BI to bundle transportation projects

Let’s get ready to bundle.

That was the consensus of the Sustainable Transportation Committee Friday as it discussed possible projects.

Members realized in going through the list that dollars would go further if projects could be combined. That also could add to leverage in gaining other funds. It could also allow for partners that could also help with funding.

“It comes down to money, as it always does,” member Kirk Robinson said, adding it’s not just getting projects going, but also maintaining them once they’re completed, which many never think about.

Member Alyse Nelson said on their own the number of projects is overwhelming. “How do you get it done?”

Mark Epstein, city project manager, said staff and a consultant scored the projects. “All these lists are visionary.”

City Councilmember Leslie Schneider said she’s excited. “We’ve been waiting for this list a long time.”

Public Works director Chris Wierzbicki said it was tough deciding which projects should go in the first and second tiers. “We looked for how we could get the most bang for the buck,” he said, adding that included projects that would complete transportation networks.

Member Don Willott said he’s skeptical of the list because the “dead last” item in the lowest Tier 3 is greenway. “There’s so much focus on keeping the island’s rural character. It looks like it’s an afterthought.”

Epstein said that’s what the committee is supposed to do: look at the list with community values and move items up or down as it sees fit.

Member Robert Weschler said traffic on Highway 305 is a major concern on the island. It should be moved up as it’s in Tier 2.

Willott said partnerships for funding will make a huge difference, but he doesn’t want everyone to forget that decreasing the footprint is the main goal.

Schneider said, “All of us are going to fight for what we think is really important. Tier 1 is going to get pretty fat.”

Member Barb Zimmer said they need more time to look at the list, and fellow member Susan Loftus said it “requires a deeper dive.”

As for next steps, Epstein said consultants will look at combining projects.

But Willott said he wants to “truly engage the public” in the process.

Various networks

Participants then looked at the walking, rolling and biking networks on maps.

Epstein explained the goal was to connect things like sidewalk projects to other projects, such as transit.

Willott said it’s a good idea to link trips, which are a series of connections.

Robinson asked why some projects involved improving something that’s already there. “Wouldn’t it be better to do something new” in an area that doesn’t have anything? he asked. In some cases the connector is just a few hundred yards away.

In response, Loftus said, “That’s asking too much of people.” She said most people would only walk half a mile out of their way for a connector.

Regarding the biking network, Loftus said it makes sense for Winslow to be the focus as it’s the most populated area.

David Reynolds-Gooch said the Sound to Olympics trail should be a priority because that would reduce traffic. “That should be a funding magnet,” he added.

But Loftus said Eagle Harbor could be beneficial too. Zimmer said a route that gets past the dangerous spots to Lynwood Center also should be a priority.

Schneider agreed. She said it’s important to have a long bikeable route interisland. She said there are good routes east and west but not south. “There are a lot of amenities” in Lynwood Center. “It’s an important destination,” she said, adding that could also help get a levy passed if needed in the future.

Willott said he could reduce his personal carbon footprint if there was such a bike path. He said he drives to Port Townsend and Sequim to go on long bike rides.

Loftus said it’s crucial to have off-road bike routes so people will feel safe to ride them. She said projects need to be “weighted using a different lens.” She added that anytime a bike path can be built away from the road it should be for safety. She was told that’s much more expensive, but she asked, “Where do you want to put more money?”

During public comments, Ross Hathaway agreed there needs to be more public input. The “narrow group” that made the list was “not representative of all the island, especially passionate bicyclists.” He mentioned Madison already has a sidewalk but Grow doesn’t. “Do you want perfect or basic?” he asked. He said that’s been a longtime problem on BI. “We have champagne taste and a beer project.”

Wierzbicki said another public comment period will be planned, possibly on the Engage Bainbridge website. He said the city would like to have a final draft to the City Council in November or December.