The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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Archive for July, 2009

Lane Closures Amok on Hood Canal Bridge

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

At this very moment, traffic is reduced to a single lane on the Hood Canal Bridge with traffic taking turns going alternate directions from the west side to the east side. I don’t know what they’re doing.

I do know what they’ll be doing Thursday night. They’ll be “profiling” the roadway. That means evalutaing the road surface. It will happend between 8 p.m. Thursday and 4 a.m. Ïrdiay.

Crews will close the westbound lane for four hours and the eastbound lane for four hours. There will be one-way alternating traffic.


The Worst Stench Ever

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Nobody was home to sign for my kid’s new cell phone yesterday. He was so psyched to get it, so he talked me in to driving him to FedEx at Fife.

Got almost to the Tacoma Dome and it started to stink. Figured it was the usual Tacoma Aroma. But it kept getting worse. I told my kid that it hadn’t smelled this bad in years, and maybe the hot weather was holding in the stink.

Then we came upon a slowdown. Everybody was going over to the shoulders to get around a big pile of muck covering most of I-5. It stunk so bad you could barely breathe. I thought a manure truck had lost its load. Then we started driving through it. It was rotting old animal parts. We ran over a leg with a cow hoof sticking up. And a stomach. We got past the main pile but stuff had been dragged down the freeway for miles. We couldn’t get past the stench. It’s still on my car.

The truck that dumped it was nowhere in sight. No cops. No DOT response crew. When we came back the other way, traffic was backed up for miles. I feel sorry for those people who had to sit there and smell it. And the cops who were pulled right up to it directing traffic.

I would think the Ecology department had to come and make sure it was cleaned up properly. I would think it was pretty toxic and they had to wash it down with bleach or something, then control the runoff. Probably took forever.

Really wanted to know what had happened so went to the Tacoma paper and Web site. They only had a couple lines from the Associated Press. I’d think anybody else who drove through there would be interested, too. Oh well.


What’s Happening to Lake Flora Road?

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

A few folks here at work are wondering why they’re being stopped for 10-minute stints on Lake Flora Road. A quick trip to Kitsap County’s Road Report shows there is a widening and channelization project going on between Highway 3 and J.M. Dickenson Road. I don’t know what channelization is, so I called the county. They’ll probably get back to me before I finish this.

Anyway, they’re widening the road so it will have 12-foot lanes and 8-foot shoulders. Right now they’re grading. The roadway is gravel, and there’s just one lane getting through. It doesn’t say how long this will go on, so I’ll ask them that, too, when they call back.

This is Phase 1. Phase 2 would be building a roundabout at the J.M. Dickenson intersection. That won’t be until next year or the year after. Here’s a trivia question for you. Who was J.M. Dickenson?

I’m stalling, waiting for that call. There it is. Oops. I have to wait for a half hour til the expert gets out of his meeting. So I’ll try to come back to this later.


Know When the Floating Bridge Traffic is Stopped

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

The state Department of Transportation is now sending out e-mail and text message alerts to let people know when ships or traffic accidents require the Hood Canal Bridge to shut down. Rep. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, approached the department with the idea.

“It will help regular bridge users and neighbors to make more informed decisions about their routes.”

I got my very first one as I write this. Let’s go see what it says. It says the bridge is opening right now for a vessel and to expect delays for the next 45 minutes.

Well, that doesn’t do you much good if you’re coming up to the bridge now, but would give you a heads-up to hang out for a while if you were planning to leave soon.

To sign up, cut and paste this into your browser: https://service.govdelivery.com/service/subscribe.html?code=WADOT_190


Moseley Giving Update on Crew Schedules

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Washington State Ferries Director David Moseley, at the request of Rep. Christine Rolfes, will give a briefing on how the new Coast Guard safety rules are being implemented. Rolfes wants to find out WSF is in the process and what decisions still need to be made.

Rolfes wants interested members of the public to join her at the meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Puget Sound Regional Council Board Room, 1011 Western Ave.,  #500, in Seattle. The door will be locked at 6 p.m., but a staff person will be there to open it.

The Coast Guard, worried about crew endurance, will be restricting deck staff to no more than 12 hours of work in a 24-hour period. That will eliminate touring watches where deck hands are on duty for two shifts of up to 16 total hours separated by at least six hour off — such as eight on, eight off, eight on.

