Monthly Archives: April 2009

Pedestrians with a death wish

The in basket: Olivia Galles wrote that one day in late March, “my husband and I drove from Silverdale into East Bremerton via Bucklin Hill and Central Valley Road.  (We) saw three walkers, after dark, and in dark clothing on the wrong side of the road. 

“When I was growing up, the sheriff, Art Morken, used to come to our school (Tracyton) and talk about safety. He taught us the ditty:  ‘The left side is the right side, the right side is suicide,'” she said.

“This should be taught in school still, or just teach them to face traffic. Maybe then it would last into adulthood,” she said.. 

“The areas that we saw the walkers was very narrow outside of the fog line and they could very easily have been hit.  Wanted to stop and tell them to get on the other side of the road.” 

The out basket: I won’t presume to suggest that schools add anything to their heavy load of responsibilities, but teachers can feel free to post this column. Facing traffic while walking on the shoulder is not only a good idea, but it’s required by state law. I haven’t heard of anyone actually being cited for violating it, but occasionally an officer will stop and warn pedestrians who are on the wrong side of the road.

It’s especially critical for someone who can’t or won’t avoid walking along a road at night in dark clothing.

Where and when to get an ORCA card

The in basket: Tony Smallbeck was puzzled about a couple of things after reading news stories about and the designated Web site for the new ORCA cards introduced to unify and simplify paying one’s fare to travel on the ferries and mass transit systems in the Puget Sound area.

He now uses a combination ferry-transit pass to commute to Seattle, he said. 

“I understand the concept (of the ORCA card) ,” he said, “but…when I ask my Kitsap Transit drivers if I need one, two said yes, two said no..  Also, there is confusion on whether I can only buy them on the Kitsap side in Bremerton, or somewhere – anywhere – else.

Any ideas?” 

The out basket: Technically, Tony won’t need an ORCA card for about six months, says John Clauson of Kitsap Transit, as the previous devices, such as Tony’s joint ferry-bus pass, will still be effective that long.

But the cards are free now, and will require a $3-$5 purchase after six months. “It’s to his advantage to do it sooner rather than later to avoid the charge,” John said.  

The Bremerton Transportation Center where the ferries land is the only place west of Puget Sound to buy one in person for now, John said. But he is hoping to outfit Safeway stores to be remote locations, as they are now for some existing fare devices.

He expects in-person sites to become less and less important, though, as people go online to order the cards (which would be mailed) and to put money in them to pay fares electronically when boarding a participating agencies’ vessel or vehicle. The cards also can be ordered by phone. 

Kitsap Transit and Washington State Ferres are joined by King County Metro, Community Transit of Snohomish County, Pierce Transit, Everett Transit and Sound Transit, operator of commuter rail, in providing and honoring the ORCA cards. The other agencies also have places to purchase one. They are for pedestrians only.

The online site is and the phone number is (888) 988-6722.

SK Little League opener jammed Hilldale


The in basket: Charlie Holt writes to say,”East Hilldale Road (off Beach Drive at the entrance to Manchester State Park) was a zoo Saturday morning, April 11. The problem was overflow cars from the games at the South Kitsap Eastern Little League ball fields.

“I’m hoping this was an opening day event and will not be happening every week,” Charlie said. “I counted 55 cars parked on the shoulder, all in plain view of No Parking signs all the way to the state park. Some cars were two to three tire widths over the white fog line, effectively reducing Hilldale to a one-lane road. There were several head-on events that could have led to an accident. It was downright dangerous.”.

“The Eastern Little League billboard says Phase 2 is complete (five ball fields) with a total of nine ball fields planned,” he said. “Hopefully, more parking will be built before more ball fields are.”   

The out basket: It was opening day, according to South Kitsap Eastern’s Web site,, which has a lot of information about the league. 

It’s vice president, Kevin Archuleta, said league officials also were alarmed by what they saw that day. They have adequate parking on the field property, he said, but the illegal parkers may not have known that. I would guess that some may not have wanted to fight the crowds trying to exit after the opening ceremony.

They are working to make the availability of off-road parking better understood by players’ parents, Kevin said. The following Saturday, there were only two cars parked on Hilldale, and both got tickets from a deputy sheriff. 

Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said they weren’t informed of the illegal parking on the 11th. It’s OK to use 9-1-1 to report it, he said. “Patrol or traffic deputies may not always be aware of situations such as these unless advised by the public while the violation(s) are in progress.”

