More details about Bainbridge’s cross-island trailOctober 22nd, 2013 by tristan baurick
I recently wrote about how Bainbridge is in-line to receive federal money to begin work on the Sound to Olympics Greenway Trail, an ambitious bike and pedestrian pathway that could stretch from Winslow to the Agate Pass Bridge, and then across North Kitsap to the Hood Canal bridge. For non-motorized transportation advocates, the trail would be akin to the Burke-Gilman Trail, a popular pathway through Seattle and King County.
The story sparked some good questions from readers.
Chief among the questions was why the likely award of $1.6 million would pay for just a half mile of trail – a section starting at Winslow Way and ending at the steel pedestrian bridge near the Vineyard Lane housing development (the section is marked in green on the map to the right).
I posed the question to Bainbridge’s engineering manager, Chris Hammer.
“It is a lot of money, but one challenge we have is the terrain,” he said.
Much of the construction cost would go toward cutting back a steep bank along the east side of the highway. Because the trail would be in a state highway right-of-way, the state’s rigorous transportation requirements would apply. That means the trail would need to be at least 12 feet wide and have a grade that meets the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The trail would need to be wide and fairly flat – and that’s not easy or inexpensive to accomplish on this first stretch of the trail, Hammer said.
Money would be leftover to cover design work for about another half mile – from the bridge to High School Road (marked in blue on the map)
Other readers questioned how the federal government could be spending more than a million dollars on a trail when, at the time of the story, the government was in shutdown mode.
Simply put, the money had been appropriated long before the shutdown. The federal government gave the Puget Sound Regional Council $17 million to spend on its Transportation Alternatives Program, which is aimed at making bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the four-county area PSRC serves.
Another big question is what route the trail will take once it reaches High School Road.
Bainbridge City Councilwoman Debbi Lester, who led the local effort to acquire the federal funding, would like to see the trail duck under the highway via a short tunnel and then continue north along the highway’s more-populated west side.
The west side has the bulk of Winslow’s homes and businesses, as well as several schools at Winslow’s north edges. Lester would like to see the trail used not just for recreation and drawing tourists, but as a viable transportation alternative for getting to school and running errands.
“The goal is to move about safely,” said Lester, who is leaving the council at the end of the year. “Too many incidents have happened on 305 and the side roads. It’s time to make safe passage for walkers and bicyclists.”
The west side has a ready-made route in the form of old county road right-of-ways that run parallel to 305. They’ve grown over and are largely forgotten, but Lester says they’re still active public right-of-ways. They could be cleared, paved and transformed into a new non-motorized highway, Lester said. Following an old county road would take the trail through at least one park – Meigs Farm, 90 acres worth of undeveloped open space along the highway.
The process of stretching the trail across the island will take years and a good deal of money, but Lester said it was important to get started – even if the start is a humble half mile.
“The key was to get out of the gate,” she said. “Once a project is initiated, it’s a better candidate for future grants.”