Emergency vehicles can’t change red lights at new interchange


The in basket: Don Cocks wrote on July 16 to ask, “How come there are no emergency vehicle traffic light overrides on the Silverdale 303 interchange or at least they are not working yesterday?  

“I was coming from southbound 3 waiting to turn left on Highway 303 to go to East

Bremerton,” he said. “There were six cars waiting, three in each lane when an

ambulance comes racing up lights and siren going, (and) the driver starts laying

on the horn.  

“Just what are we supposed to do, pull out into on-coming traffic? The two cars in the front pulled up and were almost side-swiped by traffic going into Silverdale.”  

The out basket: Emergency vehicles haven’t been able to preempt that signal or the others at that interchange for the past year and a half, says Jim Johnstone of the Olympic Region signal shop for state highways. The reason is the length of time it takes vehicles on 303 to cross through.

 “We have turned off the pre-emption because of the way the signal terminates during a pre-empt event,” he said. “If a vehicle has started into the intersection, especially in the westbound direction, and an emergency vehicle pre-empts the ramp, the green will come up for the emergency vehicle before the traffic has cleared the bridge. 

“This caused several near misses between emergency vehicles and citizens. 

“With our Traconex controllers there is no way to prevent this from happening,” he said, “other than to turn pre-emption off.  Emergency services in the area were notified that the pre-emption was turned off.

 “As far as what the driver should do? I guess the best thing would be to sit still and allow the emergency vehicle to pass, or get out of the way as best as possible. I don’t believe I would pull up into the intersection on a red light.”

Jay Lovato, assistant chief of Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue and Chief Dan Smith of North Kitsap Fire and Rescue agreed that their drivers probably would use the right turn lane to make a left turn when both lanes for left turns have cars in them, and the lights are red.

It’s not uncommon for them to use the center turn lane or even an oncoming lane when no traffic is coming in lights-and-siren situations, Jay said.

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