Monthly Archives: November 2010

WSF sees errors in Chetzemoka reports

The in basket: During the run-up to the ferry Chetzemoka’s beginning service from Port Townsend, I thought I heard one of the Seattle TV stations call it the most expensive ferry ever built in this country.

Can that be true, I asked ferry spokespersons. It’s only about half the size of the Mark II jumbos our ferry system had built, although that was many years ago.

The out basket: I don’t know if ferry public affairs already had it written, but I almost immediately got back the following news release claiming seven inaccuracies in reports about the new ferry:

The Chetzemoka: setting the record straight

While we have appreciated the generally accurate coverage of Washington State Ferries’ new, 64-vehicle Chetzemoka ferry, there are a few inaccuracies in various media reports that we would like to address. With today’s 24-hour news cycle, information is reported quickly and often repeated again and again and/or picked up and used by others.

·         Inaccuracy: The Chetzemoka has an unanticipated or unintended incline to one side (list) that is noticeable while the boat is sailing, making it inefficient and creating safety concerns.

·         Correct information: The 1 percent list is part of the design to maximize the number of trucks/oversize vehicles the vessel can carry, and is due to the location of three stair towers and two elevators on one side. Based on the design, the ferry has no list when loaded with vehicles. As part of the vessel’s certification process, the U.S. Coast Guard performed a vessel-wide stability test and deemed the Chetzemoka safe. The Island Home, a Massachusetts ferry whose design was used for the Chetzemoka, also has a designed-in 1 percent list that is eliminated when the vessel is loaded with vehicles. There is no plan to add ballast (weight) to counter this list when the vessel is not loaded.

·         Inaccuracy: The Chetzemoka is the most expensive ferry ever built in the United States.

·         Correct information: WSF’s Jumbo Mark II ferries cost $86 million each. The Kennicott (Alaska) cost more than $80 million. The Hawaiian Superferries, the Alakai and Huakai, came in at $85 million and $91 million, respectively. (The Chetzemoka cost $79.4 million.)

·         Inaccuracy: The Chetzemoka was supposed to cost $65.5 million but, instead, cost $80.1 million.

·         Correct information: Final cost of the Chetzemoka was $79.4 million. The original budget was $76.93 million (including construction, risk and contingency, and construction management). The $65.5 million figure was the construction bid from Todd Shipyards. It is a standard practice in capital budgeting to include contingency and risk costs and construction management. There has been an additional $663,000 of work on the Chetzemoka that will be charged to the three-vessel procurement program. When the Legislature funded the second and third vessels with a $136.3 million budget, WSF combined that with the $76.93 million Chetzemoka budget, giving us one budget for all three boats totaling $213.2 million.

·         Inaccuracy: The original engineer’s estimate to build the Chetzemoka was $49.5 million.

·         Correct information: The original $49.5 million engineer’s estimate was calculated assuming there would be competition. At the start of the process, four shipyards were interested. Three removed themselves for various reasons, including bonding and apprenticeship goals. A $58.2 million engineer’s estimate was used at bid opening, using the labor rate of the single source bid. The final construction bid was $65.5 million, or 11 percent different from the estimate.

·         Inaccuracy: WSF crews say the Chetzemoka is plagued with problems.

·         Correct information: The captains and crews who have trained on and are operating the Chetzemoka are pleased with the vessel’s performance. A number of media outlets have interviewed the captains and crews of the vessel, who are very forthright in their approval of the vessel.

·         Inaccuracy: The Chetzemoka’s propellers are inefficient.

·         Correct information: The Island Home has fixed-pitch propellers like the Chetzemoka, which operate well in challenging waterways with currents and restricted harbors in Massachusetts. WSF developed procedures and engine-control protocols during several weeks of sea trials to ensure efficient operation. The vessel is operating on WSF’s most challenging route, with strong cross currents at the narrow, shallow Keystone Harbor.

·         Inaccuracy: WSF needs to get out of the business of designing and building vessels.

·         Correct information: WSF does not design or build vessels. Elliott Bay Design Group designed the Chetzemoka and Todd Pacific Shipyards built it.

