Silverdale Yield sign at 3-303 raises a question

The in basket: Donald Hein e-mailed to say, “Southbound, leaving the freeway at Silverdale, at the end of the off-ramp two lanes are left-turn to East Bremerton and one lane is right-turn to Silverdale.

“More-or-less opposite the left-turning lanes at the end of the off-ramp is a traffic signal.  And, at the end of the off-ramp is a Yield sign, which can only apply to right-turning traffic.

The question is:  Does the traffic signal on the opposite side control only the left-turning lanes?  In other words, are right-turning vehicles required to stop when the signal is red, or are they controlled only by the Yield sign, and thus can proceed cautiously without making a full stop?

“This situation occurs most obviously when traffic from Silverdale is making a left turn across the front of the off-ramp, on their way to the on-ramp for the freeway northbound.

“The point is, the traffic signal is ambiguously located, and/or maybe needs a text sign added which clarifies its applicability,” Don argues.

The out basket: The Yield sign controls the right turn, and the traffic signals control only the left turns. Even without the Yield sign, right turners would be able to make a legal right turn on red after stopping and yielding. The sign was added to make it clear that stopping isn’t necessary if there is no conflicting traffic heading toward Silverdale, reducing backups of right turners.

If accidents become enough of a problem there, I would expect adding a stop sign for right turners would be the first step.

State Trooper Russ Winger says, “We do get our share of rear-end collisions here. Invariably they are caused when the lead right-turning vehicle‎ starts into the turn and then stops when they see approaching traffic from the left. The following vehicle driver assumes the lead vehicle is continuing the turn as they look to the left for traffic and they fail, in that brief moment, to observe that the lead vehicle has stopped.

“There is usually traffic stopped in the two left-turn lanes that hinders vision for the right-turning vehicle until they get into the turn a bit. Not a great design there, in my opinion.

“Myself and other troopers have investigated more than a few rear-end collisions with similar sequence of events. In my experience the‎ rear vehicle is at fault in most instances‎,” Russ concluded.

I don’t see anything ambiguous about where the traffic signals are situated. And I can’t picture wording on signs next to the signal heads that wouldn’t cause more confusion than they’d eliminate.

 

Left-turn lane vs. a bypass lane

The in basket: Kitsap County Public Works has put out a couple of alerts about construction beginning on a bypass lane on Sidney Road in South Kitsap at Shannon Drive, which is the main road into the Parkview Terrace housing development.

One said in part: “The project widens the travel lanes from the current 11 feet to 12 feet; constructs a 12-foot southbound bypass lane; and paves and widens the existing gravel shoulders from six feet to eight feet.”

It sounds like a project to get left-turners out of the through traffic to cut down on rear-end accidents.

But I had only heard the word “bypass” used in terms of long stretches like those around Purdy and Sequim, and proposed for Belfair. I asked what’s the difference between a bypass lane and a left-turn lane.

The out basket: Dick Dadisman of public works said, “As you surmised, the purpose of our Sidney Road Bypass Lane project is to make left turns safer from rear-end crashes at the Shannon Drive intersection.

“The section of Sidney Road from Wildwood Road to Shannon Drive has a history of vehicle collisions with the Sidney Road / Shannon Drive intersection ranked 38th out of the 128 high accident intersections evaluated by Kitsap County.

“The bypass lane will allow southbound vehicles the opportunity to move to the right and pass vehicles stopped and waiting to make a left turn at Shannon Drive.  With the close proximity of the Wildwood Road and Shannon Drive intersections, there is not sufficient separation between these intersections to construct left-turn channelization. Therefore, the bypass lane design was chosen.”

Sign is kinda one-way about prison escapees

The in basket: Tom Wisniewski said in an e-mail, “When one is traveling ‘east’ on Highway 16 toward Tacoma there are signs stating ”Correctional Facility – Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers” but there are no similar signs on the westbound side of the highway.

“Do they think no one wants to escape to Kitsap County?”

The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker of state highway’s Olympic Region says they just provided what the Department of Corrections requested near the Purdy women’s prison.

So I asked Corrections, and Norah West of their public relations staff had to ask around before telling me, “It’s likely that years ago, when the original signage request was made to the Department of Transportation, the Department of Corrections requested a sign for eastbound lanes since the facility is on the eastbound-facing side of Highway 16.

“We’ll certainly look into whether it makes sense to request that DOT place a similar sign for the westbound lanes. We’d also recommend that, no matter which side of the road, drivers use universal caution and common sense when encountering pedestrians on the highway.”

