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Three intersections become one on Central Whidbey
In response to public concern, the Washington State Department of Transportation, working with Island Transit and Island County, unveiled plans to alter three intersections on Highway 20 near Outlying Field and Island Transit’s headquarters.
The transportation agency wants to close the intersections of Old Smith Prairie and Parker roads with Highway 20. Plans call for funneling traffic from Parker Road to Morris Road. Then a left turn lane and a right turn lane will be installed on Highway 20 with the intersection with Morris Road.
Officials from WSDOT had a list of eight options to consider for improving the road conditions on such a curvy stretch of Highway 20. Those options included roundabouts and creating new roads in the area.
John Drye, engineering manager with WSDOT, said of the eight options considered, the one to funnel traffic to Morris Road offered the lowest cost with the highest safety benefit.
“Everything pointed us to this option,” Drye said Friday afternoon.
Island Transit, which is currently constructing a new headquarters campus, originally planned to close the intersections of Old Smith Prairie and Parker roads with Highway 20. Work crews would then lay a new road between the two intersections to make room for a second entry point into the transit agency’s headquarters. The second entry is a requirement Island Transit needs for its county occupancy permit.
Nearby residents, however, were concerned that the alterations would make driving conditions even more dangerous. Those concerns scotched Island Transit’s plans for Parker Road.
Public meetings were held to gather input on preferred solutions. Transportation officials in December unveiled the eight options and they gathered information at the meeting and electronically about the best way to move forward.
“The positive thing is the public got to weigh in so heavily on it,” Drye said.
The project will cost between $1.8 million and $2.6 million. The state agency had $1.5 million in unallocated federal transportation dollars that officials funneled to the project. Drye said he hopes Island Transit will provide dollars the agency was originally going to spend on its original plans. That funding should cover the remainder.
Martha Rose, executive director for Island Transit, agreed with the plans.
“Having one entrance instead of three will improve safety,” Rose said. Her main concern about the project is whether Island Transit will be able to get an occupancy permit when construction is complete.
Island Transit’s new administration facility will be finished in May and the maintenance facility will wrap up in October. The Morris Road construction project is scheduled to take place during the 2014 construction season along with a project to add left turn lanes on Highway 20 at the county’s solid waste transfer station.
Rose said she will work with the county to get a temporary occupancy permit until the second entrance and highway project are complete.