State budges slightly on yellow flashing lefts

The in basket: Probably the most common inquiry/request I get is for installation of flashing yellow left turn arrows at intersections where they don’t now exist. For the most part, those requests involve traffic signals on state highways, including Kitsap Way (SR306) Waaga Way (SR303) and SR305 through Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island.

I have to tell those who make the request that the position of the Olympic Region signal shop, which I have assumed is the position of the region’s administration and probably the entire state Department of Transportation, is that an intersection must have a substantial upgrade in its physical alignment before they would consider reducing the amount of control there. I have gotten that from those in the signal shop.

I decided to quit assuming and asked Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokesman for the Olympic Region, what the state’s official position is on adding the yellow flashing lefts, which allow turners to proceed during red lights on the accompanying straight-through movements, provided the turner yields to any oncoming traffic or that otherwise has the right of way.

Kitsap County took the lead in introducing and using the flashing lefts, though not without problems. It has now been adding signs on the crossbars emphasizing that turners on the yellow flashing lights must yield.

The out basket: Claudia says there is some movement in the direction of using the flashing yellows on state highways, but not here yet.

“WSDOT has installed a few flashing yellow arrows at intersections on state highways in our Northwest Region (which covers King, Snohomish, Whatcom, Island and Skagit counties),” she said. “WSDOT is considering possible installations at other areas around the state.”

Bethel Road much smoother now

The in basket: I must have stayed away from Bethel Road in Port Orchard for a while because I was surprised to see that a major dig-out and patching operation had been completed, providing stretches of new asphalt where the roadway had been rough and cracking.

Some patches  stretched across the entire roadway and it continued on down to the roundabout at Highway 166. It’s a much smoother drive now.

I asked Port Orchard public works how that all meshes with the overall plans for the Bethel Corridor since the city annexed it. Though the plans didn’t extend past Lincoln Road when it was the county’s project. it’s all inside the city now. On the other end, the work stops just past Fred Meyer, which was its terminus under the county plan.

The out basket: Public Works Director Mark Dorsey says, “Upon annexation, getting the Bethel Road Corridor (SR 166 to just south of Fred Meyer) ‘drivable’ for the next 20 years was a city priority….split into 2 years.

“Last year we did (some) grind-out/repairs, plus a full overlay at Bethel/Lund (since this area does not change in the future.) This year we are finishing up the program with remaining grind-out/repairs.”

A city redesign of the overall corridor improvements is now scheduled for 2017-18, but enough money has been garnered finally to move ahead with the long-planned Tremont Avenue widening, which may absorb the city’s attention for a while.

“The actual Bethel Corridor reconstruction project is scheduled to commence right-of-way acquisition in 2025 and construction in 2027 (subject to change),” Mark said.  “We have a draft conceptual Corridor Plan prepared….but it has not been vetted.”

The Tremont project, the latest grant for which has just been approved in the amount of $1.7 million, is to be done by 2018. It will create roundabouts on Tremont at Pottery Avenue and South Kitsap Boulevard in place of traffic signals, widen Tremont to four lanes to Highway 16, and add underground utilities, pedestrian and bicycle accommodations, street lighting and landscaping.

Sedgwick Road backups may get studied

The in basket: I get occasional complaints about the growing congestion on Sedgwick Road in South Kitsap on either side of Highway 16.

The first one, a couple of years ago, mentioned backups eastbound from Sidney Road past Bethel Road in the afternoon, but most lately discuss the long backups at the Bethel Road signal going westbound, toward Highway 16.

One recent Saturday afternoon, those who got through that backup found themselves in another one, from the freeway almost to Ramsey Road. I was one of them and wasn’t expecting that.

I asked state highway folks if they are working on anything to address Sedgwick’s problems.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways says, “WSDOT received funding to conduct a study along SR 16 that identifies contributors to highway congestion.  “We expect, as part of that study, to look at interchanges between the Tacoma Narrows bridges and SR 3 and identify potential strategies to reduce congestion.”

Reader wonders about payment for bridge accident search

The in basket: Michael J. Feely wonders about the expense of the search for and recovery of the state bridge worker who evidently drove through a chain on the Hood Canal Bridge’s lower level and went into the water. His car and body were later recovered.

“Who pays for the recovery efforts?” he asked. “I know an unmanned sonar was used and a recovery team that recovered the vehicle and the victim’s body was used. Is that something the highway department pays for, the person’s vehicle insurance company or does the family have to pay for it?

“If the family has to pay for it, is there somewhere people can donate to help the family?”

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways, replies, “Our WSDOT Hood Canal Bridge employee was on the bridge, and in WSDOT’s employ, at the time of the accident. WSDOT is responsible for the recovery of our coworker and his vehicle.

