Highway 20 to shift for safety

The Washington State Department of Transportation is set to spend approximately $16 million on road construction through the north end of Whidbey Island in the coming years.

Three separate projects are on tap for state Route 20 north of Monkey Hill Road. One project, however, is creating a stir among county and Oak Harbor officials.

An $8 million plan to widen the highway and add turn lanes near Ducken Road and Deception Circle necessitates a detour that Bill Oakes, Island County Public Works director, said is unreasonable.

“It’s a short-term impact,” Oakes said. “But I don’t know how viable it is that someone would make three left turns to make one right.”

The concern is over a local access detour that would force residents of Deception Circle Estates to add approximately 1.5 miles onto their commute toward the south. Originally thought to last three days, the detour is now scheduled to last only one day, state Engineer Omar Jepperson said.

“Our main goal is to keep the flow of SR 20 going and not go on to county roads,” Jepperson said.

The extensive project also entails dropping the elevation of SR 20 by 12 feet at the crest of the hill south of the stoplight. The contractor is required to keep two lanes of traffic open on state Route 20, Jepperson said.

Approximately 50 homes would be impacted by the detour, Oakes said.

“We’re asking (the state) to find a different solution, even though it’s only (one day), we’re asking people to go a long way for a detour,” Oakes said.

After construction is complete, the road will be wider, have turn lanes and generally be safer, Jepperson said. Jepperson said he estimates the project will be finished by the end of 2005.

Other projects slated for the area include replacing the out-dated wooden guardrails that protects Deception Pass State Park. The state is currently testing new designs for the guardrails, which does not meet current standards.

The guardrails were built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. According to the Department of Transportation Web site, the state is working to develop a guardrail that will look like the original, yet reduce the severity of the accidents in the area.

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