Weight restrictions imposed on eroding Rockaway Beach Drive

City officials hope a weight restriction will shelter the wave-corroded section of Rockaway Beach Drive before this winter's storms do further damage to its integrity.

The section of roadway – from Bill Point Court to Rockaway Bluff Road – will be restricted to vehicles under 24,000 pounds after 3.8 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period and caused a small landslide on Dec. 12.

The city is still in the midst of trying to permanently stabilize the road, which is on a bluff that has eroded some 15 feet during the last six years, according to one neighbor's estimate.

Expensive construction is needed for a long-term solution, but interim band-aids such as weight restrictions will have to be enough to get through this winter's storms before preservation construction begins. The city labels the road being in near-emergency condition.

In order to preserve the public roadway, a 30- to 50-year design solution is needed to stabilize both the upper and lower slopes of the bluff that are threatening the outside section of the two-lane road. The city had considered a bridge, but a price tag of $2 million is not an option. The city is still in the process of selecting a design consultant.

In trying to minimize further slope erosion, the city plans to cover and monitor the upper slope to keep it dry for the winter and inspect the roadway surface for asphalt cracking and erosion when more than one-inch of rain falls in a 24-hour period. Lane closure is another option.

The 24,000-pound weight restriction is in place until further notice, but shouldn't impact the average driver – larger pick-up trucks range from 7,500 pounds to 12,000 pounds. Drivers of any vehicles over 24,000 pounds are asked to request a right-of-way permit from the city's Public Works Department at least two days prior to travel.

"The weight restriction and relocated traffic barriers will provide an additional margin of safety to our driving public," said Lance Newkirk, public works director in a press release. Drivers are urged to drive with extra care because the northbound driving lane is slightly narrower than before.

The city hasn't spent any of the $200,000 in federal grant funds designated for the design phase, and is currently using the $27,000 in local funds on preliminary work prior to awarding the design contract. The upper slope is the primary focus for creating short-term stability, but the lower slope will need work to achieve long-term preservation.

Depending on budget constraints, the city will likely do the project in two phases, with the lower slope in a second phase unless supplemental or contingency funding becomes available.

The estimated cost of constructing the upper slope will likely use the remaining design funds and an additional $100,000 to $150,000, according to a memo from city staff to City Council members. The memo advises using the 2011 road preservation budget or looking to the possibility of federal contingency funds to close the budget gap.

The Rockaway stabilization project is still ranked No. 1 in line to receive monies from the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council for transportation funding of $900,000, which city officials say would be enough to complete the upper slope work in conjunction with the lower phase.

The city is still working out the details on the significant amount of construction that needs to be performed on private property.

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