Tag Archives: Bainbridge

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.

Uphill ride from BI ferry terminal gets bicycle-unfriendly

The in basket: Casper “Cap” Lane bicycles to and from Seattle on the Bainbridge Island ferry and finds a fairly comfortable ride up Highway 305 after disembarking in Winslow turning into a hairy competition with cars just uphill from where a bridge appears just off the shoulder, running parallel to the highway

Beyond the end of the bridge, on which he says bicycles are expected to be walked, not ridden, the shoulder pretty much disappears and bicyclists are in more danger of being hit by cars. I imagine a lot of those cars are traveling pretty fast, based on those I’ve seen leaving ferries elsewhere, especially at rush hour.

He wonders if there is any hope of extending the shoulder from the terminal all the way up to High School Road.

The out basket: There is hope, as the city is working on just that, but another spot will be done first.

K. Chris Hammer, engineering manager for the city of Bainbridge Island public works, says, “We expect to receive a State Ped-Bike program grant for Olympic Drive between Winslow Way and Harborview.” That’s down close to the ferry landing.

“The City is also pursuing grant opportunities for the ‘next mile’ of the Sound-to-Olympics trail along SR305 between Winslow Way and High School road,” Chris said. “This project would provide for a separated pathway.”


Signs to BI ferry could be more helpful

The in basket: Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern said in an e-mail, “I notice on Highway 3, the signs for the Bremerton ferry in the vicinity of Bremerton all read ‘Seattle Ferry’ – very helpful and illustrative, especially for our out-of-town travelers, of which we have more than a few, especially in the summer.

“However, when approaching the Poulsbo/Kingston exits on Highway 3, it reads instead ‘Bainbridge Ferry’ and not the more informative ‘Seattle Ferry’. I have to ask why?”

The out basket: I can’t say why, but Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for state highways here, says, “We can look at a sign redesign when the sign is up for replacement. We don’t want to spend the money now as the sign is relatively new and we have not had any other complaints.

“Also, we do have ‘Seattle Ferry’ signs on the beginning of Highway 305,” he said.

Mystery X on highway is for aerial mapping

The in basket: One day a few months ago, I was leaving Bremerton on Highway 304 one afternoon when I saw a fellow next to an unmarked white pickup truck using a blowtorch to secure a large thermoplastic X to the shoulder of the highway.

By the time I decided I should ask him what the X is for, I had to drive all the way to Gorst to get turned around and he was gone by the time I got back.

The X is right next to a domed access to something underground, with an antenna on it. This week I decided to renew my efforts to find out what the X is for.

The out basket: I should be able to see similar Xs all over the county, said Bremerton engineers Ned Lever and Gunnar Fridriksson. They are part of an aerial mapping project led by King County.  The photos will be used for all manner of governmental project designing.

It’s just a coincidence the Highway 304 X is right next to an access into a city of Bremerton sewer pump station, the domed structure I saw, Ned said.

Diane Mark, Kitsap County’s person working on the aerial mapping project, sent me the following from King County’s  project manager for the work.

“The project is being coordinated locally by Kitsap County GIS, and includes participation by the cities of Bremerton, Bainbridge Island, and Poulsbo. Other participating agencies include North Kitsap Fire & Rescue, Bainbridge Island Fire Department, Bainbridge (parks), Bainbridge Island Land Trust, the Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes, West Sound Utility District and Kitsap Public Utility District.

“The project includes acquisition of imagery at three resolution levels across a broad area that encompasses all of King and Kitsap counties and large portions of other adjacent counties.”

Councilmen ask about BI right turn signs and Highway 305 ferry signs

No Right Turn sign hard to see on wire above intersection
No Right Turn on Red signis on wire above the intersection

The in basket: A couple of city councilmen from Kitsap County’s north end recently asked the Road Warrior for help with problems they had spotted in the area, and I was happy to oblige.

Bill Knobloch of Bainbridge Island was the first, appealing for help in February for a situation in which he’d found the state intransigent. Citizen Paul Sanders had brought it to his attention.

“I am writing you as a result of a lost-in-translation communication with WSDOT concerning a continuing problem that directly affects the pocket book of many of my constituents,” Bill said. Right turns on red are prohibited from Highway 305 heading away from downtown onto Madison Avenue, but only by a small sign hanging from the wire that supports the traffic signal heads on 305, he said. Meanwhile, a more obvious sign on the roadside limits the right lane to right turns.

“Considering the existing signs at the side of the highway just prior to the right hand turn, it appears to be a setup for the ordinary driver who will follow the ‘right turn only’ while not having the average scan to see the little white sign saying ‘no turn on red,’ Bill said.

The state had refused to add to the signage due to “current sign congestion.”

This summer Ed Stern of the Poulsbo council sent me the following: “I notice on Highway 3, the signs for the Bremerton Ferry in the vicinity of Bremerton, all read ‘Seattle Ferry’ — very helpful and illustrative, especially for our out-of-town travelers of which we have more than a few, especially in the summer.

“However, when approaching the Poulsbo/Kingston exits on Highway 3, it reads ‘Bainbridge Ferry’ and not the more informative ‘Seattle Ferry’. I have to ask why?”

