Extra wide stripes no help with speeds; crash impacts uncertain

The in basket: On a recent car trip to Shelton, I noticed that the state had applied the experimental wide striping to the edge and lane lines on Highway 3 through the Pickering Road intersection north of the city. The painted lines are twice as wide as the ordinary striping.

The wider lines were installed two years ago on South Shore Road (Highway 106) along Hood Canal and on Highway 303 between Purdy and Allyn. The idea was to give drivers the impression the highway is narrower than it is, causing them to drive more slowly. At the time, the state said it would evaluate the striping over the ensuing year to see if it accomplished that goal.

I asked what that evaluation showed.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker of the state highway department’s Olympic Region, says,

“Applying the 8-inch wide striping was a pilot project to evaluate its effectiveness as a speed-management and crash-reduction tool. Wider striping makes the lane appear more narrow, and we wanted to see if that perception deterred speeding and helped people stay in the lane.

“Our before/after speed study showed no significant difference in operating speeds. We are still collecting crash data to see if the wider striping is helping people stay in the lane. It takes 3-4 years to collect enough data to have meaningful conclusions. At present we do not plan to apply wider striping in new locations.”

Masonic parking lot in Belfair prompts reader question

The in basket: Greg Tyree has a couple of questions about the road widening project going on in Belfair.

He wonders about the elaborate concrete walls and grading being done next to the Masonic Lodge in town, to serve as its parking lot. He estimates that the work is costing “probably three times the value of the entire property” and wonders why it’s so elaborate.

He also wonders whether the traffic signal in front of Belfair Elementary, removed for the summer while school is out, will be restored and whether an overhead walkway could be built in its place.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways, says, “”The widening work required that we either install walls or fill the parcel to accommodate the wider road. Walls were less expensive than filling the parcel, thus the walls were included in the project design.”

I didn’t think there was much likelihood of an overhead walkway being built in front of the school, and that people choosing to climb up to use it when they could just dash across the highway seems just as unlikely. But I asked Claudia about it and she said, “”We will replace the signal at the school on our project.  There are no plans or funds to build a pedestrian bridge.”

Work on Gold Creek Road ‘sucks,’ says reader

The in basket: Gregg McFarlan says that on July 14 he “had the pleasure of driving to Belfair via Gold Creek Road” and had two thoughts.

“1) Blacktop was recently applied as an overlay, not the normal grind and smooth. Gotta say, it sucks.

“2) Yesterday the county was applying what appeared to be light oil and sand to this roadway. I would understand the normal chip seal. But oil and sand?”

The out basket: Jacques Dean, Kitsap County road superintendent, explains, “The Central Road Shop has completed a series of repairs on Gold Creek in preparation for a chip seal application that will take place within the next couple of weeks.

“They initially ground out areas of significant pavement cracking, replaced the deteriorated asphalt with new, and performed asphalt pre-leveling in a few areas to correct crown, longitudinal settling of the pavement surface, and re-establishment of the pavement edge.

“They more recently returned to the same patches and pre-level areas to apply a thin coat of oil and sand.  This is necessary prior to chip sealing to ensure that all voids within the new asphalt areas are sealed. If we do not do this, we lose chip seal oil within the voids of the new asphalt areas, and subsequently do not obtain good capture of the chip seal aggregate when it is applied.”

A chip seal is a form of repaving that involves pouring gravel on a layer of oil, which form an overlay hardened by traffic rolling over it.

Access bus opts to stop for school bus unnecessarily

The in basket: One day in June before school got out, I was stopped behind a school bus off-loading children on Mile Hill Drive where a center lane divides the two through lanes. I was behind the bus, so was beholden to stop for it. As often happens, there was a line of cars coming in the other direction, also stopped, although state law permits oncoming traffic to proceed when there is a lane, even a left turn lane, between the bus and the oncoming traffic.

At the head of that line was a Kitsap Transit Access bus. It’s very common to see a vehicle stopped unnecessarily in that situation, holding up any one behind it driven by someone who knows that law. But I wondered if Kitsap Transit buses are required, by law or policy, to stop for an oncoming school bus regardless of the exemption allowed everyone else. Kind of like buses being required to stop at railroad tracks where ordinary folks can proceed without stopping.

