The developers behind an Amazon delivery facility near Bremerton National Airport are funding the construction of a single-lane roundabout on Highway 3 at Airport Way Southwest, according to state transportation officials.
Developer Panattoni Development Co. approached the Washington State Department of Transportation last year about improving the intersection, which only has a stop sign at Airport Way, according to WSDOT engineer Dale Severson.
The roundabout will serve as the entrance to Amazon's new "last-mile" delivery facility, a 117,000-square-foot warehouse slated to open this fall. Hundreds of delivery vans, trucks, and employee vehicles will use the intersection to access the warehouse.
“Obviously with the amount of trucks the Amazon facility is going to have there, it boiled down to it’s either going to be a signal or a roundabout,” Severson said.
Almost 19,000 vehicles per day travel along Highway 3 through the intersection, according to planning documents prepared for the project by consultant Transportation Engineering Northwest (TENW). About 450 vehicles per day travel toward the intersection on Airport Way.
Consultants estimate the Amazon facility will increase the average daily number of vehicle trips along Highway 3 by more than 2,000, according to documents.
TENW recommended a roundabout instead of a traffic signal at the intersection, citing safety concerns, improved traffic flow and future road expansion. Roundabouts are generally safer than traffic signal intersections because they force drivers to slow down and eliminate the possibility of T-bone collisions, Severson said.
“I think it's going to make this a safe intersection for all the traveling public,” Severson said.
Representatives from Panattoni and TENW did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the cost of the project or construction timeline. During a Port of Bremerton meeting on July 14, developers told port officials that the roundabout is the only traffic improvement planned for Highway 3.
“Right now there’s currently not any funding for any additional widening or capacity improvements along the highway,” Jeff Schramm with TENW said.
Schramm added that the roundabout is designed to accommodate a wider road if the highway is widened in the future.
Severson said the bond for the project just over $3.2 million. Panattoni will pay for the study, design and construction of the roundabout.
Work on the roundabout began this weekend, with contractors clearing an area west of the highway to build a bypass road, according to Severson. WSDOT plans to finalize the agreement that would allow construction on the roundabout to begin this week.
“It's in everybody's best interest to get this going because we don't want a half-built roundabout when Amazon opens,” Severson said.
WSDOT will inspect the roundabout project for safety, but the city of Bremerton has the final say on occupancy. City officials say they don’t intend to withhold occupancy from Amazon, even if the roundabout isn’t complete.
“The timing is not perfect, but we wouldn’t withhold occupancy based on that, that’s a partnership with the Department of Transportation,” Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler said.
Port of Bremerton Port CEO Jim Rothlin has asked developers for additional traffic data but said the port doesn’t object to the construction of the roundabout.
“Certainly it's going to slow that road down a little bit and I think tenants need to understand that,” Rothlin said. “The purpose of the roundabout is so that it does not stop traffic, and that's what you don't want.”
“It's exactly the kind of business that we want to come in, where it brings jobs and creates economic development, creates tax revenues for the cities, it's doing all those things, it's checking all those boxes for us,” Rothlin said.