According to an official Washington State Department of Transportation announcement, this is “a $1.6 million project to resurface over nine miles of SR-302 from the Coulter Creek Bridge in Mason County to the Key Peninsula Highway North in Pierce County (mileposts 1.26 – 10.57).” Most times, traffic waits between 10-15 minutes.
WSDOT reports, “Minor delays resulting from daytime shoulder and lane closures using piloted traffic control can be expected for the life of the project.” Results were being evaluated and reported each week and at press time, but the road was expected to be near completion by the end of July.
Other SR-302 improvements are scheduled for year 2005: the construction of a roundabout at Elgin-Clifton, and slope stabilization in the Victor rock slide area. The areas near Creviston Drive and
94th Avenue are also on the books for later work.
Most vehicles wait in a line, with about 30 others, for the pilot car on an ordinary “construction day” in July. Only the car from the post office is granted special privileges. It can weave in and out at its own risk. The pilot car stops the traffic line about three times before it pulls off to let drivers go on their way.
Many Key Pen residents have found back roads after one or two waits in line. Those less fortunate are creative about the time spent. Some contemplate writing letters of complaint to the powers that be, lucky ones count their blessings if they have stopped out of the sun, some take short walks, some do upper body exercises and wish for bottled water, one group has even been spotted playing a game of volleyball outside their car.
This is a labor-intensive project. Sixteen men and women work on the road crew and 23 truck and trailer rigs haul asphalt. They make about 70 trips and drop resurfacing for nearly 2 miles each day. Once the asphalt work is complete, crews will return to do the fog lines, centerlines, and to finish the junctions at intersections and driveways.
Once all the trucks and tractors park and the crew leaves for the day, the night staff show up. Mechanics, called “oilers,” check machinery and make any necessary repairs. By morning, all the equipment is ready for duty. WSDOT says paving operation hours are from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. but some rigs start the morning at 3:30. They must be as anxious to get the job done as the commuters are.