News

Gridlock, high speeds irk locals along State Route 3

POULSBO — One stretch of State Route 3 is known as much for its high-speed accidents as it is for its parking lot-like conditions.

And Wednesday night, residents told Department of Transportation staff they’re tired of it.

The public meeting March 24, one of three that will be held in the next eight months, was local residents’ first chance to voice their opinions on a route development plan (RDP) for SR 3 from the State Route 305 interchange to State Route 104 and the Hood Canal Bridge. More than 100 area residents packed the Kitsap Memorial Park Lodge to speak on the document, which will plan the route’s next 20 years.

Lynn Hakes of the WSDOT Olympic Region Planning Office said that finding ways to enhance the approximately 7-mile stretch is important because it is a major highway linking freight, commerce, tourists and commuters with their intended destinations. It is also on the federal highway system, which means it is significant to national security.

“You have unique problems out here,” Hakes commented.

The RDP will be drafted through public input and the work of a steering committee of stakeholders from areas like Poulsbo, Kitsap County and other transit, business, environmental and historical groups. The document will identify both long- and short-term projects in the areas of:

•Preservation, including identifying historic landmarks, wetlands and other already-existing features

•Basic improvements, projects that move people through the area faster, including transit

•Safety, including adding signals, turn lanes, road lane geometry and fixing inadequate shoulders

•Economy, including projects that address tourism, freight and business needs

•Environment, including retrofit of culverts and barriers

While issues like wetlands and historic sights were mentioned Wednesday night, it quickly became obvious that what most people were worried about was safety.

“I’ve seen this go from bad to impossible,” commented Ralls Clotfelter, a 35-year resident of Lofall Road. “You can’t have a mix of gravel trucks with automobiles, you’ve got to give them a chance at an alternate route.”

Clotfelter was among the group of attendees who were pushing for WSDOT to consider building a second route east of SR 3 that would allow for an industrial transit route and another for private vehicles.

“The best situation would be to start at the Agate Pass Bridge and build a new highway that would bypass Poulsbo and this would be a rural highway,” commented Orion Culver, a 39-year Falkner Road resident. “Originally, it was supposed to be like that.”

Poulsbo resident Ray Diehl, who owns acreage off Scenic Drive, said the narrowing of lanes at the intersection of SR 305 and SR 3 at Poulsbo shows that another highway branch was originally planned, which would have not only eased congestion along SR 3, but also Bond Road leading out of Poulsbo. Diehl said the idea has been dismissed as being cost prohibitive, however, he’s been told the state already has the right-of-way through the Pope and Talbot land and he felt building a highway would be comparable to the cost of fixing all the problems on SR 3.

“Any time you start getting into lights and stuff like that, it costs a lot of money,” he commented.

While the feasibility of a new highway has not yet been determined, WSDOT representatives did admit that they know the current route has significant problems. Hakes said that under the Level of Service (LOS) grading system with the best LOS being “A” and the worst being “F,” the route’s marks show need for improvements.

“At peak, it’s operating around LOS ‘D’ between the bridge and Big Valley,” she explained. “Closer to Poulsbo, you’re operating about a LOS of ‘E.’”

But that piece of information didn’t seem to shock anyone. Residents said it’s not uncommon to find it impossible to pull out of driveways and off side roads because traffic is bumper to bumper. The Hood Canal Bridge’s openings were mostly to blame.

“It’s just increasing traffic all the time,” Culver said. “One of the biggest problems is when the bridge is open, they stack up all the way down. It becomes a parking lot and no one can get home.”

“Coming from Poulsbo, it’s impossible to get (home),” added Bernice Denton, who has lived on Denton Road since 1937. “It used to be nice, you could drive right down the middle of the road and not see a car.”

Denton added that she actually saw a car flip over into the ditch once because the driver tried to pass her as she waited for an opportunity to turn left off SR 3.

But for every report of gridlock, there was a story of excessive speeds and pile ups. When Hakes mentioned that WSDOT knows of high accident rates at Equestrian Drive to Falkner and Baltic Lane to the SR 305, and specifically Pioneer Hill, Pioneer Way and Big Valley Road, one man in the audience responded, “Of course.”

“Our guests can’t slow down enough to find the driveway without a 18-wheeler being right up their tailpipe,” commented Hilary Renfer-Odell, co-owner of Foxbridge Bed & Breakfast, which is located directly off the highway.

“Why are we 55 mph on Highway 3 when as soon as you get to SR 104 it’s 45 to Port Gamble and then it’s 25 and then it’s 50 to Kingston?” her husband Gray Odell added. “Slow it down.”

Information gathered at Wednesday’s meeting will be forwarded to the steering committee for review. Two more public information sessions will be scheduled in the near future.

Sidebox:

For more information, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/regions/olympic/planning or call (360) 357-2644

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Aug 1 edition online now. Browse the archives.