Monthly Archives: January 2009

Are Highway 303 traffic signals coordinated?


The in basket: Gary Reed put the following comment on the Road Warrior blog, attached to the column about the coordination of traffic signals on Highway 305 in Poulsbo, and its negative impact on the side street traffic:

“What about the timing of Highway 303 signals?” he asked. “Those are set to stop traffic at each light. Why is that?

The out basket: They aren’t, of course, but gaps in the coordination that does exist make it more difficult and less apparent.

Part of Highway 303 is in the city of Bremerton and the rest outside, so the responsibility is split between the city and state. The city controls the Fred Meyer light even though it’s outside the city. 

Jim Johnstone of the state’s Olympic Region signal shop said the signals at Fuson Road in front of Lowe’s, Bentley Drive at Walmart and Brownsville Highway are not coordinated with any others. The first two of those are the ones I have the least success getting through without being stopped.

“Fuson is not coordinated because of the low side street volumes,” Jim said. “Both sides of Fuson added together only have 10 percent of the overall volume during the PM peak and 87 percent of those are right turns.  

“If we were to put Fuson into coordination it would cause the same side street and left-turn delays that people are concerned about along (Highway) 305.”

“Bentley is not a part of the coordination because of issues with traffic in the left turn lane for Walmart spilling back and blocking the northbound through lane,” Jim continued. “In order to serve the left-turn into Walmart twice per cycle and prevent the backup, we need to use some features in the controller that do not work in the coordination mode. 

“We struggled with this operation for a long time and decided to coordinate the signals at McWilliams and Fairgrounds and leave Bentley uncoordinated.  The hope (is) that mainline through-traffic at Bentley would be green at least occasionally to allow progression through the signals at McWilliams and Fairgrounds.

Greg Cryder heads the city’s signal shop and says that the lights between Fred Meyer and Sheridan Road are coordinated, as are those between Sheridan and 11th Street.

There is no coordination on Warren south of 11th, he said, as it has been decided that coordinating the signals along Sixth and 11th streets, which are perpendicular to Warren, is more important.

As the Road Warrior column about Highway 305 mentioned, a primer on why coordination doesn’t always produce a smooth flow of non-stop traffic can be found online at Fill in Signal Coordination in the search box.

Belfair Elementary traffic signal never changes to red

The in basket: Donna Mae Floyd of Belfair hopes the traffic signal in front of Belfair Elementary School might turn red for Highway 3 traffic more often to give drivers trying to get onto the highway from side streets some breaks in traffic.

“The problem,” she said, “is that the signal controlling the north-south flow of traffic adjacent to the grade school, is ALWAYS green. I have yet to see it turn red, so the traffic flow is constant…with no relief.

“Any time after 2:30 Monday through Friday, entering and exiting from one of the many side streets is virtually impossible,” she said.  

“That is the time of day the traffic (particularly heavy coming home from work in Bremerton) going through Belfair is bumper to bumper.  There is rarely a pause in either direction,” she said, “unless there IS a back up and some kind soul stops long enough to let a car enter from a side street, where it will hopefully be able to avoid a collision with a car coming in the opposite direction of the stopped vehicle! 

 “Pity the person who leaves the library (on the west side of Highway 3) and tries to turn north to go back home and ends up playing ‘dodge ball’ and making a two-minute task turn into a 15-minute wait just to get on his or her way.”

“Wouldn’t it make sense to monitor traffic at the school location and adjust the ‘stop and go’ timing during the busiest time of the day? ”    

I asked Jim Johnstone of the Olympic Region signal shop if they ever schedule a signal to turn red simply to provide a break in heavy traffic.

The out basket: First, Jim explained why that signal never changes.

“(It) is a pedestrian crossing signal for the school and is only triggered by the need of a pedestrian (school child in most cases) wanting to cross the road,” he said. “This signal has no vehicle detection and is not intended to control side street traffic.” 

Using red lights to create breaks in traffic is not something they’ve ever done, he said. Trying it with the Belfair light “is very unlikely since it goes outside of our normal protocol, which would be a decision for higher ups to make,” he said.

Donna Mae might want to propose her idea to her legislators to see what they can accomplish.

