The in basket: Shirley Morgan wonders what she should do with
her old license plates when she is required to replace them, as we
all are about every seven years.
The out basket: I asked Brad Benfield of Department of Licensing if
my first-blush notion that cutting up the plates and recycling them
with metal is the best idea. He replied:
“You have a couple of options for disposing of them. The
first option is putting them in your recycling or trash (depending
your local solid waste disposal requirements). DOL recommends
them in half if you choose to do this.
“Old plates also can be dropped off at your neighborhood vehicle
office. This is a good option for anyone who doesn’t have the
cut their plate in half,” he said.
“Of course, there are other, more creative solutions for old
plates. Sometimes they wind up in the hands of license plate
others who hang them as decorations. Others have used them to
birdhouses or as the covers for notebooks. I also occasionally
requests for old plates from Hollywood prop houses who want to use
in television shows or movies,” he said.
On the subject of plates, my e-mail recently brought a warning that
gas thieves have taken to stealing good plates and putting them on
their own cars so the plate’s owner gets the blame when the thief
drives off without paying for gas. Check frequently to make sure
your plates are on your car and report their theft immediately if
not, said the e-mail.
Snopes.com, the urban legend buster, says that’s good advice,
though disguising a stolen car or armed robbery get-away car would
be a more likely motive for the theft of plates than gas
drive-offs. The growing practice of most stations of requiring
payment for gas in advance by credit card or otherwise makes plate
thefts for purpose of stealing gas “not really information that
needs to be spread to everyone’s nearest and dearest at the speed
of light,” said Snopes.
The in basket: With tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge seemingly
fated to jump a dollar per crossing in about a month, Carol Johnson
asks “Where’s the money from all the Good-To-Go! accounts
kept? Who gets the interest generated from holding that
money? And does it go into the general fund and get spent for
who knows what or is it earmarked to pay down the debt for the
“Inquiring minds want to know,” she said.
The out basket: Janet Matkin of the Good to Go! staff answers that
the narrows bridge tolls “are accounted for in a separate account
within the state treasury that is dedicated to the Tacoma Narrows
Bridge. All spending is appropriated by the Legislature and
allotted and monitored by the Office of Financial Management.”
Interest is accrued on toll revenue, including the prepaid Good to
Go! accounts, and has been dedicated to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge
account, she said. All toll revenue and interest earnings in the
account will go towards paying the debt on bonds used to finance
construction of the bridge and for paying ongoing operating and
maintenance costs. Retirement of the bonds will allow the tolls to
end, expected to happen in 2030.
The opening of tolled HOT lanes (on Highway 167 east of I-5))
earlier this month complicates the matter as far as crediting
interest earnings on the prepaid accounts to the correct facility,
So the state is creating a Central Tolling Fund in which “all Good
To Go! prepaid deposits will go into a central deposit fund. Then,
when a customer uses one of the tolling facilities, the appropriate
toll is recorded and that amount is transferred to the correct
“The interest from the prepaid accounts will be distributed on a
percentage basis determined by the revenue levels for each fund,”
Inquiring minds can learn more in RCWs 47.56.160 and 47.56.165, she
Randy Boss, a critic of the bridge tolls, says he has submitted a
public records request for bank records to check on this answer,
and says he’ll let us know what he finds when he gets them.
The in basket: Way back last fall there were several incidents
in which motorcyclists crashed after hitting a slick spot left on a
seam between new and old pavement on the newly widened Highway 3
south of Sunnyslope.
One of them, Craig Smith of Bremerton High School, called it to my
attention and Joseph Hunter also wrote about it. Craig said his
bike was badly damaged.
Joseph described one of the incidents. “It was a light shower about
1 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon,” he said. “(Craig) was on his
home with two other riders. The seam of the new pavement developed
from the centerline and transitioned 5-10 degrees towards the
“This liquid cools relatively quickly, resulting in a very
glass-like finish. When wet, the surface is very slick…,” Joseph
“When the first bike crossed the seam in
the left tire track,” he said, “the wheels slipped, causing the
rear wheel to come around just enough to develop a porpoise effect.
