Construction in and around Anacortes this spring is expected to cause delays for drivers accessing the mainland ferry terminal that serves the San Juan Islands.
“It will affect ferry riders,” said Justin Fujioka with Washington State Transportation Department Ferries Division Communications.
According to Fujioka, during the construction of two roundabouts in and around Anacortes, ferry passengers headed to the islands from the mainland are advised to leave about an extra half hour ahead of their normal commute to meet their 30-minute reservation cutoff.
Washington State Ferries riders must be in line a half hour prior to their sailings departure time to use reservations. Fujioka said construction reminders will be printed on reservation confirmations and sent through ferry email alerts and their social media pages.
The Anacortes ferry terminal is the only Washington State Ferries service that runs from the mainland to the San Juan Islands.
WSDOT staff held an open house in Friday Harbor on Feb. 13 to explain their plan to build a roundabout to fix traffic congestion and safety issues at Sharpes Corner in Anacortes.
The intersection is where westbound State Route 20 splits left toward Whidbey Island or continues straight toward downtown Anacortes. Fidalgo Country Inn and the Anacortes Flea Market are located to the left of the highway when headed toward the city of Anacortes.
The roundabout’s design includes a single westbound bypass lane leading to downtown Anacortes and an additional turn lane headed toward Whidbey Island. There will be no traffic light, and the speed limit in the roundabout will be an advised 15 mph.
Construction is set to start this April and the major sections will be completed by July 4 weekend, to avoid the area’s high tourist season. Additional minor construction will continue through the fall.
Todd Carlson, WSDOT planning manager, said construction has to start in the spring because it is too cold and wet to pave in the winter.
Another roundabout will be placed about a half mile from Sharpes Corner in Anacortes, heading toward Whidbey Island, where Miller Road meets Gibralter Road in Skagit County, to also alleviate collisions. Drivers on State Route 20, headed toward Whidbey Island, will not be able to cross lanes, but will only be able to turn around at the intersection of Miller and Gibralter roads.
WSODT staff reported that more than 30,000 vehicles pass through the Sharpes Corner intersection every day. Backups often occur when westbound drivers are turning left toward Whidbey Island, often stopping on the 55 mph highway. This can also back up traffic leading to the ferry terminal.
“It makes it much safer when you can only make right-hand turns,” said Carlson, explaining that roundabouts eliminate left turns.
According to WSDOT data, on average, roundabouts reduce injury crashes by 75 percent and all crashes by 37 percent.
The project will cost a total of $13 million. Funding was previously secured in 2009 but was pulled, and then re-approved by the state Legislature in 2015.
Pedestrian and bicycle paths along the highway will also be improved. Sign up for email updates about this project at https://bit.ly/2nxnKNO.