Orcas Park and Ride opens

The park and ride at the Orcas Ferry Landing hit a few rough spots along the way before officially opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 31.

“I think that overall this has been such an incredible victory for the county and for Orcas this year,” said County Council Chairman Rick Hughes. “I think we as an organization need to be really proud of working with the community, with state partners, with ourselves and great contractors to build some just amazing public works projects.”

In April, San Juan County signed a 25-year lease with the Washington State Department of Transportation, allowing the usage of a 5.32-acre property where park and ride was built. The lease can then be renewed twice for 10-year periods. The state was only willing to allow the lease of the land free of charge as long as there is no charge for parking.

WSDOT also granted the county a $760,000 grant to construct the park and ride. The county allocated $710,000 toward the project.

The first hitch in the construction was that two different water systems were discovered and an easement had to be established for both. Then, in August, county engineer Colin Huntemer told the council WSDOT would only grant $405,000 of the $760,000 it had promised because the WSDOT didn’t budget the remaining funds in the 2017-19 biennium. That issue was resolved with the help of Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas.

The purpose of the park and ride is to move parking from Orcas Road to a new designated parking lot.

“We listened to a lot of parties to get this project together on a very tight schedule,” said Huntemer. “This is a very proud achievement for a lot of people.”

Huntemer also recognized project engineer and park and ride designer Jesse Douglas-Seitz for his contribution to the project.

“It’s a unique island-bound community. It’s a unique site, unique environment and really … it needed a unique context-sensitive solution,” said Douglas-Seitz. “I think as a group, public works did a great job at working with other agencies to come together and build something that fits Orcas Village. Couldn’t have done this project from design to construction without the whole group of helping hands that pitched in throughout.”

About 20 parking spots are currently open and will be available throughout the winter. The rest of the approximately 80 car lot will be opened in spring once a fog seal and parking stops are laid.

Starting soon, signs will be placed along Orcas Road directing drivers to park in the park and ride lot instead of along the side of the road. Ultimately, “no parking” signs will be installed.

“If you can check off a win-win-win-win-win, this is it,” said Hughes. “No matter what we struggle with, with the state, this was the best partnership I think I’ve ever seen. We’re solving problems together that will serve our community as well as intermodal transportation. Our community should be so thrilled to have this as part of our transportation network.”