Kallgren residents wary of new thruway

Rebecca Robbins (in cap) discusses the city’s plans for Kallgren Road with neighbor Susan Scheirman and Robbins’ husband, Steve. The shady, unimproved right of way runs north behind them, and is a popular pedestrian way.  - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Rebecca Robbins (in cap) discusses the city’s plans for Kallgren Road with neighbor Susan Scheirman and Robbins’ husband, Steve. The shady, unimproved right of way runs north behind them, and is a popular pedestrian way.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

Neighbors don’t want to see the city connect their quiet lane to Day Road.

The sign advertising Rebecca Robbins’ new house on Kallgren Road still touts its setting “at the end of a quiet country lane.”

“It’s why we moved here,” the nine-month island resident said as she scanned the trees at the road’s end, looking for a familiar owl. “I bought the house based on the quiet privacy and because it’s a great place to walk dogs, ride bikes and for kids to play.”

But the seclusion Robbins and her Kallgren Road neighbors enjoy could be cut open by a proposed northern link to Day Road. City and fire officials say a two-lane, 60-foot-wide paved extension would improve traffic circulation and emergency access, while cutting down on auto emissions.

But many Kallgren and nearby residents plan to fight the proposal. Their growing petition to stop the road extension topped 50 signatures this week and the city’s file on the proposal has swelled with dozens of residents’ letters.

Deni Christensen, a Des Moines, Wash., resident who owns the affected 18-acre parcel, said the road extension could reduce the value of three new homes she plans to build.

“It will certainly diminish the tranquility and safety of this area, as well as property values,” she said.

The project will also come at a hefty price for Christensen, who would foot much of the estimated $30,000 road project, according to city engineers.

The city has long eyed the 400-foot stretch of trail and trees between Kallgren and Day roads as a prime, untapped traffic connection.

The county long ago obtained a two-acre strip for a road right of way, but never built the connection.

Then Christensen proposed in May to subdivide her property into three residential parcels with a narrow driveway linking Kallgren to Day. The city upped the ante, requiring that Christensen upgrade the single-lane, gravel drive into a standard paved road with room for two lanes.

Christensen then changed her proposal, asking that the city approve a smaller extension for Kallgren that comes 300 feet short of touching Day. She also sent letters to the neighborhood warning of the impending changes.

“They are having us, at our own expense, construct Kallgren Road into a public road that connects to Day Road,” she wrote to residents. “We feel the city is ambivalent to our concerns for the neighborhood.”

Not so, said city engineer Ross Hathaway. He said the city has heard the neighborhood’s concerns but the larger, island-wide picture must also be addressed.

“As the neighborhood develops out, we want to try and get good connections to the new areas,” he said. “We also want to do this for general circulation and connection to the overall (roads) system.”

Bainbridge Island Fire Chief Jim Walkowski also supports the proposed connection as an island-wide safety measure.

“Anytime we can get connections between roadways on Bainbridge, we support that,” he said. “There are very few north-south arterials, and we often have to drive over hill and dale to get to places.”

Walkowski said fire trucks would need to make “numerous turns” to get to the end of Kallgren, including a half-mile trip south before backtracking north a half mile. The road’s long dead end could pose challenges if blocked by fallen trees or a car wreck, he said.

A wider, paved link would not only speed emergency vehicles to various Rolling Bay destinations, the connection would also reduce traffic and gas consumption in the area, Hathaway said.

“Long dead ends tend to create traffic,” he said, estimating that the lack of a Day Road connection will generate an annual 40,000 additional miles driven once the three new parcels are occupied.

He said many residents with destinations to the north and across the bridge would likely head south to Winther Road, then north on Madison Avenue and west on Day Road before finally reaching the highway, a path that could be shortened by a connection.

But Rebecca Robbins’ husband, Steve, disagrees with Hathaway’s estimates.

“He has to jockey with the numbers to come up with that,” Steve Robbins said. “That’s only assuming 50 percent of us are heading to Poulsbo. Most of us head south. We’re going to Seattle for work or T&C every day. We might go north to Costco once a week.”

Kallgren resident Susan Scheirman doesn’t mind having to make a few more turns and drive a few more minutes if it means preserving her quiet road.

“Maybe you could call our narrow, potholed road an inconvenience,” she said. “But we all want to be inconvenienced.”

Scheirman said Kallgren’s dead end discourages anyone but residents from using the road and keeps speeds low.

“We don’t mind it because it’s slower, quieter,” she said. “It’s rural, very family-oriented and close to nature.”

Scheirman pointed at pileated woodpecker holes marking one of many large trees that would be cleared to make way for two new lanes.

While some trees would have to go, city planner Kathy James said construction would likely take out less than 5,000 board feet of timber – which is the typical amount allowed for most developments before a permit is required.

Kallgren resident Susan Phillips-McGee fears a “superhighway” will replace the wooded trail, making the road unsafe for the many children who bike and play in the area.

Other residents have expressed concerns that the upgraded road will allow speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.

But Hathaway said such concerns are unfounded.

“I don’t foresee the city ever doing that, at least not in my lifetime,” he said.

“It may be too high already and we may keep it the same, at 30 mph, or lower it.”

Still, residents have pledged to fight on. They fear the city’s plan to open Kallgren could foreshadow efforts to open other dead-end roads.

“This is not just a NIMBY issue,” Scheirman said. “This is an issue for the whole island. We have to keep what we have.”

McGee hopes other island residents will join their ranks and stop the road connection.

“If we let (the city) set a precedent, everyone else is doomed,” she said. “This will happen everywhere.”

The city planning department expects to make a final decision on the subdivision proposal and road enhancement by Aug. 17. Some residents have pledged to appeal any decision that calls for a two-lane, paved road through their midst.

“The city has an agenda they’re pushing forward and we’ll do whatever it takes to stop it,” McGee said.

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