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County gets Southworth Drive money — conditionally

Another $200,000 requested by Kitsap County to help pave the way for bicycle and pedestrian lanes on a small segment of Southworth Drive near the Harper Pier was granted by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) last week on one condition — that county staff hold more public meetings to discuss their plans.

Karen Richter, a project manager at PSRC, said the county’s request for money to buy right-of-way on the snug, half-mile stretch of road was given “conditional approval” after nearby residents expressed concern about the project to the council.

Richter said residents primarily wanted another opportunity to meet with county staff to discuss the project, claiming only one meeting had been held so far in early 2002, although more were promised.

Richter said after discussing the public’s concerns with county staff, the council decided to grant conditional approval of the requested funding on the provision that the Public Works Department hold additional public meetings and report back to the council’s Transportation Policy and Executive Boards.

Bill Zupancic, a county transportation planner, said his staff is committed to holding the meetings, which will begin some time in mid-November or early December.

Zupancic said the first meeting has not been scheduled yet because organizers have promised to include South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel, who is leaving on vacation but expressed a strong interest in attending.

Zupancic defined the beach-hugging stretch of Southworth Drive between Olympiad Drive and the Harper Dock as 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 sorely needs to be widened to give bicyclists and walkers a safe place to travel, but that will be very difficult for a road bordered on the east by protected tidal lands and on the west by private homes.

Building the road further out onto the beach is not an option, Zupancic said, which means to widen the road the county will 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 will have to buy at least five feet of right-of-way from 17 parcels along Southworth Drive, which is why the county applied for $200,000 of the 2005-07 Regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

Zupancic said an additional $95,000 was already allocated to the county for the project during the previous round of funding.

“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.”

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.

Of the 119 transportation projects the PSRC approved last week — including 15 others in Kitsap County totaling more than $10 million — the Southworth Drive project was the only one recommended for conditional approval.

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