The first rider lost
control and went down.” The second rider also fell trying to avoid
The incident was mentioned in the November edition of Mike
Dalgaard’s “Quick Throttle” magazine, a local biker’s publication.
“Be vigilant, be aware and look ahead for ‘shiny’ spots when in an
area that has recently been worked on,” the magazine advised,
adding a request for rock chips or some other non-skid product to
The state quickly went out last fall and roughed up the seams on
Highway 3, making them safer.
The out basket: For one reason or another, it took me months to get
a usable state comment on this, probably because the fallen
motorcyclists have filed claims for their damages and lawyers don’t
like their clients to make out-of-court comment on pending
I reckoned the slickness problem was either a new procedure or an
old one in which a final step had been omitted.
Lisa Murdock of the state’s Olympic Region this month sent me this
“The overlay between the old and new pavement is not something new.
typically happens is the overlay gets seasoned with wear and tear.
In this section, our crews went back out and ground the sealant to
speed up the ‘seasoning’ or traction process.
“I believe this case was sent to our tort claim office and, you’re
right – until we know the legal ramifications – we can’t speak to
the specific incident/issue,” she said.
The in basket: Larry Blaine of Poulsbo says he’s happy that the
extension of Seventh Avenue into Forest Rock
Lane at Highway 305 has been opened, but says there have been
conflicting directions for westbound drivers at the intersection of
Forest Rock and Highway 305.
“The lane marking for the left lane is ‘left only,’ and the lane
marking for the right lane is ‘thru or right,'” he said. “But the
sign on the signal for the right lane says ‘right turn only,’ and
there are no signs on the signals for the left lanes.
“Saturday I waited in the right lane to go straight ahead and had
several drivers behind me (justifiably) mad at me for not turning,”
“I realize the markings are only temporary – but before they become
permanent, I suggest that the left lane be marked ‘left or thru’
and the right lane ‘right only,’ since that is the direction most
people turn when using the intersection,” Larry said.
The out basket: It may be fixed by now. Andrzej Kasiniak, Poulsbo’s
city engineer, mentioned it to the state after I passed on Larry’s
complaint and Andrjez said the signs were correct when Seventh
Avenue was barricaded and through traffic wasn’t an option. The
contract for the state’s widening project omitted removal of the
“right turn only” sign when Seventh opened, he said.
They’ll be removing it soon if it hasn’t already been done, he
said. That’s not the alignment Larry favored, but it won’t
contradict the pavement markings.
The in basket: Karl Hadley e-mails to say that on Highway 305,
newly widened, “bicyclists enjoy a nice shoulder for safe travel,
until they reach intersections where curbing is installed right up
to the car traffic lane, making it necessary for the bicyclists to
either jeopardize their safety by entering the car traffic lane, or
negotiate pedestrians by using the curb ramp to ride up on the
“This happens on both sides of the road at the intersection for
Central Market and 305, and at the turn off to Poulsbo Village,
where a right-turn lane appears without any bicycle-designated
path, he wrote.”
The out basket: Michele Britton, a state highway engineer in
Tumwater, fielded this one.
“The design areas you are referring to are designed as multi-use
shoulders and meet design standards.
“The philosophy behind the design is explained below:
“The thought process behind bicycle lanes dedicated to
bicycles only is that they are to be treated just like vehicle
lanes and that a vehicle in the adjacent lane is not supposed to
turn in front of the occupant (the same as if we had two
travel lanes, the left lane would not turn right onto a side street
from the left lane).
(But) the lanes you refer to are not dedicated bicycle lanes.
