State hopes wetland issues won’t sink 305 plans

POULSBO — First, the State Route 305 project got the money needed to finally go forward.

Now, designers are hoping to clear another hurdle that has dogged the widening for about 10 years — environmental issues.

The environmental assessment (EA) for the SR 305 project was released to the public last week. A combined public hearing and open house covering the proposal and its EA will be held from 5-7 p.m. March 1 at the Poulsbo Fire Department station. Steve Fuchs, project manager for the WSDOT Olympic Region, explained that the event will be attended by WSDOT staff who will be able to answer questions on a variety of topics, as well as a court reporter who will take formal testimony. The public comment period for the EA will last until March 15.

The project stretches an estimated 2.2 miles, from Bond Road to Hostmark.

The major components of the project are:

• Two new traffic lanes (one in each direction) will be constructed and signed as High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes during peak hours

• Turning lanes will be improved at Bond Road, Forest Rock Lane, Liberty Road, Lincoln Drive, Hostmark Street, Tollefson and Sol Vei

• Bicycle lanes will be provided and sidewalks will be constructed between Baywatch Court and Lincoln Drive

• A 1,200-foot section of South Fork Dogfish Creek will be realigned and 10 culverts will be replaced for better fish passage

Project Engineer Andrzej Kasiniak said the southernmost end of the work will be at least a drop lane at the north side of the Hostmark intersection. If resources allow, he would like to see the work extended about 300 feet south of Hostmark, to about the driveway of Poulsbo Inn & Suites. That would include additional turning lanes and travel lanes.

On the Forest Rock Lane, Lincoln Road and Hostmark intersections, improvements will extend to 10th Avenue to the east and 8th Avenue to the west. At Bond, work will extend to the first driveway of the medical center to the south and to Bernt Road to the north. The widening will taper from Bernt to just past Valley Nursery. The combination of intersection improvements and widening should make significant improvements to the current roadway conditions.

“I think the problem is you have so many intersections so close together and you don’t have room to push cars through,” Kasiniak explained.

If construction of the widening goes forward during the summers of 2006 and 2007 as planned, the SR 305 project will be 10 years in the making. Fuchs said the SR 305 Major Investment Study, completed by several jurisdictions and agencies in 1997, identified the widening as needed.

But first, Initiative 695 passed and did away with the excise tax that was planned to fund the project.

That problem was fixed in 2004 when Kasiniak began striving to obtain grant funding for the $17.5 million traffic upgrade. The project’s price tag will be paid by: $3.5 million from the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board (TIB); $3.2 million from the Puget Sound Regional Council; $5.6 million from the Olhava developer; $2.9 million in federal grants; $1.9 million in state funding; and about $200,000 from the City of Poulsbo and Kitsap County.

“Really, until 2004, this just did not have the funding it would need to be built,” Fuchs said. “It’s nice when there’s such a need out there and you want so much to get the project built for the community. Right now, we’re full steam ahead.”

Even if the project had had the needed funding in its first attempt for 1998-1999 construction, the original EA received significant concerns from the Suquamish Tribe and Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife for its potential impacts on the south fork of Dogfish Creek. Those concerns prompted an overhaul of the project design that can be seen in the new EA. Originally, the plan was to widen the road symmetrically from the center line, which would have impacted wetlands on both sides of the highway. Now, from Liberty Road north, the pavement will be widened only to the east, away from the wetlands. One section of Dogfish Creek between Liberty and Forest Rock Lane is still going to be impacted.

“Our road would basically be on top of it, so it will be realigned and moved away from the road,” Fuchs explained.

The March 1 meeting will include WSDOT environmental, real estate and planning staff. Displays will include road design and right of way and mitigation plans.

“We’ll have lots and lots of displays so people can get a good idea of what this project will be like,” Fuchs said.

Once a public hearing is held and the document adopted, the next step will be drafting contract documents in preparation for construction, designs and right of way and mitigation site acquisition.

It is estimated that it will cost about $5 million to purchase the necessary right of way and mitigation sites. Fuchs explained that the majority of right of way still needed is small pieces of land surrounding intersections and should not be much of an impact for property owners. About 13 acres of wetland mitigation between SR 305 and the Mitchusson Park property have been delineated.

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