Monthly Archives: March 2010

No clear answer on blue parking signs


The in basket: Kim Cunningham recently wrote to say, ” I recently renewed my drivers license and was reviewing the information booklet provided at the drivers license office regarding traffic signs. 

“A common regulatory sign is a stop sign,” Kim said. “It is required to be red and white, and the other common type required to be red and white is No Parking. But I noted in downtown Bremerton (around the Norm Dicks Government Center) the No Parking signs are a dark blue with white letters.

“If I got a no-parking ticket while parked in a stall marked with a blue and white sign, could I contest it as it’s the incorrect color?”

The out basket: The city of Bremerton has put a lot of effort into dolling up its downtown street signs, using white on blue in most cases.

I wouldn’t expect a city official to encourage a challenge such as Kim proposes, and Larry Matel, city street engineer said, “Any ticket is contestable,” and left it at that. What he, I and Kim don’t know is whether such a challenge would prevail.

The section on no-parking signs in the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices does appear to require red lettering or symbols on a white background, as  “Spanky Arbuckle” and Jane Rebelowski note in comments below.

If anyone gets a ticket for parking where a blue No Parking sign forbids leaving your car, he or she can find out if the sign’s color is grounds for a successful challenge by challenging it. I won’t attempt to predict the outcome.

Much longer right lane coming on Warren at 11th

The in basket: Michael Drouin wants to know “when will the widening of Warren Avenue (right-turn lane extension), north of 11th Street begin and how many weeks will this construction work be ongoing?”

The out basket: It will be done next year or the year after, says Larry Matel, the city of Bremerton street engineer. 

They are just beginning to acquire the right of way, which can be time-consuming if the city and affected property owners can’t come to an easy agreement. 

Its main objective is to lengthen the current outside right turn lane to about three times its current length, says Larry.  

“Currently, we are planning on eliminating the double-right and making it a single lane,” he said, “but part of that is dependent on the interaction with Olympic College and their future parking lot design.”

I don’t think that issue matters much. I almost never see anyone turn right from the second lane over and I think a lot of drivers don’t even know it’s permissible.

But the extra length of the outside lane will be greatly appreciated. It’s common to see that lane sealed off by those in the next lane over waiting to go straight ahead. Keeping those right turners flowing will do wonders for the backups on Warren

 Also part of the project, Larry says, is widening the sidewalk there from four or five feet to eight feet. 

He expects actual construction to take no more than 30 to 45 days, he said.

Burwell-Pacific signal questioned during construction


The in basket: Nancy Thayer, Lindsey Skelly, Michael Burton and Barney Bernhard have all contacted me in March about the traffic signal at Burwell Street and Pacific Avenue in Bremerton. 

Nancy asks, “Since the road work is going to go on for some time and Pacific is closed to traffic, why is the light at Burwell operating per usual rather than an alternate means?  It seems ridiculous for traffic on Burwell to have to sit and wait at a red light for nonexistent cross traffic.”

Lindsey makes the same point, adding that Burwell traffic is also heavier than normal because drivers that normally access the ferry on Pacific now must use Burwell.

Michael was upset that the pedestrian signal for those wanting to cross Burwell on the west side of Pacific isn’t working. “Since the signal is set to green all the time for Burwell (understandable), there is no way to stop traffic in order to cross safely,” he said. “I actually dashed across between vehicles and pressed the button for the people waiting on the other side, because, otherwise, they would have had to wait until someone at one of the other three corners activated the light.” 

Barney wondered why westbound Burwell drivers who stop for a red light and want to turn left don’t do it when traffic allows. He is aware that left turns on red are permissible if onto a one-way street, and the turning driver comes to a full stop first and yields to any traffic or pedestrians with a green or walk light.

One recent morning, he said, he was stuck behind six cars wanting to turn left toward the ferry terminal, who sat through the red light before turning. 

The out basket: Obviously, there is some confusion about what that light was doing during the closure of Pacific for construction. I see that it occasionally is reopened with a sandwich board stop sign at Burwell while it awaits final paving, but here is what has been happening.

Michael’s point hints at the answer to Nancy and Lindsey’s question. Pedestrians still can activate a red light to cross Burwell on the east side. Eduardo Aban, the city’s project engineer for the Pacific work, said the traffic detection equipment that ordinarily detects cars coming south on Pacific and changes the Burwell light to red for that reason is turned off. 

But Michael is correct that the pedestrian signals on the west side of the intersection aren’t working, because of the construction.

Eduardo said they will bag the pedestrian signals for that crosswalk until they are operating again, and pedestrians will have to walk east across Pacific, then across Burwell on the east side. That will be enough for many of them, and they can just proceed straight. If they just have to get to the other corner on the west side of Burwell, they’ll have to make a third crossing to get there. 

