Road Warrior

Travis Baker blogs about the problems and idiosyncrasies of Kitsap highways and byways.
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Diagonal breaks in Warren Avenue barrier explained

August 15th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: As often as I have driven north on Warren Avenue in Bremerton from Burwell Street since the city took one northbound lane of Warren for a raised barrier, I hadn’t noticed a third break in the barrier at both Fourth and Fifth streets.

Crosswalks pass though two of the gaps at each intersection. But the third gap, running on an angle through the barrier, is a puzzlement. It doesn’t look like it adds anything to handling storm runoff.

The other day, I saw a motorcyclist drive through it during rush hour, stopping in the middle to let traffic clear so he could continue west on Fourth Street.

I asked it that is the intent and was it legal?

The out basket: No, says Gunnar Fridriksson of the city street engineers. The motorcyclist committed an infraction for which he could have been cited. But the gap IS for traffic – bicycle traffic – which can legally pass through it, Gunnar said. “It is diagonal to give additional storage space when they are stopped in the median.”

Buses AREN’T exempt from traffic control at 11th and Warren

August 15th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Brian Lozier read the recent Road Warrior column about transit buses having the right to proceed straight in the outside lane on Sixth Street at Park Avenue in Bremerton where other traffic must turn right, and described a similar incident on 11th Street at Warren Avenue.

He’s seen transit buses go straight in the eastbound center lane of 11th, he said, though there’s what he described as “a clear left-only arrow” in that lane.

“Because the city of Bremerton, in its infinite wisdom, chose to narrow 11th to one lane in each direction just after that

intersection,”Brian said, “buses going straight through in the center lane make it so traffic in the right lane can’t move over and they all have to slam their brakes.

“Is this a legal move for buses or are these drivers just ignoring the law?” he asked, adding “does the red light camera there also catch illegal movement on greens?

“Further,” he wrote, “since I have seen this numerous times (and not just with buses), it seems like this merge can be eliminated by just making that lane on 11th a right-turn only up to Park. There aren’t usually a lot of cars parked there, and that one block stretch is adjacent to to a walled-off power substation.”

The out basket: There are no signs conferring anyone the right to proceed straight in that lane, so if transit drivers are doing it, they are committing an infraction.

Transit Executive Director John Clauson says, “If the bus went straight through the intersection without using the right lane, it was improper. I have (included) our operations director on this communication and I am confident she will take care of this.

“If your reader sees additional violations of this type, he/she should give us a call with the bus number and the exact time of the incident.  It will help immensely to help us track the issue back to the operator and work with the team to refresh operators on the rules of the road.”

The two red light cameras there monitor only red light infractions and then only in the two directions of travel alongside which they are deployed.

Gunnar Fridriksson, the city’s managing street engineer, says they do plan to make the outside lane right only at Park, at the same time they make some parking revisions on 11th and Sixth. As at Sixth and Park, buses will be permitted to proceed straight in the outside lane even after the change.

Lastly, what’s permitted on eastbound 11th at Warren isn’t all that obvious. The two round ball signals for the outside lane (a federally required redundancy) leave many drivers wondering whether  going straight in the center lane is legal. But I wouldn’t expect transit drivers to be confused about it.

Barges in Sinclair Inlet explained

August 14th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: For many weeks now I have been eying some barges moored along the southern Sinclair Inlet shoreline between Port Orchard and Gorst with large steel structures on them, painted white and yellow.

Recently, another barge showed up next to them with concrete structures aboard and rebar sticking out.

Also, out in the middle of the inlet, there is a large boxy blue barge, which resembles those installed next to construction sites where waste water has to be treated, though those usually are dull green in color.

I want looking for an explanation of the barges.

The out basket: My first call went to Paul Fritts of Thompson Pile Driving, located a short distance from the barges. He always seems to have his finger on the pulse of what’s going on in Sinclair Inlet.

