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State hopes plan will curb SR3 problems

POULSBO — Though it’s mostly a two-lane highway that runs through rural areas, State Route 3 from Poulsbo to the Hood Canal Bridge may be a much different roadway in 20 years.

And the State Department of Transportation is giving the public a say in how it evolves.

Beginning this month, WSDOT will be drafting a route development plan (RDP) for SR 3 from the State Route 305 interchange to State Route 104. The plan, being undertaken by the state, Kitsap County and City of Poulsbo, will document projects that can take place along the route during the next 20 years.

“If you come back in 20 years, this is what it’s going to look like,” Poulsbo Interim Public Works Director John Stephenson explained of the study.

The first information and involvement session on this issue for community members will take place from 6-8 p.m. March 24 at Kitsap Memorial State Park Log Hall, 202 Park St. NE, in Lofall.

Assistant Project Manager Vicki Steigner explained that much like a city’s Capital Improvement Project (CIP) list, only projects that are included on the RDP are eligible for state funding.

“The goal is to develop a 20-year plan so projects identified, we hope, will be funded in 20 years,” she said.

Such studies are also useful for future developments, Stephenson said. He gave the example of a large developer wanting to build along the route. If the plan were in place, the state would then know how much right-of-way and mitigation to require of the developer to accommodate future SR 3 expansion.

“It’s just so you don’t end up with a helter skelter roadway,” he commented.

Besides the need for an RDP, Steigner said this particular piece of roadway was chosen for the upcoming study because of the large amount of interest from local residents. Much of that stems from plans to close the Hood Canal Bridge for eight weeks in 2006 for structural improvements.

“One of the key issues is the cue when the bridge is closed and access to homes along that route during that time,” Steigner said.

But aside from that small snapshot of time, residents in the area also hope the plan add a layer of safety to the road.

Poulsbo area architect Dick Prine and his wife Linda live on Scenic Drive between Lofall and Port Gamble. Prine sighed in relief hearing about the planning. He said he considers the stretch very dangerous and estimated in his limited time at home each week that he’s seen at least two to three major accidents on SR 3 each year.

“And they’re usually pretty big pile ups,” Prine said.

Lofall resident Andrea Sampson, owner of Red Cedar Farm on Lofall Road, agreed. She and her family live off the Tytler Road, Pioneer Way and SR 3 intersection, which is considered one of the more dangerous intersections along the stretch.

“It’s very dangerous, especially during the summer months,” Sampson commented. “It’s dangerous for the people who have to turn off it. It’s very scary.”

Prine added that roads like Scenic, Falkner, Sunset and Stenman also empty out onto the 55-mile-per-hour stretch, on which many drivers go far above the speed limit.

“At the very least, I think it really needs a turn lane,” Prine said.

He added that he thinks expanding the current highway might be difficult, with some homes and businesses directly abutting the lanes. Prine said he’s heard talk of abandoning the stretch and building a new highway to the east, which he thinks is an interesting idea, especially since he believes expansion sorely needed.

“All in all, that highway has an awful lot of traffic for its size,” Prine said.

Expansion and adding a turn lane were also ideas that Sampson thought may help the stretch. She said she’s seen traffic for the bridge backed all the way past her intersection during heavy summer traffic when the bridge is up.

“We’re lucky. We can go Pioneer (Way) to Clear Creek Road if we need to, but some people don’t have any way other than to get out on the highway,” Sampson said.

Sidebox:

SR 3 public involvement session

6-8 p.m. March 24

Kitsap Memorial State Park Log Hall, 202 Park St. NE, Lofall

For more information, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/regions/olympic/planning.sr3rdp

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