1216 commercial avenue

City planners say the Commercial Avenue Complete Street Project will improve safety for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, as well as improve the appearance of streetscape. (Richard Walker / Anacortes American)  

Commercial Avenue between 11th and 13th streets will look a lot different in 2022: landscaping, bicycle lanes, crosswalks, a pedestrian island and possibly a roundabout to help traffic move at the intersection of Commercial and 12th.

Residents can take a look at the proposed changes and comment in a “virtual” open house on the city website at anacortescompletestreet.com.

The project is called the Commercial Avenue Complete Street Project, Phase 1 — “complete street” because, according to the website, it’s designed to better accommodate vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

The city wants to make Commercial Avenue a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly street and wants to improve the visual appearance and economic vitality of the corridor from downtown south to the roundabout at Commercial and Highway 20.

The first two blocks are funded for construction. A portion of the project will be paid for by the state Department of Transportation because Commercial to 12th to the state ferry landing is a spur of state Highway 20.

Commercial and 12th is perhaps the busiest intersection in Anacortes; city officials estimate two million vehicles a year travel that route.

Residents can see proposed options on anacortescompletestreet.com and register their comments. The site features animated comparisons of traffic flows at the intersection as is and with a roundabout. There are images of street landscapes in other cities, as well as renderings of what Commercial from 11th to 13th could look like, depending on the selected choice.

For context, there’s a timeline of Commercial Avenue evolution, illustrated with archival images from the historical museum, since 1890. The photos and accompanying text show how the thoroughfare changed to accommodate changes in transportation and technology.

The virtual open house will continue through January. The project team will present a recommended alternative to the City Council in early February. The project is scheduled to go out for bid in November.

About 40 residents participated in roundtable sessions last December at an in-person open house at City Hall and provided input on some of the options for the intersection of 12th and Commercial.

Some residents liked the idea of a roundabout; some thought it would be too hazardous for pedestrians. A four-way stop and crosswalks at 11th and Commercial won widespread approval, as did closing the entrance to the Safeway parking lot at 12th and Commercial. Other ideas included a truck route to ease traffic flow on Commercial Avenue.

Council member Carolyn Moulton, who bicycles daily to and from her Old Town bicycle store, is looking forward to changes at 12th and Commercial. A longtime supporter of making it easier for people to get around town without a motorized vehicle, she said she avoids 12th and Commercial when cycling and uses the Tommy Thompson Trail or M Avenue.

She encourages residents to visit anacortescompletestreet.com and comment on what they see.

She likes what Anacortes has done downtown for bicyclists, with adequate space between bike lanes and car doors that might open; lowered speed limits in some areas of town; and bicycle “greenways” on L and Q avenues.

She’s not ready to comment on an alternative for 12th and Commercial, but said the city is moving in the right direction.

“I feel good about the future of bicycle safety in Anacortes,” she said.

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