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Changes coming to Fairgrounds area roads

Roads near the Kitsap Fairgrounds will look a little different in coming years. Kitsap County Public Works is planning to implement two significant changes to Fairgrounds and Central Valley roads.

The changes come as part of an update to the county’s Transportation Improvement Program, a six-year planning list of road projects throughout Kitsap County.

The proposed changes in the Fairgrounds area include a left-turn lane on Central Valley Road and sidewalks on Fairgrounds Road between Central Valley and Nels Nelson roads.

Sidewalk construction is scheduled for completion by 2017. The raised walkways will cover Fairgrounds Road for the entire half-mile stretch between the two streets.

Transportation engineer Jeff Shea is part of the group that determines which projects receive priority. He said Public Works decided to construct the sidewalks there because the shoulders are so narrow, and because the road serves a large amount of pedestrian traffic.

That pedestrian traffic originates primarily from fairgrounds events and students walking to school.

The stretch of road between Nels Nelson and Central Valley lies within the coverage area of three schools: Olympic High School, Fairview Junior High and Woodlands Elementary School.

All three of those schools sit within a half-mile of the stretch of road. Because of its proximity to the schools, the road potentially handles a high volume of student traffic before and after school.

State law requires schools to provide suggested walk-routes for students who live within one mile of school. Many of the walk routes provided to students in the area suggest the use of Fairgrounds Road where the sidewalks are to be installed.

The stretch of Central Valley Road that intersects with Fairgrounds Road was brought into the public consciousness in December when an Olympic High School student was hit in the middle of a crosswalk near Fairview Junior High.

The crash was the most recent in a string of incidents along Central Valley Road in recent years.

In 2009, a car struck a 12-year-old boy in the same intersection.

At least seven collisions involving pedestrians and one involving a bicyclist have occurred on Central Valley just in the space between Woodlands and Fairview since 2001.

No sidewalks exist along that stretch of road.

Pedestrians are more than twice as likely to be struck by a vehicle in locations without sidewalks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since the county cited safety as the reason for the installation, some residents wondered why sidewalks are not planned for Central Valley as well.

A number of concerned citizens have called Public Works since 2009, complaining that Central Valley Road needs to have sidewalks or other pedestrian safety measures installed.

Shea said Central Valley has not come up in serious discussion at this point.

“We’ve just brushed on it, but I think it’s going to come up in our project committee as something we should look into harder,” he said.

Shea said he isn’t sure exactly why Central Valley wasn’t prioritized but said he assumes it stems from the fact that the road has much wider shoulders than Fairgrounds.

While the sidewalk installation deals with pedestrian safety, the other project planned for the area is meant to deal with traffic issues.

The proposed left-turn lane is part of a plan to reduce traffic congestion at the intersection of Fairgrounds and Central Valley roads. It is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

Shea said the congestion at Fairgrounds and Central Valley is bad — and if something isn’t done it’s going to get worse.

“We look out 20 years to see what it’s going to look like and that intersection is going to look really bad,” Shea said.

The intersection is set up with a protected left turn, Shea said. Drivers are given a green arrow and the full right-of-way to turn left.

Each of the four legs at the intersection has to go individually to give that protected left turn to each set of cars.

“That creates some really long backups,” according to Shea.

Traffic engineers have tried changing the intersection so left-turning drivers were forced to yield to oncoming traffic, Shea said, but this caused its own set of problems.

Drivers continued to turn left as if they had the right-of-way.

“Models said it would work,” Shea said. However, “People were so used to having that protected when they looked up and just saw a green ball they would look up and turn right in front of people.”

After turn lanes have been created at the intersection both directions of traffic will be able to make protected left turns simultaneously — the lights will then turn to yellow flashing arrows as turning cars yield to oncoming traffic in both directions.

“Hopefully that will probably eliminate all of the queues for traffic we’re getting now,” Shea said.

 

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