Monthly Archives: August 2010

Hey, where’s Bremerton’s ferry holding area camera?

The in basket: Marty Miller e-mailed me a copy of Washington State Ferries’ map at www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/cameras/pop_cam_map.cfm, showing where it has cameras producing images of the holding areas at its terminals, allowing people to get some idea how many vehicles are waiting to board. He noted that Bremerton doesn’t have one and asked when it will get one.

The out basket: It does have one, says Susan Harris-Heather of the WSF public affairs office. You can see the images from all the terminals online at www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/cameras/  and Bremerton is included.

She said she’ll notify the system’s Web techs of the omission from the Web site Marty checked and get a camera icon for Bremerton added to it.

Chip seal and rain didn’t mix well in Hansville

The in basket: Catherine Long writes, “We live in Shore Woods in Hansville. For some reason, (Kitsap County) Public Works decided to do a treatment to just our roads in Shore Woods. We had paved roads with asphalt and now we have black gooey tar with a bit of gravel tossed around on it.

“What a mess it has been,” she said. “Public Works has been out here off and on attempting to clean up the mess they caused on driveways and more importantly in the culverts.

“Everyone here is at a loss as to why this was done when the entire town is paved.

“This is one of those things that make you go ‘hmmm.’ Can you get us some answers as to why this was done and do we have to live with it?” she asked.

The out basket: Blame it on an unexpected rainfall that hadn’t been in the forecast on which his crews rely, says Don Schultz, the county’s road superintendent.

“The roads in Shorewood plat (are), and have always been, Bituminous Surface Treatment (BST) roads,” Don said. “These are commonly called ‘chip-sealed’ roads. After a road is ‘chip sealed’ it looks like a paved road, and the road surface appears to be asphalt.”

In chip sealing, gravel is spread on a coat of liquid paving oil sprayed on the worn road surface and then is compacted by  rubber-tired compactors and the dump trucks after the gravel is applied. Crews come back the next day and sweep up any excess gravel.

“The latest surface treatment is the fourth chip seal treatment there since 1968,” Don said. “BST roads are typically re-surfaced every five to 10 years or longer, depending on traffic volume, truck traffic, freeze-thaw damage, and other factors. Roads are rated each year to determine when roads need resurfacing. Roads are always re-surfaced ‘in kind,’ with the same surface they previously had.

“In this particular application, we did encounter some problems,” he said. “There was no rain predicted on Monday, Aug. 2, the day of the application, as well as the day following.” He enclosed a copy of that forecast.

“Overnight August 2,” he said, “there was a rather heavy rainfall that developed unexpectedly. During the rain there was some emulsion runoff from the road surface. Some driveways were stained by the runoff and we are working with the residents to remove these stains.

“Emulsion did reach the inlet of two culverts, which we cleaned the next day. Once the emulsion is dry there is no concern that it could liquefy again. No emulsion traveled into any water courses.

“The county engineer and I reviewed the site as soon as we received calls alerting us to the problem the morning of Aug. 3,” Don said. “We had crews start clean-up and restoration activities that morning. One of our supervisors personally contacted each affected property owner, and worked with them to address their concerns.

“Many residents have expressed understanding of the situation, and appreciated the proactive reaction to the situation.  We recognize the problems caused by this operation, and are working with residents to mitigate any damages caused. If your readers have unresolved issues related to this issue, please have them contact Kitsap 1 (360-337-5777).

How long will Belfair 4-way stop stay that way?

The in basket: Natasha Champion asks, “Do you know if there is a future plan to put in a light or a

roundabout at the intersection of Clifton Road and Old Belfair Highway  in Belfair?

“Currently there is a four-way stop and many accidents and near misses,” she said.

The out basket: That intersection is the state’s responsibility, as it is on Highway 300, the short spur that’s a state highway as far as Belfair State Park.

Steve Bennett, operations engineer for the Olympic Region of state highways says the Statewide Intersection Priority List makes no mention of that Belfair intersection, so no signal or roundabout is planned there for the foreseeable future.

