Monthly Archives: December 2010

The panhandler on the Silverdale median

The in basket: Kathy Stansberry of Bremerton has noticed the growing number of panhandlers who take up positions at the roadside or sidewalk at traffic signals, and asks about one in particular.

He was on the long raised center median on Bucklin Hill Road between Silverdale Way and Shore Drive one day in November, walking up to cars and peering inside. It didn’t seem safe for him and looked like he could cause drivers he distracted to run into one another, she thought.

She wondered if it was legal.

She also said she’s seen a couple of people, probably ready to seek money from drivers stopped at the signal on Kitsap Way at the end of the southbound off-ramp from Highway 3, waiting out of the weather under the overpass while another held his sign seeking donations at the off-ramp. She wondered if they were taking turns.

The out basket: The man on the median was doing something illegal, says Deputy Scott Wilson of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office. One state law says “No person shall stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting employment or business from the occupant of any vehicle,” and another, intended mostly to require pedestrians  to walk against traffic, says, “Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk or otherwise move along and upon an adjacent roadway.”

Either carries a $56 fine, Scott said, though my guess is a deputy or police officer would more likely to just order the person onto the shoulder, where panhandling can legally be done.

“Those wishing to panhandle need to do so from outside of the traveled portion of the roadway, between the fog line and curb or on the shoulder of the roadway outside of the fog line,” Scott said.

“Now whether or not this applies to a large, grassy median that separates lanes of travel, such as is found up on Ridgetop Boulevard., is unclear,” he added. “However, it’s not recommended.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if, when more than one panhandler shows up at the same spot, they take turns. As a young street musician seeking money at a Portland area rest area told me in October, they know that even people willing to contribute to panhandlers don’t like to have to choose between them, so they recognize direct competition is not in their best interests..

“Local Traffic Only” signs are tough to enforce

The in basket:  Elaine Rogers, who lives on Polk Street near Manchester in South Kitsap, says she and her husband are elderly and disabled and hope the county will grade the road in front of their home so they can use their mobility scooters.

“We can’t get to our mailbox,” she said.

The out basket: When I drove their road, which is paved for a distance from California Avenue, then becomes little more than a wagon path as it goes on to Woods Road, I saw all the earmarks of an unimproved county road never accepted by the county and so not maintained to any degree.

And that is the case, say Doug Bear of Kitsap County public works and Jim Barnard of the Department of Community Development.

In the the past, the county would approve plats with only half the needed road right of way provided, Jim said, expecting to get the other half when the adjoining parcel was developed. That’s what happened on that stretch of Polk. “Only the portion where the road was built (up to the end of the asphalt) met the standard,” Doug said.,

So not only is the rest almost undrivable, it has only half the necessary width for a county road.

The county won’t spend tax dollars on it until it has adequate right of way and is brought up to standards, which would include pavement and adequate sub-base. It would cost tens of thousands of dollars, paid for by the property owners who would benefit, as an addition to their property taxes over 10 to 15 years, Jim said. And they’d have to vote to do it.

There are a lot of such roads in the county, Doug said.

None of that was news to Elaine, I learned when I reported back to her. She said the real problem is off-roaders who seem to have spotted their miserable road online, on Google Maps, possibly, and make paying to fill the potholes with gravel futile. They push the gravel aside and reestablish the mud-holes soon after they’re filled, she said.

They got the county to put a “Local Traffic Only” sign on the Woods Road end, and ignoring it in one’s vehicle would be a $124 infraction for failure to obey a traffic control device, says Deputy Scott Wilson of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

But enforcement is nearly impossible, Scott said, requiring a deputy to patrol it, determine if the driver is a resident, or a guest of or providing a service to one. Such a stop, in the rare instance when one got made, would block the one-lane road while it was handled, he added.

The only things likely to get a deputy there would be criminal driving matters like DUI, hit and run or reckless driving, he said. More routine traffic infractions, “would not be an efficient use of law enforcement resources.”

