Roundabout fans will have to wait

Oak Harbor drivers jonesing for roundabouts will have to get their fixes elsewhere until the city is able to secure funding for a project supporters say would drastically improve traffic movement and safety in the Swantown Road area.

A city corridor study indicated that roundabouts starting at the Swantown Road intersection and proceeding north through Barrington Drive would be viable traffic controllers.

The $13 to $14 million project would help relieve Oak Harbor’s increasingly dire traffic woes. The road block is that neither the Legislature or the state Department of Transportation opted to kick in funding.

“We’ve got $1 million to put towards it and that’s all,” said City Engineer Eric Johnston at a recent Public Works and Utilities Standing Committee meeting. “We asked the DOT what we could do with that amount of money.”

The city considered constructing a second lane from Erie Street to Swantown. But it seems $1 million, which the city received through a Regional Transportation Planning Organization grant, does not buy what it used to.

“We can’t do that without moving sidewalks and buying the right-of-way,” Johnston said.

The grant was awarded specifically for improvements from Swantown to Erie. Rather than become mired in looming question marks, the city and DOT agreed to a memorandum of understanding that frees up a portion of the $1 million for a traffic study.

“We’re looking for an interim solution for public concerns working within that $1 million,” Johnston said.

The second lane option that the city previously considered could turn out to be doable, Johnston said. It would still exceed the city’s available dollars but at $2.5 to $3 million, it would make it much more manageable.

Mayor Jim Slowik said the funding gap is a “front burner issue” the city will take up with the Legislature.

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