The Washington State Department of Transportation, through its Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Program, has awarded the City of Bremerton $1.7 million to make improvements to Washington Avenue.
Beginning near Fifth Street heading toward the Manette Bridge, the city hopes to widen sidewalks and add bike lanes. Public Works Director Chal Martin also recently made a presentation to the city council that would take out the right-hand turn lane onto the bridge and reduce Washington to one lane of travel in each direction.
“People were immediately concerned about taking a travel lane away and what would happen during rush hour in the city,” Martin said.
But, through various traffic counts and direct observation, Martin says those concerns may be overblown.
“I just think this project is so important to the city and I am of course concerned about the negative vibe about what happens to the rush hour traffic,” he said. “But, what I’m seeing here is, yes it does impact the rush hour traffic, but given the benefit on the other side of the equation, this is a wonderful project.”
Martin says he has observed the downtown 4 o’clock rush hour on Washington, created by the arrival of the ferry and shipyard workers heading home, several times.
“The whole entire rush hour takes 10 minutes at the most, it might be closer to seven,” Martin told the council. “When it’s over, the traffic just drops off a cliff.”
Martin says that after the ferry arrives, the first Kitsap Transit buses begin making their way north on Washington at about 4:03 p.m. The buses are gone within a few minutes and then pedestrians begin appearing.
“Then, every day at 4:13 p.m., if you had an atomic clock I think you could set that by it, here comes the first worker-driver bus (from the shipyard),” Martin said.
Martin said that more number crunching will be required, but he thinks that doing away with the turn-lane to the bridge won’t have a big impact on traffic and will, overall, make the roadway much better for all users.
Martin also acknowledged that about 70 to 80 of rush hour drivers turn onto the Manette Bridge and will be slightly delayed without the current turn lane.
“If you just had one travel lane, it’s for sure gonna back people up, but the total difference in the time is only going to be a few minutes — I’d say two or three, but we haven’t modeled this yet,” Martin said. “What you get, in my view for doing this — although you do delay the shipyard traffic, it doesn’t look like it has any impact on the (Kitsap Transit) bus traffic — but what you get for this is pedestrian facilities along the waterfront that completes a loop (around the downtown area).”
Martin says that downtown walkability is consistent with city planning efforts and a lot of other work that has already been done downtown.
“You all know I’m pretty passionate about pedestrian facilities in our city,” Martin told the council. “So I’m not always a neutral observer on these things, but I do think, in this case, this is just a wonderful project.”
According to traffic engineers from Parametrix, a firm with offices throughout the Western United States, including a Bremerton location, reducing Washington Avenue to one lane of travel in each direction would provide adequate vehicle capacity.
The highest northbound daily volume of 5,200 vehicles south of the Manette Bridge is well within the single direction daily capacity of the roadway at 7,500-10,000 vehicles per day,” John Pelric, a transportation division manager for Parametrix, wrote to Martin in an email. Perlic said that daily southbound totals are also within the roadway’s capacity.
Perlic said that the road’s peak hour Level of Service would be reduced under the proposed change, but that would only occur for about 10 to 15 minutes after the start of the 4 o’clock rush hour. That level of service, Perlic noted, would still be within an acceptable range.