Island County is laying plans to build its first new road in decades and officials are looking for the public’s help.
While the start of construction is likely years away, Island County Public Works is in the process of designing the new road and is hoping to gather input from the community at an open house next week.
The meeting will run from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 21, and will be held at Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue’s headquarters at 1164 Race Road.
The proposed road would connect Race and Houston roads on Central Whidbey. The idea is to create an efficient alternative route for Highway 525 in the event it was blocked or closed in an emergency.
According to Bill Oakes, director for public works, having an alternate access for that part of the highway is essential as a closure of that part of the highway would essentially split Whidbey Island in two.
Aside from being a major inconvenience for motorists, it could present a major public safety issue, Oakes said.
“A block in Highway 525 would isolate a significant portion of Whidbey from our primary medical facility,” Oakes said.
It would also restrict the response capabilities of fire departments and first responders, sever public transportation service that connects one end of the island to the other and cut off access to the ferry docks in Clinton and Coupeville.
The ramifications of such a closure have been known for some time and county officials have been working on a secondary access for that section of Highway 525 for years.
Several years ago, six options were studied and a preferred route was established. However, the exact path is not set in stone and Public Works is sincerely looking for public input, Oakes said.
“The general area is identified but we can still make changes at this point,” Oakes said.
Under the proposed orientation, the road would run through or effect up to 40 parcels, he said. About one-third of the street would be made up of what is now Kempton Place, a private, dead-end gravel drive.
The remainder would be constructed in what is now forest and grasslands. The exact path hasn’t been determined yet but four routes are under consideration. All would intersect Highland Trail and be built largely on two 10-acre parcels owned by the county.
The entire road would total between 1.4 and 1.5 miles depending on the route selected.
Oakes estimated the total project cost at about $6 million. But as the county only has funding for design, permitting and right of way expenses, it could be years before construction begins.
In past meetings, some people have objected that the new road would open up more Whidbey Island land to developers.