Road property takings a shock

Bicyclists, walkers and high school students have been waiting for it for years. Property owners, some of them, had no idea it was coming.

A Bayview Road pavement widening project that has been in the works for the better part of a decade was both a welcome move and an unpleasant surprise when it was presented to the public for the first time in detail Thursday afternoon. Even though it has been on the drawing board for some time, the project shocked a number of people who attended the public workshop introducing it.

Planned to put 6-foot-wide paved shoulders along the road for most of the 1.75 miles between Andreason Road and Highway 525, the $2 million road reconstruction is being undertaken primarily out of safety considerations.

Island County Engineer Dick Snyder, who was at Thursday's workshop, said the wider shoulders will put some distance between cars and pedestrians and bicyclists on the road. Between Marshview and Meinhold roads -- an area which includes the Bayview Cash Store, Bayview Hall, Bayview Farmers Market and the Bayview Alternative High School -- the county's Public Works Department is planning for raised sidewalks.

In addition, some sections of the road will be re-engineered, making it safer for drivers.

Made unsafe by the plan are a number of properties and homes along the road. With the new shoulders and other improvements comes a demand from the county for wider public right-of-ways. A number of homes and other structures are built close to the road, some of which -- including the Bayview Cash Store -- will almost touch the new road once it is finished in late 2004.

"It affects people personally," said Tracy Eales-Rogers, one of several Bayview Road residents who discovered that she will lose property at the meeting at the South Whidbey Senior Center.

Eales-Rogers and her husband, Dan, moved into their home near Doc Savage Road in March. This summer, they built a fence at the edge of the current right of way and had it landscaped.

She said her real estate agent did not inform her and her husband of the widening project or the approximately 20 feet of property frontage they would lose off their acreage. Before the project starts, the fence will have to come down and a number of plantings will have to be moved.

While the county will compensate land owners for the right-of-way they take and for some of the costs involved in moving some structures and other items, that won't help everybody.

Bayview homeowners Matthew Swett and Sarah Birger will practically have traffic running over their front stoop when the widening is finished. On aerial photograph maps displayed at the workshop, the couple pointed where the county's right-of-way will come within 4 feet of their front door.

Asked whether they will move the house, Swett said he has yet to find out whether Island County will help with the cost.

"You know, everybody says that, except for the county," he said.

Though both approve of the increased safety that will come with the widening -- Birger walks to work on the road's shoulder and Swett often rides a bicycle on the road -- they don't look forward to having traffic so close to their house. Making matters worse, Swett said, will be an increase in speeding believes will come with a wider stretch of pavement.

But at this point, the negatives surrounding the project don't seem to be much of an impediment. Adding shoulders to county arterials has long been a stated goal of the public works department, and the Bayview widening project has been on the county's transporation improvement plan for more than five years.

The actual work is still a ways off. Randy Brackett, an Island County construction engineer working on the Bayview project, said it will take the next six months to negotiate right-of-way purchases. Actual construction will not start until May 2004.

There are still some wrinkles to work out in the design as well. County engineers and consulting engineers with Perteet Engineering in Everett have not yet decided exactly how the sidewalks will be built near Bayview corner. Engineer Snyder said the sidewalks are not typical on jobs like this, but in the interest of safety and moving people, they are being included.

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