That might seem an annoying inconvenience, but it’s not unheard of. Some intersections outside the city require that kind of three-corner crossing to minimize  vehicle delays by eliminating one pedestrian movement. That’s how it is on Mile Hill Drive at Jackson Avenue and at Woods Road over where I live in South Kitsap. 

I had to tell Barney that it’s rare for a driver to know of the law allowing red turns against a red light onto a one-way street, so it’s not surprising that most won’t do it. All it takes is the lead car wanting to turn left to hold up even those behind  who know the turn can be made legally after stopping and when no conflicting traffic is coming.

Are new Hospital signs in Bremerton hard to see?


The in basket: A reader who identifies himself or herself only as TC asks about the changes in the signs directing drivers to Bremerton’s Harrison Memorial Hospital, which were revised three years ago to include the name of the hospital and in many cases, the name of the upcoming street on which to turn to reach it.

“How can the private Harrison Hospital signs be replacing the official hospital signs that are internationally recognized?” TC asked. “The Harrison signs are not the correct color (they’re dark blue) and are very hard to see at night.  Is it legal for these private signs to be up?”

The out basket: The signs were a collaborative effort between the hospital and the city of Bremerton, with the hospital paying for their design and basic material and the city fabricating and installing them. 

Dan Heistand of the city engineering staff said 27 were replaced and 13 added.

They still include the internationally recognized block H, and the additional information seems to me to be a valuable extra, not a problem. 

Dan said that although the signs themselves are darker blue than those they replaced, the reflective H is in higher intensity reflective sheeting, so the H, the only thing on the old signs, should be easier to see at night, not harder.

My only concern with the signs is that the one on southbound Wheaton Way approaching Sheridan Road still points drivers into the left turn lane, where they often must wait for the signal to change. 

As I’ve said before, that seems to disregard the main motive for building the off-ramp to Callahan Drive and Lebo Boulevard just beyond Sheridan, a quick route to the hospital. There is a sign reading “hospital” at that ramp, but not one of the new ones and a driver would have to ignore the first one to even see it.

Dan said the engineering department chose to denote both places as a route to the hospital.

On other concerns, Darcy Himes of the hospital public affairs staff noted that if it makes TC feel any better, Harrison is a not-for-profit institution, not a private hospital. The color was chosen “to coordinate with the City of Bremerton’s new dark blue signage,” she said.

Speed limit around Narrows Bridge questioned

The in basket: Michael Johnson asks, “Why is the speed limit on (Highway)16 in Tacoma and Gig Harbor still 55?  

“Before the new bridge was built, traffic was really bad through there, so I understood the decreased speed limit,” he said. “With the new bridge there is no such thing as ‘bridge traffic’ any more so I don’t know why the speed limit hasn’t been raised up to 60 like the rest of the freeways in the area.” 

The out basket: I wonder the same thing every time I encounter the reduced speed sign at the Wollochet interchange going toward the bridge, and especially when I must wait until I get to the same interchange heading away from the bridge to see a 60 mph speed limit sign. Highway 16 between the Olympic and Wollochet interchanges includes no complications not found farther north, where the speed limit is 60.

The state must have noticed the same thing. Lisa Copeland of the Olympic Region public affairs staff says they are working toward a hike in the speed limit from 55 to 60 between Union Avenue in Tacoma and the Wollochet interchange.

But it requires environmental approval, surprisingly, because of possible air pollution implications, and may not happen for months, it at all.

Two signs with the same meaning


The in basket: A. V. Harris Jr. of Bremerton asks, “What is the difference between ‘Slow Traffic Keep Right’ signs and ‘Keep Right Except to Pass’ signs?  I have seen both in various areas of the Seattle/Tacoma/Kitsap County area, and feel that both need increased enforcement.  Are they based on different laws? 

“I feel like the ‘Keep Right Except To Pass’ is a little more directive,” A.V said. “The common reaction for the left lane camper is to decide that they are not ‘slow traffic,’ regardless of the prevailing speed of the rest of the traffic on the road.  Then they righteously are OK to stay camped in the left lane.  I’ve wondered what the state’s intentions actually are in this regard.”

The out basket: Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the state highway’s Olympic Region, says, “These two signs mean about the same thing.  That said, we tend to use ‘Slow Traffic Keep Right’ for areas in which we have a truck climbing lane and ‘Keep Right Except to Pass’ on multilane freeways.”

I know many readers get a lot more nettled by left-lane campers than I do, so I thought I’d pass along the mental exercise I use to keep it in perspective.

