SR 104 plans could bring forth full-fledged change

PORT ORCHARD — Traffic jams in Kingston, a phenomenon once unheard of, are not so uncommon any more. Plans to improve the traffic slowdowns brought on by ferry traffic have literally gone up in smoke and residents of the North End community are reaching the end of their tether.

Last summer’s traffic fiasco, which saw stand-still, bumper-to-bumper traffic, sparked Kingston community members and Kitsap County officials to work together to improve the flow of cars through town to better incorporate the ferry traffic. Discussion along these lines has been going on for decades now, and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) conducted studies in the mid-1990s. Engineering for a specific project — including an additional holding area near Lindvog Road for waiting ferry traffic and additional lanes on State Route 104 — was shelved in 1998. The data and designs were stored in an attic and lost in a fire not long after. There were no back-up copies of the plan so the WSDOT is now working with just a few drawings salvaged from the blaze.

Kitsap County workers met with WSDOT officials and two Kingston residents Tuesday afternoon to examine the drawings and see if they were still applicable today. Discussion of funding and a project timeline dominated the meeting, as did talk of stormwater runoff and Kingston residents’ desperation for a new transportation system to deal with ferry traffic.

“We’d have to do limited public outreach and do the design again,” Kevin Dayton, WSDOT Olympic Region administrator, said of the holding lane and road expansion plan. The plan suggests moving SR 104 so the current ferry traffic egress would be a two-lane road, or larger if necessary, and what is now the ingress for the ferry would revert strictly to a downtown corridor.

“There has been a history before this,” said Kingston Stakeholder Dave Wetter. “(WSDOT) has several alternatives, and we don’t need another alternative.”

Kitsap County Commissioner Steve Bauer agreed with that assessment, saying this road improvement project still seemed feasible. The engineering for it would have to be redone, to the tune of $3.2 million, and funding for the design and project would also have to be sought. Bauer remained positive through the meeting the Washington state legislature would be receptive to monetary requests. State Rep. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) has been enthusiastic about seeking out funding during the legislative session to assist the project, he said.

“We’re concerned from the safety standpoint,” Wetter said. “The Stakeholders are interested in getting the downtown back. We have met with (Vicki Steigner, WSDOT assistant transportation planning manager) and at that time the only thing she had was the big drawing.”

Bauer asked if the WSDOT officials could regroup and begin looking at phases of the potential project instead of doing the whole thing at once. He was adamant about expediting the process and beginning the sections that can be done now, saving the rest for a later date. Steigner and Dayton said they would examine the plan for the Kingston downtown corridor and get back to Bauer and the county sometime in February. They all agreed to look at the next steps and funding then.

“What we’ve got here is a fairly critical need to basically create a downtown and sense of community,” Bauer said. “This is probably the only area in the county that may not become a city, and I think a lot of factors suggest this problem could get worse.”

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