Poulsbo leaders are concerned about four injury accidents since June, including one fatal, at the Highway 305/Johnson Parkway roundabout project.
The most recent one on New Year’s Eve killed a 50-year-old woman, leading to vehicular homicide charges against a woman who was also arrested for DUI.
Mayor Becky Erickson and members of the city engineering department addressed the safety concerns at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
“Even though the accident was outside our work zone, it’s really important that people slow down when they go through construction projects,” said Diane Lenius, director of engineering.
City engineer Josh Raines said after the fatality the department took another look at how traffic control is set up, along with the safety barriers there. Additionally, the state Department of Transportation revisited the site. “I’m glad to report that everything that’s out there is in accordance with our approved traffic control plan,” Raines said. “That is something we will continue monitoring.”
Erickson added that the construction of roundabouts on 305 is not going away as there are ones also scheduled for Totten and Seminole roads. She has asked Poulsbo police chief Ron Harding to put together an emphasis control with help from other agencies for safe driving through the roundabout. “We are going to be working on this road for a very long time,” Erickson said. “It’s really imperative that we have really good traffic inspection by law enforcement to make sure that speeds are down…”
Lenius and Raines also provided an update on the roundabout, stating that work has decreased due to winter weather, which is expected. “The project is progressing,” Raines said. “We are working as can be expected in these kinds of conditions as the contractors reduce the number of crews out there just to limit the disturbance.”
He added the cast and place wall was recently finished, and the section of wall near the roundabout got some random board finish that will tie into the art decorative wall that will be built in coming months. Crews are focused on installing water mains and finalizing design and pricing for security cameras in the tunnel.
“We’re not where we’d hope to be in terms of schedule but we are currently still on the original scheduled path of eighteen months,” Raines said, adding it should be done this summer.
In a related matter, Erickson noted that Kitsap Transit dedicated $1.5 million for a new multi-modal park and ride at Johnson Parkway.
“This is just the first step,” she said. “These park and rides cost a lot more than $1.5 million but they want to buy the land and get it tied up now. It will be a place for people to park their cars but it will also have facilities for bicycles, and of course, the Johnson area has those huge new walking pathways.”
The council approved for finance director Deb Booher to go through the process so $520,000 can be used to purchase city vehicles. The debt is to purchase eight new police vehicles and one new vehicle for the building department, according to city documents.
In 2017, the city replaced half the fleet with the intent of renewing the debt every four years, allowing all vehicles to be replaced every eight years. The city will assume debt payments for four years in lieu of using reserves. The vehicles will be hybrid, per government regulations.
“Ford has gone to that as their standard offering. The nice thing about that is we’ve had enough time to compare with the county who uses those vehicles and has been using them for a few years. They’re averaging pretty close to 30 miles per gallon,” Harding said, adding the department’s current vehicles average about 10 mpg.
“There’s a little bit more cost for the hybrids,” he said. “We’ll cover that cost in gas savings in two years and in four years, the cost savings alone will pay for the complete cost of one vehicle.”
The council also discussed when it would like to return to in-person meetings or have a mix of remote and in-person. Most councilmembers indicated they would prefer to stay remote as long as COVID-19 rates remain high. Councilmember Gary McVey said if they open the chambers for meetings, they cannot limit the number of attendees unless it’s beyond building capacity. “That’s a problem if we cannot distance people,” he said.
The council indicated that once COVID rates go down it would like to have a hybrid approach to meetings that give them and the public the choice of attending in person or remotely. If anyone were to attend in person, Erickson would have to be there, and masks would be mandatory. “My concern is that people will show up without a mask,” she said. “We’d effectively have to stop the meeting.”
The council decided to keep meetings remote but will revisit the topic again in April.