Road Warrior

Travis Baker blogs about the problems and idiosyncrasies of Kitsap highways and byways.
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Drive unimpressed with 3-304 merge proposals

July 21st, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: David McCloskey e-mailed to ask and comment about a state Department of Transportation study of ways to make traffic flow more smoothly west of Bremerton on the way to Gorst, including consultant work by the Parametrix company

 “Why did WSDOT spend $500,000 to use the Parametrix company instead of their own highly skilled engineers? he began, then addressed the preliminary suggestions announced in May and added his own.

“Five of the suggestions most likely will not work, just forcing the traffic backup more towards Gorst,” he said. . “My fix would be to place a metering light at the Auto Center Way exit and make Highway 3 two lanes all the way through. Get rid of the 304 HOV lane in front of the ship yard (1% usage at 3-6pm).

“Spending this money was HOGWASH, with no improvements seen till next year. We need a resolve now. I have driven this route for five years already. The highway speeds reduce to 5 mph.” 

Except for one, those preliminary recommendations are limited to modifying the existing merge by adding lanes where there is room for more and letting both lanes of Highway 3 flow under the Highway 304 overpass,

The other one would create a third lane from the interchange all the way to Gorst, which would entail cutting into the rock cliffs that line the highway now.

A state Web site says a workshop will be held this summer to choose one of the options as the best.

I passed David’s comments on to the state and asked if the third lane alternative doesn’t stand out as far and away the most expensive. It’s been proposed off and on for decades, without ever going forward.

I also asked if the workshop has been scheduled.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker of WSDOT’s Olympic Region, replied, “We do plan to hold a workshop in August, in which the stakeholders involved in the SR 3/SR 304 study will be presented the study results, including the various options being considered.  The stakeholder committee and WSDOT together will determine which option becomes the preferred alternative.

“Once the preferred alternative is identified, WSDOT will hold a public meeting to share that alternative with the public.  Neither meeting has been scheduled yet.”

David’s comments will be added to others received since the list of possible options came out, for the stakeholders’ consideration, she said.

“Cutting into the rock face adjacent to the highway to make room for the lane “(would make) that option an expensive one indeed,” Claudia said.  “Whether it would be the ‘most’ expensive option depends on what other ideas the stakeholder committee may come up with.

 “Mr. McCloskey claimed that WSDOT paid the consultant Parametrix $500,000 for the SR 3/SR 304 study rather than using their own ‘highly skilled engineers.’  We, in fact, paid Parametrix $43,000 for specialized traffic modeling services needed for the study, and we picked up the analysis process from there.  We’d like to thank Mr. McCloskey for recognizing that our engineers are highly skilled.

“Mr. McCloskey mentioned ramp meters (already being considered), making SR 3 two lanes all the way to Gorst (included in several options being studied), and getting rid of the SR 304 HOV lane (we’re looking at potential impacts of converting the HOV lane to general-purpose).

“We sympathize with drivers’ frustration that studies take a long time and design and construction of a permanent fix takes even longer. All the while, we know that people just want to get from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time.

“The purpose of the study is to identify a fix that will work not only now, but at least 20 years into the future. Even once we identify that preferred alternative, no 3-304 merge preoposals or construction funds are currently identified for the work. Until that time, we can only offer up behavioral solutions – adjust work hours to avoid peak commute times, share the ride so he can use that HOV lane, and pack patience.”

How soon to stop for a pedestrian in a roundabout

July 17th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: After writing recently about peril to pedestrians at the Manette Bridge roundabout in Bremerton, it occurred to me that I hadn’t addressed an issue of interest to motorists.

How soon must a driver stop for a person in a roundabout crosswalk?

The question occurred to me when I saw a pedestrian crossing the large Highway 166 roundabout at what used to be called the Hi-Joy Y in Port Orchard. I was in the lane on the other side of the “refuge island” midway that provides walkers a relatively safe place to wait for a break in traffic. He was a long way from my lane and stopping for him then would have caused a lengthy delay for me and all traffic behind me. I didn’t stop.

The law requires a driver to stop for a pedestrian who is in a crosswalk, marked or unmarked, within one lane of his own. On a two-lane street, stopping is required when the walker enters the street on either side. On a three-lane street, when the walker enters the center lane. On a street with four or more lanes, when the walker enters the lane next to yours.

