Yes, it can be worth it to propose a road improvement

The in basket:  Each year about this time, Kitsap County Public Works asks for citizen nominations for future road projects to be considered for the six-year road improvement plan that will be adopted in December. The plan to be adopted this year will cover 2016-21.

I wondered if this request is just eye wash, a nod toward citizen involvement, the holy grail of local governments the past couple of decades.

The out basket: Jim Rogers, transportation planner for the county, said 15 of the 58 projects in the 2015-20 plan, which can be see online at www.kitsapgov.com/pw/sixyear_tip.htm, were citizen-initiated. That includes the top priority project, paving 2,400 feet of Hansville Road’s shoulders between Ecology and Eglon roads in North Kitsap this year.

Most of the 15 are shoulder improvements to be done by county employees rather than contracted out.

The others Jim listed, with their priority ranking and year to be done, include:

– This year’s $2 million roundabout and shoulder paving at and near Holly Road at Seabeck Highway (8 –  2015)

– More Hansville Road shoulder paving between Eglon and Twin Spits roads (16 – 2016),

– Widening the intersection of Widme and Totten roads  in North Kitsap to benefit truck movements (19 – 2016),

– Sidewalks  on both sides of Fairgrounds Road between Central Valley and Nels Nelson roads (26 – 2017)

– Paved shoulders on Suquamish Way between Hyak Lane and Division Avenue (27 – 2017 )

– Paved shoulders on Chester Road and Madrone Avenue in Manchester (36 – 2018)

– Paving shoulders and improving drainage on Beach Drive in South Kitsap between Daniels Loop and Jessica Way (37 – 2018).

– Six-foot paved shoulders on Sidney Road in South Kitsap from the Port Orchard city limits to just past Lider Road (38 – 2018).

– Paved shoulder on Alaska Avenue in South Kitsap between Mile Hill Drive and Madrone Avenue (40 – 2018).

– Paved shoulders on Island Lake /Road between Gallery Street and Camp Court (41 – 2018)

–  Paved shoulders on Anderson Hill Road in Silverdale for about 100 yards on both sides of the Frontier Place roundabout (42 – 2018).

– Add traffic lights and turn lanes at Nels Nelson and Bucklin Hill roads (52 – 2019)

– Building right-turn lane on southbound Hansville Road at Highway 104 (55 – 2020)

– Paving shoulders and resurfacing of Seabeck Highway between Gross and Newberry Hill roads (57 – 2020).

If you have a road project you’d like to nominate, you can do it online at http://www.kitsapgov.com/pw/Tip_Project_Proposal_form.asp

Power pole along old Wheaton awfully close to driveway

The in basket: Pete Wimmer of Silverdale e-mailed to say, “A couple of weeks ago, I went to dinner at RimNam Thai Cuisine on Wheaton Way and noticed that one of the power poles was placed in the new driveway or the new driveway was set around the pole.

“No matter which came first, this seems to be an accident waiting to happen,” he said. “Can you find out if it is in specifications and if they are going to add more markings to the pole to warn drivers?”
The out basket: This is part of the improvements to Old Wheaton Way that widened the water-side sidewalk. There are three short power poles fairly close to the curb cuts that denote future driveways near the Thai restaurant (the former Bay Bowl) and it does seem that the pole closest to the business’ front door could pose a collision hazard to a careless driver turning right into the restaurant’s driveway without slowing down enough.

It’s not in the driveway, just right beside it.

Tom Knuckey of the city’s engineering staff says,  “After looking into this, we’ve concluded that while the location of the power pole is not ideal, it will need to remain where it is.

“The issue is that alternatives for locating the pole were constrained by the wire span and pole height which limited our options during construction, and while the pole would ideally have been sited away from the driveway approach wing, it is OK to have it in the right-of-way at that location.

“If the adjacent business contacts us to request revisions, we’ll likely look at providing a reflector of some sort on the pole,” he said.

Shopping center’s private road a heavily used cut-through

The in basket: M.C. (Pete) Peterson sounds a familiar note in complaining about the chronic pot holes that develop seemingly each winter on Village Lane, the private road that services South Park Village shopping center in South Kitsap. The holes join a couple of speed humps that make entering the shopping center from the south in the dark of winter a challenge.

“I drove on the road,” he said in early March, “and noticed a big hole right where the last one was, and it is obvious that someone did some repair work. But some 4th grade boys could have done a better job.

“They did not use any large filler for the hole, and it is all pushed down, but not broken, but it still could do some under-carriage damage if hit too fast.

“I think that will all wash out if it fills with water and people don’t see the hole and aren’t aware of the previous damage and just keep driving through it.

