Bremerton's $54 million tunnel project completed

The wait is over.

"It honestly didn't seem like it took that long," Justin Grange said.

Grange, a 25-year-old self-proclaimed "habitual commuter," attended the Bremerton tunnel's ribbon-cutting ceremony July 6 along with thousands of others who are both for and against the tunnel's construction.

Grange said the new $54 million tunnel doesn't really affect him, but he knows people who live in Manette who are not happy.

"It doesn't make a difference to me since I live off of Kitsap Way," he said. "But my buddy in Manette is not happy at all."

As motorcycles and cars poured out of the tunnel opening on Burwell Street at about 6:30 p.m., the sound of horns and hollering filled the air. These were the first ferry riders to embark on a journey through the 959-foot-long tube beneath the new PSNS Plaza Park, but they were not the first people through.

The evening kicked off with a large crowd of people, two of whom bore signs reading, "Smells Like Pork," listening to speeches by U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Belfair), U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Gov. Chris Gregoire, DOT Olympic Region Administrator Kevin Dayton and Bremerton's Economic Development Director Gary Sexton.

The ceremonial ribbon was cut by a line of well-dressed administrators and the Washington Army National Guard Band marched into the tunnel playing "When the Saints Go Marching In."

During the tunnel tour discussions about cost, compliments on the tree designs and even giggling echoed.

"It's nice," Roger Delort said. "We walk down here so I think this was a good plan."

Delort, a resident of Manette, said he and his family walk to the downtown parks across the Manette Bridge almost daily and having the tunnel makes them feel safer.

With the walking tour completed, the tunnel was closed off to pedestrians and filled with tire squeals and chirps as the Early Irons Northwest car club drove their hot rods, becoming the actual first drivers through.

The finishing touches are being done and Burwell Street is expected to open later this week. All traffic exiting the ferry will now be routed through the tunnel and will exit on Burwell Street. Anyone heading to Manette will need to turn onto Park Avenue and drive through two stop signs and three traffic lights before arriving at the bridge.

"Yeah, it is a little longer to drive," Delort said. "But it is a minor inconvenience."

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