Monthly Archives: March 2009

Central Valley survey work raises concern

 

The in basket: E-mailers Priscilla & Rudy Barrilleaux of Bremerton say “For the last two weeks there has been a survey crew working on Central Valley Road from Waaga Way to now just beyond Fairgrounds  

Road.  I was wondering if you could please find out the reason for  

the survey?”

They worried that Central Valley might grow to four lanes, Priscilla said.

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says it’s advance work for the 2012 revision of the intersection of Fairgrounds and Central Valley roads . The county has earmarked $1.14 million for the work, so it will be a fairly substantial job, but preliminary engineering won’t begin for a year, says Doug, so there’s no word on how it will be configured. He’s heard no talk of replacing the signals with a roundabout, he said.

What do ‘cycle endorsement fees pay for?

The in basket: Larry Blain of Poulsbo writes, “I just renewed my Washington State driver’s license on-line – a great service, by the way.  The cost was $25 for the license renewal – and $25 more for renewing my motorcycle endorsement!  “Naturally,” he said, “I have some questions about that second fee.
“Where does the money go?  What do I get for the money, or what does the state do with the money?  My suspicion and hope is that it is used for educating new motorcycle drivers.
“What is the penalty for operating a motorcycle without an endorsement?
“How many motorcycles are registered in Kitsap County, and how many licensed drivers in Kitsap County have motorcycle endorsements?”
The out basket: Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing replies that motorcycle endorsement fees go into the state’s Motorcycle Safety Education Account and are spent on motorcycle safety, education, and licensing. 

“These include subsidizing state-approved rider education classes and promoting motorcycle rider safety through events and public awareness campaigns,” he said. “In 2008, 11,564 citizens took advantage of state-subsidized motorcycle rider safety courses which can cut the cost of this important training in half or more.” Federal grants also support the program, he said.

The fine for operating a motorcycle on public roads without the endorsement is $124 and the motorcycle can be impounded. State Trooper Krista Hedstrom says the citing trooper often will try to find someone with the proper endorsement to remove the motorcycle from the highway, but it that fails, the bike will be impounded.

He said that as of January, 14,375 of Kitsap County’s 177,134 licensed drivers – about 8.1 percent – had a motorcycle endorsement on their license. There are currently 10,942 motorcycles and mopeds registered in Kitsap County, he said, so endorsements out-number the licensed vehicles considerably.

Tracyton culvert job completion awaits spring

The in basket: Carol Angel writes, “I’m wondering if the county has abandoned its work on Tracyton Boulevard, which began last fall and has never been completed. 

“The roadway has not been repaved over the new culvert on Barker Creek, and is nothing but rough gravel that fills up with potholes whenever it rains. I see no sign that the job is going to be finished anytime soon. What’s the story on this?” 

The out basket: Paving during the winter doesn’t last very long and the project wasn’t ready for paving before the weather turned bad in the fall. 

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says they expect the weather to be good enough to complete the Tracyton Boulevard job in April.

CK location with missing stripes worries driver

 

The in basket: Barbara Wilhite isn’t happy with the condition of the Silverdale intersection where Newberry Hill Road becomes Silverdale Way and Chico Way enters.

“The painted lines have disappeared and it is dangerous pulling over into the turn lane that drivers coming down Newberry Hill Road can no longer  

see,” she said. “There used to be a concrete marker that defined the area but that was removed and painted

instead.”  

The in basket: The absence of the concrete curbing is the only thing setting this situation apart from that on Lund Avenue in Port Orchard, discussed in a recent Road Warrior column. 

As on Lund, winter wear, which was worse this year because so much sanding and plowing of snow was needed, scrubs off the lines. On curves like the one in Silverdale, adds Jeff Shea, the Kitsap County traffic engineer, motorists drive over the line to flatten the curve out, worsening the wear. 

“The curb referred to by your reader was removed seven or eight years ago,” Jeff said. “I reviewed the accident history and there have been no accidents there that would have been prevented by the curb. 

“We don’t generally endorse  physical barriers in the road,” he said. “They often create more problems

than they solve. Motorists can careen off of it errantly or get

stuck straddling it. Physical barriers create challenges for snow and ice operations, as well as for other road maintenance equipment.

“The main reason  curbs are used is to prevent turning movements for safety reasons and to prevent congestion. We do use curbs down the centerline to prevent left turns from approaches that are too close to

intersections or where there is inadequate stopping sight distance for oncoming traffic.” 

The Silverdale intersection is among places the county will be installing recessed reflectors with a machine it will acquire this year, he said, so the lanes should be clearer next winter.

The county’s six-year road improvement plan shows a $705,000 traffic signal going in there in 2012.

It’s not the only concrete curbing in Silverdale to draw a protest recently. So has the one on Bucklin Hill Road at Levin Road. That’s our subject in the next Road Warrior.

