Road Warrior

Travis Baker blogs about the problems and idiosyncrasies of Kitsap highways and byways.
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Limited access isn’t just for freeways

April 23rd, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: For several years, I have been driving past a sign along Highway 3 just north of Lake Flora Road, reading, “Leaving limited access area.”

My understanding of limited access highways has been that they are freeways that one can enter and leave only at on- and off-ramps, and where private driveways and on-grade intersections are forbidden.

But this stretch of Highway 3 isn’t a freeway and there are a few driveways and at least one house just before you come to the sign. Further, there is no indication of where the limited access area begins.

The out basket: It turns out there are three levels of limited access on state highways, I learned from Doug Adamson and Dale Severson of the Olympic Region for state highways. Full limited access along freeways is only one of them.

The sign evidently is a remnant of a time when the state put up such signs and after Highway 3 between Gorst and the sign was designated a “partial limited access area.”

That was in 1957, Dale said, when the state bought access rights along that five-mile stretch. “When we bought the rights, those areas were rural and buying access rights didn’t cost as much.”

There are differences between partial limited access and modified limited access, the third kind, but the most significant is that commercial businesses can have customer access to the highway in modified areas. Much of Highway 303 between Silverdale and Bremerton is modified.

Partial access allows driveways from homes, farms and forest lands but not for retail sales. Farms by their nature are businesses but partial limited access would only prohibit that site from conducting on-site retail sales, they said. .

Highway 305 on Bainbridge Island is one such. “That’s why you don’t see many driveways on 305,” Dale said.

It’s all done in the interest of making highways as safe and efficient as possible in moving traffic by limiting conflict points.

The state planned to build frontage roads some day on Highway 3 near the Rodeo Theater, Dale said, but it never got done. “Until such time las the frontage road is built they have access (to the highway),” he said.

The state’s access control should show up on any title search on a partial or modified limited access highway, he said.

Access to all highways has some degree of control, requiring a permit for a new access. Highways not designated limited access of one kind or another have “managed access,” and there are five degrees of that, too.

Bond Road, for example, is managed class 2, as are most state highways not designated limited access, and Highway 160 (most of Sedgwick Road) is class 3, “because it had more driveways on it when we got it,” Dale said. The lower the class number, the stricter the rules.

Anyway, the sign that aroused my curiosity, which seems to have survived decades of possible vandalism or theft, will be removed, Doug said.


Warnings common in Move Over Law enforcement

April 22nd, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Three years ago, the State Patrol put out a news release saying they would be emphasizing enforcement on a new law requiring drivers to move over or slow down for any emergency vehicle stopped on the shoulder with its emergency lights flashing.

A couple of months ago, I asked Trooper Russ Winger, who speaks for the local patrol detachment,. how that enforcement had been going. He said he was researching that.

The out basket: Tuesday, he provided a report on what he’d found.

“I polled troopers (here) about enforcement of the Move Over Law,” he said. “I received quite a few responses and the underlying theme is that while troopers stop cars for the violation, actual ticketing is low.

“Many of the troopers felt that there is some effort by motorists to comply with the law and they use any contacts to further educate drivers about (it).

“Several of the troopers responded that they feel the roadways could use more signage about the law. There seem to be very few regulatory signs along the roadways, and more might help.

“Many motorists that are stopped say they were unaware of the law and its requirements. Again, the WSP always tries to educate motorists, taking the least amount of enforcement to gain compliance.”

He included a newer news release quoting WSP Chief John Batiste on the subject:

“This law couldn’t be easier to comply with,” said Batiste. “All you have to do is ease off the gas and, if it’s safe, ease to the left.” Batiste added a caution, however, about sudden maneuvers intended to comply with the law. He stressed that simply slowing down and easing left is sufficient. “We don’t want people making sudden maneuvers that could be even more dangerous,” he said.

He didn’t say so, but his advice applies only to multi-lane highways. They don’t want you easing to the left into oncoming traffic on a two-lane highway. Just slow down (“ease off the gas”) on those roadways.

Since the law went into effect, state troopers have contacted more than 10,000 violators using a mix of education and enforcement to win compliance, he said. Troopers report that most drivers understand the reason for the law once it’s explained to them.

The law applies to ambulances, tow trucks and highway maintenance vehicles as well as the police.

There has been some wild-eyed e-mails about this kind of law in other states, claiming greatly exaggerated fines and reduced speed requirements. If you get one, ignore it.


Marine Drive school zone to be tweaked

April 18th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Liz DuBois, who lives on one of the side streets along Marine Drive in Bremerton, wasn’t too impressed with my March column about the new school zone flashers just off Marine Drive on Rocky Point Road.

“O.K,” she wrote, “your column answered the question of ‘what are they,’ but now, where do they leave us?  Are the residents on Marine Drive still being held hostage by the metal signs that inform us that this is a school zone 365+ days of the year?

