Monthly Archives: November 2009

To stripe or not to stripe some county roads

The in basket: Dorothy Cokelet of Sunnyhill Road in the West Hills area just outside the Bremerton city limits wonders why the county didn’t restore the yellow centerline on her road after paving it this summer. 

There’s a lot of traffic on the road, she said. 

The out basket: And so the county discovered after another resident protested the same thing, says Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea.

Sunnyhill will get its stripe back, but not right away.

The county had decided to no longer put a center stripe on Sunnyhill as it standardized which roads get a center stripe and which don’t, he said.

“We now evaluate all roads when overlayed or chip–sealed for striping requirements,” he said. “The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices only mandates striping on paved urban arterials and collectors with daily traffic greater than 6,000 vehicles per day.

Sunnyhill, with about 600 vehicles a day, was among 15 roads chosen to be added to the list of those without a center stripe, he said. 

“At the request of a resident living along the road, we conducted an investigation of the street,” Jeff said. We found many non-residents use it as a cut-through to get between Harlow and Werner.  The officially classified collector which runs parallel to Sunnyhill (Broad, O and Ida roads) does not really work as a collector due to the narrowness of the road and the turns involved in getting from Harlow to Werner.” Also, they noted that the truck volumes on Sunnyhill were much higher than most roads, 10-15 percent.

 “For these reasons we made the decision to restripe the road,” he said. “The problem we’ve encountered since making this decision is the weather. 

“We cannot stripe with our environmentally friendly water-based paint if there is even a hint of rain,” Jeff said. “It will not dry. The air and surface temperature must be above 50 degrees or warmer also.  We are hoping we get a chance to stripe it this year, though the window of opportunity may be very limited.”

 

Water causes swelling of Mile Hill Drive

The in basket: I was alarmed Thursday night when I suddenly ran over something in westbound Mile Hill Drive right at the Long Lake Road traffic signal. 

Neither my wife nor I had seen anything in the road. The sudden bump didn’t seem severe enough to have been a person, or even an animal, though it was more than a speed hump would have caused. We didn’t see anything in the road when we came back the other way. 

By Friday morning daylight, though, a large swell in the pavement was visible. The county had posted one of those “Motorcycles Use Extreme Caution” signs, one of the rare times they seemed to be helpful. By the next day, the lump was barely noticeable. 

I’ve seen many slumps and even washouts after the kind of rain we had Thursday. But a swelling was new to me. I would think a rise like that supported only by water would have made the asphalt break up. I asked what was going on.

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works said it was, indeed, caused by water. 

“We have found that water is infiltrating under the roadway causing the portion you saw to raise up. We did some preliminary work to minimize the bump and plan additional work in the next week or two to determine what is happening. 

“We are going to use our video pipe inspection system to look at the drainage there to determine where the problem is. Once we identify that we will develop a permanent solution.”

Long wait for a green light on Burwell at Warren

The in basket: Robert Campbell says, “I travel by bus and sometimes by car to and from PSNS.  I have noticed that the new lights after the tunnel project was completed at Burwell and Warren are slowing commuter traffic eastbound. 

“For some reason,” he said, “the engineers felt that westbound traffic on Burwell needed a left-turn signal to enter a Diamond parking lot at the south end of Warren. Not only does this seem odd, the left hand light is very long. Eastbound drivers going to the ferry terminal stack up at the light in the mornings and during peak ferry loading times, while no one ever turns left. 

“I have not timed this light, but few people turn left into the parking lot.  And the time it delays eastbound traffic towards the terminal seems unwarranted.

 “I would submit that this light is totally unnecessary,” Robert said. “And certainly it should stay green for a very short time.  It is a back route into an alley that could access the back of the new police station, but the police station has a much shorter access just west of it.”

Also Bill Throm of South Kitsap told me many months ago he got the impression the light stayed green way too long for cars EXITING that parking lot.

The out basket: Brenden Clarke, project engineer on the tunnel, who also holds sway over the changes made to accommodate the tunnel, says the problem is kind of collateral damage from serving the main traffic flows.

“Due to the through and left movement on Burwell heading eastbound, the east and westbound directions of Burwell must have separate phases,” he said.  “As a result, when westbound comes up green the eastbound direction must receive a red so that the eastbound lefts are not in conflict.  

