BI council looks to ease 305 roundabout concerns

During public comments at Tuesday’s Bainbridge Island City Council meeting, a few people complained about the $15 million roundabouts to be built on Highway 305 at Adas Will and Port Madison.

Concerns included tree removal, along with light and noise pollution.

“They’re already losing land,” Councilmember Joe Deets said. Let’s not make “the situation worse for them.”

Members of the council seemed to agree to look into possibly helping to fund some potential fixes.

Mayor Rasham Nassar seemed to favor helping to pay for a $39,500 retaining wall to save a heritage tree.

But Councilmember Christy Carr suggested looking at all the issues and seeing where city funds could do the most help, such as saving 60 trees instead. “Let’s not zero in on one thing for our very limited dollars,” she said.

Nassar agreed, adding some councilmembers should meet with the neighbors to look into various options.

In public comments, Paul Travis said he has lived in his house since 1995. The roundabout will take 1/5th of his land. The project will take out many trees that are his buffer to the highway. The state Department of Transporation plans to plant 10-foot trees in place of the 80-footers there now. “It’s jarring to hear the trucks” already, he said.

He’s also concerned about glare from light poles to be installed. Travis asked for a concrete wall from DOT to reduce light and noise.

“It feels like I’m taking on Goliath,” he said, adding he’d also like to see Suquamish Tribe orca sculptures and art work at the roundabout.

Jenny Van Echkin, who is losing 3/4 of an acre to one of the roundabouts, also was upset about the removal of some very large trees that screen her property from Highway 305.

“I’ll have a direct view of the highway,” she said, adding she’d like to build a fence but it can’t be taller than 6 feet. She’d like to make it up to 10-feet tall.

She also said she’d lose her reserve septic drainfield, but DOT project engineer Lone Moody said they’ve given her another option for that.

Finally, Van Echkin said Agate and 305 would be a better roundabout site because it has more traffic. She’s been told the goal is to slow traffic so she said two roundabouts on 305 closer together would enhance that goal.

Moody said with the four remaining property owners, we’re “working with each one to try to come to a solution that will work.”

She provided the update to the council. She said the roundabouts will get rid of hazardous left turns, narrow shoulders and no pedestrian facilities to support mass transit stops. Other problems include a history of collisions, and bus stops on only one side of the highway.

She said U turns will improve safety, reduce delay and “provide a lot of safety benefits.” Lower speeds would result in fewer less-severe crashes and eliminate head-on accidents.

Shoulders will be 10-foot mixed-use sidewalks buffered from traffic and 15-foot wide spaces at bus stops, which will now be on both sides of the highway.

Moody said DOT is doing some things to make the roundabouts more aesthetically pleasing. While they like roundabouts to have contrasting colors so they’re easier to see, for this project they are making them light gray on the roundabout island. They also are putting a split-rail fence around ponds.

She said she understands the concern about tree removal. “It’s very, very dear to most people,” she said. “We tried to minimize it as best we can.”

Moody said they will be spending $500,000 on replanting with native trees and shrubs.

She said the project is taking a little longer than expected. Rather than this summer, construction is now predicted to begin in early 2022.

Moody said a noise study actually shows noise will decrease with roundabouts, so a “wall is not warranted. We wouldn’t be able to justify it. There has to be a benefit.”

As for adding artwork, Moody said that should be its own project with a separate timeline, but the best spot for visibility would be in the center of the roundabout island.

“That can take a lot of time,” selecting an artist and what goes there, Moody said.

Other issues

Because three councilmembers were missing, most items on the agenda were delayed, but there were some interesting public comments, most dealing with a Puget Sound Energy proposal to expand transmission lines on BI.

They asked the council to step in to delay it because many don’t even know it’s under way.

Matt Kress said the project has twice been rejected by citizens, and it doesn’t address the real problem: outages happen when trees fall on lines. He said PSE’s proposals do not address equity, wildfires, the oldest heritage trees or the routes go by schools, child care facilities and places of worship. Underground lines should be a more-serious option, he added.

Emily Reardon said the favored route runs through one of the most-diverse areas on the island, including one of the few daycares that accepts infants.

Katie Keys said schools don’t seem to know they are along the favored route. She said one route would go within 25 feet of her back door and encroach on many of her neighbors’ back yards. And she mentioned transmission lines are a health risk.

Also, Jim Halbrook asked that all climate change deniers resign from the council, and Sal DeRosalia said with COVID-19 cases on the rise the city should offer another pop-up testing clinic.

As for the council, delayed were agenda items dealing with: Complete Streets proposal; Lodging Tax Cycle; 2017-21 Housing Report; Appointments to Environmental Technical Advisory, Utility Advisory and Lodging Tax committees; wildfire safety; and the Green Building Task Force report.

Gone were councilmembers Leslie Schneider, Michael Pollock and Kirsten Hytopoulos.