A DIFFERENT MEANING to ‘TIS THE SLOW SEASON’ – A roundabout at Sharpe’s Corner, and another one, already built at Miller and Gibralter Roads, are the Washington State Department of Transportation’s solution to slow traffic and accidents at the busy State Route 20 intersection. Before it will get faster, with completion scheduled for July 3, it will be slower. Be prepared to stop and wait. – Photo courtesy Bill Reynolds
The drive between La Conner and Whidbey Island has become longer. Not in terms of distance, but time. Traffic delays in the Sharpe’s Corner area northwest of La Conner have been the norm recently due to roundabout construction at the intersection of State Route 20 and the Paul Luvera Memorial Highway. This Washington State Department of Transportation project is designed to increase motorist safety and improve traffic flow, as is the recently built roundabout south of Sharpe’s Corner on State Route 20 at Miller and Gibralter Roads. A multi-use path and additional crosswalks will be added in the area between Sharpes Corner and Marches Point Road for pedestrians and cyclists. But, for now, it’s a work in progress marked by frequent bottlenecks and backups. Eastbound traffic from Anacortes was delayed at Sharpe’s Corner for as much as 30 minutes during peak driving times last week, said Joaquin Garcia, of La Conner, who commutes daily to his job at The Corner Bar & Grill between the two roundabout sites. Congestion varies from day to day, even hour to hour, Garcia said. “Mornings are no problem,” he said. “But the other day I got off at 1:30 and it took me a half-hour just to get out of the parking lot and onto the road.” Traffic from Whidbey Island was backed up then as a constant stream of vehicles approached Sharpe’s Corner, where one lane in all directions has been closed and work begun on building outer bypass lanes. The bypass lanes will allow drivers to get through the heavily traveled intersection as construction of the Sharpe’s Corner roundabout gets under way in earnest between May 29 and July 4. “They say it will be done around the Fourth of July,” said Garcia, “and that’s what we’re hoping for.” Construction has thus far impacted business at The Corner, said Garcia, though the restaurant was typically busy on Mother’s Day. Monday mid-morning traffic at Sharpe’s Corner was slower than normal, given the lane reductions, but steady. Traffic is expected to be slow and congested until bypass work is completed, project reps told the Anacortes City Council last week. There will be altered traffic patterns at Sharpe’s Corner after the Memorial Day weekend, according to WSDOT officials. Motorists leaving Anacortes for La Conner or the I-5 interchange at Burlington will have to turn south at Sharpe’s Corner to the new Miller-Gibralter roundabout. From there, traffic will U-turn back to Sharpe’s Corner and re-enter the highway via an eastbound bypass lane. WSDOT officials are advising drivers take a proactive approach in the Sharpe’s Corner area over the next few weeks. They suggest traveling outside of normal commute hours, working remotely if that is an option, carpooling or vanpooling, making use of public transit or at the very least allotting extra time for trips to and from Anacortes. The $13,400,000 project is funded through the Connecting Washington Act. Construction ends a 10 year planning history.