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Downtown stop signs a 'nuisance' to some

Downtown business owner Peggy Fiorini worries new all-way stop intersections could drive customers away from downtown. - Jennifer Morris/Staff photo
Downtown business owner Peggy Fiorini worries new all-way stop intersections could drive customers away from downtown.
— image credit: Jennifer Morris/Staff photo

POULSBO — Eight new all-way stop intersections throughout Poulsbo’s downtown are earning mixed reviews nearly two weeks after their activation.

The result of a much-debated Traffic Demand Management study, the increased controllers around Little Norway’s historic corridor were installed to render traffic in parts of downtown more inefficient as a deterrent to cut-through commuters. They also aim to make the area a more pleasant, walkable atmosphere.

Some, however, have their doubts.

“Watch outside for five minutes and you’ll see cars still going by quickly,” noted Bridget McCarthy, from her perch in The Eagle’s Nest on Front Street. McCarthy termed the new stops a “nuisance.”

“I just don’t see that it’s doing anything to calm the traffic on Front Street,” she said.

And, as a downtown business owner, she wanted to make it known: Just like those pushing for the stop signs to be erected, the merchants who spoke against the plan do care about pedestrian safety.

“We just didn’t think the stop signs were the way to solve that,” she said.

The debate, stemming from late 2008, revolved mostly around the health of the downtown economy, some calling for the need for drive-by traffic, others warning a single vehicle vs. pedestrian accident could signal trouble for all nearby merchants.

Across Front Street, at Amanda’s Art - Yarns and Fibers, similar sentiments to McCarthy’s were shared.

“I hate them, I don’t like them,” said shop owner Amanda Richardson, who added at no point was she contacted by the city directly to give input on the plan, though plenty of times, she said, she e-mailed and voiced her opposition. “I’m all for safety in the city, but I think we’ve reached the point of overkill.”

Richardson isn’t much of a fan of the rest of the traffic study’s recommendations, either. The plan, staged in phases, also includes a potential handful of speed tables and the possible one-waying of Front Street and Third Avenue.

“It’s idiocy,” Richardson said. She, like McCarthy, contended the stop signs haven’t made a difference in traffic speeds on the active shopping section of Front Street. Richardson said the plan’s goal of diverting drivers from downtown would mean the ruinous diversion of money from the downtown shops.

Likewise, Raven Blues owner Peggy Fiorini said three customers complained of the new stops the first day of their activation. She worries people won’t obey them correctly, and that they’ll wreak havoc in wintertime weather.

“Cars are still going by quickly, and it’s really not making this town driver-friendly,” she said, adding downtown businesses, especially now, depend on community members for support. “We don’t want them up there on (Highway) 305, passing by downtown.”

But not all downtown merchants believed the stops would be bad for business.

Murphy House Bed & Breakfast owner Michael Paxhia championed the stops, and said now he’s already seen an impact.

“It’s working out great,” he said. “Walking across the street now ... it’s so much easier.”

And while some may call the stops going a bit overboard, Paxhia says the city had its reasoning, and has achieved its goal of easing the pace downtown.

“It makes for a better and a safer environment down here in downtown Poulsbo,” he said.

Paxhia’s wife, Hiromi Paxhia, has also noticed a change.

“I love it,” she said. “Definitely I see everyone slowing down, which is great.”

A Herald Web poll received a range of opinions: 12 percent of responders said the stops will make downtown more pedestrian friendly, 35 percent said they believed the signs will drive people away from the area, and 36 percent said they found the sign placement nonsensical. View the poll at www.northkitsapherald.com.

But despite some business owners’ concerns, those monitoring the stop signs have as of yet to find problems.

Poulsbo Police Chief Dennis Swiney said his department has received just three letters or calls from the public not in favor of the stops. So far, they appear to be functioning correctly, and no accidents have been reported, he said. Both the police and planning departments will continue to monitor the intersections.

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