Monthly Archives: May 2009

Kitsap freeway exits aren’t numbered – so far

The in basket: It’s funny how important sources of information on highways where a driver is unfamiliar become just background noise in that driver’s home area, where  he doesn’t need the help. 

That’s true of me, so I was caught by surprise when Bill Vale of Suquamish asked why the only freeway interchange in Kitsap County at which the off-ramps are numbered is the new one in Silverdale. 

As much as I use freeway off-ramp numbers to find motels and restaurants when traveling, they are so unimportant to me around here than I hadn’t noticed their absence until Bill wrote. 

“I notice at the Kitsap Mall exit, it is Exit 45,” he said. “Going north, you have exit 45A and 45B.   

“These are the only signs that I have seen in the county that actually utilize the mile marker,” he said. “Poulsbo could be exit 54 A (Finn Hill) and 54B (Highway305). 

“Is the county beginning to use this system? Or why did they designate Waaga Way as Exit 45?” he asked.

The out basket: It’s the state, not the county, that manages the freeways and their off-ramps, and, yes, it is moving gradually toward adding them. 

“For years, maybe decades,” says Steve Bennett, the Olympic Region traffic engineer, “we numbered only Interstate route exits.  Several years ago, we decided that policy didn’t make sense and began, as new construction came to a corridor, to add exit numbers to all multi-lane divided freeways.”

The Highway 3-303 interchange is the most recent one substantially modified here. I would assume the Burley-Olalla Road interchange will have its exits numbered,corresponding with the nearest milepost marker, when it opens later this year.

Why Shelton, not Tacoma, on Silverdale signs?

The in basket: Bud Larsen of Manchester wonders why Shelton, not Tacoma, is paired with Bremerton on the destination signs at the new interchange in Silverdale.

More people in need of advice on what access leads where would be likely to be looking for Tacoma than for Shelton, he figures.

The out basket: Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the state’s Olympic Region, says, “Our typical guide signing includes the State Route symbol, the compass direction and major cities on the route, in this case, SR 3, South and Bremerton/Shelton.   As Tacoma is not on SR 3, it would be misleading to include Tacoma on that sign. We do include Tacoma on a mileage sign on SR 3, about 3 miles south of the interchange.”

Pavement arrows in Gorst puzzle reader — and me

The in basket: Alan Lowe of Port Orchard wants to know the purpose of the arrows in the through lanes in Gorst westbound, shortly after one passes beneath the railroad overpass. 

There are three in a row in each of the three lanes, pointing straight ahead. What else might a driver do but continue straight, Alan asked.

The in basket: I had driven over the arrows hundreds of times without ever noticing them until Alan asked. Afterward, though, I saw the same kind of arrows in the southbound lanes of Highway 16 near Gig Harbor between the Wollochet and Burnham Drive interchanges. I had to concede that I couldn’t puzzle out what message they are intended to send drivers. 

The out basket: Both locations are near spots where a confused, impaired or inattentive driver might head in the wrong direction and travel into oncoming traffic. In Gorst, it is the wide area in the middle of the town where drivers can turn around and go back the other way. In Gig Harbor it’s the Haven of Rest Cemetery. 

In each case the arrows are extra visual cues that would tell a driver he’s going in the wrong direction — if all those cars coming at him or her hadn’t already conveyed the message.

Pedestrians & ferry traffic conflict at quitting time

The in basket: Susan Cook e-mailed to say, “As a (state) ferry employee, I witness on a daily basis car/pedestrian near-misses outside of the main gate of the (Bremerton) shipyard. Obviously, vehicles with that ‘I must catch the ferry’ syndrome cannot or will not see the stop sign (poorly posted) at the crosswalk. About one in three cars blows right through it, as it is not visible in the right lane.

“Pedestrians exiting the shipyard also fail to follow the usual ‘look both ways’ policy,” she said. “I feel it’s an accident waiting to happen. Also, with all the grand remodel and tunnel construction, why was no thought given to the absolute shutdown of traffic during the 7:20 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. sailing due to the flow of pedestrians out of the shipyard?!  This will continue to happen even after the construction, as there is no evidence of any control being initiated at this intersection. (i.e. crosswalk light, pedestrian overpass, relocation of crosswalk,etc.)

“I have seen several close calls, and now that the beautiful park they made is open, our weekend pedestrians have increased,” she said.