WSF will have to devise new work schedules and possibly change sailing schedules to meet the requirement.


Plan C Ferry Group Getting Early Start

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

The Plan C ferry group will meet Saturday to get a jump start on what it wants to accomplish before the next legislative session. Rep. Larry Seaquist, who envisioned the group, will be back to spearhead the meeting. It will be 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m in the Norm Dicks Government Center council chambers, 345 Sixth St., Bremerton.

Discussion  could include but not be limited to:

A tariff committee with rider representation discussed in Plan C meetings and the recent Transportation Commission meeting with the FACs

How to lock in funding for a 144-car ferry in 2011 instead of a fourth 64-car boat.

A permanent source of stable funding for WSF


Traffic Jam at Burley-Olalla

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Just came into work. Was going to be early for once, but got stuck in traffic on Highway 16 by the Burley-Olalla work. It’s down to one lane. We stopped way back by Purdy and it took 40 minutes to get through. The cool thing was they have the overpass paved and we got to go over it for the first time. Now they’re repaving the former detour route to make it an off-ramp. This is all westbound.

I don’t know what they’ll be doing tomorrow, but I think I’ll go around. The easiest way is to get off the highway at Purdy, go through Purdy and before the road merges back onto the highway you can drop down along Burley Lagoon. We old-time locals call it the “old highway” because that’s what it was. The real name, at least when it gets into Kitsap County, is Bethel-Burley Road. You can get back on the “new” highway at Mullenix Road or stay on Bethel-Burley and it’ll take you into Port Orchard.


Southworth Passenger Ferry Riders Worried About Connections

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

I’m working on a story over the next few days about Southworth ferry riders possibly loosing good connections to the Vashon-Seattle foot ferry.

The King County Ferry District is taking over the passenger ferry route from the state on Sept. 28. It will be changing the schedule, adding more runs but changing to departure times that don’t jibe with state car ferries arriving from Southworth, as they do now. Fares will also be changed, and a different boat leased. You can read the details on their Web site.

Fares don’t pay for the cost of the ferry route. It is subsidized by King County property taxes. I don’t imagine they’re keen about subsidizing Kitsap County riders. But the Southworth folks believe transit systems should work together to create one integrated transportation system

.


Murray Upset About Ferry Stimulus Funds

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood rode on a ferry from Seattle to Bremerton last week with Congressman Norm Dicks. They might have even been on the rusty Hyak, on the way to the opening ceremony of the tunnel. Both spoke, saying how much they respect and admire each other, and Dicks, Gov. Chris Gregoire and state transportation secretary Paul Hammond went on and on about how cool it is to have a great partner like LaHood now in D.C.

They and Sen. Patty Murray aren’t too thrilled with LaHood, or at least his department, at the moment, however, after the state got only $750,000 Tuesday from a federal ferry stimulus pot of $60 million. See my story in today’s paper.

An Associated Press story today said Murray, who inserted the $60 million into the stimulus package in the first place, was angered and spoke to LaHood by phone to “express her concern and disappointment,” said spokesman Alex Glass.

“The secretary said he would do an expedited review on the process and get back to her,” Glass said. “We want to know what happened, and we’re going to hold his feet to the fire on it.”

The story says that Hammond said that state and county ferry systems applied for 11 grants totaling about $56 million. Washington State Ferries budget guru Al McCoy told me yesterday that WSF applied for just two projects — $26 million to replace the Anacortes terminal and $9 million to refurbish the Hyak.

I’m just guessing here, but those might have been too expensive. Judging from the awards, it looks like the feds tried to spread the $60 million around as much as possible. Twenty-nine projects from 19 states and one U.S. territory got money, for an average of about $2 million per project. The largest award was for $7.2 million.

Gregoire’s spokesman, Pearse Edwards, said in the AP story that, “We are looking for answers as to why the state with the nation’s largest ferry system received so little recovery funding.”


Hands-Free Phones as Dangerous as Handheld

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

A new study in the National Safety Council’s “Journal of Safety Research” concludes there is little difference between in the safety risk of driving while talking on a hands-free cell phone versus a handheld one.

It says any type of cell phone use detracts from the rain’s ability to focus on safe driving. Several other studies have shown the same thing.

It says that according to conservative estimates, each year in the United States more than 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injures and 2,600 deaths are caused by a distracted driver on a cell phone.

To see the study, visit www.sciencedirect.com.