$5.5 million to pave way for safe walks to school

Any trip students take to school should be as safe as possible.

That message was delivered by Bremerton’s Public Works staff, which shared updates Sept. 15 on a $5.5 million project for new sidewalks and redone roads near View Ridge Elementary, the county’s sole elementary with an arts emphasis.

$4.1 million is estimated to come from the state Department of Transportation as part of its Safe Routes to Schools program, created to encourage walking and biking to school while improving the safety and mobility of doing so. Project manager Nick Ataie said those modes of transportation are gaining traction.

“If you look at the statistics, that’s really starting to climb,” he said. “It’s not just enabling children to walk and bike to school, but it is also promoting an active lifestyle, encouraging independence — all the good things that come with walking and riding your bike to school.”

The project involves construction on three strips of road. Spruce Avenue from the school to Sylvian Way would see construction of shared-use paths and a 6-foot-wide sidewalk, along with ADA curb ramps. The route then turns eastbound on Sylvian Way to Almira Drive with additional sidewalk reconstruction and curb ramps, as well as two flashing crosswalks. Almira Drive will see some of the heaviest construction up to Ivy Road, with a full reconstruction including 6-feet-wide sidewalks, curb ramps, bicycle lanes, pavement reconstruction and lighting improvements.

City Councilmember Denise Frey said that she saw the impact the project could have when she got an emotional response from a woman living on Almira. “I came up to her door just to let her know about this meeting, and I told her what it was about and what was happening, and she started crying because she has wanted this for so long, for her kids to have a decent sidewalk by their house, a safe route to school,” Frey said.

Some folks are wanting traffic calming strategies for the roads. Speeding has become a consistent problem, they say. One community member said motorcyclists speed through at 60 miles per hour at times.

Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler said he would work with Public Works to find a solution. He also said that while preventative measures can be taken, it won’t stop speeding. “Some of the folks that we deal with, there are some belligerent ones who are just out to disrupt the neighborhood,” he said.

The grant will be taken before the City Council in October, and engineering designs are expected this fall. Construction is not scheduled to begin until early 2026.