Monthly Archives: February 2009

Updating Chico Way and Manette bridge replacements

 

The in basket: Michael Drouin asks the status of two bridge projects in Kitsap County, replacement of the washed-out bridge over Chico Creek on Chico Way and the Manette Bridge.

I also got the Chico Way question from a couple people at a  Winter Club dance at Kitsap Golf and Country Club on Feb. 7. Club members and patrons coming from the south have had to go north on Highway 3 or one of a couple county roads and then double back since the bridge washed out. Their return trips home require the same kind of detour.

And Michael Schuyler wonders if the Manette job will adversely affect the Boat Shed Restaurant, just to the south of the bridge.

The out basket: Information on both projects is available on the respective Web sites of Kitsap County, which has the Chico Way project, and the state, owner of the Manette Bridge. The Web sites are www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR303/ManetteBridgeReplacement/ and www.kitsapgov.com/pw/roadwork.htm.

The county’s site says about the Chico Way work, “The collapsed bridge has been removed, all permits have been obtained, and the design is complete.  Bids were opened for construction of the replacement bridge on Feb. 17.  A recommendation to award a contract to Quigg Bros., Inc., from Aberdeen, will be before the county commissioners on March 23. Construction is anticipated to commence the week of March 30 and be complete in early September of this year.”

Probably as a measure of the current economic climate, there were 13 bids on the job and all but one was under the county’s estimate of $1.12 million. Quigg Brothers’ bid is $717,239.   

There is a May 5 open house set for the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton to discuss the Manette Bridge job, set to begin construction next year. “Project staff will be on hand to explain all aspects of the bridge replacement project,” the state’s site says. “Public input will be sought on opportunities for architectural embellishments on the new bridge.

The state’s Web site includes a drawing showing the difference between the aging 29-foot-wide span and its 44-foot-wide replacement, the $83 million price tag on the replacement and a wealth of other information. 

It doesn’t say that the new bridge is expected to be ready for traffic by December 2012, and the old bridge will be torn down in the first half of 2013, information I got from project engineer Bill Elliott.

And even though the new bridge will be built on the Boat Shed’s side of the old one, with just three feet separating the spans while the old one remains standing, the restaurant shouldn’t be affected – not negatively, anyway. 

“While close,” Bill said, “the new bridge can be built without impacting the Boat Shed restaurant. They’ll certainly have a front row seat for watching the construction.”

Police are exempt from hands-free cell phone law

 

The in basket: A reader who doesn’t want to have his name used out of fear the authorities will get mad at him says he has noticed numerous law enforcement officers using their cell phones held to their ears as they drive. He wonders if they are exempt from the hands-free law.

The out basket: Yes, say Bremerton police Lt. Pete Fisher and Trooper Krista Hedstrom. The law (RCW 46.61.667) specifically exempts emergency vehicles, which, of course, includes police cars. Police use of in-car communications such as emergency radios predates cell phones by decades, anyway.

The law also specifically exempts tow truck drivers en route to a disabled vehicle, drivers wearing hearing aids and everyone else if they are reporting illegal activity, summoning medical or other emergency help or preventing injury to a person or property.
Pete said BPD officers are directed in department policies to use due care and caution in operating their cars. 

Krista said, “Chief Batiste has been clear that he wants troopers to set a good example, by limiting their use of cell phones while driving. 

“The WSP has provided hands-free devices to any employee who is assigned

a State Patrol cell phone and who requests it,” she added. 

“With that being said, there are probably more times than the public

realizes when a cell phone is an appropriate tool for the responding

trooper or supervisor,” she said.

“Bomb threats come immediately to mind, but there are other situations where the information shouldn’t go over a system

that can be monitored by anyone with a scanner.  

“Citizens are allowed to use the cell phone to report emergencies –  just as a trooper might use a

cell phone to coordinate the response.”

Changes at 305-Bond light have fouled traffic

The in basket: Patty Hill of North Kitsap comments quite often on the operation of the traffic signal on Highway 305 at Bond Road in Poulsbo, and now says the lights for left turn traffic onto Bond Road northbound have taken a turn for the worse.

“Within the last few months, they changed the way the lights work,” she said. “If you’re heading towards Bainbridge Island on 305 and you want to turn left onto Bond Road heading towards Kingston, the two left turn lanes always came on first, then the other two lanes going straight into Poulsbo came on and then both stopped at the same time. 

