Every day, Brenna Woods witnesses the same traffic violation, over and over again, while at her McDonald Street house in Friday Harbor. Drivers approach a barrier blocking road construction on Tucker Avenue, speed around the site’s two gates, pass six do-not-enter signs and head into one-lane traffic, going the opposite direction.
“People are inconsiderate,” said Woods on April 10. “They don’t think [the detour] applies to them.”
Moments later, two drivers, one after the other, went around the barrier.
This time, a deputy was waiting on the other side.
“It’s a huge problem,” said San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs. “I’ve seen people almost get into a head-on collision there.”
A rash of renegade drivers ignoring detour signs has forced deputies to put more manpower on this one town road.
The detour has been in place since construction on the nearly one-mile stretch of Tucker Avenue, from Harbor Street to University Road, started in February. There have been countless road construction projects throughout the island, said Krebs, but he’s never seen drivers blatantly ignore traffic signs like they do on Tucker Avenue. Motorists have even bypassed the blockade when Krebs was parked behind the gates, flashing his red and blues.
According to Krebs, deputies have stopped 94 drivers on Tucker Avenue since March 1 and about 20 citations have been issued. He explained that deputies patrol the site when possible, but a permanent lookout can’t man the street at all times. So Town of Friday Harbor staff have also added more signs.
As of now, there is a gate on Guard Street, with a notice indicating drivers should take Carter Avenue to Larson Street, where they can turn left on Tucker to get to Roche Harbor Road. On Tucker Avenue, heading toward Roche, there are two “Road Closed” signs, two “Use Harbor Street” boards, an orange detour symbol and a recently added red “Do Not Enter” sign.
Yet, that didn’t stop one of the two violating drivers on April 10.
“There’s no construction,” said the motorist, who didn’t reveal his name but noted that he lived off Roche Harbor Road, just pass the construction site. “Looks to me to be two open lanes.”
At the time of his violation, construction crews were not working, which can make the road appear to be open. However, while the lane headed into town is always open, the one leaving town is always closed, with the barrier and signs in place. During work hours, a flagger directs traffic heading into town, as well as toward Roche from Larson Street.
On average, Friday Harbor Town Administrator Duncan Wilson said drivers wait about five minutes at the site, during any time of day, but delays can be longer. Wilson also suggested drivers continue straight on Guard to Beaverton Valley Road to Egg Lake Road to Roche, to avoid the construction altogether.
Crews, he explained, are adding new water and sewer lines, as well as shared lanes for cyclists and drivers. They are also completely rebuilding the street from the base to the asphalt.
He estimates that the barrier has been ignored hundreds of times, but the exact count is hard to determine.
“How many stars are there in the sky?” Wilson asked.
Yet, the additional signs and deputy patrols are helping, he explained, and will hopefully continue to stop violators as the project continues through mid-August.
For Woods, it may be a long road until construction is complete, but the delays will be worth the wait.
“Overall, it’ll be safer coming in and out of town in the long run,” she said.