State and local officials have backed away from a controversial proposal to build a stormwater holding pond on undeveloped land next to the Day Road Animal Hospital at the Highway 305-Day Road intersection.
The move means the Day Road roundabout will drop lower on the list of priority improvements for the Highway 305 corridor.
The working group for the 305 project — made up of transportation officials and local elected officials — met Friday at the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort. The main topic was whether the Day Road roundabout should be delayed or abandoned, with the funding for that project being directed toward other projects on 305.
The state has been studying potential projects to improve safety and the flow of traffic along Highway 305 between the Bainbridge ferry terminal and Hostmark Street in Poulsbo for years.
A series of 11 roundabouts along the highway has been proposed, with a total budget of $36.5 million, and the Highway 305-Day Road project has been listed as one of the higher priorities in the budget for the improvements.
A roundabout at Highway 305 and Day Road will cost more than $12 million, according to preliminary cost estimate by the Washington State Department of Transportation.
The estimated cost of $12,042,329 would make it the most expensive of any of the roundabouts and improvements suggested for a stretch of Highway 305 that is currently under consideration by the state.
The Washington State Department of Transportation had earlier considered putting the stormwater detention infrastructure that’s necessary for the proposed roundabout on the undeveloped land near the southwest corner of Highway 305 and Day Road. But that plan was strongly opposed by the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, which owns an easement on the pastureland that protects it from development.
Michele Britton, the project engineer for the Highway 305 improvement project, said officials had received a letter from the Bainbridge Island Land Trust after the group’s last meeting, and the nonprofit said it was opposed to the placement of stormwater-handling facilities on the property.
WSDOT officials working on the 305 project then turned their attention to using land on the opposite side of the highway for the stormwater detention infrastructure.
But Mark Swaney, a veterinarian who has been the owner of Day Road Animal Hospital for 20 years, told officials at the meeting that he would lose about half of his property for the stormwater pond project, and noted it would have a significant impact on the clinic, which has been located on Day Road since 1981.
He said the animal hospital routinely gets calls from people thanking the business for keeping that part of the property as-is.
“That’s been a point of pride for us and a large part of our identity,” Swaney said.
The animal clinic, one of the few independent veterinarian hospitals left in Kitsap County, has based its identity on its setting, Swaney said.
The Day Road roundabout, and a roundabout at Suquamish Road in front of the casino, are ranked two and one, respectively, by the state in order of priority.
The roundabout at Suquamish Way is estimated to cost roughly $8 million to $10 million.
Britton told the group that if the Day Road roundabout was put on hold, it would pursue the Suquamish Way roundabout instead.
“That’s where we would go if we put Day on hold,” she said.
When asked if the Suquamish Tribe would support the roundabout project in front of the casino, Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman said opinions differed within the tribe.
Some share the general “Are you crazy?” worry about putting a roundabout in place, while others are concerned about practical issues, Forsman said, which include potential impacts on the Tribe.
“We’re still trying to work through the last of those,” he added.
“We still feel it’s viable,” Forsman said of a roundabout at the casino.
Bainbridge Councilman Kol Medina said it wouldn’t make sense to build the Suquamish Way roundabout without constructing a roundabout at Day Road, as well.
Medina said morning traffic that’s heading south onto the island starts to back up near Agatewood Road Northeast and extends all the way to Day Road.
Building only a roundabout at the casino would create a “parking lot” for drivers after they passed through the Highway 305-Suquamish Way intersection; they would be stuck waiting for traffic to pass through the traffic light at Day Road.
“It’s just going to bump into the backup at Day Road,” Medina said. “I really think they both have to be built.”
The needed inclusion of a stormwater detention pond at Day Road, however, continues to be a concern for private landowners nearby who would be affected and lose part of their property for infrastructure needed for the roundabout.
State officials said they do not want to build underground vaults to store rainwater runoff.
But Medina said the city of Bainbridge would be willing to finance the underground stormwater vaults at Day Road.
State officials, however, were not receptive to the idea, and said the state does not have funding it needs to maintain the transportation infrastructure that it already has built.
“There’s no more dollars; I’m sorry,” said JoAnn Schueler, WSDOT assistant region administrator.
Bainbridge Councilman Joe Deets stressed that putting a detention pond on the Day Road Animal Hospital property would ruin the business and make it go under.
And the property on the other side of the highway was the first public open space preserved by the Bainbridge Island Land Trust.
“It has immense social, cultural value to the island,” Deets said.
The state does not have enough funding to complete all of the Highway 305 improvements that have been identified as increasing safety or traffic mobility.
Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder suggested taking the Seminole Road improvements off the list of potential 305 projects, and moving that $2.3 million to the Totten Road roundabout, which is estimated to cost $7.3 million.
That would leave $1.6 million for additional engineering and right-of-way work for the Day Road project.
The working group reached general consensus on the idea and WSDOT officials said they would move forward on the suggestion.