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Early Island County transportation meetings see hiccup

The county kicked off a series of transportation-related public meetings this week, attracting residents with a wide range of priorities.

Among attendees’ top priorities are transportation investments that encourage tourism and expanding existing transit services.

“The two meetings we’ve had so far have been really good,” said Doug Cox, transportation planner for Island County. “I’m impressed with how many people made time to come to them. It’s encouraging to see how engaged our residents are.”

Meetings were held this week in Freeland, with more than 40 participants, and Oak Harbor, with roughly 30 attendees. A third meeting will be held 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, at the Camano Multi-purpose Center. Two additional sets of meetings will be held again throughout the county as the process moves forward.

More than a few beach access supporters at the Oak Harbor meeting stressed the importance of proper signage at beach access points and parks to ensure that the areas are clearly marked.

“I want to see Island County do more for signage to show people where our beaches and public parks are,” said Jane Seymour. In some parts of the county, she said, “the signage is very limited.”

Tim Verschuyl expressed concerns about how the Navy population is affecting traffic patterns and contributing to pollution.

Other priorities voiced included pedestrian and bicycle path access, Island Transit and ride sharing, and reducing impacts on the environment.

A few of those in attendance at the first meeting in Freeland became upset because they thought they would be given a chance to “testify” and have their comments recorded.

While residents were able to email comments and fill out comment cards at the meeting, some were disappointed that they weren’t given a chance to speak.

Commissioner Jill Johnson, who attended both meetings, sent an email to staff after the first meeting, offering suggestions on how they could make residents feel heard. The second meeting had a lengthened question-and-answer period.

“There was an improvement in the amount of time everyone was allowed to speak in the second meeting,” Johnson said. “It’s the first round of meetings and I think they were just getting their sea legs.”

Cox said moving forward the county plans to be more clear about the format and objectives of the public meetings.

 

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