The in basket: I read that money has been set aside to modify the merge where highways 3 and 304 meet west of Bremerton, described in news stories as restriping to allow both lanes of Highway 3 to flow through and eliminate the merge into a single lane that now backs traffic up past the Loxie Eagans interchange during rush hour.
The stories say it will cost about $4 million. I wondered how on earth they could spend that much on restriping, until reporter Sun Ed Friedrich supplied the answer on page 1 a week ago
The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highway, says, “The work at the SR 3/SR 304 merge will be much more than just a restripe. The project will do some widening and ramp reconstruction to change the configuration of the interchange.
“When the work is complete, the two southbound SR 3 lanes will continue through the interchange (where now they narrow to one lane), and SR 304 traffic will merge onto SR 3.
“This project’s goal will be to relieve peak-hour congestion. The current timeline of this $4.2 million project is design from 2015 to 2017; construction from 2017 through 2018.”
So much for my advocacy of getting rid of the signs directing southbound Highway 3 traffic to merge left early and adding signage encouraging the “zipper” move of cars alternating at the actual merge point. With both lanes going through, there no longer will be a need for that. I don’t suppose the state is likely to introduce such a change for the three years the existing merge will continue.
I’ve long had the nagging notion that the existing interchange was different when it was built than it is now, and the Bremerton mayor of the time successfully lobbied for some modification that served the city’s interests. I asked former Mayor Gene Lobe and he said he tried to get it built with two lanes from the city but didn’t succeed.
But, in fact, says Bingham-Baker, the interchange was originally designed to allow both Highway 3 lanes to pass beneath the 304 overpass and merge to one later, but still before Highway 304 traffic met it.
In 1986, the merge point was moved back to where it is now, due to concerns about ice forming under the overpass in the winter. There was a drainage problem that created a pool under the overpass then and it was felt it would be easier for traffic in a single lane to deal with the ice when the pool froze than it would side-by-side traffic. In those days, freezing temperatures were more common than recently.
The roadway was originally built to accommodate two lanes southbound. It’s uncertain how long the two lanes crossed beneath the overpass, as they will again by 2018.