Plowing when there is no snow

The in basket: My wife, The Judybaker, saw four Kitsap County snow plows working on Mile Hill Drive over a 45-minute period Monday afternoon, but said it had stopped snowing and there was no snow on the road. They were plowing nothing. Isn’t that hard on the road surface for no reason, she asked.

The out basket: They weren’t plowing nothing, says Doug Bear, spokesman for county public works. They were plowing slush.

“Very cold weather (was) expected to move in overnight and freeze anything on the road surface. While the pavement appeared bare to your wife, we (were) plowing slush off the roads. This prevents it from freezing and channeling cars.”

Why steel, not concrete for Highway 305 culverts?

The in basket: Don Hein is puzzled by the material in the new culverts being put under Highway 305 in North Kitsap to remove fish barriers. “I’d like to know why the culverts are made of steel instead of concrete,” he said. “Steel rusts.

“Also, the culverts seem to be made of 1-inch thick steel plate.  How, where and by whom is such thick steel plate rolled into a cylinder?

“You can see one of the culverts close up in the parking lot of the George fireworks stand on Highway 305,” he said.

The out basket: Jerry Moore, state project engineer says, it results from having to pound the culverts beneath the highway.

“Steel pipe was chosen because it can be driven or pushed through the fill at a reasonable cost. Technically, concrete pipe can be pushed through the fill.  However, according to technical reports that I read, special attention has to be given to prevent damage to the ‘brittle’ concrete especially at the joints.  Both the technical reports and our contractor said it would cost more to push concrete pipe through the fill.

“The pipe is made of 1 and 1/8-inch-thick steel,” Jerry said. “This thickness was chosen by the contractor to handle the driving forces generated from the hammer.  Structurally, only 5/8-inch thick steel is required for the load generated by the weight of the highway fill.

“And, yes, steel does rust but not that fast.  The pipe should last more than 50 years especially with the extra thickness.  If, by chance, the steel pipe does rust to a point that it becomes structurally deficient, it can be repaired by relining it with another layer of steel or by other methods.”

Jerry didn’t include information on the maker of the culverts, and I didn’t ask again, but there is no shortage of companies dying to tell you about their steel cylinders online. Just Google it.

Klahowya crosswalk to get different warning lights

The in basket: Tracy Loehrs asks, “Do they ever plan on adding a traffic light at the intersection of Klahowya Secondary School and Newberry Hill? It is very treacherous at beginning and ending school times, especially with all those new drivers.

The out basket: You can read a lengthy and detailed answer to that question in a Road Warrior column dated Oct. 22, 2009, at The answer boils down to no, they don’t, the brief duration of the congestion there twice a day only on weekdays doesn’t warrant the expenditure.

But Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer, says they do have some changes coming to make it safer for pedestrians.

“We have ordered a couple of strobe-type flashers that will be at the crosswalk,” he said. “These lights will be pedestrian activated.  Also, we are going to reconfigure the existing flashers to flash only when pedestrian activated.

“The thinking is that motorists tend to ignore signs and even flashing signs if they see them all the time.  If the flashers are activated only when a pedestrian crosses there, it tends to reinforce the sign, then the sign and flasher are directly associated with an actual pedestrian and not an empty crosswalk.”

‘Filtering’ in traffic is illegal for bicyclists

The in basket: After a flurry of bicycle-related Road Warrior columns last summer, Julie Snyder of Poulsbo asked about what she called “the fairly common practice of ‘filtering,'” or riding one’s bicycle between lanes of traffic stopped at an intersection.

She specifically asked about The Finn Hill/Lindvig Way intersection with Viking Way in Poulsbo, and turns in either direction onto Viking.

Coming west on Lindvig, she said, it’s uphill and bicyclists have trouble not delaying cars if the biker has to take a full spot in the travel lanes to get to the Viking Avenue signal.

“The road splits from two lanes into three just before Cenex, with no shoulder,” she said. “At the bottom of the hill (near Bond Road), I’m moving much slower than traffic, since it’s uphill. Everyone passes me. Then, as cars stop at the light, I start overtaking them.

