Opinion

Poulsbo city councilwoman aims to free up SR-305 ferry traffic

This is your captain speaking: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! Be remindful before rolling off the ferryboat that the caution flag is out until those ant-like pedestrians and wobbly bicyclists disperse, and please don’t disregard the new traffic signal. Fortunately, once Winslow Way is in your rearview mirror it’s nothing but green lights and blue skies for 13 miles (and 13 go-lights) all the way to Highway 3. The speed limit is a pokey 40 for a couple miles, but signals allow a steady 55 and a beeline through the island until you approach that skinny little bridge leading to Suquamish land (beware of casinoites emerging on your left). Return then to that sublime 55-mph groove for a few miles before braking to run the obstacle course known as Poulsbo, at the end of which is the checkered flag in the form of a sign guiding you east or west. Happy trails and hopefully your return trip will be as brake-free as possible.

Poulsbo City Council member Becky Erickson dispatched an email Thursday with a copy of a proposed joint resolution she wants the governments of her city, Bainbridge and the Suquamish Tribe to approve and send to the state Department of Transportation. Cutting through all the “whereases,” the gist of it is to sequence the lights on SR-305 to the road end at Highway 3 “to maximize traffic flow (north and south)... during commute hours... in such a way as to reduce the excessive queuing times and move the traffic flow through the corridor in a timed pattern to avoid traffic flow interruption.”

Rumor has it that what much of Kitsap County west of Agate Passage really wants is expansion of 305 by a lane or two since the road is merely a means to an end, and what do they care about Bainbridge Island anyway? It’s just scenery through a car window. That’s probably not going to happen for a while since the island is currently swarming with state politicos and islanders have been resistant to altering the rurality of the corridor. Plus, connectivity is problematic considering the distance between some of the signals – such as Sportsman Club Road to Day Road to Suquamish to Hostmark Road.

But Erickson’s idea isn’t implausible from a Department of Transportation engineer’s point of view. The number of traffic jams that occur several times a day – and not just during peak hours – near the island’s busiest intersections seem to be increasing, causing drivers to dart onto neighborhood arterials that aren’t built for heavy traffic. Not to mention the Suquamish bottleneck and the constant stop-and-go through Poulsbo. Still, short of building an overpass or two, such action would make east-west traffic even more difficult for islanders than it already is.

There’s no doubt WSDOT wants to move traffic along 305 as quickly as possible. There is minimal law enforcement presence on the road and the signal sequencing is already programmed to favor clear sailing as much as possible. And witness the debacle surrounding the new traffic signal at Harborview Drive last week. For several days after it was activated, offloading ferry traffic during commuter hours rarely stopped as pedestrians piled up at Harborview and east-west traffic backed up along Winslow Way for several blocks. WSF says it was a synchronization problem between the Winslow Way and Harborview signals and that some tweaking will eventually solve the problem. No, they said, it was not a signal-sequencing trial run.

But was it a harbinger of 305’s future – a north-south expressway with cars backing up while waiting to cross over? Hard to imagine such a nightmare.

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