A theory about Bethel Avenue’s roughness

The in basket: Charles Dick has a theory about why Bethel Avenue, now undergoing a maintenance project by the city of Port Orchard, is so terribly rough.

“Just after the county installed the new sewer line,” he said. “There was an earthquake that caused a lot of the man holes to sink.  They have been a problem ever since, with many repairs, but to no avail.  The earthquake probably separated the pipe joints, allowing soil to seep into the line, thus causing settling around the manholes.

“The road is really bad throughout the whole of the northbound lane,” he said. “It would seem that any repair will be major, in order to fix those man holes and pipe joints before the road base is repaired.  Has anyone looked into that problem and do you know of any plans to fix them?”

The out basket: The sewer lines and manholes are the property of West Sound Utility District, which says the mains are fine, and that the poor condition of the manholes has nothing to do with an earthquake.

Brett Winters, operations manager for the district, says, “West Sound Utility District installed the sewer main on Bethel Road in 1999. The sewer main and manhole locations are based on the proposed road improvements by Kitsap County.”

Since then, Port Orchard has annexed the road and its surroundings and that’s why it’s the one making pavement repairs on a portion of it this summer

“The manholes are normally placed in the center of the road to avoid traffic driving over them,” Brett continued. “The center of the proposed road placed the manholes temporarily in the wheel path of northbound vehicles on the existing road. The high volume of traffic driving across the manhole covers has caused the adjustment rings between the top of the concrete manhole structure and the cover at the road surface to break down. The cover then sinks below the surface of the asphalt as the adjustment rings degrade.

“The district has replaced the adjustment rings on the manholes several times over the years but the long-term fix is to move the manholes out of the wheel path of vehicles. We are working with the city of Port Orchard during their planning process to improve the Bethel Corridor. The alignment of the driving lane should move the wheel path off the manholes providing a long-term fix for the problem.

“The District has an aggressive sewer maintenance program that provides for inspecting all manholes, televising, inspecting and jet cleaning all sewer mains,” Brett said. “The pipe and manhole structures are in excellent condition and we are confident that the realignment of the driving lanes will stop the rapid deterioration of the adjustment rings.”

Mark Dorsey, Port Orchard’s public works director, said the work going on now is what he calls “mills and fills,” in which degrading pavement and subgrade are ground out and replaced between Mitchell Avenue and Vallaire Court on Bethel Avenue and between Cathie Lane and Carl Pickel Drive on Lund Avenue, with a new overlay of the Lund/Bethel intersection itself. The subgrade repairs can be more extensive and include use of a geotextile fabric, he said.

More mills and fills along the rest of the Bethel corridor are planned in 2016 and 2017.

The city must redesign the long-term improvement, which it will begin doing in 2018. “The actual Bethel Corridor reconstruction project is currently scheduled for 2025,” Mark said.

Overhead traffic detectors spotted on Highway 303

IMGP2319The in basket: Sharell Lee asks, “What are the new objects on the poles above the traffic lights at the intersection of Highway 303 and Brownsville Highway? They look like cameras, but there are no square boxes like at the intersection of Sylvan and Wheaton. What are they?”

Steve Van Wyk saw them too and asked, “What’s the deal with all the cameras that have been installed on Waaga Way and in Silverdale ? These things are now on virtually every stop-light stanchion.”

The out basket: They are overhead traffic detectors, used instead of the time-honored in-pavement wires that serve that function at most intersections.

Kitsap County has been using them at many of its intersections in Silverdale and South Kitsap for a few years. The state began using them three years ago, says Claudia Bingham-Baker, its spokeswoman for this region, and installs them as part of other projects, rather than wherever they have the wires. The project in this case is the paving work going on along 303.

I don’t recall seeing them on any other state signals here, but Claudia says these are a long way from the being first for the state.

They are preferred over the in-pavement wires, commonly called “loops,” because they are much easier to repair when they malfunction. Changes in the pixel pattern as vehicles arrive at a red light tell the light when it should change.

A commenter (see comments) on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com read the above and asked if the overhead detectors will be kinder to motorcycle and bicycle riders, who often don’t have the metal mass to be detected by the in-pavement wires.

Claudia said, “Yes, we think they do detect bicycles and motorcycles better than the loops. That would be especially true with bicycles built with carbon-fiber frames, since the loops depend on metal to detect vehicles.  Having said that, as you pointed out, the video detectors work by sensing contrast changes, so something like a deer could theoretically trigger them whereas that would not be an issue with the loops.”

