Highway 20 test blast a success

The Washington State Department of Transportation's test blast north of Deception Pass proved to be little more than a controlled "earth shaking" Wednesday night.

"The blast made very little noise or vibration, and if you had blinked, you really would have missed it," Dave Chesson, of WSDOT communications said. "There was hardly any movement that you could see."

Within four hours of the blast, crews had cleared the loosened soil and reopened the roadway, he said.

The explosions are part of a $34.3 million road improvement project intended to widen the roadway and lower the surface by 12-feet to improve driver's safety and visibility.

Dave Crisman, lead WSDOT engineer for the blast project, said the last week's blast freed "100 lineal feet of material" - mostly soil - that crews removed Wednesday evening. The second blast, scheduled for Thursday, April 2, will require more explosives. It is expected to cause a bigger boom and will loosen twice as much material, he said.

About a dozen people are working to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the project, including WSDOT staff, Explosive Services, a contractor that provided the blast plan and Scarsella Brothers Inc. of Seattle, who are in charge of the drilling and blasting.

According to Crisman, the crews loosen dirt and rock by drilling 35-feet into the ground, drop in the explosives, which look like "little hot dogs," and detonate the charges from a safe distance, he said.

Blast specifics, such as the type and amount of explosives used are kept under wraps for security reasons.

Prior to last week's test blast, WSDOT worked with Island County to secure Miller Road as a detour and sent a geotech to the area to assess the type of rock and determine the approximate cost of the project. Oak Harbor was also part of the project.

Aging Oak Harbor water lines that run along the highway would have been disturbed by the explosions that likely would have cause a few leaks, Crisman said.

Oak Harbor is temporarily redirecting its water lines through Anactores' pipeline along Miller Road to bypass the blast site. Following WSDOT's road expansion project, Oak Harbor will lay new pipes along the highway.

Next week, crews plan to install drainage crossings under the highway. Flaggers will direct drivers through the work zone as the project is expected to temporarily close one lane of traffic.

Upcoming work

• Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, March 31, April 1 and 2, from 7:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., crews will close a lane between Campbell Lake Road and the south end of Miller Road to install drainage.

• Thursday, April 2, from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., crews will close the highway for blasting and rock removal and use a pilot car to escort drivers through the Miller Road detour. Expect delays, especially between 8 and 10 p.m.

• For more information, visit

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