Northlake Way no-passing zone a mistake that will stay

The in basket: I noticed the other day as I drove Northlake Way on my way to the Seabeck area that there is only one long straight stretch between Kitsap Way and the top of the serpentine hill that leads past the Mountaineers’ Forest theater where you might dare to pass another vehicle. But it’s striped as a no-passing zone, with double yellow lines on the straight stretch between Lebers Lane and the auto repair shop in the triangle where Seabeck Highway begins.

I’ve heard a number of complaints, probably from residents there, about speeding traffic, but no one has ever written me about the inability to pass despite no visibility issues.

I asked why it’s a no-passing zone.

The out basket: Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer, tells me, “The Northlake Way striping was done in error. The striping crew inadvertently left the solid line paint guns on through the entire corridor.

“To correct this error would require several days of grinding the existing paint off and repainting the centerline. For such a short section of roadway we made the decision to leave the current line as it is. When the road receives a surface treatment such as a complete overlay, the centerline configuration will be reevaluated.”

I doubt that that explanation would cut much ice with an officer who saw a person pass there and stopped the driver for improper passing.

No asphalt overlay is scheduled for the forseeable future.

What does it mean to ‘vacate’ right of way?

The in basket: Sam Watland read the recent Road Warrior column about Kitsap County turning the dead end of Hawthorne Avenue in Gorst  over to the adjacent property owners through a process called “vacating” it and asked some questions.

“Who now owns the property in question?” he asked. “What does it mean for the county to ‘vacate’ the property? Was it sold to someone or now does it belong to the state? If no one owns it then isn’t it considered public property?”

The out basket: Molly Foster, right-of-way supervisor for Kitsap County Public Works, says, “The County initiated this road vacation to release public liability and any question of maintenance for this area, which is only a portion of the roadway. Per RCW 36.87.010, the county commissioners can declare its intention to vacate a right of way and did approve the vacation on March 19, 2015.

“This right of way did not connect to Highway 3 and the adjacent owners, H.D. Fowler and Robert Mathwig, were both contacted. They both supported the vacation and acknowledged they would regain part of this area as their private property.

“When the County ‘vacates’ right of way, it simply releases the easement for road use lifting the public’s interest off the area and it reverts back to its origin which in this case was split between the two adjacent owners.

“There was no compensation recommended back to the county because the county initiated the action. A sale of county-owned land is an entirely separate process and action.

 

Bond-Lindvig signal in Poulsbo puzzles reader

The in basket: Tom Wisniewski of Bremerton asks, “Do you know if the signal at the intersection of Front Street, Bond Road, and Lindvig Way (in Poulsbo) is on a sensor or a timer?  I seem to spend a lot of time waiting for non-existent traffic to come off of Bond Road.”

The out basket: Mike Lund, public works supervisor in Poulsbo, replies, “The Bond Road / Lindvig Way signal is on a timer on the Bond Road leg of the intersection. This leg of the intersection  has bad (traffic) detection and the controller for the signal has a few issues.

“There are times that traffic has to sit while there are no cars but its set for a maximum time of 30 seconds.  At no point do cars have to sit for more than 30 seconds without traffic. This seems like a long time when you’re the driver sitting there but it seems to be keeping the traffic in the intersection moving the best. We have adjusted it to find a happy medium.

“A new controller has been ordered for that intersection and we are looking at doing radar style traffic detection.

“By  May/June this intersection will have all new equipment and be working properly,” Mike said.

Highway 166 guardrail slumping

The in basket: I’ve been driving past a number of traffic cones deployed along the waterside guardrail on Highway 166 between Port Orchard and Gorst for a couple of months now. There once were four on the pavement and two atop the guardrail, but I think one of our windstorms blew away all but two of those on the pavement.

It’s easy to see why they are there. A section of guardrail is slumping away. A little farther toward Gorst, a crack has developed in the pavement.

That stretch is well known to most locals for the series of slides that until recently came down from above regularly and blocked the highway until they could be removed.

Less well known is the time, perhaps 25 years ago or longer, when the entire roadway dropped 10 feet or so, closing it for weeks. As crews removed what fell, they found layer after layer of asphalt that had been used to address lesser slumps over the years. All that extra weight was believed to have contributed to the highway’s failure.

The state used light weight material, wood chips, if I recall correctly, for the fill that repaired the failure.

I wondered if today’s problems are just a failed guardrail of if something worse is suspected.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways, says “Our materials staff looked at the site in question (milepost 1.2). They will add the area to our statewide Unstable Slope List, which will put it in the line-up for a more robust permanent fix as funds become available (which, to be candid, could take years).

“In the meantime, our maintenance crews will maintain the road with guardrail repairs and asphalt patches.”