Narrows Bridge street lights have been out

The in basket: I noticed on the evening of Dec. 5 that the street lights on the north side of the old Tacoma Narrows Bridge were all out. Those on the south side and on both sides of the new bridge were all burning.

It was the same on Dec. 18. I asked if the reason was interesting.

The out basket: It turns out the state is paying $1.9 million to install new electrical components and make upgrades to the old bridge to match the new one. The job is to be complete in December, so it must be nearly finished. It required no disruption to traffic.

“This project is replacing the high voltage system on the bridge and portions of the

system had to be disconnected at times to stage the work,” said Don Anders of the regional signal shop. I don’t know if it was continuous or I just happened across the bridge on two nights the street lights were doused.

I hadn’t thought of a bridge as having high electrical demand, so I asked what besides the street lights and elevators to the tops of the two towers use juice.

“There are the navigation lights and aviation lights,” said Chris Keegan, the regional bridge expert for the state. “There is also a fog horn that requires electricity. The towers also have lighting on each level,” he said. The work will reduce maintenance and operation costs in the future, he added.

Lack of stop sign at Silverdale off-ramp questioned

The in basket: Sharon Clark expressed concern a few months back about the Yield sign that controls vehicles coming off southbound Highway 3 via the off-ramp to Highway 303 north of Silverdale.

“I experienced a close call when exiting southbound to Silverdale, making a right turn at the yield sign,” she said. “Surprise — there’s no merging lane with traffic that’s fast-moving along the the far right lane.

“To make things worse, the visibility is bad. Small cars are hard to see when they’ve picked up speed from the traffic light zone, and are close to the overpass wall.  “Don’t most motorists expect there to be a merge lane, when yielding onto a four-lane road, coming off a freeway?” she asked. “Why not a stop sign instead?”

The out basket: I sent Sharon the explanation for the alignment at that location that I got from Project Engineer Brenden Clarke back in October 2007 while the interchange still was under construction. And I promised I’d ask for accident figures there since the ramp opened.

Brenden said then, “The sign there is a yield sign, not a merge sign.

“Traffic coming from southbound SR3 to 303 should not be merging,” he said. “It is either a signal-controlled or yield condition. Traffic heading toward Bremerton is controlled by the new traffic signal. Traffic heading toward Clear Creek or the Mall should be looking at the traffic signal as they approach to give them guidance as to how to proceed.

“If it is green, they obviously have the right-of-way and if it is red, they should be abiding by the Yield sign that is in place on the ramp and looking at oncoming traffic before they proceed.”

They didn’t install a stop sign for the right-turn movement, he told me then, because that would require traffic to stop even when the light is green for that movement. “The result of a stop sign would be a drastic decrease to capacity.  The yield sign allows traffic to proceed unencumbered while the signal is green, but it does not allow a merge.

“An added acceleration lane would have been nice,” he added. “but we did not have enough right-of-way to accommodate the widening for the added lane.”

So, have there been a lot of accidents at that yield since the ramp opened?

Geneva Hawkins of the state’s Collision Data & Analysis office says there had been 20 accidents at that location between the ramp’s opening Nov. 29, 2007, and the end of June this year, the most recent figures available.

All 20 have been rear-end accidents, 15 on the off-ramp (ruled as the result of following to closely), the other five on Highway 303, called the result of inattention. They were distributed evenly, with seven in 2008, eight in 2009 and five the first half of this year.

Four people had injuries, none serious, three of them in a pair of crashes in 2008. There have been no fatalities.

Seattle ferry off-loading rules puzzle reader

The in basket: Tom Wisniewski writes, “Is there any rhyme or reason in the direction one is forced to go when unloading from the Bainbridge or Bremerton ferries in Seattle?

“Some times you are allowed to select either using the north exit and going up Marion Street or turning north or south on Alaskan Way,” he said. “Other times you are forced to use the south exit and proceed south on Alaskan Way.

