Tag Archives: Old Belfair Highway

Another idea for bypassing Belfair

The in basket: I was cleaning out old e-mails and came across one from Tom Rosendale that slipped by me completely when I received it in January 2012.

Tom had read a  Road Warrior column about an idea to keep some of the traffic that is clogging Belfair out of the town by linking Old Belfair Highway with Highway 3, sometimes called the New Belfair Highway, by extending Newkirk Road between them.

It would provide Highway 300/North Shore Road traffic a way to reach Highway 3 without having to pass through the center of Belfair.

Tom’s idea had the same goal. “I’d like to mention how wonderful and logical it would be to connect the Bear Creek-Dewatto Road, which is a feeder road from the many communities within a few miles of the county lines, to Lake Flora Road,” he said. “There would be even more people who would bypass sections of Highway 3, diminish the unnecessary congestion in Belfair, and provide them quicker access to Belfair, Port Orchard, Highway 16, and Gorst.”

Such a road would link to Highway 3 across from its intersection with Lake Flora, another mile or so north of where Newkirk Road’s extension would. I don’t know how much, if any, of such a roadway already exists, as Newkirk Road does. It wouldn’t be completely within Mason County, though, and have to be a two-county project.

But it does sound like the kind of thing Kitsap County had in mind when it build the new Lake Flora Road roundabout, citing expected increased traffic from the South Kitsap Industrial Area as an instigator.

I asked Brian Matthews, Mason County public works director, if he’d ever heard Tom’s idea before. I also asked what the study of the Newkirk Road extension, the subject of that 2012 column, had decided.

The out basket: Brian replied, “The Newkirk road connection is feasible, but would have a high cost due to the need to build retaining walls etc… No cost estimate, but (it was) just a review to determine if the road is even physically possible.

“I don’t recall Mr. Rosendale’s recommendation ever being mentioned since I’ve been with the County,” he said.

Neither idea probably would go very far if prospects of the state funding the Belfair Bypass aren’t dashed again in the Legislature. Last thing I read, on May 4, held out hope for getting between $60 million and $110 million for the bypass, which would run from Lake Flora Road to Highway 302 near Allyn.

Bremerton watershed highway needs guardrail, says reader

The in basket: Julia Benz e-mailed to say, “I’m 76 years old and have lived most of my life on the Old Belfair Highway/West Belfair Valley Road. About a year ago, there were guard rails installed near my house, in three of four different places.

“My first thought was ‘Why here? Why now?’  My second thought was, ‘Why aren’t there guard rails in the ‘watershed?’  Recently, a young man lost his life….his car left the road and wasn’t found for hours.  The paper said he died in the hospital, which, if true, meant he spent quite a few hours, gravely injured, in his car.

“There are several places through the watershed, where a car could leave the road and not be found for hours. Why aren’t there any guard rails in those places?” she asked.

The out basket: I’d better start by noting that West Belfair Valley Road and Old Belfair Highway are the same road. The portion in Mason County is called Old Belfair Highway and the Kitsap County segment is called West Belfair Valley Road.

Kitsap County bears maintenance responsibility for only a portion of its stretch. The city of Bremerton annexed its watershed many years ago and the stretch through the densely wooded portion on both sides of the entrance to Gold Mountain Golf Course is, curiously, a city street.

The county used a federal safety grant in the last few year to install a lot of guard rail, including the three places between where the city ends and the Mason County line, where Julie sees them.

I was surprised at the long, steep slopes along the north side of the city’s stretch through its watershed when I drove it after Julia wrote. They are largely hidden by roadside vegetation.

Tom Knuckey, who has stepped in as spokesman for Bremerton city street issues with the departure of Gunnar Fridriksson for another job, says Julia’s complaint caused him to check out the situation.

“We’re looking into the roadway configuration on the Belfair Valley Road, and are considering including a project in our 2016 Capital Improvement Plan to evaluate the road,” he said afterward.  The city may seek a safety grant of its own to address hazards they identify on the watershed road.

If the engineers decide it would be a good project and the city council says yes, it would go on the plan. But it’s a six-year plan ending in 2021 and would have to await funding, so if guardrails come to the watershed, it would be well in the future.