Banner Road to be closed while ‘jump’ removed

Despite objections from residents, on Monday the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved closing Banner Road Southeast for 11 days in June to remove the infamous “Banner Jump.”

The closure, which will last from 7 a.m. June 17 to 5:30 p.m. June 28, will prohibit Banner access to all vehicular and pedestrian traffic — including local traffic — between Southeast Willock Road to Olalla Valley Road Southeast. During that time, construction crews will smooth out the intersection of Banner and Southeast Fragaria Road, eliminating a dip and rise famous for allowing fast-moving cars to catch air as they traveled down the hill.

The Banner Jump has been causing county officials and law enforcement headaches for years. Between the beginning of 1997 and the end of 2000, the county Public Works Department recorded eight accidents on Banner Road which involved the jump. In two cases, the jumping car flipped over and two other jumps resulted in head-on collisions with oncoming cars.

In the summer of 1999, a teenage girl nearly died after the car in which she was a passenger took the jump, skidded off the road and hit a light post.

Afterward, the county took several steps to warn people of the danger, including putting up additional signage suggesting people reduce their speeds from 45 mph, the limit on the rest of the road, to 35 mph. However, officials found people still used the jump, often deliberately accelerating in order to let their vehicles stay airborne longer.

County officials say jumping teenagers can hit speeds of over 100 mph before hitting the jump and cars can sail more than 200 feet before connecting with the pavement.

At least two Banner-area residents, however, don’t approve of the proposed fix or the impending closure.

Joe and Bob Kopta spoke out against the project at Monday’s commission meeting. They said the road closure would put undue hardship on those living nearby and questioned the necessity and potential effectiveness of the proposed fix.

“We’re spending a lot of money to fix something that, quite frankly, isn’t broken,” Joe Kopta said. “We’re spending money to protect wrongdoers from themselves.”

Bob Kopta expressed doubts the realigned road would do anything to address the issue of speeding, which county officials said was tied in with the jump’s dangerousness. Kopta even surmised the new, jump-less road would be easier to speed on, posing a greater hazard to local residents.

“If we really want to save lives on Banner Road, the best thing we can do is put in a four-way stop at that intersection.”

The commissioners, per the recommendation of the staff, were unwilling to put in a four-way stop. They did, however, emphasize the need for speed controls after the jump was removed.

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel said she knows first-hand how hazardous Banner Road can be — her childrens’ family dog was recently hit and killed on the road.

“I’d like you to take a hard look at speeding on Banner Road,” she said. “It’s not just the kids — you’ve got people of every age (speeding) down there.”

Commissioner Chris Endresen echoed Angel’s feelings, but reminded the audience and staff speeding was a chronic problem in Kitsap County, not confined to hilly rural roads like Banner.

“People need to slow down,” Endresen said. “We’re spending a lot of tax money because people won’t obey the speed limit.”

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