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An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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Archive for February, 2011

Port Orchard’s Putaansuu named to transit board

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Kitsap Transit’s board of commissioners has a new member. At the February meeting, Port Orchard city councilman Rob Putaansuu was added, in place of Bremerton city councilwoman Diane Robinson.

Before, the Bremerton mayor and two council people served on the board while the county’s other cities only got one representative apiece. Not only did that give Bremerton more sway, it was also a burden because of all the committees council members are required to be a part of.

The transit board changed its by-laws to change Bremerton’s third spot to an at-large position. Putaansuu was chosen to be the first to fill it.

Also, when the by-laws were changed in May, the board added a nonvoting union member to conform with state legislation. John Witte, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters 589, got the post. The rest of the board comprises chairman Will Maupin of the Bremerton council; vice-chair Lary Coppola, Port Orchard mayor; Ki Bracket of the Bainbridge council, Poulsbo mayor Becky Erickson, Bremerton mayor Patty Lent, and the three county commissioners — Josh Brown, Charlotte Garrido and whoever replaces Steve Bauer, who’s retiring in March.


That’s a lot of snow

Monday, February 28th, 2011

The Department of Transportation shut down Snoqualmie Pass today from North Bend to Ellensburg because it was snowing 2 to 3 inches an hour and was expected to keep it up for at least a couple more days. Winds were whipping, drivers couldn’t see and were spinning out all over the place.

A 10-foot-deep avalanche came down across all three westbound lanes at about noon, just west of the summit, and there was a high risk for more. DOT said it would probably need to do avalanche-control work in several places before I-90 could be reopened. It said they’ll reassess reassess conditions by early evening and determine whether it’s safe to reopen the roadway.

I had several whiteouts at my house this morning. Big, fat, juicy flakes. They mostly just melted when they hit the ground, but sometimes they got going so fast that it was stacking up slush. Good thing it wasn’t as cold as it was in the Cascades.

To check on the pass conditions, go to http://wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes/snoqualmie/default.aspx.


I can drive better in the snow than you can

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Only 16 percent of Washington drivers are significantly concerned about driving in the snow, according to a poll released by PEMCO Insurance. They might not be concerned about their driving, but I am. This fits right in with the feud that  took place among commenters on one of our recent snow stories. There were people who said they were great snow drivers because they’re from somewhere else where it snows alot. Locals shot back that our snow is more slippery than your snow.

Then people chimed in that they weren’t going to drive. They’re mountain men who cut cords of wood and had generators and guns so they didn’t have to go anywhere. One guy told somebody to go back to mamby pamby land.

Anyway, back to the poll. Fifty-eight percent of Washington drivers say they’re comfortable driving in the snow and are safter at it than other drivers. PEMCO thought there would be a lot more people like its “First Snowflake Freakout Lady.” Men can drive in the snow, at least according to 77 percent of them. Only 45 percent of women say they feel comfortable doing it.

According to the poll, only one-third of Washington drivers carry chains (I used to have some) and only 44 percent have ever installed chains (Did it a few times; hate it. Seems like it’s always cold and wet when you need them). Of those 44 percent, 67 percent are men and just 28 percent women.

The bottom line, PEMCO says, is it’s safest just to stay off the roads. Plus, they won’t have to pay out so many claims.

My worst experience was driving to work years ago. There was a ton of snow on the road and it was sloppy. I was on Highway 16 between Burley-Olalla and Mullenix when this flatbed truck blasted past me in the fast lane. He had a slush roostertail like Miss Bardahl and most of it went on my windshield. Couldn’t see a thing. Suddenly I’m spinning. I’m driving backward, looking at the cars coming up behind me. I keep spinning and lodge in a snowbank. Luckily, I didn’t even have to get out of the car. I rocked it back and forth a few times and escaped, with my heart thumping. Wound up with a flat tire, but that’s it.

I was going to tell you a few more, but that’s enough for now.


Jaywalkers don’t get any slack from drivers, and vice versa

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Seventy percent of Washington drivers believe that pedestrians who jaywalk should suffer the consequences. That doesn’t mean getting run over, just a ticket for not following the laws governing crosswalks and intersections. An even higher percentage, 81 percent, think drivers should get nailed for failing to yield.

The poll was done recently by Seattle-based PEMCO Insurance, the company that broadcasts those funny Northwest profile ads like the Urban Chicken Farmer and First Snowflake Freakout Lady.

“PEMCO wants to keeep roads safe for drivers and pedestrians, so it’s encouraging

A press release sent Monday said 622 pedestrians were killed in traffic-related accidents in Washington since 2000, so it’s no laughing matter. Despite the dire statistic, 31 percent of drivers polled admitted to crossing the street outside of a crosswalk or walking before the signal says to proceed.

Young drivers are the most tolerant. About a third of drivers under 35 think jaywalkers should not be punished if caught crossing the street illegally, and 43 percent of them admit to jaywalking at least some of the time. Men are also more likely than women to say they cross illegally some of the time — 37 percent versus 26 percent.

When I’m in a big city, I almost always cross at intersections and with the light. I heard long ago that Seattle cops are tough on jaywalkers. Don’t know if that was true then or now, but I heeded it. On this side of the water, of course, it’s a totally different scene. It’s not very often when it’s worth waiting. Maybe when the shipyard lets our or you’re in downtown Silverdale. I’ve been crossing the street wherever I want here in Bremerton for 25 years. There are hardly ever any cars. If there are, of course I wait for them. I don’t even know if there are any jaywalking laws. So it feels kind of funny when I cross in front of a cop. I always wonder if he’s going to light me up.


