Category Archives: driving in Bremerton

You shall not pass: city targets Manette Bridge speeders 

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At Wednesday night’s City Council meeting, Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent singled out deviant motorists who pass other cars on Manette Bridge. She said her office has received some complaints about the passers, mainly those who speed around other drivers heading toward downtown, just past the roundabout.

The mayor invited Steve Strachan, Bremerton police chief, before the Council to address the issue. He said police would be vigilant about looking out for passers, and indicated that motorists face a minimum $124 fine for doing it.

“Well be keeping our eye out,” Strachan said.

I had not heard of these violators but those of us that live in Bremerton are used to seeing aggressive driving. Similarly, concerns have been raised about pedestrians crossing the road at the base of the bridge near the roundabout, a problem summed up recently by the Road Warrior, Travis Baker.

In one more related note: following the mayor’s report, Vern LaPrath, an East Bremerton resident, reminded the Council Wednesday night that he’s still waiting for speed humps on Hanford Avenue. He’s been advocating for them for longer than a decade. And on Wednesday night, it wasn’t just LaPrath, but two other Hanford Avenue residents, that desired to have them.

“It’s not just the cranky old man on Hanford Avenue,” LaPrath said.

City Councilman Dino Davis, chair of the city’s public works committee, responded by saying he hopes a project adding speed humps will be slated for 2015.

In Bremerton, a battle over bulbous boulevards 

Pacific Avenue, Before and after it got bigger sidewalks.
Pacific Avenue, Before and after it got bigger sidewalks.

Here in Bremerton, the streets are shrinking. 

Or rather, the sidewalks are getting bigger.

It started along Pacific Avenue, downtown’s main drag, as millions of dollars have been poured down the thoroughfare to create a much more walkable stretch. It continued with the city’s Park Avenue Plaza project, which brought a theater downtown — and more wide sidewalks. Other improvements, including narrowing Warren Avenue northbound from Burwell Street, have given pedestrians safer access while shrinking the amount of blacktop for motorists.

And now, the battle over more bulbous boulevards comes to Washington Avenue.

Between the Manette Bridge and Sixth Street, the city’s public works department has $1.7 million in hand from a state grant fund dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian improvements. The City Council recently OK’d designing three different alternative road designs for the area.

Why three? Because the one the city planned on — taking the road down to one lane in each direction from its current two — was met with much motorist resistance during a road test.

It turns out that for 23 hours and 30 minutes a day, there’s no need for a four lane road there. But at about 4 p.m., it bottlenecks, extending the motoring commutes of ferry riders and workers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Public works staff said it would add about 10 minutes onto a car commute in the area.

Add to that concerns from some Council members that the city must save some of its roads downtown for trucking traffic. How could a grocery store, for instance, operate downtown without daily deliveries via an 18-wheeler?

City leaders, including Mayor Patty Lent, say they’re planning a downtown for the future; for the inevitable: a downtown Bremerton where people live, work and play. Where walking and bicycling are commonplace. They point to three pending apartment complexes likely to be built in the next year.

They view widening the sidewalk from the bridge to Sixth Street as paramount. But there’s just not enough room to keep two northbound lanes, widen the sidewalk and put in a bike lane.

It’s not hard to see why they’ve targeted the stretch for a bigger pedestrian walkway. It’s strange to go from the wide promenade that spans the bridge down to a 5 1/2 foot walkway, crammed with power poles, driveways, cars and garbage cans. Even in winter months, about 500 people a day traverse it.

But is expanding that walkway coming at too great a cost?

The heart of the debate came out at a recent City Council study session. Mayor Lent highlighted Bremerton’s unrestricted building heights, and made the case downtown Bremerton will soon be people first, automobile second.

Then, there was a fascinating discussion between two Council members, which I wrote about in a recent story:

(Councilman Roy Runyon) and a few of his colleagues expressed concern that freight might struggle to get in and out of downtown with the downsized road capacity. Councilman Mike Sullivan contrasted road projects in Silverdale that are adding lanes with those in Bremerton, which are reducing lanes.

“Are we digging ourselves a hole we can’t get out of?” he wondered, adding he would likely vote against proceeding with the Washington Avenue project.

Mayor Patty Lent told Sullivan that several high-rise apartment projects in the works would make the pedestrian-minded Washington Avenue project critical.

Sullivan countered that many Puget Sound Naval Shipyard workers don’t live in the city and need to drive out every night.

That did not sit well with Councilman Dino Davis, who questioned why the city would want to cater to workers “desperate to get out” of Bremerton after work.

“Are we in the business of designing a city for those who do not care to stay in the city longer than they’re required for their job, or are we trying to improve our city for the people that do live in our city and invest in our city?

I’ve talked to many people since the meeting that were intrigued by Davis’ standpoint. If nothing else, it provides a useful starting point when thinking about Bremerton’s developing downtown. The city is changing. Who are we building it for, and why?

There’s a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. June 12 at the Norm Dicks Government Center to go over the options for Washington Avenue’s improvements. There, it is likely the debate over bulbous boulevards will continue.

Bremerton drivers beware: Cops keep an eye on those carpool lanes

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Bremerton police nabbed 24 drivers in just over an hour for driving solo in the HOV lane. Photo by Bremerton police.

Bremerton police officers made a curious discovery last Thursday while patrolling the carpool lanes on Navy Yard Highway. As they peered into one of the cars they stopped, they noticed the driver, alone, had a carseat riding shotgun, with a blanket over it.    

And they found this not once, but twice, after only an hour and 15 minutes of patrolling.

In total, five officers trolled the carpool, or High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane, on Highway 304 between 3:45-5 p.m. The officers sat in traffic and watched for cars to go by in the carpool lane that looked like they had only one occupant. The HOV violations added up quickly, and by the time it was over, 24 tickets had been written.

“There are few traffic violations that make peoples’ blood boil more than High Occupancy Vehicle lane violations,” Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan wrote in his weekly update. “While traffic is backed up and stop-and-go for people following the law, drivers by themselves in the HOV lane go flying by, effectively saying to everyone else that their time is simply more important than yours.”

Strachan also noted that by their presence, traffic actually moved more smoothly as less cars moved along the HOV lane.

And it won’t be the last time police will be out there.

“We will be doing this again,” Strachan wrote. “The word will start to get around.”