The out basket: Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region of WSDOT, sent me an e-mail on Aug. 19 saying, “I wanted you to know that we will be ordering a second No Turn On Red sign to be placed on the side of the highway (305)….  I would expect that the sign will be installed next month.” Perhaps it already has been.

Steve more or less concedes Ed’s point, but says it doesn’t rate high on the list of problems his department hopes to address quickly “We can look at a sign redesign when the sign is up for replacement,” he said. “We don’t want to spend the money now as the sign is relatively new and we have not had any other complaints.

“Also,” he said. “we do have ‘Seattle Ferry’ signs on the beginning of (Highway) 305.”

Distance signs to BI called misleading

The in basket: Ed Stern of Poulsbo writes, “For years now the signs off of Highway 3 and onto Highway 305 intersection area read “Seattle Ferries 11 miles/Bainbridge Island 11 miles”.

“The Island incorporated into a city 20 years ago! That means the city of Bainbridge Island (as does the geographic island in any event!) begins on the other side of the Agate Passage Bridge, not  what was known as the city of Winslow. That means the sign should read “Bainbridge Island 5 miles (or so) / Seattle Ferries 11 miles”.

“This has bugged me for years,” he said.

The out basket: The distance to any city on those state signs is never to the edge of the city. The distance is to what is considered the city center, and all these years the state has deemed that still to be in Winslow, even though its on the far end of the city in this case, rather than somewhere in the middle as in most cities.

Steve Bennett, traffic engineer for the Olympic Region of state highways, says, “The purpose of highway signing to cities is to inform motorists where they would be able to obtain services.  In this case, it would be misleading to inform the unfamiliar motorist the city is only five miles away, only for them to arrive at that point and find no available services.”

While I was researching the question, I asked something I’ve wondered about for some time. Does Winslow exist as a legal entity of any kind now that it is just part of a larger city?

Kate Brown, senior executive secretary for Bainbridge, says it’s sometimes referred to informally, though downtown area or downtown district is as likely to be used. There no longer is any official place called Winslow on the island.

More speed limit signs needed on Highway 305, says driver

The in basket: Glenda Wagoner, who concedes that she’s the kind of driver who has generated complaints about how she passes (though she says it’s always in a legal manner), thinks there is an explanation of danger on the two-lane stretches of Highway 305 that can be reduced without reducing the speed limit. 

The state has dropped that limit from 55 to 50 mph between Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island.

Even before the announcement of that impending change, she was on the line to me saying there should be more 55 mph signs on 305, because a lot of drivers won’t go higher that 50 or even less. They miss the only sign coming out of Poulsbo southbound raising the limit and keep at the speed they were going while in Poulsbo, she contends. 

 That creates unsafe passing by drivers who know the speed limit and get anxious behind those who stay way below it, she said. 

Put up more 55 mph signs, she said in her first call. Don’t lower the speed limit, she said in her second.

The out basket: Well, says Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region of state highways, more signs she’ll get. But they’ll say 50 mph.

“We plan on placing four new speed limit signs on the corridor next month,” he said.

“As far as the speed limit goes,” he said, “our speed studies did indicate that 50 mph was the appropriate speed limit for the highway given current levels of congestion.  

“In terms of collisions, the major cause of collisions on the corridor is rear-end type accidents, and generally those are caused by inattention on the part of the trailing driver.”

Ferry line cutters citable even if just a few cars are waiting

The in basket: Bob Metcalf said he’d had contrasting experiences when trying to catch the ferry in Bremerton and Bainbridge.

In both places he was in the left lane of the approach when a sign told him he had to be in the right lane to board the ferry. He had no problem getting over in Bremerton, but when he merged right on Bainbridge, a woman ferry patron honked at him. 

When they were both through the toll booths and stopped, she got out of her car and walked over to his, scolding him and saying that had an officer seen what he did, he and the person who let him into the line could be cited for violating the state law enacted a couple of years ago to discourage cutting into the long lines at ferry terminals, like those at Bainbridge and Kingston.

Bob said the line wasn’t long on that day on Bainbridge, though. He guessed there were only three cars behind the woman he merged in front of. 

The out basket: The woman was half-right, says Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the state patrol here. 

The driver of a car heading for a ferry who cuts into the line of waiting cars is subject to a $124 fine, regardless of the number he or she may have passed before moving right. 

“They will also be (told) to go to the back of the line of cars waiting for the ferry,” she said. But the violation must have been seen by the citing officer, and would not become a part of the motorist’s driving record.

Susan Harris-Heather of the ferry system said a driver who cuts into line can wind up paying a price in inconvenience even if an officer doesn’t see it and issue a  citation.

The WSF ticket sellers are empowered to order a driver to the back of the line (without a citation) if two other drivers from the line-up say the first driver cut in back in the queue, she said.

“The driver who allowed the vehicle to merge in would not be cited for anything,” Krista said. 

And those with preferential loading (vanpools, buses, bicyclists, motorcyclists) can bypass the line. Those with disabled plates or placards usually can’t, Krista said.

“Typically, a driver with a disabled placard would have to wait in line like everyone else.  There are exceptions, however, such as a legitimate doctor’s note explaining the medical emergency or a physician-approved medical waiver.”