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Bremerton's Pacific Avenue improvements bring confusion and delight

Intersections along Pacific Avenue, like this one at Fifth Street, have shrunk from 44 feet wide to 20 feet as part of a recent street improvement project. The City of Bremerton hopes these tighter passages will slow traffic. - Lynsi Burton/staff photo
Intersections along Pacific Avenue, like this one at Fifth Street, have shrunk from 44 feet wide to 20 feet as part of a recent street improvement project. The City of Bremerton hopes these tighter passages will slow traffic.
— image credit: Lynsi Burton/staff photo

Ken Van der Does looks at the street improvements on the newly-reopened Pacific Avenue, with the wider sidewalks and new rain gardens, and he doesn’t understand them.

“It makes no sense,” Van der Does said Tuesday. Van der Does is owner of National Benefit Advisory, a marketing company on Fourth Street. “We have sidewalks that would accommodate a New York City block-type traffic. We’re in Bremerton. There’s never going to be more than two or three people on the sidewalk at any time.”

Pacific Avenue, which had been closed for construction from Burwell Street to Fifth Street for about two months, reopened last weekend for the Armed Forces Day parade, revealing the new brick inlays in the crosswalks and the expanded curbs at the intersections. Downtown residents, workers and business owners have mixed feelings about some of the changes.

As a result of the curb extensions, the intersections along Pacific Avenue at Fourth Street, Fifth Street and Burwell Street have shrunk from 44 feet wide to 20 feet, said Edward Aban, project manager of the Pacific Avenue improvements — and that’s by design.

“It’s a traffic calming technique,” he said, adding that the smaller intersections would force people to slow down and make full halts at the four-way stops.

Bremerton resident Eric Larsen said the changes will only make driving more dangerous.

“It’s bad enough that people blew through the stop signs,” he said. “That’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Van der Does agreed.

“If they have to slow down, all they’re going to do is be angry,” he said.

But the narrower streets have led some passers-by to wonder whether Pacific has become a one-way street. It has also led some drivers to treat it that way.

Peggy Nord, owner of Simply Renewed Antiques on Burwell Street and Pacific Avenue, said drivers traveling southbound on Pacific have stopped at the traffic light side-by-side, with the driver on the left facing the wrong direction. On Tuesday, some cars lined up in the wrong lane at that traffic light, while others straddled both lanes.

But Nord said those problems will resolve themselves when the city finishes striping the center lines, and she thinks the narrower intersections will achieve their purpose.

“It’s going to be tight,” she said. “People are going to have to slow down.”

Nord enjoys the aesthetic qualities of the street improvements, including the plants, and appreciates that customers are returning after the street closure discouraged foot traffic.

“It’s good to see cars back again,” she said.

Bremerton resident Paul Zellinsky said the city now needs the work to be seen.

“I think they’ve done a nice job,” he said. “Now all you got to do is bring some people downtown to appreciate it.”

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