Road Warrior

Travis Baker blogs about the problems and idiosyncrasies of Kitsap highways and byways.
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‘Squashed cormorants” on bridge deck concern reader

September 19th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Charles Ely says he thinks fledgling cormorants who are hatched under the Warren Avenue Bridge in Bremerton are crash landing on the roadway above while learning to fly and are unable to get off the bridge deck since the recent alteration that walled off the driving surface from the edge of the bridge. It leads to “squashed cormorants,” he said, and he wonders if creating a break in the barrier would be helpful.

Also, he said, “since they are protected, shouldn’t their deaths be at least tracked?”

The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker of the Olympic Region public affairs office says, “We are aware of the large population of pelagic cormorants that consider the Warren Avenue Bridge their home. At various times (i.e. when we painted the bridge a few years ago), our biologists have monitored the behavior of the birds.

“They found that the cormorants nesting on the underside of the bridge flew under, not over, the bridge. The behavior your reader is describing is a bit out of character for the birds, and (for now), we don’t believe the pedestrian barrier has an effect on their behavior because it did not change the barrier’s basic configuration.

“Pelagic cormorants are migratory birds and are protected, but they are not endangered.  These particular cormorants don’t even migrate – they stay put at the bridge.

“As regards tracking the birds,” she added, “we unfortunately we don’t have the resources to do that. Your reader’s observation has, however, raised our awareness and our biologists and bridge maintenance people will look into the issue more closely.”

Lund Avenue to get new signal, but not at Hoover and not this year

September 17th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Ken Richards e-mailed to ask, “Whatever happened to the traffic light that was going to be installed this summer at the corner of Hoover Avenue and Lund Avenue. by East Port Orchard Elementary School?

“I believe it was suppose to be safer for bus traffic as they returned to their barn and the children (pedestrians) walking on the side of the road and crossing. Or did the roads department/county council decide that people are replaceable and the buses were getting old anyway?”

The out basket: I hadn’t heard of such a plan and the county says there isn’t one. Ken may be thinking of plans for a new traffic signal at Harris Road and Lund, a short distance east of Hoover’s intersection. Or maybe not. Harris doesn’t provide much of an access to and from the school bus compound.

“There was no traffic signal planned for Hoover and Lund,” says Jeff Shea, county traffic engineer. “It does not meet the warrants for a signal. The Lund and Harris intersection remains on the TIP and is warranted by the increase in traffic at that intersection.”

But even that one isn’t proposed for this year. It’s on the county’s six-year road plan (called the TIP) for 2018 at a cost of $715,000.

Traffic signs can blend into the background

September 11th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket:  I often hear from readers who find the array of traffic signals on eastbound 11th Street at Warren Avenue in Bremerton confusing. There are four signal heads for three lanes, and the right-most two control only the outside lane, but give some drivers the impression going straight in the centermost eastbound lane is permissible.

It’s not, both inner lanes are for left turns only.

So I was surprised the other day when I spotted two signs beside the street as I approached the intersection. They said only traffic in the right lane is allowed to go straight.

I asked Gunnar Fridriksson, Bremerton’s managing street engineer, if they had recently been added because of comments about confusion at the intersection, or had they been there since the intersection was revised a year ago.

The out basket: Another surprise. They’d been there a lot longer than that. Gunnar said, “Probably put in place 20-plus years ago when the lanes were originally configured (with) the two lanes being left turning. Been there all this time.”

He’s remarked before that the recent revision didn’t change the number of signal heads or what lanes they control. For some reason, confusion among drivers increased when the heads no longer hung from wires, but are installed on metal poles.

“The problem with signs,” he said, “if you are not looking for them – they tend not to be noticed.  (That’s) why I am not a proponent for adding to the clutter.”

He then sent along a public service video intended to raise consciousness about driver’s watching out for bicycles, but also illustrating that things in plain sight can go unnoticed if you’re watching for something else.

Perhaps you’ve seen it. It involves a bunch of people tossing basketballs around, and you are challenged to count the number of passes the ones dressed in white make. A man in a bear suit walks through the milling players, moon-walking part of the way, and I’m sure goes unnoticed – the first time – by the vast majority of those who see it and are occupied counting passes. I didn’t see him, even though I’d seen the video before.

Google ‘moonwalking bear” if you want to test your awareness. Even forewarned, you may be surprised.

Possible traffic stop near Gorst created lot of confusion

September 10th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Bill Metcalf, who I know from the Winter Club dance organization, sent me the following on Sept. 1, in his inimitably whimsical style.

