Rest areas on Highway 16 not likely

The in basket: After a recent Road Warrior column discussed the scant use of the weigh stations on Highway 16, the highway to and from Tacoma, someone suggested that they be turned into rest areas, which seems to be their main function these days. But there are no restrooms or other amenities.

I asked the state how it decides where rest areas are created.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways, says, “We choose rest area locations based on federal guidelines that recommend siting rest areas approximately every 60 miles if no other traveler services are available. Traveler services include local services such as restaurants, gas stations, etc. that allow travelers the opportunity to stop and rest.

“Along SR 16 there are many traveler services available, so it is unlikely WSDOT would site a rest area along that highway.

“Many of our rest areas used to be in more rural areas but over the years development has caught up to them.

2017 repaving on Highway 303 won’t include bridge

The in basket: A Feb. 2 story in this newspaper about hopes that the pedestrian and bicycle pathway on the Warren Avenue Bridge in Bremerton could be widened mentioned in passing that a repaving of the bridge in 2017 would be a good time to accomplish that if engineers can find a way to do it and a funding source can be identified by then.
I wondered if the bridge’s days as a patch-work quilt are about to end.
The driving surface has been a jumble of patches since an experimental product was used in the 1980s to repave it. I have been told by state bridge engineers that the surface, for all its unsightliness, has accomplished its main goal of protecting the steel structure beneath. And I can’t say the the ride is a rough as it looks like it would be.
An earlier news story said the work would be part of the repaving of much of Highway 303, known variously as Waaga Way and Wheaton Way, which includes the bridge. I asked what kind of surface would replace the current one.
The out basket: None, as it turns out. Initial plans to resurface the bridge as part of the work have changed, Neil Campbell of the state Department of Transportation told a Bremerton audience Thursday night. Instead, continued repairs and patching of its driving surface will be done while traffic control for the paving on either end of it is in place, said Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways.
“In the 2017 construction season,” she said, “we plan to pave SR 303 between NE William E. Sutton Road and SR 304 (Burwell Street) in Bremerton.
“The current plan is to exclude the Warren Avenue bridge deck from that paving project. That is not unusual, as bridge decks are usually excluded from paving projects because their surfaces are paved with different materials, and require different equipment and different expertise than roadway paving.
“The ‘experimental product’ used on the deck in the 1980s was a polyester concrete mix. At the time, it was a relatively new product but has been used many times since. It does require the correct application conditions and techniques to be effective, and on the Warren Avenue Bridge the concrete did not set up as we would have hoped.  The result has been patches to the bridge deck ever since.
“During the 2017 paver, we will take advantage of the traffic control to do more deck patching and surface repairs.
“In the meantime, the city is contemplating changing pedestrian access across the bridge deck. Although we own the bridge, the city has operational control of the bridge, and we are waiting to see what changes they choose to pursue, what funding sources can be secured, and if those plans would require any changes to our paving project.”

Almira’s jog at Riddell Road confuses right of way issues

The in basket: Christopher Pust writes, “Whenever I am coming home from Lowe’s on Fuson Road (in Bremerton), preparing to turn left onto Riddell, I find that people are confused about who has the right of way.

“I consider that I am turning left at what could be considered a two-way stop (though Almira doesn’t intersect exactly in line with Fuson).  This causes me to believe that I must yield to everyone else at the intersection.

“Others don’t seem to see it this way and constantly try to wave me through.  I was taught that I should avoid complying with a ‘wave-through’ and not to wave anyone through because it might confuse who is at fault in the case of a collision.

“I think it is just best to go when you actually have the right of way.  So the end result at this intersection is people on Almira (going straight or turning right) will try to wave me through the intersection, I ignore this and give no other direction, and they wait forever and finally (out of frustration) enter the intersection.

“Since the two roads, Almira and Fuson, aren’t perfectly aligned I could also see that coming from Almira onto Fuson would technically be a right turn onto Riddell and a left turn onto Fuson.  This frame of thought would still require me to yield to them if I am turning left off of Fuson onto Riddell.

“So, who has the right of way at this intersection if someone on Fuson is turning left and someone approaches on Almira going straight or turning right?”

