KINGSTON — As traffic snarled in Kingston recently due to a high volume of vehicles heading for Edmonds, the Downtown Kingston Association partnered with the Kingston Chamber of Commerce to conduct a survey in an attempt to determine what might alleviate the backup headache.
Twenty-four merchants and vendors who have businesses on the main street corridor replied, and almost all were positive about relocating State Route 104 and reclaiming their downtown. DKA President Nancy Martin said the response was much better than she had hoped for, and attributed some of the feedback to the recent ferry-related traffic jams that have plagued the community.
“A lot of people responded because it’s been so backed up in the last week,” she said. “This was way more than we were expecting, it was an excellent response. I’ve heard that usually for every one person who responds, 20 others are thinking about it.”
Kingston Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nancy Tietje said the response rate was about 10 percent of the chamber’s membership, a number much higher than other surveys conducted in the past. The purpose of the poll was to gain feedback from local businesses about moving SR 104, widening the current westbound lane so it would support both a ingress and egress to the Kingston/Edmonds ferry run. DKA members are hoping this will bring local focus back to downtown, and create a more inviting environment to shoppers who usually avoid the area because of ferry traffic.
“We’re talking about getting county support now,” said DKA member Debbie Anderson. “We were hoping we’re all on the same page, and that’s what the study was about. It sounds like we are.”
Tietje said only one of the responses was negative, stating downtown businesses are already struggling and moving the ferry traffic away would hurt them further.
Martin said this aspect of moving the highway would be a part of any studies that follow, as the reason for the repositioning is to bring the downtown businesses more customers, not less. It is a legitimate concern the DKA will continue to pay attention to.
“As with everything, there are two ways to look at it,” she said. “If the area becomes more free and not congested, maybe more local people will come downtown.”
The next step now the survey is completed is to work with 23rd District Rep. Christine Rolfes, who has been made aware of the SR 104 issues before the poll began. State funding would have to be set aside for a study to follow up one conducted in the mid-1990s to see how plausible moving the highway would be, Martin said. The previous study was lost in a fire several years ago, and much of what was already done will have to be repeated. There has already been property set aside for a holding lane outside of Kingston, the Washington State Department of Transportation just has to map out the best way to utilize it and shift the highway, she said.
“The thing I’d like to see as both a resident and the chamber’s executive director is more safety precautions,” Tietje said. “The safety issue is huge, and both ferry traffic and local individuals like to exceed the speed limit, which can be especially dangerous. That needs to change, and that’s what I’d like to see.”