Pioneer project begins Tuesday

Construction on the SE Pioneer Way improvement project in Oak Harbor will kick off next week following a groundbreaking and ribbon cutting ceremony.

A long list of elected officials and dignitaries has been invited to attend the event, from the Oak Harbor City Council and the Island County Board of Commissioners to state legislators. They are expected to officially launch the project wielding gold-painted shovels at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 1, at the intersection of SE Dock Street and Pioneer Way.

The budgeted $8.35 million project will change Pioneer Way from its current configuration as a two-way road into an eastbound one-way street. Revitalization plans for the downtown area have been under discussion for about 35 years.

According to City Engineer Eric Johnston, the groundbreaking ceremony marks the official start of the project but he estimates that initial construction will be limited. Most of the work will be preparatory efforts, such as bringing in equipment and putting up signs.

“As far as impact to businesses, it will be minimal,” Johnston said.

Heavy construction, such as road and sidewalk work, likely won’t begin until late March and early April, he said. Some of those details will likely be hammered out at a pre-construction meeting with the project contractor, construction manager and city officials that is expected to be held Monday. 

The meeting is essentially the first real planning session for the major players involved in the project.

“It’s kind of the kickoff meeting,” Johnston said.

To help manage the project and mitigate construction impacts to downtown businesses during construction, the city has opened a satellite office on Pioneer Way that will be open five days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

City staff will dedicate an hour every Tuesday morning, from 9 to 10 a.m., to meet with merchants and the public to answer questions about the project, provide updates about pending construction, or field concerns. 

People can also find out what’s happening online by visiting the project’s official website,, or by joining a weekly email update list. For more information, contact project manager Larry Cort at 914-7107. 


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