Transit envisions pedestrian tunnel

Pedestrians and bus riders may have a safer way to cross Highway 20 on the eastern edge of Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve.

Pedestrians and bus riders may have a safer way to cross Highway 20 on the eastern edge of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.

In its plans to re-align the intersection of Highway 20 with Parker Road, Island Transit officials hope to someday dig a pedestrian tunnel, known as the Kineth Passage project, that will go underneath the busy highway. It isn’t known yet exactly where the tunnel is located and officials haven’t yet found the money needed to pay for the walkway.

While some Central Whidbey residents were concerned about the safety of a new intersection of Parker Road and Highway 20, some also questioned the need for a tunnel.

Louise Harvey, who owns the Countryside Inn, located near the Island Transit headquarters, questioned during an Aug. 6 meeting whether such a tunnel is a good use of taxpayer dollars given that the state claimed at the same meeting it can’t afford to install a left-turn lane from the highway onto Parker Road.

Harvey said she already has problems with trespassers and loiterers coming onto her property from nearby bus stops.

Island Transit plans to re-align the intersection of Parker and Old Smith Prairie roads and Highway 20. Officials want to close the two intersections and install a new road in the middle. They also want to add a “bike and ride,” several parking spots and a kiosk informing visitors about Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. Several nearby residents are critical of the changes because it lacks a left-turn lane from the highway onto Parker Road.

The proposed tunnel underneath Highway 20 would help connect nearby trails and provide a safe place for pedestrians to cross the busy highway. The proposed tunnel’s exact location isn’t known yet, Island Transit director Martha Rose said.

Island Transit recently tried and failed to get grant money to pay for the approximate $1 million cost for the new tunnel and it isn’t known yet when such a project could be funded.

“It is a dream of the future,” said Coupeville Town Councilman and Island Transit board member Bob Clay said.

The Regional Transportation Planning Organization in late 2011 did draft a letter of support for Island Transit’s attempt to get federal funding funding to pay for research planning and engineering for the “Kineth Passage” tunnel.

Plans for the tunnel are in the very early stages. Donna Keeler, regional transportation planner for Island County, said she hasn’t seen any plans yet for the proposed tunnel.

“Without knowing the design or full scale of the project, it’s hard to tell whether review and approval from the public works department would be required (in addition to approval from the Washington State Department of Transportation), Keeler said in an email. The county’s planning and community development department may also need to look at it.”

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