Green light doesn’t confer unlimited right to proceed

The in basket: A Road Warrior blog commenter in December, who signed as Lonna, is upset with the yellow flashing left-turn signals Kitsap County uses. She said she got into an accident at one, but didn’t say where.

“I approached an extremely busy intersection with four lights for the left turning lane,” she said. Her signal was green. “As I was crossing over the crosswalk, it turned to a flashing yellow arrow. I proceeded to yield to oncoming traffic then it turned a solid yellow arrow. The oncoming traffic was still thick and there were no gaps for me to complete my left turn.

“When I finally got my chance to turn, my light turned red. The person to the left of me was at a red stop light waiting to make her turn when her light turned green and she took off right away and gunned it. As I was completing my left turn, she smashed into me.

“Now it’s a big mess. My car was totaled and my son and I have serious neck injuries. Her insurance company is trying to say that we are both at fault 50/50.

“I know that the rules of the road are that just because your light turned green doesn’t mean you can go. You must make sure the intersection is clear of any traffic, pedestrians, emergency vehicles or hazards.

“I think these lights are ridiculous and maybe set that way intentionally to cause these accidents so the city can make money. There has gotta be a better way!”

I recall in my youth hearing of something called the “last clear chance” rule, meaning a driver can be deemed at fault in an accident if he or she was clearly able to avoid an accident set up by the illegal actions of another driver, but proceeded anyway.

I asked State Trooper Russ Winger about that and how he views the situation Lonna describes.

The out basket: Russ said he is not familiar with the ‘last clear chance’ law.

But “the situation your reader found herself in is fairly simple,” he said. “She is correct IF she was in the intersection legally waiting to make the left turn. She would have the right of way to complete her turn. The driver that was stopped at a red light and proceeding on green when the light changed … must yield to vehicles already legally transiting the intersection.

“If your reader’s scenario is factual, then I do not agree that (she is) 50 percent at fault or even at fault. I would, in fact, write the other driver an infraction for fail to yield right of way.”

The county has begun adding signs to signals with the yellow flashing left turn indicators, making it clear that those turning must yield, and recently decided the Kitsap Mall Boulevard-Randall Way intersection in Silverdale is too complex to keep them there.

And the state doesn’t use them at its intersections.

But they are very popular with most drivers, me included. They reduce time spent waiting and pollution discharged from idling vehicles, and reduce the length of holding area needed in left turn lanes. I’d hate to see them go.

 

A.M ‘Tour de France” at Bremerton ferry generates question

The in basket: Kelli Lambert says in an e-mail, “I am wondering about the routing of bike traffic when the bikes off-load from the ferry (in Bremerton). I drop my husband off around 7 a.m. for the 7:20 ferry, and quite often the stream of bikes (which my husband and I refer to as the ‘Tour de France’) comes riding past me very close on the driver’s side, against the one-way traffic.

“The other day they all started whizzing across First Street and a Kitsap Transit bus came awfully close to hitting one. It’s dark and congested at that time of day.

“I assume many of the bicyclists are going to the shipyard for work. What is the actual route they are supposed to take? And does the Bremerton Police enforce it at all?” she asked.

The out basket: I get many complaints of this kind, bicyclists using their smaller size and mobility to do things cars aren’t physically able to, whether it’s legal or not.

In this case, it’s not. Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police says, “Bicyclists on the roadway must obey the rules of the road, the same as a vehicle.  This includes traveling the right way on one-way streets. This has been an ongoing issue that we have tried to address and will continue to address.”

Oddly, these bikers can get away with what they are doing if they stay out of the roadway, use the sidewalk and don’t endanger any pedestrians while so doing. Permission to ride on sidewalks, cautiously, is the main exception to the rule Pete states about bicyclist’s having to obey the rules of the road.

Otherwise, they should do what cars do, go around the block to get to the shipyard in the traffic lanes.

Transit buses and their Highway 305 backups

The in basket: Jenni Booth has a question about Kitsap Transit practices along Highway 305 on Bainbridge Island.

“I see paved bus stop pull-out areas consistently on the island along the highway,” she said. “Unfortunately, I also rarely see them being used.  “Kitsap Transit buses routinely stop in the traffic lane, impeding traffic and creating a hazard as traffic often pulls into the oncoming lane to pass. Many mornings and evenings the delay of cars grows and grows behind the buses as they do this down Highway 305.

“If there are bus pull-outs, why are they not being used as a means to help traffic flow?  I’m sure it has something to do with difficulty merging back into traffic, but this can’t be a viable solution for that. Is it even legal for the bus to impede traffic like this where there are clearly marked pull-outs for the bus?” she asked.