As long as they have to be stopping eastbound Burwell traffic while the westbound is flowing, they might as well leave the turn arrow into the parking lot on green even if traffic rarely demands it, he said. No other movement would be permissible during that time.

They tried splitting the left turns onto northbound Warren from the through eastbound traffic, giving the latter a green light while the inside lane from which turns must now be made stayed red. 

“Despite pavement markings and the signal displays, motorists who have been used to turning left only for two years did not take well to the new configuration,” he said. “People were turning left on red, or turning left from the right lane when left lane motorists were going through.” 

“The signal is currently set up as efficiently and safely as possible considering the constraints,” he said. “(The state)  and the city of Bremerton worked together to come up with the signal timing that is currently being used.  Without major (and costly) modifications to the signal, we feel that it is operating as well as it can be.” 

As for traffic leaving the parking lot, I can’t say what the case may have been back when Bill mentioned it, but it’s green only long enough to serve waiting cars now.

 

 

 

 

Trade-in sales tax exemption not in danger

The in basket: Once again, my wife, TheJudyBaker, is the source of a question. She was in a new car dealership the other day, making a preliminary inquiry about buying a new car, and she believes the salesman told her a change was coming in sales tax on car purchases after the first of the year. 

She got the impression that the practice of deducting the value of a trade-in from the price of a new car and applying the sales tax rate to the difference was about to end. It used to be that way, that the sales tax rate was applied to the total purchase price of the new car, but it was changed by voter initiative in 1984.

That’s a big deal, if true, I told her. 

The out basket: Fortunately for car buyers and sellers, it’s not true. 

Mike Gowrylow, spokesman for the state Department of Revenue tells me, “No legislation was passed to eliminate the trade-in deduction, and none has been proposed.  

“If anything, legislators have been sympathetic to the fiscal plight of car dealers and bills were introduced during the 2009 session to give them tax breaks such as a lower B&O tax rate, though none passed. Eliminating the sales tax deduction on the value of trade-ins would be a tax hike and increase the total cost to buyers and discourage sales.

Mike added, “I can only assume the salesperson was misinformed, or auto dealers may be fearful that the trade-in law might be repealed.  Or it was just a way to encourage someone to buy now.”

Don’t use park & ride lots to sell cars

The in basket: Sandy, who kept her last name to herself, was upset to find a $101 ticket on the car she had left in the Agate Pass park & ride lot with a “for sale” sign on it Oct. 4. 

As far as she was concerned, that lot is “a known place in the county, as far back as anyone can remember, to sell your vehicle. My husband bought his truck last February from seeing it on this same lot,” she said.

“When I dropped my car off at 9 a.m. that Sunday the row next to the highway was filled. I had to park mine in the back row. I believe there were at least 20 cars with ‘for sale’ signs at that time.  When I came back at 5:30 to pick up my car, every car that was still on the lot with a ‘for sale’ sign, had a ticket.  For sure I saw eight cars with tickets.

“What irks me is that for many year’s this park and ride IS a well-known place to leave your car.  I had even checked with a long time resident of Bainbridge Island and he had not heard/saw that cars are being ticketed/forbidden to be left there. 

“Has something happened that the rules have been changed, the laws are going to be enforced and vehicles ticketed?  Why had violators not been consistently ticketed and laws enforced in the past?  Why now, why the change?” 

The out basket: I don’t know if it was infrequent enforcement or what that led the community to believe that weekend display of “for sale” signs on cars in that lot was permissible. But there certainly is no such exemption stated on the big official sign near the entrance to the lot. It says no unauthorized cars or cars with ‘for sale’ signs are allowed there. The sign is surrounded by brambles, so obviously is not new.

Since Sandy wrote, I’ve checked park & ride lots at McWilliams and Mullenix roads and in Purdy, and all have the identical sign forbidding the practice.

The signs all say such cars are subject to being impounded, which can cost a lot more than $101. So it could have been worse for those who were ticketed at Agate Pass.

