Why can’t cars leaving ferry use ramp to Washington Avenue?

The in basket: Tim Trembley, a 20-year commuter on the Bremerton ferry, says, “I have a question about the exit ramp from the ferry terminal to Washington Avenue.  

“Back when the state was surveying people about the tunnel project, we were told that drivers would still be able to exit to Washington Avenue after the tunnel was built.  Then, after the tunnel was built, we were told that in order to kept cars and pedestrians separate on Washington Avenue that all traffic exiting the ferry would have to use the tunnel.  

“Then they re-routed the ferry drop-off traffic down Washington Avenue. So what is the ‘official’ reason offloading traffic can’t use Washington Avenue? Is this the state’s ramp to nowhere?”

The out basket: I don’t know if many people take advantage of the fact they can continue past Second Street, the designated ferry drop-off point, and curve onto First Street to get closer to the ferry terminal to drop off or pick up ferry passengers. It’s not intended that they do.

But Brenden Clarke, project engineer for the tunnel, explains the rationale for allowing so little use of the ramp:

“The driving force behind the decision to route all vehicle traffic through the tunnel is overall safety – for pedestrians and motorists,” he said.

“Pedestrian traffic downtown continues to increase as a result of recent development in Bremerton, new parks, a marina, condominiums and local businesses.

“The primary issue that concerns engineers is the three streams of traffic that conflict at the Washington Avenue/First Street intersection during peak-commute times: buses exiting the transit station; pedestrian traffic (ferry riders, shipyard workers, business patrons); and vehicles offloading from the ferry.

Additional considerations, he said, are:

– There are line-of-sight concerns for buses and off-loading vehicle traffic at the Washington Avenue/First Street intersection due to grade separation and a retaining wall between the ferry terminal and the transit deck.

– Off-loading vehicles have only a short distance to get into the appropriate lane approaching the tunnel. This creates potential for weaving conflicts (a recognized accident cause) or vehicles stopping and blocking off-loading traffic while waiting for a gap to enter the proper lane.

– Line of sight is less than ideal for off-loading vehicles because the lanes wind around the piers supporting the transit deck.

The ramp was constructed to full standards, he said, in case an accident or something else closed the tunnel and all traffic had to use the ramp to Washington. Otherwise, only bicyclists can use it.

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