Highway 20 bump shakes drivers, stirs complaints

A car goes over an ugly bump on Highway 20 Wednesday afternoon. Several drivers complained about it and the state responded. - Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
A car goes over an ugly bump on Highway 20 Wednesday afternoon. Several drivers complained about it and the state responded.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

The on-again, off-again road construction project on Highway 20 south of Oak Harbor hit another bump in the road. Actually, it was drivers who were hitting the bump.

It was a big one, but state Department of Transportation officials have since remedied the situation.

Kirk Huffer, an employee at the Island County Auditor’s Office, said many people at work Wednesday morning were complaining about an abrupt, unnerving ridge in the road caused by the roadwork, which began Tuesday night.

“It’s like hitting a curb straight on at 40 miles per hour,” he said. “One individual’s car door flew open and it threw his car into neutral.”

His own car developed a “shimmy” in the front end after driving over the asphalt protuberance. He added that several other people’s cars “bottomed out” and may have been damaged.

Huffer claimed there were no warning signs on the highway first thing Wednesday morning. That meant vehicles were hitting the bump at highway speeds.

Later in the day, a “bump” sign was added. Still, many of the southbound cars going over the bump were traveling at a pretty good clip. The noise of cars bottoming out was clearly audible.

There were actually three bumps in the stretch of highway, but the one near Eagle Vista Avenue was the real killer.

Dave Chesson, spokesman for DOT, said the department received complaints about the bump. The problem was that the contractor ground down the asphalt, which has to be done before a fresh layer is added, and left a very abrupt edge. Chesson said the edge is supposed to be tapered with a layer of temporary asphalt over a special piece of paper. The paper and asphalt can be lifted off the next day.

“It didn’t get done,” Chesson said. “The construction zone was left in a less-than-adequate condition.”

He explained that DOT officials had a talk with the contractor. The bump was fixed and no car-shaking bumps should crop up in the future. But there will still be bumps, albeit smaller ones, before the work in complete.

“We hope people will slow down in there,” Chesson said.

Work crews started Tuesday night on the last layer of paving on a stretch of Highway 20 south of Oak Harbor. The work is supposed to be completed Thursday, July 24.

The paving is the last portion of a $9.6 million project on the highway between Swantown Avenue and Sidney Street, which included the lowering of two hills and the addition of a much-needed turn lane at Rolling Hills.

The Department of Transportation originally scheduled the project to be completed last September, but the cold and damp weather halted work.

This spring, the work was delayed again because of the proximity of nesting bald eagles.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at or call 675-6611.

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