Safer highway on the horizon

Whidbey Island’s most treacherous span of road will be receiving a much-needed facelift within the next few years, according to officials at the state Department of Transportation.

Calls for bids currently are going out on an extensive list of safety improvements scheduled for construction along the “High Accident Corridor” of State Route 20 — that heavily traveled and often dangerous stretch of highway running from Oak Harbor to Deception Pass bridge and beyond.

Beginning early next year and continuing through February of 2005, DOT will be contracting for up to $6.5 million of construction and technical improvements on SR 20.

Such safety improvements will include the expansion of both lane and shoulder widths in key sections of highway, relocating a couple of dangerous intersections, improving sight distances, and creating left turn as well as slow-vehicle turnout lanes.

DOT is also proposing such environmental improvements as the creation of stormwater treatment and detention facilities, including detention ponds in the area of Sleeper Road and NE Narrows Avenue. Plans also feature the construction of a wetland mitigation site near Cornet Bay Road.

DOT project engineer Marlin Lenssen said Tuesday that the first call for bids for safety improvements, which should be assembled sometime in January, covers the stretch of highway from Oak Harbor’s city limits north to Frostad Rd. Lenssen said about $3 million is set aside for this part of the project, though that number “covers a lot of other stuff” as well.

Lenssen said bids for the next phase of the project, which runs from Monkey Hill Rd. to Rosario — “basically, it goes across the bridge,” he said — are scheduled for October of next year. The funding set up for these improvements is about $3.5 million.

“I’m positive when the contractor turns in the bid it won’t be anywhere near those numbers,” Lenssen said.

Lanes throughout the high-accident corridor, which encompasses both Island and Skagit counties, will be widened from 11 to 12 feet. Highway shoulders will be dramatically increased, going from 2 to 8 feet wide.

Also, a cul-de-sac will be constructed at Old Cornet Bay Road in order to eliminate the existing intersection with SR20. Sight distances will also be corrected in various places.

DOT is proposing to to extend the two-way turn lane from the vicinity of NE Narrows Ave. to Oak Harbor’s northern city limits. Left-hand turn lanes will also be created on SR20 at the intersections of NE 16th, Sleeper and Frostad roads, including the addition of street lights. SR20 will also receive some new passing lanes.

The safety improvement project makes room for additional new features, such as the installation of guardrails, new asphalt overlay, installation of more permanent signage and fencing.

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