Gas tax campaign claim and the Belfair Bypass


The in basket: Carol McCormack e-mails to ask about the status of the Belfair Bypass, a proposed alternative route for Highway 3 that would take most of the traffic out of downtown Belfair. 

“When we voted in the gas tax, we were led to believe that it would fund the bypass here,” she wrote. ” I’m sure that was the main reason that many of us here voted for it.  

“Traffic through Belfair is getting to the place where it’s next to impossible to get onto Highway 3 during rush hour.  What has happened to starting the work as we were led to believe?”

The out basket: Bill Elliott of the Olympic Region for state highways replies.

“After much research, I can’t find anything to support the claim that the entire bypass could be funded with the past gas tax vote,” Bill said. He said he found some wording, included in a 2006 legislative project description, that at first creates that impression, but then goes on to make clear that the gas tax funding available will complete only the environmental requirements and design, he said.

It’s unlikely that’s the source of Carol’s expectation anyway. We often hear, after the fact, of claims supposedly made to support ballot measures (the lottery would eliminate special school levies, the leg hold trap ban wouldn’t apply to moles) that prove untrue. But I don’t know of anything subsequently being found in the official legal supporting documents that made the false claims. If the assertions were made, they came from unofficial politicking by supporters.

In this case, Bill said, the official document he found says the voted gas tax will provide, “construction of a new alignment around the town of Belfair to reduce travel time. The state investment will provide the resources to complete the environmental process, identify all right of way required and complete design, including contract plans ($15 million).”

The project has no construction funding, Bill said. “Our estimate of construction cost is $52 million. Our total project cost estimate is $71 million. So, we believe the project is currently in need of $56 million in additional funding before it could be built.”

A document handed out at an October update meeting held in Belfair can be seen online at

And a proposal from Donna Mae Floyd of Belfair of a way to make the downtown traffic crush more tolerable is the subject of the adjacent Road Warrior column.

Are shopping center traffic signs enforcable?


The in basket: Mike Wikstrom of Bainbridge Island is short and to the point. “Are traffic signs and pavement indicators on private property enforceable?” he asked. 

The out basket: Not by the police. But they can decide liability in an accident and support criminal charges in a serious accident. Where the private road abuts a public street, such as where shopping center traffic enters a street, it can be debatable, and probably comes down to whether the sign or pavement marking is on public right of way.

How to get a street sign for your private road


The in basket: A Tracyton woman would like to have a green identifying sign for her private road, which meanders eastward from where Holland Road also meets Tracyton Boulevard, which curves west at that point. Her road, Eells Road, is dirt for most of its length and serves seven homes.

“There is a post with a ‘curve’ sign right at the entrance to my road that would be perfect to attach the sign,” she said. 

I asked Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works how the county handles identifying private roads, whether the fact it is a dirt road matters, whether there is a threshold for number of homes served, and whether dual use of the existing sign would be likely.. 

The out basket: The road surface and number of homes served don’t make any difference, Doug said. Adding a street sign to an advisory sign about the curve would be unusual, he said.

If the private road intersects a county-maintained road, as Eells does, he said, the requester pays $120 to county public works and gets documentation from Addressing in the Department of Community Development confirming the name of the road, he said.  

“We manufacture, install, and maintain the sign as long as the road that the private road intersects remains county-maintained,” he said.

Eells is already shown on the county road log, a book of maps of county roads, so confirming the name shouldn’t be a problem.

The county plays no role in putting up road name signs on roads that abut an unmaintained county right of way, or abut other private roads. The residents would be free to post whatever shape, color and design of street sign they wish in those cases, he said. They can make their own or have a private sign shop do it. 

Anyone wanting to arrange for a sign for their private road abutting a county-maintained road can call the county’s Open Line at (360) 337-5777.

Little reaction time at Vena and Central Valley


The in basket: Colleen Wells is alarmed by the close proximity of Vena Avenue to the curve in Central Valley Road where Vena intersects it. “You can’t see cars coming around that corner,” she said, “and they can’t see cars on Vena … especially if it’s a small car in the afternoon.” The speed limit there is 35 mph.

The out basket: I was surprised at how quickly I arrived at Vena after negotiating that curve when I tested it, but I also noticed a 25-mph advisory sign for those approaching the curve. 

And I did manage to see an approaching car northbound on Central Valley over the top of the hedge as I waited in my Mazda 3 to pull out from Vena. But it wasn’t a small car. 

