State officials are considering a series of roundabouts on Highway 305 as a possible solution to traffic snarls and safety problems on a stretch of the roadway between the Bainbridge ferry terminal and Poulsbo.
Steve Roark, assistant region administrator for the Washington Department of Transportation, briefed the Bainbridge Council this week on emerging plans for safety and mobility improvements along a roughly 11-mile stretch of Highway 305.
Improvements between the ferry terminal and Hostmark Street in Poulsbo will be financed by $36.8 million that was set aside for Highway 305 as part of the “Connection WA Act,” approved by the Legislature in 2015.
Three roundabouts are in the plans for Bainbridge Island on Highway 305: at Day Road, Ada’s Will Lane and NE Port Madison Road.
Also in the plans is limiting access at Agatewood Road NE to “right turn in, right turn out.”
Drivers heading to Winslow from Agatewood, for example, would turn north onto the highway, then go around the roundabout at Ada’s Will Lane to continue southward.
Bainbridge council members were split on worries raised about the loss of trees from the construction of roundabouts in the scenic Highway 305 corridor.
Mayor Kol Medina said the idea to remove trees for an expanded park-and-ride lot at Day Road would not be popular.
“I don’t think that would go over very well here,” Medina said.
Councilman Joe Deets agreed, adding that roundabout would also mean the loss of trees on the west side of the highway, next to the expansive meadow that was the first open space preserved on the island.
But Councilwoman Sarah Blossom disagreed.
“So this Bainbridge Island resident says sometimes we have to lose some trees, sometimes we have to deal with change to get good solutions to solve some problems,” Blossom said.
This week’s briefing mirrored one given last week to Poulsbo officials.
“That’s a little bit of an inconvenience,” Roark said during his presentation to the Poulsbo council last week.
“We think it’s fairly minor from a travel time standpoint,” he added. “And it will improve safety on the corridor.”
On the Poulsbo side of the Agate Pass Bridge, roundabouts would be placed at Johnson Road, Totten Road and the Masi Shop.
Roark noted the difficulty of access at the Masi Shop, and the resulting safety concerns, from a recent stop to get something to eat.
“I tried to make a left turn out … and it was exciting,” he said.
Roark said the project ideas for Highway 305 were in “the very early stages.”
“I want to emphasize the word ‘conceptual,’” he said.
The Washington State Department of Transportation — along with the cities of Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo, Kitsap County, Kitsap Transit and the Suquamish Tribe — has been studying potential improvements to Highway 305.
Study strategies have been geared toward:
• Improving corridor safety and mobility;
• Addressing the constraints of the existing Agate Pass Bridge;
• Providing multi-modal incorporation through and across the corridor;
• Increase the ability to move people and improving the corridor capacity overall;
• Providing travel time reduction and reliability;
• Addressing access needs for adjacent properties; and
• Protecting and enhancing the environment.
“We turned those into project goals,” Roark told Poulsbo officials this week.
WSDOT is looking for the “best bang for the buck” with projects that help meet those project goals, he said.
On the safety issue, most of the accidents in the Highway 305 corridor are in Poulsbo, with most being rear-end type crashes. The highest rates of side-impact collisions have occurred at places with no turn lanes or intersection controls.
Other problems on Highway 305 center on traffic flow. There are unreliable travel times during the peak travel hours, with speeds of less than 20 mph on Highway 305 during the p.m. peak commute hours.
“Sometimes it can take 30 to 50 minutes or more to get from Winslow to the bridge,” Roark said.
Clogged traffic creates access issues at side streets. And congestion is also expected to increase with growth that is forecast for the region.
“We’ve kind of settled in on a suite of investments that we think will make good improvements up and down the corridor,” Roark said.
Those include optimizing the timing of existing traffic signals and making sure the signals work in concert; access and channelization modifications; and roundabouts.
“Roundabouts are WSDOT’s preferred intersection control at this point in time due to our track record over the past 10 to 15 years. They make intersections safer,” Roark said.
The roundabout at Johnson Road in Poulsbo is likely the first project to be constructed.
That project may be built in 2019-20, with the rest of the highway upgrades going to construction in 2020-2022.