Monthly Archives: February 2010

The reason for traffic counting tubes west of Bremerton


The in basket: Ed Runquist asks “Why are the vehicle counters that stretch across the highway some times a single cable and sometimes two cables?  About a week ago when traveling from auto center towards Gorst, there were actually four cables near the last underpass.”

I, too, saw cables on the downgrade where traffic coming out of Bremerton meets the remaining lane of southbound traffic on Highway 3, though I thought there were only three. 

I can’t be sure Ed and I are talking about the same spot in that interchange. There were cables across the through lanes and one on the off-ramp to go into Bremerton, too. 

I wondered if the state was comparing traffic counts coming out of Bremerton and on Highway 3 coming south, a notorious backup scene on weekday afternoons. They’ve said no to suggestions about revising the alignment there in the past, but I wondered if they were rethinking.

The out basket: No, says Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region of state highways. The tubes are counting traffic in preparation for reinforcement safety work on the rocky cliffs near Windy Point between there and Gorst the summer of 2011. The work, to include rock bolting and installment of mesh screens, will require lane closures. 

As for why there are different numbers of tubes stretched across the traffic lanes in these counts, Steve says, “We use two tubes (near one another) on highways, typically, for two reasons.  

“The first is when we have two lanes going the same direction, as we do on (Highway) 3, and we want individual lane counts.  

“The first tube stretches across both lanes while the second stretches across just the near lane.  From this, the tube that crosses both lanes gives us the total count for the highway and the other tube gives us the count for the near lane, thus enabling us to know the counts for each lane. 

“It is done this way to minimize the amount of time personnel have to work in the middle of the highway.

 “The second reason there may be two tubes on a roadway is redundancy,” he said.  “On high speed/high volume roadways, tubes tend to become damaged and/or non-working at a higher rate than on lower speed/lower volume roads. 

“Doubling up increases the odds that we will get the data we need without having to come back later and/or potentially delaying whatever project we may be needing the data for.”

He also said there are only two tubes on that downgrade where  Highway 304 joins Highway 3. That certainly was true on Feb. 23 when I went back and looked. Either I was mistaken in what I thought I saw earlier or it was changed. Since then, both tunes for southbound Highway 304 have been moved back closer to Bremerton.

When I asked if multiple cables also can record vehicle speeds and the number of axles, Steve said yes.

And when I asked why there are two tubes on the downgrade, but only one on the corresponding off-ramp on the other side of the highway, for traffic heading into Bremerton, it turns out there is one more reason for variety in the number of tubes deployed. 

After putting out the tubes on the on-ramp and the mainline in both directions, Steve said, they only had one left.

More speed limit signs needed on Highway 305, says driver

The in basket: Glenda Wagoner, who concedes that she’s the kind of driver who has generated complaints about how she passes (though she says it’s always in a legal manner), thinks there is an explanation of danger on the two-lane stretches of Highway 305 that can be reduced without reducing the speed limit. 

The state has dropped that limit from 55 to 50 mph between Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island.

Even before the announcement of that impending change, she was on the line to me saying there should be more 55 mph signs on 305, because a lot of drivers won’t go higher that 50 or even less. They miss the only sign coming out of Poulsbo southbound raising the limit and keep at the speed they were going while in Poulsbo, she contends. 

 That creates unsafe passing by drivers who know the speed limit and get anxious behind those who stay way below it, she said. 

Put up more 55 mph signs, she said in her first call. Don’t lower the speed limit, she said in her second.

The out basket: Well, says Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region of state highways, more signs she’ll get. But they’ll say 50 mph.

“We plan on placing four new speed limit signs on the corridor next month,” he said.

“As far as the speed limit goes,” he said, “our speed studies did indicate that 50 mph was the appropriate speed limit for the highway given current levels of congestion.  

“In terms of collisions, the major cause of collisions on the corridor is rear-end type accidents, and generally those are caused by inattention on the part of the trailing driver.”

What’s eating at Silverdale Way near Carlton Street?

