Stream of departing shipyard pedestrians make drivers sweat

The in basket: Elissa Torgeson of Bremerton writes, “We really need a crosswalk light

Steady pedestrian traffic out of the Bremerton shipyard keeps ferry traffic from proceeding
Steady pedestrian traffic out of the Bremerton shipyard keeps ferry traffic from proceeding

at the corner of 1st and Pacific (at the shipyard gate) for when the workers are leaving. It is pretty much impossible to get a car through there as the workers won’t stop at all and it’s basically a constant stream of pedestrian traffic.

“I am getting dropped off at 4pm for the 4:20pm ferry to Seattle and it’s a real problem,” she said.

The out basket: I watched this spot from 3:40 to 4:20 one Thursday this month and the situation she describes certainly raised the anxiety level for drivers trying to get to the ferry around 4 p.m. But while it’s always risky to use one day’s observation to generalize about a traffic situation, what I saw didn’t justify paying for a pedestrian light, by which I assume Elissa means a walk-don’t walk light with the requisite overhead signal heads to stop cars during the walk cycle.

It would have the advantage of letting drivers know they WILL get an opportunity to get to the toll booths before the ferry leaves. I saw one driver pull out of line and around the car stopped at the crosswalk in frustration when the line of vehicles extended back to Burwell. Some drivers seemed to be applying crosswalk law that says you have to have a lane of travel between you and the pedestrian before you can proceed, a practical impossibility at that hour.

Nonetheless, the flow of pedestrians had all but stopped by 4:15. no cars were backed up at either the crosswalk or the toll booths then and the only drivers uncertain of getting on the boat were the  late arrivals you see at any ferry departure.

Traffic signals are expensive and the city is struggling to stretch its street dollars as it is.

Since I assume Elissa’s ride is in the single lane that continues around without going to the toll booths, I would think her solution would be to get out at the crosswalk and walk from there. It’s not much farther from there to the ferry terminal than designated passenger drop-off locations.

Just to make sure the city wasn’t in the middle of something to address this, I asked. Street Engineer Tom Knuckey said only, “We’re always evaluating situations such as this and are interested in practical ideas to improve safety and efficiency.  The rush hour here definitely makes things more difficult.”

Parking changes coming to Bremerton’s 11th Street

The in basket: Tiffany Royal and Willadean Howell of Bremerton are perplexed by the changes in parking on 11th Street east of Warren Avenue.

Tiffany says “The city/parking enforcement finally put up 2-hour signs on 11th Street, so folks can only park for two hours, Mon-Fri from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Since the parking was added on 11th between Warren and Pacific in 2013, the additional parking has been used, during those hours, by those who are obviously shipyard/downtown workers, from basically 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Parking on 11th is empty after work hours.
“Today, as I sit at my house, it’s a desert and as empty as it was when 11th was four lanes wide,” she said..
“Why put restrictions on these particular parking spaces?” she asked. “They’re not super premium like the ones closer to the downtown core (or are they, since employees used them?). And who are these spaces for anyway? Outside of the work week, 11th is just as empty as it is right now.

Willadean, who lives on Pleasant Avenue, said that due to cars in the parking spaces on 11th east of Pacific, where there is no time limit,  “it’s nearly impossible to get out of Pleasant onto 11th without nearly getting hit. You can’t see traffic coming.”

The out basket: Thomas Knuckey of the city traffic engineers said of the timed spaces west of Pacific, “the two-hour parking is an interim restriction that was put on 11th to address parking issues associated with adjacent construction; both the Washington Avenue project along with an apartment building on Highland.

“The issue is that limiting parking to two hours makes spaces available both for Washington Avenue residents, and also provides parking for service/construction vehicles who were using the on-street parking in and around Highland and causing issues for residents.

“It is anticipated this time restriction will be removed after the work is complete,” he said.

As for Willadean’s complaint, Tom said “We checked the sight distance and concur that it needs to be improved; we’re therefore eliminating parking on the south side of 11th between Pacific and Pleasant to address the issue.”

 

 

Walker hopes for a Werner Road sidewalk

The in basket: Fred Chichester writes, “I have lived in the Navy Yard City most of my life. I have found a
perfect walk from my house off of National Avenue. I walk up to Loxie
Eagans and take a left and head up towards the State Patrol office. There is sidewalk to that point.

“I like to walk up the Werner Road hill to the end up by the UPS business at the end, and back. This is a challenging
walk with the hills and is a perfect 3 1/4 mile one-hour walk round trip to
my house.