Scotch broom infiltrating SR16 decorative medians

The in basket: I noticed during a series of trips to Tacoma and back recently that the median on Highway 16 along what I call the Purdy Bypass is particularly attractive, with flowering trees and other landscaping I must assume the state spend a good sum on when the highway was built. Some other stretches of Highway 16’s median are as nice.

But among the flowers in late May and early June was a tell-tale bright yellow, the blooms of scotch broom. They actually looked quite nice as an accent for the other plants while they lasted. But we all know what happens when scotch broom goes untended. You can see it blanketing the shoulders on either side of the nice medians.

The state finds it nearly impossible to eradicate scotch broom on its right of way, but I asked if the few plants that have gotten a toe-hold in an area the state evidently paid to make garden-like is something they try to remove.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokesperson for the state highways here, replied, “Unfortunately, we don’t have dedicated resources to totally clear scotch broom from our right of way. We use our limited resources to clear scotch broom in areas where it limits sight distance or encroaches into travel lanes.

“In the area you referenced, the scotch broom actually serves the useful purpose of reducing the glare at night from oncoming headlights.

There’s a lot more about the state’s roadside vegetation program online at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Maintenance/Roadside/.

Belfair Taco Bell creates left-turn headache

The in basket:  Karen Loren of Tahuya and Dan Dittmer of Belfair say the new Taco Bell in Belfair on Clifton Road has created a headache that stacks up cars waiting for the left-turners into the restaurant to get out of the way.

“With the new Taco Bell opening,” Dan said, “knot heads are turning left from Clifton into Taco Bell across a double yellow marked turn lane.  All this happens with Highway 3 traffic turning at the Safeway light to head towards South Shore (I think he must mean North Shore). Someone is going get nailed.”

Karen said that those who have turned right from Highway 3 quickly are stopped behind those wanting to turn into Taco Bell while cars in the left turn lane to enter the highway and go toward Bremerton block them, if traffic in the straight ahead/right turn lane hasn’t already.  It’ll get worse during the tourist-heavy summer, she predicts

Dan would like to see something like Kitsap County did on Myhre Road in Silverdale to prevent left turns just past PetSmart – a row of centerline pylons – and Karen advocates No Left Turn signage.

The out basket: Loretta Swanson of Mason County Public Works says, “The access to Taco Bell on Clifton Lane is to be a ‘right in, right out’ only access. There are some site improvements needed to make sure this happens and the project engineer for Taco Bell is following up on this.  Once the improvements are made, it should make it more difficult for drivers (westbound) to gain entrance from Clifton Lane.

“However, drivers may still attempt to cross the double yellow and turn pocket in an attempt to get to Taco Bell!  Public Works is presently evaluating sign and paint marking options to prevent this turning movement.”

It’s not illegal to turn across double yellow lines, not even pairs of them. Only signs, an 18-inch or wider centerline, crosshatching between the painted lines or a raised barrier forbids them.

Loretta continued to say, “We appreciate you and your readers passing along observations that may help improve traffic safety.  We also pass along a big ‘thank you’ for drivers being patient and safe during the many infrastructure improvements happening in Belfair.”

Expect turning pressure at Sedgwick & Phillips in SK

The in basket: Ken Hovater read the recent entry about the improvements  on Sedgwick Road at Ramsey Road that included left turn pockets on Sedgwick and Ramsey and a right turn lane on Ramsey, and asked, “Are there any similar plans to accommodate the increased traffic from the housing development being built near the intersection of Philips Road and Sedgwick?

The out basket: Some, though they wouldn’t be considered similar.

Claudia Bingham Baker, spokesman for the state highways here, said, “The Sedgwick/Phillips intersection already has left-turn pockets, so no changes are planned there.  What will be built at that development is a new eastbound right-turn pocket from Sedgwick, and eastbound right-in/right-out movement onto Sedgwick.”

That work is mostly complete with the pavement widened and a concrete island to force the right-in-right-out limitation started.

There actually are two contiguous housing developments under way there and those improvements appear to be the work of those doing the upper project.

I expect there will have to be signs posted to forbid left turns from the right-out-only access, as the temptation to turn left and go west on Sedgwick will  be great. It appears that the only approved way out of both developments, for those wanting to go toward Highway 16 and Port Orchard, will be via their Phillips Road access and then to Phillips’ intersection with Sedgwick.

Traffic already backs up regularly on Phillips there and it takes only a couple of cars wanting to turn left or go straight before would-be right turners can’t get past and must also wait.

Pressure for some kind of  enhanced traffic control is sure to build there.