“As long as those signs remain in place, I’m assuming drivers on Marine Drive are still restricted to 20 mph from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every single day of the year,” she said. “Or will those signs come down, hopefully within our lifetime?  Where does the restriction end on Marine Drive?

“We feel like hostages in our own city…and we’re tired of this!  Who thought up this mess anyway?”

The out basket: Liz’ criticism of the column is well deserved, but I can bring a little good news this time around.

The Bremerton schools’ acquisition of money for the flashers has spurred the city to review the restriction, which Liz describes accurately. The school zone stretches from the church school a short distance from Kitsap Way all the way to the downgrade past Rocky Point Road. It’s the longest school zone I can recall.

The flashers impose the 20 mph zone where Marine Drive wraps around onto Rocky Point Road, and only when they are blinking.

The Marine Drive zone, on the other hand,  is in effect nine hours a day, every day.

Gunnar Fridriksson, Bremerton’s managing street engineer, says, “Unless we receive a complaint, accident history, change in federal/state law, etc…, we tend to leave things be. What precipitated our review here was the school district receiving a grant to purchase the beacons. The last time we were out was about 8-10 years ago.

“As time is available, we are planning to return and make additional sign modifications to the existing.  This will include a better definition of the school hours, including that they are Monday through Friday.  Give us a couple more weeks, you should be seeing changes shortly.”

They aren’t likely to make the zone any shorter though, he said.

.

 


Motorcyclists get relief from balky red lights

April 17th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: From time to time I hear  from motorcyclists who wonder what they legally can do when traffic is light and they are stuck at a red light because the traffic detection equipment isn’t sensitive enough to react to their presence and no larger vehicles show up to trip the light.

I heard on TV news the other day that a new law has been passed and signed by the governor making it legal for motorcyclists to go through a red light after they have waited one complete cycle of the light that didn’t include a green light for them.

The out basket: It’s true, according to the state Legislature’s Web site, and the law will be effective June 12. The new law requires that the movement be made cautiously.

The bill didn’t get through in 2013 but was reintroduced this year and passed.

I’ve always figured if  I was a motorcyclist caught in such a pickle, I’d make a right turn, being careful to signal, especially if I had to pull out of a left turn pocket, then make a U-turn on the cross street and return to the signal. There I could make either a right on red if that’s the direction they wanted to go, or hope the detection equipment is stronger on that side if the signal isn’t still green for that street.

But come June 12, motorcyclists will have the option of waiting a full cycle of the light and proceeding (cautiously) if other strategies fail them.


Loxie Eagans on-ramp stops worry driver

April 15th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Janice Kelly writes, “Monday through Friday, I take the entrance ramp to the freeway on Loxie Eagans going southbound. I come down Auto Center Way and have to make a quick entrance to the freeway after the light.

“On many days the State Patrol has a car or two pulled over. I am not sure what the violation is but I want to make sure I do not commit it.

The out basket: I told Janice it very well could be drivers stopped for pulling straight across from the Loxie Eagans off-ramp from Highway 3 to the matching on-ramp to return to the freeway. It was a favorite ploy to bypass cars in the freeway backup during rush hour until the state put up signs a few years ago forbidding anything but a left or right turns from that off-ramp .

I asked Trooper Russ Winger if that is a good guess.

The out basket: Russ replied, “I can’t say for sure but during the late afternoon commute that would be a good possibility. We do have officers that enforce that crossing situation there fairly regularly. Plenty of drivers seem willing to roll the dice and do that there.”

Since Janice makes her weekday trip in the afternoon around 5 o’clock, that’s probably it.


Is that a cop – or a taxi?

April 11th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: John Veatch of Bremerton wonders, “How did it come about that Arrow taxi cabs look nearly identical to police cars?”

The out basket: It does seems like there has been quite a few old Ford “police interceptor” models being used as taxis in these parts lately. I haven’t noticed whether they are all Arrow cabs.

They seem to be outnumbered only by Prius model taxis.

I imagine one or more cab companies bought a bunch of patrol cars from the state when WSP retired them. The state sells them at auction when that happens.

I owned one once back in the 1960s. It had a spotlight I could use to check addresses and street names at night, the coolest accessory I ever had. Too bad it didn’t spot the old crate that ran a red light in Seattle one night and totaled it.

Having old cop cars on the road may make things safer, as drivers tend to tap the brakes when they see one approaching.


Guard rail reflectors getting taller

April 10th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: I have noticed the appearance of tall reflectors on the fairly new guard rails on Illahee Road on the downgrade to Illahee, on guard rail installed over the winter on Long Lake Road and on Mile Hill Drive just downhill from Long Lake Road.

In some instances, they are right across from guard rail with short reflectors.

Truthfully, I have never paid much attention to what’s on top of guard rail, so I wondered if the tall reflectors are a coming thing.

