Monthly Archives: January 2010

All that work at Burnham Drive on Highway 16

The in basket: Jeff Paskett suggested when I encountered him at his South Park Rexall store that I probably could tell him what is going on at the Burnham Drive interchange on Highway 16 in Gig Harbor.

I had to tell him I couldn’t, but that I’d been wondering the same thing myself. 

The out basket: I went online and it didn’t take long to find a description of the $6.4 million project on the Web site of Gig Harbor Public Works, which is supervising the work. Woodworth & Co. is the contractor. It’s all largely being paid for by mitigation payments by developers in that area, notably the owners of St. Anthony’s Hospital.

According to the Web site, the main improvements will be: 

– Widening the state’s small roundabout on the west side of  Highway 16 (near Sehmel Drive) from one lane to two.

– Adding a “slip lane” from Canterwood Boulevard to the Highway 16 westbound on-ramp (to Bremerton), to let vehicles bypass the large roundabout and “slip” onto Highway 16 to Bremerton. St. Anthony’s is on Canterwood, so travel from the hospital to the freeway westbound will be easier. In picturing this, remember that the state insists that Highway 16 is an east-west highway because that’s the direction it runs on the Tacoma side of the Narrows. On the Kitsap Peninsula it runs north-south but the references still are to east and west.

– Adding a slip lane from the Highway 16 westbound off-ramp to Burnham Drive, which will allow vehicles to exit westbound Highway 16, bypass the large roundabout and slip onto Burnham Drive.

– Adding another lane to both Highway 16 off-ramps that exit from Tacoma and exit from Bremerton. That’s the reason to go to two lanes on the west side roundabout.

The Web site doesn’t mention it, but the work also will widen both the east- and westbound on-ramps to two lanes at the roundabouts, but they will taper to a single lane entering the freeway, says Project Engineer Marcos McGraw

Work began in August, he said, and will take a year. They’re having to build some large walls to contain the construction. 

The Web site includes a drawing of the completed work. Go to www.cityofgigharbor.net/page.php?id=759 to take a look.

Does 2+ mean two or more or three or more in HOV lanes?

The in basket: Harry Mock of Port Orchard writes to say, “On Highway 304 and numerous other places, there are HOV lanes with signs saying “HOV only, 2+”.  Does the “2+” mean two people or more, or more than 2 people (i.e. 3 or more)?  Can a vehicle with two occupants use the HOV lane, or does it require three?  Just trying to stay legal.”

It’s not a question that had ever occurred to me. I think I already knew that HOV lanes in this state were open to any vehicle with two or more occupants before I ever saw one of the 2+ signs. But I can see where the meaning of 2+ might be unclear to someone who hadn’t learned that. I asked the state if saying “Two or more” might be better.

The out basket: Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for this region, replies, “The sign does mean two or more. As for it being rephrased, this has been the standard for over 20 years and this is the first time I have ever heard of someone not understanding the message.  I doubt there is widespread misunderstanding of the meaning.”

As past Road Warrior columns have noted, any second living person, even an infant or blind person, qualifies a vehicle for use of the HOV lane. Why specify “living?” I’ve had the question, probably posed in jest, as to whether a corpse in a hearse would serve as a second occupant. It won’t.

Two encounters with wrong-headed bicyclists

The in basket: Brian J. Peterson says, “I get a little upset at bikers … who think they are immune to the laws of the road.

“For example,” he said, “(One) Friday afternoon in late October I’m driving through Illahee park. The main road through the park is one way. As I’m heading down the road going around 10 mph the right way, a man and woman with a child, on bikes, came around the corner going the wrong way and almost hit me in my car,

“I told them they were going the wrong way on a one-way street. The man cussed me out and then the lady told me cars are required to yield to bikes.  

“‘I don’t think so,’ I told her (and) she then proceeded to cuss me out for not moving my car off the road so they could go around me. I couldn’t  back up the wrong way on a one-way street.