“I know numerous folks walk this route but you’re always very
cautious with the traffic on the hill especially since there is no actual
sidewalk. I always face traffic so I have the last ditch
option if a car ever comes toward me.

“(It) would be ideal if we could get a sidewalk at least on the
side facing traffic going up the hill as it would make the walk a lot safer and I bet even more folks would use it.”

The out basket: I’ve been of the impression that new sidewalks are built only as part of a larger road project, or as mitigation required during some business development.

But since providing for bicyclists and pedestrians is so much in vogue in the road building business these days, as evidenced by all the shoulder paving listed in Kitsap County’s six-year road plan (called the TIP), I asked county officials if that’s no longer true.

The county’s answer was brief. Greg Cioc, Kitsap’s transportation planner, said, “Mr. Chichester should submit his request and solution to the TIP process and it will be ranked with all other requests.  Go to http://www.kitsapgov.com/pw/Tip_Project_Proposal_form.asp to submit an idea.”

The county commissioners approve the TIP each December, listing what is planned for the subsequent six years.

Another idea for bypassing Belfair

The in basket: I was cleaning out old e-mails and came across one from Tom Rosendale that slipped by me completely when I received it in January 2012.

Tom had read a  Road Warrior column about an idea to keep some of the traffic that is clogging Belfair out of the town by linking Old Belfair Highway with Highway 3, sometimes called the New Belfair Highway, by extending Newkirk Road between them.

It would provide Highway 300/North Shore Road traffic a way to reach Highway 3 without having to pass through the center of Belfair.

Tom’s idea had the same goal. “I’d like to mention how wonderful and logical it would be to connect the Bear Creek-Dewatto Road, which is a feeder road from the many communities within a few miles of the county lines, to Lake Flora Road,” he said. “There would be even more people who would bypass sections of Highway 3, diminish the unnecessary congestion in Belfair, and provide them quicker access to Belfair, Port Orchard, Highway 16, and Gorst.”

Such a road would link to Highway 3 across from its intersection with Lake Flora, another mile or so north of where Newkirk Road’s extension would. I don’t know how much, if any, of such a roadway already exists, as Newkirk Road does. It wouldn’t be completely within Mason County, though, and have to be a two-county project.

But it does sound like the kind of thing Kitsap County had in mind when it build the new Lake Flora Road roundabout, citing expected increased traffic from the South Kitsap Industrial Area as an instigator.

I asked Brian Matthews, Mason County public works director, if he’d ever heard Tom’s idea before. I also asked what the study of the Newkirk Road extension, the subject of that 2012 column, had decided.

The out basket: Brian replied, “The Newkirk road connection is feasible, but would have a high cost due to the need to build retaining walls etc… No cost estimate, but (it was) just a review to determine if the road is even physically possible.

“I don’t recall Mr. Rosendale’s recommendation ever being mentioned since I’ve been with the County,” he said.

Neither idea probably would go very far if prospects of the state funding the Belfair Bypass aren’t dashed again in the Legislature. Last thing I read, on May 4, held out hope for getting between $60 million and $110 million for the bypass, which would run from Lake Flora Road to Highway 302 near Allyn.

Showdown on Higbee Road

The in basket: I was interested to read Ed Friedrich’s front page story the other day regarding uncertainty about what jurisdiction is responsible for the condition of the short road leading from Austin Drive to Naval Hospital Bremerton, described as “crumbling.”.

It’s called Higbee Road and, Ed reported, it was expected the city would take responsibility for it after it was built, probably when the hospital was built back in 1980. But that expectation was never finalized and Higbee probably has had no maintenance in 35 years.

The city is struggling to deal with deteriorating streets all over within its sprawling limits, which extend all the way out to West Belfair Valley Road leading out of Gorst. The last thing it needs is to take on the rehabilitation of Higbee, which appears to be in better condition than, say, Veldee Avenue, subject of another reader’s complaint that may be the topic of a later column. The city hopes the Navy can get it federal funds to do Higbee.

The out basket: I don’t really have anything to add to this, except an anecdote from probably two years ago. A reader whose name I can’t find or recall now asked me to look at Higbee. His or her complaint at the time was limited to the faint and worn paint striping.

I visited the road then, and again this week and I can’t say that it’s obviously “crumbling.” The paint certainly could use attention though.

But it was my previous visit  that is memorable.