She included mention of the Web site describing the state’s Unstable Slope Management Program. The address is about a mile long, so I went to http://www.wsdot.wa.gov and asked for Unstable Slopes Program, which got me there.

I thought it odd the site wasn’t already on the unstable slopes list, due to all the past slides from above, but Claudia says it’s just now being added.

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It’s round, but not a roundabout at park

The in basket: Ian MacKenzie says, “My wife and I were driving around Bremerton just looking at neighborhoods and houses and ended up down at the intersection of 13th and Pacific, right at the entrance to the small parking lot of Evergreen Rotary Park.

“There in the intersection is a fairly new roundabout, albeit a very small one. But it is a roundabout none the less and there is signage to indicate it as such. “However, unlike all roundabouts I have ever encountered there are stop signs at the entrance to it on at least two of the sides.

“I am wondering what is this supposed to be. If it truly wants to be a roundabout shouldn’t there be only yield signs at all four entrances to the intersection and follow the normal rules of a roundabout.  If it is not supposed to function like a normal roundabout what is the purpose of this big round thing in the middle of the intersection?”

The out basket: It’s not a real roundabout, and has more in common wit the traffic calming circle in the middle of the intersection at Fifth Street and Chester, or the one that used to be at the park’s other entrance on Park Avenue.

Jerry Hauth, street engineer for the city, says, “The circular feature near the entrance to Evergreen Park should not be treated as a roundabout. It doesn’t meet the geometric criteria for roundabouts and is more representative of fountains, planters (or other features) that have been placed at mid-intersections for a long time. So it is important to comply with the existing signage – for safe passage for those using it.”

It has a sign suggesting it is a roundabout on only one of the four legs, the one coming out of the parking lot. It would seem to require going around the circle rather than making a left turn in front of it. It would be wise to follow that route when leaving the parking lot, as the sign is white with black arrows. Black and white signs are usually regulatory rather than advisory, so cutting in front of the circle, as I saw a driver do when ENTERING the parking lot, might be an infraction for those coming out.

A new view of SR303 off-ramp to Ridgetop Boulevard

The in basket: Lani Bogart  writes, “I am concerned about the traffic heading towards Bremerton on Highway 303/Waaga Way that takes the Ridgetop Exit. At the bottom of the exit they recently installed a traffic signal EXCEPT for the right turning traffic. They don’t even have a yield sign there and I see that traffic come whipping around that corner without even slowing down and immediately pulling over into the left lane, since that right lane turns into a right turn only.

“I witnessed a very close call by a company van pulling directly in front of the car in front of me, causing both of us to stand on our brakes to avoid a collision (We had the right of way with a green light through the intersection as we had come off the opposite direction and gone underneath the freeway).

“Why haven’t they put a yield sign there? Or better yet, a stop sign? It’s really dangerous. Sometimes when I’ve got the green light, going through the intersection and need to make that right turn into the hospital parking lot, I’m not able to get over because of that exiting traffic just barreling on through that turn into the right lane. They finally do pull over in that left lane, without checking many times, because they discover they have to turn right if they keep going. That exit really needs to be controlled, please!”

The out basket: All the drivers who have complained to the Road Warrior column about others who DO stop before turning right at the end of that off-ramp will find it interesting to hear from someone like Lani who finds that practice desirable.

The fact is there is a separate lane dedicated to those turning right to go west on Ridgetop Boulevard, so there is no need to either yield or stop there. Nor is there reason for signage requiring either.

Any driver using that dedicated lane who moves into the inside lane without  yielding and signaling, or anyone who moves into the dedicated lane from the inside lane without yielding or signaling has committed a traffic infraction and will be held responsible if a collision results. Lani is required to wait for drivers who come “barreling through that turn” to leave a space before moving right herself.

I often hear from drivers upset about others who stop at the end of that off-ramp and wait for traffic in the inside lane to pass by. Lani is the first to contact me about danger from those who don’t. I rarely approach that intersection heading west but don’t recall feeling imperiled by exiting traffic from the off-ramp when I do.

Others who agree with Lani that more control of those making that right turn is needed can comment on this column online, or contact the state at BakerC@wsdot.wa.gov.

Another bad patch on Horstman Road

The in basket: Christina Krueger writes, “Parts of Horstman Road have been dug up because of a new development.  It is very rough to drive through.  How long will it be like this?”

The out basket: This is the second complaint of about an unmatched excavation on this South Kitsap Road, which runs from Olney Avenue to Baby Doll Road. At first I thought it was the same site, which is inside the city of Port Orchard. But that one was patched last winter.

This one is farther from Olney and more in the center of the road. And it’s in the county.