“SheWhoMustBeObeyed and I were returning home yesterday afternoon after ballroom dancing in Port Orchard,” he wrote. “When we got to everybody’s favourite section of Gorst – under the cliffs – SOME of the traffic ground to a crawl – the rest didn’t, and it got ugly, quickly.

“Why?  Right in the middle of the worst part of Highway 3’s northbound side, where the curve prohibits seeing very far ahead, a law enforcement vehicle had stopped a car on the too-narrow right shoulder and, I imagine, the (officer) was writing out a ticket!  I was too busy trying to dodge the inattentive/rubbernecking drivers to do more than avoid hitting or getting hit.

“May I respectfully request if a (law enforcement officer) needs to cite some driver for some infraction or other, he/she take a couple of minutes to follow the perpetrator to a SAFER location before lighting up the lights and pulling over?

“I suspect that half of the inattentive drivers were quickly attempting to move over a lane – in bumper-to-bumper moving traffic – so as to follow the recent mandate to do so, forgetting that they could merely slow down as they drove past,” Bill said.

The out basket: Not knowing for what department the officer in question works, nor whether it was a citation in progress rather than a stalled car, I asked the state patrol and Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office if their officers have special instructions for places like the four-lane between Gorst and Bremerton. The state forbids parking along there because there’s so little room for error.

“Our officers do not have any special instructions as to where to or not, stop a violator along that particular section of SR-3,” State Patrol spokesman Trooper Russ Winger replied.

“Our troopers are trained to evaluate each traffic stop location based on several factors. These include, but are not limited to, time of day, type of violation, current traffic situation, driving behavior of the violator etc.

“Our troopers do think about and attempt to stop violators in ‘safe’ locations (Stopping vehicles along roadways, especially high speed roads, is inherently dangerous).

“Of course,  this is not always possible depending on the particular circumstance. We often times do ‘trail’ the violator to a more safe location if the situation warrants doing so.

“There are situations where the officer decides that getting the vehicle stopped ASAP is the best situation, such as reckless and erratic driven vehicles and possible DUI violators. As you pointed out, the officer could have been assisting a disabled vehicle or even investigating a collision.

“From experience I can tell you that that section of SR-3 between SR-304 and Gorst, both north- and southbound, is NOT the safest place to stop a vehicle or assist a broken down vehicle or investigate a collision. But our troopers will do what they need to in order to keep the roadways safe and flowing as smooth as possible.

 “As always, we recommend motorists follow the law and at least slow down as they approach police vehicles stopped on the shoulder with emergency lights activated.”

Deputy Scott Wilson, Russ’ counterpart in the sheriff’s office, called Russ’ response “spot-on,” saying there’s nothing he could add except that he checked with 911 and his department’s records and found no record of a county deputy having made a stop for a traffic offense or motorist assist on that stretch that Sunday.

Kingston’s odd stop signal creates breaks in ferry traffic

September 10th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Eric Blair writes, “I take the Kingston-Edmonds ferry about half a dozen times per month. When returning from Edmonds I get stopped at a red light at Washington Boulevard NE (the first light coming off the ferry) about 80 percent of the time. I don’t mind stopping at red lights when there is a reason for the light to be red, but it I have never stopped at that light and seen any cross traffic, vehicular or pedestrian.

Are you aware of any reason this light goes red to stop ferry traffic? Is it timed to give breaks in ferry traffic? Is it timed to improve flow with other lights through Kingston?
The out basket: Eric’s first guess is correct. Ken Burt of the state’s Olympic Region signal shop says the idea is to give traffic elsewhere in Kingston the opportunity to move during ferry off-loads.

“The condition that is described by Mr. Blair was put in prior to October 1994,” Ken said. “The side street was recalled to allow gaps in traffic downstream from the Washington Boulevard intersection.” (Recalled is the term signal techs use to describe having the signal change.) The gaps in traffic would allow cross street movements in downtown Kingston.

“We have made minor adjustments to the signal operation at Washington Boulevard.” he said, “that could allow less frequent stops to the ferry offloading vehicles.  We will need to monitor the effects in Kingston from this revision. If the revision does not negatively impact Kingston then we will leave it in place.”

No new guardrail in Sedgwick’s immediate future

September 5th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Ken Hovater writes,”A couple of years ago the county installed several feet of heavy duty guardrail on Long Lake Road. At the time I believe the reasoning was to bring the road into compliance with a highway construction standard.

