Too many signal heads at Sidney & Sedgwick?

The in basket: Greg Weber writes to ask, “Would you happen to know why are there four sets of lights for only three lanes at the intersection of Sidney Road  and Sedgwick Road (in South Kitsap)?

“When traveling westbound on Sedgwick, and approaching Sidney, you will be facing four sets of lights. They are laid out as follows:

– Left, the turn-only lane for turning south onto Sidney

– Left center, for crossing the intersection and continuing on Sedgwick

– Right center, for crossing the intersection or turning north onto Sidney

– Right, appears to be too far right  to be of use.

“The fourth light appears to have been intended for a fourth lane that never was developed, a turn-only lane for turning north.  The painted lane markings do not appear to open this lane for use, however, and it should be considered the shoulder.  Regardless of the lane markings, some drivers (in-attentive youth jabbering on their cell phones, more often than not) squeeze to the right of others also intending to turn north.”

The out basket: Port Orchard’s public works director, Mark Dorsey, not being an expert of traffic signals, didn’t hazard a guess about the extra signal, but does say there are no new lanes or other improvements planned at that intersection, except a video detection unit to improve the westbound through lane/right turn lane. He also noted some other intersections nearby that also seem to have extra signal heads.

But here’s what I think. It’s not just the westbound traffic that faces four signal heads for three lanes at Sedgwick and Sidney. Northbound traffic on Sidney does also.

Federal standards for signals require two per lane for the major movement at any intersection. It’s a redundancy in case the one signal goes out or is obstructed by a large vehicle and applies to the lane or lanes likely to have the highest speeds.

At Sidney and Sedgwick, and most other places, those are the through lanes. Two signals for the through lanes and one each for the turning movements add up to the four you see.

You might also expect an extra signal head to control southbound traffic on Sidney, as there are three lanes southbound there, too. But Jeff Shea, traffic engineer for Kitsap County, says  two signals for the major movement are the only requirement,. Whoever designed the signal system there presumably decided that the signal heads there meet the standard

And yes, the wide area outside the edge line for westbound traffic is the shoulder and an illegal place to drive, although many drivers, not just teens on cell phones, use the shoulder there and at most other intersections to make a right turn on red when traffic keeps them from making the turn legally.

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