If you spend two minutes stuck behind someone in the left lane traveling slower than you want to go, you haven’t really been delayed two minutes. You’ve been delayed only as long as it takes you to make up how much farther you’d have gone in those two minutes if you had been able to go as fast as you wanted. The math required to say exactly how far that would be hurts my head, but if that was 10 miles per hour faster than you actually traveled, it’s a matter of about 20 seconds.

I still flash my headlights at a left lane camper I want to get around, but less angrily. 

If you are one of those afraid to change lanes from inside to outside, remember that you can be cited for not moving over if you’re not overtaking and passing, preparing to turn left or giving someone on the shoulder more room.

New seven-digit license plates coming to Kitsap


The in basket: I’ve been watching license plates, waiting to see one of the new seven digit plates the state began using when plates with the long-standing three-letter then three number format ran out. 

The old plates were issued alphabetically, and I haven’t noticed any of the old plates on the highway this year beginning with anything earlier in the alphabet than R. Most begin with a W, X, Y or Z.  The every-seven-year cycle of plate replacement to make sure plate reflectivity isn’t lost doomed the six-digit format and required a new one. 

I asked if any of the new plates are in use and why the state didn’t simply start over with the six-digit format since nearly all are no longer in use.

The out basket: Yes, says Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing. Six of the state’s 39 counties have gotten first crack at the new format, with Whitman County in eastern Washington the first. Kitsap is one of the other five, and our county’s auditor’s office says they have been issuing them since February. I have seen only one on the road, one day in Port Orchard.

As for why defunct six-digit plates aren’t resurrected, Brad said, “DOL has a long-standing policy of only issuing each plate number once. It helps eliminate the possibility of conflicts on the road and within our motor vehicle database. 

“Conflicts could arise because we

now offer vehicle owners the option of retaining their current

standard-issue license plate number (on new plates) when they are due for plate

replacement for an additional $20 fee. 

“If individuals do that for a

couple of cycles, we could theoretically catch back up with them and

produce plates that already are in use. 

“We also have procedures and laws

that would complicate any process of reissuing a new license plate with

a number that already has been used in the past. Here is an example:

“A state law declares any motor vehicle 30 years old or older as a

collector vehicle. The law permits the owner of a collector vehicle to

use a ‘restored’ license plate. A restored plate is a license plate

issued by our state that is at least 30 years old and in good condition

that is reassigned to a collector vehicle. 

“The restored plate has to

have been issued in the same year that the collector vehicle was

manufactured. For example, if you have a 1965 Mustang that you want to

license as a collector vehicle (there are restrictions on how you can

use a collector vehicle), you can choose to use an actual Washington

state license plate issued in 1965 in place of the DOL-issued collector

vehicle license plate. 

“Within about seven years, plates with the

mountain background and modern plate numbers will become eligible for

reuse on collector vehicles.”

Disabled parking all day in spots with a time limit

The in basket:  Michael Hilt of Manchester writes, “Evidently I need some clarification on the parking rules for the city of Bremerton.

“With the completion of the downtown tunnel and the waterfront park, the city has posted signs along First, Second, and Pacific Streets advising this area is one-hour parking only.  There seems to be only one dedicated handicapped slot here, on Second Street.  

“However,” he said, “more than a dozen vehicles with handicapped stickers (both blue and red – I don’t understand the difference) routinely occupy spots along these streets all day.  

“Most of the vehicles also have PSNS civilian access stickers on the windshield indicating to me the vehicles belong to PSNS civilian employees, thus conveniently giving them prime parking at the front of the Bremerton Gate. 

“This would seem to limit the availability of parking for visitors who wish to tour the park and museum and those who wish to shop in the downtown area. 

“First, can those with handicapped parking stickers use a dedicated one-hour spot all day?  If so, this seems to be a benefit not available to others who park downtown all day and are forced to pay for all-day parking within the city.”

“Second, doesn’t PSNS offer parking, either on base or in one of their off-base garages, for their handicapped employees?

“I think some PSNS workers have found they can take advantage of the situation,” Michael  said.

The out basket: It certainly seems that way. At noon on March 25, 16 spaces from Second Street to the ferry terminal were occupied by cars with disabled placards hanging on their rear view mirrors.  That was about 50 percent of the available spaces in that area. Many but not all had Department of Defense decals as well.

But, yes,  those with disabled plates or placards can park all day in spaces with time limits if there are no signs saying otherwise. They also can park at parking meters without paying, though I’m not sure there are any more parking meters in the county.

Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police traffic says a city can enact its own rules to modify the state or federal laws that allow this, but he doesn’t believe Bremerton has done so. 

It makes no difference that a car might also have apparent access into the shipyard, he said.

