An accident on Hwy. 525 between Houston Road and Race Road in Central Whidbey would shut down north and southbound traffic, essentially cutting the island in two.
With no alternative route to bypass the highway, north-south traffic would be brought to a standstill.
Parents trying to get their kids to soccer practice would be stuck waiting for the wreckage to be cleared. Island Transit passengers would be delayed as they wait aboard their buses.
And people needing medical care or other emergency services would be separated from emergency help they need.
A new county road connecting Houston and Race roads would change this.
The four alternatives reviewed by local residents in June have since been narrowed to one route, and the Island County Public Works department wants more feedback about the project. The new road would run parallel to Hwy. 525 and would serve as a secondary route and emergency bypass.
“For us, the big concern when there is a traffic accident, how do we reroute,” Deputy Chief Chad Michael of Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue said. “In our district, this is one area that is challenging as we don’t have an alternate route.”
From Race Road, the 1.5-mile stretch would start at Kempton Place and travel south through forested land, bisecting Highland Trail before continuing past grasslands until it reaches Houston Road.
By the end of the year, plans for the project should be 60 percent complete and right-of-way acquisition will begin in the spring of 2013.
Money to pay for these portions of the project came from discretionary funding from Congressman Rick Larsen’s office. Although matching funds were not required to receive the money, the county may need to kick in some local money to complete the acquisitions, as federal funds may not be enough, Araucto said.
Funding for the final design and construction has not yet been secured and it may be several years before the road construction begins, county officials say.
However, having project plans improves the county’s ability to compete for grant money, Araucto said. Public works anticipates that partnerships with federal and state funding sources will help pay for the project.
Updated estimates on project costs are expected to be available at the open house.
“I encourage the public to come and view where we are at with the project,” Araucto said. “Come with questions and comments.”
An open house is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25 from at the Central Whidbey Fire Station at 1164 Race Road south of Coupeville.
For information about the project, contact Assistant Engineer Connie Bowers at ConnieB@co.island.wa.us or 360-679-7331.