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County’s roads get a lot more congested

Everyone has been stuck in traffic at one time or another and at one spot or another. But how bad is traffic in Kitsap County, and is it getting worse?

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) released a report in January indicating traffic counts jumped by almost 10 percent since 2000 in parts of Kitsap County.

The traffic study, compiled on behalf of the PSRC by Traffic Count, Inc., a private firm, was conducted in two geographic sections of Kitsap County.

One study area in Silverdale showed a 9.5 percent jump in traffic numbers over the last two years, and the other area, centering on the Kitsap-Pierce County line, increased by 9.1 percent.

And as those numbers rolled in to the PSRC, planners there speculated the jump could be related to the Puget Sound’s tumultuous economy.

Kitsap County was relatively sheltered from the recent high-tech boom and bust on the east side of the Sound. Employment held steady in Kitsap, especially with the military and government presence.

Meanwhile, the eastside’s economy ballooned in the early 1990s and burst toward the end of that decade and into 2000.

PSRC officials say perhaps traffic generally goes where the jobs go.

While Kitsap traffic increased in the last two years, according to the study, traffic in King County, has lessened somewhat.

“Anecdotally, I can tell I have commuted from Poulsbo to Port Orchard over the last seven years, and there are a lot more cars on the road now,” said second-term County Commissioner Chris Endresen, “and I can believe traffic has increased in Silverdale.”

Endresen, who represents Kitsap County on the four-county PSRC, said she will keep her eye trained on the PSRC study, as well as traffic analyses provided by the Kitsap County Public Works Depart-ment.

Meanwhile, Public Works traffic analysts say the PSRC study raised a few eyebrows.

“I wouldn’t think traffic would jump up by that much, considering the population growth rate is around 2 percent a year (or less),” said Kitsap County Public Works director Randy Casteel.

As it turns out, Public Works-generated traffic studies indicate traffic volumes have grown generally across the county by an annual average of 2 percent, not twice that.

County officials say data collected at the county’s 34 permanent traffic count stations, location throughout all of Kitsap — north and south — paint a more accurate daily traffic picture than the PSRC study.

“The data provided by the Puget Sound Regional Council is a snapshot,” said Travis Black of Kitsap County Public Works. “Our numbers are 365 days worth of data and are averaged out over the year for an annual daily average.”

The county’s count stations operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the daily counts are downloaded into the county’s database every other week to develop a historical record, according to the Public Works web site.

In turn, that record is summarized into quarterly reports with a final annual report after each year is complete.

Meanwhile, the PSRC traffic study conducted in the spring of 2002 tested traffic patterns over three days — on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Mark Charnews of the PSRC said those mid-week days better reflect typical traffic patterns, or “average conditions,” whereas Mondays and weekends can have different patterns.

Tube counters were used to collect the data for the PSRC at these sites and data was collected 24-hours a day during the testing period.

Tube counters are essentially black rubber tubes similar to the ones customers drive over at gas stations. These were stretched across the road in both directions to count traffic volumes.

Charnews agreed the PSRC study simply provides a snapshot of traffic information. But taken as a whole, the studies can show planners where the transportation system is headed in the future, he said.

“We can get an idea of the future and we can start talking about the future,” Charnews said. “We are trying to keep better track of the performance of the system as a whole.”

The study in 2000 was the first for the PSRC and the same roads were tested then. Yet another traffic survey will be conducted in 2004.

The roads in Silverdale that were tested for the PSRC study were Ridgepoint Drive SW just north of Marigold Drive; Silverdale Way just north of Highway 303; Highway 3, just north of Highway 303; Kitsap Mall Boulevard, just north of Highway 303; Frontier Road NW, Anderson Hill Road, Brownsville Highway and Central Valley Road.

The roads tested on the Pierce-Kitsap county border were Crescent Valley Road just north of 160th Street NW, Peacock Hill Avenue NW, Stevens Road SE, Highway 16, Bethel-Burley Road SE, Sidney Road SW, Glenwood Road SW and Carney Lake Road SW.

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