Monthly Archives: July 2013

Paula’s back

Former state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond landed on her feet.

Hammond, appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in 2007, wasn’t retained by new Gov. Jay Inslee. He went with Oregonian Lynn Peterson, who took the job in February.

On Monday, Parsons Brinckerhoff announced she’d be their senior vice president and national transportation market leader after working at DOT for 34 years. She’ll begin her new position in September, in the company’s Seattle office, providing strategic advice to clients in a variety of areas.

Parsons Brinckerhoff says it’s a global infrastructure strategic consulting, planning, engineering and program/construction management organization.


An old crash on the old highway

I wrote a story Sunday about improvements to the intersection of Bethel Burley and Mullenix roads. It brought back memories. The intersection hasn’t changed much in 40 or 50 years, when I was growing up around the area. Outside of its name. For us old-timers, it was “the old highway” or “the old Gig Harbor highway.” I don’t remember what the real name was, but it wasn’t Bethel Burley. Guess what we called the new highway?

My dad told me a story the other day that involved the highway. We had a sawmill off of Mullenix back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They were getting a lot of house orders from Tacoma. Dad would run boards through the planer to make them smooth and the right size. Then he’d jump in the truck and deliver them.

One day he was hauling a load in a Kenworth truck. He had turned left off of Mullenix onto the old highway — the only highway then. He went up a little hill and came upon a new school bus stopped to pick up kids. Dad smashed right into the back of it, sheering off its motor mounts. The driver, whose last name was Hoyt, got fired because he was supposed to be going all the way to Burley and picking up the kids on the way back. At least that’s how the story goes.

Dad’s truck was OK. He got back in and continued to Tacoma. Back then, the highway went through Purdy and Gig Harbor. The Purdy bypass wasn’t put in until 1977.

I can’t remember when the new highway opened but I’m pretty sure I was alive. It was there when I started driving in  1970, but was just two lanes, not divided and had all kinds of dangerous cross streets.


Washington’s roads improve nine spots in study

Washington’s state highway system is ranked 24th in the nation in overall performance and efficiency in the latest Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. That’s up significantly from 33rd in the last report.
Reason Foundation is a nonprofit libertarian research organization based in Los Angeles.
The report measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-owned roads in 11 categories. Washington spends slightly more per mile on its highways than the national average, at $176,786 per mile. Here’s how Washington, which has the 12th-largest state highway system at 17,281 miles, fared. The numbers are from 2009, the most recent year for which full spending statistics were available.

Category    Data    Rank
Capital-Bridge Disbursements per Mile    $99,814    32
Maintenance Disbursements per Mile    $36,260    38
Administrative Disbursements per Mile    $11,685    24
Total Disbursement per Mile    $176,786    33
Rural Interstate Percent Poor Condition    0    1
Rural Other Principal Arterial Percent Poor    .05    7
Urban Interstate Percent Poor    2.35    23
Urban Interstate Percent Congested    32.26    14
Rural Arterial Percent Narrow Lanes    27.11    47
Percent of Deficient Bridges    25.80    32
Fatality Rate    0.87    8
Overall Performance    0.95    24

Having recently completed a trip through Eastern Washington, I find the top ranking in rural interstate pavement surprising. We were driving a Ford cargo van, and though it was new, it might’ve been part of the problem. The front end bounced around so much it’d lose contact with the road.
To make matters worse, the van was a big sail. The wind kicked up. The sky was brown. I thought it was a forest fire. But as we got closer, it was dirt clouds blown up from the fields. Dropping down the hill to cross the Columbia River, we were nearly blown off the bridge at Vantage.
Nationwide, Americans are driving on slightly smoother roads, crossing fewer deficient bridges and spending less time stuck in traffic jams, according to the report.  There was small improvement in every category except pavement condition on rural arterial roads.
“It’s hard to believe it when you hit a pothole or see a bridge in Washington collapse, but the nation’s roads are getting better,” said David Hartgen, author of the study and emeritus transportation professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “There are still several states struggling and plenty of problem areas. But you can make the case that overall America’s roads and bridges have never been in better shape.”
North Dakota has the country’s top-ranked state-controlled road system, followed by Kansas, Wyoming, New Mexico and Montana. Alaska’s road system was the lowest quality and least cost-effective, followed by Rhode Island, Hawaii, California, New Jersey and New York.
Washington jumped the second-most spots, behind Vermont.
New Jersey spends $1.2 million per mile on its state-controlled highways, nearly twice as much as the $679,000 per mile of the next biggest-spending state — California. South Carolina spends the least, just $31,000 per mile.
Massachusetts had the lowest fatality rate while Montana had the highest.

Transit annual report makes for good reading?

Kitsap Transit came out with its first ever annual report recently, for 2012. It didn’t have to. It’s not a transit agency requirement. It just did, after 30 years of being in business, to give the public a snapshot.
“We just want the community to understand what they own,” said executive director John Clauson. “I thought that was a good way to do it. We’re just trying to be far more transparent.”
I was afraid it was going to be pages of fine print and words I don’t understand. Quite the opposite. It’s everything you need to know about Kitsap Transit in 10 minutes, with colorful, easy-to-read graphics.
There’s the agency’s time line, what it accomplished in 2012 and intends to achieve this year, key players and interesting facts.
Did you know, for example, that October was the busiest month last year? May and March finished in a dead heat for second. What do they have in common? 31 days. But so do July and August, in the heart of the summer. I would have put my money on those being the most crowded.
Did you know … that Kitsap Transit had 3.9 million boardings last year. Nearly two-thirds of them were on routed buses, as you would imagine. What’s the next service you think of? To me it’s Access, but Access is way down the line in terms of number of passengers. Second is the Bremerton-Port Orchard foot ferry (437,846), followed by worker-driver buses (394,730). Even vanpools (251,029) have more riders than Access (210,926).
Did you know … that the agency traveled 4.9 million miles in 2012. That’s the equivalent of 20 round trips to the moon. OK, I stole that right out of the report. How’s this? It’s one-fifth of the way to Venus. If you look through a really powerful telescope, you can see a little bus stop there.
Did you know … That Kitsap Transit consumed 765,000 gallons of fuel last year? That would propel a typical electric car about 76 million miles, or a Bugatti Veyron 16-cylinder two-seater 7.6 million miles. But a Bugatti would be more fun. Do you guys think fast is better than slow?
Did you know … that fares made up 20 percent of the agency’s revenue in 2012. That’s not a huge percentage, but it’s a little more than I expected. Sales tax accounts for 74 percent, which is why the Great Recession left Kitsap and most every other transit agency a mess.
Did you know … Kitsap Transit brought in $35.9 million in revenue last year … and spent $35.9 million.

Ferry meetings in two weeks, not next week

An item in Wednesday’s paper said there will be ferry fare meetings Monday and Tuesday. It should have said July 15 and 16, which is the week after next.

The state Transportation Commission will be taking public comments on a proposed fare increase.On Monday the meeting will be in the Bainbridge Commons Senior Center. On Tuesday it’ll be at Givens Community Center in Port Orchard. Both are from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Sorry for the confusion.