by Lin McNulty
Lots of Road Projects Ahead
There are always lots of bits on the plate of the Eastsound Planning Review Committee (EPRC) as they continually work to provide thoughtful input to the County regarding how the island might grow and how to improve streetscapes, traffic flow, stormwater, and safety issues while retaining “island character.”
The group is currently preparing for a Public Open House on Wednesday October 16, from 4–7 p.m., at the Senior Center, where they will set up displays to share plans with the public. Each commission member, and Council Member Rick Hughes (who is regularly present at EPRC meetings), could not stress enough the need for community input before these plans are finalized. It’s much more helpful to have a community dialogue during the planning process, rather than half-way through a project, they said.
Gulliver Rankin, Chair of the EPRC, led the meeting on Thursday, October 3. Updates were heard from County Engineer Rachel Dietzman and from Public Works Operations Manager Russ Harvey regarding ongoing projects and what is scheduled in the foreseeable future.
County Engineer Rachel Dietzman presented a loosely scheduled list of projects included in the upcoming six-year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP):
- Chip sealing of 20 miles of Orcas roadways are scheduled for the end of May, 2014. (Rick Hughes voiced his concern that this was the first he heard of that schedule and that Memorial Day weekend is not the right time to be chipsealing the roads on Orcas.)
- Deer Harbor bridge replacement is currently in the design process with construction to begin in 2015.
- Orcas Road planning will continue next year to include widening Orcas Road from Nordstrom Lane to McNallie Lane, and to better fit the roadway to the contours of the land, much like Mt. Baker Road was done. Construction is expected to begin in 2016. The county has looked at real history and collision data with regard to this plan. They realize that rural character is important and valid to have. Design must also accommodate habits of the community/drivers while maintaining the esthetics. Orcas Road is a major collection point As such, there is a graduated plan for improvements.
- The Prune Alley project will begin next spring (before the chipseal project) without a grant. It will start with curbs and sidewalks near The Longhouse, and connect to the sidewalk at Island Market. Stormwater issues will also be included in this ongoing project.
- Stormwater mitigation on A Street will look at how the flow ties in to North Beach Road, and how to effectively get water from A street into the pond. The work will begin with a pipe being installed on the South side of the street at Seaview Theatre, with an eye toward full development. The year 2016 is planned to bring curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and a proper turnaround to A Street.
- Roadside hazard mitigation remains a concern and reflective “buttons” are expected to be installed along the white stripe foglines on many island roads.
- Signs will soon be replaced with new regulatory warning signs that reflect headlights more brightly. This will be accomplished through a no-match Federal grant. Some signs will be removed, some will show up in new places, but they will all be all brand new. Because there is no accident history at some locations, curve warning signs will be removed.
- A trail between Lovers Lane and North Beach remains largely open, with questions about how to get across the swale. Again, public input is sought.
EPRC member Greg Ayers asked if there is ever any modeling done after a construction project to ensure an improvement has accomplished the desired result. Dietzman replied this has not previously been addressed, but they are working toward it. There have been no after-studies yet on Mt. Baker Road.
Input from Russ Harvey indicated that work in the Fern and Rose Street areas will begin in December, adding that “Mother Nature does not necessarily buy into every plan we make.”
The A Street to Main Street stormwater project, according to Dan Vekved, with County Public Works Department, will start in a couple of weeks. The first phase should take less than a week, but is expected to impact traffic during that time. “When doing stormwater design, Vekved added, “It’s always best to assume the drain is going to be plugged up, then to plan for where the water goes when that happens.”
It is hoped that the upcoming Open House, and a concerted effort by the EPRC and the County will result in a meaningful community dialogue regarding the details of upcoming plans.
Those who are unable to attend the meetings and/or the Open House, are urged to comment below this story and Orcas Issues will deliver your input to the appropriate agency.