“The case for multi-use shoulders is different. Drivers in
vehicle lanes are not as accustomed to looking for vehicles or
bicycles proceeding along a shoulder and are more likely to turn in
front of them. The sidewalk placement helps deter
these conflicts. By placing the sidewalk partially into
the shoulder, it forces bicycles out closer to the lane to
partially merge in with other crossing traffic, increasing
visibility and awareness, thus lessening the possibility of those
vehicles turning in front of the bicycles,” she said.
“Reducing the shoulder width at intersections also reduces
pedestrian exposure in crosswalks and discourages motorists from
using the shoulder to bypass the through traffic.”
The in basket: Frank Haney of Port Orchard e-mailed last October
after I wrote about some misunderstandings as to what the
hands-free cell phone law will forbid and when it is effective,
which is July 1.
I had debunked a notion my wife had overheard at a garage sale that
Bluetooth, the wireless earpiece that lets you talk without holding
a cell phone to your ear, would be illegal if worn in the ear next
to the window. It won’t.
But Frank wrote, “I don’t know if your wife’s friend is really
off-base with the Bluetooth idea. I think that right now with the
law as it currently is, the Bluetooth is an illegal device while
drive a motor vehicle in the State of Washington.
“How do I think this, you ask?, Well, here you go.
“In the State of Washington, it is illegal to wear headphones or
ear plugs while operating a motor vehicle on the public highways,”
Frank said. “Things like iPods, cassette players and such are
strictly forbidden when used with ear devices that would block or
hinder the wearer from hearing outside noise such as other vehicles
honking horns or, better yet, emergency vehicles running code.”
The out basket: Krista Hedstrom, spokeswoman for the local State
Patrol detachment, says “The Bluetooth wireless device is allowed
by law because it only covers one ear and allows you to hear what
is going on within your surroundings.
“Earphones, on the other hand, go in both ears, not allowing you to
hear what is going on – which is why they are illegal while
“The hands-free law does not apply to those driving an
emergency vehicle or tow truck, those reporting illegal activity or
emergencies, and does not apply to a person using a hearing aid,”
she added in an aside.
The hand-free law forbids only holding a cell phone to your ear
while driving. You still can dial one or look down at one.
I think those who consider this some major breakthrough in highway
safety are kidding themselves. My personal experience tells me it
will make things worse.
My Bluetooth set won’t stay in my ear. The wire loop over my ear
yanks it out. I’ve always worn one of the largest hat sizes, so
maybe my ears are outsized too. Anyway, I have to fiddle with the
thing as I drive to keep it in my ear. And making sure whether it’s
turned on or not is another distraction.
A wire is even worse. It can get tangled up. Finding it in a dark
car in motion is hard and risky, and then you have to get it into
your ear or – Heaven forbid – plugged into your cell phone.
I know all of this can be avoided by planning ahead or having the
ear piece in your ear before starting out. But I expect thousands
of cell phone users to be fumbling around with their new ear pieces
around July 1, especially during incoming calls, and that a spike
in wrecks will result.
Our new Prius is Bluetooth compatible, meaning you hear the phone
call through a speaker in the car, so that may not be so bad. But
most cars aren’t.
Krista says, “The WSP encourages drivers to become familiar with
the hands-free device they have purchased prior to using it, and
know how it operates so that it does not take away from their
ability to drive. There are several hands-free devices; the one
that clips onto your visor seems to be popular.
“Many people choose to leave the hands-free device attached to
their ear the entire time they are in the car, that way they are
not struggling to put it in place once they get a call,” she
The in basket: The storm over the new Silverdale interchange
where highways 3 and 303 meet doesn’t seem to have abated. Mostly,
it’s discussed on the Opinion Page and I try to stay out of it.
South Kitsapers like myself are among the main beneficiaries of the
changes. And I have yet to drive there on a rainy night, which is
when the critics say it is the worst.
I did pass along to Brenden Clarke, the project engineer, an e-mail
from Dave Waller testifying to something that seems to justify one
of the most common fears. It is that the left turn signals to turn
north onto Highway 3 are so positioned that a confused or impaired
driver might turn down the oncoming off-ramp and drive into
oncoming freeway traffic.