Word of the opening day problems evidently prompted the enforcement the next Saturday.

For the record, while the No Parking signs make all parking on Hilldale illegal, anyone who parks on the shoulder anywhere with their tires on the traveled side of the edge (fog) line is illegally parked and subject to being cited.

Bridge toll statements hit a snag

The in basket: When the Good to Go! toll office for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge sent me my monthly notice that  my account was ready for viewing on April 1, I clicked on the link provided and it wouldn’t open. It said the server couldn’t be found.

It was the same the next day and 10 days later. I asked if the Conficker worm that got a lot of publicity around April 1 had disabled their Web site. 

The out basket: No, says Janet Matkin of the toll office. “An incorrect link was sent out with Good To Go! statements on April 1. To view your account, please go to the Good To Go! website at: and click on “Access My Account” in the left-hand navigation bar.”

If you also have been unable to check your statement this month, you can see it that way.

Under-used electronic highway signs


The in basket: I decided to find out recently if the big pedestal-mounted electronic signs that adorn the shoulders of state highways in Kitsap County are as little used at they appear to be. 

“I’ve seen them warn of problems at the Narrows Bridge, and the Hood Canal Bridge, ferry wait times and Amber alerts,” I wrote to a state official, “but I can’t recall the last time I saw a message on one about a temporary Kitsap County disruption.”

When I asked a year ago about announcing slippery conditions in the notorious stretch of Highway 3 near Austin Drive in Bremerton when temperatures drop below freezing, I was told that such a notice wasn’t within the parameters for using the signs.

Another time, Tom Clark of Poulsbo suggested they could save commuters time during the Highway 305 widening project by announcing which lanes are open. I conceded in my inquiry that trying to provide accurate information about something as fluid as lane closures on a highway project probably would create more misinformation than information.

“Can you disabuse me of the notion that they are almost never used for Kitsap County road disruptions of just a day or two,” I asked, “by citing some instances when they were, explain why not if there are no such instances, and generally describe the philosophy for their use that underlies those decisions?” The out basket: Steve Bennett, the traffic engineer for the state’s Olympic Region, provides the state’s position.

“We try hard to provide motorists with accurate, pertinent and timely information without needlessly distracting them from the task of driving or giving out information that is either wrong or out of date,” he said..

“Our concern is that if motorists are presented with messages that do not pertain to actual conditions or a specific need, over time they will tend to ignore these signs altogether.  We want them to recognize that when a message is posted, it is important and worth paying attention to.  

“We have also experienced instances where the changeable message itself has caused congestion as motorists slowed significantly to see what was going on. So we believe there is the risk of doing more harm than good in terms of activating these signs. 

 “Weather-related road conditions such as icy roads can change quickly and sometimes vary from hour to hour, road to road, and within sections of the same road. We do not have the ability to monitor road surface conditions in any way approaching real time or system-wide. So the likelihood of constantly attaining reasonable accuracy is low.  

Further, “we are concerned that by posting an ice message we may be implying that we know on any given stretch of road and hour by hour when a road is icy. The concern is that this may lead drivers to believe that when no message is posted there is no ice on the road. This would not necessarily be the case, and could send a very misleading message.  Using temperature as the indicator really wouldn’t help because of the many cold dry days where the roads remain clear of ice.   

 “All that said,” he concluded, “I think you are correct in your desire to see more construction and maintenance messages posted on the signs. These activities are predictable and can be posted with a high degree of confidence of being accurate. We will be modifying our approach to better include these uses”.

Why are motorcycles allowed in HOV lanes?

The in basket: Shirley Sweetland said she was heading past the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton on Highway 304 the other day heading toward Gorst when a motorcycle passed her in the HOV lane with only just the driver aboard. 

“Can motorcycles go in that lane?” she asked.

The out basket: Yes, motorcyclists can legally use any HOV lane whether they are alone or have someone riding with them. Federal law makes it so on any highway for which federal money was used, which I imagine includes all highways in all states with enough traffic to warrant HOV lanes. 

Why this is true is the subject of some discussion on the Web, but it appears to be rooted in the belief that motorcyclists are safer if they don’t have to do a lot of start-and-stop driving.

I think there may even be signs along the Highway 304 HOV lanes reading, “Motorcycles OK.”

