SR 303 projects take a winter break

The new medians on State Route 303 have been a continuing source of controversy. The state Department of Transportation will continue traffic and safety improvements on the thoroughfare next summer. - Rogerick Anas
The new medians on State Route 303 have been a continuing source of controversy. The state Department of Transportation will continue traffic and safety improvements on the thoroughfare next summer.
— image credit: Rogerick Anas

Work might be winding down for the winter, but officials already are preparing for a second summer of construction on State Route 303.

The state Department of Transportation (DOT) decided to split the work over two years so two projects could be done simultaneously.

“We already had a paving project for SR 303 from Riddell Road to Clear Creek Road and we had the safety improvement project in that same area,” said Scott Vanderstaay, an engineer with the Port Orchard DOT office. “So we put the two together because we didn’t want to pave it and then come back and tear it up later. It just make more sense to do it that way and there’s some cost savings that go with that.”

The safety improvement project began this year with the addition of median barriers, a fresh layer of asphalt, and other safety improvements on SR 303 between Riddell and Old Military roads.

DOT construction manager Mike Wilson said work likely will begin again in May and mostly be done at night, to avoid interfering with commutes.

Vanderstaay promised that the second phase of safety improvements would be less controversial than the first phase.

“These are the kinds of things people like,” he said. “They increase mobility, making it easier to get on and off the road — these are what people are most favorable of.”

To alleviate some of the controversy created by the medians, a u-turn lane will be added at SR 303’s intersection with Fairgrounds Road. Many people headed north on SR 303 have been spotted using the left-turn signal at that intersection as an unofficial u-turn lane.

“This (u-turn) has been promised all along,” Vanderstaay said. “There were some right-of-way issues which had to be cleared up first.”

Vanderstaay said the intersection would be reconfigured to make room for the u-turn by relocating a traffic signal and using a small piece of the Arco AM/PM gas station property.

Farther north, turning on to SR 303 from Old Military Road will be easier after the state cuts back a slope and removes some vegetation at the intersection.

“We’re going to clear it and cut the slope back to meet the state’s required sight distances,” Vanderstaay said.

Additional slope flattening also is planned at three other locations.

Getting on and off Nels Nelson Road should be a bit easier when the project is complete.

“We’re going to put in a turn pocket at Nels Nelson,” Vanderstaay said. “Right now they’re using the shoulder, so we’ll make a little spot for them to turn off SR 303. And we’ll make an add-on lane for the people coming off Nels Nelson that will connect in with the existing truck-climbing lane.”

Other plans call for left-turn lanes on Ridgetop Boulevard at its intersection with SR 303. The highway’s on-ramps and off-ramps also will be lengthened to suit state regulations, Vanderstaay said.

The final step of the safety project will improve SR 303’s median between Ridgetop and Silverdale Way.

“We’ve had a lot of accidents that have led to several rollovers in the median,” Vanderstaay said. “We’re looking at several different options to prevent that from happening.”

Guardrails or cable rails could be added to prevent cars from entering either side of the median.

“A cable catches the car before it enters the median, while a guardrail would bounce cars off,” Vanderstaay said.

The two options would cost about the same, he added, although maintaining the cable costs slightly more.

“It’s all still up in the air,” Vanderstaay said.

State's plan for Gluds Pond is a dead end

An era could soon come to an end if the state Department of Transportation proceeds with plans to close Gluds Pond Road to through traffic.

In the days before State Route 303 was built, Gluds Pond served as the intersection for Bucklin Hill Road and Brownsville Highway. It now serves as a quick route to Silverdale or Bremerton for Brownsville residents looking to avoid the nearby traffic light at the intersection of SR 303 and Brownsville Highway.

“Gluds Pond Road won’t connect with Brownsville Highway anymore,” said Scott Vanderstaay, an engineer with the state Department of Transportation. “The only people that will use it are the people that use it to get to their driveways.”

This portion of a more comprehensive SR 303 project will be done in partnership with the county Department of Public Works.

“We could do it right now, as we’re fully prepared to go forward with it,” said Jon Brand, a Public Works project manager. “I’m surprised that resolution hasn’t come before the commissioners yet.”

Brand said a guardrail would be placed at the Brownsville Highway end of Gluds Pond, which would be turned into a cul-de-sac.

“It’s a smart move,” said Silverdale Realty owner Ron Ross, who owns a 10-acre lot on the north corner of Gluds Pond Road and Brownsville Highway. “I’d hate to have it totally closed, but the public has no need to go through there. It’s not too much to go down to the light where there’s a controlled crossing.”

The road closure also could mean future improvements to the south fork of Steele Creek. The estimated $800,000 project would create a meander through Gluds Pond and eliminate a culvert which blocks spawning salmon.

“It sounds like they should do the closure and the improvements at the same time,” said Ed Wurden, a Steele Creek advocate who transports spawning salmon in the fall and smolts in the spring past the culvert.

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