Three-way stop at temporary Belfair-Tahuya bridge


The in basket: Jim and Judy Rowsen called about confusion over right of way at a temporary bridge on Belfair-Tahuya Road at Tahuya River Drive in Mason County. 

There is a stop sign at each end of the bridge and a third on Tahuya River Drive at one end of the bridge, which replaces a span washed out last December.

The locals have adopted the practice of all cars on one end of the bridge going at once, they said, with all those waiting on the other end then going all at once.  

But when their 22-year-old daughter did it that way, and followed the car ahead of her across, even though she stopped at the stop sign, a Mason County Sheriff’s deputy second in line on the other side waved her over.


He said that the intersection must be treated as an all-way stop in which waiting drivers must take turns in the same way as at a four-way stop. Had he not had a prisoner in his patrol car, he would have cited her, the deputy said.

The Rowsens think alternating in that fashion will slow down traffic across the bridge, and wonder if the sheriff’s office administration agrees with that deputy. 

“If so, no one is treating it that way,” Judy said. “There were lines of cars doing exactly what everyone else it doing.” 

She also thinks there should be signs informing drivers of the rule. 

The out basket: Yes, that is the department’s position, says Traffic Sgt. Brad Mandeville. It’s a more complicated situation that most all-way stops because of the distance that has to be crossed by each car. But the first-come, first-served rule, augmented by the state law that gives the driver on the right the right of way in such standoffs, controls that spot just as at more conventional four-way stops, he said. 

Other drivers have been stopped for the same actions, he said, though deputies usually just give warnings.

As for whether traffic would move more quickly the way the locals are doing it, that depends on the time of day, he said. During the morning and afternoon rush, a driver going against the main flow could wait a long time for the stream of traffic to end and give him a chance to cross, Brad said.

As for signs, Mason County Engineer Bill Tabor says small  “3-way” signs should be on each of the three stop signs. That’s what the national manual calls for, he said.


2 thoughts on “Three-way stop at temporary Belfair-Tahuya bridge

  1. The following is not a comment to the initial entry, but info about a similar problem.

    Monday’s Road Warrior article reminds me of more than the need of
    protocol at another site. The site is the washout of half of Mason
    County’s Sand Hill Road near the women’s penal institution near Mission Creek. Drivers going both directions are warned by signs to be cautious traversing the remaining single lane. Particularly hazardous is driving south because the driver may not see northbound traffic in or approaching the damaged area.

    My suggestion is that Mason County add a stop sign for at least the southbound traffic. I don’t need it, because the possibility of a head-on tells me to stop first. It’s a site waiting for an bad accident to happen.


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