State Rep. Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor, stands under Deception Pass Bridge Wednesday morning and explains its importance. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

State Rep. Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor, stands under Deception Pass Bridge Wednesday morning and explains its importance. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

State lawmakers eye island transportation

At approximately 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, the sunrise turned the waters at Deception Pass a bright orange behind a seemingly endless stream of cars traveling across the bridge in either direction.

Standing on the bridge’s walkway, state Rep. Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor, told Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, about the importance of the structure to commuters who live off island and work on Whidbey Island and vise versa. The two men inspected the 84-year-old bridge up close while Paul also explained its role in delivering water to Oak Harbor and the Naval air station.

“It’s a gorgeous bridge, and it’s a gorgeous landscape, but it’s a lifeline,” Fey said.

Fey said he wanted to take time while the Legislature was out of session to become more familiar with the geography of areas outside his district and their potential needs. Paul, who also sits on the transportation committee, took Fey to the Highway 20 intersections with Swantown Avenue, Erie Street and Beeskma Drive in Oak Harbor, as well as the Coupeville Ferry Terminal.

State Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, examines Deception Pass Bridge Wednesday morning. The House Transportation Committee chairman was accompanied by Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor, on a tour of Whidbey’s transportation project needs.

State Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, examines Deception Pass Bridge Wednesday morning. The House Transportation Committee chairman was accompanied by Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor, on a tour of Whidbey’s transportation project needs.

Paul highlighted the major pinch points along the highway and said the city had requested that planned improvements in the area of Erie and Swantown move up on the schedule because of a large housing development potentially going in the area.

At the Coupeville ferry, the two men observed the most difficult port that Washington State Ferries boats navigate. Paul said it’s been requested that the Army Corps of Engineers dredge the channel so tides wouldn’t impact sailings so dramatically and frequently.

“It’s on the list, but anything we can do to help speed it up would be great,” Paul said.

Fey said Thursday morning he planned to finish his Whidbey excursion via the Clinton ferry, which may become an important run as the ferry system moves toward electric-hybrid vessels. Paul said because it’s such a short distance, only one side would need the infrastructure to re-charge to ships.

Fey emphasized the need to maintain existing infrastructure. He said the state has been growing so quickly, most resources have been allocated toward new construction.

The trip will be valuable in future conversation within the committee, he said.

“When (Paul) talks about stuff,” Fey said, “I want to be able to remember what I saw.”

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