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City seeking input for traffic dilemma

The phrase “tunnel project” has been wiped from city official’s vocabulary as of late. Instead, it has become the Bremerton Transportation Center Access Improvement Project.

As the title suggests, the city now has specific alternatives and is seeking the public’s opinion. The city will host a public meeting from 4:30-8 p.m. Monday at Mountain View Middle School, 2400 Perry Ave. The city also has held council district meetings and another public meeting.

Gary Sexton, Bremerton’s economic development director, said the city will take all comment into consideration and make adjustments to the current plans as necessary. The council is expected to make a decision on the project in either late December or early January, he said.

Mayor Cary Bozeman, teamed with Congressman Norm Dicks, proposed traffic project as the city’s answer to alleviating traffic congestion from the Kitsap Transportation Center to the freeway.

A public outcry ensued, with most citizens saying they felt the tunnel was going to be railroaded through without public input. Residents also were concerned that although the plan listed the city’s three options as to build the tunnel, present an alternative or to do nothing. The traffic problems are created when cars are offloading from the ferries.

In mid-August, city officials kicked the project back to Exeltech Consulting, the design firm currently under a $4 million contract to design the project, to elaborate on the surface alternative. The design phase will include an environmental impact report on the project.

City traffic studies have proven up to 160 cars drive off each ferry, down Washington Street and turn on Burwell Street to get to the freeway.

The city has created an informational packet on the suggested proposals that will be handed out at the public meetings. The packet also can be downloaded at www.ci.bremerton.wa.us.

The packet gives general information about the project and gives the city’s rationale for needing a change downtown.

“For many years, the streets of downtown Bremerton have been able to accomodate these intermittent surges of traffic because downtown streets have been relatively empty most of the time,” the packet states. “The problem is, a thriving downtown business district can’t survive on such erratic traffic volumes.”

To date, Dicks and Sen. Patty Murray have secured $28 million to fund the project.

There are several surface street alternatives mentioned in the packet: to build a median on First Street and set aside 241 or 207 parking spaces for ferry passengers; and to build a pedestrian bridge and set aside 241 or 204 parking spaces for the ferry passengers; or to build a tunnel under Pacific Avenue and Burwell Street with either 230 or 200 parking spaces for ferry passengers.

For residents who cannot attend the public hearings but wish to provide input, they can mail comments to Public Input, Bremerton Public Works, 3270 Olympus Drive, Bremerton, WA., 98310.

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