Any hope for Highway 305 commuter congestion relief?August 29th, 2014 by travis baker
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?
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.