 “Now,” she said, “they are set up so that the two lanes heading straight to Bainbridge come on first, then the two left turn lanes and then they shut down together (usually).”  The left turn lane green time is shorter than it used to be, she said, so more and more cars continue to turn as the light goes yellow and red. They also rush through in the right-most of the two left-turn lanes, trying to get ahead of those in the other lane as they turn, she said.

“What happens is more people are being left behind again,” she said. “My husband and I take that route every night from home.  When they first opened up all the lanes after the paving was done, we never once waited for the light to change other than when we first pulled up there. Now we are waiting for two and three changes before we can go through.

“We prefer not to get in the (right-most) turn lane because of aggressive behavior from drivers in the (left-most) turn lane thinking we’re trying to edge them out).

 “Then if you’re coming from Kingston towards Poulsbo on Bond Road and you want to turn left onto Highway 305 heading towards Bainbridge, guess what.  Those changed, too, and when the people turning left from Highway 305 onto Bond Road rush through while the light is going back to red, those of us turning left from Bond onto the highway now have to wait when ours turns green for them to stop driving through.”

She said she has been in a line of only five cars on Bond at the light and it took her three light changes to make her left turn.

“Can you find out if someone made the change and either doesn’t know what they’re doing, if they think it’s working or is there a chance to go back to how it was before?” she asked.

The out basket: Left turn lights can be either “leading,” as this one used to be, or “trailing” or “lagging,” as it is now, usually based on what computer simulations say will move the most traffic through a given corridor. 

Jim Johnstone of the Olympic Region signal shop said they went to watch the light and confirmed Patty’s observations.

“We did make the left turn from southbound 305 onto Bond Road a lagging left,” he said. “This was done for progression purposes and to ensure that the left turners have arrived at the Bond Road intersection before giving them a green. We are going to make some adjustments to the timing at Lincoln/Iverson and also Bond Road,” he said.

But the changes won’t include a return to a leading left at Bond Road, he said. 

“Since everything is coordinated now from Viking through Hostmark, the traffic being released from Viking arrives at the start of green on the mainline at Bond.  So as this traffic progresses through Bond Road, the left turns filter out of the platoon and are served at the end of the Highway 305 mainline green. 

“If we were to lead the left turn signal at Bond, the vehicles wanting to make that left would not have arrived yet and would have to wait for the signal to cycle back to the leading left turn,” he said..

Toll cameras are watching on Highway 167

 

The in basket:  Richard Hurley passed along an e-mail exchange he’d had with the Good to Go! toll office for the Tacoma Narrows Bridges and the Highway 167 HOT lanes near Kent after he was surprised to find an unexpected 50-cent change on his toll account.

“Most folks around here purchased transponders for the Narrows Bridge, (and) they could be picking up additional charges without being aware of it,” he said.

To Good to Go!, he wrote about his 50-cent toll for use of the HOV lanes, saying “On the 17th, my  wife, son and I attended a funeral in Kent and used Highway 167 to travel to Seattle. Does this (mean) a vehicle with three passengers can no longer use the carpool lanes without a charge being posted to our Good To Go account?”

A Good to Go! employee replied, “You need a transponder shield if you are carpooling in the HOT lane on SR167.  It fits over the transponder on the inside of the window and prevents the radio signal from being transmitted.  We have them here for $3.50 if you want one.  

“I will remove the $.50 charge from your account as a one-time-only toll reversal,” the reply said.

I asked Janet Matkin of Good to Go! if this is the usual resolution of such an incident and how high an inadvertent  HOT lane tolls might be.

The out basket: Yes, Janet told me, they do “typically reverse the first inadvertent toll on the 167 HOT lanes. So, customers who do not realize they must have a shield to temporarily block their transponder if they are carpooling in the HOT lanes can call the Good To Go! customer service for a one-time-only reversal.

The range of tolls on the HOT lanes is 50 cents to $9, based on how much quicker an HOT lane user gets through than those who stay in the general use lanes. “The toll has reached $9 just a few times — in June and July 2008,” she said. “The typical toll rate is about $1, saving an average of about nine minutes northbound during peak commute time and five minutes during the southbound peak commute. But, on several occasions, the time savings has been 20 minutes or more.”

