Monthly Archives: October 2008

Reader thinks guard rail was put in wrong spot

 

The in basket: Kathy Broere of Anderson Hill Road in the Lone Rock area is puzzled by the recent installation by Kitsap County of a guardrail across the street from her house, which is in a curve.

“Three times we have had cars in our yard since 2001,” she said, “and our neighbor has had two in the last year.” When the road gets icy, cars loose traction and slide into her wrought iron fence.

She bought and set out some plastic shapes of men with flags saying “slow,” she said, but the county took them away and put up a series of yellow arrows denoting an upcoming curve. But putting the guard rail on their side of the street would have made a lot more sense to her. She doesn’t recall any accidents in which cars ran off the other side of the road, she said.

The out basket: Jeff Shea, Kitsap County traffic engineer, says, “We have a limited budget available for placing guardrails, and we look at several (criteria) as we determine where to place them. The primary factor that drives where we place guardrails is protecting motorists from immovable objects (trees, rocks, etc.) and hazardous slopes. Guardrails are not normally placed to protect private property.”

There is a steep slope on the other side of Anderson Hill Road.

“In the case of your reader’s inquiry, we agree that the intersection she references has accidents in snowy and icy weather,'” Jeff said. “I don’t doubt that there have been instances where her fence has been damaged, or cars end up in her neighbor’s front yard. 

“That can certainly be upsetting,” he said,”but our concern there is someone going over the slope on the other side and ending up with a more serious accident than property damage. 

“Thankfully that has not happened yet, and by placing a guardrail there we can hopefully minimize the likelihood of that ever happening. That is why we placed the guardrail on the east side, rather than the west side of the road there. All drivers are required to insure their car to cover damages caused by an accident, including the property damage described by your reader.” 

 

 

No signal coming to 104 and Highland

 

The in basket: Just about a year ago, a teacher at David Wolfle Elementary in Kingston on Highland Road wrote to say, “At the end of each school day, I make the dangerous left turn onto (Highway 104). I use the word dangerous because of the 50 mph speed limit that is allowed, the amount of traffic coming from both directions, and the fact that there isn’t a traffic signal, only a stop sign.

“It is nearly impossible to make a left turn when the Kingston ferry has just unloaded or when school is out at the end of the day. The cars of parents who pick up their children followed by the seven buses filled with our kids stack up on Highland Road in an endless stream. I’ve seen many close calls and wonder if there’s any way to have a light installed there.

“It is highly important to keep our kids and parents of our community safe as well as the Wolfle staff,” she wrote. “I’m mainly concerned about having a traffic light operate regularly between the hours of 8:45-9:15 a.m. and 3:30-4:30 p.m.

The out basket: Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the state’s Olympic Region says that site doesn’t compete well with “about 50 intersections in the … region that do meet at least one warrant for a signal, but because of funding restraints, are still waiting for a traffic signal.”

“Warrants” is traffic engineer-speak for the criteria they use in evaluating an intersection for a traffic signal. At Highway 104 and Highland, they used two of eight possible warrants and it didn’t meet either one, Steve said. 

They used the “eight-hour warrant” that measures traffic during the highest eight hours of the day, plus accident history. They used the eight-hour warrant rather than the peak one-hour warrant because “there are still dozens of intersections meeting the eight-hour warrant (that have much worse delay or collision histories than intersections meeting the one-hour warrant) that remain unfunded.  We want to use the limited funding we have to address the worst locations first, and there are dozens of locations worse than this one.”

As I often do when addressing a site where I rarely drive, I tested this one a couple of times one school day afternoon. By 4 p.m., the traffic from the existing signal at Miller Bay Road had backed up nearly to the Highland intersection, and it was a long wait to get out both times, with mine the only car waiting. I can imagine how long it takes with seven school buses and many private cars in line. 

Nonetheless, red sequences at the signals at Miller Bay and back where Bond Road turns into Highway 104 ultimately provided a break in traffic that allowed me (and would have allowed several others) to turn.

 

 

 

What will detect cars at new PO traffic signals?

 

The in basket: The traffic signal in downtown Port Orchard seems still be operating on a timer while the state waits for the new signal poles, cross-arms and signals to be installed. 