Sure enough, he is the lessor of the moorage where the large blue box is, he said. It’s a fish processing barge he expected to have gone off to Alaska by now, but it hasn’t.

He had to guess as to the purpose of the structures on the other barges, but he guessed right in saying they are probably for construction going on at the Bangor naval base.

Leslie Yuenger, Public Affairs Officer for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest told me when I asked, “The barges located in Sinclair Inlet are being staged there until the second explosives handling wharf at Bangor is ready to receive the materials onboard.”

Roundabout coming to Seabeck Highway & Holly Road

August 14th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: My step-daughter, Ronda Armstrong, of the Lake Symington area says there has been trenching work going on where Holly Road ends at Seabeck Highway and the rumor in the area is that a roundabout will be built there.

I found a difficult-to-decipher mention in the county’s six-year road improvement plan (TIP) of $1.6 million in improvements to that intersection in 2015, but no mention of a roundabout. And the weekly road report made no mention of the trenching work when I looked.

The out basket: The rumor is true, says Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works.

“The work being done there currently is under-grounding of utilities in preparation of the intersection improvements next year,” he said. “The project was on the road report previously but slipped off last week. I’ve reposted it.

“The project you referenced in the TIP is the intersection improvement project at that location. Part of that project is determining what improvements would be most effective there. The engineers evaluated different options and a roundabout is considered the best approach to improve that intersection. The rumor is correct!”

The listing in the TIP won’t be modified to show the planned roundabout until the next TIP is approved by the county commissioners at the end of the year.

Transit bus goes straight in right-only lane

August 12th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Eric Blair wrote July 25 to say, “I was traveling eastbound on Sixth Street in Bremerton this past Wednesday at 1815, and was behind a Kitsap Transit small bus. We were both in the right lane, stopped at the light at Park Avenue. Imagine my surprise when the bus continued straight through the intersection, from what is clearly marked a right turn only lane.

“I didn’t see any ‘except transit’ language on the sign. Are transit buses exempt from the new right turn only lanes in downtown Bremerton?”

The out basket: A sign is missing, as transit buses need access to the curb lane to pick up and discharge passengers and it is the city’s intent to allow them to proceed straight in the outside lane there.

And there is an “except transit” sign, just not right at the intersection. An earlier sign a half-block back saying right turns only are allowed in the outside lane has an “except transit” sign right below it. But I didn’t see it either until Gunnar Fridriksson, senior Bremerton street engineer, told me it was there and I went looking for it.

“The first sign which is about mid-block between Warren and Park has ‘Except Transit’ so the buses can legally continue through the intersection,” Gunnar said.  “We are updating the sign at the signal as well and I thought that had been completed.  Our sign shop is a bit busy these days, but I will check in with them and give a little reminder we need to get this done.”

Can Fauntleroy ferry terminal get a traffic light?

August 8th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Raymond Craig of Port Orchard writes to say he misses the days when a state trooper was posted at the  Fauntleroy ferry terminal during rush hour.

“Getting off or on the ferry was a breeze because the officer efficiently metered traffic to match the boat off-load,” he said.

“With no traffic control, the ferry off-load gets bogged down on the ramp and during peak commute times this results in extensive delays. It is frustrating to see 50-plus cars idling on the dock while crossing traffic dribbles by on Fauntleroy (Avenue). With a bus stop at the top of the dock, adding a Metro double bus in the midst of the commute makes things even worse.

“More importantly,” he continued, “the exit at the end of the Fauntleroy ferry dock is a ‘triple point’ of safety issues. Cars, trucks, metro buses and pedestrians are all trying to cross without control or monitoring.  It is a dangerous crossing where sight lines are limited and drivers compete with Metro buses and pedestrians.

 “I have asked managers at WSDOT why they don’t install a traffic light to help the situation.  They tell me the Fauntleroy community will not allow the light to be installed because they don’t like having the ferry dock there. The community would like the terminal to be removed and resists any effort that will aid the ferry system.

