Poulsbo heads for changes on State Route 305

POULSBO — A series of easels set up in the fire station community room Tuesday night told the story of the State Route 305 upgrade plans.

And while the drawings were a boon to some, others had questions about dramatic changes they will bring for Poulsbo’s highway.

In total, about 68 locals signed in at an open house and public hearing March 1. Organizers believe more may have attended the two-hour event and not signed in. The gathering focused on the SR 305 Environmental Assessment, which was made public last month and for which public comments will be taken through March 15.

Tuesday’s event unveiled designs for the two phases of construction along SR 305. Stage one, which spans from Bond Road to Hostmark Street, is funded and planned to take place the summers of 2006 and 2007. Stage two, from Hostmark to Baywatch, is not yet funded.

Project Manager Steve Fuchs of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Olympic Region noted that stage two was included in the finished designs and Environmental Assessment to allow an easier process if and when funding becomes available.

“Basically, we’d just dust off our plans, apply for the permits and start construction,” Fuchs commented. “It could be a turn around of as short as six months once we have funding.”

Besides the previously announced High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, intersection improvements from Bond Road to Sol Vei, bicycle lanes and wetland enhancements, the WSDOT designs also showed short (about 4-foot) retaining walls at a handful of points and one tall retaining (10- to 12-foot) wall along the highway in front of Central Market. Those, designers explained, were there to protect the South Fork of Dogfish Creek, which follows the route.

At the behest of neighbors, tall noise walls at Holm Court and Tollefson were also added to the newest designs. These additions are part of the stage two designs but were a welcome addition since the last set of designs for the project was unveiled for the failed 1998-1999 construction.

“The residents that are going to be protected by the noise walls were happy and the ones directly on either side of them were not,” Fuchs said of the new plans.

Fuchs said the majority of comments he received from the public hearing were positive, however, he did hear a number of concerns about the HOV lanes. The project manager said what people need to understand about the lanes is that they will only he HOV during peak hours in the mornings and evenings and are required to obtain the funding source of $5.5 million of the $17.5 million total price tag. He added WSDOT plans to closely monitor the lanes once they are in place.

“So there is the potential in the future, if they’re not functioning well, that there could be another use for them,” Fuchs explained.

Another concern from hearing attendees was the plan for double yellow lines prohibiting left turns the length of the 2.2-mile first stage except for at intersections. Currently, traffic is able to turn left across SR 305 into a number of business areas and though his business would not be impacted, Mike’s Car Wash owner Mike Brooks said he worried for some of the businesses that could be.

“They’re going to funnel you onto side streets to retrace your steps and I think that could be a problem,” Brooks said.

Jim Johnson, who lives near the corner of SR 305 and Lincoln Road said he, too, was troubled by the double yellow line replacing the current turn lane. His only access to his property is off 305 and he mentioned that he worried for others like Dairy Queen, Subway and Caffe Parousia that have their access off the route as well.

“You can’t stop progress, I realize that. But, my God, if it ruins the property I’m in, I can’t understand,” Johnson said. “With the property I’m in, you’ll only be able to get in one way.”

Johnson owns The Diner and Barbershop off Viking Avenue and said he liked the renovation that was done there. He said with two lanes in either direction and a turn lane in the middle, traffic flows easily on the route and the drivers are still able to turn into businesses from both sides.

“I don’t see why (that wouldn’t work here),” Johnson said. “We’ve got all the businesses with the frontage there and it does just fine.”

Fuchs countered that not only is access management to state highways a law Washington’s had on the books since 1991, but it’s a necessary function of an effective highway.

“It’s a key factor for safety and the ability to get traffic moving through a corridor,” Fuchs said.

Along with mitigation and right-of-way acquisition this year, Fuchs added, WSDOT’s other plan is to work with property owners on access issues. The lucky thing, Fuchs noted, is that the City of Poulsbo has done a better job than some jurisdictions at limiting business access via frontage already. That means that there are only a handful of businesses expected to need solutions to their access problems.

“It’s very common for business owners to make these comments and we certainly try to listen to them and hear their concerns and we’ll work with them to find a solution that will work for them,” Fuchs said.

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