Port Townsend officials seek input on Discovery Road project

Sidewalks, bike lanes planned for key thoroughfare

PORT TOWNSEND — What infrastructure would allow you to feel comfortable about riding a bicycle on a busy street?

This is the kind of information a city of Port Townsend survey aims to collect. The answers will inform the design of pedestrian and bicycle improvements planned for a roughly half-mile stretch of Discovery Road from Salish Coast Elementary to the roundabout at Rainier Street.

The survey, which closes Nov. 15, presents respondents with potential designs for bike lanes — whether directly adjacent to the street or separated by some type of buffer.

“We really want to strive to accommodate as many types of bicyclists as possible, and there are certain types of facilities that do a better job of that,” said David Sexon, a landscape architect with MacLeod Reckord, a consultant on the project, during a Sept. 16 transportation committee meeting.

“We now know in the bicycle-planning profession that there is a wide swath of the population that is interested in cycling but will not try it because they perceive it as being dangerous.”

More than 50 percent of the population fits into that category, Sexon said, and it’s because “people are afraid of traffic, which is pretty intuitive.”

The roadway — which serves as one of two main routes into and out of the city, with the other being the state highway — has relatively narrow, banked lanes with no sidewalks and few intersections. Though the speed limit is 25 mph, the average speed is closer 35 mph, said Laura Parsons, a city engineer serving as project manager for these improvements.

“This project is going to serve commuters and adjacent residences, school children and their families, and recreational [bicycle] riders,” Parsons said, noting the road currently handles about 5,200 vehicles per day, and that’s expected to rise as the area is further developed.

“Right now, it’s not very safe to use your bike or walk along there,” she said.

At the moment, the mostly grant-funded project is estimated to cost about $2.5 million and be completed by October 2022, but city staff are hoping to land another grant on Nov. 20 from the state Transportation Improvement Board.

That would double the project’s total funding and expand its scope, allowing for the road to be repaved and for sidewalks and bikeways to be constructed on both sides of the road rather than just one, which is currently the plan.

The city’s contribution comes to $250,000 in matching funds for the grants, plus a couple hundred thousand dollars in utility revenues to improve water lines and stormwater drainage, Parsons said.

Besides the survey, which can be found at the city’s Engage PT webpage, staff have created an interactive online story map that walks viewers through the project and offers some broader context.

With all this, Public Works Director Steve King said he’s heard concerns that the project is already designed, but that process won’t begin until next spring, he said.

“I can understand why it might have appeared that way,” he told the city’s transportation committee in September. “When we do grants, you have to do drawings, and that makes it look like the design is figured out. We have a long ways to go before this project is figured out.”

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Jefferson County senior reporter Nicholas Johnson can be reached by phone at 360-417-3509 or by email at [email protected].

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