County gets money for Southworth Drive widening

Although state and local agencies may be discussing the possibility of bringing foot ferries to Harper for months or years to come, Kitsap County officials said they are moving forward with plans to widen a small section of road in the area regardless.

On Friday, South Kitsap County Commissioner Jan Angel said federal funding the county requested to add bicycle and pedestrian lanes to a beach-hugging half-mile stretch of Southworth Drive near the Harper Public Fishing Pier had been approved, and the Public Works Department is proceeding with the long-needed improvements.

“This is a basic and necessary road safety improvement and has been needed for quite some time,” said Public Works Director Randy Casteel. “The project upgrades the only remaining section of substandard road from Port Orchard to Southworth.”

After requiring county officials to hold a public meeting to inform community members about the project last December, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) approved another $200,000 the county applied for to purchase right-of-way from 17 parcels along the road, as part of the 2005-07 Regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

County Planner Bill Zupancic said an additional $95,000 was already allocated to the county for the project during a 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.”

Zupancic said there have been many delays during the planning of the project, mostly due to the cost and difficulty of widening a road that is bordered on the east by protected tidal lands and on the west by private homes.

Although residents had expressed a strong preference for building a public walkway on the beach and away from traffic, Design Manager Dick Dadisman said that was not an option.

“It would cost nearly 10 to 15 times more money than paving the roadway,” Dadisman said, estimating that the half-mile boardwalk would carry a price tag of nearly $2 million.

Instead, Dadisman said, the county project will cost $775,000, and involves expanding the roadway by at least 10 feet, which will widen the current 10-foot wide traffic lanes to 11 feet and add four-foot-wide shoulders on each side.

To move the road upland, the county will have to buy at least five feet of right-of-way from the parcels along the road. Dadisman said once the right-of-way is secured, construction will not begin until June of 2006, and it is expected to be completed in two months.

Angel stressed Friday that the county project is not related to either Kitsap Transit’s plan to bring foot ferries to Harper Dock or a possible Washington State Ferries passenger-only ferry service beginning at Southworth.

“Regardless of which ferry proposal may move forward, these basic road safety improvements are needed,” Casteel said.

“This project was started years ago, when a resident called me and said they were walking on the road and had been run off by a car, and ended up in a ditch,” Angel said at the December public meeting. “This road needs to be safer, and this project is a long time coming.”

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