“Later the same day I’m heading home westbound on E. 30th Street,  when a middle-aged man comes barreling down the hill on Viewcrest completely ignoring me and the stop sign at the end of Viewcrest and headed west also on 30th. I had to slam on my brakes and swerve to miss him. 

“When i told him he had to stop at the sign just as cars are required to, he cussed me out and flipped me off, saying ‘Cars must yield to bikes.’  I told him bikes have to stop at stop signs also and if I hadn’t slammed on my brakes I might have killed him.

Brian called the police both times, he said, and was told  there is nothing they can do unless they see it happen.

The out basket: It’s unusual in my experience to encounter two aggressive, misinformed bicyclists in a single day, but that’s appears to be what happened to Brian. 

Cars are not required to yield to bikes in any situations in which they don’t have to yield to other cars. State law accords bicyclists all the rights and duties of motor vehicles, except that bikers are specifically allowed to ride on the shoulder, which cars can’t do. 

Deputy Scott Wilson of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office tells me, “The parties that Brian mentioned were not operating their bicycles in accordance with the law. The operators of the bicycles could have been (ticketed) for at least two traffic offenses, ie:  traveling in the opposite direction on a one-way road (Illahee Park incident); failure to stop at a stop sign (man on Viewcrest @ East 30th).

Scott also said roads in state and county parks are public roads and violators can be ticketed on them. They’re not private roads, such as shopping center parking lots, where violators can’t be cited.

While I was at it, I asked if bicyclists can ride across streets in crosswalks and whether it mattered if pedestrians are in the crosswalk. Scott said bicyclists may stay mounted in crosswalks and on sidewalks, but must yield to pedestrians in either case.

I ran Scott’s answers past the State Trooper Krista Hedstrom, who said she agrees with him.

What is speed limit approaching Warren Avenue Bridge?

The in basket: Julia LaFontaine of Tracyton says there was a 35 mph speed limit sign on southbound Wheaton Way as one approaches the Warren Avenue Bridge, a bit past the intersection with Sheridan, before the city of Bremerton built its off-ramp there a couple of years ago. 

“I’m guessing it was in the way of construction of the new off-ramp to the Sheridan Park area,” she said, ” but . . . where is it now?  There’s no sign now from the intersection to the other 35 mph sign just where the bridge deck begins (after the on-ramp there). 

“I use that route (along Tracyton Beach Road and up Sheridan) three to five times a week,” she said. “I’m a rules follower, and whatever the speed limit is, that’s what I go on surface streets. I do sometimes get up to 65 on the freeway, but on surface streets and rural roads there are always joggers, people crossing to a mailbox, animals, hidden driveways, all kinds of unexpected things possibly just around a curve.  

“When turning onto the bridge I’ve been using the 30 mph of Wheaton as my guide, until I get to the further sign, but people are always on my tail or rushing past in the left lane. 

“Will they ever replace that sign?” she asked. ” Or is 30 intended to be the correct speed until you reach that second sign? There was a long stretch at 35 before reaching the second sign.” 

The out basket: Brenden Clarke, head of the state’s local project office, says Julie is mistaken, that there was no 35 mph sign where the city built its off-ramp to Callahan Drive and Lebo Boulevard. He included a photo of the spot taken prior to the construction, he said, viewed from the north, and no sign is visible.

I don’t have any contrary recollection of the speed limit history there. 

“The correct speed limit at this location is indeed 30 mph,” Brenden said. “It’s 30 mph until you reach the 35 mph speed limit sign at the bridge.”

I’m not surprised that Julia feels pressure to speed up from drivers behind her.  Most drivers don’t adhere to the speed limit like she does, especially on straight stretches like that approaching the bridge. But they can always pass her if they want to go faster.

Who’s filling up National Avenue post office parking?

The in basket: Kathy Dulaney said on Jan. 6, “This morning there were 22 cars in the parking lot in front of the post

office (on National Avenue in Bremerton) and no customers inside.  The other day I counted 22 cars and four customers in the parking lot.  Is that a designated Park and Ride?”

