City OKs study of Tremont, Port Orchard Boulevard traffic

The Port Orchard City Council on Tuesday approved the funding of a traffic study that will present recommendations for improving the traffic flow at the intersection of Tremont Street and Port Orchard Boulevard.

The study will examine traffic flow and provide short-term relief for the intersection, which is located east of the the two proposed roundabouts.

Construction on the roundabouts will not be complete until at least 2011.

The study, which will cost $2,650, will recommend modifying the intersection through the careful placement of signs — although the cost of the signs is not included in that amount.

Public Works Director Mark Dorsey said the study was the best way to be efficient, responsible and legal.

“I have resolved to complete projects in-house instead of relying on consultants,” Dorsey said. “I can design a traffic plan myself, but need the latest traffic data in order to accomplish this. In order to design a traffic plan it needs to be based on the latest data.”

Dorsey has some specific experience in the area, having designed the intersection of Tremont and Kitsap Boulevard when he worked as a civil engineer.

The allocation received unanimous support, but after discussion about the necessity of the action and how a study about where to properly place signs would save money in the long run.

Dorsey pushed back at the expense, saying that it was the best way to properly execute the task.

The biggest change will be on the westbound right-hand lane on Tremont as it approaches Port Orchard Boulevard.

Currently, the lane ends just past the intersection when it forces a merge.

The new plan would make it right-turn only.

“Merge lanes worked great when they were first invented in the 1970s,” Dorsey said. “Now, with the increased traffic volumes they cause a lot of problems. People are driving more aggressively, and those in the left lane don’t want to let other drivers in if they have been sitting for a long time. Those who are merging are encouraged to do it as late as possible, which further angers the people have been waiting.”

Discussion about modifying the traffic pattern first arose after a close call involving a student from the nearby Bethany Lutheran Church and School.

Officials requested that the street become a school zone, but Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend said this could not be enforced. Townsend then drew out a sketch that will serve as a basis for the traffic study.

The study will be completed by Heath & Associates, a Puyallup-based traffic engineering firm.

“In my house $2,650 is a lot of money,” said City Councilman Jim Colebank. “It represents 663 gallons of gas. But I live across the street from that intersection and I have seen cars tear through there and have heard language that I haven’t heard since the Army. It’s well past time that we get moving on a way to fix this.”

Colebank sought assurance that “we don’t have to get a study every time we want to move some signs around,” which Dorsey provided.

“This is a special case,” Dorsey said. “If we put the signs in the wrong place we will cause confusion and will be liable if it causes an accident.”

“If we get sued it will cost us three times more to defend ourselves,” said City Councilor Rob Putaansuu. “So this $2,650 is worth every penny.”

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