Once I started looking, I saw some of the tall reflectors on guard rail along Highway 16 down by Gig Harbor, encrusted with age. Obviously, this is not a new invention.

The three roads on which I had seen them are Kitsap County roads, so I asked about them, including whether they might be targets for vandals, as the vertical louvres on the center barrier on both sides of Gorst often are.

The out basket:. Jeff Shea, Kitsap County traffic engineer, says, “The reflectors on the guardrail have been around for a few years. They became a new requirement in the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Devices,” a federal standard.

“We have tried different types to experiment with ease of installation and evaluate their durability and maintenance needs. Also, with the new steel (guard rail) posts we have had to work with a different application rather than simply nailing them onto the wood posts.

“The only requirement in the manual is spacing and a minimal dimension. Both types of reflectors meet those requirements.  The taller reflectors are easier to install and maintain, so they will be our standard as the others need replacing.

“But the traffic world changes frequently and a better device may come out soon that we employ.

“You are correct in that we do see quite a bit of vandalism with the reflectors.  Hopefully the taller flexible reflectors will not be as easy to damage. Time will tell.”


Spray truck wasn’t just watering the shoulder

April 8th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: I spotted a county vehicle spraying the shoulder of Long Lake Road as it turned onto Woods Road the other day. It was a good sized pickup truck with a good sized tank mounted on it. My wife noted that the wording on the tank read, “Water Only.” It hadn’t sprayed anywhere else along Long Lake Road.

It seemed unlikely that they were watering the corner. I asked if there was a herbicide tank out of sight on the truck and how many such trucks the county has.

The out basket: Two smaller chemical tanks, actually, says Jacques Dean. county road superintendent. “The chemicals are injected into the water at specified proportions as the water passes through the pumps,” he said.

“We have two spray trucks that are set up the same and cover the entire unincorporated county,” he continued.

“Shoulder spraying must be done during dry weather and without wind.  As such, shoulder spraying typically begins in mid-March when we have a shot at dry weather.

“Most areas outside of road shoulders within county jurisdiction, such as the corner of Long Lake and Woods, are managed by mechanical means…in other words…they are mowed.  Mowing occurs all year, however, we will wait until later in the spring for those areas where we are encouraging native growth as a means to force out undesirable non-native, or invasive species.

“We typically spot spray, by hand, non-native and invasive species, unless there is a significant contiguous area of undesirable growth,” he said.

I know this can be a hot button issue for counties and others responsible for visibility on the roads. Kitsap has a Web site devoted to the issue of vegetation control than can be seen at http://www.kitsapgov.com/pw/pdf/2028_veg.pdf

An entire section is devoted to “Herbicides on County Rights of Way, a small portion of which says, “Employees who apply herbicides are trained to use the latest technology and application methods. Employees applying herbicides hold an application license and attend on–going training. We keep a complete record of all herbicide applied.”


Sharkstooth bars appear at some Yield locations

April 4th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: At a traffic signal and electronics conference recently, I heard the term “sharks tooth stop bar” for the first time. They aren’t really stop bars and may be known by a more official name, but I have been seeing them at a few places in our area.

They are a row of yellow triangles painted on the pavement at some conflict points, notably at the entrances to roundabouts. Their triangular shape is no accident, as it’s also the shape of a Yield sign, which has the same meaning.

I see them at Kitsap County’s Anderson Hill Road roundabout in Silverdale and the state Highway 3 northbound off-ramp in Gorst for those heading toward Highway 16, but few other places where yielding is required.

The out basket: Doug Adamson of the Olympic Region of state highways says, “Yield bars or yield lines are a relatively new addition to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the federal manual that governs (our) use of highway signs and markings.

“The markings – which are the shape of an isosceles triangle – are not required under federal standards and thus are not commonly seen.  The markings indicate where a driver should stop to yield to another vehicle, bicyclist, or pedestrian, and are used at the discretion of the traffic engineer.”

 


Defining failure to yield

April 1st, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: I have a vague recollection of believing as a young driver in the 1960s that if I pulled out onto a road and it required an approaching driver to slow down that I was guilty of failure to yield.

But with five decades of driving experience, that seems unlikely. I asked what the threshold is for failure to yield when there is no collision.

The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger, my expert on most enforcement issues, replied, “First of all, the officer would have to witness the infraction. If it was obvious to the officer that the other driver had to take sudden braking or steering – perhaps even both -  to avoid a collision, then you could support writing a ticket.

“Personally, I would want to talk to the driver about their perspective on it before deciding to write a ticket. If the driver acknowledged responsibility and seemed receptive to some education about the safety aspect of the infraction, I might decide to let it go at a warning.

“Another officer might write a ticket either way.

“I would not think that just causing another vehicle to slow down as justification for a ticket would be very sound decision-making. This is why we  – the (state) patrol – give our officers discretion in enforcement decisions, relying on good training and judgment.”

 


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You can reach Travis Baker at tvisb@wavecable.com

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