'...Then turn right at Wyatt Way and 305'
June 9, 2008 · Updated 2:48 PM
"It could be a short bridge.Or it could be a 65-foot-high fill for a road extension across the Winslow ravine.Either way, for Bob Gedney and the Bainbridge Municipal League, a new interchange connecting Wyatt Way with Highway 305 would be just the ticket for relieving traffic congestion around Winslow. “If you put a bridge in here, I think it would be a neat operation,” said Gedney, who presented the proposal to the city council last week during a public comment period. A “pre-feasibility study” for the project was prepared earlier this year by the Municipal League Foundation, the group’s non-profit research wing, with the assistance of island-based MacLearnsberry Engineering.The document – a modest five and a half pages, plus three charts – offers conceptual drawings and a brief discussion of the advantages of a new 305/Wyatt Way intersection, with a traffic signal. The logic is this: Ferry-bound traffic now coming from the island’s south end, most of which arrives via the head of the bay and Wyatt Way, could reach the highway directly, without turning down Grow or Madison avenues.Likewise for commuters returning home – simply follow the highway up to Wyatt Way, turn left, and it’s a straight shot. No cutting through downtown, or Winslow neighborhoods, or the heavily traveled High School Road.The report has sat fallow in the council’s public works committee since last spring. Gedney took the proposal to the council itself in an attempt to get the project on the same footing with others in the 2000 capital plan.Projects due within the next year or so include traffic calming measures on Grow Avenue, which sees heavy use from ferry-bound commuters, and improvements to Wyatt Way west of Madison Avenue.“Until this is resolved, they can’t get on to traffic calming (in other areas),” Gedney said. “It really needs to be on an accelerated basis.”As envisioned by the league, Wyatt Way would be extended across Ericksen Avenue and reach the highway about 440 feet away, with bike lanes, sidewalks and curbing included. A 10-car, center turn lane would allow northbound highway traffic to turn onto Wyatt at the signal.And then there’s the fill across the “canyon,” as it’s referred to in the report, which would involve the placement of about 45,000 cubic yards of earth and cover about 1.4 acres of surface area.An alternative, the report states, would be bridging the ravine instead of a fill.“If you put a bridge in here, I can’t see that there would be a lot of environmental impact,” Gedney said. “I think it would be a lot less controversial.Total project cost: an estimated $1.92 million, ideally with some of that shared with state as it involves the highway right-of-way.So, who wants it?As far as the fill, the report acknowledges that environmental impacts would be “considerable,” and that “of primary concern to many citizens...would the the effect on the Canyon.”In fact, the city has tried to leverage purchase of the ravine, now under private ownership although largely undevelopable, out of Washington State Ferries as mitigation for terminal improvements. The land is seen as a key, long-term component of Winslow-area open space.Outside the Municipal League, identifying political support might prove difficult. The proposal wouldn’t be on the city’s radar screen at all but for the league’s efforts.But it didn’t come out of thin air.During the comprehensive planning process in 1992-94, several design seminars, or “charettes,” demonstrated that creating new through-ways around Winslow would relieve traffic pressure on neighborhood streets, essentially by dividing out the number of cars.In the Winslow Master Plan, the value of a Winslow Way/Highway 305 connection is noted. That plan calls for maintaining rights-of-way to connect the highway with either Wyatt Way or Knechtel Way at some point in the future. That’s seen as a contingency plan, planning department officials said, and no timeline is given.The Municipal League report notes that discussion of how to accommodate south-end traffic has been ongoing for two decades, and that as more properties are developed, solutions that involve new roadways only become more expensive and difficult.“We’ve been pushing for a long time for a comprehensive highway plan, and it’s been approached on a piecemeal basis,” Gedney said. “This seemed like a logical place to start.”The proposal is under discussion in the city council’s public works committee. Copies of the league report are available for review at Chamber of Commerce and the city, and by request from Gedney and the Municipal League Foundation. #####"