Opinion

New Kitsap County road projects? How about finishing the ones we've started

The word is out that the Kitsap County Commissioners want citizens to give them some input on what road projects need to be considered in the next edition of the Six-year Transportation Improvement Plan. Well, before you get your hopes up and before dreams of road graders and turning lanes cloud reality, there are a few things to consider.

The county always has a transportation plan. It supposedly establishes priorities for all road projects. The plan gets “updated” each year and thus the six-year plan becomes a one-year plan. Elections tend to alter priorities.

Most of our road construction funds, federal and state, come through our Regional Transportation Planning Organization. For us, that is the same Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) that shortchanged us on “stimulus” dollars with an IOU for later this year. This is the same PSRC that created the policy of no new roads in rural areas and placing higher priority on mass transit and bike lanes than on roads for cars. Since our commissioners endorsed the PSRC policies it is clear they agree with the mindset.

Next, you should consider some of the road efforts over the last 20 years. Not one new road mile completed. The “Waaga Way Extension,” at three quarters of a mile, hardly qualifies as a road project. The original requirement was to provide access between Anderson Hill Road and Highway 3. The extension project is no real improvement over the Trigger Avenue and Newberry Hill access already available. The money would have been better spent on much higher priority projects. Here are a few that have been on the books for years, not listed in any order of priority.

The Bethel Corridor project, a major economic development project, has been ignored for years. Personal fortunes have been wasted and real economic growth has been lost. The current idea is to establish a separate taxing district. One more attempt to get citizens to pay twice for something they may never get.

Bucklin Hill Road is the major east-west corridor through Silverdale. The project, more than 10 years old, was shelved when the citizens could not agree on selection of either a $10 million-dollar bridge or a simple girder bridge. For the Silverdale Sub-Area planning group, three years ago, Bucklin Hill was the unquestioned top priority for Silverdale. Right behind Bucklin Hill were Ridgetop (in Silverdale) and Silverdale Way from Newberry Hill to Byron Street. How hard is it to understand improving the roads in the major commercial center of the county?

The Bond Road interchange with 305, often worked over but never corrected. This major intersection needs to get the Bond Road left turn moved to relieve the ferry traffic to and from both Winslow and Kingston. The recent 305 project did nothing to correct the problem. A direct feeder between Bond Road and Highway 3 is essential.

Lake Flora Road expansion will be a critical factor in the real development of the South Kitsap Industrial Area. Unless there is a way for commercial traffic to avoid Gorst and Highway 3, we can kiss off any near-term business interest.

The safety highway project signs on Highway 3 between Belfair and Bremerton have been up for about five years. Did they really think the signs would fix the problem? Perhaps it’s time to actually consider rebuilding that major arterial. I know lane miles are more expensive than signs, but the law says the gas tax dollars are supposed to be put into roads, not signs in lieu of roads.

You may have a few other favorites of your own. My selections are based on length of time the projects have been identified but ignored and/or the direct impact on potential for economic growth in the county. An interesting concept is economic growth expands the tax base and increases tax revenues. In turn, the taxes from increased economic growth not only pay back for the roads but they also increase general revenues for all the other projects we want. Unfortunately, for real economic growth, roads come first.

Perhaps you might want to suggest that instead of adding new projects and simply complete the ones we already know about.

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