Levin Road curbing is a problem

 

The in basket: Russell Kent of Bremerton, a bicycle commuter, says the centerline curbing on Bucklin Hill Road at Levin Road in Silverdale, which prevents left turns, “has the unintended consequence of physically restricting westbound traffic on Bucklin Hill to a single lane.  

“This restriction prevents a westbound car from drifting across the center line in order to safely pass a bicycle,” Russ said. “I commute by bicycle on this route nearly every day, and on many occasions (usually before dawn), I have had cars come up behind me, begin to pass, but then slam on their brakes and slide when they realize that we both cannot physically fit in this section of roadway.  

“In one instance, instead of slowing down, a car actually straddled the curb to pass me, undercarriage dragging and sparks flying.

“The terminus of Levin is already configured to make cross-traffic turns difficult,” he said. The curbing should be removed in the short term, until Bucklin Hill Road is rebuilt and widened, he argues.

The out basket: And that will be done, if it already hasn’t been, says Jeff Shea, Kitsap County traffic engineer. “After

we remove it, we will monitor traffic patterns there,” he said. “If there is a large volume of left turns onto Levin, we may have to revisit some sort of turn restricting device.”

A $6.7 million widening of Bucklin Hill Road in that area is on the county’s road improvement plan for 2012-13.

Pot hole adds urgency to Mile Hill question

 

The in basket: Robert Leone inquires about the stretch of highway on Mile Hill in Port Orchard just downhill from The China West restaurant, where the pavement has been deteriorating. 

A paving project by Kitsap County a couple of years ago stopped just short of the stretch in question, even though the upper layer of asphalt had delaminated from the lower layer, creating some shallow depressions that look worse than they are.

“Since then the road has become much worse,” Robert said. “I think someone wrote in about the problem back then and the response was the county thought it was the

state’s problem and the state thought it was the county’s responsibility. Does this sound familiar?”

The out basket: Indeed it does, and the issue was among a variety of things state and city of Port Orchard officials talked about in a January meeting.

Kitsap County is off the hook on this one, as its jurisdiction seems to end where its paving ended, just uphill from Harrison Avenue.

I wouldn’t have agreed with Robert that the road has become much worse, until I saw a few days ago that one of the delaminations in the uphill lanes has turned into a pot hole. Those can be much deeper and damaging to cars than the delaminations that have produced just a minor bump. Cars swerving to avoid them has been a greater problem until now. 

Mark Dorsey, Port Orchard’s public works director, said a contract designating maintenance responsibilities for Highway 166, which ends somewhere in that area, says the state will maintain it to the eastern city limits. 

But the eastern city limits moved with an annexation or two since the agreement was created, so the question becomes does it mean the city limits then or the city limits now. The deliminated roadway lies between the old and new city limits

Mark says state lawyers have been asked to rule on it. If that takes a while, I hope the city or state takes it upon itself to fill the pot hole before a bunch of cars get damaged.

Glare screen coming to downhill run into Gorst

 

The in basket: Joel Wadsworth of Belfair and Ginette Dalton recently protested the difficulty they have seeing as they look into the glare of oncoming headlights when they begin the descent into Gorst coming downhill on Highway 16 westbound from the direction of Tacoma.  

“If its raining, its 100 times worse,” said Gina. “All they need to do is put up those glare strips on top of the median that separates both directions of the highway.” They have them atop the concrete barrier just east of Gorst and also between Gorst and Bremerton and I recall how much easier they made it to see how close to the center barrier I was at night.

Joel found it particularly difficult during December’s prolonged snow siege. But “whenever I come around that corner, the lights from the oncoming cars just blind you,” he said.

The out basket:  When Jim Lawson asked for a glare screen at that location  in 2006 and Adele Ferguson before that, the state said there it would be putting its safety improvement money into more urgent needs, but this year the answer will be more to the liking of drivers who have this problem. 

Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region said they have budgeted for a glare screen to be installed there in April, and scheduling issues have moved it up. The screen may be installed the week of March 16, he said. 

He was unaware of the short stretch of glare screen that has been demolished by vandals or accidents between Gorst and Bremerton, but said he would talk with the state maintenance crews here about whether they have the money and time to replace that as well.

Ferry-waiting parking spots and the disabled

The in basket: E-mailer Diane West and Don Chatel of Allyn, both of whom are valid disabled drivers, got $45 tickets recently on Second Street in Bremerton near the Bremerton Transportation Center. 

Diane said she’d understood that the disabled placards and plates permitted a driver to park all day on the street, even in spaces where able-bodied drivers have a time limit. 

“Can you please give me the low down on this?” she asked.

Don’s situation was exacerbated by an unfortunate miscommunication between him and city officials, which caused him to miss the court date he was assigned after protesting the ticket. He now fears the amount he will owe will go up.

