Green light for highway improvement

“They oughtta do something about this.”

It’s a refrain heard regularly on our Letters pages, often on the subject of local roadways. Elsewhere on today’s page, one of our regular correspondents from Rolling Bay addresses his concerns over the awkward junction at Moran Road and Manitou Beach, just off the highway; he also mentions the possible need for a traffic signal at the nearby 305/Madison intersection, the second such comment we’ve heard from readers recently.

While we’re not really sure what can be done about Moran Road – more on that in a moment – we can report that there is news at 305/Madison, where attempts to enter the highway from the side roads have for years been a calculated risk at best. (The one saving grace of the frequent accidents there: it’s only a hundred yards or so from the fire hall.)

We rang up the Washington State Department of Trans­portation this week; regional traffic operations engineer Steve Bennett informed us that 305/Madison will in fact be “signalized” this spring. The project goes to bid in late February, with construction in April or May (“depending on how busy the contractor is.”) The signal has been promised for several years; in addition to safety, we suspect it will take some of the pressure off High School Road for bridge-bound travelers heretofore afraid to enter the highway at Madison.

Now, as to Moran Road... There might be a few long-timers around (folks who’ve been here, say, 10 years) who remember when the state completely redid the 305/Sportsman Club intersection back around 1994. A park-and-ride lot was yanked in favor of various turn and merge lanes, and the signal was reworked. The smartest move turned out to be a realignment on the west side of the junction, as Wardwell Road was shifted a couple hundred feet away from the highway. The mess that persists with Moran Road is basically a mirror-image of conditions as they used to exist at Wardwell – one intersection is way too close to the other for safety. Our guess is that topography – namely, the Manitou gully – prevented a similar realignment of Moran, without significant fill and added costs.

So our next call was to Bainbridge Police. The department’s statistician didn’t find a record of any accidents at Moran/Manitou in the last three years, but that doesn’t make it any safer. Indeed, while returning from a recent ambulance-chase at the north end, coincidence put the editor at that same red light, in roughly the same position as our correspondent Mr. Smith. As if on cue, some clown pulled into the oncoming lane, then passed several cars across the double-yellow to make a sneaky left turn.

We’re not sure there’s any foolproof plan against that kind of recklessness, but a concrete divider as Mr. Smith suggests might be worth a look. Our WSDOT contact suggests the state and city could work together on a fix there.

Perhaps it’s time for another look at Moran/Manitou; thanks to Mr. Smith for bringing it up.

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