I wondered if traffic detection there would be by in-pavement wires when the new signals go in, or would the state emulate Kitsap County and use the video cameras it’s using at more and more intersections lately. The cameras are mounted atop thin poles on the signal cross-arms and detect motion, not metal mass, as the in-pavement wires do.

The county says the overhead detectors are less costly to repair, and can remain in service when some project requires tearing up the pavement at a signalized intersection.

The out basket: Don Anders of the Olympic Region signal shop said Bay Street, also called Highway 166, which was just repaved, will have in-pavement wires restored, but detection of traffic on Sidney Avenue will be by video camera.

“The pavement loops are still the most cost effective detection system

available, and if installed under the top course of asphalt, they will

last for many years,” he said. “Video detection has improved over the past several

years but can be difficult to set up and aim. These units still have

some issues with missing calls (not reacting to waiting cars) in various conditions, and the cost is much higher.

“The reason we are using video on the side roads on the (Highway) 166 project is

that the side roads are city streets and the pavement is bad. The

pavement outside our right of way will not be repaired as part of our contract,

but will be later by the city. 

“We currently use video detection at several locations throughout the

region where we have poor asphalt conditions or the traffic volumes are

so high it is very difficult to maintain the loops,” Don said. “We will continue to

use loops as the primary method of detection because of the overall

cost, but I would guess that as the technology improves this may change

in the future.” 

Kitsap County public works, which is making liberal use of the overhead detectors, doesn’t agree about the cost difference, incidentally. Jeff Shea of that department, using the term “loop” to mean in-pavement wiring, says, “To install the loops in the road is about $1,200 per loop. You need four loops per leg times four legs per intersection, which totals about $19,200 per intersection in the ground. That’s comparable to the cost of video detection which runs around $4,000 per camera plus installation times four legs.”

State giveth, then taketh away, NK rumble strips

The in basket: Tom Booth asks, “Why did the (state) pave over certain rumble strips on Highway 3 between (Mileposts) 57 and 58. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for it.”

Those mileposts are around the Big Valley Road intersection, where a new signal was put in this year. “About a month ago they came by in the middle of the night and put rumble strips along each side of Highway 3 at least from the intersection of 104 and 3 all the way at least to Pioneer Way and Tytler Road,” Tom said. “Then again last week in the middle of the night (it was about 3 a.m. because it woke us up).  The strips are on both shoulders and also the center line. I like them but was wondering why cover up just some of them.”

The out basket: Lisa Murdock of the Olympic Region of state highways explains: “Some of the rumble strips in this area were covered after implementation because the shoulder proved too narrow for bicyclists to travel safely,” she said. Driving over rumble strips, which are intended to alert drivers when they are running off the road or across the center line, is pretty hard on a bicycle and its rider.

Photo speed enforcement on I-5 near Chehalis

 

The in basket: Roger Miller of Bremerton writes “While driving through Soap Lake two weeks ago, I noticed signs at either end of town that stated the speed limit was ‘Photo Enforced.’  Then, last weekend I noticed a similar sign with Washington Department of Transportation initials on it in the southbound lane of I-5 just south of Chehalis.  

“What exactly do those signs mean?” Roger asked. “Is there a nearby camera designed to raise money by automatically photographing speeders, similar to the automated revenue generating cameras currently being used in Bremerton to catch red light runners?  

“If automated speed limit cameras are indeed in use, how would they differentiate between a solo passenger car and either a truck or a car with a trailer since they have different speed limits on the freeway (70 mph for a car, 60 mph for a truck or trailer).” 

The out basket: The I-5 sign near Chehalis denotes the only use so far of a pilot program of photo speed enforcement in state highway work zones, says Alice Fiman of the state Department of Transportation. 

The camera is in an SUV with orange “Give’Em a Brake” stickers on it. The violator might not know he’s been photographed speeding until he gets the citation in the mail, as the camera photographs the rear plate after the car is past the SUV.

“It’s important to note this program is only used in active construction zones where workers are present,”” Alice said. It will probably end on the Chehalis site around Oct. 31, but return to I-5 a little north of there when similar work at Grand Mound begins. It may also be used next year at projects in Bellingham and near Leavenworth, where an interchange will replace the intersection of highways 2 and 97.