“I am wondering when and if the state is going to do the same work on Highway 160 (Sedgwick Road). There are some very deep valleys in spots along that road. A crash into one could prove fatal.”

The out basket: The county project on Long Lake Road came out of a safety grant received for that purpose.

Sedgwick is a state highway and Olympic Region spokesperson Claudia Bingham Baker says, “Guardrail is usually installed when we have an active project in an area.  At present, we have no projects planned on SR 160, so no plans to add guardrail along the highway.

“Our maintenance crews replace and repair damaged guardrail, of course, where it already exists,” she said. State crews here just did that, replacing the guardrail around the Highway 16 overpass in front of Peninsula Subaru in Gorst. It had been mangled for the second time in a couple of years and was replaced Sept. 4.

Claudia continues, “We have many areas along our state highways that have dips along the roadway. Guardrail itself can become a hazardous object motorists can hit, so it’s installed only in areas that meet certain criteria. Even then, we do not have the funds to install guardrail in all the areas that could benefit from it.”

Stay over the detectors at traffic lights that are red

September 2nd, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Janine Barrie writes, impassionedly, “Please put the word out to all who are the first vehicle in the left turn lane. This problem has happened numerous times to me, but (last) week was the last straw. I need to complain to someone who might be able to help.

“I have been the second or third car from the white stop line in the left turn lane. The first car is 10 to 15 feet from the white line, and guess what happens, or should I say does not happen.


“That problem happened three times last week, and made me late for an appointment,” she said. “It happened on McWilliams in front of Safeway, on Central Valley at Fairgrounds and Central Valley at Bucklin. The first one mentioned was the worst and the longest wait.


The out basket: Unlike Janine, I rarely fall victim to such a clueless driver ahead of me. But for those drivers who don’t understand where traffic detector wires, called “loops,” are located in the pavement, and how they work, I’m happy to oblige.

The wires are imbedded in the pavement just behind the broad white stop bar at signalized intersections. You often can see the patched grooves into which they have been inserted. They detect the mass of a vehicle above them and inform the traffic signal that someone is waiting.

If a waiting driver at a red light doesn’t position his vehicle over the wires, the signal probably won’t react to the vehicle’s presence.

I occasionally do see some car pulled past the white stop bar, which inconveniences only that driver, and only until someone else pulls up behind, over the wires. If a driver doesn’t pull forward far enough to cover the wires, as Janine describes, there’s not much those behind can do except walk up to the driver and say to pull forward. Honking usually doesn’t convey the intended message.

Fortunately, I’m usually in another lane when I see this, and am not delayed by it. The last time I was behind a driver who stopped short of the wires, I finally got out to urge him forward … and the light changed before I got to the car. Then I became the problem, as I had to run back to my car, start it and proceed. I caused a bunch of drivers behind me to wait another full cycle, as I did. Evidently, the driver ahead of me wasn’t a far off the wires as I thought.

It’s hard to imagine would kind of bum luck would cause a person to run into this frustration three times in a week, as Janine says she did.

If you see a slender vertical pole with a camera-like device on the signal cross-arm ahead of you, the detectors are optical and you have more latitude as to where you can stop.

For both loops and optical detection there is a defined detection area,” says Jeff Shea, Kitsap County traffic engineer. “So the vehicle does have to be in a specific area, but with optical detection we can make that area bigger than some loop configurations.”

How should a bicyclist yield to a pedestrian?

September 2nd, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Laraine Gaulke said she was walking on the rather narrow sidewalk on Wheaton Way across from Albertson’s recently and two bicyclists in full riding gear approached her on the sidewalk. Though they were riding single file, the sidewalk was narrow enough she stepped off to let them pass, she said.

She wondered why the bikes weren’t in the street and whether it was legal for them to be on the sidewalk. I told he it was legal, but the law requires a bicyclist to yield to a pedestrian on a sidewalk or crosswalk.

She then said, “To me (that) means you stop and put your foot down on the ground and actually wait for me to pass.” I told her I’d ask what the police think of that definition.

The out basket: Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police said it would depend on the situation. “Yield would be giving the right of way to the pedestrian. If they can do it by moving over, great. if not, they may need to dismount and allow the pedestrian to pass.” As a matter of courtesy and avoiding liability, I would think that slowing  down if you wish to stay mounted would be essential.

Any hope for Highway 305 commuter congestion relief?

