Kitsap County Public Works hosted an online Zoom meeting to allow residents of Poulsbo to weigh in on a traffic study for Lemolo Shore Drive.
County traffic engineer Jeff Shea laid out the 2020 findings, including potential alternatives to make the road safer for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Complaints recently have been about driver speed and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.
The county came up with a pro and con list of 10 alternatives, but noted some of its main concerns with them.
For example, widening the road to create a bike/pedestrian/shared use path would cost over $1 million because it would require the county to acquire rights of way from citizens in certain areas, along with navigating culverts, painting road-sharing signage and navigating some stormwater requirements.
Now, thanks to its designation as a “major collector,” or a road that acts as a connection between local streets and major arterial roads, the projects could receive federal funding.
“An important element of the federal classification system is that grant funding is normally reserved for collectors and arterials only. So if a road is declassified to a local road it will no longer be eligible for federal money for road work and improvements,” Shea said.
One of the alternatives presented proposes changing Lemolo Shore’s designation as a “collector” to a local road, which would allow the county to have more control over traffic mitigation efforts. However, that would sacrifice the potential federal funding source.
“Any large project that we do on Lemolo Shore will undoubtedly have to be done with the assistance of federal grants,” Shea said.
Shea then went down the alternatives list, which can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcYr6h8_QB4&t=1266s (go to minute marker 14:40)
As speeding was an early concern, the first alternative was to lower speeds on Lemolo Shore Drive, which is 35 miles per hour. Data shows the average driver goes about 40 mph.
Lowering speeds would reduce the severity of collisions, especially those involving pedestrians. However the speed limit is hardly ever followed and even more difficult to enforce, the study said. Also, a lower speed limit could lead to more dangerous actions by drivers experiencing road rage.
“Studies around the country find that without consistent enforcement or engineering features in the roadway, lower speed limits do not always have the effect the community is after,” Shea said.
Kitsap County assistant Public Works director Joe Rutan also noted that drivers are creatures of habit and will go the speed they are comfortable with on a familiar road.
“It’s really surprising how little impact that speed limit signs have on driver behavior,” Rutan said.
Another speed reductions alternative was speed humps, which is a controversial topic in many neighborhoods.
“The most-heated community meetings I have attended revolve around the installation of these devices. People like them or really hate them,” Shea said.
Speed humps have a proven record of reducing speed and come at a price of $100,000. But they add to traffic noise and slow down all vehicles, including emergency service ones.
Another concern is Lemolo Shore Drive is being used as a “cut through” route to avoid construction traffic. The traffic study shows there is little of that, but the county could solve that by turning Lemolo Shore Drive into a one-lane road.
While that would widen the road there is no parallel street for traffic headed in the other direction. Motorists would have to travel three or more miles out of their way. That would impact emergency services, local street traffic would increase, and inevitably someone would drive the wrong way, causing a collision.
The county was asked if it anticipated more cut through traffic as the Johnson Road project got underway. The county noted that was something it would keep an eye on.