“We’re touched that your reader asked if he could contribute funds to the family. One avenue we can offer is the WSDOT Memorial Foundation, which is a non-profit organization designed to provide assistance to WSDOT employees and their families in times of need (http://www.wsdotmf.org/) .

City, county working on getting stretch of Riddell repaved

The in basket: Joe Haptas writes, “At the present time the county is spending a large amount of money on the improvements at the junction of McWilliams Road and Old Military in Central Kitsap.  Those of us who use this road, wonder why.
“Some funds do need to be spent on Riddell Road between Wheaton Way and Pine Road. This section of the road has to be the worst washboard road in Central Kitsap and needs to be repaved. I believe the road is split between the city of Bremerton and the county and the county side is the worst side.
“Do you know of any plans to repave this short section?”
The in basket: The fact that portion of Riddell serves as the boundary between the city and county seems to be confusing things, but both entities have hopes to repave it this summer.
Doug Bear of county public works says, “The county side of that area is scheduled to be repaved this summer.”
Chal Martin, the city’s public works director, said this week, “We are still hoping to coordinate our effort with Kitsap County and get this segment repaved this summer.  I would say it is 50/50 as I write this response.”
I’ve asked intermittently how responsibility for maintenance and reconstruction is decided with streets and roads that serve as a boundary, as Riddell does, and never got a very clear answer. Reading between the lines of the two responses above, I’d guess the answer isn’t crystal clear to anyone.
As for the McWilliams/Old Military work, the reason was mentioned in a front page Kitsap Sun story Tuesday. It is prompted by 16 accidents at the intersection in the past five years, and hopes to prevent future ones with a left turn lane on eastbound McWilliams.

PO Post Office egress is a neck-strainer

The in basket: William Bozarth asks, “Is there a chance that a mirror be placed such that a person leaving the Port Orchard Post Office can see traffic coming down the hill?

“There are trees blocking the view of traffic,” he said. “The exit is an angle that makes it difficult to look over one’s shoulder.  My feelings are this is an accident waiting to happen.”

The out basket: I’m surprised that I haven’t heard this one before, as I can attest that it’s hard on one’s neck to look back and get a good enough view of on-coming traffic to feel confident pulling out. Usually I roll down my window so I can stick my head farther out.

Mark Dorsey, Port Orchard’s public works director, said he’d not heard complaints about it either. “It’s a right-out only and I have never had a complaint or concern,” he said. “The only issue we have heard about involves drivers trying to make a U-turn,” which the city addressed with an island and extended with pylons to prevent that.

It’s telling that Mark uses the term U-turn. That’s what it felt like before the city prohibited turning left. The city wants those leaving the post office to go down to the roundabout and return if they want to go south. I suppose some do, but many use the wide spot in front of the Vista Motel to double back.

Mark said “We can look at any sight distance issues,” which probably would consider whether some or all of the trees should be removed.

I doubt that a mirror would last very long before a driver hit and destroyed it.

 

Why recovery of truck on Memorial Day weekend?

 

The in basket: Dave Dahlke says he wasn’t personally affected by the Memorial Day weekend blockage by the state Department of Transportation of the southbound lanes of Highway 16 to pull a semi out of a ravine but he read the letter to the editor from Frank Kolb in the Kitsap Sun excoriating the agency for its timing.

Frank, who WAS personally affected, wrote, in part, “It had been there for days! The removal could have been done at night, but the morning schedule meant that at 11 a.m. traffic was stopped before Mullenix Road heading south. Thousands of motorists (myself included) had their holiday weekend ruined due to this all-day fiasco. I tried to go down Bethel-Burley Road, but that was no better, so myself and countless others just turned around and went home.

“I called 511, no info there,” Frank said, “no notice was posted anywhere that would have warned us. I thought it must have been a fatal accident, no one at DOT would lack the common sense to plan something like this. But I was wrong…”

Dave asked if I could “find out who and why this travesty was done at the time it was and with no notification to the public that it was going to happen.”

The out basket: Doug Adamson of the Olympic Region public affairs office for WSDOT, replied, “I’d like to first apologize for the inconvenience this semi-truck recovery caused the traveling public.

“Our plan was to choose a low-volume time to remove the semi-truck. We, of course, knew that the Sunday in question was in the middle of the Memorial Day weekend. That fact would normally work in our favor, as the middle day of a three-day weekend normally sees lighter traffic volumes (especially in those early-morning hours). We expected the recovery to take place between 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., and to have all lanes back open long before traffic volumes built.

“Unfortunately things did not go exactly as planned.  The semi had gone down a steep embankment while carrying tens of thousands of pounds of cargo. We chose to do the recovery during daylight hours because, while our goal is to keep traffic moving, safety is our number one priority.  During recovery, unfortunately the heavy load inside the trailer shifted and resulted in a much longer recovery time than planned to retrieve the trailer and semi-truck.