I’ve never had much trouble getting through there, though I noticed it was considered enough of a problem that law enforcement was directing traffic through it when the Clifton Lane leg was blocked for the recent Taste of Hood Canal. That probably had to do with the greatly increased pedestrian traffic that day.

Cop equipment on retired cars being auctioned

The in basket: Henry and Dianne Altenburg teamed up to make the following comment by e-mail.

“How is it that the law enforcement agencies can auction off all their surplus or used vehicles,” they asked jointly, “without possibly changing the colors, taking off the push bar on the front, removing the special side mirrors and spot lights?

“It is amazing how many of these

past patrol cars are on the road,” they said. “They can fool anyone that sees them in a rear-view

mirror. Talk about scary! If someone with one of these vehicles decides to “Play Cop ……….”

The out basket: Someone else must have been concerned about this, as Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the State Patrol here and Lt. John Gese of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office tell me the state Legislature just this year passed a law requiring the removal of all police equipment before retired cop cars are sold.

It won’t mean a big change for those agencies or Bremerton police, the three places I checked. Their spokespersons all say removal of that equipment has been standard procedure with them for years.

Removed are push bars, radios and wiring, consoles, prisoner cages, decals, emergency lights and wiring, spotlights and special consoles. The police insignia are decals that are removed with a heat gun.

The spotlight has been the exception with the sheriff’s office, but John said its removal appears to be included in the new law.

The cars aren’t repainted, but the growing number of black and white prowl cars in the local departments may need to be.

Still, John said, he, too, sees former police cars with the kind of equipment those departments remove before sale.

“I’m not sure if other agencies do this or not,” he said. “I suspect that some do and some do not.

“Interestingly though,” he said, ” it is not illegal in and of itself to have spotlights, push-bars, antennas, prisoner transport screens or other police style equipment on a personal vehicle.  The only exception would appear to be any wording indicating it is a police car or red and blue lights.

“A private party could purchase the items through other means and have them installed in the vehicle.  I suspect in addition to a lot of vendors that sell these types of things, people could also acquire them through something like eBay or craigslist, as well.

“What would make it illegal,” John said, ” would be if they used them in such a way as to imply they are police officers, such as trying to stop people in their vehicles.”

I recall a murder on Mullenix Road in South Kitsap about 40 years ago when a fellow who was using a red light to pull over women happened to choose someone who knew him. He killed her to avoid being identified, but was caught and sent to prison.

A happier memory was the spotlight on the only retired cop car I ever owned, a Chevrolet back in the ’60s. It was the coolest accessory I’ve ever had, though I’ve never bothered to have one installed on any subsequent car. The new law will make them harder to come by now, it appears.

About bike lanes with dotted lines

The in basket: Mike McDermott of Poulsbo wrote in late July saying, “Driving north on Silverdale Way, coming down the hill towards the intersection where it turns into Viking Way (at Luoto Road), the shoulder (bike lane) curves to the right to make way for a right-turn lane near the gas station.

“A cyclist was in the bike lane, and if he wants to continue straight through the intersection he has to cross the solid shoulder line to enter the lane going straight, while I, in a car wanting to turn right at the intersection, simply follow the road as it curves to the right, without crossing any lines to be in the right-turn lane.

“The cyclist was just in front of me in the bike lane, and I saw the potential for an accident should he want to continue going straight, so I stayed behind him until I knew what he was going to do. Sure enough, without any indication he was changing lanes, he crossed the solid shoulder line to continue straight. Had I not considered the potential for an accident, we would have collided.

“Who would have been at fault and why?” Mike asked. “He crossed a solid line, while I crossed none.”

The out basket: It’s a helpful question, as a new kind of bike lane alignment has shown up here, on Viking Way at Finn Hill Road in Poulsbo and on Sheridan Road at Wheaton Way in Bremerton. There may be other places I haven’t noticed.