“Since I want to proceed straight, I look and signal into the center lane, cross the right turn lane when given a break by a motorist, and ride to the right BESIDE those center lane cars up to the stop line, ready to cross when the light changes. There is a shoulder on the opposite side of Finn Hill, and soon the line of cars passes me again.

“I use the same method when turning left to go south on Viking Way (but I add some further eye contact and a nice left-turn signal).

“A motorist friend told me that although filtering was practical, it wasn’t legal. I should take the lane and act ‘like a car’ through this, and every, intersection with no bike lane. I tried this once, and found myself the subject of motorist frustration. Since Lindvig is uphill, I take much longer than a car to move through, and drivers weren’t happy about waiting.”

Going in the other direction on Finn Hill Road, she runs afoul of a safety tip on the state’s Web site, which says, ‘Don’t pass on the right – Motorists may not look for or see a bicycle passing on the right.’

“There is often a back-up of 20 cars from the light,” Julie said. “Should cyclists NOT pass this line of traffic on the right-hand shoulder? There is no designated right-turn lane at the bottom. I approach the bottom of the hill slowly, and stop at the stop line well to the right of the first car in line at the light,” she said.

The out basket: Julie is OK with her tactic coming down Finn Hill Road eastbound, says Ian Macek, the state’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. The advice about not passing on the right doesn’t apply to bikes on the shoulder or in a bicycle lane, he said.

I would hope so. The shoulder is the safest place for a bicyclist, and state law specifically accords bike riders the right to use the shoulder.

Sadly, that’s the only exemption from the state law that requires bicyclists to comply with all laws that apply to cars. Julie’s friend is correct, filtering is illegal.

I asked Sgt. Andy Pate of Poulsbo police and Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office about this.

Andy replied, “I have ridden the same portion of roadway on a bicycle. Going uphill is an issue at that intersection. Bicyclist cannot legally ‘filter’ in this state. They can, however, ride on the shoulder to avoid impeding traffic. If they are going to make a left turn they must ‘take a lane’ and the fact that they will annoy motorists is unavoidable.

“The idea behind the laws is that bicyclist should not do anything that would surprise a motorist. A bicyclist ‘filtering’ through traffic leaves a motorist, inexperienced in riding a bicycle on the roadway, confused and wondering what the bicyclist’s intentions are. That leads to accidents.

“If a bicyclists takes an assertive position in a lane, such as a left turn lane, it makes it clear to the motorist that the bicyclist is preparing to make a left turn, albeit a slow one.

“It is important in this state that bicyclists approach an intersection and assert themselves into a lane of travel making it clear for all surrounding motorists of the intention. No surprises.

“Once in a lane of travel, the bicyclist is afforded all the rules of the road pertaining to a motorist, forcing the motorist to also follow the rules of the road and treat the bicyclist as a vehicle. Granted, this can be annoying to some motorists, but it does put the burden on them to also follow the rules of the road.

“If a bicyclist rides near the fog line, but not actually on the shoulder, this allows an impatient motorist to try and take advantage of the extra room and go around the bicyclist and squeeze by the bicyclist… In such cases where it is dangerous for a bicyclist to ride on the shoulder, or there is no shoulder, the bicyclist should ‘take the lane’ and ride closer to the center line, helping to ensure that the motorist behind him must treat them as another vehicle.

It is difficult, (but) bicyclists must develop the mindset that they are part of the traffic when riding on the roadway.

Scott’s advice differs somewhat.

“If the bicyclist becomes the impeding factor, ie:  a bicyclist traveling uphill on a roadway in the lane of travel, it would be prudent for the bicyclist to move onto the roadway shoulder, or at least as far to the right of the lane of travel as possible, in order to allow uphill traffic to pass the bicycle (given that there are no other impediments and traffic is moving along at the posted speed limit),” Scott said.

“If traffic is slowed or stopped, the bicyclist certainly may pass this traffic on the shoulder as in all probability the bicyclist will be moving faster than traffic.

