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Group forms to back new bridge

"Ralls Clotfelter believes Bainbridge residents would support a second bridge to the island and a new ferry terminal at Blakely Harbor, if only they understood why it was so important to everyone in Kitsap County.There’s no punchline here. Or maybe you just heard it.Clotfelter, a longtime Central Kitsap resident who uses the Bainbridge ferry commuting to his Seattle manufacturing business, said a reasoned discussion about future growth impacts countywide will help islanders see that a new bridge and ferry terminal is in their best interests.He is the president of Logical Infrastructure for North Kitsap II, a civic group hoping to use fresh traffic links to ease the way for more than 60,000 new county residents projected by the state to move into the area by 2012.A key component of their plan is to build a bridge between Illahee and Point White, continuing in an arterial to a ferry terminal at Blakely Harbor capable of handling four Jumbo-class ferries.“I just don’t believe that all islanders are against that bridge,” Clotfelter said. “I’ve heard that, but who’s saying that? Nobody’s ever bothered to find out.“Bainbridge, right now, has a blockade to the rest of the county. They’re prosperous while the rest of us are stagnant. It’s time to change that for the good of the entire county.”As LINK II leaders and county planners see it, it’s in Bainbridge residents’ best interests to board the bridge bandwagon.A Saturday public meeting in Poulsbo will be the first of several the LINK II group will host countywide, including on Bainbridge Island. The group also hopes to survey islanders, who have long been perceived as resistant to a second bridge as a threat to their rural lifestyle.Their reasoning is that Bainbridge is trapped in a transportation “sandwich” between more ferries on one side and an ever-widening Highway 305 on the other. More people will put more pressure on that system, and more commuters will choose to live on the island rather than face a commute at least twice as long from elsewhere in the county.Should islanders resist a bridge, backers say, the lesser of two evils would soon take root – the expansion of 305 to four lanes on Bainbridge. It’s a move that would cost more in taxpayers dollars and receive less in islander input, as a state measure with no local State Environmental Policy Act mitigation measures needed.A new bridge and ferry may have even less aesthetic appeal, they say, but it would have more local benefits. Kitsap County transportation planners estimate the cost of purchasing island right-of-way and building the bridge, arterial and ferry dock at no more than $50 million. Islanders would have more of a say in aesthetics and environmental impact through local SEPA review oversight. They would also receive substantial financial mitigation, in the form of a 10- to 20-cent de facto impact fee on every ferry ticket purchased.If, as county officials estimate, 16,000 vehicles use the arterial – sealed off against local on-ramps and exits – the city could gain as much as $1.1 million a year.Those 16,000 vehicles would flow directly to the areas targeted for the most growth – Silverdale and Bremerton – reducing a commute of as many 60 round-trip miles by more than 75 percent, they said. None of those vehicles would stay on Bainbridge, thereby lessening the chance that the island would receive more than the 7,000 new residents the state estimates it will receive by 2012.With island growth slowed, backers say, Bainbridge could stop depending on growth-fueled property tax revenues to pay for public services, and begin to diversify into a stable haven for home and cottage industries. “It’s a win-win situation for everybody,” Clotfelter said. “This is not going to take away anything from Bainbridge. It’s going to help.”#####"

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