August 29th, 2014 by travis baker
The in basket:   J. B. Holcomb of Bainbridge Island writes, “Something has to be done about the heavy traffic on (Highway) 305 between the ferry terminal on Bainbridge and Poulsbo.
“After a ferry arrives from Seattle, especially between 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., it is now the norm DAILY, and year around, that it is bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way to Poulsbo, only slightly relieved at the Suquamish/casino intersection.
“At intersections along the way and without a traffic signal, it is not uncommon to wait between 10 and 25 minutes to obtain access onto 305. Last week, I spent 20 minutes between Day Road and the Suquamish traffic signal, a distance of about three miles.
“We now have a large, indeed huge, urban metropolitan area commuter/transportation problem, when, not too many years ago around here, this was non-existent. Where are the complaints about this?  Why are people complacent about this?  Why should we tolerate this?
“Maybe a ban on truck traffic during these times?  How about a ban on one person in an auto during these times (if legal)? Subsidized home-office workers?  Flex-time work hours for persons employed in Seattle having a West Sound home?
“Any suggestions?”
The out basket: I had always ducked experiencing this, not wanting to spend an hour in bumper to bumper traffic. But twice in August, my wife and I motored up to the island from my South Kitsap home, with the intent of following a ferry load of traffic north.
Once was an ordinary Wednesday and a ferry that arrived a little after 4. The second was a Seahawks game day Friday, and a ferry that came in about 7:15. Each time I waited until very near the end of the off-load before joining the flow.
The first thing I noticed is the traffic signal just downhill from Winslow Way, that allows pedestrians to cross during ferry off-loads. It was a fairly long light and I would think it would provide long breaks in traffic on 305 to allow side-street traffic chances to get onto the highway. That, of course, would assume corresponding breaks in southbound 305 traffic, which may often be wishful thinking.
While I don’t doubt that it can be as bad as J.B, describes, neither day did I experience it. It took me 26 minutes to reach Poulsbo on the Wednesday, with bumper to bumper traffic from Hidden Cove Road to Suquamish Way. It took only 16 minutes on the Friday, with little bumper to bumper slowdown.
On the way south to the ferry terminal about 5 p.m. that Friday, we did see oncoming bumper to bumper northbound traffic for sizable distances,  There was some bumper to bumper southbound traffic, as well, probably due to the Seahawks game.
I’m sure it’s somewhere between irritating and infuriating to have to travel that gauntlet every afternoon, but I think J.B. will just have to get used to it.
Everything I’ve read or heard over the years tells me all really plausible relief, whether widening Highway 305 and the Agate Pass Bridge or moving the ferry terminal to Blakely Harbor and bridging to the Illahee area, are opposed by most islanders.
I asked Claudia Bingham-Baker of the state highway’s Olympic region is that’s what the state hears and she declined to characterize it one way or the other.
She did say, “We agree with your reader that traffic is heavy on SR 305, especially between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on weekdays.
“WSDOT, in partnership with the cities of Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo, Kitsap Transit, Port Madison Enterprises (Suquamish Tribe), Kitsap County and the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, recently completed a study on how to improve traffic flow through the SR 305/Suquamish Intersection.
“The study determined that the best long-term (20-year) solution for congestion relief at that intersection was to build a roundabout. However, we have no funding to build a roundabout and are currently looking for funding to build an interim solution – a right-lane turn from westbound SR 305 to northbound Suquamish Way.
“Beyond the intersection, we have no plans or funding to provide added capacity to SR 305.”
Barry Loveless, public works director for  Bainbridge Island, says the city councils of Bainbridge and Poulsbo support a list of proposed improvements to 305, but the list he sent me has few specifics, beyond undescribed work at the intersections, and all have a six- to 10-year time line, even work at Suquamish Way.
I’m sure there are individual efforts to encourage tele-commuting and flex-time, but I think there would be longer and louder howls of anger about restricting trucks and one-occupant vehicles than there are about the daily backups.

Bike events explain odd pavement markers

August 29th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Gary Reed says, “I have noticed many small white circles with an orange dot in the middle on many roads, and even into the Kitsap Mall parking lot.

“Some have tails that point straight, some have tails that point to the right or left, and a few have a ‘FWY’ designator.  Are these part of a new geo-mapping effort by some entity?” he asked.

The out basket: No, says Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works. “They are directional markers commonly called ‘Dan Henrys.’ They are installed by groups that host bicycle events. They are used so participants know the correct route for the event. They use a ‘fade-away’ paint that eventually disappears,” he said.

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