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Traffic changes coming to Poulsbo’s downtown business core

POULSBO — Poulsbo City Council set into motion Wednesday night phase one of a traffic plan meant to make downtown safer for pedestrians. The plan includes 11 new all-way stops throughout downtown, designed to slow traffic, discourage cut-through drivers and eventually provide increased parking.

After gathering a stakeholders advisory group and making adjustments to the original strategy based on council and citizen feedback, the city is plugging ahead with these first implementations, on the contingency that the next 12 months will include careful monitoring of its success.

The Traffic Demand Management Plan, released last month, also contains consultant recommendations to make Front Street and Third Avenue one-ways, as well as install additional elevated crosswalks downtown.

City engineer Andrzej Kasiniak said stop signs are the most easily removable of traffic calming devices, especially in comparison to elevated crosswalks or speed tables, which are more permanent. Phase one will allow the city to decide whether or not the stop signs are meeting the study’s goals before moving ahead with the other recommendations.

Downtown business owner and Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association President Tammy Mattson said she surveyed 30 of the 160 HDPA members (only 60-65 of the members are downtown specific) and just four of those surveyed were against the traffic changes.

She testified, along with others, that there have been many “close calls” of pedestrians nearly being hit by cars downtown.

“There’s no doubt safety is an issue,” she said.

Poulsbo resident Amanda Morgan, who said she often walks to destinations in town, urged the city to use enforcement measures it already has to ensure pedestrian safety. She held up her scarf, a bright green and orange accessory that “looks almost like a traffic cone,” and said even that hasn’t prevented a few near-misses. She suggested speed reader boards or dummy police cars — which elicited a chuckle from the audience but is a tactic used in some departments throughout the country.

Downtown business owner Peggy Fiorini, who has run Raven Blues for five years, said she believes it will be hard on businesses to cut down traffic in the city’s core. The changes, she fears, will mean fewer drivers will be able to browse the windows of shops as they pass through, leaving stores with even less shoppers during the tough economic downturn.

Fiorini said many in downtown have suffered a “tremendous decline in business.”

“We need people down there,” she said.

Hot Shots Java owner LeAnne Musgrove said she too worries about the effects the traffic regulations will have, though she also has concern for pedestrian safety. She questioned whether there is an alternative that will not cut off traffic from downtown.

“It’s pretty slow down there right now,” she said.

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