Any hope for Highway 305 commuter congestion relief?

The in basket:   J. B. Holcomb of Bainbridge Island writes, “Something has to be done about the heavy traffic on (Highway) 305 between the ferry terminal on Bainbridge and Poulsbo.
“After a ferry arrives from Seattle, especially between 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., it is now the norm DAILY, and year around, that it is bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way to Poulsbo, only slightly relieved at the Suquamish/casino intersection.
“At intersections along the way and without a traffic signal, it is not uncommon to wait between 10 and 25 minutes to obtain access onto 305. Last week, I spent 20 minutes between Day Road and the Suquamish traffic signal, a distance of about three miles.
“We now have a large, indeed huge, urban metropolitan area commuter/transportation problem, when, not too many years ago around here, this was non-existent. Where are the complaints about this?  Why are people complacent about this?  Why should we tolerate this?
“Maybe a ban on truck traffic during these times?  How about a ban on one person in an auto during these times (if legal)? Subsidized home-office workers?  Flex-time work hours for persons employed in Seattle having a West Sound home?
“Any suggestions?”
The out basket: I had always ducked experiencing this, not wanting to spend an hour in bumper to bumper traffic. But twice in August, my wife and I motored up to the island from my South Kitsap home, with the intent of following a ferry load of traffic north.
Once was an ordinary Wednesday and a ferry that arrived a little after 4. The second was a Seahawks game day Friday, and a ferry that came in about 7:15. Each time I waited until very near the end of the off-load before joining the flow.
The first thing I noticed is the traffic signal just downhill from Winslow Way, that allows pedestrians to cross during ferry off-loads. It was a fairly long light and I would think it would provide long breaks in traffic on 305 to allow side-street traffic chances to get onto the highway. That, of course, would assume corresponding breaks in southbound 305 traffic, which may often be wishful thinking.
While I don’t doubt that it can be as bad as J.B, describes, neither day did I experience it. It took me 26 minutes to reach Poulsbo on the Wednesday, with bumper to bumper traffic from Hidden Cove Road to Suquamish Way. It took only 16 minutes on the Friday, with little bumper to bumper slowdown.
On the way south to the ferry terminal about 5 p.m. that Friday, we did see oncoming bumper to bumper northbound traffic for sizable distances,  There was some bumper to bumper southbound traffic, as well, probably due to the Seahawks game.
I’m sure it’s somewhere between irritating and infuriating to have to travel that gauntlet every afternoon, but I think J.B. will just have to get used to it.
Everything I’ve read or heard over the years tells me all really plausible relief, whether widening Highway 305 and the Agate Pass Bridge or moving the ferry terminal to Blakely Harbor and bridging to the Illahee area, are opposed by most islanders.
I asked Claudia Bingham-Baker of the state highway’s Olympic region is that’s what the state hears and she declined to characterize it one way or the other.
She did say, “We agree with your reader that traffic is heavy on SR 305, especially between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on weekdays.
“WSDOT, in partnership with the cities of Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo, Kitsap Transit, Port Madison Enterprises (Suquamish Tribe), Kitsap County and the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, recently completed a study on how to improve traffic flow through the SR 305/Suquamish Intersection.
“The study determined that the best long-term (20-year) solution for congestion relief at that intersection was to build a roundabout. However, we have no funding to build a roundabout and are currently looking for funding to build an interim solution – a right-lane turn from westbound SR 305 to northbound Suquamish Way.
“Beyond the intersection, we have no plans or funding to provide added capacity to SR 305.”
Barry Loveless, public works director for  Bainbridge Island, says the city councils of Bainbridge and Poulsbo support a list of proposed improvements to 305, but the list he sent me has few specifics, beyond undescribed work at the intersections, and all have a six- to 10-year time line, even work at Suquamish Way.
I’m sure there are individual efforts to encourage tele-commuting and flex-time, but I think there would be longer and louder howls of anger about restricting trucks and one-occupant vehicles than there are about the daily backups.

7 thoughts on “Any hope for Highway 305 commuter congestion relief?