The lower development is a “sweat equity” affordable housing project of Housing Kitsap, in which the home owners help build their homes. Stuart Grogan, head of Housing Kitsap, said his organization bought half of the approved development that comprises the two separate projects now.

“All of the circulation, intersection and access improvements as well as any required mitigation was negotiated by the original developer,” he said.

Manpower, timing hinder patrols near ferries

The in basket: Ron Johnson, a classmate of mine from South Kitsap’s class of 1961, called to seek help slowing down traffic on Sedgwick Road, near which he lives near the Southworth ferry terminal.

He is upset by the lack of speed enforcement and the high speeds of drivers on Sedgwick the last mile to the ferry, from just beyond Harper Church. He contends that motorcycles are doing 70-80 mph and cars are doing 50-60 mph.

Neighbors in the area have contacted/complained to the state DOT and state patrol and asked why they don’t do more to enforce speeds, especially in the morning and in the afternoon/commuting hours, he said..

“A lot of us walk around here,” he said. “We’ve hit the ditch more than once, believe me.”

He would like a flashing sign that shows speed, but state officials have told the neighbors they can’t have them on a state highway, he said.

The out basket: I’m not surprised by his assertions, but expect the problem to exist on any highway leading to a ferry terminal. Someone always seems to be running late for a departing boat.

State Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the State Patrol here, says, “Yes, this is fairly common on the local roadways leading up to the ferry terminals. Drivers are running late, trying to make the next ferry. This is not going to change.

“Our troopers do work the areas for speed when they can. The peak times for traffic to and from the terminals – a.m. and p.m. – unfortunately coincide with peak traffic elsewhere in the county. Troopers have more collisions, calls for service etc. to respond to during these times so it is not always easy to get out to these areas during the peak traffic times.

The areas in question, SR104 into Kingston and SR160  into Southworth, are well outside the urban core area in Kitsap County. This is another limiting factor along with the diminishing number of troopers working Kitsap – down to 17 from 27 in last two years. We provide 24/7 coverage and this puts between two and four troopers on the road on any given shift in Kitsap County.

“Kitsap County is a busy area, law enforcement speaking. We have plenty of traffic, collisions and calls for service that require responding to.

“These might sound like excuses but it is simple fact based on manpower available and calls for service.

“That said, we are aware of the potential speed problem in the areas and we do try to get out to them and slow people down as much as possible. Public perception of our efforts may or may not mirror reality but we do listen and try to increase efforts in problem areas.”

Claudia Bingham Baker of the state Department of Transportation says, “We tried using a “your speed is” speed sign on SR 3 on a trial basis, and we found it was not very effective. It’s not that we can’t put up the signs, it’s that they are not effective enough to be a good use of resources.”

You can’t board or leave a ferry without being recorded

The in basket: Listen up, readers. This is a really interesting one.

It starts with Ellen Ross-Cardoso, who is curious about an announcement she has been hearing on the Bainbridge Island-Seattle ferry reminding those who boarded on a bicycle to make sure they remember to leave with it. She thinks it’s dumb.

“Are bicycles so frequently left behind on the Bainbridge ferry run that it’s truly necessary to issue a reminder during the already annoying-enough arrival announcement on every run?” she asked.

“In the decades I’ve been riding the ferry, bicyclists were apparently capable until recently of riding off without having to have their memories jogged as to their mode of transportation upon boarding 35 minutes previously. When exactly did their memory issues reach critical mass? Is there a known link between cycling and memory loss? How frequently and in what numbers were/are bikes left behind? Is the announcement making a sufficient difference that it’s worth continuing to subject innocent victims to it?

“And lastly, is it only on Bainbridge? I’ve got a little money riding on the answer to that one.”

“At first I thought it was a joke, but they say it every single time. It’s not funny anymore,” she said.

The out basket: I don’t know why Ellen is so annoyed by the announcement, though I thought it was peculiar too. But I was thinking only of how easy it would be to set a bike aside so it didn’t interfere with off-loading vehicles.

Cars left behind by fares who usually walk on but drove that day and forgot would be more of an obstacle.

But Ellen and I both overlooked a key factor – the uncertainty about what became of the bike rider. Did he or she fall or jump overboard?

The Coast Guard will launch a search if a ferry rider is considered missing after the boat arrives. It didn’t have figures for how often they must respond and at what total cost. But when it happens, they send out what they call a “response boat medium,” which costs $6,631 an hour to operate, says Coast Guard Petty Officer Amanda Norcross. If they add a helicopter (an MH65 Dolphin helicopter, in Coast Guard parlance), that costs $8,600 an hour, she said.