The out basket: Sanjay Bhatt, public information officer for Kitsap Transit, replied, “According to our training coordinator, state law does indeed contain an exception to the prohibition on drivers passing (an oncoming) stopped school bus unloading children. Drivers on a highway with three or more marked traffic lanes “need not stop” in this scenario. The law does not say drivers “shall not stop.” In other words, drivers have discretion.

“We don’t have a specific rule on this situation in our operator handbook, nor is there one in the state Commercial Driver License Guide. We train operators to put safety first. While we don’t know which ACCESS operator was driving the vehicle you observed, it’s reasonable to assume that either the operator didn’t know the legal exception or the operator knew the legal exception and chose to err on the side of caution based on what was happening out there on the road.

“We expect our operators to use their common sense and operate safely based on current conditions they encounter.”

Reader sees no creek in new Anderson Creek culvert

The in basket: Larry Mann writes, “In a dozen trips to look at the Gorst salmon project, I see not one drop of water flowing anywhere near the elaborate concrete culvert they are installing.

“How can there be a salmon creek there if there is no water flowing there? My back property line is a salmon creek and it has 12-18 of water in it all summer and 18 to 36 in it in the winter time?

“Absent flowing water at the construction sight ,what I see in Gorst is a very high dollar waste of taxpayer dollars supposedly to protect a fish that has survived 4,000 years before humans came on the scene to be their savior.

“How do you explain the fish dilemma, the lack of water on the project, and lastly are the salmon dying in the bay as we speak because there is no culvert or more importantly no water in this alleged high profile salmon creek?”

The out basket: It wasn’t easy, but I found a place to park on the shoulder of the newly reopened Highway 166 and I walked to where I could see the remaining but soon-to-be-removed culvert through which the creek passes under the eastbound lanes of Highway 16.

There was a steady flow of water (I couldn’t tell the depth) exiting the pipe, evidence that Anderson Creek does exist. I couldn’t see across to where the new culvert under Highway 166 has been built, but clearly the creek still is reaching Sinclair Inlet somehow.

Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways, said this about Larry’s observation: “You are right that water is not currently flowing in the new culvert being installed at SR 166. Our fish culvert projects are built in one of two ways: 1) installing a new culvert in dry land and realigning the stream into the culvert after it’s built; and 2) using cofferdams to restrict water flow in the streams while adjacent culvert construction occurs.  In the SR 16/SR 166 project, we are using both methods to replace the three culverts.”  Method 1 was used in the completed culvert.

“As regards spending money to improve access to fish habitat,” she added, “all I can say is that we are following the law and correcting environmental deficiencies introduced by our forefathers who unknowingly built inadequate culverts. The emphasis on environmental stewardship has changed over the years as people have gained an understanding of how manmade structures and activities affect wildlife.”




County planning reflective borders on traffic signals

The in basket: Jack Ford says that during a recent power outage that hit Silverdale, he saw several cars blow through the darkened Levin Road traffic signal on Ridgetop Boulevard, probably unaware there is a signal there.

He wondered if reflective material can be put on signals so they can be spotted when the signals and nearby street lights are out.

The out basket: The state has been installing yellow borders on some of its signals where power outages are common for some time but I wasn’t sure if Kitsap County had followed suit. Ridgetop is a county road and the Levin light is temporary while Bucklin Hill Road is closed. It will be bagged Friday when Bucklin reopens and physically removed in coming weeks.

In driving around Silverdale I didn’t see any of the signals with the border. I asked if the county has any.

Jeff Shea, county traffic engineer, replied, “We have begun to install the heads with the reflective material around them, but they aren’t always that easy to see. We have the borders at some signals including Mullenix and Phillips (in South Kitsap), pedestrian crossing on Silverdale Way, and the new Bucklin Hill pedestrian crossing at Mickelberry.

“Even with the reflective material on the signal head some drivers don’t stop. Many of our power outages occur at night during storms making it difficult to see the roadway. Compound that with the height of the signal heads, which puts them on the periphery of the light your headlights project.