In those two places, a passage marked by a dotted line provides a path for bicyclists on the shoulder to reach a narrow lane between the through lane and the right turn lane.

But that’s not the alignment where Mike had his experience, and the answer to his question is pretty straight forward.

Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, says, “The motor vehicle has the right of way in this scenario. The bicyclist would have to yield to all other traffic, traveling in same direction/lane of travel, prior to entering the roadway to cross the intersection.

“It’s the same as if a car was stopped on the shoulder and the driver wanted to re-enter back onto the roadway,” Scott said. “The driver has to wait until traffic is clear and it’s safe to enter back onto the roadway before proceeding.

“If there had been a collision between Mr. McDermott and the bicyclist, the bicyclist would have been found at fault for causing the collision,” said Scott.

But what about those two spots and any others where a dotted lines indicates a path for bicyclists to get from the shoulder to inside the right turn lane.

The answer is different there.

Sgt. Andy Pate of Poulsbo Police says, “The bike lane you are referring (to) is a designated bike lane by the city. Due to the right-turn-only lane on northbound Viking, the city positioned the bicycle lane across the right-turn-only lane for through bicycle traffic.

“This ‘crossing’ of the bicycle lane is treated similar to a crosswalk or a lane change. Motorists must yield to bicyclist that has entered their lane of travel using the bicycle lane to cross, just as they would a pedestrian or bicycle crossing at a crosswalk.

“However, there is a ‘due care and caution’ (duty) that must be exercised by the operator of the bicycle. They are not allowed to enter/cross the right-turn-only lane of travel suddenly or in such a way that an overtaking vehicle could not safely slow or stop for them to cross.

“The bicycle lane does not give either motorist or bicyclist exclusive right of way, both must yield to the lead vehicle to end in an orderly flow of traffic,” Andy said.

Lt. Pete Fisher, head of Bremerton police traffic division, says the rules are the same at the Sheridan-Wheaton alignment.

Bremerton cuts less brush with fewer man-hours

The in basket: Penny Swan e-mails to say, “We walk often, and live in the Tracyton area, so use Riddell Road.  Who is responsible for knocking down the blackberry bushes and other brush along Riddell Road, on the south side by Peace Lutheran Church?  County or city?

“It is getting so bad, you have to walk in the street to avoid it, as there are no sidewalks there.”

The out basket: That is the city of Bremerton’s side of Riddell, and they plan to get to it, says Colen Corey, operations manager for city public works.

“Due to cuts in personnel, our mowing program has had to be reduced in regularity and scope,” he said. “In years past, 1,200 to 1,500 man-hours were devoted to mowing and vegetation control on the right-of-way. This year we are on track to spend around 550 man-hours mowing the right-of way.”

Even so, he said, his department will mow that area, “as well as the rest of the right-of way, one more time before the growing season stops.”

City, county accused of loose loads

The in basket: Janice Danielson of South Kitsap, who commutes to Bainbridge Island, says she sees “many loads that are not secure in the back of many trucks or trailers.

“On my trek, I have seen furniture, bags of garbage, boxes and, the other day, had to swerve into the next lane because of an aluminum ladder that was lying halfway in the middle of the fast lane on Highway 3! A ladder. How do you not know that this item has fallen out of the back of your vehicle?”

“The biggest perpetrators that I have seen over the past year or so are employees driving trucks that belong to the City of Bremerton or Kitsap County!” she said.

“Day before yesterday, I was driving behind a Kitsap County flatbed truck, packed, and not one thing tied down.  Boxes, tools, three propane tanks at the very back of the truck. NOT ONE of them was tied down!”

She also said one particular garage door company, which she didn’t name, is another offender, whose loads she has never seen tied down.

“If I could video tape it while I was driving, I would!” she said.

“Are there not laws in this state that speak to this issue? At the very least … the city of Bremerton and Kitsap County employees should practice more due diligence.”

She closed on a positive note, offering kudos to Viking Fence and Hanley Roofing, who she says always secure their loads.

