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Three Highway 20 intersections near Outlying Field to become one

By NATHAN WHALEN Whidbey News-Times Staff reporter
February 14, 2013 · Updated 3:34 PM
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The Washington State Department of Transportation unveiled plans to close the intersections of Parker Road and Old Smith Prairie roads and funnel traffic to Morris Road. Island Transit needs the alterations to make room for a secondary access to its headquarters. / Image courtesy of the Washington State Department of Transportation

In response to public concern, the Washington State Department of Transportation, working with Island Transit and Island County, unveiled plans to alter three intersections on Highway 20 between Outlying Field and Island Transit’s headquarters.

The transportation agency wants to close the intersections on Highway 20 at Old Smith Prairie and Parker roads. The plans call for funneling traffic from Parker Road onto Morris Road. A left-turn lane and a right-turn lane will be installed on Highway 20 at the intersection with Morris Road.

Officials from the Department of Transportation had a list of eight options to consider for improving the road conditions on the windy stretch of Highway 20. Those options included roundabouts and creating new roads in the area.

John Drye, engineering manager with the Department of Transportation, said of the eight options considered, the one funnelling traffic to Morris Road offered the lowest cost with the highest safety benefit.

“Everything pointed us to this option,” Drye said Friday afternoon.

Island Transit, which is currently constructing a new headquarters campus, originally planned to close the Highway 20 intersections at Old Smith Prairie and Parker roads. Work crews would then lay a new road between the two intersections to make room for a second entry point into the transit agency’s headquarters. That second entry is a requirement Island Transit needs for its county occupancy permit.

Nearby residents, however, were concerned that the alterations would make driving conditions even more dangerous. Those concerns scotched Island Transit’s road plans.

Public meetings were held to gather input on preferred solutions. Transportation officials in December unveiled the eight options and gathered input about the best way to move forward.

“The positive thing is the public got to weigh in so heavily on it,” Drye said.

The project will cost between $1.8 million and $2.6 million to complete. The department of transportation had $1.5 million worth of unallocated federal transportation dollars that officials funneled to the project. Drye said he hopes Island Transit will provide dollars the agency was originally going to spend on its original plans. That funding should cover the remainder.

Martha Rose, executive director for Island Transit, agreed with the plans.

“Having one entrance instead of three will improve safety,” Rose said. Her main concern about the project is whether Island Transit will be able to get an occupancy permit when construction is complete.

Island Transit’s new administration facility will be finished in May and the maintenance facility will wrap up in October. The Morris Road construction project is scheduled to take place during the 2014 construction season, along with a project to add a left-turn lane on Highway 20 at the county’s solid waste transfer station.

Rose said she will work with the county to get a temporary occupancy permit until the second entrance in built and the highway project is complete.

 

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