“It makes no sense that the personal priorities of the Fauntleroy community could override a serious traffic safety situation,” Raymond said. “If a pedestrian or bicycle rider is injured at the ferry terminal crossing……you could logically blame the lack of traffic light as the cause.  With the emphasis today on the environment and safety, how can WSDOT not override the community and install a traffic light.”

The out basket: The city of Seattle has the whip hand on this and is sensitive to the feelings of city residents who live near the terminal. But Rick Sheridan of the Seattle Department of Transportation says the city is willing to consider ways to make the intersection safer if the ferry system provides the money.

First, though, Marta Coursey of the ferry system’s public affairs office sent along these thoughts: “In 2011, Washington State Patrol’s budget was reduced significantly, resulting in the loss of officer traffic control at the intersection of Fauntleroy Way and Fauntleroy Terminal in West Seattle. The Fauntleroy terminal presents many challenges and the officers were extremely helpful to us in providing safety, security and traffic control around this terminal.

 “Because Fauntleroy Way is also a city street, not a state highway, the state has no jurisdictional control over the intersection. In order for the state to install a signal here, we would need to get a permit from the city.”

Which brings us back to Rick Sheridan’s reply: “Our traffic engineers reviewed the intersection that supports the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal,” he said. “The City of Seattle is open to the idea of modifying this intersection. We would be happy to explore changes that can better facilitate ferry terminal operations while also ensuring a safe roadway for all users.

“As this request is driven by their operational needs, changes at this location would need to be funded by the Washington state ferry system. We will reach out to them to share our perspective on the matter.”

Reader finds rush hour road job ill-timed

August 7th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Pete Wimmer of Silverdale e-mailed me on July 31 to say, “This morning coming in to work, a road crew (don’t know if it was city, county or state) was in the process of taking up the old crosswalk stripes at the corner of National and Loxie Eagans (in Bremerton). I can fully understand that it needs to be clearly marked for the school, but 6:30 a.m. is not the time.

“Now mind you that the backup was minimal, in the big picture of things, Loxie Eagans to the northbound Highway 3 on-ramp light, but to have started it after 7:30 might have been better.”

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says it was a county crew and it wasn’t starting early, it was finishing late.

“Our crews completed that work as part of an overnight work assignment of several intersections like that one,” he said. “The crew you saw working there was actually finishing up their overnight work projects and felt they could get that particular intersection done that morning. We usually try to wrap up overnight work by 6 o’clock but since the crew was out there they felt it would be efficient to get it done while they were in the area.

“We do try to minimize disruptions to traffic and don’t usually work during the rush hour.”

I hadn’t realized that the county had taken a page from state contract crews in doing road work at night. I asked how common it was.

“During the summer months we shift a crew to overnight work to focus on intersection and crosswalk striping as well as thermoplastic applications,” Doug said. “This minimizes the impact on motorists due to the lower traffic volumes.”

Thermoplastic is the material used in pavement arrows and many crosswalks and is melted onto the asphalt surface in lieu of paint.


Diamond shapes on signal cross-arms go unquestioned

August 5th, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: Usually when something unfamiliar shows up on the cross-arms of traffic signal poles, I get a question from someone who suspects we’re being tracked electronically.

That was the question when tall, camera-like objects were put on the cross-arms a few years back. And when camera-like devices like the one in the arcing off-ramp from southbound Highway 303 to Central Valley Road and along the uphill lanes of Port Orchard Boulevard appeared.

The first ones are optical traffic detectors that replace the in-pavement wire detectors that are expensive to work on when they fail. The others allow emergency vehicles to change an upcoming traffic signal to green even though it’s  around a curve from the approaching vehicles.

It hasn’t happened this time, although diamond-shaped devices I hadn’t noticed before have appeared on the signals on Mile Hill Drive in South Kitsap in front of South Park Village shopping center and at Long Lake Road.

Those are Kitsap County signals, so I asked the county about them.