As with red light photo enforcement, such as Bremerton’s, the tickets are citations, not moving violations, so not reported to one’s insurance company. The fines also are not doubled, such as they are when an officer pulls you over for speeding in a work zone. The fine is $137.

The threshold speed for a ticket varies, Alice said, but she doesn’t think it has been less than 70 mph, 10 mph over the temporary speed limit in that work zone. That 60 mph posted speed limit is for all traffic, so differentiating between cars and trucks isn’t necessary. There’s an operator in the SUV who can make such judgments, if needed, Alice said.

You can learn more about the program online at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/safety/atsc.

I couldn’t get anyone in the tiny Soap Lake Police Department to call me back, but Chuck Fogerson of their chamber of commerce said they do have red light photo enforcement there. He was unaware of any speed enforcement by camera in the town.

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, school bus stopping rules

The in basket: After the Road Warrior’s most recent discussion of when drivers must  stop for a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop sign extended, Don Payne wrote, “The

Washington Driver’s Guide says ‘You must stop for a school

bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing whether it is on your

side of the road, the opposite side of the road or at an intersection you are approaching.’

“The business of the three marked lanes is pretty clear and been gone over a lot,” he said. “I have never heard a discussion or seen an explanation of the third clause -‘or at an intersection you are approaching.’

“I’ve looked in the RCWs and can find no mention or discussion of this clause,” Don wrote. ” Maybe you can add some light.”

The out basket: I have concluded that stopping for a school bus unloading children is unavoidable, even though the law permits a driver going in the opposite direction to proceed if there is a lane, even a left turn lane, between the car and the bus. Twice more since that column appeared, I have seen a cautious driver stop even though he or she didn’t have to, stopping everyone behind the car. 

The phrase Don uncovered puzzled me, since a North Kitsap school transportation official I talked with in preparing the last column went out of her way to say a driver going the opposite direction can complete a turn as long as the car doesn’t pass the extended paddle stop sign on the side of the bus. 

It turns out, says Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing, which publishes the driver’s guide, that that third clause refers to traffic on a street CROSSING the one the bus is on. No turn toward the bus that takes the car beyond the bus is legal. Turns away from the bus are OK.

It’s kind of an excess of caution, as the  “lane-in-between” exception also applies to a turner, but the wording makes it clear that a driver on the cross street must abide by the same rules as those on the street the bus is on.

Can people legally pick up road kill?

 

The in basket: Bob Arper of Central Kitsap hoped to fashion a coonskin hat for his costume during the Poulsbo yule activities.

“I am curious about what happens to those animals that are hit by vehicles on the highways,” he said. “My questions are who or what organization is tasked with picking up the carcasses, can a person get the hides from the organization that picks them up, and is it against the law for an individual to pick up a carcass?”

The out basket: Bob won’t be able to make such use of a dead raccoon, which is illegal. 

The state Department of Transportation and county collect road kill of wild animals along their respective thoroughfares,and Kitsap Animal Control handle the bodies of killed domestic animals. 

State law prohibits the possession of dead wild animals unless one has a permit from the Department of Wildlife. Such permits are only granted to organizations, usually for scientific purposes relating to disease, says Craig Bartlett of the department.

Raccoons are included in the law forbidding possession, though its mostly needed for large animals like deer or elk, he said. ” If you have the head of a deer in your truck and an officer asks to see your deer tag, and you can just say ‘I found it dead,’ it thwarts efforts to preserve the resources.” 

Even if it were legal,  the state highway folks wouldn’t make them available. Don Clotfelter, state maintenance manager for the Olympic region, says they don’t “provide citizens with hides or other animal remains for a variety of reasons including a lack of resources, logistics, potential for disease and other negative aspects associated with the handling of dead, wild animals.”

 

 

Rights on red legal from either of adjacent right turn lanes

The in basket: Dale Treftz writes, “I have watched many drivers turn right against a red light following a complete stop, but from the left lane of a two-lane off-ramp.  

“Many state highways offer two-lane off-ramps and provide less congestion when merging from one highway on to another multi-lane road or highway, but it seems dangerous for a driver to cross over two or more lanes of moving traffic against a red light, without traffic stopped and providing safe access. 

“I recall (maybe incorrectly) from one of my drivers tests (I have lived in several states), that a right turn against a red light may be made following a complete stop, but only from the curb side lane?  I have read through my drivers pre-test handbook, but it is not clearly defined.”

