Oops! Whidbey Island rumble strips to be removed

Bicycling will be safer on Whidbey when misplaced rumble strips are removed from the vicinity of guardrails.  - Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times
Bicycling will be safer on Whidbey when misplaced rumble strips are removed from the vicinity of guardrails.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times

A combination of complaints and rechecking work is prompting officials from the Washington State Department of Transportation to remove rumble strips that were recently installed on Whidbey Island highways.

It’s likely to be a spendy repair project. The process of removing the rumble strips along nearly two miles of shoulder calls for grinding down the shoulder and then repaving it. However, Dave Chesson, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation, didn’t have a cost estimate yet or exactly when the repair project will take place.

Work crews installed 14 miles of rumble strips earlier in the year along the shoulders of the highway weaving through Whidbey Island. The installation cost an estimated $558,000.

The new strips prompted complaints from local bicyclists saying the strips don’t provide room on the shoulder to safely maneuver.

Chesson said staff took those complaints seriously and reexamined the conditions along the road. They found that in areas with guardrails the rumble strips don’t provide enough clearance space. He said standards call for a minimum of five feet between a rumble strip and the guardrail. With shoulders where there isn’t a guardrail, the length is four feet.

“In this case, we missed that mark,” Chesson said. He said records officials used for the project didn’t show the guardrails and taking time to measure all 14 miles of highway shoulders would have dramatically increased costs. “We’re not happy about this,” he said.

Chesson said the rumble strips are an effective and cost efficient way to improve the safety of Highway 20 and Highway 525. From 2003 to 2007, there were more than 300 incidents where cars drove off the road, including four fatalities.

He said accidents where vehicles drift off the road account for 18 percent of the collisions and 40 percent of all fatalities.

Staff are still working out how to best repair the shoulders. It looks like the rumble strips on Highway 20 could be worked into a construction project from Libbey Road to Scenic Heights Road that is scheduled to begin next summer.

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