County pushing for Bethel Corridor plan

Officials from Kitsap County Department of Community Development gave a presentation to the Port Orchard City Council on Monday to drum up support for the county’s plans to widen the Bethel corridor.

Eric Baker from DCD came to meet with the council, given that Port Orchard could potentially annex into areas the county improved. Additionally, some funding from the plan would come from Port Orchard residents.

The presentation focused on how the county plans to pay for the improvements. The proposed $43.4 million-project would be funded through three different sources, Baker said.

The county estimated who would use the Bethel corridor in 2025, and distributed cost among of them. The county projects that existing and background traffic will account for 38 percent of use, pass-through traffic — meaning South Kitsap residents — will account for 21 percent, and destination traffic — traffic moving directly to businesses and other locations on Bethel Avenue — will account for 41 percent.

Thus, the county determined that existing traffic should cover $16.4 million of the total cost, and be funded by the county’s road fund.

Destination traffic, DCD said, should cover $17.8 million of the project and be covered by properties along the Bethel Corridor.

The remaining funds, which account for the South Kitsap residents passing through the Bethel corridor, add up to $9.1 million, and would come from a voter-approved property tax.

Councilwoman Rita DiIenno brought up the concern of vot-ers not offering the needed su-permajority to add a property tax. Recent elections have left many voters feeling sticker-shocked over rising property taxes.

The property tax forms what Baker called a “three-legged stool‚” to support the improvements. The hope is to spread the cost evenly to several groups.

“What happens to the three-legged stool if the supermajority doesn’t want to put a leg on it?” DiIenno asked.

Baker said the city and county would need to work hard to “instill confidence in the public.” He added that, unlike some property taxes, the benefits of these improvements would be highly visible.

County Commissioner Jan Angel said the improvements require everyone — business owners, county and city agencies and residents — to pitch in for the project. She is confident commuters will benefit greatly from the improvements.

“Right now, you sit through two to three stoplights when you drive through Bethel,” said Mayor Kim Abel. “If our citizens aren’t paying a little, it’s not going to get done. There’s no other way to do it.”

The City Council now awaits some hard numbers from the county before taking further action. Once the county presents numbers on property tax rates and business rates, the city can determine its involvement in the plan.

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