The out basket: Well, first, let’s get the street names correct. The two legs of the street Christopher mentions are both Almira, which doesn’t end until the 90-degree turn where Fuson starts a little to the north. It does jog to the side at Riddell, an often troublesome alignment road engineers try to avoid or correct when possible.

That said, the official word from the Bremerton and Kitsap County law enforcement (Riddell happens to mark the city limit, so either agency might have jurisdiction there) is that Christopher is correct in his actions.

“While at the stop sign at the intersection of Almira Drive and Riddell Road, intending to turn left to head eastbound, a driver must yield to all other traffic that is in the intersection,” says Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

“This includes yielding to traffic that may be continuing across Riddell Road on Almira Drive,” he said.

“Which vehicle has the right of way? Any traffic that already is on the roadway of  Riddell Road at either intersection has the right of way.

“For those courteous drivers who wave for you to ‘go ahead and proceed’ because you may be at the stop sign for a period of time… just shake your head from side to side (and smile) to indicate ‘No thank-you.’

“If there is any confusion about which vehicle has the right of way, and a driver enters the intersection without yielding and a collision ensues even though the driver was ‘waved on,’ that driver will be held liable for causing the collision.

“Best advice:  just wait until you’re clear to proceed,” he said.

Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police said he agrees.

I must say, though, that the Almira situation seems much like that at a four-way stop, where common behavior deviates from the law, which says a vehicle on the right has the right of way over one to its left. In real life, drivers, myself included, usually use a first-come, first served approach, pulling out slowly when they feel its their turn and watching to see what others at the intersection will do. I don’t recall ever having a close call doing so.

Cross-traffic on Riddell, of course, complicates that comparison. It adds a perilous element not present at a four-way stop. But when the only drivers are facing each other on Almira, the wordless negotiation common to low-speed driving conflicts should work there. It would take a panicky driver to actually crash into someone coming the other way from a stop on Almira.

But if someone does collide in such a low speed situation after not yielding as the law directs, we now know who will get the ticket.

 

Homer Jones Drive complaint is revived

The in basket: Longtime friend Vickie Barrie wrote the other day, “Well, Travis, you answered this concern a few years ago, but it continues and I don’t think it was addressed quite right.

“Homer Jones Drive is a one-way street running past the Bremerton YMCA,” she said. “When I leave the YMCA, I go to the north end of the street, driving and staying in the left lane because I plan to make a left turn. Many times, another driver pulls up in the right hand lane and plans to turn left also (they may have forgotten that this is a one-way street).

“I have had fingers wagged at me and near-miss collisions. Could there be arrows painted on the road or a sign put up indicating that the right lane is for right turns and the left lane is for left turns?”

The out basket: Vickie is right that I didn’t give much credence to this when a reader first brought it to my attention a few years ago. It just didn’t seem likely that it was a common occurrence.

I quickly got a snarl from another reader saying it does happen regularly and now Vickie checks in with her update. She says it occurs in her presence a couple of times a month.

I’ve sat and watched the intersection off and on over the ensuing years, but it seems I always choose the wrong hour, early afternoon, as there is hardly any traffic at all while I’m there, let alone conflicts.

Jerry Hauth, in his first year as street engineer for Bremerton, says, “This is the first that I have heard of this one though I can see how it could happen. I am passing this on to the Road Department, with this email, to see what they think of the arrows idea.”

I’m still stumped by how a succession of drivers could make this mistake. Are they assuming cars in the curb lane on the left are parked, or parking? Perhaps some red paint on the curb to create a short no-parking zone would help a little.

20 mph zones in Bremerton raise school zone question

The in basket: After one of my intermittent Road Warrior columns about school zones mentioned the 20 mph zone in front of and near Bremerton High School, Joe Keller commented on the blog version at kitsapsun.com, saying “There is no ‘school zone’ in front of the BHS. The speed limit is just 20 mph with marked crosswalks. I’m sure that just adds to the confusion….”

I checked and he appears to be correct, but if so, it raises the question of whether the doubling of the fine and not allowing a judge to reduce the fine, hallmarks of school zone speed citations, apply there.

I’ve since noticed the same situation on Marion Avenue in front of the Bremerton schools administration building.

The out basket: I haven’t gotten a very clear answer and it may be up to the citing officer whether to make it an ordinary speeding ticket or a school zone infraction.

