News

Right turn only on busy highway

Fast food diners can no longer make a left hand turn out of the Wendy’s parking lot along Highway 20 in Oak Harbor, as state highway crews installed the final raised islands blocking all unmarked left turns across traffic out of businesses along that stretch of road.

Cars driving north into Oak Harbor will have only two opportunities to turn left between the entrance to the Bayview Plaza and where Highway 20 makes a left turn.

Mike Swires, Department of Transportation engineer, said the islands are the last part of the work that has been done over the past year to improve safety over the stretch of highway between SW Erie Street to the south, and 8th Avenue to the north. Swires said 146 left-turn related accidents were recorded in that section between 1994 and 2001.

“It’s been identified as a high accident area,” he said.

Last summer crews installed raised islands along the highway in front of the Safeway plaza, preventing left turns onto the highway or into the parking lot. Drivers who want to head north out of town now must funnel out the driveway on Barrington Drive and loop back around.

While work crews installed the final concrete and brick islands this week, some drivers were still attempting to turn left across the few remaining openings, even if it meant driving across a solid yellow line.

Swire said it is illegal to cross that solid line. It should be considered the same as a curb or traffic island. But, since so many people were ignoring — or ignorant of — that law, they went with a much more tangible reminder.

Traffic congestion also occurs on the Beeksma to SW Erie section when drivers fill up the left lane while ignoring the right. Swire said both are legal travel lanes. It’s perfectly legal, and even encouraged, to cruise along in the right lane and then merge into

traffic at the light.

Swire admits it is a tight stretch of road, and that traffic engineers have tried to provide as many left turns as possible while still allowing enough room for cars to get in turn lanes at the lights. They also kept the local businesses in mind.

“We tried to give businesses as much access as possible, with left turns in but not out,” Swires said.

Northbound there are three left turn “pockets” between SW Erie and Beeksma; southbound there is just one.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

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