More cheers than jeers for proposed Port Townsend roundabouts

Posted 1/16/21

Adding new roundabouts on Highway 20 in Port Townsend have broad public support, according to comments collected on the proposal by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The agency …

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More cheers than jeers for proposed Port Townsend roundabouts

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Adding new roundabouts on Highway 20 in Port Townsend have broad public support, according to comments collected on the proposal by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The agency has been planning to install two roundabouts on Highway 20; one at the entrance to Port Townsend at the Highway 20 intersection with Mill Road, and the other at the Kearney Street intersection at the edge of downtown.

State officials have said the roundabouts are needed to replace outdated traffic signals on the highway, which have reached the end of their useful life. 

According to WSDOT, the existing traffic signals need frequent and extensive updates to keep them working. The signals cost an average of $10,000 annually to maintain. Agency officials also said roundabouts will improve safety on Highway 20, reduce traffic delays, and stay operational during power outages.

THE QUEST FOR COMMENT

WSDOT released preliminary details of its pre-design study for the Highway 20 roundabout improvements in October, and collected public input on the preliminary plats through early Monday.

The agency released provided public comments on the roundabout plans to The Leader last week, in response to a records request made by the newspaper Nov. 12.

A total of 196 comments to the plans were made by the public via an online open house. Of the comments submitted, approximately 100 of the responses were from people who supported roundabouts. Roughly 20 comments asked for more information about the roundabouts or raised other complaints about WSDOT road projects, with another 80 or so comments from people opposed to the roundabouts proposed for Port Townsend.

THANKS, NO THANKS

Many of those who are against the roundabout plans raised concerns about the cost of the improvements, or the impact on traffic moving through town or to the Port Townsend Paper Mill. 

Others were worried about safety issues that would be faced by pedestrians or bicyclists after the roundabouts are built.

“Traffic doesn’t justify the expense,” Laurie Meyer wrote. “My experience with the 2 roundabouts now on Sims Way is quite negative. Slows the busiest traffic and some drivers delight in dangerously racing through a yield, further slowing roundabout traffic. Please don’t do this.”

“I would prefer that we install more street lights,” said Heather Longcrier in comment to WSDOT. “We replaced the road on Sims Way and you can’t see anything when it rains. The kids have to wait on corners for school busses in the dark. There is not enough light in the main areas of town. Better ways to spend the money than ANOTHER wasted roundabout, if you ask me.”

“This is the one of the worst ideas that I have heard for Port Townsend,” Dennis Haven of Chimacum told WSDOT.

“I travel through this intersection many times each week and have for years.  There is no need for this and it will not improve the traffic when the traffic is handled just fine with the lights that are presently at that location. If the present signal at this intersection needs to be updated, then do that,” Haven added.

“I prefer to have traffic lights at both of these intersections,” Andy Stockton of Port Townsend told WSDOT. “I generally favor circles on less busy intersections, but not here.”

Some raised concerns about impacts to pedestrians at the Kearney Street intersection, and potential conflicts with ferry traffic, 

“This is a terrible idea,” added Christina Lane of Port Townsend. “The roundabouts we already have are a hazard. They are dangerous as only 50 percent of people use them properly and/or pay attention when entering or leaving them. People don’t use blinkers. I am very slow and cautious when I have to use them. On a last-but-not-least note they create even worse traffic slow-downs!”

MORE COST CONCERNS

“They cost too much for very little need. Use the money to repave Lawrence Street; it’s embarrassing,” noted Ken Nelson of Port Townsend.

“I believe these will really screw up a nice small town,” wrote Doug Lind of Cape George. “The ones we have are bad enough. There is a lot of foot traffic at Kearney, and getting on Highway 20 at Discovery [Road] would be terrible at traffic times. Please don’t build anymore roundabouts here.”

“My wife and I think that putting a roundabout on Kearney Street would be a total mess and a waste of money,” wrote Greg Kossow of Port Townsend. “It would not accomplish anything and would in fact make congestion worse. The same goes for the Hood Canal site. What a mess it would become.”

“You guys have roundabouts for brains,” Craig Durgan of Port Ludlow told WSDOT.

HIGH PRAISE INDEED

Others offered an enthusiastic thumbs-up to the idea.

“I live just off Cape George Road and use the present lights frequently,” noted Tom Linton. “I like roundabouts as a replacement. APPROVED!”

“I am one of those unusual old folks who observes that roundabouts improve both safety and the flow of traffic,” added K. Austin Kerr of Port Ludlow. “I applaud your efforts to improve intersections. My wife has similar thoughts. We have driven in England and have observed motorists accustomed to roundabouts driving safely.”

“I much prefer roundabouts to traffic lights,” added Candace Young of Port Townsend.

John Ryan, a sergeant with the Washington State Patrol who supervises a detachment of troopers who work in Port Townsend, Port Angeles and Forks, wrote that the roundabouts would improve safety on Highway 20.

“I am a big fan of them and I think it is a great idea to install those things in as many intersections as feasible,” Ryan noted.

He added his support for roundabouts on Highway 104 near the Hood Canal Bridge, and at the U.S. Highway intersections with Taylor Cutoff Road, Mill Road, and Carlsborg Road.

On Highway 20, he noted the Washington State Patrol routinely stops speeders heading west that are exceeding the 45 mph speed limit.

“We have had at least two pedestrians killed in this area over the years, too,” Ryan added.

Ben Shaine of Port Townsend said the roundabouts that were already installed in the city had been a big improvement.

Janet Morello of Port Townsend said roundabouts were needed, but the plan didn’t go far enough and could include another set of exits for Discovery Road.

“Traffic in this once small town keeps increasing and it’s good to see plans to help ease it,” Morello added.

“I’m in favor of roundabouts here in town and like the plan for the Kearney Discovery roundabout,” said Micheal Wiegers of Port Townsend. “The previous and new roundabouts have kept traffic flowing smoothly and safely.”

Elizabeth Andrews of Port Townsend said she supported the proposed roundabout at Kearney Street and Highway 20. 

“I’ve thought for years there should be one there. It’s a very difficult crossing for cyclists, pedestrians, and cars, so I can see the roundabout would benefit all,” she noted.

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