“I was traveling south on my motorcycle at about 11:15 p.m.
coming from the Bangor Main Gate,” Dave said on March 21.
He was approaching the off-ramp to Silverdale Way/Waaga Way.
“I had just passed a car and moved back into the slow lane when a
car passed by me. He was traveling north in the southbound fast
“I was very surprised! So were co-workers of mine who had to dodge
the northbound intruder.
“Once the car in error had some breathing room, it turned around,
to head south. I can only surmise that the car made the wrong turn
on the overpass.”
A number of letter writers have claimed to be so fearful of the new
interchange that they travel the county roads between Poulsbo and
Silverdale to avoid it.
Others say they pass up the two-lane left turn from westbound
Highway 303 to southbound Highway 3 and proceed past Clear Creek
Road and make the gradual right onto another on-ramp to southbound
Vince Mattson, a retired engineer living on Bainbridge Island, sent
me a copy of a letter he’d sent the state back in 2004, predicting
some of the problems the proposed new interchange would create if
built. He then advised against the two-way turn onto the ramp to
He now suggests that that ramp be closed and all westbound Highway
303 traffic wanting to go south on Highway 3 be required to use the
right turn ramp many say they are using already.
I asked if there have been many accidents on the new interchange,
if traffic on those county roads is up, and whether closing the
two-way turn lane onto the ramp to southbound 3 is a good idea.
The out basket: Steve Bennett of the state’s Olympic Region
engineers says “Since the opening of the new interchange in
mid-November of last year through mid-February of this year, there
have been four collisions
within the interchange area. Two were non-injury collisions and two
were possible injury collisions.” Figures for the two months since
weren’t gathered yet.
From Jan. 1, 2001 through Dec. 31, 2005, there was a collision
within the interchange area about 3.5 times per month, he said.
“While it looks promising, with only three
months worth of ‘after’ data, it is still too early to draw any
substantial collision comparisons between the new and
old interchanges,” he said.
The county’s traffic counts on Silverdale Way and Viking Way, the
most likely route between Silverdale and Poulsbo other than the
freeway, show an increase in use during construction of the new
interchange but that traffic counts are back to what they used to
be before the project started.
Finally, Brenden says the two-lane turn onto the southbound ramp to
Highway 3 will become more important next year. That’s when the
county hopes to complete a new road between Clear Creek and Old
Frontier roads, providing a new way to and from the interchange for
traffic on Anderson Hill, Provost and Old Frontier roads.
It will increase traffic on Clear Creek at the new light, he said,
requiring longer waits for those on Highway 303. That will make
continuing on to the right-turn on-ramp less attractive.
It probably will be another irritation for North Kitsapers, as
well. The project already has eliminated their direct access from
Kitsap Mall Boulevard to Highway 3 northbound, requiring that they
pass through the Clear Creek light.
The in basket: Saturday is the day that highway tolls in our
state take the next big leap forward, when congestion-pricing tolls
offer single-occupant vehicles access to the HOV lanes between
Renton and Auburn on Highway 167.
Between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. seven days a week, a car with the same
transponder that works to pay one’s toll to cross the Tacoma
Narrows Bridge will let a driver alone in his car pay to use the
HOV lanes, called HOT lanes in this case. The price will range from
50 cents to $9, depending on how badly the highway is congested.
The Web site suggests the typical rush hour price will be around
$5. Signs along the freeway will announce the toll at any given
Shields that sell for $3.50 can be affixed to a transponder to keep
it from being read in cars with more than one occupant, buses,
vans, etc., which are entitled to use the lanes for free. The
shields have to be removed to cross the Narrows Bridge, or when a
driver is alone and wants to use the HOT lanes. They are velcroed
to the inside of the windshield and somehow interrupt the
connection between the transponder and overhead reader without
actually being between them.