“I’m sorry to have to keep harping on this, but that whole section needs some work, if you are egressing from the shopping center, there are several locations that are bad.”

Actually, one other. The access with the traffic signal where Village Lane intersects Mile Hill Drive is always in good shape, but the secondary Mile Hill Drive entrance just east of there seems to develop a big hole every winter. Even this winter, with no snow to complicate things, a large car-jolting hole appeared.

It’s not surprising the holes appear on Village Lane each winter. Though a private road designed to get shoppers into the shopping center, it is widely used as a cut-through to Mile Hill Drive by hundreds of the motoring public.

I asked who is responsible for the holes in Village Lane and the one on Mile Hill Drive. I also asked if, it’s being a private road, its owners could close it, though I’m sure that’s the last thing they would want.

The out basket: “The property owner(s) are responsible for private roads,” Doug Bear, spokesman for Kitsap County Public Works, said April 3. “Madrona Manor (Housing Kitsap) is going to fill the hole.

“The potholes along Mile Hill Drive are in county-maintained right-of-way and have been repaired,” he said.

I drove through there last week and it appears the holes next to Madrona Manor, a senior living complex at Village Lane and Madrona Drive, have been filled too.

As for whether Village Lane’s continued use is up to its owners, Doug said, “In the Short Subdivision Application (Auditor record #7706080154), when the property was subdivided, there is a provision in each of the three parcels that describes “…an easement for ingress and egress over and across a strip of land 30 feet in width lying 15 feet across each side of the following described centerline…” It goes on to describe the parcel piece it references.

“As a lay person, that would seem to indicate that access to the other parcels must be maintained, but I’m sure a legal professional could give a better opinion.”

Gore is OK for yielding to emergency vehicles

The in basket: Norm Jochem, a neighbor of mine, said he was coming coming south on Highway 3 at the Bremerton sewer plant where Highway 304 merges when a police car with its lights flashing but no siren approached him from behind. He was in that stretch where Highway 3 narrows to a single lane, and he had nowhere to go except into the gore area on his right. So that’s where he went and the police car continued on past him.

He wondered if he chose the correct one of two normally illegal things, driving into the gore or staying in the police car’s way.

I asked Trooper Russ Winger of the State Patrol here and also whether it mattered if the driver had continued in motion while the cop passed, rather than coming to a stop?

The out basket: “It is appropriate to yield to the right for an emergency vehicle even if he had to enter the gore area,” Russ replied. “The law says move to shoulder and stop but we know this doesn’t always occur. The objective is to allow the emergency to quickly and safely pass. If vehicles cannot come to a full stop, we do not worry about that as long as the driver has recognized the need to yield and is making the movement.

Passing at intersections is illegal, regardless of the striping

The in basket: Bob Miller writes, “I moved into rural South Kitsap in the last year, and am slowly becoming familiar with the roads that crisscross the area.
On our way home the other evening, my girlfriend remarked that she was scared making the turn off Olalla Valley Road SE onto southbound Banner Road to get to our house, because there is a northbound passing zone that would seem to make collisions with a car making that right turn inevitable.
“I haven’t looked at it great detail, but when I pull up the intersection on Google Maps, sure enough, the passing zone seems a lot closer than one would think it should be to avoid the possibility of a collision.”

The out basket: Aside from the occasional “No Passing,” sign, the only indicators of where it’s OK or forbidden to pass are the stripes in the road. It was news to me that proximity to an intersection affected that striping. I’d always regarded driver visibility due to hills or curves to be the the only criteria that guides the striping.

I looked in the state laws and found that passing near an intersection to be illegal.

I drove Banner Road – and Sedgwick, while is was in the area – and noticed don’t-pass striping only at intersections near a hill or curve. I asked Kitsap County Public Works if I’d been missing something all these years.

The out basket: Jeff Shea, the county’s traffic engineer, replied, “The county marks no-passing zones where hills and curves restrict the visibility of oncoming vehicles.  We do this in accordance with federal guidance spelled out in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

“The requirement is solely based on the speed limit posted on the road.  If the road has a centerline, we are required to establish no-passing zones.

“Similar to other traffic regulations we do not sign or mark, we assume motorists are aware of the rules of the road and know that passing is restricted within 100 feet of an intersection.  RCW 46.61.125 (1) (b) is very clear that you cannot pass another vehicle near or in an intersection.

“If the county were to try and mark all no passing zones at intersections, it would be very problematic and not necessarily safer.  State law only recognizes intersections as where two or more public roads meet.  So private roads and commercial accesses would not be recognized as intersections and not striped for no passing.  In many cases these private and commercial accesses to public roads see much more traffic than a low volume public side road.

