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Mud slide snarls traffic, delays ferry

Mother Nature gave North Kitsap motorists a double whammy with snow on Wednesday then a mud slide on Thursday morning.

Thursday’s mud slide on Bainbridge Island near Reitan Road closed down State Route 305 and the Agate Pass Bridge from about 6:30 a.m. to about 8 a.m. when one lane of alternating flow traffic was restored. The slowdowns lasted until both lanes of traffic were opened in late morning and the backups were finally alleviated.

State Department of Transportation crews were on their way from Poulsbo to the slide at about 6:30 a.m., but were caught in traffic. State Patrol escorted the DOT teams to the scene.

Washington State Trooper Glen Tyrell said the slide in itself was not significant, but the traffic tie-ups that followed were.

Traffic heading to Bainbridge Island was backed up all the way into Poulsbo, about four miles, he said. Traffic also backed up into Suquamish as Department of Transportation workers cleared the road.

“It wasn’t a matter of pushing it off the road,” Tyrell said of the slide. “The drainage areas had to be cleaned so the water would not back up.”

The initial dirt was cleared at about 8 a.m. and one lane was opened to traffic. Bainbridge Island public works sent in a back hoe to clear some of the dirt while DOT arrived.

Joyce Komac, superintendent with the transportation department estimated seven or eight crews were sent to the scene.

Tyrell said he was in constant contact with radio and television stations advising people of the wait.

“We did not give alternative routes,” he said, adding he wanted to quash rumors that the road and the bridge would be closed all day.

Drivers also grappled with confusion at the lighted intersection of SR 305 and Suquamish Way. Troopers did not direct traffic at that intersection.

“I don’t know if it would have done any good,” Tyrell said.

Mother Nature picked the worst possible time to throw a monkey wrench into the morning commute Tyrell said. Effects could be felt as far as Kingston when ferry commuters bypassed Bainbridge to get over to the other side. A spokeswoman with the Washington State Ferries said the wait there was an hour or more for most of Thursday morning. Service from Kingston to Edmonds returned to a normal schedule at about noon. Ferry commuters on Bainbridge were few, a contrast to the usually heavy traffic through there.

Komac said soil experts reported to her that this area of Bainbridge Island has experienced mud slides for hundreds of years. Although a slide hasn’t occurred in the past several, this one was caused by the heavy rains and snow that saturated tree roots and limbs, Komac said.

Although there’s no guarantee another slide won’t occur, crews will be out this week to cut the tops from some of the trees in that area in an effort to prevent more mud slides.

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