If you are a bridge user and have a transponder, don’t just ignore
that e-mail you got this week from the Good to Go! toll program
about the HOT lanes. Janet Matkin of that office says they’ll use a
“customer-friendly manner” in dealing with drivers who get tolled
because they forgot or didn’t understand the shield when they hit
Highway 167, but they won’t easily reverse the toll.
Janet says about 5,000 of the shields have been bought. She didn’t
know how many of those are mainly Narrows Bridge users.
There is a lot of information on a state Web site as to how it will
all work, with the obligatory Frequently Asked Questions section.
But, wouldn’t you know it, I had some questions that must not be
frequently asked, but that I bet will enter the minds of dozens of
drivers every day.
For example, I wonder how long a toll collection is good for. If a
person pulls off in Kent for half an hour, will he be charged again
to continue on in the HOT lanes, or will the original toll cover
him when he returns to the freeway? How about if he returns to go
back the other way? What if he forgot to stop at a previous
interchange and goes back, then retraces his path in the original
Will a HOT lane trip to go to dinner in the evening require a new
toll if the car was accessed tolls on a trip to work and back
earlier in the day?
The out basket: Patty Rubstello of the HOT lanes project says most
of my theoretical situations will require paying the toll more than
once. Certainly a new toll must be paid to change directions and go
back in the HOT lane. A toll for travel in one direction will be
good for the 20 minutes or so it is expected to take a HOT lane
driver the length of the corridor, about a dozen miles, she said. A
half-hour stop in Kent would use that up and incur a new toll to
return to the HOT lanes.
Unlike on he Narrows Bridge, the driver of a transponder-equipped
car will see a white light flash each time he passes beneath a
reader, even if the toll is collected only once. That’s more to
tell enforcement officers that the toll has been paid than to
comfort the driver, Patty said.
The in basket: Don Brandvold reminds me that in the spring of
2006, he asked about the water coming up in the road (Highway 166)
in front of the Dockside marina. “After checking, you wrote back
that it was scheduled to be fixed in the summer of 2007,” he
“Well, here it is spring of 2008 and still nothing has been
done. Could you check with them again?”
The out basket: That’s what I wrote, alright, though I don’t recall
why. I most recently was of the belief that the project would be
done in conjunction with the 2009 widening of Sedgwick Road near
It turns out neither is correct. The Highway 166 paving from near
Gorst to Westbay will be done this summer.
Brenden Clarke, whose project engineering office in South Kitsap is
planning the paving project, says it will be done at night in July
and August. The highway will get a new layer of asphalt from its
intersection with Highway 16 near Gorst and Westbay in Port
State maintenance crews will try to reduce the seepage at the spot
Don mentions by regrading the ditch on the south side of the
highway, Brenden says.
The water doesn’t run out of the ditch but comes up through the
pavement, so that will work only if the regrading somehow reduces
the underground water pressure. If that doesn’t get the job done,
Brenden said, “we will go from there.” I guess that means they’ll
try something else, possibly before the paving.
It’s not much of a problem, and is just one of many places water
finds itself onto a highway, but it does present a skidding danger
when it freezes.
Brenden tells me they recently did core samples at the highway’s
intersection with Sidney Avenue in downtown Port Orchard to make
sure the project won’t destroy any artifacts, Indian or otherwise.
That could happen when they excavate there to replace the
wire-suspended traffic signals with pole mounted ones. They didn’t
find any signs of artifacts, he said.
Mindful of the major collapse of the highway 10 or 15 years ago
just west of Ross Point, I asked Brenden how they plan to address
the two minor slumps that exist today within a half mile of that
spot on each side of it. He said they will just pave over them. I
recall that successive layers of asphalt laid over the years from
similar projects were exposed when the highway gave way back then
and dropped toward the beach.
Brenden said it would take a major storm event to duplicate that at
either of the existing depressions, so they won’t spend the
hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to firm up whatever is
slowly giving way underground there.