“Recently, while watching a Bainbridge ferry unload, traffic was initially forced to use the south exit and then about half-way through the unloading process, drivers were given the option of using either exit, and then the last few vehicles were again forced to use the south exit.

“I once asked a ferry employee about this on a game day,” Tom said. “I was told that since there was so much pedestrian traffic everyone had to go south, which seemed strange to send hundreds of vehicles toward the stadiums if there were so many pedestrians.

“Being forced to go south at times is very frustrating if your business is taking you north or east as the first opportunity to turn doesn’t come until you reach King Street and have to deal with the Pioneer Square area,” he concluded.

The out basket: Here is the rhyme and reason, as provided by Susan Harris-Huether of the ferries public information office. It all depends on how many of what kind of ferry user is on the Seattle dock, she said.

1. When Bremerton and Bainbridge ferries arrive at the same time, Bremerton goes south and Bainbridge goes north. If a Bremerton or Bainbridge boat arrives while the other is offloading, we will adjust the offloading to accommodate both ferries, i.e. stop off loading north etc.

2.  If ferries are running late, we off-load to the south because it is faster. The Marion Street signal cycles about every 2 minutes and adds time to our offloading process. To make up the time, we will offload south as there is more holding room on the dock for offloading vehicles plus the (southern) light cycles are much longer.

3. If there is a great deal of traffic on the dock, including bicyclists, pedestrians from vehicles milling about with their dogs etc., we will off load south from Bremerton for safety reasons.

4. When there is an event at Safeco or Qwest field, we frequently off load to the south and the reasons have to do with Marion Street and Alaskan Way.  Pedestrians cross against the light continually at the ferry intersection and cars block the intersection, which is caused by excess traffic. The same happens at Western and at First, impacting our ability to offload our ferries in eight minutes (remember the two-minute cycle of the light) which results in late departures of ferries.

5. When conditions are normal, we allow access to both the north and north gates.

What will Manette Bridge deck be made of?

The in basket: Gary Reed says he’s curious about the decking material that is planned for the new Manette Bridge.

“Will it be the same material as was used on the Warren Avenue Bridge that is already deteriorating, or yet another new miracle material?

“I also noticed there are traffic counters installed on the existing Manette Bridge,” Gary said. “Is someone changing their mind about the replacement? Seems a little late to determine traffic flow, and maybe not too accurate with the bridge being shut down at least one day a week.”

The out basket: Jeff Cook, project engineer for the bridge job, says the riding surface for the new bridge will be an 8-inch thick, reinforced concrete deck construction….  This is the standard concrete for bridge decks used throughout the state highway and interstate system (so no “new miracle” material).”

Warren Avenue Bridge has a 3/4-inch polyester concrete overlay atop light weight concrete.

“As to changing minds about the replacement of the existing structure, the answer is no,” Jeff said. “The continued construction of the new bridge is evidence of that.  And just to be clear; the new bridge is going up; existing bridge is coming down.

“The counters are placed throughout the area at this time … to get a baseline reading and account for variations in daily travel patterns,” he said.

“We use the information collected for a variety of reasons.  Specific to Manette Bridge, we continue to monitor traffic counts and peak hourly volumes to work on possible solutions to minimize impact to traffic and commuter vehicles while maintaining an efficient construction operation.”

Was it a tornado that closed Wheaton Way Tuesday?

Wheaton Way Tuesday morning

The in basket: Mike Brown, who had to travel back and forth between East and West Bremerton Tuesday in his job as development project manager with Bremerton Housing Authority, spent a lot  of time in the traffic jams around the prolonged, complete closure of Bremerton’s busiest street, Wheaton Way, while power crews worked to clear a huge tree and other debris from the street.

The closure went on for hours, from about 12:15 a.m. to just after 7 p.m., around 19 hours.

The detours were congested, and drivers trying to get through, including Mike, tried side streets that didn’t work and l had to wait to get back onto the designated detour among drivers who weren’t very cooperative about letting them in, he said.

