Meeting delves into moving SR 104

KINGSTON — Several residents in Kingston are still remembering, with a sour taste in their mouths, the traffic of last summer and how it knotted up local motorists along State Route 104, helping prompt continuing work on a plan to move the highway as a whole. The Kingston Stakeholders allowed a chance for some of those working on the project to present the most recent findings, along with some history of the idea, during their Friday morning meeting last week.

Twenty-third District Rep. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), attended the gathering to gain more knowledge on the topic and discuss how she could help the planning process along. She said Monday she has meetings planned with several transportation authorities this week, which could mildly accelerate altering Kingston’s flow of traffic.

“If you go back, the state of Washington, the (Department of Transportation) has studied the route from the ferry to the (Hood Canal Bridge) since 1949,” said Kingston Stakeholder Sonny Woodward. He presented a history of the discussions and different studies dating back to the late-1940s. “From 1999 to 2001, the state put a proposal together for a project like this. Apparently sometime between 2001 and 2006, there was a fire in the storage area, and it burned all of the records up.”

The plan was to essentially move the ferry toll booths to the current egress, create new lanes for both loading and unloading, and make what is now SR 104 into a two-lane road for local traffic. The plans also included another ferry holding lot just across the street from American Marine Bank. Woodward said because of the fire, about $1.5 million was lost with the study and set Kingston back about seven years.

“The Stakeholders gave me a very clear presentation of the project,” Rolfes said. “It was a well-received, supported concept. I’m not going to give it a probability rating because funding for additional projects is really hard to come by... Kingston’s project is not on that list. What we need to do is put together a package.”

The Kingston Chamber of Commerce was also present at the meeting, showing numbers from a poll taken at the end of August asking business owners how they feel about a potential move of SR 104. Chamber Executive Director Nancy Tietje said Rolfes was receptive to the information, and suggested holding an additional gathering for 23rd District Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) so she was also brought up to date on the plan.

“Even though the relocation and holding lane is a state project, Christine said we should get on the list for county projects,” Tietje said. “Having all three state representatives working together is also very important... We all agreed we’d like to see the project done as soon as possible.”

Woodward said Kitsap County and WSDOT have to catch up for seven years of lost material, and that process should cost about the same as the study done in 1999. This would be next to alleviate traffic pressure in Kingston, as well as take into account the Washington State Ferry system’s future plans.

“The bottom line is, that was a great idea that didn’t strike gold then, but business owners said we do have to do something eventually,” he said. “Now is eventually. Until we solve 104, we can’t solve Kingston’s other (Urban Growth Area) issues.”

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