Grid could use a little straitening
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:46 PM
"Afew weeks ago on these pages, we explored the eccentricities of the island's road grid, a system in which every street outside Winslow is Northeast, even if it's neither north nor east.Absurdities, we noted, pop up in areas designated by their relative position on the island - South Beach, West Blakely - and when you think about it, in certain other descriptive designations (NE Sunset Avenue? Last time we checked, the sun went down in the west, where the street is). While it's not the most pressing of issues, we have been an all-island city for what, a decade now, and this sometimes nags at us. Seems like the map should at some point formally acknowledge our citydom, and let us throw off the yoke of a system that is outdated and confusing.So we asked Randy Witt, new public works director for the city, if there was any groundswell of support for a revamped grid, or if his department had given any thought at all to the issues we raised. It actually answered some questions I hadn't asked yet, Witt told us. While the department has been preoccupied other projects, he conceded the logic of bringing some order to a system that is based on one's location relative to Port Orchard.But he and other city officials have noted people's general resistance to change, particularly where household addresses are concerned. The question, Witt said, is whether the city could fix the N-S-E-W grid - making the southwest corner of the island SW - without getting into the whole mess of fiddling with street names or renumbering homes. There would also be cost associated with replacing existing signs.We agree that wholesale anarchy would follow any proposal to substantively change mailing addresses, nor would we advocate or support such. But we'll offer a few thoughts:Extend the Winslow grid: As an experiment, perhaps someone in public works could sit down with a map and a ruler, and extend the downtown grid - with Madison Avenue and Winslow Way as the axis - dividing the island into quadrants. True, you'd wind up with somewhat more west than east, and more north than south, but it wouldn't be entirely arbitrary. Nor would it cause much havoc for residents who have their mailing address tweaked with a SE, a SW or a NW.It would reflect islanders' own sense of geography - and road signs might help confused out-of-towners figure out where exactly they are in trying to find an address. Codify common usage: In so doing, one might defer to local convention on road classifications. For example, we were reminded again this week that nobody seems to call Sands Avenue an Avenue, including the neighbors. It's Sands Road. We had a letter to that effect a few years back, from a long-time resident who said it only became an avenue when the sign was replaced. We suspect that followed the 1993 city ordinance that says streets shall run east-west and avenues north-south - even though existing classifications weren't supposed to change. We've also noticed Drives and Ways that have changed for no apparent reason. And don't get us started on where North Madison Avenue is. The bottom line: Where there's confusion, ask the neighbors - they know best.Of course, a simpler alternative might be to just drop the NE designation altogether. When everything is northeast, that designation is ultimately meaningless anyway.Or we can just forget the whole thing, and hope the in-laws don't (or maybe do) get lost come Thanksgiving. "