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Paving a path for progress

Trucks large and small negotiate traffic cones and construction machines on the Waaga Way overpass above Silverdale Way as construction began on SR-303 this week. Work on the $4.1 million project will continue throughout the summer. - Photo by Rogerick Anas
Trucks large and small negotiate traffic cones and construction machines on the Waaga Way overpass above Silverdale Way as construction began on SR-303 this week. Work on the $4.1 million project will continue throughout the summer.
— image credit: Photo by Rogerick Anas

If you commute via Waaga Way and State Route 303, you don’t need to be told they’re at it again.

“June 3 (Monday) was the first day we were back on the construction job,” said Mike Wilson, state Department of Transportation (DoT) field engineer for SR-303 upgrades.

This is the second and final summer of upgrades to the route connecting East Bremerton to Silverdale.

The DoT is attempting to move traffic more efficiently and safely through the four-lane major corridor — which in places is thick with commercial development connected directly to the road, and in other places freeway-like.

“We’ll be at it through September or early October, working Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.” he said.

At no time will all lanes be closed. At least two lanes — one in each direction — will be open the length of the project.

Last year, the project involved repaving from Riddell Road (Bremerton city limits) northward. Safety improvements included adding the median barriers and paving to Old Military Road.

To alleviate some of the controversy caused by medians blocking left turns, a U-turn lane is planned for the intersection of SR-303 and Fairgrounds Road, he said. Many drivers are already using the intersection as an unofficial U-turn.

“The main part of the project now is repaving — starting from a point near the Brownsville traffic signal” and continuing north to Silverdale, he said.

“We’ll have to fix up existing asphalt, take out the wheel ruts, bumps and holes, and overlay with two-and-a-half inches of new pavement.”

“Waaga Way has never been repaved,” he said. “Not since it was installed by the county in the 1980s.”

Wilson said the stretch of highway really needs the work.

Other work includes flattening slopes near Nels Nelson Road N.W. and adding acceleration and deceleration lanes for Nels Nelson, which connects on the north side of Waaga, he said.

Crews will also widen the Ridgetop Boulevard off ramp so that vehicles exiting the state route can make the left turn onto Ridgetop more easily.

On and off ramps will be lengthened and adjusted throughout the project.

“The county’s going to close Gluds Pond Street,” he added. The small road has been used as an unofficial on ramp onto northbound lanes for years.

Last summer there was a lot of night work. This summer, crews will mostly work days.

However, Wilson said, “We’ll pave around the Clear Creek area at night — traffic could choke during the day. The ramps around Central Valley Road will also be done at night.”

Here is an estimated construction timeline: Lane leveling June 10-14, “Hard-core paving” in late June until early August, the U-turn will be added at Fairgrounds Road, ramps will then be worked on at Nels Nelson, Ridgetop and Silverdale Way. Improvements will include guardrails on medians and where needed.

Last summer the cost to DoT was $1.9 million, he said. This year’s improvements up the ante considerably — $4.1 million. Federal funds are also in the mix, though Wilson didn’t know how much.

— Sean Lamphere contributed to this story.

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