The out basket: Doug Bear, spokesman for county public works says, “Those are radio antennas that are placed at intersections where we don’t have wire connections for the signals.”  They allow the county signal shop to communicate with the signal to diagnose problems and check on and/or alter its operation. “They are pretty uncommon as we usually have wired connections,” he said.

Registration in the trunk? Not a good idea

August 1st, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: One of the Seattle TV stations ran a weird story last week about a woman who had had her vehicle registration stolen from her glove box in a car prowl, leaving her fearful of ID theft and home invasion.

The report suggested taking your registration with you when parking in public. I don’t recall if that recommendation was attributed to any agency. An alternative would be to put it in the trunk.

If I followed the suggestion, I’d be applying for a new registration every month or so because I’d lose the one I’d taken from its relatively safe location in my glove box.

I asked my police sources if this is really a concern and about the most likely reaction by a police officer told by a stopped driver that his registration was in the trunk. And I asked the Department of Licensing if they charge for a replacement registration.

The out basket: None thought it to be much of a threat.

Brad Benfield of the Department of Licensing said, “This is an issue that came up a couple years ago, but I don’t get the sense that it’s a widespread problem or any more concerning than mail theft or other types of potential ID crime.”

Thieves had broken into cars at a movie theater and taken the registration and garage door opener, he recalled. “That way they would have the home address, a key, and knowledge the owners wouldn’t be home for at least an hour,” he said.

“From a document standpoint, a registration certificate just has a name and address on it – no driver license number or Social Security number. I don’t think it would be a highly valuable document for ID fraud purposes.”

And yes, they charge $5 for a replacement registration plus $5 more if at a subagent office.

Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office said storing one’s registration in the trunk is not a recommended action.

“Should a driver advise an officer that the document is in the trunk it will, most likely, result in a request by the officer for a second unit to respond to the location as a back-up, unless the patrol vehicle is a two-officer unit.

“Law enforcement officers aren’t real keen on vehicle occupants rummaging around inside of a car or wanting to gain access to the vehicle’s trunk.

“Performing these actions probably would lengthen the time of the vehicle traffic stop,” he said.

State Trooper Russ Winger added, “We can’t have motorists getting in and out of vehicles on a regular basis. It’s dangerous traffic-wise and also for officer safety.

“In rare cases, we can run a DOL check and get the information we require. But we need to have that registration produced by the driver as a routine procedure.

“I personally doubt that the criminal activity you are talking about is a common problem, although I have heard the instance of the garage door opener theft. But that was long ago.

“If you weigh the risks involved, I think driver and officer safety is far more important.

“Keep the papers in your car, not the trunk though. You can also fold it up and keep it in your wallet or purse if it is that concerning to you. Most insurance companies provide wallet size ID cards or can, if requested.”

Scott also noted that using a post office box number for your registration address, if you have one, would frustrate such a crime.


Olympic Interchange being fixed – again?

July 31st, 2014 by travis baker

The in basket: The news release issued this week telling of a protracted repair project on the Olympic Interchange bridge on Highway 16 in Gig Harbor surprised me. I thought it had already been fixed. I recall seeing the exposed rebar after a reader asked me what happened, and lane closures for work that covered the damage.

The news release also said the state would be seeking compensation from the company responsible for the damage, but didn’t say how much it will cost, or if they know who hit it.

The out basket: What I was recalling was an earlier incident that damaged the bridge in 2011, says Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region public affairs staff for the state Department of Transportation. That damage was repaired but the bridge was hit by an over-height load again last year.

This time, in addition to installing a new girder on the westbound half of the bridge, “to restore the integrity of the overpass,” the westbound lanes of SR 16 will be restriped to gain just over two inches of vertical clearance, and new overhead signs will be installed, she said. The westbound lanes are the ones heading toward Kitsap County.

The highway will be closed four nights with traffic detoured onto the off- and on-ramps, she said. The closures haven’t been scheduled.

They do know who hit it and the bill for the work, to last the rest of 2014, is estimated to be $1.4 million, she said.

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