WSP Sgt. Ken Przygocki told me “The Agate Pass Park & Ride … is intended for motorists who carpool, vanpool, ride bicycles and utilize the transit system and is clearly posted advising everyone of this intent. The … posted rules are in effect 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

“I encourage your readers to make themselves aware of all posted signs on state property before leaving their vehicles unattended,” he said.

He said enforcement at the Agate Pass lot has been stepped up since 1999, when a commuter complained about not being able to find a space while many vehicles for sale took up spots. Another complaint was received in October about a weekend shortage of spaces. “Therefore a trooper went to investigate and citations were issued,” Ken said. 

“A study was done of the park & ride and vehicles were observed parked there with large amounts of pine needles and other debris covering the vehicles (which indicated they had been there for some time).

“(There were) boats on trailers for sale and that were not attached to vehicles, and vans and other larger vehicles that took up 4-6 parking spaces. I myself (while off-duty) have observed numerous types of vehicles, boats, trailers, motor homes, jet skies, trucks and motorcycles parked at this lot with ‘for sale’ signs on many occasions.

“Calls for service that are more of a priority prevent us from checking the lot daily or weekly,” he said. “However, when time allows, troopers will continue to check the lot for violations. It is up to the trooper’s judgment if the vehicle is ticketed, towed or if the owner is called to remove it.”

It’s not easy to find a well-traveled spot to leave a car with a for-sale sign on it. You can get away with one or two of your own cars on your own property, but if on someone else’s property, or if it’s a succession of different cars, it becomes a zoning violation that will get county code enforcement involved.

John Clauson of Kitsap Transit said his agency also doesn’t want the park& ride lots it maintains on its own without state partnership to be used for selling cars.

County code enforcement officer Steve Mount’s best advice? Get a classified ad. 

Epilog:: 

Sandy says she went to court in November and won her case.

“I took pictures of every car with a For-Sale sign the Sunday following my ticket and the Sunday preceding my court date,” she said. “I also took a pic of the DOT sign posted at the lot.  Between the sign’s posted RCW’s, what I was sited for on the ticket and the reason for the siting – Abandonded Vehicle – the judge said the ticket was confusing and found I did not commit the offense.  He said the pictures helped to tell the story that ticketing was not happening consistently. 

“The authorities know the lot is being used as a used car lot on the weekends and the community, in a large sense, supports it,” she asserted. 

“Everyone I spoke to has been surprised that ticketing was occurring,” she said. “Would I ever try to sell a car there again? No way.  I sold my car one week later, using a national auto listing site.”  

 

 

 

 

Ticketed for one mile over the speed limit

The in basket: I was having coffee with Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend and his second in command, Geoff Marti recently, and I asked them about something I didn’t expect either of them to know about.

A friend of TheJudyBaker, my wife, who rides to and from work with her, always admonishes her to slow way down in Port Orchard, because a young relative had once been ticketed for doing one mile over the speed limit there.

The out basket: I didn’t even have to ask if that’s possible, when Al said he knew all about it.

When he came to town 10 years ago to take over the department, he found that Port Orchard officers would sometimes give speeders a break by citing for a little less than the speeder actually was going. I’ve generally found that to be a common practice in many places.

Then, as now, the first five miles per hour incurs a lesser fine than 6 to 10 over, which has a lesser fine than 11 to 20 over and so on. 

A Port Orchard  officer who caught someone doing 11 over, for example, Al said, might write the ticket for 1-plus over, incurring the smallest fine.

But the practice was back-firing,  he said, in that a lot of people came away from the experience convinced they’d been ticketed for 1-over. As I’ve often written in this column, instances where a person is stopped and cited for less than 10-over are quite rare.

So he told his troops to just write it for the actual speed, he said. There shouldn’t have been any 1-over tickets in Port Orchard for years.

 

Why are photo-enforcement signs not next to the signals?

The in basket: Robert Arper wrote to ask, “Would someone please explain to me why the signs warning us of a photo patrolled intersection are posted on the side of the road before the intersection instead of hanging next to the traffic light?  

“When I am approaching an intersection,” Robert said, “I normally am glancing back and forth between the traffic signal and the intersection rather than looking at the right shoulder for a sign so it makes little sense to me why the warning signs are placed where they are.  