Jerry Hauth, the city’s street engineer, replied, “I went to one of the city attorneys to get this one for you. We both thought that it seemed logical the double fines would apply, regardless of the posting (or not). However, reading the (state law), it references creating a ‘School or playground speed zone,’ then goes on to reference the double penalties. Having a ‘speed zone,’ certainly implies that it has been posted.”

Next I asked Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police if his traffic officers have instructions as to how to cite excessive speed there.

Pete answered, “ I just checked Marion and the high school.  Both zones are posted 20 mph and have school crosswalk signs.  There is no school zone specific signs, except the school crosswalk signs so I am unsure how a judge would rule.

“If an officer cited the school zone violation when children were present, I think there is a strong argument that it is within the scope of 46.61.440.  However, if it is 10 p.m and no school function was occurring, I do not think that would be justifiable.”

So…have any of you readers been stopped for speeding in either place, and what was the citation, and the outcome in court, if you took it that far?

Road patches on Miller Bay Road having problems

The in basket: Jerry Darnall of Kingston writes, “The recent county road patches on Miller Bay Road from Kountry Korners south to Gunderson are crumbling faster than a graham cracker in milk. Opposing traffic splashes gravel like shotgun pellets. Defective mix? Improper install? Is county assuming any liability for an obvious problem?”

I asked if it was another chip seal that had problems, which has happened in the past.

The out basket: Jacques Dean, county road superintendent says, “Miller Bay Road is surfaced with asphalt pavement, not chip seal.  Crews used cold mix asphalt to repair the potholes with the intent of returning during better weather to complete a more permanent repair.”

“Cold mix is a temporary repair product that typically holds up well in wet weather applications but can degrade under extreme wet conditions.”  Crews were to revisit the area Friday and repair again with cold mix, he said.

“Dryer weather should ensure a better bond with the underlying pavement.  We will look for a longer dry weather window to complete more permanent hot mix asphalt repairs,” Jacques said.

As for liability, I’m sure the county won’t make any blanket offers, but individuals can make a claim to county risk management and see what the response is.

 

Driving in the land of killer speed bumps

The in basket: I have written a lot about speed bumps, and speed humps and speed tables and their various approaches to slowing down drivers by requiring then to slow down or suffer anything from a rattle in the trunk to a broken suspension.

Generally I’ve addressed complaints about them from readers or ideas on how they can be made less disruptive.

I have been spending a lot of time recently in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and environs, and let me tell you you don’t know how good you’ve got it in Kitsap County.

The out basket: In Mexico, or at least in Baja California Sur, as the southern half of the Baja Peninsula is called, speed bumps/humps/tables are called “topes,” pronounced TOH-pays, and they will make you thankful for a mere speed bump, which is the worst of the three kinds in the Northwest.

There are two kinds in Cabo. The least objectionable are a series of round rises that run in a row across the road. In the states they would be called RPMs, for raised pavement markers, or, familiarly, “turtles.” They are, at least, not hard to see and not especially damaging if you hit them too hard. Many of the rows are missing a turtle or several and you can minimize the bounce by aiming for the gaps.

They can be deployed as they are in the states, but I’ve also seen them at the stop signs on two downhill legs of  a city intersection, forcing great care at the signs.

Then there is the other kind. They might be made of asphalt, concrete or even dirt. They span the roadway and are tall and painful to go over at a normal speed. Worst of all, little effort is made to make them visible as a variation in the road surface and there are no signs warning of them. They are devilishly hard to see at night.

I’m told it’s not unusual for passengers to yell out “Tope!!” when they don’t think the driver has seen one. Brake shops in Cabo must love them, as braking suddenly when you realize you’re about to cross one (or your passengers have just loudly warned you)

is a common experience. Still, that’s a lot better than hitting one at the speed limit. That could require an auto repair shop or conceivably, a body shop.

A main freeway through Cabo will be flanked by parallel access roads on each side, ingress and egress to which is regulated, as you see in HOV lanes in the states. You don’t have to worry about topes on the freeway, where the speed limit is 90 kilometers per hour (60 mph). It’s on the access roads that you’ll find topes and, perhaps as a result of the widespread destruction wreaked in 2014 by Hurricane Odile, they are often augmented by fearsome potholes.

