1211 open house

Jeff Graf (left) and City Engineer Eric Shjarback discuss proposed improvements to Commercial Avenue from 11th to 13th streets at an open house Monday at City Hall. (Richard Walker / Anacortes American)

Commercial Avenue between 11th and 13th streets should look a lot different in the next two or three years.

About 40 residents participated in roundtable sessions from 4-6 p.m. Monday at a project 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 there; 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; vehicles would enter on 11th Street and R Avenue. Other ideas included a truck route to ease traffic flow on Commercial Avenue.

“I heard a lot of concerns over traffic and making sure there’s no traffic congestion made worse by any design to this project,” said Brandon Gonzalez, senior project manager with Alta Planning and Design, the city’s project consultant.

By the end of the roundtable sessions, sticky notes with ideas and comments peppered the renderings of the options.

“We’ll go back to the drawing board and put all these comments on paper — pros and cons — and talk ‘em over and see which ones are relevant and which ones aren’t relevant,” City Engineer Eric Shjarback said.

A project website will be launched this month, and residents will be able to comment online, he said. Another open house will take place in March. The final design will be developed by January 2021 for City Council approval.

How long it will take to complete the project is not known, Shjarback said. If the intersection can be closed, with traffic detoured around the site, it could go fast.

“We built the roundabout at 22nd and R in 45 days. We finished the roundabout on Commercial in 28 days. We have the power to go fast if we want to. Sometimes it’s worth it because of the impact (a longer construction period would have) on businesses.”

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. The first two blocks are funded for construction in 2021.

Designs show landscaping, bicycle lanes, crosswalks and a pedestrian island. A portion of the project will be paid for by the state Department of Transportation; Commercial to 12th to the state ferry landing is a spur of state Highway 20. Council member Matt Miller said an estimated two million vehicles a year travel on that route.

Council members expressed concern about pedestrian safety at 12th and Commercial, and said property owners — particularly Safeway and Sebo’s — should be brought into the discussion because traffic flow in and around those properties would be affected.

An Anacortes woman was struck by a vehicle and killed on June 21, 2017, as she walked across the intersection at 12th and Commercial. Earlier this year, on March 10, an Anacortes woman was seriously injured when she was struck by a truck in the Safeway parking lot.

Council member Carolyn Moulton expressed concern about pedestrian safety and improving the flow of traffic.

“I’m hearing a lot of (public) resistance to taking away any traffic lane, so I think if that’s part of the plan, it really needs to be demonstrated that that is not going to slow down traffic or stall it or anything like that, because it’s really hard to fathom how taking a lane away is going to be more efficient,” she said. “… I would love it if that’s the case.”

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