Orcas to see an influx in public works projects

Islanders will be seeing a great deal of activity on Orcas roads in the coming years.

“A lot of public works projects on Orcas have been put off for a long time, and now we are catching up on maintenance and safety,” said County Councilman Rick Hughes.

Improvements on the corner of Main Street and Prune Alley to Fern Street will begin in early 2017. The project will incorporate repairing or replacing stormwater facilities, installing curb, gutter, sidewalk and disability crossings and putting in defined parking spots.

“It will have the feel and look of North Beach Road,” said Hughes.

The total cost of improvements is $2.3 million. The majority of it is being funded by the county road fund.

“We will get this done even if we don’t get smaller grants to help pay for it,” said Hughes.

The work will be done in three phases (a portion of road per phase) and the first segment will start in early 2017. It is slated to take two years to complete, with construction halting in the summer months.

Work on Orcas Road, which includes widening it with four-foot shoulders and fixing the intersection of Nordstrom Lane and Orcas Road, has been pushed back to 2018.

The corner of Crow Valley and Deer Harbor Road, where the side of the bank has been sliding into the water, is being reinforced with a metal grate and shoreline stabilization within the next three months.

The Deer Harbor Bridge replacement project began in July and is slated to be done by December. The final result will be improving 700 feet of Channel Road. The work includes putting up a temporary bridge and construction a permanent concrete bridge.

Public works will be installing a 12,000-gallon fuel tank at its facility on Mt. Baker Road.

“It’s one of our first steps in emergency management preparedness,” Hughes said. “We need to be able to take care of our community as long as possible. In addition, we can buy fuel directly from the refinery and save money.”

Down at the ferry landing, Washington State Ferries plans to knock out the existing small terminal and bathroom so the area can become a turn-around for vehicles. The Russell gift shop will be taken down to build larger terminal and restroom area with disability access.

Public works has been awarded a $760,000 grant by Washington State Department of Transportation to provide safe parking for Orcas ferry users. The funds will go toward designing and constructing a park-and-ride facility, the first of its kind for San Juan County. The project will create a 80-100 stall parking area with reliable short and long-term parking solutions. In addition to providing safer and longer duration parking, the new Orcas Village Park-and-Ride will discourage single occupancy vehicle ridership on the ferries and freeway; improve traffic circulation in Orcas Village; expand handicapped parking in the current 72-hour parking area at the ferry terminal and accommodate electric vehicle charging needs. The work will be completed by the summer of 2017.

“I am so impressed with everyone at public works for all the road projects,” said Hughes. “We have amazing people at the county doing things for this community. We have great staff and it’s an honor to work with them.”