Commuters along Whidbey’s main corridor from Coupeville to Clinton can expect to be delayed driving to and from work through June, and possibly longer, as the two-lane state highway gets a long overdue makeover.
Despite initial plans to largely confine the road construction to nighttime hours, that’s proved not always possible, said Andrea Petrich, transportation agency spokeswoman. In fact, round-the-clock work between Highway 525 and Woodard Avenue in Freeland, and Highway 20 and East Race Road south of Coupeville will continue through the end of the month, Petrich said, forcing traffic to be funneled down one lane.
“The consistent day work will end once they finish this stretch of highway,” she said. “But there will be occasional day work between now and the end of the project which is scheduled to wrap up this fall.”
The $15.4 million Washington State Department of Transportation project that began earlier this month is repaving more than 30 miles of asphalt from Highway 20 and Holbrook Road in Coupeville to Highway 525 and Bob Galbreath Road in Clinton.
Since road work began June 8, drivers have been delayed up to 30 minutes at times in both directions.
Road crews are trying to get Island County transit buses through the snarl of traffic more quickly, said Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson.
Granite Construction is the contractor. Its road construction crews work two 12-hour shifts, taking only Saturdays off.
State officials say the end result will be smoother, safer traveling conditions. Potholes, cracks and ruts will be gouged out in the grating process. New asphalt is being applied on the entire 30-mile project.
Whidbey’s main thoroughfare, soon to be packed with summertime residents and tourists, hasn’t been repaved in more than 20 years. States WSDOT’s website: “Highways should be repaved every 15 years. These roads are overdue for a longer lasting fix.”
County commissioners agree. They urge drivers to be cautious and patient.
“This stretch of road is a prime example of what occurs when a road is neglected and does not get regularly scheduled preventative maintenance,” North Whidbey Commissioner Rick Hannold said. “This is why we do the chip sealing on all the county roads is to prevent a large-scale project such as this from becoming necessary.”
Hannold called the fall project end date provided by the contractor “aggressive” and doubted it would be met.
“I personally think it will be quite a feat to get it all done and I am hoping there is no need to carry over any of the work to next year,” he said.
Price Johnson, who represents South Whidbey, called the timing unfortunate but necessary.
“This state maintenance project is long overdue, and welcomed, for sure,” she said. “However, it is an inconvenience that our summer tourist season is also the time the weather is right for paving.”
“It is good for folks to plan ahead, allow extra time and take alternate routes when possible. Patience is needed for traveling along 525 this year.”