So What’s Up, With Upper Grow Avenue Traffic Calming and other Island Infrastructure Efforts?

If you’ve driven your car or walked or biked on upper Grow Avenue in the past few weeks, you’ve no doubt noticed the strange-looking bollards that are fastened to the street in five different places. On two streets: Island and Wallace, mini roundabouts have been installed. The Grow project and others going on around the island are part of a broader effort by the City of Bainbridge Island and the State to calm traffic or redirect it.

But not all is going exactly according to plan. In a recent newsletter, City Manager Blair King acknowledged as much. As he noted, “The phrase ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time,’ usually proceeds the phrase, ‘how did that happen.’ When these phrases are uttered, usually something could have gone better. At any given time, City staff implement dozens of programs and policies directed by the City Council. We strive for perfection but sometimes fall short, and the community normally lets us know. This (past) week several examples come to mind.”

Residents of Grow Avenue has expressed concern that speeds were “unacceptably too high and requested engineering solutions to slow, or calm, the speeds,” King said. “Several community members approached City staff and proposed ideas for slowing traffic via traffic circles (like mini roundabouts) and ‘lane diets,’ making travel lanes narrower. The traffic engineers reviewed proposals and concluded there was a workable and cost-effective solution.”

“In concert with the Bundled Madison Avenue Project, the Grow Avenue traffic calming solutions were installed. Not everyone is pleased with the solutions and have expressed concerns that, without adequate shoulders or sidewalks on Grow Avenue, cyclists are now required to ride in the middle of the street. Some cyclists do not feel safe. The improvements on Grow have yet to be completed,” King noted. “The plan is to complete the improvements and closely monitor vehicles and pedestrian use to see if further modifications are required.”

A second project that initially doesn’t seem ideal is the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) modifications to the intersection of State Route 305 and Winslow Way, King said.

This is not a City project, but nevertheless, City officials have heard concerns from the community. Washington State Ferries, a division of WSDOT, has recently enhanced their communication with the City, a welcomed development for which we are grateful. “With this improved communication, it is hoped that WSDOT will listen to the community’s concerns and implement necessary adjustments.”

Another traffic issue of concern, King explained, is the City Council’s approved raising of Traffic Impact Fees in early 2023 to pay for new non-motorized improvements. With the rollout of the Traffic Impact Fee program, “certain businesses and commercial developers feel the fees required for specific business types are unfair,” King said. “The amount per business type is determined by a table prepared by the Institute of Transportation Engineers based on national data. Even when using the best data and science available, some of the fee amounts seem excessive.”

At a recent City Council meeting, the Council asked its staff to explore options to reduce the fee for projects that use existing, previously occupied buildings and don’t involve new development. The Council will consider this option within the next several months.

Meantime, perhaps a more pressing issue is where will people sit along Madison Avenue to watch the Grand Old Fourth of July Parade? King said sidewalks on both sides of Madison will be open for pedestrian travel and parade watching fun.

“Our contractor will be finishing up sidewalk and ramp pouring along the east side of Madison Avenue which will be completed (this) week< King assured. “A gravel strip will remain (for now) between the recently poured curb and the sidewalk. The gravel strip will be the future paved bike lane. Paving operations will not begin again until after the July 4 celebration.”

“Madison will be open to bi-direction traffic (two lanes) by July 4 and, the contractor will be moving up to Madison north of High School Road to continue storm drain work to limit interference with parade activities and setup.”

“Not everything goes as planned the first time,” King added, “but it does not mean we can’t make changes and adjust along the way.”

Source Materials and photos: From the City of Bainbridge Island.

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