The out basket: Yes, there is a law requiring that vehicle loads be covered or tied down, and it was strengthened in 2005 following the highly publicized and critical injury suffered east of Seattle by Maria Federici in 2004. She was hit in the face and blinded by part of an entertainment center than tell off a truck in front of her.

Krista Hedstrom, spokeswoman for the State Patrol here, says, “So far in 2010, troopers have stopped 34 drivers in Kitsap County for not properly securing their load.  Additionally, 23 drivers were stopped for not  covering their load.  Ten other drivers had debris (other than small litter) escape from their vehicle and were stopped for that.

“When we get a 911 call of some debris in the roadway we will respond. Mattresses, furniture, ladders, empty trash cans, large bags of crushed aluminum cans are all common.

“Often when we arrive, the vehicle that lost the load will be pulled over and the driver will be attempting to pick up their load from the roadway.  In this situation, those drivers will receive tickets for not securing their load.”

I asked for a response from Kitsap County and Bremerton to Janice’s accusation.

Colen Corey, public works operations manager for the city, says, “It is now, and always has been the policy of the city of Bremerton to follow all laws and regulations regarding the proper loading and securing of materials hauled in city vehicles. Many of our vehicles are equipped with holders mounted in the truck beds that secure certain loads without the use of chains and straps that would be easily identified by a passing motorist, possibly leading the motorist to conclude the load is not secured when it actually is very secure,”

Don Schultz, county road superintendent,  said, “Our employees are trained to comply with applicable rules and regulations. In cases where a reader observes a county truck violating these rules and regulations, it is helpful to note the vehicle numbers or license numbers when possible. If that is not possible, road name, direction, time of day or any other pertinent information can help us follow up on their concerns.

“We are using your reader’s observation as an opportunity to review and ensure that applicable laws and regulations are followed by the operators of county equipment.”

But Don adds, “I am frequently on the roads in the county and have not observed road department dump trucks with uncovered loads when conditions and regulations require them. I have been with roads since 1996 and am not aware of any failure-to-secure violations, fines or warnings.”

I’m afraid my experience is more like Don’s than Janice’s. Though she drives farther in a day than I do in some weeks, I haven’t seen the profusion of loose loads she describes, not even watching for them since she wrote.

Ferry traffic in Kingston needs to use holding lane

The out basket: Cliff Durant wrote on Aug. 12 to say, “I was at the parts house in Kingston this evening. When I attempted to leave, the ferry traffic was backed up through town and as far as I could see out of town.

“The big problem was that no one would use the ferry holding lane,” Cliff said, “therefore stopping all traffic into town. I waited at least 20 minutes when I finally persuaded a driver to back up enough so I could get into the two-way left-turn lane and get where I wanted to go. There were times when cars were trying to go both ways in the two-way left-turn lane.

“Since the use of tally slips, people quit using the holding lane in town,” he said, “and when it backs up out of town they don’t use it there either. I called (9-1-1) and reported it and was told that is just the way it is when the ferry traffic backs up. I said someone needs to direct the traffic into the holding lane and was told there wasn’t anyone available.

“This happens quite often,” he said, “and doesn’t need to if the ferry (traffic) would just use the holding lane. Maybe signs advising the use of the holding lane would help.”

The out basket: The State Patrol manages traffic around the ferry terminals, so I asked its local spokeswoman, Trooper Krista Hedstrom about this.

“This does occur from time to time when the boat off-loads and the traffic lights stop traffic in both directions,” she said. “That will cause some gridlock. During the evening rush hour (during the summer only) there can be a 5-10 minute back-up, which is self-correcting when the boat loads.

“The problem is there is a mixture of commuters and leisure travelers that have absolutely no clue what to do regardless of our direction,” she said. “WSP does routinely direct traffic when it causes a back-up, however this issue typically corrects itself once the boat loads.  It usually takes more time directing everyone onto the shoulder than just allowing the traffic jam to self-correct itself.”

