. N.E. from 8 p.m. Oct. 3 through 4 a.m., Oct. 6.