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Haugen takes show on the road
"Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen toured Whidbey Island Tuesday. It was a tour fraught with peril.Haugen, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, had come to the island specifically to see some of the most dangerous intersections and stretches of highway Whidbey has to offer. The purpose, she said, was to get a better idea of what kind of work needs to be done to make the island's highways safer. Along for the trip were two Washington Department of Transportation officials and three state troopers.At several stops along the road from the Clinton ferry dock to Sharpe's corner on Fidalgo Island, Haugen saw where numerous accidents have taken place and where several people have been killed. That included uncontrolled intersections at Bayview Road and Fish Road in South Whidbey and at Arnold Road and Banta Road to the north. In all, Haugen's schedule included 14 stops with short descriptions such as terrible intersection, accidents and fatalities noted after each.Though a new signal light is being put in at Fish Road this year, any relief for the other sites may still be a ways off - as much as four or five years in some cases. A few projects, such as a traffic signal at the deadly Bayview intersection, have been put on hold due to transportation budget cuts caused by the passage of Initiative 695, the car tab initiative, last November.These are the projects we need to put pressure on (the Department of Transportation) to get done, Haugen said.At some stops, local residents were waiting. That was the case at the turnoff to Admiral's Cove in Central Whidbey where three community members laid out a long list of concerns and complaints about the highway-widening project the department completed last summer.They created problems, said resident Clarice Tingley. Neighbor Lynn Sterns agreed, saying access to and from Admiral Drive is now more treacherous than it was before. He said lighting and signs were removed and never replaced, and a too-long passing zone permits drivers to pass through the intersection.But the biggest problem, neighbors say, is that they weren't consulted at all prior to construction. If they had been, said Sterns, the department would have known that the most critical need was for a northbound left-turn lane onto Admiral Drive. Throughout construction, neighbors believed such a lane was being created but it never was.Now we're told we'll get a left turn lane but not until the next biennium, which is 2003. Waiting for 2003 is waiting for an accident to happen, Sterns told Haugen. In fact, he said three to six accidents have already taken place at the intersection since the project was completed.Department of Transportation planning manager Robert Josephson told the residents that help would be coming soon for the lighting problem but requests for better highway signs and additional guardrails were not likely to be filled.Josephson admitted that communication between the department and local communities has not been good but added that new procedures are in place that should make things better. Haugen said she was getting an earful on the tour.It's a lot more than I anticipated, she said, noting that the tour was already about an hour behind schedule halfway up the island.When asked whether she considered Whidbey's highways to be generally safe or generally dangerous, she responded quickly.If it's a member of your family who's killed, it's a dangerous highway, she said."