Highway 20 left turns near extinction

A contractor is busily working the night shift to eliminate what the state sees as a number of dangerous left turn opportunities along Highway 20 in Oak Harbor.

The project cost is minimal by highway standards — only $99,000, but it will make a big difference in how drivers get to their destinations.

Daniel Babuca, transportation engineer for the state Dept. of Transportation, said Friday that there are presently 28 driveways, mostly into businesses, along the project limits from Southwest Barlow St. to Southeast 8th St.

When the project if completed, 25 of those driveways will no longer be accessible by turning left.

The only remaining left turns into businesses will be located at Wendy’s, Burger King/7-11, and Rite-Aide.

Turning left won’t be entirely precluded along the highway. Left turns at Barlow and SE 11th will still be allowed, as well as at the traffic signals located at Pioneer, Barrington and SE 8th.

Most of that stretch presently includes a center lane where motorists can turn left coming from either direction.

“Some people call those things suicide lanes, and there’s a reason for that,” said Mike Hammer, project engineer.

Safety is the reason the project was undertaken. State records show there have been 146 left turn accidents over the past eight years in Oak Harbor. “Everyone wants a safer road,” Hammer said.

The construction project, by contractor Apply-a-Line Inc., is described by Hammer as “grinding out the old and putting in the new.” Old painted lines are being removed and new traffic markings, curbs, traffic islands, striping and raised pavement markers installed, which will prevent left turns.

The projected completion date as of Friday was May 23, but it’s dependent on the weather, Hammer said.

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