The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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Archive for July, 2011

Driveways part of Belfair widening project

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Highway 3 through Belfair will look a lot different in a couple years. Most everyone knows the state will be widening the road, extending the left-turn lane, and adding shoulders and sidewalks. There’s another feature I didn’t realize was coming, though — driveways.
You’re probably saying, “Well, duh …,” but it’s not as obvious as it seems. A lot of the properties now have what DOT project engineer Bill Elliott calls “full frontage.” There’s no defined entry. You can pull in and out of the business anywhere you want. That’s going to end.
There’ll be sidewalks along the highway with openings for driveways. It should be a lot safer, Elliott said.
DOT announced some other changes during an open house last month. It’s a been a while since then, but they still bear mentioning.
We’ve known since 2008 that the $18.2 million available for the project won’t get it done. It was broken into two phases, originally starting at the south end where Highway 3 intersects with Highway 106. In May, that was flip-flopped. Work will begin on the north end near McDonald’s. It was determined the southern part would cost more to design and for right-of-way.
“We’re trying to deliver the biggest bang for the buck,” Elliott said.
Work isn’t expected to begin until Spring 2013, so things could change again between now and then, but the state thinks it can complete 1.72 miles of the 2.12-mile project with the money it has. Who knows when the final .45 miles — from just south of Theler Center and Belfair Elementary to Highway 106 — will get done. It depends on when the Legislature decides to fund it.
Another change announced last month pertains to how the highway will be widened. Instead of widening equally on both sides, widening will primarily be toward the west side of the road. Widening toward one side makes it easier to build and reduces impacts to the public, Elliott said. People on the west side will lose more of their property, however.
That’s the one thing that looks like it could get tricky. There’s not a ton of space between some of those businesses and Highway 3. When the road is widened, there’ll be even less room. I assume they already thought of that.
The state will advertise the project in July 2012. By the time it’s awarded, it’ll be October, Elliott said, and the bid winner will probably wait until spring and better weather to get started.


More than just a ferry

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

SoundRunner is trying to be “More than a Ferry!” so it can remain a ferry.
The Port of Kingston is putting more emphasis on marketing and special events since it resumed service on May 31. It has hired Christine Conners as a part-time event coordinator.
General manager Meisha Rouser hopes to attract commuters and non-commuters alike to the passenger-only ferry through events like Friday happy hour cruises and monthly midday trips.
The happy hours, on 5:20 p.m. trips back from Seattle, have had themes such as Mexican fiesta and Orient Express. This Friday it’ll be an ice cream social. People can hop the 4:20 sailing from Kingston to get in on the fun on the ride back.
The first Thursday of the month there’s a midday run that leaves Kingston at 11 a.m. and departs Seattle at noon, great for somebody who wants to shop or goof around downtown.
SoundRunner filled the Spirit of Kingston at $25 a pop for a fireworks cruise July 3 to Poulsbo.
Another cruise is planned for July 21, stopping to pick up folks at Port Ludlow and then tooling around for a few hours. to A sunset cruise to Point No Point and back is planned for August.
The events can only put a good light on the service that turned some people off during a bumbling first try in November. It also shows that you don’t need to be a commuter to benefit from the ferries.
“The community owns these boats,” Rouser said of the Spirit of Kingston and Kingston Express. “A big priority is the commuters, but there’s so many other things you can do with the boats.”
Boat rides to Mariners and Sounders games are also being planned.


Break out the Tesla, the electric highway’s coming

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

I guess my kid can order that Tesla he’s always dreamed about. The state’s going to have its electric highway hooked up soon.
The Department of Transportation has hired AeroVironment to transform Interstate 5 and Highway 2 into “the premier interstates of the 21st century,” according to a press release.
The Monrovia, Calif., company beat out five others vying to electrify the highways. It gets $1 million to build, install and operate nine public charging stations for electric cars. They’ll be every 40 to 60 miles on I-5 from Canada to Everett and Olympia to Oregon, and on Highway 2 between Everett and Leavenworth.
The stations, that can fully charge a car in half an hour, will be up and running by Nov. 30. They’ll be at retail locations like gas stations and shopping centers. It doesn’t say how much it’ll cost. I thought they were going to be at rest stops.
Plugging the gap on I-5 between Everett and Olympia, the federal EV Project will add charging stations. It will also install thousands of home and public charging stations in six states, including Washington. I can’t imagine they’ll be giving them away.
But, if the kid can afford a $110,000 Tesla Roadster, a charger shouldn’t be an obstacle. Right now he’s only got a couple hundred bucks saved, but once the Internet biz kicks in, the money should start piling up. Plus I bet the tax breaks will cut the price in half.
Instead of paying for his gas, I’ll be paying for electricity. I wonder if it’ll be any cheaper. If he charges up at home, and the thing can go 245 miles on a charge, there shouldn’t be much plugging in on the road. That will get him nearly to Portland and back.
The Tesla only has one gear. It doesn’t even have reverse. The engine just turns backwards. It’ll go from zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds. And you can’t even hear it running. How can you drive a car you can’t even hear?
Nevermind, I guess he’ll just have to ride his bike.