Driver unimpressed with 3-304 merge proposals

The in basket: David McCloskey e-mailed to ask and comment about a state Department of Transportation study of ways to make traffic flow more smoothly west of Bremerton on the way to Gorst, including consultant work by the Parametrix company

 “Why did WSDOT spend $500,000 to use the Parametrix company instead of their own highly skilled engineers? he began, then addressed the preliminary suggestions announced in May and added his own.

“Five of the suggestions most likely will not work, just forcing the traffic backup more towards Gorst,” he said. . “My fix would be to place a metering light at the Auto Center Way exit and make Highway 3 two lanes all the way through. Get rid of the 304 HOV lane in front of the ship yard (1% usage at 3-6pm).

“Spending this money was HOGWASH, with no improvements seen till next year. We need a resolve now. I have driven this route for five years already. The highway speeds reduce to 5 mph.” 

Except for one, those preliminary recommendations are limited to modifying the existing merge by adding lanes where there is room for more and letting both lanes of Highway 3 flow under the Highway 304 overpass,

The other one would create a third lane from the interchange all the way to Gorst, which would entail cutting into the rock cliffs that line the highway now.

A state Web site says a workshop will be held this summer to choose one of the options as the best.

I passed David’s comments on to the state and asked if the third lane alternative doesn’t stand out as far and away the most expensive. It’s been proposed off and on for decades, without ever going forward.

I also asked if the workshop has been scheduled.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker of WSDOT’s Olympic Region, replied, “We do plan to hold a workshop in August, in which the stakeholders involved in the SR 3/SR 304 study will be presented the study results, including the various options being considered.  The stakeholder committee and WSDOT together will determine which option becomes the preferred alternative.

“Once the preferred alternative is identified, WSDOT will hold a public meeting to share that alternative with the public.  Neither meeting has been scheduled yet.”

David’s comments will be added to others received since the list of possible options came out, for the stakeholders’ consideration, she said.

“Cutting into the rock face adjacent to the highway to make room for the lane “(would make) that option an expensive one indeed,” Claudia said.  “Whether it would be the ‘most’ expensive option depends on what other ideas the stakeholder committee may come up with.

 “Mr. McCloskey claimed that WSDOT paid the consultant Parametrix $500,000 for the SR 3/SR 304 study rather than using their own ‘highly skilled engineers.’  We, in fact, paid Parametrix $43,000 for specialized traffic modeling services needed for the study, and we picked up the analysis process from there.  We’d like to thank Mr. McCloskey for recognizing that our engineers are highly skilled.

“Mr. McCloskey mentioned ramp meters (already being considered), making SR 3 two lanes all the way to Gorst (included in several options being studied), and getting rid of the SR 304 HOV lane (we’re looking at potential impacts of converting the HOV lane to general-purpose).

“We sympathize with drivers’ frustration that studies take a long time and design and construction of a permanent fix takes even longer. All the while, we know that people just want to get from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time.

“The purpose of the study is to identify a fix that will work not only now, but at least 20 years into the future. Even once we identify that preferred alternative, no 3-304 merge preoposals or construction funds are currently identified for the work. Until that time, we can only offer up behavioral solutions – adjust work hours to avoid peak commute times, share the ride so he can use that HOV lane, and pack patience.”

6 thoughts on “Driver unimpressed with 3-304 merge proposals

  1. “The purpose of the study is to identify a fix that will work not only now, but at least 20 years into the future.”

    But when it finally gets completed 25 years from now, then what?…

  2. I too am frustrated at the slow pace that solutions are being brought forward on the Highway 3 – 304 issue.

    If the “highly skilled experts” at WSDOT should have any time available, could they give Bremerton a hand in bringing forward better solutions for Washington Avenue than “Option 1”? That too we will live with for decades and the data supporting the project seems light and tailored just to get a bicycle related grant. Bicycle data guessed, pedestrian data guessed, insufficient data to support the 1.7 million fixing to be spent in my opinion.

  3. Has WSDOT ever considered we need to develop a new North South corridor in Kitsap County that doesn’t include Gorst?

    Does WSDOT know the volume of traffic headed to Belfair from the north? Taking that volume of traffic off HWY 3 at Chico on a new corridor following the railroad to west of Gorst would probably be an effective way to relieve the stress.

    It would also solve the coming problem of how to deal with the traffic from the future growth west of Kitsap Lake.

  4. Hi

    I have been using the Loxie Eagans entrance to southbound SR 3 between 4:30 and 5:45pm for several years now. Thanks to a column you wrote on the merging aspect at this point, I began to study it. Most often, the traffic is moving at about 5 mph; before your column, I thought it was hideous. After my study, I calmed right down.

    First, it’s a really well-designed merge. Second, the sign “right lane ends” is wrong; it is actually the left lane (which too many people are trying to get into) which ends. Third, on the absolute worst day, it has taken me no longer than six minutes to get from entering the on-ramp to getting past the 3/304 merge point. What is the big deal?

    The answer is to remove the “right lane ends” sign and simply have MERGE on each side of the point where it begins to narrow. Most of us are adults (and I don’t mean by age).

    Thanks for your always fun and/or interesting column.

    Petra Hellthaler

  5. WSDOT engineers designed the Hwy3/Hwy303 interchange, right? The biggest intersection (8 second drive from one side to the other) in the world. All of it on top of an overpass, which can’t be cheap.

    I wouldn’t be too proud of your engineers Ms Bingham-Baker

  6. Heading south on 3 approaching the right sweeping turn under the underpass, drivers with no congestion, merging or backup seem to slow from posted 50 MPH to 40 for no apparent reason. Why is this? Maybe if this mystery can be solved the back-up might start an hour later and maybe only half as bad?

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