Country road projects start soon

Caution, flaggers ahead.

Even though summer is the peak of tourist and travel season on Whidbey Island, it is also the peak of road construction season. And this year is no exception, especially near Penn Cove.

Two of the projects have been more than a decade in the making, said Randy Brackett, Island County construction engineer. A portion of Madrona Way, approximately 1.2 miles west of Coupeville, has been steadily slipping into Penn Cove. Island County will utilize an innovative stabilization technique to save the road for another century.

“The shoreline is eating into the road, and it has been for years,” Brackett said.

The project will cost approximately $840,000 and is expected to begin at the end of June, Brackett said. It should take around 80 days to complete the construction, which means the road will be down to one lane for most of the summer.

The contractor also has the option to close the roadway completely for up to 10 days, something Brackett said could happen because of the equipment necessary to stabilize the bluff.

The county is utilizing a process called micropiling, which drives small wood piles into the ground to hold it together. The other innovative technique is the use of soil nails. These 14-foot long steel spikes are driven into the ground at an angle to help stabilize the slope.

The combination of the two methods creates a web of support for the earth, which will keep it from slipping into the Puget Sound.

Brackett said the project took so long to start because of the numerous environmental interests that must be considered. The area is rife with the trees for which the road is named. The county also had to consider fish and wildlife habitat.

“People are very interested in seeing those trees preserved,” Brackett said. “We’re going to preserve all of the trees in the area.”

The second major project will solve the same problem along Penn Cove Road. Along several spots, the bluff has eroded almost underneath the roadway.

“If you want to look at it close up, I mean get out of your vehicle and look at it, you’d go ‘whoa,’ ” Brackett said.

The Penn Cove Road Project will also begin at the end of June, but will only take three or four days to complete. It will cost only $60,000 because Island County crews will be performing the work.

The county will build a 70-foot long retaining wall underneath the roadway. It will use the soil nails also.

The county’s other major project this summer will be to reconstruct the 90-degree curve on Swantown Avenue. Because of the sharp turn, a property owner in the area has received several lawn makeovers, courtesy of the cars that end up in the front yard.

County crews will relocate the curve and smooth it out in order to increase the safety of the area.

Aside from those projects, the county will also be paving several North Whidbey roads throughout the summer. These projects are mostly day jobs, almost all of them are less than a half mile long. A list can be seen in the accompanying box.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at

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