But what about in a roundabout?

The out basket: There doesn’t appear to be a clear answer to this. As a practical, if not a legal, matter, the size of the roundabout could make the difference.

State Trooper Russ Winger says, “I do not have a definitive answer to this question. I personally think the driver should stop and let the pedestrian cross when they are ready to enter or already in the opposite lane. This ‘refuge island’ is nothing more than a few feet of asphalt and puts a person very near a moving vehicle if the vehicle does not stop.

“I think the roundabout in Manette is a unique example of roundabouts,” he said, “due to the fact that it – at times – has a high volume of pedestrian traffic and (vehicle) traffic at the same time. It is also a very small roundabout with a short radius and the sight distances are not great.

“I have driven in it many times and it seems trickier than most. You have to be alert to traffic and pedestrians at all times. It can be a very busy intersection and I think pedestrian safety is the more important aspect.”

But he conceded he might feel otherwise with a larger roundabout with more room for error. “Rather a gray area with just the one RCW to deal with it,” he said.

As a guide, I might rely on what Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police told me last year about the rules at the Warren Avenue center barrier between Burwell and Sixth Street.. He said motorist should stop for a pedestrian there when the pedestrian is in the gap in the barrier about to enter your lane.

That gap would be comparable to the refuge island in a roundabout.

Dog in driver’s lap isn’t illegal — unless…..

July 14th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Shawn Morris asks about  “the law pertaining to drivers who drive with their dogs on their laps or even just loose in their vehicle and, if it is illegal, if law enforcement ever cites drivers for loose animals.

“I see almost as may drivers with their dogs on the laps and heads out the window than I do cell phone drivers,” he said.

The out basket: Nothing has changed since I last addressed this in 2005, says Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the state patrol here.

Back then, Russ’ predecessor twice removed, Trooper Brian George, said, “”There is no law specifically forbidding driving with a dog on your lap, but it fits under a law called ‘Obstruction to Driver’s View or Driving Mechanism.’

“If an animal or load (in this case a dog) obstructs the view to the front or side of the vehicle, or interferes with the controls of safely driving the vehicle, the driver may be cited.

“I have stopped drivers a few times for this violation,” he continued. “The times I can recall are when the dog is large or active in the lap of the driver, when it is obvious the driver is attempting to control the dog.”

A car full of furniture that blocks the driver’s view is another occasion for using the law, often around going-off-to-college time in the fall, he added.

Russ expanded on the issue by saying,”It is still a bad idea to let a pet move around the interior of a car, potentially distracting the driver. However, there remains no law regarding transporting animals – other than (to require)tethering a dog in the open bed of a truck – that addresses specifically dogs loose in the vehicle.

“Some people think it is a good idea to let the dog hang out of the window because ‘they like it.’ The question is would you let your child hang out the window?”  Russ asked.

Striping in a tight S-curve is no picnic

July 11th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Bob Cairns of Olalla says, “Recently lower Banner Road in Olalla was restriped with the exception of the very dangerous s-curves whose lines are obscured, doubtless, in large measure, from being ridden or crossed over by traffic.

“Was this an oversight? Does the county plan to return and restripe this area?”

The out basket: It’s a logistical thing, says Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer.

“Sharp corners like this are very challenging for a striping crew,” he said. “As good as they are, this situation is nearly impossible to restripe after the original stripe is painted.”

He attached a photo of what can result from trying.  “Each subsequent line is slightly off the original which makes the line look like a solid very wide line,” he said.

“Safety is also a factor on sharp limited visibility corners such as this. The striper maintains a constant speed when striping to get the required thickness of paint. At the same time it is essential that the driver be watching the centerline for a straight true line. Add the difficulty of a large truck with a long wheel base which makes cornering even more difficult.

“So it is pretty easy to see how difficult it would be for the driver to maintain speed while trying to maneuver a sharp limited visibility corner, not to mention narrow road with oncoming traffic.

“We are looking at alternative methods for the centerline, either thermoplastic line or raised pavement markings.  Either solution should make the corner very visible and easier to maneuver while staying in the correct lane of traffic,” he said.

