Tag Archives: watershed

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.