Guard rails on Orcas are long overdue | Editorial

The roads in San Juan County can be dangerous. Some are narrow, winding and parallel to sharp drop-offs with cold, deep water below.

When locals die or drive off of roads without guardrails, it raises the question: Could these accidents have been prevented?

In 2007, Gitte Sofaer died after her car plunged into the icy waters of Cascade Lake. In 2009, Nate Tyler perished when his vehicle went off Channel Road. On June 31 of this year, two Deer Harbor men escaped serious injury when their car left Channel Road and travelled down the embankment and landed upside down in the waters of Deer Harbor.

We last wrote about this topic in 2009, when we urged the county to reexamine this situation. And now it looks like some progress has been made thanks to public works.

Federal funding will be paying for up to 10 new guardrails in the county, four of which will be installed on Orcas at the following spots: Orcas Road across from Fowlers Corner, Crow Valley Road, Flaherty’s Hill on Olga Road and Terrill Beach and Mt. Baker Road. For exact locations, visit http://sanjuanco.com/publicworks/Bids-and-Specs.aspx. Construction is set to begin after Labor Day.

There is also state money allocated for a guardrail in Massacre Bay to be completed by the end of next year.  Public works is looking at an additional guardrail in Deer Harbor, but it has yet to be funded.

Moran State Park is not eligible for these upgrades because the county only has a prescriptive road easement through it and public works would need consent before beginning a road safety project.

We hope islanders are supportive of these proposed road improvements. We live on a rocky island surrounded by water. It takes just one deer, one glance away from the road or one severe corner to cause a car accident. We need all the extra protection we can get.