Suction cups on windshields are technically illegal

July 10th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Flip Johnson of Bremerton asks, “Does Washington allow windshield suction mounts for GPS units, cell phones, and dash cameras?

RCW 46.37.410 says, ‘No person shall drive any motor vehicle with any sign, poster, or other nontransparent material upon the front windshield, side wings, or side or rear windows of such vehicle which obstructs the driver’s clear view of the highway or any intersecting highway.’

“My GPS unit is nontransparent,”Flip said, “but I don’t think it obstructs my view of the highway. Do our local police and highway patrol officers issue citations for these devices?”

The out basket: Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office says, ” (Mr.) Johnson is correct with his assessment of RCW 46.37.410 and according to the statute he could be issued a notice of infraction.

“Now, as with many statutes contained within RCW Title 46 there is what’s written in print and what’s actually enforced out on the roads and highways by law enforcement officers.

“All of us who have ‘worked the road’ have seen a variety of devices that drivers have affixed to their windshields and dashboards… GPS devices and cell phone holders being those most prominent.

“It’s a judgment call by the individual officer / deputy / trooper.

“To be clear, though,” Scott concluded, “if it’s determined that the affixed device was the cause of a motor vehicle collision due to its obstruction of a driver’s vision, even slightly, then I believe that you know what the outcome of the collision investigation will entail.”

State Trooper Russ Winger provided the state patrol’s viewpoint.

“These type of mounts and devices are not a problem unless they substantially interfere with driver visibility. Use common sense where you mount them and there should be no problem. They are a distraction so drivers should not program them when driving. Pull over and do that. Most modern units provide navigation and are not that difficult to use safely.”

Is there such a thing as a ‘citizen’s arrest?’

July 8th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Robert Arper wonders about something we’ve all heard of, but probably have never actually witnessed.

“My question has to do with ‘Citizen Arrest,’ he said. “When could a citizen invoke this procedure and when would the police officers recommend that we do not attempt a citizen arrest and what is the process for a citizen arrest?

“For example, would calling 911 to report a person or a license plate number for someone who litters or speeds be considered a citizen arrest? Is a citizen allowed to detain a person?”

The out basket: The term ‘arrest’ by definition would entail detaining a person, so reporting an offense to 911 wouldn’t constitute an arrest, citizen’s or otherwise.

Claire Bradley, a senior deputy in the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office, says, “There is no provision that I know of for a lawful ‘citizen’s arrest’ in our state statutes. RCW 10.31.100  (et seq) deals with arrests of suspects, and it is exclusively related to law enforcement officers executing lawful arrests.

“It would be extremely unwise for a citizen to attempt to make an arrest or detain someone they believed committed a crime. It is absolutely unsafe to attempt to do so, and may give rise to civil or criminal actions against the citizen conducting the ‘arrest.’”

She didn’t specify what actions, but assault or kidnapping come to mind as charges that could arise from detaining another by force or threat for reasons found to be insufficient.

“There is, however,” Claire continued, “a provision in the Washington Court Rules for a citizen complaint filed in a court of limited jurisdiction. So, citizens CAN file a criminal complaint in a district or municipal court, for any misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, provided they follow the requirements set out in the Court Rule. CrRLJ 2.1(c).  A citizen would need to file the complaint in proper form, and then the criminal action may be instituted.”

One assumes this would come into play if the prosecutor declined to bring the charge. Note also that felonies are excluded from this avenue.

Claire calls the following “the relevant portion of the rule:”

“(c) Citizen Complaints. Any person wishing to institute a criminal action

alleging a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor shall appear before a judge empowered to commit persons charged with offenses against the State, other than

a judge pro tem.

“The judge may require the appearance to be made on the

record, and under oath. The judge may consider any allegations on the basis of

an affidavit sworn to before the judge. The court may also grant an opportunity at said hearing for evidence to be given by the county prosecuting attorney or

deputy, the potential defendant or attorney of record, law enforcement or other

potential witnesses.  The court may also require the presence of other potential witnesses.”

Considerations that would likely result in refusal to let the citizen’s prosecution proceed include possible liability it would create for the county, possible disruption of other prosecutions, whether the complainant has adequate recourse in small claims court or other civil venues, and records of the parties involved as regards crimes of dishonesty.

