Plug your ears: Ferry walkway construction could get noisy

If it keeps you awake, the state Department of Transportation can provide you with a white-noise machine.

Or earplugs.

Those were some of the mitigation techniques discussed at last week’s Bainbridge Island Planning Commission meeting on Zoom.

WSDOT is going to be constructing a new overhead $19 million walkway on BI from spring of 2022 to late fall 2023. The new walkway will open early fall 2023 and the old one torn down late fall of that same year. On six weekends WSDOT expects to exceed the allowed noise level at night. A crane will be installing steel beams.

A chart compared the noise level to the sound of a lawnmower or diesel truck outside, or a vacuum if inside.

Planning commissioner Ashley Mathews said she was worried about traffic. “It’s congested all the time,” she said of the ferry docks.

But she was told that’s why weekend work will occur, because there are fewer commuters. WSDOT representatives said they are concerned that it could happen when the Seahawks have a home game, causing a problem.

The commissioners eventually approved the variance.

“It is what it is,” Mathews said. “It’s a necessary project.”

William Chester said he appreciates that WSDOT is trying to “mitigate as much as possible.”

Other measures include: non-pure tone backup devices, tailgate banding is prohibited, trucks will have bed liners, walkie talkies will be used and equipment will be turned off when not in use.

Since the closest residents live in an apartment complex with young people, commissioner Yesh Subramanian suggested texting when communicating with them.

“Cater to the right demographic,” he said, “to minimize your risk of unnecessary escalations.”

Laura Musso Escude of WSDOT said the last time they were in BI they had no issues. “If everything goes well we don’t hear about it,” she said.

The WSDOT website says the BI route to Seattle is the busiest for walk-ons, but the 45-year-old wooden walkway needs to be replaced with a wider, safer concrete and steel bridge built to seismic code. It will also replace outdated mechanical and electrical components.

The walkway will have some benches, heating and clear glass windows.

Messenger House

The commissioners also heard an update on Messenger House, a memory care facility, and approved that the project move on to the hearing examiner.

The commissioners seemed impressed that the project was changed according to their wishes. “They nicely addressed previous concerns. I can’t fault the project,” Chester said.

Mathews said the project included a number of elements from the city’s Comprehensive Plan, including land, housing, culture and economics.

Sarah Blossom also was supportive. “This is something the island needs,” she said. But she did add an amendment before approval, saying she hopes some beds could be required for low-income people. “That’s something we can explore,” Planning director Heather Wright said.

Though such beds are not designated at this time, Charlie Wenzlau of Wenzlau Architects said people could be accommodated.

There was also talk of adding bike racks and e-vehicle charging stations.

Joe Paar said he was impressed with how the project wants “historic accuracy. It’s a beautiful setting, truly a gorgeous place,” he said.

Wenzlau mentioned the Comp Plan, saying it promotes on-island access to health care facilities due to its aging population.

Wenzlau said they wanted to respect the trees and the rich history, and “continue to be a good neighbor.” The facility is surrounded by single-family homes. It has a giant lawn on the east side. They plan to restore historic Day Hall. “Part of our work is related to that history,” Wenzlau said.

Messenger House is approved for 96 beds, most of which will be assisted and independent living, which replaces a skilled nursing wing. In the previous facility, there were shared rooms but “that is an outdated mode of care,” Wenzlau said. Now they will be more like single apartments.

Outside, vegetation provides a buffer from neighbors. Only three trees will be removed, while many more will be planted. The native landscape also will be restored. The city is requiring a pedestrian trail, which has been moved due to neighborhood concerns.

The commission also discussed a draft ordinance that helps control the total amount of building on a piece of property. Called “floor area ratio,” there are five different zones in the Winslow area alone.

“It helps control the total amount of building in a district,” said Jennifer Sutton, senior planner. “You evaluate the total size of building in relation to property size.”

Basically, developers are able to buy “bonus” space to build if they offer affordable housing. Chester said the “price is low for the benefit,” and Wright agreed they are outdated. Residential is lowest, commercial highest, and mixed use in the middle as to the cost of buying the bonus space.

The new walkway will look a lot like the one in Bremerton. Courtesy Photos

The new walkway will look a lot like the one in Bremerton. Courtesy Photos

The old walkway made of wood would not hold up in an earthquake.

The old walkway made of wood would not hold up in an earthquake.


The old walkway made of wood would not hold up in an earthquake.