At one time or another, we’ve all been stuck at the intersection at Sharpes Corner on Highway 20. No surprise. Getting through the intersection during rush hour can be a real challenge. There are about 14 collisions a year at the intersection. Folks experience significant delays getting through the intersection due to the increase of residents over time in the area. As the main artery to and from Anacortes, the Washington State Ferries to the San Juan Islands and Victoria, B.C and the only land access point to Whidbey Island, this intersection sees an average of 30,000 cars per day. During high tourist season in the summer, the congestion grows, extending stalled traffic into the 50 mph zone, often causing high-speed, rear-end collisions. We could go on and on bemoaning the headache of this intersection, but the point is, it needs improvement.
This past September, after a series of public forums, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) decided to move forward with a roundabout to improve safety and reduce congestion at this intersection. Data from WSDOT shows the roundabout was the better option because it would reduce all collisions by 40%, and decrease injury collisions by 80%. Roundabouts also allow for better circulation of traffic, and would reduce the average travel time through the intersection by 80%.
Funding for the design and construction of this project was approved by the Legislature in July 2015 as a part of the Connecting Washington Revenue Package. There are plans for an additional roundabout at Miller-Gibralter Road and Highway 20, as well as a raised median between this intersection and Sharpes Corner creating a right-in/right-out traffic flow. Also in the works are improved pedestrian and bicycling paths for the area surrounding these two intersections, connecting cyclists and walkers to the Tommy Thompson Trail.
At this point you may be thinking, “This sounds great, but it also sounds like a lot of construction.” Yes, this is true. But keep in mind, improvement comes at the cost of construction. It’s projected to start Summer 2018 and be completed by Fall 2019. Though it will take time this traffic improvement project will benefit the area for the next 20 years. In the meantime, WSDOT is helping residents learn more about the project and get more familiar with how to navigate roundabouts with information posted on their website, as well as presentations to the city council and articles in the Anacortes American.
When all is said and done, Sharpes Corner may become an enjoyable experience rather than a headache if we can all focus on the positive impact it will have for our city.
The City and WSDOT welcome your questions about this traffic improvement project. For project updates please visit the project’s website: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr20/sharpescornerinterchange/