There is an apartment complex also served by Higbee, but once you get past the entrance to it, you’re pretty much committed to going to the hospital gate or doing a U-turn in tight space in moderately heavy traffic.

It evidently had been more than a decade since I had been to the hospital, when I attended some news event there and had just driven in. I was surprised to find its entrance as heavily guarded as those to the shipyard and submarine base.

I blithely drove up and told the guard who I was and what I was trying to find. It must have struck him as unlikely, and I couldn’t have gotten a hairier eyeballing if I were dark- complected and wearing a bandolier over my shoulders.

After some time in which another guard took my name and some other information,  looked at my driver’s license and noted the license number of my car, I was permitted to use a turnaround inside the gate and escape – unshot.

Higbee was well-marked this week on a street sign, and my reader may not have given me the right street name, as the gate guards were little help in directing me to it and I wound up driving around Jackson Park without finding whatever it was I told them I wanted to write about. I think I concluded that it was the road into the hospital, and I fled the scene, lest I wound up at some other entrance with leery armed guards. I filed the day’s event away in case it ever became convenient to write about it – like now.

Aircraft help cite speeders here

The in basket: State Trooper Russ Winger tweeted an aerial photo recently, taken from a Washington State Patrol plane he was in during speed enforcement on Highway 3. The photo appeared to be of the stretch between the Mountain View Road overpass and the Highway 308 interchange near Bangor. I’ve known that such airplane-assisted patrols occur here. They are the reason you see painted Vs on the shoulder of our freeways, used to time cars as they pass between them.

But I wondered how often the planes are assigned here, if they can work at night, how the ground patrol units make sure they get the right car and whether ticketed motorists are told that they had been clocked from above.

The out basket: Russ told me, “We do aircraft patrols in Kitsap County on average of 2-4 times a month in the better weather months. Sometimes less and very rarely more.

“The aircraft can (keep) up to 5-6 troopers busy but most areas, like Kitsap, do not have that many available so it is usually 2, 3 or 4. Normally we will work the emphasis for two hours, sometimes slightly less or longer depending on circumstances.

“We do not work these at night in Kitsap County. The aircraft are capable of working at night using night vision and recording equipment. Most speed patrols, however, are done in the daytime hours.

“The aircraft utilize marked ‘courses’ on certain segments of highways. They are marked in half-mile segments with the ‘Vs’ you mentioned. Up to three, sometimes four, segments or half-mile checks can be attained  on a vehicle prior to ground units stopping the vehicle. In this situation, specialized digital stop watches are used to calculate speed using simple time distance to determine vehicle speed. The pilot tries to get at least two half-mile checks in to get a good idea what the vehicle speed is. Only one check is required, however.

“It is fairly easy to see vehicles that appear visually to be traveling above the posted limit and also faster than the surrounding traffic. The pilot starts his speed checks on these vehicles. Sometimes they do not work out and the pilot continues observing for better targets. Most courts have accepted the validity of this type of enforcement technique and support its use.

“The pilot radios ground units the vehicle speed, color and sometimes the model; SUV, truck, car, semi, etc., as well as lane position and time of check. The pilot keeps his eyes on the vehicle while ground units move into position —  usually from the freeway on-ramp — to stop the vehicle. The pilot monitors the vehicle until the ground unit is directly behind (it), assuring that the correct vehicle is being stopped.

The pilot can also relay more violation information such as unsafe following distance and improper or erratic  lane changes that may be observed.

“The trooper stops the vehicle, makes contact and advises the driver the reason (example, speed was checked at 77/79, utilizing aircraft).

“Occasionally some drivers are in disbelief of this and will ask to see this phantom aircraft. Troopers will usually take the time to point out the aircraft circling overhead.

“Occasionally a driver will complain that there are no signs on the road warning them of this aircraft spying on them. In Washington State, this is not required — and most likely would do little good.”

 

 

 

Washington Avenue lane reduction is under way

The in basket: With Fifth Street in Bremerton closed at Washington Avenue and its pavement crushed, plus the north end of the barrier separating the two levels of Washington between Sixth Street and the Manette Bridge newly shortened, I wondered if the city was doing work to prepare for this summer’s realignment of Washington, or if it was the first phases of the project itself.

It seems that the start of street and road projects have a way of dragging into the late summer and I hadn’t heard that the contractor had been given the go-ahead to begin the overall project, which will reduce Washington to a single lane in each direction with bike lanes and wider sidewalks between Sixth and the bridge.