  1. You know one of the biggest problems with that road and it goes the same for the road to and from Kingston, is now that the traffic is heavy, (the heavy traffic is not going anywhere), The biggest problems is the drivers who commute to and from there that think they should drive 5-10 mph under the speed limit. I cant count how many times I have traveled on both of those roads during heavy commute or even when its not heavy and have driven 10 mph under the speed limit. You write a ticket for those who hinder traffic and traffic will speed up. But that is my opinion….

  2. Another thing that slows down traffic is the busses. After the bus stop by day road coming off of the island, (according to Kitsap transit) there is not enough shoulder for the busses to pull off the road safely to drop off and pick up passengers. So the bus (route 90) simply stops dead in the middle of the road.

  3. Travis Baker, you got lucky on your exploratory trip to BI to check out the traffic. If you really want to know try to hit the commute hours:6:00am – 9:00am / 3:00pm – 7:00pm. I would like Drew Hansen, Christine Rolfes, Sherrie Appelton and Gov. Inslee to drive the route for a week during those hours. This gridlock affects other roads as well as drivers who know the island try to race to the highway at a more northern intersection. What that does is route the traffic to secondary roads:Madison to Phelps, to Hidden Cover, also High School Road and MIller Road. First you hear the roar of the motorcycles, then the buses spewing their diesel fumes, then come the cars, they probably ace out 5 or 10 cars. They are racing through what are residential streets with homes that exit on those streets. We have had at times stood on the side of the road in order to halt the traffic so we could exit our driveway!

    B. Holcomb is correct the traffic on HI 305 is horrendous and it is not going to get any better so why stick your head in the sand and say,”No plan, No money.” There is only one highway off the island and only one bridge. The bridge is now 64 years old, do we wait until it crumbles or do you plan for it’s demise? Is anyone thinking of acquiring property to widen the highway? Is anyone thinking again about a bridge to Ilahee? It would open up the Bremerton area, take the heat off highway 305 and make that ferry run profitable.
    How about a toll road on the highway to bank some money for what we know will be a huge expense? How about some pot money to bank for this expense? A roundabout will just be an expense that really isn’t going to solve the problem.
    And to Gregg,do you have a suggestion? I am not a newcomer but a 44+ year resident. Most of this traffic is going OFF the island so it is not just an island problem it is one that affects all of Kitsap Co. and beyond.

  4. I assume that extending the red light period for secondary traffic entering from Suquamish Way NE or the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort onto Highway 305 would improve the backup on Highway 305 significantly; i.e., by extending the green light for the more significant and extensive traffic on Highway 305 to Poulsbo.

  5. It seems to me that the problem is that too many people still insist on driving their cars all the way to the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal. This, in part, remains so because the public transit option (taking the bus) is not really any faster in most cases. So what if we made the bus option faster and, therefore, more attractive?
    The cost of widening (read replacing) the Agate Pass Bridge is probably prohibitive in the current political climate. So what about widening 305 from the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal to the Agate Pass Bridge to include a central bus lane? During the AM, buses would use this lane to travel to the ferry terminal; during the PM, buses would use this lane to travel away from the ferry terminal. As with other parts of the Kitsap bus system, put automatic signal control systems on the buses so that they would have priority at the signals along this stretch of 305, speeding their movement. A signal at the Agate Pass Bridge would assure that these buses have priority crossing the bridge. In addition, lease some of the Casino parking space to be used as a Park-and-Ride with bus service to the ferry terminal. My assumption is that this would both decrease congestion on Bainbridge Island (and therefore the frequency of traffic accidents) and decrease travel time and parking cost for those willing to use public transit.

  6. I have commuted from Poulsbo to Seattle via the BI ferry since 1988. The commute home from the ferry terminal has stretched from a 20 minute ride to a minimum of 35 to 40 minutes and even taking up to an hour during summer seasons. It is frustrating to know that no one plans to take any actions. While traffic backs up at each light along the island, it is obvious that the biggest problem is the intersection at the casino. As soon as you cross the bridge and get through the light, it becomes a fast ride again. Do you have any suggestions for actions we might take as a group to get something going?

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