“The realities.” he concluded, “are that there are a few bicyclists who ride their bikes in all manner of movement or design, ie:  riding against traffic, riding at night without any illumination, failing to abide by the most basic rules of the road.

“These are the individuals about whom we are most concerned from a safety aspect to both themselves and other motorists.  Serious bicyclists are very aware of their personal actions and strive to adjust to traffic flow utilizing common sense and adherence to traffic laws.

About those narrower lanes on new Manette bridge

The in basket: Several comments on the Road Warrior blog at expressed amazement and/or alarm after a

Sept. 16 column said the driving lanes on the new Manette Bridge in Bremerton will be a foot narrower than those on the old bridge.

Others felt the new span’s five-foot shoulders where now there are none, make it no problem.

I asked Jeff Cook, the state’s project engineer on the job, for the rationale behind narrowing the vehicle lanes.

The out basket: “The various components of the bridge were sized to fit in with the

city’s revitalization plans now and in the future,” Jeff said. “Manette, like most

bridges, serves as a medium to tie together the pedestrian and vehicular

routes as well as the communities on either side of the Narrows.

“I think an important perspective to keep in mind is that the current 12-foot

lanes (with no shoulders) constrict to approximately 10-foot lanes (with no

shoulders) at the main truss span.  (Ever have to stop in the middle of

the bridge because a bus was coming through the truss from the other

direction?) The new structure provides 11-foot lanes with 5-foot’ shoulders.  The change to vehicles is a significant increase in lateral space.

The bridge provides 12′ feet of sidewalk where users are currently allowed

the 4-foot space.”

The bridge also has fewer piers to affect maritime activities, he said..

“So, the new bridge improves the accessibility and available space for

vehicles and pedestrians and bicyclists and boats,” he concluded

Nothing new on tribal police negotiations

The in basket: A frequent commenter on the Road Warrior blog at, who goes by the name Bluelight, asked for an update on negotiations between Kitsap County and local tribes over giving tribal officers all the powers of county sheriff’s deputies.

He or she cited a July 2009 Road Warrior column that explained those deputies’ authority at that time. It said, “The 2008 Legislature enacted RCW 10.92.020, which permits cross-commissioning of tribal officers, but requires that the tribe and local government, in this case Kitsap County and its sheriff’s department, sign what’s called an interlocal agreement extending that authority.”

Sheriff’s Department spokesman Deputy Scott Wilson said then that the new law is under consideration at the county level, but “as of this date, tribal officers in Kitsap County have not been authorized to act as general authority Washington peace officers.”

Suquamish Chief Mike Lasnier said, “the Suquamish Tribal Police are seeking that authority. Our officers are already certified by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, and we are currently working with the State Office of Financial Management, and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department and Kitsap County Prosecutors Office, in order to ensure that use of state authority by Suquamish officers makes good public safety sense.”

The out basket: There has been no change, Scott and Mike told me in mid-November.

Scott said, “Nothing more to add to what was previously provided.  The sheriff’s office, in conjunction with the prosecutor’s office, is in negotiation with Suquamish PD to allow tribal officers to act as general authority Washington State peace officers.

“The negotiation process continues, but I can’t provide you with definitive completion or agreement date.”

Scott’s statement “covers the situation,” Mike said.

Lake Flora Road intersection could get improvements

The in basket: Suzy Lee writes, “I live in Belfair and go to work in Seattle at 4:30 a.m. via the Southworth ferry.  My route is Belfair to Lake Flora Road and on to the ferry.

“This is a recent route for me and I find the intersection on Highway 3 hard to see.  I signal but have had to slow down to see the turnoff.  It seems to me that there (should) be an overhead light at that intersection and, if so, can the powers thar be get a light installed?”

The out basket: Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region of state highways, says it might happen.

“For the upcoming session, we are proposing that the Legislature fund the design and construction of improvements at the intersection, that will include illumination,” he said. “We should know by next April if they decide to fund the project.”

Guardrail changes in Harper raise eyebrows

The in basket: “Goolsby Snitworthy, who drives along Southworth Drive daily” (really, that’s what he wants to be called), writes, “Perhaps you could have your county road contacts explain to the folks why, as part of the reconstruction of Southworth Drive between the Harper Dock and Olympiad Drive, guard rails have been added along sections where they were not before and removed from other sections where they were before.

