Connector road progresses with council approval

After years of conversations and planning, the connector road is set to be completed this year.

“It is still possible to do the gravel road — the majority of the work — this year and then pave it next year,” San Juan County engineer Colin Huntemer told the county council at its meeting on April 15. “It’s still possible to do that, I believe.”

The council agreed to go forward with the construction of the road while tabling any discussion of adding a roundabout, U-turn or any other alterations that could be included in the future.

“At the end of today’s meeting, what I am asking for is direction on one of these scenarios or possibly other ones, so can take the next steps on this project,” Huntemer said.

The county’s plan for the new street, named Missing Mountain Road, will connect Turn Point Road to Pear Point Road and allow for access to a proposed affordable housing neighborhood in the area. The 30-foot-wide road, with 11-foot lanes and 4-foot shoulders, is expected to cost $550,000 to construct.

The road was reportedly verbally promised to the Town of Friday Harbor by the county as part of an agreement between the two entities sometime in the 1990s. Town of Friday Harbor administrator Duncan Wilson told the Journal in September 2017 the agreement was, if The Town of Friday Harbor helped to alleviate the county’s affordable housing needs by annexing land, the county would build the connector road to ease traffic increases.

“It’s the thing we specifically committed to as the county relative to the original annexation agreements,” Councilmember Bill Watson said. “Getting the actual road in would allow the developments to occur.”

Other scenarios Huntemer took into consideration were installing a U-turn area or roundabout on Turn Point Road to allow semitrailers exiting Shipyard Cove Marina to turn around and take the new Missing Mountain Road, diverting truck traffic off of narrow Warbass Road. He presented a plan where a roundabout would be built — costing the county an additional $1 million to $1.5 million to construct.

“It’s not until the last five years that these other elements (the roundabout) have come into it,” Huntemer said. “That’s not to say that those aren’t appropriate, but we certainly can proceed with just the road at this time.”

Huntemer also mentioned a proposal the Port of Friday Harbor is considering. The port may do its own $1.5 million renovations to its Jensen Shipyard to allow on-site U-turn maneuverability and ultimately eliminating the need for a U-turn or roundabout on Turn Point Road entirely.

Presented with four alternatives, including the Port’s proposal, the council agreed to move forward toward building the road itself and consider the alternatives at a later date.

“To me, scenario four is what we committed to,” Council Chairmember Jamie Stephens said. “By completing this road, you not only open up affordable housing, but you also get those trucks … off the road.”