Mystery light adorns Annapolis dock

The in basket: Mark Swedberg e-mails to say, “A handful of us ferry riders that commute on the Annapolis ferry between Bremerton and Annapolis are wondering what the purpose is for the presence of what appears to be a strobe light about half way down the Annapolis ferry dock mounted on one of the light stanchions. And does it work and why was it placed there for in the first place?” He’d never seen it lit, he said.

“Curious riders await your findings,” Mark said.

The in basket:  Steve Slayton, the Port of Bremerton’s director of marine facilities, says, “It is an abandoned navigational aid, out of service for more than 20 years, and no longer listed on the Coast Guard light lists or Coast Guard charts. So it just sits there and I didn’t think it was worth the man hours to take it down.” 

He figures the port owns the light, since it owns the dock, and says it’s possible the port might find some other use for the light some day.

He had no guess why it’s in the middle of the dock, not the end, other than to say the dock used to be shorter than it is, long before he came to the port. Why the light would be put back where it was when the dock was lengthened would be the subject of light-hearted speculation, I suppose.

Buses use flashers on Manette Bridge


The in basket: Debby Briody asks, “What are the rules for the transit buses on Manette Bridge? What must a car driver do as regards the flashing lights on the buses?” She said her boyfriend meets a bus on the bridge every day.

The out basket: John Clauson of Kitsap Transit and Doug Wagner, transportation director for Bremerton schools, whose drivers also sometimes turn on their flashers when approaching the bridge’s narrow center span, say it’s just a cautionary step to alert other drivers that the bus may have to stop.

That can happen when they meet another large vehicle coming the other way. John says they have lost side view mirrors in close passages by buses and trucks, and the drivers may stop to allow a large oncoming vehicle to clear the center span before the bus enters it.

It’ll all be academic when the state has replaced the old bridge, expected by 2012, and large vehicles can pass one another comfortably.

Parking on Trigger Avenue bridge is illegal


The in basket: Barb Frindell asks, “Why can cars park on the side of the overpass on Trigger Avenue without getting ticketed.  They sometimes block the view for the northbound exit turning left. 

“If you park your car on the other roadways, you get a ticket. These people are probably walking the (Clear Creek) trail and there is no parking lot for them but does that make it legal?  

“They need to set up a place for these people to park, instead of on the road,” she concluded.

The out basket: It is illegal to park on any bridge in this state, so those who park on the bridge on Trigger are just taking their chances.

Krista Hedstrom of the state patrol confirms that, and says the fine is $20. I presume that the lack of ticketing arises from the patrol’s higher priorities in addressing known accident causes, though Barb obviously thinks that applies to the parking on the bridge. 

The appearance of this column might make it more of a financial risk to park there for a while.

“I have not heard of any plans to put in a parking area near Trigger,” Krista adds, “so right now the best place to access the trail with plenty of parking is near the skate park off Silverdale Way.”

That, in fact, is the county’s wish, though the convoluted route from Trigger to Silverdale Way, via the new interchange, Kitsap Mall Boulevard and Randall Way, certainly provides a major disincentive for  those coming from the north – and maybe even the south – to meander down to the Silverdale Way park. The park in question is just north of the off-ramp from Highway 303 to Silverdale Way.



Twin signals puzzle pair of readers


The in basket: Today I group a pair of seemingly unrelated reader observations because the explanation is the same for both.

Rob Gossett says that the traffic signal on Kitsap Mall Boulevard at Silverdale Way shows a pair of green arrows for through traffic going across diagonally to Ridgetop Boulevard. There is only one lane of traffic, but the twin signal heads “give the impression that both lanes can go straight,”  he said. The other lane is the left turn lane to go north on Silverdale. He had a conflict with another car trying to go straight from the left turn lane, but it didn’t result in a collision, he said. 

Lois Fetters watched the installation of a replacement signal at Bay Street and Sidney Avenue in Port Orchard the past winter and noted two through-traffic signal heads in each direction where there is only one lane. Then she noticed that’s true with all signals on two-lane roads and streets.

“Why is that needed,” she asked. “It looks like a waste of money.”

The out basket: Silverdale is Kitsap County’s responsibility, and the state put in the new signal in Port Orchard. Both are governed by the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a federal document.

“The double signal head is required by the manual,” says Jeff Shea, the county’s traffic engineer. “It requires a minimum of two signal faces for the major movement on the approach. They require the redundant signal in case one of the signal heads malfunctions. It is not an indication of the number of lanes present.”

“Pavement markings clearly delineate the traffic flow there,” he added.