I asked the county about the intersection. 

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works said,  “This type of question is routed to our traffic inspectors (which is what I did with this request.) If the sight distance-inhibiting vegetation is within county-owned rights-of-way, we can trim it. Otherwise we do communicate with the property owner to clear the obstruction.

“As to improving that particular intersection, it would require rebuilding (it). That means acquiring more right-of-way and a capital engineering project which would be considered along with, and compete against, the other capital projects on the Transportation Improvement Plan.”

The plan is updated late each year and looks out six years. Vena at Central Valley isn’t mentioned in the current plan.

10-feet of power line has held up new PO signals


The in basket: Work seems to have come to a standstill on the new downtown Port Orchard traffic signal at Bay Street and Sidney Avenue. Meanwhile, the old cable-hung signals continue to work on timers, requiring that every direction get a green light, whether any traffic is waiting for that movement or not. I asked what is going on.

The out basket: It boils down to a conflict over who is responsible for running the final 10 feet of electrical wire to get power to the new pole-mounted lights, say state and city officials.

As you might expect, Port Orchard Public Works Director Mark Dorsey and the state project office and its second-in-command, Andy Larson, disagree about who is at fault. 

The city says the state didn’t do something when it was supposed to and the state says the city was supposed to provide the connection as part of an ongoing project to put the downtown power lines underground, and didn’t.

Puget Sound Energy is a third player in the conflict. Andy said the state offered to put in the wire, but PSE said that wasn’t permissible because of the nature of the agreement it has with the city for the undergrounding.

But a recent meeting worked out how to get power to the poles and it was installed Thursday or Friday of last week, Andy tells me. 

There remain perhaps two weeks of work before the new signals are operational, he said.

It will be the end of the long-time opportunity to slide past cars waiting at the lights in order to make a right turn, he said. Where the big new poles don’t block the outside lane, curb “bulb-outs” to shorten the walk for pedestrians crossing the streets will. All four corners will get the bulb-outs, which have yet to be poured.

For some time, I (and, I think, many others) have tried to avoid the backup on Bay Street eastbound by using Prospect Street and Sidney to make a right turn onto Bay when the light on Sidney northbound is green. Those days soon will be over.

The 50-year-old existing lights and poles will be removed when the new lights are working. 

The new lights will be controlled by traffic detectors. You can see the camera-like overhead motion detectors that will sense waiting traffic on Sidney atop two of the cross arms. Detection on Bay Street will be by in-pavement wires, as it was in all directions there before last summer’s paving.

All that green pipe between Gorst and Bremerton


The in basket: I noticed the big electronic sign warning of the closure of the Highway 304 ramp over Highway 3 west of Bremerton for sewer work the first four nights of this week, and decided I needed to learn more about that sewer project. 

Bremerton City Engineer Mike Mecham and Brad Ginn, his project manager for the work, filled me in.

The out basket: Neither man was on the job site these nights, so didn’t know if the ramp actually closed all four nights. They did know that little was done there Monday and Wednesday, so they suspect the closure didn’t occur then. 

In any event, the fact less than expected was done this week means there’ll be two ramp closures at night next week, nights to be determined. The detour will be the same, up to the Loxie Eagans interchange and back.

The long green pipe sections we’ve seen lying on the highway shoulder for months ultimately will be put in the ground by Stan Palmer Construction, contractor on the $3 1/2 million job. But it won’t require ditching on the shoulder between Bremerton and Gorst as it did in and on the other side of Gorst. 

The city has an abandoned 24-inch water main running along Highway 3. The sewer pipe, 8 to 10 inches wide, will be slipped into the water main which will serve as a conduit. The highway will be reduced to one lane westbound during the work, for worker safety, but it will be done between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The contractor will have to bore beneath the railroad tracks for the sewer main. 

The city hopes the sewer lines will be completed by April.

The work where traffic from the direction of Belfair enters Highway 16 to head toward Port Orchard and Tacoma is completed, except for paving restoration, the two men said, making that short on-ramp less scary.

Work has begun along Highway 16 near Anderson Hill Road on the pump station that will force the effluent, to use the genteel term, to the city treatment plant next to the 304 ramp. 

