Lifestyle

Central Kitsap commuters may be forced to change course

Vehicles board the 3 p.m. Bremerton ferry to Seattle on Tuesday.  - Lynsi Burton/staff photo
Vehicles board the 3 p.m. Bremerton ferry to Seattle on Tuesday.
— image credit: Lynsi Burton/staff photo

Changes are coming for Bremerton-to-Seattle commuters that could reshape how travelers get around on both ends of the ferry run in the coming years, affecting ferries, streets on both sides of the Puget Sound and the possibility of a reservation system for Bremerton’s link to the big city.

ALASKAN WAY CONSTRUCTION

Replacement of the southern mile of Alaskan Way — stretching from South Holgate to South King Streets — is set to begin this summer, and though the construction on this portion of the road will remain south of the Colman Dock, it could change how drivers get to and from the terminal.

Transportation officials who spoke at a ferry meeting in Bremerton Monday said while some changes are slated for the end of this year, the real traffic disruptions won’t come until 2011.

Ron Paananen, Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Program administrator, said that during most of the construction — this portion of the project will run until 2013 — Alaskan Way will maintain two lanes of traffic in each direction. At times, however, traffic flow will be reduced to one way in each direction or one direction will be detoured.

Detour routes during construction have yet to be finalized, but drivers coming off the ferry and headed south may be redirected to First Avenue, Paananen said.

In November, South Atlantic Street will be closed for two weeks between East Frontage Road and the railroad track. In December, the north side of the intersection at South Atlantic Street and Alaskan Way South will be closed for one week. Other intermittent or partial traffic closures are expected later this year on South Atlantic Street, South Royal Brougham Way and Alaskan Way South, but are not yet specified. Access to the ferry from the south will change several times to work around construction.

Better options of reaching Colman Dock from Seattle may be to use Madison Street and enter from the north, Paananen said.

The parking underneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct will be gone by the end of the year.

When all is done, Paananen said that drivers coming off the ferry will still be directed south — which results in several illegal u-turns north each time a ferry docks — though there will be a better way to turn left at King Street for travelers needing to go north.

David Moseley, assistant secretary of Washington State Ferries, said there is a possibility of creating direct access to and from the ferry via Yesler Way.

TWO-WAY ON WASHINGTON

On the Bremerton side, the city wants public input on turning the one-way portion of Washington Avenue into a two-way from Burwell Street to First or Second Street.

As part of that plan, the city may also reverse Fourth Street traffic to move eastbound.

Bremerton Managing Engineer Larry Matel said the goal would be to make it easier for tunnel traffic from the ferry to turn right onto Park Avenue and get to Washington Avenue or Pacific Avenue without having to get onto Sixth Street to loop back.

The changes, if approved, would happen late this summer or early in the fall.

Don Stauff, owner of Boston’s Deli and Pizza on Burwell Street and Washington Avenue, said making the south part of Washington a two-way will only aggravate traffic problems in the area.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” he said. “All you got to do is come down here at 4 o’clock. Traffic is already blocked up down here.”

Stauff went before the City Council earlier this year to protest the idea. He said Wednesday there is no way all the ferry traffic will be able to come off the boat with one outgoing lane of traffic on Washington Avenue.

“It will be total chaos,” he said.

MANETTE BRIDGE

Though the Manette Bridge replacement is scheduled to likely begin July 1, traffic will not be affected until the existing bridge closes toward the end of the new bridge’s construction.

Construction agreements only allow the bridge to close between April and October of any given year, said Bill Elliott, project engineer at the Washington State Department of Transportation. Depending on the pace of construction, it is possible the closure will happen during that six-month window in 2011 - if not, it will be pushed back to 2012. The closure is expected to last for four months.

Pedestrian traffic will still be allowed during the old bridge’s closure, but drivers wishing to cross the Port Washington Narrows will have to take the Warren Avenue bridge about a mile away.

Though the Manette Bridge is crossed by about 12,000 vehicles per day, Elliott said he doesn’t expect the bridge closure to snarl traffic in town.

“The detour is not very lengthy or complicated,” he said. “We don’t really think that it’s going to make much of a difference in traffic volumes or congestions in any of the other roads.”

RESERVATIONS FOR THE BREMERTON-TO-SEATTLE ROUTE

In the coming years, Washington State Ferries will investigate the expansion of its vehicle reservations system that could eventually hit the Bremerton ferry.

Vehicle reservations are already practiced at other ferry runs such as the one on the Port Townshend-Keystone run established in May 2008. According to Washington State Ferries, a vehicle reservation system would cut traffic congestion on roads leading to terminals and save money by reducing the need for terminal expansion or added service.

The process of extending the system to other ferry runs depends on legislative approval on a series of phases intended to improve the system in place and explore the need for the practice elsewhere. After Washington State Ferries develops technology to provide a real-time wait time information service where the system exists, it will test the system on one of the three Kitsap County routes.

David Moseley, assistant secretary of Washington State Ferries, said that if vehicle reservations come to Bremerton, it would happen sometime between 2015 and 2018. Reservations could be made online or over the phone and could be changed or canceled at least an hour before the ferry departs.

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