“Information about the closure did go out to the public, via WSDOT’s GovDelivery email and text system. It was also posted on our travel alerts web page, and shared on the WSDOT Twitter account.

“We certainly do thank drivers for their patience,” Doug concluded. “We understand how delays are frustrating.”

Power line upgrades coming to Gorst, Sunnyslope area

The in basket: On my intermittent trips between Port Orchard and Belfair, I’ve noticed that the underbrush has been removed from beneath the power lines on the west side of Highway 3 between Gorst and Sunnyslope Road. The clearing is about the width of a road, but with the power poles in the way, that didn’t seem like a probable explanation for the work. Trucks for Potelco, Puget Sound Energy’s repair contractor, are often in the area.

I asked PSE what’s up.

The out basket: Akiko Oda, spokeswoman for PSE replied, “We have several projects along State Route 3 slated for this year:

– A tree wire project along SR 3 beginning at Sunnyslope Road to the end of PSE’s line, just south of Lake Flora Road (about 4.3 miles). This project replaces the center conductor with tree wire.”

Tree wire is a specially coated, overhead wire that’s designed to prevent an electric short (and subsequent outage) when a tree limb falls into a power line, a PSE Web site says. “Where installed, it significantly reduces the frequency of tree-related outages, but cannot prevent all disruptions (e.g. if an entire tree falls into a power line),” it says.

”As a permitting requirement, we’ll be working 20 feet from the fog line and also conducting some night work, which will require closing a lane of traffic,” she said. The work began last month and is expected to take four months.

– “Overhead and underground construction work along SR 3 from North Birch Avenue W to Sunnyslope Road. We’ll be installing a second circuit and rebuilding the existing circuit using tree wire (about 1.3 miles).

– “Rebuilding the distribution line from SR 3 along Victory Drive, east along Old Clifton, stopping at Feigley Road (about 2.8 miles).

A PSE Web site has more information, under its “In Your Community” link

There’s a reason street goes unswept

The in basket: Bob Gordon writes, “The street sweeper never comes through our street (Green Glenn Lane) and it is covered with pine needles, branches and  the like. What is the rule about getting it swept up after a storm?

“Some of the residents go out and sweep it up but what are we paying taxes for? I realize that this is a cul-de-sac but there is a way in and a way out for the sweeper to come through there.”

The out basket: Like many roads in Kitsap County, Green Glenn Lane was never accepted by the county for maintenance. Doug Bear of the county’s public works department, says, “NE Green Glenn Lane is a private road. Maintenance on that road is the responsibility of the property owners along it.”

Usually, being accepted for county maintenance requires having the road brought up to county standards. I would guess the street sign has a “pvt” for private on it and maybe even a “U” if it’s unmaintained.

Mileposts every 10th of a mile on the East Coast

The in basket; Last autumn I found myself driving a rental car in Virginia, and saw something that made a lot of sense, but that I’d never seen before.

Rather than a milepost marker every mile, there was one every tenth of a mile. I’d always wondered what chance a motorist has of knowing where he is on an unfamiliar highway when reporting an accident or hazard or calling for assistance, when he’d have to walk one way or the other for up to a mile if he guessed wrong before he came to one.

I finally decided to call Virginia to learn their origin and checked on line, too.

The out basket: It turns out mileposts are officially called “reference location signs” if a mile apart, and “intermediate reference location signs” if they are separated by tenths of a mile. Some include the word “enhanced” if they also show direction and route number.

It seems to be an East Coast thing. Virginia has posted intermediate reference location signs along most of its Interstate network in recent years. There are also online comments about them being in Maine, Delaware and Pennsylvania. A lot of the comment wonders about whether they’re worth the money.

Jason Bond of the Virginia Department of Transportation tells me, “In Virginia, there are intermediate mile markers (one-tenth or two-tenth spacing) on Interstate 81 and Interstate 95, the two major north-south interstates. There are also intermediate mile markers on portions of I-66.

“In 2004, VDOT installed the state’s first tenth-mile markers on I-81 which is located in the western part of the state and extends 325 miles from Tennessee to West Virginia.

“In 2005, some two-tenth mile markers were installed as a pilot on segments of I-95, I-64 and I-195.

“The intermediate mile markers were intended to improve safety for stranded motorists, especially those unfamiliar with the area in which they are traveling, by improving their ability to identify their location for assistance.

“The markers were also installed to help VDOT personnel make better estimates of traffic backups and pinpoint work zone locations,” he said.

“Given the expansion of cell phones usage and GPS navigation, VDOT decided not to install immediate mile marker signs on systemwide basis.  VDOT now only considers installing two-tenth or one-tenth mile markers at interstate locations to address specific operations or safety issues,” Jason concluded.

I don’t know if they’ve been tried anywhere west of the Mississippi. I’d not seen any in the western states.