The expense can be avoided, she said, if comparing recordings of the boat being loaded and then being off-loaded show someone biking aboard but walking off.

Which led me to the question that makes this really interesting, in my mind. Are all loadings and off-loadings recorded? And who looks for a match?

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the first answer is yes, as the ferries are an attractive terrorist target. And Helmut Steele, the ferries head of security, said it is a Homeland Security measure and there are cameras at all terminals and on each ferry.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “we do have people who, for a variety of reasons, whether it is a challenge or whatever, to jump off a ferry or to swim to shore.” Others do fall overboard or try to commit suicide. “We use those cameras to decide what we have.”

He estimates that someone goes into the water from a ferry and must be sought and retrieved about five times a year. The responses often involve a lot more than the Coast Guard – crews of that ferry and others, police and fire departments with rescue boats.

“My team has the ability to do that within WSF and WSP has a homeland security division,” he said. “They are there in person but also have a monitoring system that has the ability to monitor all these public cameras.” The images go to a control center.

And the bike announcement is played on all ferry runs, not just Bainbridge, he said.

He said the regular ferry rider may not be surprised that one can’t board or leave a ferry without being recorded. There are mentions of it in the terminals, on the boats and online, he said.

But it’ll probably be news to the casual ferry patron – me for example.

Changing lanes at intersection isn’t illegal

The in basket: Patricia Weatherman writes, “I thought that there was a rule that you could not change lanes within so many feet of an intersection (I think it was 100 feet when I took my driving test.)

“I have had several near misses of people coming into my lane, from either the right or left lanes, and one shot diagonally in front of me in the middle of the intersection not too long ago,” she said.

“This used to get a ticket real quick, now nobody seems to get ticketed and we seem to tolerate multiple near-misses in any given day. What gives??”

The out basket: The belief that you can’t legally change lanes within 100 feet of an intersection probably arises from confusion with the law the forbids passing within 100 feet of an intersection.

State Trooper Russ Winger says, “There is not a (state law) specific to prohibiting changing lanes within the intersection. A turning driver should always remember this, even if the other vehicle does not signal.

“There would be contributory fault if a collision occurred but even so, why risk it? The driver entering traffic will have a greater responsibility to yield the right of way. ‎Just wait until the turn is safe and clear.”

The Road Warrior often finds himself turning right into rush-hour traffic in Bremerton and I always remember that admonition. Mostly I worry that the front end of my turning car will swing into the inside lane too far but I also know that if someone in that inside lane moves over and hits me, I could be cited for failure to yield. If the inside lane traffic is moving at all quickly, I wait.

Pot holes near Silverdale Post Office to be repaired soon

The in basket: Several readers have asked about the pot holes they’ve had to cross in order to mail a letter in the drive-up blue boxes at the Silverdale Post Office.

“We would like to know who is responsible for filling in the ‘sinkholes’ in the side street by the Silverdale Post Office,” wrote Mary Whitmer. “Coming out of the parking lot or getting to the outside drop box is a hazard for our vehicles.   Hopefully, this is already on someone’s radar and is scheduled for repair.”

“The potholes are large and deep – someone or something is gonna get hurt,” said Ed, who didn’t want his last name used. He said he contacted Kitsap County, but the reply was “not our problem.”

“We asked the postal clerk to see how the pot hole could be repaired and he told us to contact the City of Bremerton,” said an e-mail co-signed by Bill and Kathy Holland. “These pot holes have been like that for over a month. Could you help with their repair ?”

Gail Mustonen added her concern about the same problem just this Monday.

The out basket: It was not the county’s problem because the street is private, never turned over to the county. The city of Bremerton has nothing to do with it.

There evidently has been some passing back and forth of the responsibility. But Don Morris of Seattle, who says he manages the building across the alley from the post office for the corporation that owns it, says they have asked for bids on the repair and it should be done in the next week or two. He wouldn’t get into details about what will be done, beyond saying previous attempts to repair the pot holes haven’t lasted and they’re looking for a more permanent fix.

Postal patrons won’t be the only ones relieved to have the holes filled.  Paul Long of the Meineke store across the alley said he won’t let his employees drive customers’ vehicles that way, for fear the wheel rims might get bent.

Is jaywalking still illegal?

The in basket: Melissa Carter Tangen asks a question I’m surprised hasn’t been asked before during the 19 years of the Road Warrior column. Is there still such a thing as jaywalking?