“I have been there when I couldn’t even find a spot to park and there were very few

customers inside,” Kathy said.

The out basket: What Kathy sees is the result of the Dec. 1 consolidation of mail carrier activities, shifting all the carriers from the Sylvan Way Post Office in East Bremerton to the National Avenue site, says Postmaster Sandra Sadak.

She has had to let some of the relocated carriers use the front lot, she said. 

Still, there should always be 22 public spots plus two disabled spaces available, she said. About 15 carrier cars use the front lot. 

When the weather improves, she added, the back lot of that post office will be reconfigured to hold more of the carriers’ cars. She isn’t sure if that can completely eliminate the need for some carrier parking in front. 

She’s seen no sign that anyone is turning the front lot into an impromptu park and ride, she said. It’s certainly not a designated one.

 

Left turns and the new Burwell-State light

The in basket: When I read that Bremerton and the Navy had scraped together $200,000 to put a traffic signal at Burwell and State streets, the site of numerous complaints about danger to pedestrians going to and from Naval Base Bremerton, I wondered how the signal would handle left turns. It’s not much of a problem eastbound, where two lanes offer traffic a way around a left turner, but westbound there is only one lane and a driver waiting for oncoming traffic to clear before turning left holds up everyone behind him. 

The out basket: Larry Matel of the city’s street engineers says, “This signal was warranted by the number of pedestrian crossings at this

location. Signal heads will be red-amber-green on all approaches, with

NO left-turn signal arrows. There simply are not enough left turning

cars at this location to warrant.” 

The new signal, on flashing mode today, will go into full operation Jan. 21.

New ‘Dead End’ signs showing up

The in basket: While driving on Bethel Road in South Kitsap past a small side street named Keri Street, I noticed a sign below the one identifying the street noting that Keri is a dead end. It is the same size and shape as the one that says Keri Street

There was no diamond shaped dead end sign on the street itself. At the time, I’d never seen anything like it. Now I notice another one on Sedgwick Road out by Sedgwick Junior High. 

I asked if that is the wave of the future. 

The out basket: Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s transportation engineer, replies, “This is a new design adopted in the (2003) version of the Manual On  Uniform Traffic Control Devices. We generally use one or the other,  but there may be a locations where both types exist.

“The new sign is actually called a ‘Dead End Plaque. It is very  

effective when the regular diamond-shaped sign is difficult to see  until you’ve already turned onto the road. The plaque is normally  mounted on the post with the street name sign to increase  visibility of the sign to motorists on the cross street,” Jeff said.

Nice job at Bucklin & Tracyton, county, but…

The in basket: Paul Ofsthun and Murray Webb like the widening of the intersection at Bucklin Hill and Tracyton Boulevard in Silverdale, but both think it could work better. 

Paul writes, “Although I love the new intersection with it’s new right turn lane and the new flashing yellow turn lights, I wonder why they put in a green right arrow (eastbound Bucklin to southbound Tracyton) but never activated it. 

“It sure would ease congestion if they had the green arrow on when the northbound Tracyton traffic is going. To me It looks like they planned on it but never activated it.”

Murray says, “….Kudoes to those involved….traffic moves much better!  

“However, could you please use your column to educate folks what a flashing yellow arrow allows them to do?  

“I remember reading that many lights in Silverdale will eventually be using them, but indications are that many (drivers) aren’t aware they are allowed to turn after yielding.”

Andy Boeckl makes the same observation about reluctant drivers at all of the yellow flashing lefts Kitsap County is putting in.

The out basket: About the right turn arrow, Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says, “Activating (it) requires special programming, additional in-shop work, and consultation with the equipment supplier. 

 We … plan to activate the light when the process is completed.”

Those flashing yellow left turn lights are working their way north. The county debuted them in South Kitsap a year or so ago and has been retrofitting signals in Silverdale. 

So far, I think the county is the only jurisdiction in this county to use them, but a reader back in the Midwest somewhere who goes by the online name MidiMagic and follows the Road Warrior blog says the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices underwent a major revision late last year and now dictates that flashing yellow left turn signals are  the standard at intersections where left turners are allowed to turn after yielding to oncoming traffic. I’m trying to learn more about that.