I recall that years ago, a Road Warrior reader suggested that the toe of that barrier be cut back or at least painted white so left-turn traffic coming off the bridge was less likely to turn too sharply and hit it. I don’t recall what I did with that, but it didn’t get done then.

The out basket: It IS the start of the project, says city Public Works Director Chal Martin, and it’s to be com

Work begin down at Fifth Street and Washington Ave. in Bremerton during the first phase of improvements. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN
Work begin down at Fifth Street and Washington Ave. in Bremerton during the first phase of improvements. LARRY STEAGALL / KITSAP SUN

pleted in November. The closure of Fifth Street is for utility improvements that are working their way up to Sixth Street. Fifth is scheduled to reopen on May 11, but then Sixth Street’s intersection will close. That will be a much bigger deal, and City Engineer Tom Knuckey said a detour plan will be announced soon. Sixth is to reopen May 14, then Fifth will close again while the utility work is tested.

All the work will occur Mondays through Thursdays, the schedule says, as the contractor has chosen to work four 10-hour shifts, at least to start.

Soon the traffic signal at the end of the Manette Bridge will begin flashing red continuously for 30 days, a precursor to installation of stop signs to control the intersection for the duration of the project. The signals will go back into operation when it’s complete.

The current city staff has no recollection of the previous suggestion to cut back or paint the toe of the barrier, which isn’t surprising. It was a long time ago and I’m not sure anyone has actually hit it while turning.

Chal Martin said it has been done now because reducing Washington to a single lane will  make the turn tighter. In practice, most drivers have swung out into the outside lane when turning left off the bridge, he said. That’s technically illegal (drivers are required to turn into the nearest available lane when turning into a roadway) but it is what has been happening. Left turners no longer will be able to swing as wide when the project is done, and construction equipment also will benefit from the shortening.

The other end of the barrier will also be cut back to aid left turners from Sixth onto Washington – and the construction vehicles during the work, Tom said.

 

RE: 2 TV reports on passing school buses with red lights flashing

The in basket: KIRO-TV news did a segment recently on the Highline School District’s deployment of cameras on the sides of its school buses to capture images of drivers who ignore the flashing red lights and extended STOP paddle when a bus is loading or off-loading children. Costly citations are to follow.

A good thing, I would say, especially noting a subsequent TV report of a white SUV filmed while  actually passing a Bethel School District bus on the right without slowing down as three children walked toward the bus. It nearly hit them. Such indifference to student safety is inexcusable and a hunt is on for that driver.

Surveys suggest that drivers ignore the flashing lights and extended paddles of school buses hundreds of times each school day throughout the state. I was dubious about a claim that many of those infractions involve passing the bus on the right (most of those are bicyclists, I think) but the video of the Bethel incident shows that it does happen with cars, as far-fetched as it sounds.

But, back to KIRO’s report on Highline’s plans. It made what I consider a significant mistake. TV news being what it is, desperate for an image to fill our screens, KIRO chose one that misrepresents the law requiring drivers to stop for the buses.

It depicted cars streaming past an extended STOP paddle, visible on the right of the screen, going in the opposite direction of the bus. In between, is an empty lane.

The clear implication was that the drivers shown were violating the law. But they weren’t.

State law says “The driver of a vehicle upon a highway with three or more marked traffic lanes need not stop upon meeting a school bus which is proceeding in the opposite direction and is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging school children.”

You have to stop for a school bus with its red lights flashing and its STOP paddle out only if you’re following the bus, or going the opposite direction on a two-lane road.

At least legally that’s the case. As a practical matter, you’ll probably have to stop because some driver ahead of you usually stops and there’s usually no way around that car or the cars lined up behind it. So many drivers are unsure of the law that you almost never get to exercise it unless you’re first or nearly first in line.

So I hate to see the media further decrease the chances that drivers will do what’s permitted. School bus routes are crafted so drivers can’t and don’t let students cross more than one lane to the left of the bus anyway.

