Bremerton’s Washington Avenue in for more changes

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.

9 thoughts on “Bremerton’s Washington Avenue in for more changes

  1. A roundabout at the west end of the Mannett Bridge would move single lane traffic on Washington Ave easily…just as the one on the east end is doing now, and there’s room to build one.

    By 2015, we’ll wonder while this project wasn’t done next year instead of the Lower Wheaton project.

  2. Are these the same genious’s that came up with the nightmare on Wheaton between Burwell and 6th? I can see that looking at overall traffic pattern numbers can garner some useful data but not taking into account the influx and exit of a very large employer in the Shipyard during peak travel times to be somewhat questionable.

    It seems that all of the raod work done downtown from the medallion/ cross street size reduction on 4th and park, the Wheaton Way squeeze to the planned replacement of the stop light on Park and 6th with a four way stop, and now this reduction in outgoing lanes, to be in total disregard for the largest employer in Bremerton.

    Do they even get out on the streets during those peak traffic times and see what it is like trying to get out of town?

  3. The operative word is “new” and these are existing streets. I would expect cars on the bridge will be backed up as drivers northbound on Washington continue to 11th Street.

  4. OMG! More booby traps to keep ferry traffic IN downtown Bremerton and another reason to stay OUT of downtown!

    Are there plans to give back the land to the property owners along the street? The same properties who gave up large amounts of their yards and driveways nearly 50 years ago to create the wider streets?

    Boo hiss! This is a bad idea!

  5. Ah, as the mayor continues her quest to minimize, if not eliminate traffic in her “core” area, I wonder where all the money is coming from. I did see in the sun that Adam Brockus suggested money be moved from the utility tax to the street fund pile, no doubt to augment the increase in license fees. It just seems to me that our tax money (yes, the grants are tax monies) could be better spent on projects to make Bremerton more desirable, rather than to increase congestion. Maybe even clean out the weeds that are taking over the green areas that are popping up everywhere. No doubt C. Bozeman will suggest another tax increase as he has done to pay for parks. This from a guy who abandonded the mayors office. Maybe the “fire for public service that burned in his belly” died

  6. “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.”

    You are absolutely right Travis. They are just going to make us old foggies get with the biking society whether we like it or not.

  7. A few comments on what I am reading above.

    I also find the focus of the Public Works mentality to decrease access to downtown at the expense of cars and delivery vehicles to be very concerning. I don’t agree with it and have voiced my opinion as such.

    For as many answers to everything that seemed to be had on this particular project by public works and the emphasis on sidewalks and features being ADA compliant, the very fact that a portion of the sidewalk that was just installed next to Kiwanis Park that has a telephone pole sitting within a significant section of it so that the reduced width is no longer ADA compliant tells another story all together.

    As far as weeds go, most of that is occurring because of features installed under Mr. Bozeman’s time as Mayor. He chose to run nothing through the parks department in regards to green features and what plants should be used so as to NOT create all the problems that we have now.

    The citizens of Bremerton are currently working on an effort to clean up the Gateway area and are working with the city for traffic control during the clean up efforts. More information can be had at the groups Facebook page here for the event that will occur on October 26th.. https://www.facebook.com/volunteerinbremerton

    Yes, Mr Bozeman is currently engaging in a PR tour about Parks and Funding. A levy option is HIS idea and support for it is marginal at best. For a much more complete picture of the work currently underway by the volunteer, citizen appointed Parks and Recreation Commission, please feel free to attend our meetings. The schedule is posted here.. http://www.ci.bremerton.wa.us/display.php?id=516
    Also feel free to email the parks commission with your suggestions and or thoughts. We are currently working on updating the Open Spaces Master Plan. The ability and or necessity for the pursuit of public grants does in fact hinge heavily on what this document does or does not contain. Citizen contributions that have been collected so far have already had nearly a 180 degree impact on the mentality and focus away from what was used to construct the previous 2007 document. An increased number of citizen contributions will continue to drive the how, why and where future of Bremerton Parks and Recreation.

  8. To Ms. Smidt: You can place the idea to eliminate vehicles in what is left of the “core” area at the mayors feet – both Bozeman and Lent. Bozeman started it by routing traffic away by means of the tunnel, so therefore there was minimal traffic along Pacific and other side streets where businesses might prosper. Along comes Ms. Lent (after CB abandonded his post) and continues to stangle traffic flow by narrowing the streets and installing bulb outs everywhere. I don’t know how Warren Ave. escaped the bulb out craze. One of her brighter PW engineers said in the Sun “if you design for traffic, you get traffic.” Too bad there aren’t any in the PW department who have the skills to design for vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
    The Washington Ave. revamp to two lanes will certainly clog traffic even more, especially during commuter hour. Even now with two lanes, traffic backs up to First.
    Already it can easily take 10 minutes to travel from 4th and Park to Warren, simply due to the blocking off of 4th and 5th streets, and the poor timing of the traffic lights.
    As for the weeding, kudos to the public who will get on their hands and knees, with their own tools, to try and clean the eyesores Bozeman left. I didn’t see any mention in the Sun article of any public officials lending a hand. Probably way too far beneath them.
    Ms. Lent can absolutely take credit for all the projects after she took office. After all, she proclaimed she was going to be “a strong mayor.” And the lights across Fourth are tacky. Funny that she continues to seek Mr. Bozeman’s council on parks (raise taxes, he says.)

  9. Bremerton doesn’t have an evolving philosophy. It has leadership challenges. Every facet of the government has a citizen advisory council, because of the inadequate leadership.

    Here’s some things that would be much worse than they presently are, like your water rates, parks, schools, police, and the ability to get to work every day, if you didn’t have some residents standing over the city council and mayor, with a wooden paddle.

    Rather than to worry about improving pedestrian traffic, the roads should be repaved and enhanced for high occupancy vehicles, and there should be more short bus shuttle routes in this area. The existing sidewalks are more than adequate. What needs to happen is code enforcement and property clean ups.

    These pedestrian improvements are nothing more than an additional chapter in local government job welfare, for the public works department.

    It is truly unfortunate that there are people like Jane, Colleen, Robert, Strube, and others working their butt’s off, while paid city employees continue to goof off.

    Only now at the election time is stuff truly getting done. This dipstick project is one of those things that shouldn’t be moving forward.

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