The Navy does provide disabled parking spaces, says Lt. Michelle D. Kibodeaux, assistant operations officer at Naval Base Kitsap. ”

There are 15 spaces in the Navy’s parking garage in Bremerton, 125 spaces in Z lot , located across from Pier D, and 20 in F lot, located outside Missouri gate. There are also several sporadic disabled parking spaces located around the base, available primarily to areas that support customer service and require a disabled customer service space, she said. A Kitsap Access bus provides trips to and from Z lot, the one inside the base.

She noted that presence of a DOD sticker doesn’t necessarily confer parking privileges on base, or even necessarily identify  the car as that of a shipyard person, as it’s good on many other bases as well.

Fellow Navy PAO Tom Danaher says the Navy doesn’t involved itself in parking enforcement questions outside the base fences.

I’ve never learned why state law (RCW 46.61.582  Free parking for persons with disabilities) grants this kind of exemption from normal parking time limits to those with the proper plates and placards, but I hope to hear some comment on this blog from advocates for the disabled as to why it’s defensible. 

Maybe we’ll even hear from a shipyard worker or two about why parking outside the fence is preferable when they can drive inside.

Shiny tape coming to island on Greaves Way

The in basket: Barb Frindell think the outside lane on the recently opened Greaves Way in Silverdale needs a little more notice that it’s about to require a right turn onto Old Frontier Road.

“Are they thinking of putting up some arrows in the medium on Greaves Way, where the right-turn-only lane ends?”  she asked. “At night approaching that intersection, it comes up on you before you know it.

“I would think that there might be a few accidents of people jumping the curb area that did not want to be in that lane.”

She told me she envisioned one of those yellow arrow signs like the county has at the end of Newberry Hill Road at Seabeck Highway. 

The out basket: The county’s first response was that the markings are adequate.

“There currently are two pavement arrows for the right-turn lane in place,” said Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea. “In addition to the arrows we have a 320-foot solid white wide gore stripe prior to the intersection. There is also two Right Lane Must Turn Right signs, and an advance street name sign prior to the intersection. We do not plan any additional marking there.” 

On reflection, however, it was decided that some reflective tape will be added to the island that ends the outside lane, so drivers can see it better at night.

Crossing the “gore” can cost you $411


The in basket: Years ago, before I began writing Road Warrior, I used to cut across the white tapering lines, called gore lines, that converge as one enters a freeway on an on-ramp. I never was stopped, and I didn’t know it was  illegal until research for the column after its 1996 inception set me straight. 

I have since reported its illegality numerous times, saying it’s considered driving off the roadway. 

Early in March, Q13 television mentioned it in its morning newscast, but it said the penalty is $411. Most infractions carry a $124 fine. I asked if Q13 was correct.

The out basket: Yes, says Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the state patrol office in Bremerton. It’s considered crossing a physical barrier, and is penalized under the following state law, RCW 46.61.150, driving on divided highways:  

“Whenever any highway has been divided into two or more roadways by leaving an intervening space or by a physical barrier or clearly indicated dividing section or by a median island not less than eighteen inches wide formed either by solid yellow pavement markings or by a yellow crosshatching between two solid yellow lines … every vehicle shall be driven only upon the right-hand roadway unless directed to use another roadway by official traffic-control devices or police officers.” 

I might have known that would be the relevant law. This is not the first instance in which it has been interpreted to mean the opposite of what the words say. 

As odd as it seems for a painted stripe to be deemed a physical barrier, it’s no odder than interpreting the same law to mean the area between double yellow lines is not an “intervening space.” 

That long-time interpretation allows drivers to turn left across double yellow lines. It’s lucky it does or tens of thousands of Washington state drivers wouldn’t be able legally to turn into their own driveways. But despite the seemingly contrary meaning of the words, the law remains unchanged.

Krista says it’s the width of the gore lines that make them a physical barrier. They are wider than other painted stripes. It still seems to me that a physical barrier really should have greater height than a painted line does.

In the real world, a trooper can opt for the $411 physical barrier ticket, or a $124 citation for unsafe lane change or improper lane travel, she said. She has written it both ways, and on occasion simply warned a driver who has done it. 

It often depends on how heavy traffic is, whether other drivers were endangered or the driver has been stopped for it before, she said.

She also said that turning left across the areas designated in the law, with cross-hatching or a solid 18-inch painted area, also carry the $411 penalty.

Remember this whenever you enter or leave a freeway, or in the daily backup on southbound Highway 3 in Bremerton, where drivers entering from Loxie Eagans Boulevard regularly cross the gore line to get to an opening in the backup  in the through lanes.

I also asked about the cross-hatching at the inside of the Highway 166 roundabout in Port Orchard, where wear shows that many drivers encroach into it. That would be a lane travel violation ($124) if a ticket were written,  since the crosshatching doesn’t separate lanes, Krista said.