Prune Alley construction is hard on us all | Editorial

I’ve been hearing a great deal about the frustration regarding Prune Alley construction.

I’ve also witnessed very dangerous traffic and pedestrian congestion on the Eastsound roadways.

Last week, there were multiple police calls regarding people disregarding posted signs in the work zones — one young man was injured after traversing Prune Alley illegally.

In May, Sheriff Ron Krebs asked the public to respect the county’s construction project after receiving reports of unruly citizens ignoring safety precautions.

“People have been driving down the roads illegally, crossing barriers and parking in the construction site and someone threw a water bottle at one of the workers and hit him in the hard hat,” Krebs said.

The improvements to Prune Alley began in March. Mike Carlson Construction is handling the project, which has resulted in road closures, traffic re-direction and limited parking options in town during our busiest season. Road barricades and safety fencing has been erected to keep pedestrians and vehicles out while dangerous construction is underway. The work is slated to be completed by September.

Construction zones fall under strict regulations and Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules. Krebs hopes the Orcas community can be respectful of the work zone in order to keep themselves and the workers safe. Failure to do so may result in an infraction for RCW 46.61.050 failure to obey traffic control devices.

“There is heavy machinery being operated and we don’t want someone to get hurt,” Krebs said. “We could start writing tickets but we don’t want to. So I am trying to appeal to people’s good nature. Plus, every time someone is in there (the construction zone), they have to stop and remove them, which takes time. We don’t want this project to be any longer than it is.”

Island businesses have also felt the impact. Stores like Sequel and restaurants like the Kitchen and Lower Tavern have had their customer parking entirely eliminated and are facing an unknown summer season.

Marlace Hughes, who owns Ray’s Pharmacy with her husband Rick, is urging the public to stop leaving their cars in the Templin’s Center lot for hours on end. In addition, because Prune Alley is closed, the parking lot is no longer a one-way enter and exit – anyone who enters the lot has to exit the same way and it’s extremely dangerous for both cars and people.

So this begs the question: where are we supposed to park for the next three months as we look towards large community gatherings like parades and outdoor concerts? Unfortunately, we have very few options but the county has arranged with the school district to allow for public parking in their lot.

Try to park as far out of town as possible and then walk in. Carpool with friends and family. If you have errands to run, choose a time of day when it’s not as busy or go on the weekend when construction isn’t happening. Drive respectfully, watch out for others and obey traffic rules — especially when there is a stop sign! I am continually appalled by how many people blow through intersections.

Yes, this is really inconvenient. Eastsound is hard enough to navigate in the summer months when we don’t have a major roadway closed. Now, there are days when it feels nearly impossible. I urge us to all have patience and be considerate of others. Berating the construction crew is rude and pointless. They are doing their jobs and trying to keep the public safe in the process.

We are all doing our best in a situation that is not within our control. What we do have jurisdiction over are ourselves and our own actions.