If the case overcomes all those hurdles, the judge would warn the plaintiff about “the gravity of initiating a criminal complaint, of the necessity of a court

appearance or appearances for himself or herself and witnesses, of the possible

liability for false arrest and of the consequences of perjury” before authorizing the case to proceed.

$4 million Ridgetop Drive ‘widening’ coming in 2019

July 6th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: I was looking through Kitsap County’s six-year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) recently when I came upon an entry that really surprised me.

It says that in 2019 the county plans to spend $4 million widening Ridgetop Boulevard between Highway 303 and Avante Drive, which is practically its entire length from 303 north.

The only detail listed is “widening, channelization, rain gardens.” I asked if it would become four lane all that distance and whether the center planting areas would be eliminated.

The out basket: The answer was generally no, and most of the work will be addressing storm water, not traffic.

Mindy Fohn of the county storm water division says, “This project involves roadway widening  at the south end, intersection channelization near the center, and multiple bioretention storm water treatment facilities  (commonly called “rain gardens”) along the full length of the project.

“The project will widen Ridgetop Boulevard to provide two northbound and two southbound lanes from Waaga Way (SR 303) to Hillsboro Drive. This section of Ridgetop Boulevard frequently experiences intersection congestion and long vehicular queues.  The improvement will provide needed intersection capacity and alleviate queue spillback that occurs between the closely spaced intersections.”

I’m not sure what spillback is, but I’m sure the project will please drivers wanting to turn onto 303 to go north but can’t because through traffic waiting at the red light is blocking the only lane approaching the  existing right turn lane.

“The Ridgetop Boulevard widening project,” Mindy continued, “will also reconstruct Ridgetop Boulevard from Ridgepoint Drive to Timber Shadow Court by removing the planted medians in the vicinity of the intersections.

“The Traffic Division has received requests for improved pedestrian crossings to the commercial land uses and transit stops in the area.  The improvement will provide shorter pedestrian crossings and better define vehicular paths for turning movements.

“Up to 13 bioretention facilities will be constructed in the median providing a high level of storm water treatment of the road runoff, which currently is untreated and flows into Dyes Inlet.  The soils in this area, generally, are permeable to infiltrate the runoff.

“These storm water facilities are partially funded with a $375,000 grant from Washington State Department of Ecology and are an essential project in the continuing effort to clean up storm water flowing into Dyes Inlet.”

Roundabout at Central Valley & McWilliams not rated highly

July 3rd, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Several weeks ago, Laura Turner e-mailed to say the the area around Central Valley Road, McWilliams Road, 64th Street and Holland Road is a dangerous zoo, especially around school quitting time and the afternoon rush hour.  She said Olympic High School students use Holland and 64th as a short cut to McWilliams.

Central Valley and McWilliams had been identified in a Kitsap Sun article a year ago as the 12th most accident prone county intersections.

“We need speed humps on Holland and a crosswalk at the minimum at Central Valley and McWilliams,” Laura said. “There are accidents at this intersection several times a year, yet the country refuses to do anything to help the local residents.  Why is this? ”

I spent some time a couple of afternoons watching this intersection during the last weeks of the school year and had to tell Laura that it seemed unexceptional. Traffic was not very heavy, especially coming out 64th onto Central Valley. One school bus let off one child some distance up McWilliams. I saw one pedestrian, on a skateboard.

But since it was listed as among the county’s most accident prone, I asked county Public Works if there are any plans to make it safer. There’s no mention of it on the county’s six-year-road plan, called the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

The out basket: County Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea says, “Last year we proposed a project to construct a roundabout there.  It did not compete well against other projects and did not make it to the TIP.

“The collision numbers at this intersection are trending down,” he said, “and indications are that it will fall well below the top ten collision intersections.  In 2012 there were no reported collisions at the intersection.”


Disparate signal operation on Highway 303 puzzles reader

June 30th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Robert Arper e-mails to say, “I am curious why the left turn lane into the East Bremerton Fred Meyer is programmed so differently than the left turn lane into the East Bremerton Walmart.

“Right now it would appear that Walmart shoppers are getting preferential treatment but Fred Meyer shoppers are getting the shaft. Yet it is the motoring public that is paying the price in the form of delays in both cases.

