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First phase of 305 traffic fixes planned for 2005

POULSBO — The good news for motorists stuck in State Route 305 traffic is that relief is on its way.

The bad news is, it’s still two years down the road.

The City of Poulsbo learned recently that the State Department of Transportation hopes to be out to bid on the first phase of SR 305 traffic improvements in the spring of 2005. The project was supposed to be larger, and go forward much sooner, but plans got caught in a proverbial traffic jam of budgets and politics.

Still, Poulsbo staff are calling the recent announcement a victory.

“It’s good news, especially for people who use 305,” Poulsbo City Engineer John Stephenson commented.

The original plan for State Route 305 was to add two lanes, one in each direction, for a two-mile stretch from the southern Poulsbo limits to State Route 3, including intersection improvements. The $15 million cost estimate, was to be paid by a $3.5 million Federal Discretionary Grant and $3.5 million in Olhava Traffic Impact fees held by the City of Poulsbo and about $8 million from the DOT gas tax funding.

The tax-limiting Initiative 695 dried up some of those funds when it was passed by voters in 1999. Then the project was part of the list of “funded” transportation project in the November 2002 Referendum 51, which was defeated at the polls. In the wake of those setbacks, Poulsbo staff realized that there was still a problem on 305 and that something needed to be done.

Mayor Donna Jean Bruce and Stephenson met with DOT representatives in December 2002 to lay out a new proposal.

“The bottom line was we the city were encouraging the DOT to take the $7 million, which will build a lot of highway, and phase the project,” Stephenson explained. “The first $7 million phase would address the hot spots in terms of traffic congestion.”

The identified “hot spots” on 305 are the intersection of 305 and Bond Road/State Route 307 and the intersection of 305 and Forest Rock Lane (Central Market).

The city proposed adding a double left turn from south 305 to east 307 and an additional northbound lane at 305 and Forest Rock Lane. Stephenson estimates that these two fixes would improve the level of service (LOS) in that area from its present F rating to a D rating.

While they appear similar, LOS grades are significantly different from those at a public school where changing from a D to an F would be paltry at best. In this case, the difference between level F and level D means about half the delay time at a given light.

“And it will take 10-15 years to deteriorate back to F in this case. That’s a good value for the money,” Stephenson commented on the change.

While the announcement was good news for some, Public Works Superintendent Bill Duffy said the change in plans on 305 will likely add about $200,000 to the price tag of his planned sewer improvements.

Duffy had originally hoped to save money by coupling his project with the 305 widening by sharing the cost of traffic control and asphalt laying with the state. He designed a new sewer line to run the two-mile stretch of 305 and change the existing 3-million-gallon per day capacity to a 6-million-gallon a day capacity, which Duffy said would meet the Poulsbo’s needs for the next 20 to 40 years.

However, the sewer project must be completed next year to meet Poulsbo’s community service delivery commitments, mainly dealing with construction taking place at Olhava and the Olympic College branch campus.

“The (305) project has been scaled back substantially but we still need to do sewer improvements,” Duffy said. “Looks like the city will need to proceed with scheduled implementation and obviously that’s going to increase our cost.”

With money that was left in the original design fund for the project, Duffy is further analyzing two options for the project — Taking the line down 305; or going down Little Valley????, across 7th Avenue and following the route of the other interceptor from Front Street to 305.

Duffy said at this point he can’t say which option he prefers, but that his main concern is fitting fulfilling the city’s capacity needs within a timeline.

“The least costly method is what we’re looking at first. Then, all things being equal if I’m going to be repaving, I’d like to do it on our own road as opposed to the state’s. So, I guess it’s the question of what is the best return on the investment?” Duffy commented.

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