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Gearing up for SR-305 mixed-use trail

Don Willott, right and city council member Kjell Stoknes bike a narrow stretch of State Route 305 near the ferry terminal. - Brad Camp/ Staff Photo
Don Willott, right and city council member Kjell Stoknes bike a narrow stretch of State Route 305 near the ferry terminal.
— image credit: Brad Camp/ Staff Photo

Bainbridge, Poulsbo and county shift focus to non-motorized path.

It would probably be one of the grandest non-motorized work projects on the island.

But like all big ideas, it started with a simple concept – creating a mixed-use trail along State Route 305.

It is a vision that has been sought for years by bicyclists and pedestrians who warily share the highway with speeding cars.

“Part of it would be a recreational component, but it also has a transportation component,” said City Council member Hilary Franz. “It could be quick, simple and fast... and we could see biking as a valuable and realistic commuting alternative.”

Although it may seem like a lofty goal, the project is gaining momentum and scale.

Poulsbo, Bainbridge Island and Kitsap County went before the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council policy committee yesterday to firm up commitments to a feasibility study and preliminary design that would set the base for the project.

The cross-jurisdiction collaboration is part of a wider vision for a Sound-to-Olympics trail that would connect from the ferry, through Poulsbo and over the Hood Canal Bridge. Eventually, the route could connect with the Olympic Discovery trail on northern Olympic Peninsula.

“This would create a uniform look and feel to the trail beyond Bainbridge,” Franz said.

On the island, proponents envision a separated 12-foot path that would parallel SR-305 and connect the Bainbridge Ferry Terminal to the Agate Pass Bridge. It would look similar to Seattle’s popular Burke-Gilman Trail, which is used for commuting, jogging and biking along the northwest side of Lake Washington.

“What this really is, is a vision, but it is a very strong vision with some existing elements,” said Don Willott, a member of the city’s Non-Motorized Committee.

Willott said the project is book-ended – the first portion would include the ravine bridge that has opened below the Vineyard Lane development. On the north end, Rotary Park offers a small path that could be expanded for more bike-friendly usage near the Agate Pass Bridge.

Connecting all the pieces in between is the most difficult part of the proposition.

“As they say, a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step, and we are beyond the first step now,” Willott said.

Backers of the path are attempting to find as many connections that are possible now, while also trying to liaise with the city, state and private property owners about possible easements in the future.

According to Franz, the Washington State Department of Transportation’s easement along SR-305 is one of the more promising aspects of the vision.

“If you look along that road there is a lot of property owned by the state, and public works, or parks,” she said. “That will help reduce the private property element.”

Non-motorized committee members have already targeted one piece of city-owned land as a possible connector in the larger scheme.

A proposed 3,500-foot portion of the trail has been submitted to the Puget Sound Regional Council for federal transportation stimulus funding consideration. The $500,000 segment would run along the city-owned Meigs property from Koura Road toward the intersection of SR-305 and Sportsman Club Road.

On Wednesday, the city backed a recommendatoin to remove that request in favor of supporting a stimulus request for the cross-jurisdictional feasibility study.

But constructing a connection from the ferry terminal to Agate Pass also poses a unique set of engineering challenges along Bainbridge’s hilly interior.

“Some intersections are difficult to plan for and there are a lot of estuaries and ravines,” Willott said. “In some places it might even be easier to dig through a tunnel.”

It may also be more cost effective to widen SR-305 for a walled-off bike lane on the shoulder of the road rather than build a separate path.

The grant proposal for a feasibility study and preliminary design could go before KRCC in the next two weeks, with an estimated price tag of $150,000, said Poulsbo City Council member Linda Berry-Maraist.

Both Bainbridge and Poulsbo would contribute about $15,000 to match any stimulus money doled out to the project.

“We are hoping we can really connect the dots and make this a regional connector,” Berry-Maraist said. “We can’t only look in our own jurisdictions; we need to see the power of the entire connection as a whole.”

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