After first getting the impression that the ticket would be excused, he belatedly learned that the dozen or so spaces in that location are for people picking up ferry commuters in the afternoon. The driver is required to remain in the vehicle between 4 and 7 p.m., and he returned to his car shortly before 5, so his ticket was valid.

The out basket: Carol Etgen, Bremerton city clerk, said those spaces, for the three afternoon hours drivers can’t leave their cars unattended, join fire hydrant zones, loading zones, and paid parking as places cars with disabled plates or placards must obey the same rules as everyone else.

I looked at those spaces and, frankly, it might not be hard to beat a ticket issued there in court.

The signs imposing that 4-7 p.m. restriction are a mishmash, some with arrows pointing in both directions, some pointing in only one, and one was twisted so it was almost pointing at the building rather than up and down the street. And the first one divided a parking space in two, making it unclear if that space was included.

Tale of two speed limits approaching Gorst

 

 

The in basket: Diane Violette writes that she finds the merge of highways 16 and 166 westbound into Gorst stressful because she and others on 166 have been governed by a 45-mile-per-hour speed limit while those on 16 have been able to go 60.

“It is a huge hazard trying to stay at the 45-mph speed limit while being in the left lane,” she said. “I can’t help being in this lane because it’s automatic when getting out of Port Orchard, but NOBODY from 16 follows the 45 mph speed limit. I attempt to safely move to the next right lane ASAP but because that lane becomes a merge lane very soon, it is dangerous to get over there. 

“Someone needs to look at what is happening in this area because it is so dangerous and scary to follow the speed limit there if you are in the left lane coming from Port Orchard. What speed limit do those coming from 16 think it is in that area?”

The out basket: They probably think it’s 60 mph, which it is, the State Patrol tells me. She should skip all the lane changing and just speed up to 60 mph until she reaches the 40 mph zone just a few hundred feet ahead. 

Told this, she noted there are no signs informing a driver coming out of Port Orchard that that speed limit has gone up to 60. Diane’s gun-shy, she said, because she got nailed in a school zone for speeding recently, even though there no longer was a school there. The cop told her, “it doesn’t matter where or if there is a school nearby—you follow the sign,” she said. 

“If I got a ticket for going 60 mph where that P.O./16 merge is, what would be my defense?” she asked. “Your column? Why has no speed limit sign been posted there yet—talk about an accident waiting to happen!”

I guess my column will have to do. Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the state’s Olympic Region said they won’t add a sign notifying drivers of the increase to 60 mph coming out of Highway 166. 

He explained that the sign warning of the upcoming reduction in Gorst to 40 mph is “just 700 feet beyond the point that Highway 166 enters Highway 16.  We do not want to confuse motorists on Highway 16 with two speed limit signs so close together.”

Why no seat belts on school buses?

 

The in basket: Fred Oliver of Seabeck and Dave Spoelstra of Kingston are curious as to why school buses are exempt from the seat belt law.

Fred put it this way: “Why is that special car seats are required for little kiddies and when they arrive at school age, there are no seat belts in school buses.”

The out basket: I went to Glen Tyrrell, the retired state trooper who is director of transportation in Bainbridge Island schools. He gave me some answers and referred me to Allan Jones, director of pupil transportation in the state school superintendent’s office. 

I expected to be told that the difficulty of unbuckling dozens of children in an emergency that requires haste, and the possible use of the belt as a weapon by bullies played a role, but Glen says that’s old thinking. The prospects that the driver would have to take the time to buckle the students IN was a more persuasive concern, he said.

He said people his age and mine who haven’t been on a school bus for a while probably think those tubular steel seat backs that were excellent in chipping teeth still exist. They don’t, he said. In the 1970s, regulations passed to require higher, padded seat backs. 

“If there is a crash, the dynamics cause the student to go forward to the seat ahead of them, and the seats offer adequate protection,” he said.

Allan told me their is growing support for seat belts in school buses, and some states – New York, New Jersey, Texas, Florida and California – require them.

But underlying all the logistical concerns, he said, is a philosophical one. 

It’s generally accepted that a child riding to school belted into a car is at a greater risky of being hurt in an accident than one riding in a school bus without belts, he said. 

Until recently, shoulder/lap belt designs have cut the capacity of a school bus by a third. There is progress in producing seat belts that can allow students to sit three across, rather than just two. 

But then, cost enters in, he said. Adding belts to a 72-passenger bus can add more than $25,000 to its price. Reduced capacity and higher costs can mean fewer students on buses, for an overall drop in student safety. 

Belts are required on smaller buses, those that carry 10 or fewer students, he said. He knows of no public school district in the state that has taken it upon itself to add belts. 

State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe of King County has introduced bills to put seat belts on school buses for several years running, but they haven’t passed. This year, she told me, she doesn’t see the kind of momentum nationally that might bode success, so she won’t submit the bill in 2009.