The fighter jets that take off from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island are no strangers to performing different maneuvers. On Sunday, June 23, people traveling past the air base on State Route 20 near Oak Harbor had to perform a different maneuver of their own: Navigating a new roundabout.
When contractor crews with SRV Construction began excavating the highway at the Banta Road/Northgate Drive intersection on Thursday, June 6, the goal was to open the roundabout by July 4. After working 20 hours a day, six days a week at what seemed like Mach 1 speed, the roundabout opened to traffic on Sunday, June 23, 10 days ahead of schedule.
|These concrete pourers were just one of the many different crews working together to complete this project early.|
Highway to the safety zone
So why build this roundabout in the first place? In a word, safety.
Since 2011, law enforcement responded to 26 crashes that injured 11 people at the SR 20 and Banta/Northgate intersection. Half of those collisions involved vehicles trying to turn onto the highway from side roads. Roundabouts have a proven history of reducing injury and deadly crashes by more than 75 percent.
The roundabout also provides a new U-turn option for people located north and south of Banta/Northgate, which could reduce left turns onto the highway and the chance of broadside “T-bone” collisions.
There's also new highway crossing areas to help Island Transit riders safely cross the highway to nearby bus stops.
|Pedestrians and bicyclists will use crosswalks connected to the splitter islands separating|
SR 20 traffic to safely cross the highway. Watch out for them!
More fly-bys to come
Even though the roundabout is open to traffic, crews still have some work to finish, like sealing the new asphalt, adding fresh striping and landscaping, before they fly off for good. While this work doesn't involve the same around-the-clock lane closures travelers have grown accustomed to the past couple of weeks, people should prepare for the occasional closure. All work associated with this project is expected to wrap up in the fall.
Avoid the last-second scramble by checking these resources ahead of time for alerts of upcoming road work:
- WSDOT mobile app
- WSDOT North Twitter feed
- Skagit & Island County highway emails
- Skagit and Island County Construction page
Just like performing a barrel roll takes timing and coordination, so did completing this project. A stretch of spectacular weather and several different crews harmoniously working alongside one another led to finishing the roundabout early.
It also took the patience of those traveling through the work zone. Although there have been traffic delays, the crews appreciated every wave and kind word they received from travelers during construction. Don't lose that loving feeling!
For more pictures from this project, check out our Flickr album
Navigating a roundabout can feel like flying aerobatics if you don't know how to do it. Sure, there is a learning curve just like with any traffic revision. Just follow these simple tips:
- Vehicles already in the roundabout have the right-of-way. As you approach the roundabout, pay attention to the yield sign and slow down. If a vehicle in the roundabout is coming toward you, yield. If not, enter the roundabout to your right. NEVER enter to your left!
- Signal. That's right. When you're ready to exit the roundabout, signal as you would any time you make a turn. This lets vehicles behind you and vehicles waiting to enter know your intention.
- Watch for pedestrians/bikes. Just like this new roundabout near Oak Harbor, many other roundabouts have crosswalks as well. Keep an eye out for anyone needing to cross.
- Give larger vehicles extra room. Semis, large RVs and other large loads may need extra room to move through the roundabout. That's why we build them with truck aprons. Work together to keep everyone safe and moving.
- Don't stop in the middle of a roundabout. If you think you missed your exit, just continue going around until you come back to it. Stopping is often how collisions happen. Remember, vehicles already in the roundabout have the right-of-way.