The in basket: Larry Guidici writes, “I drive through Silverdale regularly.  What is going on under the surface of Silverdale Way adjacent to the tractor store?  

“(Several)  weeks ago the surface became ‘mogully’ across the direction of traffic.  There was some work done on either side of the roadway, at the curbs.  But the moguls are between the two work areas where a bazzillion cars drive each day.  Am I in danger of driving into a crevasse?  Or worse, a Kitsap County storm drain?”

The out basket: The roughness resulted from a water main break on Nov. 7, says Eric Pickard of the Silverdale Water District.

Since then, the water district has been making intermittent repairs when the surface gets too bad, as directed by Kitsap County, Eric says. The patch that stretches across the road near Carlton Street, done Feb. 10, was the most recent work.

They will permanently repair it next summer. They will be replacing a number of water mains installed in the 1940s between Anderson Hill Road and Lowell Street, then give about 70 feet of Silverdale Way a finished paving across all four or five lanes. Eric says he expects that to happen in June or July.

Incidentally, the water main break could have done a lot more damage had not water district Maintenance Manager Tim Knapp happened past the spot just after water from the break surfaced that Saturday night and called in repair crews immediately. A major sink hole might have developed had the problem gone unnoticed for a couple hours, Eric said.

One block down Burwell needs help too, says pedestrian



The in basket: Dennis Van Ieperen, one of those who crosses Burwell Street many days on his way to work at Naval Base Bremerton said the next intersection east of State Street, where a traffic signal has just been installed for pedestrian safety, needs some revisions.

A Navy person was hit and badly hurt there this winter, he noted. It’s the Chester Avenue intersection.

Visibility of pedestrians is reduced there by a tree and shrubbery that fill what is called a bulb-out, a widening of the sidewalk that lessens the distance to cross the street, he said. Worsening the situation is the position of the street light right above the tree and the fact the pedestrian warning sign on that side of Burwell is farther back from the street edge that its counterpart for westbound traffic.

“You are supposed to detect a pedestrian in the dark behind the bushes and that tree,” he said. “Why is it still there?”.

The out basket: Colen Corey, the acting public works operations manager for the city of Bremerton, replies, “I agree that there is some

vegetation there, however there are 3 signs there indicating a crosswalk

that can be seen from a reasonable distance.

“We at public works are very sensitive to the controversial nature of cutting or removing vegetation from the right of way, but we always strive to do the prudent thing. Currently,

some slight pruning of the shrubbery will be performed to enhance

visibility, but there are no plans to add to or reposition existing

signs at this time.”

Colen included the accompanying photo to support his position.

Incomplete Silverdale street signs to be replaced

The in basket: Margaret Gibbard e-mailed to say “The signs at the Bucklin Hill Road/Tracyton Boulevard are misleading.  At that intersection, Tracyton Boulevard is south of Bucklin and Myhre is north of Bucklin.  The signs only name Tracyton Boulevard, both north and south on Bucklin.”

The out basket: When Margaret first wrote, I figured it was a small matter of changing one of the small signs on a sign pole. But when I visited the site, I saw that she was talking about the large overhead signs installed on the signal cross-arms. And that’s just the start.

“This intersection should have signs that indicate both roads,” says Jeff Shea, the county traffic engineer, ” and we are working to correct that.”

The county sign shop isn’t equipped to make those signs, so the county contracts with Zumar of Tacoma for them. “The cost of each sign at that size is $2,741,” he said. “They use light-emitting capacitor lighting and their average life span is 10-15 years.”

This new generation of street signs actually lights up. You can see the wire leading into them on the four or five Silverdale intersections that have them, including this one. 

“The light is actually in the sign film itself,” Jeff said.  “LEC illumination increases visibility for motorists as they do not rely on a vehicle’s headlights or street lighting for visibility. LEC technology increases the distance from which they can be seen.”

That can increase safety, I would imagine, as the drivers aren’t looking away from traffic as long to identify where they want to turn.

“An additional benefit of LEC technology,” Jeff said, “is smaller signs. Because the signs are illuminated internally the  (guidelines)  allows smaller letter sizes. This reduces the size and reduces the associated stress on poles.

