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.

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