The out basket: It probably won’t help much from Susan’s perspective, but Larry Matel of the city of Bremerton street engineers says the stop sign will be removed when the final striping of the street and crosswalks is complete when the tunnel opens. 

As for the conflict between pedestrians and cars heading for the ferry, he said, “We … will observe the situation at that time to see if there is a need for any changes.”

How do I-5 travel time signs help?

The in basket: I first saw the overhead electronic signs telling me how many minutes I am from an upcoming destination in Las Vegas, and now I see them  along I-5 on the other side of the Sound.

“They are a nice amenity,” I wrote to my state highways contact, “but I doubt they would be worth their cost if that was all there is to it. What function do they serve for traffic movement?”  I asked.

The out basket: Jamie Swift, the contact, replied, “Our travel times posted on area electronic message signs change as congestion increases or decreases.  The travel time are calculated by a computer that uses electronic vehicle detectors located underneath the roadway. These are the same traffic detectors that provide drivers, the WSDOT Web site and the media with congestion information.

“How are these tools valuable?” she asked, rhetorically. “They help drivers on the road choose alternate routes.  For example, a driver traveling to Everett has several choices if there is a collision ahead blocking two lanes of northbound I-5 just north of SR 520 during the peak afternoon commute.

Assuming the driver is just south of the I-5/I-405 interchange in

Renton, the driver can choose to take I-405, SR 520 or continue on their

journey on I-5.  The travel times on the highway can show the driver

which route is the fastest way.”

The signs are backed up by a Web site that allows a driver to go online to calculate his commute times to various destinations, offering what it calls an accurate estimate 95 percent of the time based on 2006 travel date. You can give it a try at 

http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/Seattle/TravelTimes/95reliable.html

Sedgwick-Sidney signal hadn’t been working

The in basket: Thom Smithson wrote on May 6 to say something was wrong with the traffic signal at Sedgwick and Sidney roads in Port Orchard.

“The timing on this light going east and west on Sedgwick has been totally screwed up for months,” he said. “For a while it has let east and west and turn traffic on Sedgwick sit for up to five minutes watching little or no traffic go by on Sidney. 

“Yesterday evening was too much,” he said. “I was going east on Sedgwick and was stopped at the intersection for its normal extended wait but it did a new one. I sat through two cycles watching Sydney traffic go north and south with the usual interminable wait but this time the light stayed red for us going east while the west bound straight and turn traffic went their merry way. I finally managed to illegally inch past the lady in front of me on the right and turn south on Sidney then go through the Albertson’s parking lot to get past the intersection.

“Please see if you can get anyone to look into this.”

The out basket: It should be fixed now. Mark Dorsey, Port Orchard’s public works director, had the city of Bremerton signal shop, with which Port Orchard contracts for signal maintenance, check the signal and they found “some errors in the computer….made repairs/adjustments.  Hopefully it is fixed,” he said.

Thom tells me,”East and west on Sedgwick is still a bit long but not as bad as it was.”

Will Old Wheaton Way washout be fixed?

 

The in basket: Tom Wisniewski  of Bremerton writes to say, “It has been a year and a half since the December 2007 rain storms partially washed out Lower Wheaton Way near East 18th Street.  Are the Jersey barriers that have been up since then considered the permanent fix for this problem?

The out basket: No, they are due to come out when repairs are made next year. Larry Matel of the city of Bremerton engineers says, “In June of this year, the city will begin design for the permanent fix for this location.  The city will receive funding from the federal government, approaching 87 percent, for the cost of the project, estimated at $500,000 to $600,000. The City will need to budget for the remaining cost in its 2010 budget.”

What’s Transit building in West Bremerton?

 

The in basket: Every time I drive by Kitsap Transit’s operations base on Charleston Avenue in Bremerton’s west end, I wonder what they are building there, and whether construction in a time of service cutbacks is a PR headache for them.

The out basket: Yes, it is, says Transit CEO Dick Hayes, but it’s the old story of funding coming from sources that can’t be shifted to operations. “This is capital grant money that can’t be used for anything else,” he said.

Expanding operations bases is hard to get done, due to permit requirements, he said. This one was further complicated by the need to acquire the old Callow Avenue that runs between the operations base and the shipyard. They got the permits, acquired the street in a trade with the city for part of the Bremerton Transportation Center site, and had an approaching deadline to use the grant money. So they went ahead. 

