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County seeks money for road widening

To the average person, the beach-hugging stretch of Southworth Drive between Olympiad Drive and the Harper Dock provides a particularly scenic spot for a leisurely stroll or Sunday drive.

But to a transportation planner, the half-mile stretch provides just about every headache imaginable.

“It’s a thorn in our side,” said Bill Zupancic, a transportation planner for the Kitsap County Public Works Department. “It’s a microcosm of every possible problem.”

In the winter, Zupancic said, storms toss waves across the roadway and erode the pavement. All year round, he said, residents complain about the cars who often speed through the area, especially when traveling to and from the nearby Southworth Ferry Terminal.

The road is also popular with bicyclists and walkers, but sorely needs to be widened to give non-motorists a safe place to travel.

However, widening is far from easy to accomplish on a road bordered on the east by protected tidal lands and on the west by private homes.

Zupancic said bicyclists and walkers for years have been asking for designated lanes, but there’s no easy way to provide them.

Building the road further out onto the beach isn’t an option, Zupancic said, which means to widen the road the county would need to move west several feet — several feet onto what is now driveways, lawns, and some quite elaborate landscaping.

To move the road upland, the county would have to buy at least five feet of right-of-way from 17 parcels along Southworth Drive, which will not be cheap.

To pay for it, the county applied for $200,000 of federal transportation funds, and hopes the allocation will be approved when the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) executive board votes next month.

A transportation, economic and growth planning agency for the central Puget Sound region, the PSRC oversees the distribution of about $160 million in Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration funds each year.

The Southworth Drive project is just one of at least 16 projects — totaling $10.5 million — in Kitsap County that are being considered by the PSRC to receive funding for the 2005-07 Regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

To help the board make its final decision, Michele Leslie of the PSRC said public comment is currently being collected, which she said does factor into the board’s final decision making.

“The board does consider whether public comment is supportive or not, but the projects need to have been well-received before they get on the list to begin with,” Leslie said.

According to the PSRC’s Web site, written comments will be accepted until Oct. 7, and will be included in the agenda packet for the Transportation Policy Board meeting on Oct.14, when it will finalize its list of recommended projects.

Comments can be sent via standard mail to Karen Richter, 1011 Western Ave., Ste 500, Seattle, WA., 98104, or via the Web site at www.psrc.org/projects/tip.commentform.htm.

Comments can also be made in person at the Oct. 14 meeting, which will be held at 9:30 a.m. at the office on Western Avenue, or also at the Executive Board meeting Oct. 28, when the draft TIP is submitted for final approval.

Zupancic said the $200,000 will be used solely to purchase the right-of-way, along with an additional $95,000 already allocated to the county for the project during the last round of funding.

If the county is awarded the money, Zupancic said his staff will then complete the project’s design, and hopefully present it to the community in a public meeting sometime next year.

Even if the county does not receive this particular block of funds, however, Zupancic said “the project will get done.

“We have been committed for a long time to work toward a solution,” Zupancic said. “Eventually we’ve got to rebuild that little section of the road.”

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