The Good to Go! service center is at 1-866-936-8246 and goodtogo@goodtogo.wsdot.wa.gov

Waaga Way-Old Military access called dangerous

The in basket: Fred Lockett says he has would like to know why vehicles traveling northeast on Old Military Road in Central Kitsap are allowed to make left turns onto Waaga Way, also known as Highway 303.

I have seen several accidents at the intersection and have had several close calls myself,” said Fred.  “Traffic southbound on Waaga Way travels around a somewhat blind curve and has vehicles pulling out in front of them. Because of the same curve, drivers exiting Old Military Rd have a short line of sight, thus a very small window to turn safely onto Waaga Way.  

“I believe left turns should not be allowed at this intersection and some type of barrier should be installed to prevent them,” he said. “People that live on or near Old Military have other options they can use to access Waaga Way.”  

The out basket: Steve Bennett. traffic operations engineer in the state’s Olympic Region, says the accident history at Old Military and Waaga Way doesn’t support Fred’s idea.

“Closing movements at intersections is generally controversial within the affected communities,” he said. “People are very resistant to being forced to travel greater distances than they are accustomed to traveling. 

“We must have a significant collision history in order to justify elimination of any existing intersection movements.  In this case, I do not believe we have sufficient justification to restrict the left turn movements. 

 “A review of the Washington State Patrol collision records found that there were six collisions at this intersection in the last three years. Two of  these collisions  may have been related to the sight distance at the intersection. Fortunately, none …  have resulted in either fatal or serious injuries. 

“When looking at overall collision numbers, there are nearly 300 intersections in our region that have a higher crash frequency than this intersection.

“If we used the number of collisions at Old Military Road as our criteria for closing intersections or restricting movements within intersections, we have a lot of closing to do.”

Agate Pass Bridge and bicycles

 

The in basket: M.S. Marimon writes to say, “My husband and I moved to Bainbridge Island over 34 years ago. At that time, the Agate Pass Bridge was posted ‘Bike Riders Must Walk Over the Bridge.’ 

“That sign disappeared long ago and many times we have had to watch carefully for bike riders that insist upon riding over the bridge. We are considerate with our driving, especially where they are no bike lanes, but it is an accident waiting to happen with the heavy commuter traffic traveling north from Bainbridge.

“What will it take to have the sign posted?” she asked. 

The out basket: Probably it would take a major shift in government and societal attitudes toward bicyclists, who have grown more numerous and politically influential in the past three decades. Increasingly, they are encouraged to serve as alternatives to automobiles, even and perhaps especially during rush hour.

But there is more direct reason for the sign’s removal at Agate Pass, says T.J. Nedrow, a transportation planner for the state and the go-to guy for bicycle issues here. 

“We would all like to better accommodate both the cyclist and the traveling motorist crossing the bridge,” he said, “To date we’ve been able to do little more than continue to analyze opportunities, provide education measures and respond to inquiries and complaints.

“We’ve stopped short of prohibiting cyclists on the roadway,” he said. “For starters, access to the sidewalks has been made difficult with recent safety improvements (made with motorists in mind).  Bridge railing safety improvements have also made it more difficult to walk the bikes across the bridge.  

“The sign that was removed stating bikes had to be walked across the bridge was unenforceable since it wasn’t codified in (state law).  

“(We) researched the possibility of constructing a cantilever shared-use path section to the bridge but found the historical nature of the bridge to trump that notion. The additional weight was a serious concern for the bridge folks, as well. Lastly, we had no funding.

“Yes, the section of highway does present challenges to the cyclists using the roadway,” he said,”but to my knowledge we’ve not had a recordable car/cyclist collision accident. And the complaints have fallen off fairly significantly.  

“One could conclude that the mixture, when it does occur is being dealt with due consideration to the bicyclists (on) the roadway. That said, the cyclist would be prudent to wear highly visible clothing, ensuring that they are seen cycling upon the roadway section on the bridge.”

Why did SK state highway numbers change?

The in basket: There was some discussion on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com back in January about notification to drivers in Gorst that Highway 166 was closed briefly by another slide.

Though a portable electronic sign in Gorst announced that Highway 166 was closed, enough people continued in that direction and had to turn around at the barricade that it became apparent that many drivers don’t know highways by their numbers. Specifically, it showed that a lot of drivers don’t know that the waterfront route between Gorst and Port Orchard IS Highway 166.

