Bremerton’s Washington Avenue in for more changesOctober 8th, 2013 by travis baker
The in basket: Old friend Nick Garguile was on the phone the other day with a suggestion I’ve heard before, from Willadean Howell and others.
Make the outside lane of Washington Avenue in Bremerton a right turn only lane, Nick said, to keep cars heading straight through and waiting at a red light from delaying those who want to turn right and otherwise could, .
I had to break the news to Nick that not only won’t that happen, but the city plans to turn Washington Avenue between Sixth and the Manette Bridge into a single lane each way. It’s schedule to be done in 2015 and they are weighing whether to put a roundabout at the downtown end of the Manette Bridge.
Making southbound Washington one lane struck me as an unneeded concession to pedestrians and bicyclists. Cutting the northbound direction to a single lane will provide a widened sidewalk and bike lane on the east side of Washington that could accommodate both directions of bike and pedestrian travel, and probably will, since it flows right into the pedestrian/bike path on the bridge.
I made my argument to Gunnar Fridriksson, managing engineer for streets for the city of Bremerton, who is involved in the planning for the changes. He had sent me traffic studies for Washington on either side of Sixth, which he said disprove my belief, but which appeared to me to show nearly no pedestrian or bicycle use on that side of the street.
The out basket: After an exchange of e-mails, Gunnar sat down with me after work and addressed my point of view. He had an answer for pretty much everything.
“One lane of traffic can comfortably support between 14,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day,” he said. “We are not
coming close to that. So basically we are paying to maintain a lot of asphalt out here that is not needed for vehicle traffic, but we have pedestrians and bicyclists who are not being accommodated, and we have shy distance requirements not being met, not only for the barrier in the roadway, but also for pedestrians with the size of the retaining walls on the west side.”
He then went into “the evolving philosophy
regarding streets and what user expectations are. Remember,” he said, “not too long ago everything was all about capacity and getting vehicles as fast as possible from point A to point B with little regard for most other modes of transportation, or the community it was bisecting.” That’s no longer true, he said.
The “shy distance” he mentioned above deals with the impact a narrow passage has on pedestrian and driver behavior, and I imagine is a term with origins in what makes horses shy away.
Its application here has to do with the high wall alongside southbound Washington, which can make pedestrians uncomfortable, and the center barrier’s close proximity to the driving lanes. A wider sidewalk and single lane will address both issues.
And, of course, there are the voluminous federal and state guidelines and requirements that local governments ignore at their own risk. He referred me to one at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/publications/sidewalks/chap4a.cfm. It went on for pages with regulations or recommendations, mostly to accommodate pedestrians and the disabled.
For example, “Accessible pedestrian facilities should be considered part of every new public right-of-way project where pedestrians are permitted,” it says. “Sidewalk installation and the linking of pedestrian routes to transportation stops and major corridors should always be a priority. The decision to install sidewalks should not be optional.” That’s from the Federal Highway Administration, a major money source for roadways.
And this: “Passing space (on a sidewalk) is defined as a section of path wide enough to allow two wheelchair users to pass one another or travel abreast The passing space provided should also be designed to allow one wheelchair user to turn in a complete circle.
It would be illegal for bicycles to travel against traffic, so I guess there is no way around adding a bike lane in both directions. And the city probably couldn’t meet that “passing space” requirement on just the east side of the street for those walking in either direction.
While it seems to me that accommodating pedestrians, the disabled and bicycles in street improvements is a worthwhile goal, it shouldn’t require eliminating amenities that benefit drivers, like the chance to make that outside lane a right turn only lane.
But I guess that’s out-dated thinking by an oldster who drives but never bikes and rarely walks very far.