“It appears illogical to we non-road experts, but I suppose the county experts have what they think is a logical explanation for the guard rail changes.  I am certain others are puzzled by this development,” he said.

The out basket: I, too, was surprised that most of the project’s frontage, up against which the tide laps at high tide, has no guard rail, including in places that used to have it.

And, yes, the county does have an explanation.

Jeff Shea, county traffic engineer, says not all the planned guardrail has been installed yet but not every place that had it before will have it replaced.

Cones along the waterside shoulder from the Harper Dock south to Cambridge Road show where guardrail has yet to be installed, 270 feet of it. They’ve decided the need to bolt that guardrail to the seawall requires a special design being done now. That will add about $40,000 to the work, says Senior Program Manager Tina Nelson in public works..

“Guardrail itself is a hazard to motorists, especially motorcycles and bicycles,” Jeff said. “Guardrail is generally placed because it presents less hazard than the obstacle behind it,” in this case, water.

“Past guardrail locations do not necessarily dictate replacing a guardrail, if it is removed,” he said. The only other stretch of guardrail in the completed project, nearer Olympiad Drive, is required by the combination of the height of the rock wall behind it and the potential depth of water there, said Tina Nelson.

“We’ve researched our records and, other than vehicles that have hit the guardrail at the curve at the dock, there are no reported collisions with the guardrail previously placed there,” Jeff said.

“Environmental regulations and restrictions limit what can be done at that location. We are evaluating other methods, including barrier curbs and/or signs and markings, that can help delineate the road edge.”

One such change was approved by the county commissioners on Nov. 8. A suggestion of Commissioner Charolotte Garrido, it provides $52,352 to paint the shoulders brownish red when weather allows in the spring, says Tina. There is anecdotal evidence the visual impact of painted shoulders can slow traffic, she said. Neighbors who fought the widening often said they think it will increase speeds there.

Tina says even with the added cost of the painted shoulders, special guardrail design and reinforcement of the sea wall, the project will come in around $800,000, about $200,000 less than originally expected.

Fine can be steep for using cross-median emergency U-turns

The in basket: The Judybaker, my wife, saw an old vehicle, almost certainly not an official emergency vehicle, using that through-median paved patch on Highway 3 north of Chico Way to turn around recently. It and similar cut-throughs are intended for police, fire or other emergency vehicles going to an emergency and have No U-Turn signs. She wondered what the penalty is for a private citizen doing that.

The out basket: State Trooper Todd Bartolac, filling in for Kristra Hedstrom while she’s on leave, says the penalty can go up to $411.

That’s if the citing officer chooses to use that strange law (RCW 46.61.150) that reads, “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 so installed as to control vehicular traffic, every vehicle shall be driven only upon the right-hand roadway unless directed or permitted to use another roadway by official traffic-control devices or police officers. No vehicle shall be driven over, across or within any such dividing space, barrier or section, or median island, except through an opening in such physical barrier or dividing section or space or median island, or at a crossover or intersection established by public authority.”

If you can’t spot the wording in that law that forbids turning across those through-median areas, you’re not alone. I can’t either. But that’s the same law that is interpreted to allow left turns across garden-variety double yellow lines, and to impose a $411 fine for crossing the gore points on freeways, those merging white lines at on- and off-ramps.

It seems that it can be interpreted to permit or forbid almost anything.

Todd also cited another law that seems more on point. It reads, “No person shall drive a vehicle onto or from any limited access roadway except at such entrances and exits as are established by public authority.” That one carries a $216 fine and seems better to describe what was done illegally.

Todd says an officer can choose either law. My guess is a officer also could choose to write a ticket for making an illegal turn or disregarding a regulatory sign (each with a $124 fine) or even negligent driving. Getting up to speed once the U-turn is complete, entering 60-mile-per-hour traffic while bouncing  over the inner rumble strip certainly could be called negligent, especially if it leads to an accident. The fine for negligent driving is $550.