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New medians, sidewalks torn up and replaced in Oak Harbor

GG Excavation workers position a road sign near the intersection of North Oak Harbor Road and Crosby Avenue. Island-medians there and at the intersection at Seventh Avenue had to be removed, along with up to 700 feet of sidewalk on North Oak Harbor Road that did not meet specifications. - Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times
GG Excavation workers position a road sign near the intersection of North Oak Harbor Road and Crosby Avenue. Island-medians there and at the intersection at Seventh Avenue had to be removed, along with up to 700 feet of sidewalk on North Oak Harbor Road that did not meet specifications.
— image credit: Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times

Beset with delays, the North Oak Harbor Road Improvement Project is now more than two weeks behind schedule and likely won’t wrap up until the end of the month, city officials say.

According to Oak Harbor City Engineer Eric Johnston, the majority of the work for the $1.54 million project will be done by the end of the month but clean up could stretch into September. Work began March 15.

The city’s contract with Anacortes-based GG Excavation, the construction firm hired to do the project, specified a completion deadline of July 28. In early July, company officials said they had hoped to finish early but several delays kept them from meeting the deadline.

According to the company foreman, Brandon Gilden, street paving is expected to begin next week. While the road will not be closed, drivers are encouraged to take alternate routes during daylight hours. The work will be completed faster if there is less traffic to contend with, he said.

Johnston confirmed that island-medians installed at the intersections of Crosby and Seventh Avenue, and up to 700 feet of new sidewalk also had to be torn up and replaced. While he said he could not go into details, he said the city was not to blame for either problem.

Concerning the island-medians, the issue was brought up at an Oak Harbor City Council meeting Aug. 4. City Councilman Jim Campbell told Johnston he’d gotten complaints from school bus drivers who reported that the island-medians would make it very difficult to make a left hand turn.

He also said if negotiating the turn was a problem for bus drivers, it would be a problem for owners of recreational vehicles. Campbell said he knows because he has an RV and usually tows a smaller vehicle behind it when he goes on vacation.

“That’s going to be awful difficult with a 32-foot RV and a tow vehicle,” he said.

Johnston told the council the island-medians were designed to make it safer for pedestrians crossing the street and to reduce accidents on a corners with some of the highest collision rates in the city.

The hired design firm, Everett-based Reid Middleton, conducted an analysis that concluded the island-medians would pose no problems for traffic. He told the council that city staff had been aware of the problem for more than a month and was taking steps to address it.

Johnston said again this week that the analysis was not wrong. However, it did not accurately predict the problem the island-medians created.

“It was not a mistake, it was something that needed to be revised,” Johnston said.

The change cost about $6,000.

Up to 700 feet of sidewalk on the east side of North Oak Harbor Road also had to be replaced. They had just been put in when it was discovered that they did not meet specifications. The problem did not cost the city money, Johnston said.

“We didn’t pay for sidewalks twice, we paid for them once,” he said.

That GG Excavation did not meet its deadline is also not costing the city money. The extra work is the responsibility of the contractor along with any additional expenses that may be incurred by the city, Johnston said.

GG Excavation has completed public works projects for the city in the past and has always done a good job, so the problems with this project will not deter the city from considering hiring the firm again in the future, Johnston said.

Before the end of the month, the majority of the road project will be completed, including landscaping and lighting.

The last part of the project, road stripping and some clean up, could take place as late as early September, he said.

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