“Are they concerned with extra weight on the cables or posts holding the traffic light?  Or is there concern of the warning signs catching the wind and causing problems that way?”

The out basket: Larry Matel, street engineer for the city of Bremerton, which has several photo-enforced intersections, replied, “Warning signs are customarily placed on the right side of the road in the direction of travel as a standard location  where drivers expect to find them. Sometimes signs are placed over travel lanes to augment traffic signal indications.”

Examples I can think of advise when left turns are legal and what kind of yielding is required, when right turns on red are forbidden, and what kind of turns are allowed from what lanes. 

Larry continued, “Yes, wind concerns can also come into play when placing a sign.  If a sign is supported overhead by a cable, (as those at photo-enforced 11th and Warren in Bremerton, are, for example) most likely two cables would be needed in some locations for sign stability.”

Freeway mergers must yield

The in basket: Joy Forsberg of Central Kitsap said she got a dirty look from a women who was merging onto Highway 303 at Central Valley Road, heading to Silverdale recently, after Joy had decided to maintain her speed in the outside lane rather than moving over or changing speed to allow the woman in ahead of or behind her. 

It wasn’t the first time, either, she said. Is it no longer the responsibility of the person entering a freeway to yield to anyone on the freeway already, she asked.

Though she often does move to the inside lane in such situations, that time she chose not to. “She should not expect me to speed up or slow down” to let her in, Joy said.

The out basket: No, the law hasn’t changed, and should there have been a collision, the woman entering the freeway would have been at fault. 

In the real world, though, most drivers do move over to the inside lane to make way for the entering car. The dirty look may have been because the other woman was expecting that, rather that a belief that it was a requirement.

The woman did slow and fall in behind her after scowling at her, Joy said. 

She noted that often a car in  the inside lane keeps a driver from moving over, though she didn’t say if that was the case during her small confrontation.

 

 

Lack of sign can get a ferry user lost in Bremerton

The in basket: Retired Judge Jim Maddock rang me up the other day to call attention to what he felt is a missing sign in downtown Bremerton.

When southbound on Washington Avenue, he said, there is a sign hanging in its intersection with Sixth Street indicating a right turn to get to the ferry to Seattle. When I checked, I saw the same sign overhead as one exits the Manette Bridge onto Washington.

But, Jim notes, there is no comparable sign on Sixth at Pacific Avenue, where a left turn must be made for the direct route to the ferry terminal. 

A person new to town would most likely continue straight on Sixth for who knows how long, Jim said. 

The out basket: Absolutely right, said Brenden Clarke, who has a lot to do with streets in Bremerton these days even though he’s a project engineer for the state. He was in charge of the tunnel project and incurred responsibility for a lot of city issues related to it. 

“We reviewed the site today and concur that there should be a sign at Sixth

and Pacific,” he said. “We are working on getting a sign installed at that

location.”

Maybe some of you familiar with GPS systems could let me know if having one operating in your car would alert you to the need to turn from Sixth onto Pacific to reach the ferry terminal even when no sign tells you to.

‘Stop on Red’ at OC signal for how long?

The in basket: Art Malgapo says he and his wife regularly debate the correct thing to do when they come to a red light on Warren Avenue at 16th Street at Olympic College in Bremerton, and want to turn right. A sign there says ‘Stop on Red.’ It’s one of the intersections where a camera catches red light violators.

He asks if a driver in that situation should  “make a complete stop then make a right turn when the traffic coming from Olympic College is green, or make a complete stop and wait for the light to turn green while listening to those drivers behind you honking their horns. 

“I know someone who recently got a ticket for making a right turn after stopping when the ‘Stop on Red’ light is on. What do you think?”

The out basket: Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police says choice A is the correct answer. “The sign was meant to make it clear to motorists that they must stop on red (We were getting a large number of people on the camera who were not stopping prior to making their turn. We wanted to try to reduce the number of violations with this sign).  

“Once they have stopped, then they can proceed to make a right on red when traffic permits,” Pete said. They needn’t wait for the light to turn green.

I think the only reason a right turner would get a ticket there would be rolling through the turn, and not stopping completely. It’s the most common infraction caught by the red light cameras.

If it really is merely for turning on red, I think the person should inquire about the reasons.