One of the bloggers wondered why the state moved the old Highway 160 designation for that Port Orchard-Gorst route to Sedgwick Road when it became a state highway and assigned a new number (166) to the old highway, contributing to the confusion.

I didn’t recall, so I asked.

The out basket: I should have recalled, because it was quite an issue at the time. State Traffic Operations Engineer Steve Bennett refreshed my memory.

“Highway 160 was shifted to Sedgwick Road by the 1991 legislature as part of the large Route Jurisdiction Transfer (RJT) legislation that affected hundreds of miles of county roads, city streets, and state highways,” Steve said. “. This legislation became effective April 1, 1992. At this time, old Highway 160 through Port Orchard was dropped from the state highway system.

“The 1993 session of the legislature added old Highway 160 from Highway 16 to the east city limits of Port Orchard back to the state highway system as Highway 166. The city or perhaps county had requested this action due to the slide conditions along old SR 160 on the west side of town.”

Repairs of those slides cost in the millions of dollars, too much for a small city and even a medium size county to afford.

Downtown PO signals finally to go active

The in basket: One of my projects for Monday of this week was to check back in with the state officials in charge of the stalled traffic signal project in downtown Port Orchard, which still hadn’t shown any sign of progress in the past month.

That had left traffic at the mercy of timed lights that went green in all directions every time, for a fixed length of time, whether there was traffic waiting or not. 

Despite a hopeful remark by a state project engineer three weeks ago that the final length of electrical line to power the lights finally had been made, the construction barrels remained in place with no sign of progress. Pouring of the pedestrian “bulbouts” that will narrow the streets to just one-lane in each direction and provide pedestrians a shorter crossing, which I figured would have to come first, hadn’t been started. I asked what the latest delay was.

The out basket: My question was timely. Andy Larson, assistant project engineer in the state’s local project office, said crews made the final connections later that day and the lights would begin working Tuesday,

And so it was. The new lights are working, with full traffic detection. That wasn’t obvious because of Tuesday’s surprising snow. City officials activated their meandering “snow route” to get traffic up to the county courthouse and environs, which meant closing Sidney. So that left turn pocket to go up the hill was blocked.

Andy said the final delay in the star-crossed project had to do with the Opticom sensors that allow emergency vehicles to change the lights to green as they approach. Because of the curves on either side of the Bay-Sidney intersection, those sensors are on power poles in the curves, not at the signal location, so emergency vehicles can prepare the lights to change before they actually can see them. It was a technicality with a franchise that  permits the system to work that held things up another three weeks, he said.

Andy said my expectation for the phasing of the remaining work was in error. Pouring the bulbouts couldn’t begin until the controller box for the old traffic lights is removed, which couldn’t happen until the new lights were in operation. The old signals were removed Tuesday, as well.

Homemade salt brine is a challenge

 

The in basket: Hugh McAleavy from way back in New Jersey, who read on the kitsapsun.com blog for Road Warrior about Kitsap County’s use of a salt brine to control ice said, “I would like to make a brine to use on my driveway and sidewalks. Can anyone advise the best type of salt to use to make the brine?”

The out basket: It’s not a matter of stirring some salt into water, according to Tony Carroll, an engineering

technician with the county, and getting a usable batch is beyond the capabilities or at least the patience of most people.

You’d need rock salt to begin, and Tony says it would be a lot easier just to put the salt on the sidewalk and driveway.

To make brine, “you have to build a dual-tank system that allows water to

percolate through the salt to get the right amount of sodium chloride in

the water,” he said. “During this process you periodically test the solution with a

hydrometer to ensure the optimum 23 percent solution needed to make brine

effective. 

“Higher or lower concentrations decrease its effectiveness.

Because salt products differ there is no standard ratio of salt to water

that allows you to just throw some salt in water and stir. Much like

cooking, too much salt ruins the batch. If there is not enough salt, you

can always add more, but you still need a way to ‘taste’ the batch

so you don’t ruin it,” he said.

Then there’s the question of how to apply it. 

“You could use your garden sprayer,” Tony said, “but you better plan some maintenance because the product is corrosive and can ruin your equipment without regular cleaning and maintenance. Salt brine is effective and works well in

large-scale operation using professional application and maintenance

techniques, but can take a lot of time and money to use at the homeowner

level.”