There will be no manholes, as it’s a pressure line. But it will have stubs that in time will serve the Sherman Heights area, the Gorst urban growth area and the small  part of Bremerton on the south side of Sinclair Inlet. That first will include the 200-plus homes in a new development named Bayside. Port Orchard will be providing sewer service to the existing homes up on that hill, Mecham said, including McCormick Woods. The two cities’ systems will abut one another. 

If Bremerton wins the right to serve the South Kitsap Industrial Area, this sewer line would provide only interim service there, they said. Another line would be needed to service SKIA as it grows.

More about those right turns required from Tremont

The in basket: Mary and Mike McInnis of South Kitsap read the discussion in a recent Road Warrior of Port Orchard’s new requirement that cars in the outside lane of Tremont Avenue approaching Port Orchard Boulevard westbound must turn right. They say I overlooked the impact on those wanting to turn right into Bethany Lutheran Church and School just beyond the boulevard.

“If I am heading west bound on Tremont in the through lane (like I’m supposed to), and need to turn right into the church parking lot,” their e-mail said, “I must immediately move to the right lane upon crossing the Port Orchard Boulevard intersection, while those who have turned right from Port Orchard Boulevard must immediately merge left to continue westbound on Tremont.  This is hazardous due to the fact that it has become a very short two-way merging lane. 

“It is less hazardous to let those who want to make a right turn into the church go through the Tremont/Port Orchard Boulevard intersection in the right-turn-only lane through the light. 

“I would recommend that the right-turn-only lane restriction be extended all the way to the church parking lot entrance,” Mary said. “It should be illegal to go through the intersection in the right-turn-only lane and then merge left.”

The out basket: I tried convincing them that there’s nothing on the signs requiring a right turn specifically onto Port Orchard Boulevard and that they would comply by turning right into the church. 

But Mark Dorsey, Port Orchard’s public works direction, said the intent of the signs really is to require turns onto the boulevard and those wanting to turn into the church should pass through the intersection in the inside lane and then move to the outside lane.

The new restriction was added at the church’s request, he noted.

He says there is a high degree of compliance with the new restriction so there are few fast-moving cars in that outside lane to make hazardous a lane change to get to the church.  Of course, cars turning right from the boulevard into that outside lane can create a conflict, but it usually isn’t moving too fast. 

The McInnises will have to continue making the lane change they regard as dangerous, I guess. 

Mark Dorsey mentioned something in passing that caught me by surprise, considering that the city has had to fight to preserve its plans to put roundabouts at Tremont’s intersections with South Kitsap Boulevard and Pottery Avenue. 

He said there is some support in the city for adding two more roundabouts at Port Orchard Boulevard’s intersections with Tremont and Bay Street if the first two roundabouts work out  OK. Proponents regard the idea as providing a “gateway” to downtown from Highway 16, he said.

It’s just a “political concept” at present, he said.

Why must Sunn Fjord’s gate remain locked?


The in basket: Derrell Clark of Bremerton writes to say he lives at Sunn Fjord condominiums, which has a locked gate at Bayview Drive and Sunn Fjord Lane.  

“The original plan was to have a gated community with one entrance only from Third Street and Sunn Fjord Lane,” he said. “The gate was … approved by fire department officials and access keys were given to various emergency service agencies.

“Current homeowners have abandoned the plan for a gated community and want to open up the gate permanently. When we opened the gate up last year the fire marshal ordered us to keep it closed except for emergencies,” Darrell said.

The county and condominium management each refer him to the other for an explanation, he said. 

“Why does the fire marshal want a locked gate in place of an open road?” he asked, “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

The out basket: David Lynam, Kitsap County’s fire marshal, went to Shawn Shephard of South Kitsap Fire and Rescue’s prevention staff for the answer. “SK is the fire district that does those inspections for us at Sunn Fjord,” David said.

The deal was sealed back when Sunn Fjord was approved by the county hearing examiner, he learned.

“The locked gate was required to mitigate traffic impacts on adjacent neighborhood access,” David said. “It was asked for by the adjacent community (and) the owners agreed to it. To change it requires going back to the hearing examiner.”

He talked with fire officials, he said, and “They are OK with the gate being locked, as the responders know it is locked and have the capability to unlock it if need be. The other access is open all the time so (the gate) is truly a secondary access point for them.”