“Those of us waiting for the light to turn to allow us to turn into Fred Meyer have to wait forever while traffic heading north on 303 gets the green regardless of the amount of traffic.

“Those of us traveling south on 303 are delayed by those wishing to turn left from the northbound lane into Walmart even if there are only one or two cars in the left-turn lane.  It would seem that the people programming the lights at these two intersections are not the same person or they just want to make it difficult for the motoring public.”

The out basket: The history of those intersections is quite different, accounting for the difference in treatment.

Former officials in the Olympic Region signal shop for state highways have told me that when Fred Meyer wouldn’t agree to shift its main entrance when the store was built, the entrance didn’t line up with the existing road across Highway 303, creating an offset intersection.

As a result, the two opposing left-turns onto 303 must happen separately, prolonging the wait for those wanting to make other movements. I often hear complaints about the left turn into Fred Meyer being annoyingly short when it finally does come around, but in my experience, that comes and goes and isn’t always the case.

In front of Walmart, the center barrier installed there between McWilliams and Fairgrounds roads to eliminate left-turn accidents at other intersections near there was finished during the holidays and heavy traffic into Walmart soon spilled out of the left turn lane into the inside northbound through lane.

So the signal shop gave it an extra left turn opportunity in each cycle to eliminate the danger of rear-end accidents that created. It’s been that way ever since, though watching that turn lane, I’m not sure I often or ever see enough turning traffic during the two cycles combined that it would fill up the turn lane. But I’m not often there during the holidays.

Nonetheless, the Olympic Region signal shop and the city of Bremerton are considering whether changes should be made in the timing of signals between Fred Meyer and points south.

Ken Burns of the signal shop says, “Robert’s assessment of the signals’ being operated by different people is correct.” The city has one and the state the other.

“(We) are working together on a corridor analysis for the system on Highway 303 from Sheridan Road to the Fred Meyer/Furneys Lane signal,” Ken said. “This analysis will examine left-turn volumes, pedestrian crossing clearance times, as well as the overall delay at the intersections in this corridor.”

Spotting the HOV lane violator

June 28th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: I’ve always wondered how police officers manage to enforce HOV lane rules, with tinted windows on many cars obscuring who’s inside and a law the makes someone lying down in the back seat or even an infant in a car seat a valid second passenger.

Out of curiosity, I watch the Highway 304 HOV lanes coming out of Bremerton when I’m there at rush hour, viewing from the next lane over. It affords me a view of the two front seats of any vehicle coming up from behind me, as windshield tinting is rarely as dark as side window tinting. Even that requires taking my eyes off the car in front of me briefly, always a risky thing to do in bumper to bumper traffic.

One recent afternoon, I saw a state trooper parked on the southbound shoulder of 304 and figured he was watching for speeders in the outside lane anxious to get out of town toward Silverdale, or to get ahead of traffic and cut in closer to the merge with Highway 3.

I turned my attention back to the HOV lane and noticed an expensive gold-colored hard-top sports car with only the driver visible, using that lane.

He was far from the only one, but the car gave the impression of a driver who’s used to doing things his way. I profiled him, I suppose.

When I got across the bridge over Highway 3, there was the sports car on the shoulder with a trooper leaning in the window, the emergency lights flashing on the patrol car stopped behind them.

Was it a tandem HOV lane enforcement by two officers?, I asked Trooper /Russ Winger, spokesman for the local patrol detachment.

The out basket: Russ wasn’t certain, but said, “Our officers do work together in tandem and multiples on occasion. In that particular location troopers can keep an eye out for speeders as well as seat belt and HOV violations. We have radios that allow us to communicate violations and vehicles to other troopers when it would otherwise be difficult, due to traffic, for the observing officer to safely overtake the vehicle and stop it.”

It’s easy to rationalize using the HOV lane when one is alone in one’s car. The lanes’ purpose is to make a long-term impression that you can get through faster if you car-pool or take the bus, reducing traffic and demand for more lanes over time.

But at that given moment, an HOV scofflaw can tell himself  he’s taking his vehicle out of the backup in the general purpose lanes, making things a little better.

The slim chance that I might get caught and have to pay the hefty HOV violation fine is enough to keep me out of them when I’m alone in my car, though.


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