The out basket: This evidently is a long-standing problem. as suggested by a Feb.11, 2004 Road Warrior column addressing it. Otto Spieth hypothesized then, as Jenni does now, that the drivers don’t want to have to fight their way back into the heavy traffic. I said then that it must be scary part of their job.

John Clauson, Kitsap Transit’s service development manager then, said staying in the roadway has more to do with not sinking into a soft shoulder or letting passengers out in an unsafe place.

John now is transit’s executive director and had this to say about Jenni’s complaint.

“Buses, all commercial buses, are allowed to stop on state highways at locations clearly posted as Bus Stop locations.  Stops without signs, commonly called ‘Flag Stops,’ are not allowed on state highways.

“Specific to SR 305, between the Bainbridge Ferry Terminal and Hostmark Road in Poulsbo, there are 20 northbound posted KT Bus Stops (15 with pullouts) and 17 southbound Bus Stops (11 with pullouts). Designated pullouts must meet our criteria for safety.

” KT bus operators should be pulling off the roadway and into the designated pullout, allowing traffic to safely pass the bus while passengers are boarding or alighting. For safety reasons, Kitsap Transit requires operators to pull completely off the roadway with room required available for customers to board and alight.  Operators are not permitted to straddle the fog line.  They must be completely to the right of the fog line (if it is safe) or remain completely in the roadway (to the left of the fog line) with flashers activated.

“As recent as April 2, 2014, a memo was posted reminding operators that they are required to pull buses completely off the SR 305 roadway if it is safe to do so.

“Your observation (in your 2004 article) was absolutely correct. Pulling back into traffic is, indeed, ‘a scary adventure.’  Bus operators cannot just turn on the Yield flasher and immediately pull into traffic.  With the size and bulk, it’s a slower process and most motorists are generally unwilling to slow down and allow a lumbering bus to pull out in front of them. Additionally, they do not want to follow a slow-moving bus and are unaware of the law requiring them to yield to transit buses (RCW 46.61.220).

“Our operations manager will repost the 2014 Memo reminding all operators to use the pullouts on SR 305. Perhaps you can remind your many readers of the law requiring motorists to yield to buses merging back into traffic.  In addition, if your readers do continue to see problems, please have them call us directly to allow us to more efficiently track and investigate the issue.”

 

Crossing solid yellow and white lines is usually legal

The in basket: Walt Juneau writes, “I’ve long thought that the markings for the center turn lane on three-lane roads is illogical. The outside line is solid yellow which means, I think, do not cross. The inside line is a broken yellow one which means you can cross. It should follow, then, that it is illegal to turn into the center lane, but legal to turn out of it. What am I missing here?”
He said the need to cross solid yellow and solid white lines make the intersection of Mullenix and Bethel roads in South Kitsap particularly troublesome when one wants to turn onto Spencer Avenue to get to Morrison Gravel.
“The way the lanes are laid out it is impossible to turn right then left to access the road to Morrison without crossing an assortment of do-not-cross lines,” he said. “When leaving Morrison’s to turn right to get to Mullenix Road requires crossing the same lane markings. If one were to obey the markings, it would require taking a very round-about way to go across a short distance.
“Any thoughts on the matter other than to check carefully for police cars first?”
The out basket: Walt’s basic premise that drivers are not to cross solid yellow or solid white lines is in error. You are not to pass other vehicles in a two-way turn lane, or cross a double yellow line to pass in any location. But turning across them is legal.
State Trooper Russ Winger says, “There is no reason one cannot turn legally in either place your writer mentions. Turn lanes are often marked with a solid on the left and solid with skipped (lines) to inside on the right.
“I think in situations where turns are not safe or need to be prohibited, additional signage or markings are often used to emphasize the intent. It is not illegal to turn late into or out of a left-turn lane as long as it is done with safe movement.
“The 18-inch-wide solid or cross-hatched lines constitute a barrier and should not be crossed,” he added
So you can cross a solid white line, even to leave a turn lane to return to the through lane, as long as you are entering a legal driving lane. The shoulder and gore areas at freeway ramps are not legal driving lanes, so driving across those solid white lines is illegal. So is crossing a double white line, such as sometimes demarcates an HOV lane.
As always, crossing any line into another lane requires yielding to vehicles in that lane.