The flashing yellows consternate many drivers when they first come upon one. The lights replace the situation where left turners faced a green ball light and a sign requiring them to yield before turning. 

They mean that although oncoming through traffic has a green light, you are free to make your turn if it won’t endanger any oncoming vehicles. They usually follow a green turn arrow that comes up first, and means oncoming through traffic has a red light.

They are growing in popularity because it reduces the amount of time left turners must sit and wait, their cars idling, before turning.

 

 

 

 

Slide cleanup to close Tracyton Beach Road

The in basket: I was motoring along Tracyton Beach Road the other day and came upon some orange cones on the landward side, then saw that they marked what appeared to have been a fairly impressive rock slide. A huge boulder and some smaller ones were on what little shoulder exists there.

I asked if the slide was recent and if if the hill, which appears to be all rock under a thin layer of soil, was stable. 

The out basket: Colen Corey, acting operations manager for Bremerton Public Works, says, “Yes, there was a slide there Thanksgiving week. We moved the rocks to the shoulder of the road until we received conformation that the slope was stable. 

“Currently, we are scheduling a road closure for clean-up and also

some minor grading to enhance storm water flow through the area. As you

can tell, traffic control through this area is somewhat of a nightmare,

so we are engaged in careful planning to minimize the disruption to the

public. 

Military radio messing up local garage door openers

The in basket:  Ellen Schroeder , who lives on Bremerton’s east side, wondered what I knew about the problem she and her neighbors have when some operation inside Naval Base Bremerton immobilizes their garage doors. 

Actually, it’s the remote controls that stop working. The doors still can be operated manually or with the inside button. But at intervals, the remotes won’t open or close the doors. That’s quite a hassle for the mobility impaired or just about anyone on a windy, rainy day. 

“Today it wasn’t a problem,” she told me on Oct. 26, “Last week it was intermittent, but happened almost every day.” 

The out basket: Ellen said she had gotten her garage door from Kitsap Garage Doors and Chelsea Browning, the office manager there, says the industry is only too aware of the problem. It also sometimes affects keyless entry devices on cars, she said.

She referred me to the Web, where Googling some combination of “garage door openers,” “military bases” and “interference” brought up a number of discussions of this issue. 

Chelsea says it’s all part of stepped up security that followed the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. As such, her company and the rest of the industry haven’t been able to learn what exactly causes it. The Web sites name something called the Land-Mobile-Radio System as the origin of the interference. 

Tom Danaher, spokesman for the Navy here, referred me to a telecast discussion of the problem on NBC, which he said covers it. 

“(Department of Defense) is the authorized user of the 380 MHz to 399.9 MHz spectrum, (and) it is under no obligation, according to the FCC, to identify or mitigate potential interference (with) devices that may also be operating in that spectrum,” it said.

It then drew from a recommendation from the garage door industry, found online at http://www.dasma.com/PDF/Publications/TechDataSheets/OperatorElectronics/TDS374.pdf

It said, in part, “If a military radio system (which usually consists of high-power devices) causes your …  device to malfunction, then, by law, you must accept the interference.”

A homeowner with the problem should 

call the manufacturer or retailer of the garage door opener, it said. “Buying a new garage door opener is probably not necessary. But you may need to purchase a retrofit to your remote control system to allow operation on a frequency that is not used by your local military.”

Easier said than done, says Chelsea at Kitsap Garage Door. The industry advised shifting from a remote using the 390 MHz frequency to one on 315 MHz, but that doesn’t work here, she said. 

Going up to a frequency in the 400 MHz range will work, she said, but fewer than half the existing remotes are compatible with that range. 

Ellen didn’t think I’d be able to do anything but explain the problem, which is a good guess. In fact, I won’t even try to explain it beyond what I’ve already written. Discussions by people who know electronics far better than I can be found on the Web, and I commend anyone interested to use those sites.