Linking old and new Belfair highways IS being studiedJanuary 23rd, 2012 by travis baker
The in basket: A Road Warrior column earlier this month about prospects for reconnecting Barney White Road’s two severed ends to create a link between the old and new Belfair highways generated a surprising amount of response and interest.
The column said there’s little chance of such a project in the foreseeable future, even though it would save miles of detouring when an .accident or weather closes one or the other of the highways.
Soon afterward Ken VanBuskirk, who serves on a Mason County transportation advisory committee, said my inquiry should have included his county. It has something along those lines in the works, and he said I should call County Engineer Brian Matthews.
Four readers assured me that Barney White Road does have a remaining stub that intersects West Belfair Valley Road. as Old Belfair Highway is known on the Kitsap side of the county line, despite my inability to find it on a map. I finally drove out and found it.
Finally Barbara Eklund of Belfair, daughter of a former Belfair postmaster, called in with a history lesson. She said Barney White Road did indeed once run all the way between the two highways but that it was severed in the first half of the last century. Neither the large Olympic landfill nor the railroad tracks there today existed in those days, she said, and the road was dirt, as were most roads of that time and as the remainder on West Belfair Valley Road still is.
Her brother used to use Barney White Road to go watch planes at what now is Bremerton National Airport, she said.
I called Brian Matthews for more information on what his office is working on.
The out basket: Brian told me that he has been instructed to study establishing a link between the two highways, but not at Barney White Road, which isn’t even in his county. Nor is providing a shorter detour route during highway closures the main motivation.
He is looking into pushing through Newkirk Road, which runs from Old Belfair Highway for half a mile as a paved county road and s little further as a private dirt road, so that it reaches Highway 3, known to some as New Belfair Highway. “I have this year to prepare a feasibility report with findings and recommendations to the county commissioners,” he said.
Such a new link would intersect Highway 3 slightly north of the railroad overpass, so it wouldn’t take that much distance off the detours when one of the highways closes.
What it would do, Brian said, is provide drivers wanting to go out North Shore Road or to some Old Belfair Highway location close to town, an alternative to adding themselves to the choking congestion in the heart of town.
It might reroute as much as 25 percent of that traffic, he said. Until the unfunded Belfair Bypass gets built, if it ever is, that would provide some relief to the backups Belfair drivers routinely face when traffic is heavy.