“For added safety because of the outages we experience, Public Works has been installing battery backups at our more heavily used intersections with plans to install them at all signals. These backups will allow our signals to operate for several hours after an outage occurs.”

The law says that a darkened traffic signal must be treated as an all-way stop.

Vegetable oil a no-no for most dust control

The in basket: Neil Streicher asks, “We live on a community gravel road and looking for a way to control dust from the road that is environmentally safe and want to know if vegetable is approved for this purpose.

“Unable to find a government agency with an answer,”

he said.

The out basket: I asked Kitsap County Public Works Neil’s question and spokesman Doug Bear says he found the following about using vegetable oil for dust control:

“The Washington State Department of Ecology would consider that an illicit discharge if it were to enter anything they consider ‘waters of the State,’ including wetlands, ponds, creeks, etc. as well as Puget Sound.  That’s specified by the Clean Water Act.  See here:  https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/clean_water_rule_40_cfr_230_3.pdf

“Per (the county’s) stormwater permit, issued by the state, we have to consider anything entering our system an illicit discharge unless it’s straight stormwater, or any of the ‘allowable discharges’ listed on pages 20 and 21 here: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/stormwater/municipal/phaseIIww/5YR/2014mod/WWAPhaseII-Permit-2014Final.pdf

You can look it up it you like. It’s specific  to municipalities but will give you an idea of the detail included in the clean water laws.

Doug continued, “We generally use water as our preferred dust-control method, but there are also commercial products available that are plant-lingin based binders that can be applied. These typically require a professional to apply. and they may not hold up to frequent traffic.”



Double red arrow turn at 305 prompts reader’s question

The in basket: Marilyn Hawks asks, “What is the law regarding turning right on a red arrow? When I exit Highway 3 at 305 in Poulsbo, there are two right-turn arrows.  When the light shows two red arrows, I notice drivers stop, look, and pull out even from the middle right-turn lane.

“Is this legal?  I thought red arrows meant you had to wait until it turns green. If that is the law, then a sign needs to be posted that says no right on red,” she said.

The out basket: It is not the law. Drivers can turn right on a double red arrow light under the same rules that allow them to turn right on a single red arrow light. They must come to a full stop before proceeding and yield to any cross-traffic with a green light, or which otherwise has the right of way.

I get this question from time to time and usually it is about that Highway 3 off-ramp to 305  in Poulsbo. Either that or where 11th Street in Bremerton flows into Kitsap Way.

Explaining the explanation for giving up on Fauntleroy loading experiment

The in basket: When Washington State Ferries abandoned its experiment with a different way to load vehicles at the Fauntleroy terminal, the news release announcing it said one of the reasons was “ “challenges with consistent fare recovery.”

I asked what that means. Some users were boarding without paying? Proper assignment of fares to the two destinations? Or something else?

The out basket: Ian Sterling, public affairs director for the ferries, replied, “The way we load vehicles in Fauntleroy is unique to that location and is not standardized with the rest of the system. The largest single component to fare recovery issues there is the use of handheld scanners which have proven to function inconsistently the farther they get from the toll booth and a WiFi connection. Rainy weather also appears to impact their performance. There is also a small element of deliberate fare evasion. We continue to look for a solution to address issues with scanner performance.

“The scanners are for the multi-ride passes that many frequent commuters use. We actually removed the scanners from most use during the experiment. We use them on other routes as well, but to a much lesser degree. They’ve been around for at least 8 years at Fauntleroy,” Ian said.

West Kingston Road school zone flashers still operating, says readers

The in basket: Hollace Vaughn asked Wednesday, “Do you know why the flashing lights for school zones is still activated every afternoon even though school is out on West Kingston Road for the middle and high school in Kingston?”

The out basket: Curiously, those flashing lights are controlled by the county signal shop when they are on county roads, such as West Kingston, not by the schools.

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says “Each year we get a schedule from the schools and program the lights accordingly. In this case, we either have a wrong date on the schedule, or we missed it. In either regard we will have a crew go out and look at the situation. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.”

It may no longer be blinking by now.