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State transportation budget includes funds for Highway 305/Suquamish Way improvement planning
SUQUAMISH — Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson knows gridlock, and just not the political kind.
Before she was mayor, she was chief financial officer of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute and a commuter. During rush hour “it could take 45 minutes to get across the island,” she said.
Since joining the City Council and then becoming mayor, she’s been involved with leaders from the state, county and Suquamish Tribe in trying to improve the flow of traffic and eliminate snags, particularly at the 305/Suquamish Way intersection near the Agate Pass Bridge.
Their work, and patience, are paying off.
The state transportation budget approved by the Legislature March 8 and sent to the governor’s desk for signature includes $750,000 to plan improvements at 305 and Suquamish Way. The funding was pushed by Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island. Reps. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, and Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, worked in the House for the funding.
“Addressing the congestion caused by this intersection is one of the highest transportation priorities in North Kitsap,” Rolfes said in a press release. “The back-ups of several miles that regularly plague this corridor are unsafe and cause severe delays for commuters and people going about their daily lives … The State Highway 305 and Suquamish Way intersection improvement project has been on local priority lists for over a decade.”
The funding is for planning and engineering the improvements; funding to implement the improvements will likely be the subject of a future state budget request. Exactly what the improvements will be is still being studied. County Commissioner Rob Gelder, D-1st District, said improvements could include expanding and lengthening existing turn lanes to increase visibility for motorists turning from 305 to Suquamish Way; that could require moving the park-and-ride lot to the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort side. Gelder said there will be discussion of other options “to provide bicyclists and pedestrians safe passage.”
Erickson said the planning will likely include expanding and lengthening turn lanes at 305 and Day Road. That should please motorists who commented on Facebook about the upcoming improvements. “It would seem that they should also do something about the Day Road and Highway 305 intersection as well,” Jay Volz wrote. “This is almost always a huge backup every day at rush hour.”
But George Karl’s idea likely won’t be on the plate. “How about another bridge and four lanes from Poulsbo to the ferry dock?,” he asked in jest.
Erickson said several jurisdictions — among them the city, county, Suquamish Tribe and state Transportation Department — have been working for a long time on identifying ways to improve the 305 corridor. “We’re on the same page where we need to make improvements,” she said.
Suquamish Chairman Leonard Forsman said 305 is important economically to the area as well as socially to the Tribe. “A lot of our members live on Bainbridge and need to get to different facilities here. We need to make sure our residents can get to and from the area, but need to balance that with the needs of the region,” he said. He called 305/Suquamish Way a “very challenging intersection” but said most complaints are about the traffic backups. “The intersection is fairly safe. There are challenges with pedestrian safety, but other places on 305 are more challenging.”