An oldie and a doozy dealing with right turns

The in basket: A couple more inquiries about right turns have come in, one a golden oldie but the other a real head scratcher.
Shirley Mildes read the recent Road Warrior column about turning right on a red arrow, which is legal, and asked  if that’s also true of the second lane in at a double-right situation like at the end of 11th Street at Kitsap Way in Bremerton.
And Pat Ryan of Brownsville came up with a doozy that really required some thought.
She said Brownsville Highway, where it ends at Highway 303 (Waaga Way) has two lanes for turning left to go toward Bremerton, and room for two cars abreast to the right.
She asked if a driver legally could drive past a car sitting to the far right, and turn right into the center lane of 303, approximating the kind of move Shirley asked about. Or do the same thing simultaneously with the other vehicle.
The out basket:  As I’ve written before, a right on red is available to those in both right turn lanes if they come to a full stop and yield, and no signs prohibit it. The driver in the second lane also must turn into the second lane available, so as not to conflict with anyone turning from the outside lane.
As for Pat’s question, State Trooper Russ Winger was doubtful after viewing the intersection.
“Truthfully, I have not seen anyone make a right turn from the middle lane to the inside northbound lane,” he said. “I sat there for nearly 30 minutes while watching fairly heavy traffic move through the intersection and did not see one vehicle make that turn.
“It seems laid out in such a way that does not lend itself to making that turn. I think you could make a case that the turn is prohibited -and citable – by the signs and lights even though you could make the turn fairly.”
The question is complicated by the fact the edge line on Brownsville Highway ends well short of the intersection. If it didn’t it would better channelize the right turn and not leave room for two cars to make the turn at the same time without one of them crossing over the edge line, which is illegal.
The signals aren’t much help with this issue. They have both ball and left-pointing arrow indications.
But the signs mounted between the signal heads probably clarify it as a single right turn lane. One is an arrow pointing left and the other has arrows pointing both left and right. That’s two lanes to the left and one to the right.
It’s all kind of academic. It made for a good mental exercise, but I doubt that many drivers would even think about making such a turn, let alone actually do it.

Seabeck Highway power line job is a rarity

The in basket: I was surprised by an alert Kitsap County put out last week, saying that Puget Sound Energy will be putting electric wires underground along quite a stretch of Seabeck Highway. It begins at Holly Road, where the county will be building a roundabout soon, and continues to Northlake Way.

“Work continues through June,” the notice said. “Traffic is restricted to one lane in the immediate vicinity of the work. Work begins this week and moves easterly as the project advances. Flaggers assist motorists through the work area. Work hours are Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Motorists should expect delays of 5-10 minutes in the immediate vicinity of the work.”

I was surprised because undergrounding power lines is costly and a rarity in such a rural area. I asked Puget Sound Energy what prompted it, if they do this more often than I think, and whether some private development is sharing in the cost.

The out basket: Akiko Oda of PSE says the company doesn’t do this often. “This is an unusual case,” she said. “PSE serves customers all the way out to the small community of Holly from the circuit that is getting the improvement work. The circuit originates at our substation at Northlake Way and is approximately 55 miles long and has a lot of exposure to storms. Installing the underground line will reduce the exposure to weather events.”

The work will put 2.75 miles of new underground 34.5kV feeder cables underground, she said. “We’ll also be moving five power poles to make room for the county’s roundabout project.

“This project is one of the jobs to improve safety and reliability,” she said. “It is not driven by a development.”

Thick SR303 tree canopy finally getting attention

The in basket: Vern Beeson in October sounded an alarm I’d heard before about the difficulty a driver can have while southbound on Highway 303 (Waaga Way) in seeing the traffic signal at Brownsville Highway through the thick canopy of deciduous trees that hang out over the highway.

Reader Martha Mealey had said the same thing almost a year earlier, in September of 2013.

Though I hadn’t found the signal to be dangerously obscured myself, both times I referred the complaint to the state. My state highway contact said last fall they’d give it a look.

Thursday, while checking out an unrelated issue at the 303-Brownsville Highway intersection,  I noticed several state highway maintenance vehicles lined up on the southbound shoulder of 303, including a wood chipper. So I drove down there and asked if it had anything to do with the tree canopy.

The out basket: Yes, indeed, the workers told me. At least they were starting on it, before the trees leaf out for the spring and summer.

Not many limbs had been lopped Thursday, as they started with litter cleanup using some Department of Corrections assignees, and swept the shoulder with one of the machines on the shoulder. They had to be out of the way and reopen the lane they had closed by afternoon rush hour and were loading up around 2:30 when I was there.

They’ll return to get more of the limbs, they said, as their four 10s work shifts allow. They didn’t know if that would mean the work will resume today (Friday).