Marine Drive’s lost lane rankles residents

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 5.16.50 PMThe in basket: Linda Spearman and John White are among what I gather are a lot of Marine Drive and Rocky Point residents unhappy with an unexpected consequence of the city of Bremerton’s repaving of a stretch of Marine Drive that intersects Kitsap Way.
“It’s nice that they have repaved the first section of Marine Drive,” John wrote, “but at the same time they changed the lane structure (at Kitsap Way). Instead of a left turn, straight, and right turn lane, there are now just a left turn lane and a combined right/straight lane.
“The majority of the traffic anytime the intersection is busy are either left or right turns. Now that the right turn lane is combined with the straight lane all it takes is one person waiting to go straight and the right turn lane has to wait the entire signal sequence. I’ve already seen things backing WAY up, especially at rush hour time when the cycle is so long already.
“I know it was most likely done to widen the entrance approach when coming from Kitsap Way left-turn lane. And I will be the first to admit that turn has been close to the bane of my existence, since I live down Rocky Point, but I don’t see this as the best solution. Not to mention now there are three signals for two lanes. Then again after seeing the ‘improvements’ at Warren Avenue maybe that’s the new standard around Bremerton??”
Linda said, “We are envisioning big problems from this lane loss.  Usually when
Crownhill Elementary School lets out students for the day, there is a
traffic backup of huge proportions (also in the morning when students are
driven to school by parents).
“Now, with the right-turn lane being
utilized for right turns as well as straight through, vehicles waiting at
the red light to traverse onto Adele (straight) will be blocking the lane
for vehicles which would normally have been able to make right turns on
red.
“This lane restriction will inevitably cause worse
congestion.  There are probably other high-traffic time periods of the day as well. We hope tempers will not flare because of this change.
“Did the traffic department consider this problem before they made their decision?”
The out basket: John’s comparison with Warren Avenue at 11th Street is apt, as the rationale for eliminating 11th’s westbound right turn lane a couple years ago is the same as for consolidating two lanes into one at Marine Drive. It made room to widen the single lane inbound to Marine Drive, which  required too sharp a turn for large vehicles and drivers of some small ones.
But city Public Works Director Chal Martin wants upset residents to know that further modifications should make the change work better. They retimed the signals Monday and Chal said it seemed to help.
The change “was to make the inbound lane on Marine Drive wider to accommodate both right turns and left turns from Kitsap Way,” he said. “Especially with the right turns, school buses had a very hard time and would get hung up until the Marine Drive’s southbound left-turn lane cleared. Marco Dicicco, Bremerton School District’s student transportation and safety supervisor, was especially concerned about this issue.
“This change fixes that problem but will continue to cause a jam-up during the school rush period until we get the (traffic detector) loops working properly.
“Work still to be done includes re-aligning the loops (they are sort of working, but not quite because they are mis-aligned right now).  We’ll get that done (currently scheduled for Wednesday of this week) and watch for awhile – it takes folks time to settle into a new configuration. Also we may need to make a few additional adjustments. Bottom line is:  We will get this working right.”
The project was paid for with money raised by the city’s license tab add-on. “Money was an issue,” Chal said, “and widening the street was cost prohibitive.
“The three signal heads that are there will stay, as this is a standard configuration for two lanes also.  We did consider the issues associated with putting this reconfiguration in place.  The new configuration should begin working much better within the next couple of weeks.”

New garbage, recycling trucks to have several benefits

The in basket: Tasha Davis used e-mail in early April to tell me about an incident on Highway 3 near Bremerton.

“A green and yellow recycle truck entered the freeway from the (Austin Drive) ramp and headed south, spewing all manner of paper out the top of the truck as it sped along,” the e-mail said. “I’m sure if the driver had looked into his rear view mirror he would have seen the ticker tape-like parade going on behind.

“Judging from the papers I found stuck in my grill, pick-up was on the Erland Point route and lots of personal information was spread around. Don’t these trucks have lids?”

The out basket: Robin Freedman, senior communications manager for Waste Management took this on when I made contact a week later, but wanted it noted that there was no mention of a Waste Management logo on the truck that would have made it indisputable that it was one of the company’s trucks. It did bear the company colors.

“I did some research and learned the following,” she said. “The majority of our vehicles (front load) have a lid on the top of the vehicles. Unfortunately, a few older models do not have a lid. Furthermore, it is a safety hazard for our drivers to climb up on the top of the truck to search for flyaway materials.

“However, there is some good news. Waste Management is replacing our fleet in your area with new compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. They are sleek, shiny, new state of the art vehicles and since they are powered by CNG, they leave a much smaller carbon footprint, zero air particulates and 23 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions.

“By the end of 2015, your community will see these vehicles in every neighborhood although, you may not hear them – CNG trucks are very quiet.”

Both garbage and recyclable collection trucks will be replaced, she said, and the new ones will have lids.