Though the state route 302 Corridor Study, and the work planned for Burnham Drive/Borgen Boulevard interchange in Gig Harbor are completely separate road projects, some see both of these projects as directly connected to the Key Peninsula.
The Washington State Department of Transportation began the SR 302 Corridor Study in the early 1990s to attempt to identify ways to improve safety and congestion problems along SR 302. Recently the WSDOT began to focus on the Key Peninsula, by narrowing the study to U.S. Highway 16 up to the traffic light at Elgin Clifton Road, said Mike Baum, director for the Key Peninsula Community Council, and a representative on the study committee for the corridor.
The committee is made up of 30 people, with representatives from various agencies and those in the community. Baum is one of only two representatives who actually lives on the Key Peninsula.
“We (committee) provide input on the decisions and we are the communication link,” Baum said. “What we’re supposed to do is offer input to the WSDOT and the group that is actually doing the study.”
That group is HDR1 Company, a consultant for the WSDOT, he said.
“This is going to be the biggest thing that has ever happened to the Key Peninsula,” Baum said. “Most people are concerned about expediting this project, but I don’t really share that view. I want it right, and a plan for future options, and to consider non-motorized applications, such as sidewalks.
“Right now, if you walk along 302 in the Lake Kathryn area, it’s scary. I used to see people walking in the ditch and wondered why, until I tried to walk along that road.”
Relieving the traffic congestion is important, but Baum said he sees the problem as small compared to I-5 travel.
“The main priority is making it a safer highway, because the actual commute time is between four and five minutes, and maybe worse at times, but not very long compared to I-5 to Seattle,” Baum said.
An environmental impact statement is currently being prepared, said John Donahue, WSDOT project manager.
“It is based on the range of alternatives that have been shown to have promise for addressing the purpose and need,” Donahue said. “The public gets to weigh in on the first stage of our screening process in which we have alternatives to move forward with.”
A series of Open House meetings were set in late October, and another will be held on Jan. 12 at the Key Peninsula Civic Center, INSERT TIME HERE> In the meantime, a meeting of the advisory committee has been scheduled for Dec. 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. Anyone can attend, however discussion will be limited to committee members.
Currently, the City of Gig Harbor is looking at alternatives for Burnham Drive that will change the way traffic flows on Highway 16.
John Biggs, a Key Peninsula resident and member of the committee looking at the options, sees the two road projects as connected. Although he said the City of Gig Harbor sees them as separate, as does the WSDOT.
The Burnham Drive project is a Gig Harbor project, and any decisions will be made by the city, he said.
Three alternatives have been developed, and all of them will have an impact on traffic and economics of the area. Biggs said the most popular option will have an impact on the ability of Key Peninsula residents to return to the key after exiting onto Burnham Drive. It is called the Modified Single Point Urban Interchange.
This option includes construction of a freeway lane that could relax some stress on Highway 16, Biggs said. It would also require that traffic flow off onto the Burnham exit, but in order to get back to the Key Peninsula, travelers would be required to drive a two-mile route, to 96th Street, he said.
“The reason this is all happening is that historically you could have interchanges no more than one mile apart, and there are currently two miles between each,” he said. “If they move us to 96th, they will have done what good highway practices would have required them to do.
“This is of interest to us in the Key Peninsula Business Association, because this isn’t just a Key Peninsula issue, or a Port Orchard issue, they are affecting everybody from Port Angeles south who are going to use the hospital and shop at the stores,” Biggs said. “Everybody will have some delay.”
However, Biggs pointed out that as SR 302 changes are put in place, that could relieve the consequences.
“Burnham and 302 are inextricably connected as far as the Key Peninsula is concerned,” he said.
Public meetings are planned for the Burnham/Borgen SR-16 interchange throughout November. The public can attend all of the meetings, but only one is scheduled for public input, Nov. 24 at 5 p.m.