“The other day I was driving along Kitsap Mall Boulevard,” Melissa said, “and a man was standing at the corner of Poplars Road, with the intent to cross towards the mall. This is not a crosswalk and there are no signs alerting drivers that pedestrians may be crossing.

“A deputy was ahead of me in the left lane, I was in the lane closest to the curb, and he had stopped in middle of the road to apparently allow the pedestrian to cross.  This was unknown to me at the time.

“I slowed down, looked around to see if there was anything in middle of the road that was preventing the deputy from driving and saw nothing so I continued slowly forward.  The deputy then caught up with me, lights flashing, and warned me that pedestrians always have the right of way (agreed), and if there is any intent to cross the road, no matter where they are, that the drivers must stop.

“Obviously I understand if there is a person in the road crossing, I am going to stop.  However if they are standing on the curb planning to cross when the traffic is gone and they are not near a crosswalk, am I really supposed to just stop in middle of the road so they can perform, in all intents and purposes, a ‘jaywalk’?

“I could not find this rule anywhere in researching online, and in my opinion this is very dangerous because the drivers are not expecting to have to stop in middle of a stretch of road for a pedestrian who does not wish to walk to a crosswalk.  Can you enlighten me as to whether this is the law or just a common courtesy that may be done for a pedestrian?”

The out basket: Actually, the pedestrian Melissa describes was in a crosswalk, an unmarked one, which are considered to exist at any intersection of public roads that doesn’t have the painted variety.

Jaywalking does exist but, like California stops, the law doesn’t use the term. It says that a pedestrian cannot legally cross in the middle of a block with traffic signals at adjacent intersections. Kitsap Mall Boulevard’s intersections with Silverdale Way and Northwest Plaza Road aren’t adjacent, because Poplars lies between them and has no traffic signals. Plaza and Randall Way, the next street to the north, have no intervening intersections, so would be considered to be adjacent and crossing at mid-block there would be illegal.

Entrances to business parking areas are not legally intersections.

It’s a $56 fine.

Adjacent intersections with signals are uncommon in Kitsap County, and therefore, so is jaywalking

Frankly, it’s a tough call on whether to stop for a pedestrian waiting at the edge of a four- or five-lane street at an unmarked crosswalk, legally required or not. Drivers may not be able to see the walker because some car will always be stopped first, and may shield the pedestrian from the view of those in the other lane. If you don’t properly interpret why the other car is stopped, it seems a situation where the pedestrian is in greater danger, not less.

But the law says what it says, and Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s department, puts it this way.

“We recognize that the location where Poplars Avenue joins Kitsap Mall Boulevard is not the most optimum in that the intersection is on a curve.  This intersection does not contain a marked crosswalk that crosses the five lanes of Kitsap Mall Boulevard.

” A pedestrian who wishes to cross Kitsap Mall Boulevard, at this intersection, is required to wait until approaching traffic is clear and it is safe to proceed across the roadway, per RCW 46.61.240(1).”

If you want to read an RCW, they are online at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/

“If a pedestrian has stepped off of the curb and is walking across a marked or unmarked crosswalk,” Scott said, “approaching traffic must stop and yield to the pedestrian when the pedestrian is within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling.  Essentially, if the pedestrian is crossing in front of them, drivers need to wait until the pedestrian has reached the centerline or center turn lane before proceeding. If the pedestrian is crossing from the opposite side, drivers must stop and yield once the pedestrian arrives at the roadway centerline or center turn lane.  RCW 46.61.235(1).

“Whenever a vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk, or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.  RCW 46.61.235(4). This is the statute that applies to the situation presented by Ms.Tangen.

“Without speaking with the deputy mentioned in Ms. Tangen’s e-mail,” Scott continued, “I don’t have the total story as to why the deputy stopped to permit the pedestrian to cross at that intersection.  The law doesn’t require a driver to stop for a pedestrian waiting on the sidewalk at an unmarked intersection to cross the street. It’s the pedestrian’s responsibility to yield to approaching traffic and proceed across the intersection when it’s safe to do so.

“Jaywalking: yes, in those instances where a pedestrian would be crossing the roadway between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation.  This is more applicable to urban settings than to most situations in unincorporated Kitsap County, as there may be significant distance between adjacent intersections with traffic control signals.

“Pedestrian safety recommendation: Take the extra time and steps to walk to the nearest signal-controlled intersection. It doesn’t take that much time.  It’s inherently much safer than attempting to cross five lanes of traffic where drivers are not expecting a pedestrian to cross and visibility of the pedestrian (by drivers) may be hampered.  Go with the signal… it’s in your favor!”