The out basket: In Washington state, right turns against a red light are legal from either of two adjacent right turn lanes, provided there is a lane available for both lines of traffic to turn into, no signs prohibit it, no pedestrians are in the way, and the driver comes to a full stop and yields to any traffic with the right of way. 

I’ve strained my brain trying to think of places in the local area where there are two adjacent right turn lanes, and can think only of two in Bremerton and one each in Silverdale and Poulsbo. They are at 11th Street’s western end at Kitsap Way, on southbound Warren Avenue at 11th Street, where the second lane in can be used for right turns or to proceed straight, at the Highway 3 off-ramp to go south on Kitsap Mall Boulevard and at Highway 3’s off-ramp to go into Poulsbo on Highway 305. If there are others, the same rules apply.

What is speed limit in a construction zone?

 

The in basket: L.C. Smith, a one-time flagger with a Mason County public utility district,  says he wonders when he sees the signs about fines doubling in construction zones just what the speed limit is, especially when there is a flagger present.

He recalls a trooper once telling him it’s half the posted speed limit, but that was years ago, he said.

The out basket: If no reduced speed signs are posted, the speed limit is unchanged from normal conditions. It’s the fines that change, not the speed limit, in a work zone without a posted temporary speed limit. And, though the signs don’t say so, only speeding fines double. Fines for failure to yield and the myriad other possible violations remain the same. 

The presence of a flagger changes things, but no specific speed is established. State law says the following:

” A person who drives a vehicle in a roadway construction zone in such a manner as to endanger or be likely to endanger any persons or property, or who removes, evades, or intentionally strikes a traffic safety or control device is guilty of reckless endangerment of roadway workers. A violation of this subsection is a gross misdemeanor .

“The department shall suspend for sixty days the license or permit to drive or a nonresident driving privilege of a person convicted of reckless endangerment of roadway workers.”

The maximum penalty for a gross misdemeanor is a year in jail and $5,000 fine, though maximum penalties usually aren’t imposed unless the defendant has a long record of similar offenses.

 

Another Austin Drive user finds merging difficult

 

The in basket: Brenda Brunson has sounded a common complaint, that getting onto Highway 3 southbound at Austin Drive is scary and dangerous, due to the short, curving on-ramp and underbrush between it and the main traffic lanes.

She suggested a couple of fixes that don’t seem too practical, including moving the 50-mph speed zone even farther back, to before southbound traffic reaches that on-ramp, and removing the Yield sign on the on-ramp.

“It’s nerve-wracking trying to accelerate on the downhill acceleration lane from Erland’s Point/NAD Park,” Brenda said, “while watching for oncoming traffic with which I’m trying to merge (through the high weeds on the hill to my left), while wondering if the car ahead of me, out of view, and around the curve at the end of the acceleration lane is stopped, yielding!

“So far, I haven’t seen anyone stopped but that doesn’t mean it’s never happened,” she wrote. “Or that it won’t.”

The out basket: I drove this on-ramp twice more before writing this, as it’s not somewhere I often go. There was a steady stream of traffic in the outside lane both times, but by accelerating at the proper time, I was able to glide into the mainline traffic without trouble. 

But since so many people share Brenda’s concern, I asked the state how many accidents actually happen there, and for comparable stats for the on-ramp going the other way from Austin Drive and the two on-ramps one interchange north, at Chico Way. 

Steve Bennett, the Olympic Region traffic operations engineer, says there were no merge-related accidents reported at the southbound Austin Way ramp in the five years just past, just one on the corresponding northbound on-ramp, and two at Chico Way, both on the southbound ramp.

I get complaints that the 50-mph zone starts too early, that it shouldn’t encompass Kitsap Way’s interchange. Brenda is the first to suggest it be enlarged.

As for the Yield sign, it was put there because of the complexity of that on-ramp. Most on-ramps don’t have them. I’d hate to think there are drivers who would construe it to mean they should stop if they don’t see a gap in traffic they can use. Escaping onto the wide shoulder there and waiting for another opportunity would be a lot smarter.

I’ve forwarded a copy of this column to the state maintenance office for consideration of getting the weeds mowed at Austin Drive. They do make for a partially obstructed look at southbound traffic on the mainline for merging traffic.