Be kind, keep pedestrians in mind

POULSBO — When Michael Paxhia walks from his neighborhood into downtown Poulsbo, it brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “run for your life.”

Paxhia, owner of Poulsbo’s Murphy House Bed & Breakfast, said crossing Hostmark Street from Fjord Drive to Fourth Avenue can be basically akin to a quick game of Russian Roulette.

And he’s not alone in his thinking.

Many pedestrians traversing the highly crossed intersection have had their share of close calls with cars traveling up or down Hostmark. Drivers, too, have a tricky time maneuvering through the five-way intersection where Lincoln Road, Fourth and Fjord all meet Hostmark. From his vantage point at the Murphy House, Paxhia said he’s seen some sticky situations, and has himself nearly gotten clipped both as a pedestrian and driver. The place is one of his biggest pet peeves.

“I’ve almost been hit several times at that intersection,” he said. “It’s like you’re running for your life across that street.”

City Council Member Linda Berry-Maraist said she’s had a few close calls at the intersection herself. She discussed the issue at Poulsbo’s Public Works committee meeting Wednesday night, where a few possible solutions were identified.

Changing the speed limit on Hostmark from 25 mph to 20 mph at 6th Avenue was one suggestion made, as was the moving of the crosswalk from the uphill side of the intersection west toward Front Street. City Engineer Andrzej Kasiniak will study the potential of each before the work is actually done. He said shifting the crosswalk location, as well as installing curb cut-outs, would most likely cost about $10,000. The committee discussed the possibility of raised crosswalks, which simultaneously act as speed bumps, but the price tag on those would be almost double.

Council Member Dale Rudolph said the intersection has evolved over the years. Lincoln used to be the busier thoroughfare, and stop signs were instead on Hostmark, but as the city grew the road usage changed. Closing off Lincoln was considered in the past, but simply isn’t a viable option, as a school, library and church all use that stretch of road for access, he said.

Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade said she’d like to see some sort of improvement done before Viking Fest in May. She said a high number of pedestrians do cross there, including joggers and those accessing the Liberty Bay trail system from downtown.

Though there have been close-calls, the intersection’s accident rate doesn’t prove it.

“The accident rate there is essentially zero or close to zero,” said Public Works director Jeff Bauman. He added a change in the speed limit will only do good if police officers are there to enforce it.

Paxhia’s sentiments were similar.

“We need to control the speed down there for everybody,” he said, adding though the Poulsbo Police Department sits along that stretch, speeding is prevalent. He believes the best solution to the hazardous situation is the installation of stop signs, which the city in the past has said is not possible because of the lack of sight distance created by Hostmark’s steep grade. He believes in the solution so much so, in fact, he half-joked he’d pay for them himself.

Still, Paxhia said he’ll be looking to see if the city’s solutions fix the problem, though he doesn’t think a new speed limit and crosswalk are going to do the job.

“This is a walking town. That intersection does not work for a walking town,” he said. “If we want the citizens to walk in this town, we need stop signs, plain and simple.”

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