The mess could have benefited from some police officers on foot in the worst intersections, he said, especially Halvorsen Avenue and Sylvan Way, so cars didn’t have to wait for passing traffic on Sylvan to pull out. As it was, traffic on Halvorsen backed up for blocks.

The out basket: This was an extraordinary event about which not much has been printed or aired. Davina Gruenstein, of Puget Sound Energy says the company thinks it actually may have been caused by a tornado, a view shared by an occupant of a nearby business building at the time. Some people are describing the scene near Flowers to Go and Cooper’s Fuel and Auto Repair as like a war zone, she said.

A huge tree fell across Wheaton, she said, dropping wires on both sides of the four-lane street and snapping off two power poles. Broken limbs littered the pavement.

Just removing the tree took a long time, she said. The poles had to be replaced. cross-arms attached and a thousand feet of wire restrung.

Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police tells me they don’t have the manpower to assign officers to direct traffic, even in such an emergency. They had no reserve officers on duty.

They wouldn’t have been able to respond promptly to accidents and other wind-related problems had they added traffic control to their duties, he said.

The Road Warrior came upon the blocked street about noon and I phoned CenCom to suggest the traffic signals be retimed to handle the detoured traffic. They appeared to be set for normal traffic.

Lt. Fisher said he did the same between 1 and 2 p.m.

Jeff Collins, head of city signal shop said they did that at Sylvan Way early in the day, but the press of wind-related problems kept him from giving Sheridan Road more time to turn left onto Wheaton until about 3 p.m.

Pete added that they got the state to delay that night’s scheduled closure of Manette Bridge because of the Wheaton Way crisis.

Mike Brown said he eventually was able to devise his own way around the backups. It helped to know your way around. I got caught in the Halvorsen backup around 2:30 but turned right onto 31st and found Olympus Drive one block up the hill to be mostly clear. Mike said he found the same thing.

Dennis D’Amico at the National Weather Service said they have no reason to believe it was a tornado. But the kind of thunderstorm squalls that moved through the area about when the tree fell can do that kind of damage, he said.

Jason Hood, a manager at Cooper’s, isn’t convinced. He was doing late-night paperwork when the wind hit and said it was”fairly instantaneous and slammed against our building,” lasted 15 or 20 seconds and made him worry that it might peel the walls right off, he said. As it was, the roof of another part was torn off, he said.

“It was extremely scary. I tried to crawl under my desk because I didn’t know what would happen,” he said. “I’m convinced that it was a tornado.”

The wailing of their security system when the power failed and blue sparks from power transformers blowing out as the tree crashed across the highway added to the chaos, he said.

What happens to old sand bags?

The in basket: I was watching a network newscast a while back in which the victim of flooding somewhere was musing about the cleanup that would follow, including removal of all the sand bags.

It had never occurred to me before to wonder what happens to all the stacked sandbags when the flood waters recede. The alarmist weather forecasts we’re hearing about the coming La Nina winter and our current forecast suggest it may be more than an academic issue for some local residents soon.

The out basket: Sand bags appear to be of three varieties. Those public works and highway departments put down, those residents buy at stores and fill themselves and, in the most serious events, those provided to the public by emergency management departments, often with supplies of sand identified.

Residents who acquire sand bags in either of the final two ways are responsible for what happens to them when the floodwaters recede, says Susan May of the Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management. DEMA will refer flood victims to a hardware store for sandbags in most cases, she said.

The sand can be put to other uses later if the bags can be kept from decaying, by covering them, for example. Most homeowners wouldn’t want them as a permanent part of their landscaping, I wouldn’t think.

Callene Abernathy of Kitsap County Public Works says the county cleans up all sandbags it deploys when they are no longer needed. The sand is taken to the road sheds for use in ice and snow control if it hasn’t been too badly contaminated, which it usually becomes in a week or two. After that, they are disposed of as garbage, she said.

The bicyclist and the drive-thru lane

The in basket: Ray Smith e-mailed in October with a strange tale.

