As a Bainbridge Island resident whether or not you use the Clearwater Casino and Resort, its upcoming expansion to become West Sound’s biggest convention center is likely to have an impact on you.
Accommodating over ten times more people in its meeting rooms, adding a new restaurant and a 350-person-capacity lounge/bar, nearly doubling its parking capacity, and putting in a five-story hotel (with infrastructure for three more stories later) all adds up to a whole lot more users. (Read more about the expansion.)
When I spoke with Suquamish Tribe Communications Coordinator April Leigh about the large-scale renovation, I asked her if the Casino had analyzed traffic and safety impacts as part of their long-range planning process for the expansion, which begins in June and is scheduled to continue through 2017.
Leigh said they don’t have specific numbers, leaving one to wonder about a range of impacts.
For starters, what about increased traffic on our two-lane Highway 305? How about the spike in ferry riders on the Bainbridge and Kingston runs? How will little old Agate Pass Bridge, built in 1950, handle that many more crossings? What will the intersection at 305 and Suquamish Way in front of the Casino, already a bottleneck, be like jammed up even more? Then there is the issue of more people drinking and driving out of the Casino. What kind of effect will that have on public safety?
Although Leigh did not have data about the impact of the expansion on local traffic and safety issues, she emphasized that each phase of the 4.5 year construction process will be limited to the current casino site. “Based on past expansion at the site, including the construction of the resort in 2005-2006 and the casino and parking garage buildings in 2003, we expect construction phases to have minimal impact on Highway 305 traffic patterns,” she said.
She explained that the Clearwater Casino and Resort plans to expand its shuttle service to and from the Bainbridge Island Ferry and the Kingston Ferry for guests traveling from the Seattle area.
When I brought up the possible increase in patrons driving under the influence, Leigh said the Casino and Resort is usually one of the primary places area DUIs are reported out of, but that the data puts the Casino in the same category as small bars, which she said does not add up to comparable statistics.
Leigh pointed out that the Department of Transportation (DOT) will be making improvements at the Highway 305-Suquamish Way intersection across from the Casino to better accommodate future growth.
When I spoke with Russel Steele, CEO of Port Madison Enterprises, the business branch of the Suquamish Tribe, he reiterated that the DOT’s revamping of the intersection will help mitigate traffic problems. He explained that the DOT is currently working on a plan for the intersection, which it is scheduled to present to stakeholders for input at the end of February.
Photos by Sarah Lane and courtesy of the DOT.