The work will allow the Access bus service for the elderly and infirm to relocate to the operations base from its current site near the end of steep Werner Road.

It’s not a good place to operate out of when it snows, he said, and it puts extra miles on the the Access buses when they get the same preventative maintenance as the routed buses.

The $4.5 million project is adding a wash rack for the buses, more room for that preventive maintenance, and will double available parking, he said.

“Some day we’ll have more money to run more services,” he said, and the base expansion will pay off then, he said. 

Transit owns the Werner Road site and will sell it when Access moves, in about seven months, he said.

Though Callow Avenue will be closed to the public, Transit had to agreed to let the Navy use the property for emergency evacuation of its multi-story parking garage on the other side of the street, if that is ever necessary, Dick said.

Police and the no-parking-on-a-bridge law

The in basket: Maynard Peterson of Port Orchard read the recent Road Warrior column saying it’s illegal to park on a bridge, specifically the Trigger Avenue bridge over Highway 3 near Silverdale, and had a question.

“How come I have often seen Washington (State) Patrol police cruisers stopped over freeways while the officer uses a radar gun trying to catch speeding motorists using the bridge rail to hide behind,” he asked. “Does that mean as long as the vehicle is occupied its okay?  Or do they have unwritten approval?   

“Or is it just the old double standard where they can claim they are enforcing the rules in any way they see fit? 

“What about the police stopping on on-ramps out of view to unsuspecting motorists and catching them on radar after they have passed the point of slowing down to try to avoid the speeding ticket?  Are they legally parked there?” 

The out basket: It shouldn’t surprise anyone that police are allowed to do things the general public can’t, while performing their duties. RCW 46.61.035

says emergency vehicles, “when responding to an emergency call or when in the pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law or when responding to but not upon returning from a fire alarm,” may stop and stand, speed, turn and go through red lights and stop signs, if done safely. 

There is some wording in the law that might be construed to require the officer to have his car’s emergency lights on, but the wording is so convoluted, I doubt that would be an out for a speeder. 

Anyone can park briefly on the shoulder of an on-ramp if they stay in the car, such as to talk on a cell phone, State Trooper Krista Hedstrom said, so the police can, too. Staying in the car probably could permit parking on a bridge, as well. It’s leaving the car unoccupied that’s clearly an infraction for citizens.

Right turners blocked at Forest Rock Lane

 

The in basket: Patty Tompkins was the latest, back in March, to complain about the alignment of Forest Rock Lane where in intersects Highway 305 in Poulsbo. 

She estimated that 95 percent of the traffic on Forest Rock turns right to go north on 305, but the outside lane is marked for both right turns and those wanting to go straight. When the rare driver who wants to go straight is there, it blocks all those right turners until the light turns green. They otherwise could have been on their way after making a right turn on red. 

The inside lane is reserved for left turns. 

She and others before her who also have noticed this suggest dedicating the inner lane to left turns and straight through traffic, leaving the outside lane for right turners. 

The out basket: When I drove this intersection several times late one afternoon, I found that Patty’s estimate of the percentage of right turners, at least among those in the outside lane, might even be conservative. I never saw a car pull up in the outside lane wanting to go straight. 

So I did it myself, and was able to pull far enough forward that right turners still could get past me and make their turn. But two cars wanting to go straight would block the lane.

Patty told me a lot of drivers don’t have that much consideration and others are in vehicles that take up more room than my Mazda 3.

Jim Johnstone of the state signal shop that handles all the signals on Highway 305 said in March they were considering restriping the intersection to create three lanes, one each for left, straight-ahead and right turn traffic. They found enough width for that, but “we can not achieve the necessary turning radius to accommodate a semi-truck turning into Forest Rock Lane,” he said. “So option one is out.”

They’ve decided to make the signal a “split phase” light, in which side street traffic on Forest Rock and that on Seventh Avenue across the highway will get green lights at different times. The outside lane will be for right turns and the inside lane for straight-ahead and left turn traffic. It’s similar to what drivers see at Liberty Road just south of there, he said.

“This option adds additional delay to the overall intersection operation,” he said, but does get other traffic out of the way of right turners.

“This revision will be subject to fitting it into our schedule, which could take several months,” he added. .