“Today I rode my bicycle through the drive thru at the Burger King at the intersection of Highway 303 and Fairgrounds,” he wrote. “After getting no response at the speaker where orders are normally taken I proceeded to the pick-up window.

“The order taker informed me that a bicycle will not trigger the sensor that tells them someone is there. I was then informed that they could not take orders from a bicyclist.

“I inquired ‘Does that mean you will not take my order?’ I was told they couldn’t take my order because there was a car behind me. I said ‘There was no car behind me when I rode up.’ The reply was ‘Sorry I can’t take your order.’

“Is there some kind of requirement, by law, that says a bicyclist cannot be served in a drive thru? What about motorcycles or snowmobiles? (I recall reading an article that McDonald’s takes orders from snowmobilers in northern climates where the snow gets deep). “And finally, Is this just a Burger King policy? So much for ‘Have it your way.'”

The out basket: I asked Ray why a bicyclist would want to use a drive-through and he told me, “There was no convenient or designated place to park and lock my bike. From personal experience I have found you can’t secure your bike to whatever might be handy, I have had my locking cable cut and the bike hauled away by security personnel for securing it to a fence. It was also a nice day and I preferred to stay outdoors.”

Jeff Rose of Sound City Foods, which runs that Burger King, had this to say, “Drive thru lanes were built, primarily, for cars.  With today’s active lifestyles and fuel prices, guests are traveling to our restaurants using a variety of methods.

“It is true that a bicycle will not trip the sensor indicating a vehicle is present but once Mr. Smith was at the pick-up window we could have and should have served him.

“I would, however, advise caution using a bike in any drive thru as most guests are not accustomed to seeing a bike in the drive thru lane.”

They’re happy to serve motorcyclists in the drive-thru lane, he said. “Bottom line is we want to provide a safe experience for all guests.

“Please send along my apologies to Mr. Smith and my contact info should he want to contact me directly.”

2 more yellow flashing turn signals requested

The in basket: Road Warrior readers have nominated two more intersections for  the flashing yellow left-turn arrows that Kitsap County has deployed in many places.

Bob Hoag says, “I think the blinking yellow left turn signals are great especially on Bucklin Hill Road in Silverdale.

However, it seems the county forgot one location. With the new Greaves Way connection to Waaga Way, and the significant increase in traffic on eastbound Anderson Hill Road, left turns onto Old Frontier Road (which feeds into Greaves Way) are piling up.  As a result, I was very surprised that the county didn’t add a blinking left-turn signal at the intersection on Anderson Hill Road and Old Frontier Road.

Warren Nadeau feels the same way about the signal on Highway 3 between Bremerton National Airport and the Olympic View Industrial Area.

“Cars trying to make a left turn into the airport or a left turn into the industrial area must sit with high speed traffic passing them for some time before the light changes,” Warren said. “Many times there are large gaps in traffic that would allow left turns to be made without stopping high speed traffic on the highway. It seems that it would be much safer and more efficient than having left turn traffic interfering with the highway traffic.

“To anyone trying to make a left turn for one or two minutes while at a dead stop, with full speed traffic passing within inches in both directions (head on and from behind), it is downright frightening.  You have no momentum to avoid a collision should someone move into your lane from behind or head on,” he said.

The out basket: There is no immediate hope for a yellow flasher at either location.

Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer said of the intersection Bob mentions, “It’s a budget issue. The signals currently configured with flashing yellow lights were upgraded with new construction, or the upgrade was funded with development mitigation funds. We do not have budget available to pay for the upgraded equipment necessary to implement this technology at other intersections. We continue to look for opportunities to widen the use of flashing yellow light technology, as it’s been very well received by motorists.”

The airport signal is owned by the state, which has a policy that once a signal has been found to require one level of traffic control (such as a red arrow left-turn signal) it won’t go to a lesser degree of control without a significant improvement in the alignment of the intersection. That would prohibit either a yellow flashing left turn signal at the Highway 3 signal or that technology’s predecessor, a sign allowing left turns against a solid green ball light after yielding to all conflicting traffic.