I’ve been driven around the area so far, and haven’t had to watch for topes while behind the wheel. It’s a thrill I can’t say I’m looking forward to.

Olympic Avenue in Bremerton proposed for one-way traffic

The in basket: A Gomez writes, “Olympic Avenue between Sixth Street and Burwell Avenue (in Bremerton) is so narrow and with parking allowed on both sides, only one car can fit going in any direction.

“Why doesn’t the city of Bremerton make Olympic Avenue a one-way street just like Fourth and Fifth streets between Olympic and Naval that are as narrow and long as Olympic Avenue?”

The out basket: I had not heard this suggestion before, and neither had Jerry Hauth, who took over the job of city traffic engineer just last year.

“Without further consideration, and probably public input, I don’t have an opinion on this,” he said. “This is the first I have heard of this. As we saw with the suggested closure of Veneta, the community sometimes has very strong feelings about some of this stuff.”

Changing two-way streets to one-way is often a hot-button issue, especially if there are businesses on the street, which isn’t the case on Olympic.

It would be a logical place for such a change through. As the reader notes, the block of Fourth and Fifth between Naval Avenue and Olympic already is what’s called a one-way couplet, with traffic moving in opposite directions. More significantly, the next parallel street to Olympic on the west is one-way southbound.

A. Gomez should take it up with his city councilperson, Dino Davis, who can be reached through the council office at 473-5280 or online at city.council@ci.bremerton.wa.us

An Alzheimer’s patient and his driver’s license

The in basket: I have been providing transportation for a friend who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a year or so ago and was told by his doctor not to drive anymore. He’s not obviously physically impaired by the disease so far and said he misses driving.

I asked the state Department of Licensing if voiding of a person’s driver’s license is automatic with such a diagnosis and if doctors face sanctions if they don’t report it.

The out basket: Brad Benfield, DOL spokesman, says, “In our state, we do not have any mandatory reporting laws for physicians, but it is very common for physicians to report medial conditions that would affect an individual’s ability to operate a vehicle safely (personal safety and public safety).

“We have a form available that physicians (and law enforcement officers) commonly use to report issues. Family members can also use this form. You can see it here:

http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/reportunsafe.html

“Our authority to take action on these is found in RCW 46.20.031:

which says, in part: “The department shall not issue a driver’s license to a person who has previously been adjudged to be incompetent due to a mental disability or disease.”

Anyone reporting such incompetence on that form, labeled How to Report an Unsafe Driver, should know that the report isn’t confidential, can be reported to the subject and his lawyer, and requires first-hand knowledge of the subject’s condition.

Actually. my friend’s license may still be valid and hasn’t been taken away. But he’s following doctor’s orders, and long ago sold his car. He said he witnessed an incident in which an elderly man suffering from dementia had car trouble on the steep hill on Sidney Road coming out of downtown Port Orchard, and doesn’t want to be in his shoes.

Reader wonders about extra Esquire Hills school zone

The in basket: Matt Clous writes, “Esquire Hills Elementary has a properly marked school zone on John Carlson Road. A quarter-mile west from the school is a marked pedestrian crosswalk – the intersection is also marked as a school zone, yet there is no visible school nearby. What’s up with that?”

The out basket: This takes me back to my efforts to explain the school zone on Sedgwick Road (a state highway) at Converse Avenue in South Kitsap early last year, which a reader insisted was not legal under terms of the law that allows school zones, because it was more (way more) than 300 feet from Hidden Creek Elementary. I never did get a satisfactory explanation, but after that reader, Dave Dahlke, got state Sen. Jan Angel involved, the zone was removed and replaced by horizontal flashing lights at the crosswalk on Sedgwick.

The one of John Carlson is on a county road, so I asked county Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea, “what’s up with that?” I sent along a copy of my column on the Sedgwick zone.

Jeff said, “As you point out in your (column), there are two distinct applications at play here.  First is the school boundary.  The law states that a school speed zone can be established 300 feet from the school itself.  The second part of the law allows the establishment of a school speed zone 300 feet on either side of a marked school crossing.  The school crossing doesn’t have to be at the school itself.

“If the school and county determine that a student walking route warrants a marked school crossing that crossing can be controlled by a 20 mph school zone.”