Roundabouts are still expected to be the long-term solution along a partial stretch of Bethel Road in Port Orchard even as increasing property values and construction costs have forced the city to revisit alternative designs.
Bethel Road, which provides drivers with connections to the downtown area via Bay Street and State Routes 16 and 160, has been slated for a number of improvements suggested by the 2018 Corridor Plan, including two roundabouts at the intersections of Salmonberry and Blueberry roads in the project’s first phase.
Original designs suggested that a one-lane roundabout for Blueberry would be sufficient while determining the need for a two-lane design for Salmonberry. However, city officials now say cost estimates for Phase One leaped from its original $12.5 million to around $17 million, putting the cost too far out of range for a multi-lane design.
The news comes nearly one year after the Port Orchard City Council approved a sales tax increase of one-tenth of one percent, with the possibility that it could be reevaluated and pushed to two-tenths of a percent. Mayor Rob Putaansuu has said this is the main source of funding for the project, along with “traffic impact fees and a small grant that we plan to obtain. Final costs and funding needs won’t be known until we get to a 100% design.”
Even with construction years out, Putaansuu said it would be better to push forward with what is still feasible in the meantime as studies had also determined that a one-lane design could work as well. “We believe that the additional $3.5M for the double lane roundabout would be better spent on solving other traffic improvement needs along the Bethel Corridor,” he said. “Additionally the larger roundabout has greater environmental impacts which will take longer to permit. We feel that delivering on this project sooner is better for the community.”
This means Port Orchard residents, as well as those who commonly use the stretch of road, are being asked to take another survey to choose their preferred design of two different one-lane roundabouts at the Salmonberry intersection. The first is a four-leg single-lane option that has been advertised as the safer option, is most like the original two-lane option and is estimated to put the Phase One costs at $13.5 million, $500k under budget. The second option, while making costs $1 million cheaper, would be a three-leg one-lane option and would require some traffic redirection from commuters.
While either option would prove to be less efficient than the two-lane option, Putaansuu has said it still provides a solid resolution to the anticipated increases in both population and traffic. “Our traffic consultant has informed us that the single-lane roundabout will serve our needs for up to 20 years,” he said.