“We do not plan to retrofit all street name signs, but will consider LEC illumination for any major intersection modification.” As for the omission at the new Bucklin Hill/Tracyton Boulevard intersection, “when the signs are replaced, the manufacturer will remove the film from the old signs, allowing us to use the sign on a future project,” Jeff said.

Though expensive, LEC signs are just half the cost of the alternative to have lighted street signs, those that are backlit, he said.

Can unlicensed driver buy a car?

The in basket: Jim De Lorm wrote in November to say, “A person I know that lost his license about five years ago just bought a car from a dealer. Do you know if it is legal to sell a car to someone who has lost their driver’s license for whatever reason?”

The out basket: I doubted there would be any prohibition of selling a car to an unlicensed person. The unlicensed person wouldn’t necessarily be the driver.

My State Patrol contact also doubted it and suggested I ask a dealer. 

Jack Wheeler at Heartland Toyota, who handled the most recent car purchase by my wife and me, said the only requirement to buy a car is being able to enter into a legal contract.

When a reader commented (see below) about a contrary experience in buying a Kia, I checked with a Kia dealership,where I was told  no driver’s license is required and they had sold cars to people so they could be driven around by others. But if a person is financing the purchase, the person added, the bank will want the car insured and the insurance company often requires the buyer to have a license.

Then another blogger commented (see below)that you have to provide your driver’s license number when you renew your license tab each year. That sent me off again to Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing for an explanation.

He replied, “There are exemptions to the requirement to present your

driver license. At the time of renewal, you can declare that you are a

Washington resident but do not have a valid driver license and we will

still process the renewal. We also have an exemption for individuals who

are out of the area at the time of renewal.

Auto Center Way speed limit questioned


The in basket: Rod DeGuzman of Silverdale asks, “Can you please explain to me while the speed limit in Auto Center Way is posted at 25 mph (and not)  35 mph since this street looks like a commercial zone vice a residential road. 

“Even Ridgetop Boulevard, which I believed is a residential street, has a posted speed limit of 35 mph and to assist with the school bus / student crossing hours had installed flashing lights to warn drivers when children are present in the street.”

The out basket: The lower speed limit on Bremerton’s Auto Center Way has never seemed odd to me, given all its hills and curves, including the combination of both where a lot of not yet licensed  drivers come and go from the state Department of Licensing office.

Ridgetop Boulevard, a county road, has a wide median to separate directions of travel and has better sight distances.

But it’s simpler than that, says Paul Wandling of the city of Bremerton. “County roads are typically posted 35,” he said. “Most city streets are posted 25 even when an adjacent county lane (same street) has the opposite direction posted 35.”

Hole at Southworth Drive curve decried


The in basket: Rob Shafer of Port Orchard says in an e-mail, “In the past six months there have been three serious accidents, with at least one fatality, on Southworth Drive between Locker Road and Banner Road southeast of Port Orchard. 

“There is a slight turn to the left as you approach Curley Creek after Locker Road that all three drivers involved in the accidents missed,” he said. “At this point in the road there is very little shoulder and a BIG hole that either stops the car very quickly, or launches it back onto the road. 

“Are there any plans to make this turn safer both for careless drivers and oncoming traffic?” he asked. “Add a guardrail? Fill the hole? Widen the shoulder? Add rumble strips?”

The out basket: It looked to me that just filling the hole would correct whatever hazard exists. But the county plans more.

Jeff Shea, county transportation engineer, says, “A guard rail in itself can be an obstacle near the roadway and is usually a last resort used to protect motorists from other roadside obstacles.  

“In this case the hole is located where a drainage pipe crosses under the road. Our surface and storm water utility is putting catch basins and pipe in the holes then will fill the holes to create a more shallow ditch line. That should address the concerns there.”

That’s not the only work planned there, incidentally. The county has plans for a $2.1 million replacement of the bridge over Curley Creek just a few feet east of there next year, though the work isn’t likely to reach to the spot Ron mentions.

