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DOT offers transportation options
"Public welcomeThe Washington State Department of Transportation will hold two public open houses next week on Whidbey to review proposed transportation options for Island County. Here's where you can go to give your opinion.*Wednesday, Nov. 8, 5-7 p.m. Skagit Valley College, Hayes Hall Room 137, Oak Harbor.*Thursday, Nov. 9, 5-6:30 p.m. Bayview Senior Center, 14594 State Route 525 in South Whidbey.You can find more information on the department's least-cost planning by visiting their Web site at www.wsdot.wa.gov/regions/northwest/mtbaker/planning/least_cost_planning.htm.A few regional transportation issues will be sorted out, undertaken or overturned at Washington ballot boxes on Tuesday. But several others are still working their way through the planning stages.Such is the case in Island County where the state Department of Transportation has laid out six options for dealing with future traffic problems on local ferries and state roads.At the end of last week, the department mailed out a pamphlet containing the options to every household in the county asking for public comment. By the middle part of this week, 800 had already been returned, said Mark Sinden, a community planner with the department's Mount Baker Region. Though not everyone agreed, Sinden said it's encouraging to see that county residents seem to want to participate in the area's transportation planning.The options up for discussion include the following:1. Bus/rapid transit route parallel or adjacent to the state highway and passenger-only ferry.2. Aggressive expansion of transit service per Island Transit's 20-year growth plan along with passenger-only ferry.3. Fleet of passenger-only ferries in the style of the old Mosquito Fleet connecting Oak Harbor, Coupeville, Camano, Langley, Clinton, Mukilteo and Seattle.4. Transportation demand management. This option increases Park-N-Ride and Park-N-Pool lots, expands ride sharing programs, promotes alternative work schedules, provides fare-free ferry service for walk-ons and bikes, and investigates car sharing programs in an attempt to reduce the number of vehicles on Island County roads.5. Highway improvements, including widening SR 525 and SR 20 to four lanes and adding a county road link north of Greenbank.6. No new projects other than those already planned.The proposal for passenger-only ferry service was added to some of the options because of public interest, Sinden said.Sinden said no single option is a total answer.We'll end up taking bits and pieces from each, he said.The department now uses a least-cost planning approach, which means they need to compare direct and indirect costs in determining the most cost effective mix of options. Last year in a similar public process, the DOT ruled out building a new bridge connecting North Whidbey to the mainland due to cost and environmental concerns.DOT officials, transportation planners from Island County and representatives from Island Transit will participate in public open houses on the island next week.We want people to bring their fliers and ask questions, Sinden said. "