Doug Bear, spokesman for Kitsap County Public Works, says, “West Sound Utility District is installing sewer connections for the Prosperity plat off Horstman Road and operating under a current right-of-way permit.  When the project is complete the road will be restored to its original condition. Final inspection is currently scheduled for mid-June.”

Nothing planned for Parcells Road area near Kingston

The in basket: Kimberley Kelly writes, “Are there any future plans for the Highway 104/Parcells Road/Barber-Cut Off Road intersection in Kingston?

“The county re-aligned the road many years ago, however, when the ferry is unloading and/or when the elementary school is starting or ending its day, it can be nearly impossible to cross this intersection.

“We have lived in our home off Parcells Road for 23 years and this intersection is becoming more and more dangerous each year. There have been wrecks (including fatalities) and constant near-misses at this intersection. I would love to see a traffic signal or a large round-about at this location.

The out basket: Kitsap County has a study going it calls a “Complete Streets Study” of Kingston, but it’s not so complete that it stretches out to Parcells Road.

Doug Bear of Kitsap County public works says, “Parcells Road is outside the boundary of the Complete Streets Study.” Nothing is included on the county’s six-year Transportation Improvement Program extending out to 2021 for that intersection and the state also says it has no plans for improvements there.

Odd left turns on Lund raise a question

 

The in basket: Ron Galla of Port Orchard asks whether the numerous drivers he sees turning left across the double yellow line on westbound Lund Avenue just west of Bethel Road are committing a violation.

“When these cars have to stop and wait to cross the double yellow lines because of oncoming traffic, it creates a real hazard to the cars behind them, some times slamming on their brakes,” he said.

“There is nowhere for these cars in the rear to go, as both lanes are usually full of traffic coming off of the Bethel/Lund intersection heading west.

“Then it is also a hazard when they finally cross the double yellow lines because of oncoming traffic, traveling east toward Bethel, not expecting someone to cross in front of them.”

Ron suggests a barrier of pylons like the one preventing left turns out of the Port Orchard Post Office as a solution to the hazard.

“By the way,” he added, “the entrance / exit to that parking lot is not designed to allow this turn, nor is it designed to allow traffic exiting to cross over the double yellow lines and continue west on Lund Avenue

The out basket: I was a little surprised by the question, as the long lines of would-be left turners in the eastbound left turn pocket to head toward downtown there, often spilling out into the inside through lane, are a lot more noticeable than left turners going the other way. I guess just after the green cycles on the signal at Lund there are opportunities to cross the double yellow lines to reach Auto Zone and the other businesses in there.

Ron starts with a common misconception, that left turns across double-yellow lines are illegal.

They are legal in most cases. Double yellow lines prohibit passing, but not turning left.

None of the exceptions that would make the turns illegal – painted or raised cross-hatching between the lines, a raised curb, an 18-inch-wide or wider painted line, or signs saying or depicting “No Left Turn – are present there.

The access configuration designed for right turns in and right turns out make left turns difficult, but not illegal.

Commander Dale Schuster of Port Orchard police says, “Many more vehicles are exiting the parking lot to turn left onto westbound Lund Avenue than those waiting to turn into the lot from westbound Lund Avenue. I do not believe we have responded to a traffic accident at that location due to turning traffic.”

Kitsapper has some 520 bridge questions

The in basket: Dr. Larry Iversen writes, “Even though the 520 bridge is on the other side of Puget Sound, as a major highway, it does impact all of us who will travel across Lake Washington.

“Questions:  1) Why tear down the old 520 bridge?  Why not renovate it and use it like what was done with the Tacoma Narrows old bridge?

“2) How will the new bridge traffic blend with I-5 OR is the plan to narrow and divert the new bridge traffic with the existing highway between Montlake and I-5?

The out basket: Steve Peer, the state’s SR 520 media and construction communications manager, fielded this one and said, “After more than a half century of use, the existing floating bridge is showing its age and has become vulnerable to windstorms. The bridge approaches, with columns attached to land, are susceptible to earthquakes.

“The new floating bridge adds HOV lanes in both directions which will connect to future improvements that will add the same westward toward I-5. It also boasts a 14-foot shared-use path for bicycles and pedestrians.

“Once connected to the west approach, currently being constructed, non-motorized traffic will be able to cross Lake Washington from the Eastside to Seattle.

“Traffic from the new floating bridge will narrow and move onto the existing highway with a temporary connection bridge. In summer 2017, WSDOT will complete the westbound lanes between the new floating bridge and Montlake. “Then, in 2018 WSDOT will start the Rest of the West project which will improve regional mobility with the addition of dedicated HOV lanes across the entire SR 520 corridor, in both directions from Redmond to I-5.”

If the Rest of the West online link Steve provided doesn’t automatically take you there, or if you’re reading this in the newspaper, it can be accessed online via wsdot.wa.gov.