“Our county roads have thousands of accesses to them; both public and private.  A car can come out from them at any time.  When passing anytime on county roads, I would recommend using extreme caution,” Jeff said.

 

SK distracted drivers get task force attention

The in basket: When I saw a Bremerton police black and white patrol car pull out of a side road on Mile Hill in South Kitsap Monday about 10:15 a.m., I thought it mildly curious. When I saw it again or one just like it making a traffic stop on Highway 166 near the Banana Hammock expresso stand in Port Orchard about an hour later, my curiosity was piqued.

It lasted only until I got back on my computer and found a tweet from State Trooper Russ Winger saying, “‘Hopefully, you won’t meet one of these officers in South Kitsap today,” accompanied by a photo of 11 uniformed officers.

He was touting the distracted driving emphasis patrol being done between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday, just in SK.

Marsha Master of the county’s Traffic Safety Commission said the 11 were working the south end with an eye out specifically for drivers not paying attention to what they were doing. I imagine cell phone use and texting generated most of the stops made, but personal grooming and eating were candidates.

Marsha had gotten only one anecdote about a stop by Thursday, and it was off-topic. An officer heard chains dragging on the pavement in Gorst which called his attention to a driver towing a trailer without his safety chains secured to prevent his trailer from getting away .

Reports from the officers received by Thursday detailed 80 or so stops during the four hours, and she expected it would total more than 100 when she gets them all. She hadn’t counted how many citations were issued, she said.

Those officers will be doing another one on Bainbridge Island on April 18, a countywide seat belt emphasis on May 18, and a speed emphasis around June 1.

She drove around watching some of the stops Monday,  and the drivers pulled over seemed more chagrined than angry, she said.

There were reports Monday of a lockdown at South Kitsap High School (unfounded) and just a lot of police activity near the high school. I couldn’t find out what it was about, but maybe it was young texters and cell phone users getting the attention they need.

Most of Southworth ferry terminal dock to be replaced

The in basket: Cleaning out old e-mails recently, I came across one I’d sent to Washington State Ferries back in July 2012, seeking more information about a Sun story that month saying money had been received to replace the Southworth trestle and terminal between 2015 and 2018.

I wondered what all would be done, if it included replacement of new decking installed  in the early 2000s and whether it would require closure of the terminal.

The word then was “we are too early on in the planning efforts to answer your questions.” I then forgot all about the issue until I came across the old e-mail. It being 2015 now, I asked again.

The out basket: Hadley Rodero of the ferry system communications staff says, “In 2008, the (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) design code was revised.  In response to the new code, WSF completed a trestle seismic study to prioritize replacing or retrofitting the remaining 10 timber docks throughout the system.

“Vashon was the first priority trestle to address, followed by Southworth,” she said. “The Vashon Ferry Trestle Rehabilitation Project construction will start in June.

“The Southworth Trestle Project will have an approximate 30 percent design (completion) this summer.  Southworth is a complete replacement of the trestle, so the decking that was replaced in early 2000 will be removed. That decking was installed to preserve the trestle beneath and it has served its purpose.

“The current approach to replacing the trestle will be to construct half of it at a time so the terminal can remain open during construction. Construction is targeted to begin in August of 2017 and be complete the summer of 2018. Construction of a new Southworth terminal building will begin in fall/winter 2016.”

“The trestle is comprised of all the timber over the water – piles, pile caps, stringers, decking and asphalt,” she said.

Though the terminal building sits on the trestle, it and the supports beneath it will be done first.

“We do not have any work planned for the wing walls or transfer span which are not part of the trestle,” she said.

“The project is needed to ensure the trestle will withstand an earthquake. In the next 75 years, there is a 50 percent chance that the trestle will collapse in an earthquake.”

The Vashon work will be different than that at Southworth. WSF has an extensive Web site describing it at www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr160/vashontrestle/.

