Four months into the state’s major highway repaving project, the heavy lifting is done and Whidbey drivers can expect no more daytime delays, a project spokeswoman said.
Road crews are now working on intersections — Freeland’s were paved on Thursday — and still have bus and turn lanes and a list of finishing chores, such as electrical work, striping and laying down a final topcoat of road sealant. But, the major effort is complete, according to Andrea Petrich, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation.
“We’re basically finished with the mainline paving,” she said.
That means no more daytime work and the end of traffic delays during daylight hours. There could be rare instances where roadwork is performed while the sun is up, warned Petrich, but all remaining work is scheduled between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The state began the $15.4 million repaving project in late April. It called for grinding away existing asphalt and then repaving about 30 miles of Highway 525 and Highway 20 from Clinton to Coupeville. The road hadn’t been repaved in 20 years.
The contractor for the project is Granite Construction.
Although work was originally slated for largely nighttime hours, it spilled into the day causing up to 30-minute traffic delays as road crews paved one lane of traffic at a time. Along with traffic backups, the single-lane work resulted in large and visible seams that run up the center of completed sections of roadway. The worst parts, areas with an edge, have been ground away and a final layer of liquid-asphalt sealant will go down later and cover the rest, Petrich said.
Local elected officials say the project appears to have been well managed, and complimented the quality of the work and the responsiveness of the state and Granite Construction.
“The ride quality is pretty good,” said Curt Gordon, a Port of South Whidbey commissioner and owner of Island Asphalt.
“I’m really impressed that they’ve been able to pull most of this off at night,” he added.
There’s been a few problems and people are “getting worn down” but complaints appear to have been taken seriously and addressed quickly. Gordon said there was an unusually long wait at the Cultus Bay light, and when the issue was brought up at a recent Regional Transportation Planning Organization meeting road officials fixed the issue within a few days.
Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said she hasn’t received any major public complaints, and didn’t have any gripes herself; the new blacktop is a big improvement, and long needed, she said. That’s not to say that the traffic delays weren’t a headache. It’s nice to know that daytime construction seems to have come to an end, she said, though she noted that nighttime work is still tough on some drivers.
“As long as you don’t have to take a 4:30 a.m. ferry, you’re in good shape,” she said.
She urged Whidbey residents to remain patient.
The project’s timeline is flexible with a soft deadline for completion set for “fall.” Petrich confirmed the soonest work will wrap up is the last week of September.
Some time aspects of the construction are uncontrollable, she said. For example, the state uses a new type of plastic striping that can’t be laid down until the asphalt has cured for at least three weeks. Weather is also a big factor, but she noted that at present it seems like it will “never rain again,” which works in the project’s favor.