Traffic camera in Gorst not forerunner of ramp metering


The in basket: It was more two years ago, in January 2007, that Richard McLaughlin of Port Orchard asked about adding a ramp metering stop light in Gorst to improve morning traffic flow.

At the time, he said, he went through Gorst each morning about 6:30. “The westbound backup through Gorst gets longer and longer, often back to the Old Clifton Road/Tremont exit in Port Orchard.  

“The problem appears to be the reduction of lanes from three to two in Gorst, coupled with merging westbound traffic from the Highway 3 overpass coming on. 

“Has (the state) explored installing a metering light on that on-ramp to improve traffic flow in the morning?” he asked.

Knowing that ramp metering requires cameras to tell the operators of the light how heavy traffic is, and that there were no such cameras in Gorst, I never addressed Richard’s inquiry.

But checking out a complaint about a non-functioning camera at the Hood Canal Bridge during May’s closure, I was surprised to see that there IS a traffic camera in Gorst, at the Highway 3-Sam Christopherson Road intersection. I asked its purpose and when it was installed.

The out basket: It’s a new installation, prompted by the expected increase in traffic through Gorst while the bridge was closed, says Jamie Swift of the Olympic Region of state highways. 

Traffic counts from May 1 to Memorial Day, while a lot of normal bridge traffic was detoured, showed that Belfair, down the highway a bit, had 13 percent more traffic than usual, he said.

And though they plan to keep the Christopherson camera in operation, and ramp meters in Gorst “would be a helpful traffic management tool, at this point there is no funding available to pay for such a project,” he said.

The Christopherson signal can be controlled remotely, he said, but isn’t for the same purpose as a ramp meter signal. “Under most circumstances, we would send a crew to the field to observe the entire intersection before making any adjustments.

“The camera helps diagnose issues at the intersection, but doesn’t provide the comprehensive view our crews can get by observing on the ground.” 

Still, says Jim Johnstone of the regional signal shop, they could alter its timing remotely if the regional traffic management center asked them to. 

All that said, that light is some distance from the location of the traffic backups Richard mentions. Phil Serratt wrote recently with a different suggestion to deal with those, and the next Road Warrior will discuss that.

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