Need for new Illahee Road guardrail questioned

The in basket: Bryant Arnold wonders about

some new guardrail he has seen near Bremerton.

“Heading south out of Illahee, climbing the hill towards Trenton,” he said. “we are now the proud owners of new guardrails!

“Having driven that road at least twice a day for the past 12 years I cannot remember ever seeing anyone at the bottom of a ravine, but giving the county the benefit of the doubt how many lives have been lost on that stretch of road?

“Could that money not have been used for a more dangerous problem? Who authorized it and what were their thoughts?”

The out basket: I have driven that stretch far less often than Bryant, but I’m not a total stranger to it and I can’t say I agree with his notion that guardrails are unwarranted there.

In several spots, running off the east side of the road to the east has the potential for rolling one’s car several times unless some trees stop you.

In fact, Bryant said that within a week of his contacting me in early January, a car did run off one of the unprotected spots, but was still visible from the road.

I think a better question is what commended the three sites on that downgrade that recently got guard rail over the four or five comparable drop-offs that didn’t.

The out basket: Kitsap County Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea says, “Running off the road is historically the most frequent type of collision on county roads. The danger increases when you run off the road and hit a fixed object or roll over on an embankment, often resulting in injury, and in some cases fatalities.

“We are working to bring all county roads up to clear-zone standards by eliminating safety issues or protecting motorists from the hazards with barriers such as guardrail.

“We dedicate funds every other year for installing and upgrading guardrail.

“We use very specific (criteria) for guardrail installation.  Our primary focus is on long steep embankments on higher speed (35 MPH or more) roadways, and high-volume roads. The area of Illahee Road to which your reader refers has a long steep embankment, exacerbated by seasonal standing water at the bottom of the slope.  Combined with the speed limit (35 mph) there, the fact that it is an arterial road, and an average daily volume of over 2,000 vehicles, installing guardrail there makes the road safer.”

There is a set amount of funding available each year for our guardrail program. This requires us to prioritize locations at which we make guardrail upgrades or installations. If we had unlimited funding we probably would have installed guardrail at each location you noted. With limited funding we had to make some choices.

“The rail above the mobile home park was installed because of the curve it is near, and recent collision history of a vehicle going down that slope. Two other locations, nearer the bottom of the hill, were chosen because of the combination of the long steep slope and the water hazards at the bottom.”

I had seen what looked like storm damage repair at the sight at which guardrail was installed on both sides of the road and guessed that emergency management money might have paid for that, but I guessed wrong.

Jeff says, “The uphill location, though not as steep as others, has a storm water device in it which allows water levels to rise. The combined slope with the possibility of standing water put this location on a higher priority than others.”

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