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Spendy wood guardrails pop up on Highway 20

Work crews are busy installing pricey new wood guardrails on a stretch of Highway 20 located inside Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. Motorists can expect delays on Highway 20 due to a single-lane closure through Thursday.   - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Work crews are busy installing pricey new wood guardrails on a stretch of Highway 20 located inside Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. Motorists can expect delays on Highway 20 due to a single-lane closure through Thursday.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

The Highway 20 roadside will have a more historic-looking flair in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve thanks to a new construction project.

Work crews are busy installing wood guardrails along Highway 20 on the hill near the intersection with Libbey Road. While the guardrails will add a historic-looking touch to the side of Highway 20, they are priced at more than three times the cost of traditional W-shaped guardrails that typically line highways.

The state Department of Transportation will pay nearly $170,000 for the wood guardrails while the metal ones would have cost about $49,000. Work crews recently started installing a portion of the 2,415 feet of new guardrail.

The old guardrail didn’t meet current safety standards and WSDOT was required to replace it, spokesperson Dave Chesson said in an email. The metal guardrail was installed before Ebey’s Reserve was created in 1978.

Because the portion of Highway 20 receiving the new guardrails lies within the boundaries of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, transportation officials had to get approval from the Trust Board of Ebey’s Landing, which was required by the National Historic Preservation Act. The wood guardrail, manufactured by Ironwood in New York, was selected because it helps preserve the aesthetic nature of the Reserve and still meets safety standards, Chesson said.

Mark Preiss, manager of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, described the guardrail installation as a pilot project. He said the Trust Board, the National Park Service and WSDOT worked together to find a guardrail that was more compatible with the Reserve.

Once the guardrails are installed, officials will gauge public reaction before considering whether wood should be used in future replacement projects, Preiss said.

The wooden guardrail is similar to the one recently installed on Highway 20 going through Deception Pass State Park, only without the stone bollards that hold the wood barriers in place.

The guardrail project is part of a $558,000 safety project taking place on Highway 20 and Highway 525 this summer on Whidbey Island. In addition to the new guardrails, crews will install rumble strips along the shoulders and centerline of the highway.

Motorists will encounter lane closures on Highway 20 this week through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. while the remaining guardrail is installed.

The Department of Transportation awarded the contract to Coral Construction Company of Wilsonville, Ore.

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