Improvements planned for NE 7th Street

Pedestrian improvements are coming to a long-neglected section of Northeast 7th Street next summer.

Pedestrian improvements, including a mixed-use walking and biking trail, are coming to a long-neglected section of Northeast 7th Street next summer.

Oak Harbor City Council members unanimously approved a motion to authorize Mayor Bob Severns to sign a construction agreement with the Washington State Department of Transportation for the proposed improvements, which residents of the area have been calling for for over a decade.

Public Works Director Steve Schuller presented the proposed design for the section of Northeast Seventh Street between Oak Harbor Road and Highway 20 to the council at a Sept. 19 meeting. The design extends the road six feet to the south and adds a mixed-use pedestrian and bike path on the north side.

The path will be separated from the road by a three-foot vegetation buffer. In answer to a question from Councilmember Chris Wiegenstein, Schuller confirmed that the design will also include additional crosswalks so that residents who live on the south side of the street can safely and easily access the path.

The city will also replace water lines on the road at the same time.

These designs are less extensive than those originally proposed in 2021, in part because of environmental regulations, as the street is surrounded by wetlands on both sides, and also to avoid any additional right-of-way requirements. This phase of the project also forgoes intersection improvements at Oak Harbor Street or Highway 20.

Schuller said without reducing the scope of the project, the city likely would not have been able to obtain the grant funding it has acquired for the construction.

The construction is expected to cost $2.7 million. The city has received a $1.3 million federal grant and an $800,000 grant from the state, making the project 78% grant funded. Schuller said the city’s match will come from the street and water funds.

He pointed out that the money from the street fund is money saved by the city deciding to only fund a portion of Fakkema Road. The city came under criticism last year for considering funding the construction of an access road that would serve a new U-Haul business.

Construction is planned to begin in spring of 2024 and is expected to cause traffic disruptions in the area.