Weird weave by WSP car in commuter traffic

The in basket: I saw an odd thing during the regular afternoon backup on Highway 3, near where it intersects Highway 304 west of Bremerton, about 4 p.,m. on Aug. 17.

I was entering from the Loxie Eagans interchange on-ramp and saw a State Patrol car, emergency light flashing, as it weaved back and forth in the two through lanes at a very low speed, from the outside lane to the inside and back, several times. It stopped all the traffic in both lanes and on the on-ramp.

The trooper then pulled to the shoulder, behind a large gray SUV, also with emergency lights flashing, which in turn was behind one of those boxy Scions.

I asked my WSP contact what was going on.

The out basket: I had heard of “rolling slowdowns,” but never seen one. That’s what I saw that afternoon, Trooper Krista Hedstrom tells me.

There were rolling slowdowns announced from time to time on the old Tacoma Narrows bridge during some phases of the construction of the new one, but I could never quite picture how they worked.

The reason for it this time was altogether different, Krista says. Two drivers had reported the Scion as being driven erratically as it moved south. The SUV officer spotted it and tried to pull it over, but the Scion driver wound up stopping  in one of the driving lanes just beyond the Loxie Eagan on-ramp.

So the moving slowdown maneuver was used to keep other traffic out of the way until the Scion was on the shoulder. Then traffic returned to normal.

The driver was arrested for drunken driving and taken to the county jail, Krista said.

That spot is no stranger to rolling slowdowns, she added. They’re occasionally employed when Canada geese, which frequent the shoulder in front of the Bremerton sewer plant, have babies and a bunch of them wander out into the freeway, parents following. Someone tries to heard them back to the shoulder.

It’s not entirely successful, she added, as the number of goslings tends to diminish over time, presumably traffic victims, but it’s worth a try.

Are storm water ponds mosquito habitat?

The in basket: This is the time of year we are reminded to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds, to minimize the possibility of a West Nile Virus illness, among other reasons. Health officials recommend dumping out old tires, rain barrels and anything else where water would be undisturbed.

I think of that as I pass many of the storm water detention ponds that have become a standard part of any road project or housing development. I asked Kitsap County Public Works, which manages those outside the cities and on county roads,  if there is anything the county does or advises nearby home owners to do to keep mosquitos from breeding in ponds that aren’t dried up yet.

The out basket: The county’s Surface and Stormwater Management Program gave me this answer:

“Storm water ponds and other water quality treatment facilities are designed to filter pollution from storm water runoff and reduce flooding. Most facilities built into residential and commercial developments are designed to drain in a few days. This prevents mosquito larvae from completing their development.

“Some storm water ponds and water quality facilities are designed to hold water most of the year or may retain small pools of water. In addition to treating storm water, these facilities are generally designed to provide habitat for many species of frogs, birds, fish and aquatic insects that feed on mosquitoes and their larvae.  The wetland vegetation planted around the perimeter of these ‘wet ponds’ also serves to inhibit mosquito larvae development while providing habitat for mosquito predators.

“A small field survey conducted by Kitsap County Public Works and the Kitsap County Health District in 2003 confirmed that when these facilities are properly maintained they do not appear to create large populations of mosquitoes. This is also demonstrated by research in other parts of the country. Kitsap County Public Works has a rigorous operations and maintenance program to ensure our storm water treatment facilities function properly.

“Residents should not attempt to control mosquito populations in storm water ponds.  The use of larvicides or other chemicals in storm water facilities is regulated by the State Department of Ecology and requires state licensing and permits. These pesticides can be harmful to native biota such as salmon and trout. Storm water ponds often have a connection to natural streams or other water bodies. Because of that relationship chemicals used to control mosquitoes could end up harming fish and wildlife downstream.

“If residents suspect that storm water ponds are not being properly maintained, contact Kitsap 1 by email at  help@kitsap1.com or by phone at 360-337-5777. For information about West Nile Virus visit the Kitsap County Health District’s website at www.kitsapcountyhealth.com or call 360-337-5285.”