Masi Shop access on 305 a work in progress


The in basket: Andrew McMillen said in an e-mail, “When the Masi Shop on Highway 305 in Suquamish added the new buildings, they  got an on/off merge lane in the southwest direction and an additional exit on the opposing side. 

“The speed limit is 55 mph and soon dropping to 50. However, in both directions traffic frequently has to slow to as low as 20 mph for exiting/entering traffic, sometimes abruptly. 

“Cars coming from the shop heading towards Poulsbo cause through traffic on the highway to slow drastically,” he said. “They don’t enter the merge lane and wait, they just merge all the way onto the highway, which is uphill at that point and slows them down.

“What traffic studies were done on the highway modifications, or will be?” he asked.

The out basket: I can’t answer that exact question, but the Suquamish tribe and the state are working to correct the shortcomings on that short stretch of highway.

It’s clear the highway alignment has been a work in progress. Andrew referred me to a Google Maps aerial of that spot, presumable taken last year. It showed two large arrows indicating a merge of traffic that has just turned left out of the shops to go toward Poulsbo and some left turn arrows for turns into the shops. 

Today. the two large arrows have been scrubbed off and the left turn lane is farther toward the center of the shopping complex. One of three egresses Google Maps showed is now closed and another enlarged.

“What they have done so far is not according to our procedures,” Art Sporseen of state highways told me, “but we are on board with them now and have an improved plan for future improvements.” 

Bob Gatz, tribal engineer, says the tentative plans have not gotten final approval, but he expects the revised alignment to provide a deceleration lane for traffic from Poulsbo turning right into the shops. That should eliminate one of Andrew’s concerns. 

That will widen the highway and allow for a longer acceleration lane toward Poulsbo, Bob said. At present there isn’t enough length to let entering cars get up to highway speed before merging, so it will interesting to see if the changes will fix that.

The center egress from the shops will remain closed and the one closest to Agate Passage will remain right-out-only, Bob said. Allowing left turns there would put cars into the left turn pocket, from which they could not proceed toward Poulsbo.

The tribe’s Port Madison Enterprises, which runs the Masi Shop, Clearwater Casino, Kiana Lodge and a number of other things is paying for the work, state and tribal officials said.

Incidentally, when I pronounced Masi like Masai, as in the African tribe, Russell Steele, head of Port Madison Enterprises corrected me and said it’s pronounced “mossy.” He didn’t know its meaning. 

The old store will soon be torn down, he said, but all the existing gas pumps will remain.

Again with the Burwell-Warren traffic light


The in basket: The Burwell Street-Warren Avenue intersection and its traffic signal in Bremerton continue to draw suggestions from readers. The latest comes from Ralph Gribbin, who says, “Nothing dumps so many vehicles onto Burwell in such a short time as the ferries. Yet when Burwell was redone a few years ago, the big dump was only given one lane to use, yet the eastbound traffic that straggles through got two lanes. Doesn’t make sense to me.  

“Now with the tunnel finished,” he said, “the intersection with Warren Avenue gets two lanes eastbound straight through and the left turn onto Warren only gets one lane. Most of the eastbound Burwell traffic turns left from (the) one lane.

During the tunnel the construction, he continued, “two lanes turned left without any problems. Make that a two-lane turn and ease the lines that are waiting, and just maybe the time for that signal could be reduced and still not cause backups,” he said.

The out basket: As I recall, making Burwell two lanes inbound and one outbound years ago resulted from having only enough right of way for three lanes. I imagine making it easier to get out of town than into town bore some psychological message in a struggling city, so they did the opposite.

As for allowing left turns from both eastbound lanes of Burwell at Warren, it worked fine when the tunnel project closed both lanes for going straight. 

Now, says tunnel project engineer Brenden Clarke, eastbound drivers can see two lanes available on the other side of the intersection. Even with the left-most green signal a left-only arrow,  he said, “this would violate driver expectancy and could result in eastbound Burwell traffic in the left lane continuing forward (because they can see an open lane in front of them) and could result in a collision with motorists in the right lane turning left.”