Tag Archives: rush hour

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.

A ‘No’ and a great big ‘Yes!’ for Highway 304 HOV lane

The in basket: Jo Webb has a suggestion for where the three lanes of Highway 304 leading out of Bremerton constrict to one at Highway 3.

“I work in Bremerton and have the misfortune of commuting via Highway 304 (the Navy Yard Highway) regularly,” she said. “As you are probably aware, there (is) one exit-only to Silverdale, one HOV lane, and the one lane that merges with the HOV lane, heading to Tacoma.

“In addition, I am sure you are aware of the backup of traffic in the merging lane, the little use the HOV lane gets, as well as the lack of enforcement by the police…. Coupled with this are those who pass everyone on the right in the exit-only lane and then rudely pull in front of people who have patiently waited. Tempers flare.

“My question,” she said, “has it ever been considered to put in metered lights, i.e., (red) lights for the two lanes allowing so many cars through for one lane and then switching, allowing the same number of cars through from the other lane? It seems to me it would reduce the congestion and move the traffic through a little more efficiently.”

The out basket: The big news in this reply is in the final two paragraphs, so be sure to read on, or at least skip down to there.

I occasionally hear requests for metered signals in that area, including five years ago when Joel Dahlke suggested them on the lanes coming south on Highway 3 and merging with 304. I have to report that cameras to show the signal operators how traffic is flowing are an integral part of any metering system, so they can set the best interval for the changing of the lights. There are no traffic cameras at that interchange.

It also seems to me that the suggested change would create ideal conditions for rear-end accidents as unexpected stopping of traffic would result.

But Steve Bennett, operations engineer for the Olympic Region of state highways, had a different reasons to say no this time.

“The first reason is that there are no funds identified by the Legislature in which to construct such a system,” he said. “Secondly, metering the HOV lane defeats the purpose of the HOV lane by eliminating any advantage that lane might have over the general purpose lane.”

But there is other, good news about those 304 HOV lanes. The state has finally concluded it can make them HOV lanes only during rush hour, Steve said.

“Because of requests from Navy and the city, we have agreed to change the HOV hours from all day to 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday,” he said. “In other words, during non-peak hours that lane will operate as a general purpose lane. We expect the switch over to occur in mid-November.”


Would lane barrier in Gorst help morning commute?

The in basket: Phil Seratt, who must contend with the morning rush hour slowdowns in Gorst as three lanes of traffic heading north shrink to two, suggested installation of a barrier to separate the two through-lanes of travel as a driver nears the railroad overpass.

“I am not an expert,” he said,”but it would seem to me that the left lane would be able to continue moving while the right lanes are merging.

“As it is, people driving in left lane want to stop for the people in the two right lanes to merge.”

The out basket: It had been years since I’d been through Gorst in the early morning. Working from home for four years and then retiring as anything but a freelance columnist in 2007 will do that.

So I visited that spot on June 29. Sure enough, the free flow of traffic at 6:15 a.m. was backed up to the Mattress Ranch by 6:40. It didn’t back up any further and traffic was flowing well again by 7, but school was out for the summer, so it’s probably worse in the winter.

Even so, I didn’t even have to ask my state sources about Phil’s idea. Off the top of my head, I told him that a stationary barrier of concrete or water-filled plastic would narrow the through lanes by two feet or more, require a cushioning structure to minimize injury when vehicles hit its leading edge and trap vehicles behind a disabled car in the inside lane. 

Worse, it would be in place all day every day, preventing the common driver courtesy of moving over to allow for merging traffic ahead, which would increase the likelihood of accidents in the remaining lanes.

A row of upright pylons instead of a continuous barrier would do the same, and present a maintenance and replacement headache when they are knocked over.

It also seemed unlikely the state would stand the expense of either to deal with a short daily period of congestion. 

Steve Bennett of the region’s highway engineers agreed with my analysis, but said a solid barrier takes closer to six feet in width than two.

I did get a surprise in that I’d never gotten a complaint about the drivers who scoot past the backup in the outside lane, which is about to end, then merge into traffic. That maneuver generates regular objections about drivers who do it in the afternoons on southbound Highway 3 in front of Parr Ford and the city sewer plant.