What’s the best multi-purpose truck

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

I’ve got too many rigs. It’s hard to even get in the driveway anymore, what with the kid driving now and a old full-sized pickup there just for dump duty and to pull the boat down to the launch four or five times a year. So here’s what I’m thinking: Get a rig that can get respectable mileage on my 23-mile-each-way commute (almost all highway), thus replacing my old Accord, that can also pull my boat out of the water, rending my F-150 unneeded. And I want to do it as inexpensively as possible.

What do you think. I immediately thought of a four-wheel-drive Toyota with a V6. They’re not cheap, though, and don’t really get that great of mileage.

Help me out.


Kingston will share Edmonds dock with Clinton boats

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

If the Edmonds ferry terminal wasn’t crowded enough, it’ll be doubly busy for three extended weekends this spring.

Washington State Ferries will close the Mukilteo terminal for work on the transfer span and apron that link the ferries and the dock. During that time — March 18-20, March 25-27 and April 1-3 — it will provide service between Clinton on the south end of Whidbey Island and Edmonds. Thee will be 17 sailings on Fridays and 16 on Saturdays and Sundays, compared to 37 and 35, respectively, on the normal Mukilteo-Clinton route. The crossing time will be 50 minutes instead of 20. The fares will be the same.

That’s on top of the 26 Friday sailings from Edmonds to Kingston, 23 on Saturday and 22 Sunday. There’ll be some jockeying going on for the one slip in Edmonds. Fortunately, the timing is before the tourist season kicks in so hopefully they can get in, finish work and get out without too much hassle.


What’s on the Kitsap Transit agenda

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Kitsap Transit’s February meeting on Tuesday could be interesting. Staff will ask if they can pursue quotes for new worker-driver buses, accept a bid to remodel the passenger ferry Admiral Pete and design a boat just like it to use as a spare, to get going on designing and building a transit center in Silverdale to replace one at Kitsap Mall, and they’ll officially appreciate retiring county commissioner Steve Bauer for his work on the board.

The existing worker-driver buses, 1983 Gilligs, are antiques. All but five of the 34 have more than 1 million miles on them, topping out at 1,419,389. Kitsap Transit wants to replace them with newer, used 40-foot tour-bus-type coaches.

Transit got one bid for the Admiral Pete work, which staff any consultants have deemed acceptable. It’s for no more than $844,000 for the Pete and $70,000 for the design work.

The fun starts at 9:45 a.m. at the Norm Dicks Government Center council chambers.


Lopez Islander joins Transportation Commission

Friday, February 11th, 2011

The Washington State Transportation Commission has been operating with just five people since Bob Distler and Elmira Forner left a few months ago. It got one back recently when the governor appointed Tom Cowan to take Distler’s place. Both are from the San Juan Islands. The commission provides a public forum for developing transporation policy,  sets tolls for highways and bridges and fares for ferries.

Distler had been on the commission since 2005 and was its ferry expert. It looks like Cowan might assume that role. He said in his introduction that “the ferry system is an important part of this (transportation) system, providing a vital link both in the San Juan Islands and throughout Puget Sound. Its future must be stabilized.”

Cowan has lived on Lopez Island for 36 years, was a San Juan County Commissioner, and owned the island’s only hardware store. Now he’s a public policy consultant and marine resources project manager.

Forner’s eastside position remains open. She’s from Chelan.

There’s been much talk lately about whether the commission should even exist. Some, like Tim Eyman, say its an appointed body and can’t be held accountable for its decisions. Others say it takes the politics out of toll- and fare-setting and does a lot of detail work that the Legislature doesn’t have time for.

Nobody’s been down on the commissioners themselves, though. They have to drive all over the place and sit in meeting after meeting, listening to dull policy discussions when they could be out goofing off. And they don’t get much for doing it.

It’s a pretty good bunch. Our local guy, Dan O’Neal of Belfair, is their voice of reason. Dick Ford and Distler, when he was there, were prone to getting into ranting matches with the public, which could be pretty entertaining, but O’Neal cuts through the rhetoric and gets everybody back on track.

was appointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire in 2005; he is the commission’s vice chairman. Previously, he was chairman of the San Juan County Ferry Advisory Committee. According to his commission biography, his career has been in transportation management and he has been a consultant for airlines, cruise lines and railroads.


Let’s hear it for the rescuers

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

You probably heard about the ferry crew that rescued a windsurfer stranded with a broken mast on Super Bowl Sunday. It was the ferry Walla Walla on the Seattle-Bremerton route, off of Alki Point. After being alerted by the Coast Guard, they sent out a rescue boat and brought the guy aboard.

Washington State Ferries named the crew members in their weekly e-mail update on Friday. More than likely, some of them are local folks, so let’s throw out their names: Capt. Curtis Larson, chief mate Terrence Peckham, second mate Chandler Thomas, able-bodied seamen David High, Emilita Moniz, Al Thomas and Ramon Resendez Jr., ordinary seamen Loa Haley, Sandra Belair St. Clair and Vicky Munson, chief engineer James Illson, assistant engineer Christopher Kalinski, and oilers Troy Schmidt and John Kustura.

The ferries people didn’t think it was a big deal. All in a day’s work. They didn’t even sent out any info on the incident. But the Seattle Times wrote a blurp about it and it got picked up by AP. It might not have been the most dramatic rescue in the world, but the guy’s alive. Bet he’s happy they stopped to pick him up.

Also in the newsletter, they mentioned that Pierce County finally got the Steilacoom II back. WSF leased it for nearly three years for use on the Port Townsend-Keystone route. Pierce, which has been using its backup boat Christine Anderson all that time.

Ferry management and unions are back at the bargaining table. They thought they had reached agreements, but the Office of Financial Management threw them out as not being financially feasible.