HOV lane etiquette and the law

The in basket: Dan Wierman writes, “Today I made a round trip from Bremerton to Seattle and back. My dad was with me and since there were two of us in the car, I chose to drive in the carpool lane on I-5, even thought the traffic was not too heavy. I rarely get the opportunity to drive in the carpool lanes.
“Even driving at or slightly above the speed limit, cars would catch up with us. Some would just go around to the right of us and many would stay on our tail.
“So my questions are:
- Are we bound by the same congestion rules – I believe it (forbids) holding up five cars or more – while driving in the carpool lane?
- Is it considered ‘camping’ if you stay in the carpool lanes like it is if you drive in a left lane without passing cars?
- Any other insights on how to manage driving in carpool lanes?
“I apologize if these questions have previously been brought up,” he said in conclusion.
The out basket: I have addressed this before, but there’s no need to apologize. It’s been over seven years since I dealt with it directly.
It hasn’t been that long since I addressed his second question, though. About a month ago, I quoted State Trooper Russ Winger in saying that the HOV lane is not considered the left lane for enforcement of the law that requires staying out of the left lane unless you’re overtaking and passing other traffic, leaving room for a freeway merger or preparing to turn left.
The “don’t delay five cars or more” law wouldn’t apply to HOV lanes or any multiple-lane highway. It reads, “On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow moving vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in a line, shall turn off the roadway wherever sufficient area for a safe turn-out exists, in order to permit the vehicles following to proceed.”
Seven years ago, I wrote, “If in the HOV lane next to stop-and-go traffic, it’s not smart to be doing even the speed limit, as one of the crawling cars in the next lane might try to move into your lane at any moment, giving you little or no chance to react. Any driver behind you in such traffic should be grateful to be making steady progress, even if well below the speed limit.
“If all traffic is moving at highway speeds, I usually move out of the HOV lane to avoid frustrating a driver behind me wishing to go faster. But it certainly would be within a driver’s rights to stay put and make the speeder make the lane change. It would probably be just one of many lane changes such a driver will make that trip.”
No experience I’ve had since then would change that advice, except having found double white lines separating some big city HOV lanes from the next lane over. It’s illegal to cross over double white lines into or out of an HOV lane except in the gaps between those lines.
Trooper Winger has his own perspective. Though neither of the laws Dan asked about requires moving out of the HOV lane, “motorists using this lane should consider that one of the purposes of the HOV lane, besides reducing the number of vehicles on the road, is to promote the flow of traffic,” he said. “Stacking vehicles behind you, just because you can, is not a good strategy. It promotes ‘bad feelings’ between motorists which can lead to erratic lane changes and road rage.
“I would suggest that drivers occupying the HOV lanes be aware of their speed and the traffic behind them. Move out of the way and let the vehicles by and then reenter the lane. Be considerate and think about the big picture, which is the safe and efficient flow of traffic,” he said..

Manette Bridge waterline bases end earlier than I would have thought

IMGP2293The in basket: I joined Sun reporter Josh Farley in his recent walking tour of the part of Bremerton’s Washington Avenue that will be reduced to one lane in each direction this summer.

The tide was low, I noted as I looked out over the Port Washington Narrows, and I was surprised to see that the wide bases of the columns that support the new Manette Bridge ended before they reached the water line at that tide level. I would have thought they went all the way to the bottom. Bremerton Public Works Director Chal Martin, also on the walking tour, guessed that the  wide bases protected the piers from boat traffic.

I asked state officials if that was right.

The out basket: No, said Claudia Bingham Baker of the state’s Olympic Region. the wide bases “are designed to distribute the bridge load onto the bridge shafts. They are structural members of the bridge and not a fender-type protection system from errant boats.”

She put me in touch with Chris Keegan, the region’s top bridge engineer, who said that below the wide bases are concrete shafts drilled deep into the bottom of the Port Washington Narrows. The wide bases are the transition structures between those shafts and the above-water pillars on which the bridge deck sits.

Will hospital construction add to hurt from Bucklin Hill Road closure?

The in basket: Karen Ebersole writes, “I saw in the Sun  that they are starting a new addition to Harrison Hospital in Silverdale, starting in the fall? Really?  With the closure of Bucklin Hill Road, and now this new construction on the other major road out of Silverdale?  Am I wrong in thinking this is going to be more than a nightmare?”

I asked Kitsap County Public Works whether construction of the new hospital may affect plans to ameliorate the congestion from the year-long Bucklin Hill Road closure and if the hospital has been asked or ordered not to interfere with traffic in its part of Silverdale while the road is closed. The new hospital is to be next to the existing one at Ridgetop Boulevard and Myhre Road.

The out basket: County Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea replied, “We do not have a final mitigation plan for the hospital and don’t know what road improvements may be part of their plan.

“We did have the discussion with Harrison about road work occurring during the bridge project. They are aware that no road work impacting the Ridgetop corridor can take place during the work on Bucklin Hill.”

As an aside, since this column may be the first some drivers have heard about the impending road closure, it is to widen Bucklin Hill Road, replace culverts through which Clear Creek passes beneath the road, and extend water mains to the east of the project. It will begin in July.