Monthly Archives: June 2011

Vague road safety release fleshed out a little

The in basket: Kitsap County Public Works turned out a news release in late March telling of the receipt of a federal safety grant. I found it odd, in that no dollar figure was provided and the expected use of the money was vaguely described, saying it would improve lighting at high collision intersections and curves, upgrade warning signs on high collision corridors, acquire and install speed radar signs for corridors with high collision rates, survey and remediate clear zone obstacles, and install recessed pavement markers. The clear zone is the roadside border area, outside the traveled way, available for safe use by out-of-control vehicles.

No locations were given.

I asked for some more details, ideally with some locations..

The out basket: Jeff Shea, county traffic engineer, says the county got the grants both in 2009 and 2010.

One in 2009 was for $500,000 in rural road safety upgrades and another in 2010 was for $2,525,000, usable for both rural and urban locations.

The 2009 grant was spent to

“identify nearly 30 locations where lack of lighting contributed to collisions,” he said. “These locations include several intersections along Hansville, Holly and Glenwood roads to name (some) examples. At these locations spot street lighting will be added to increase visibility and improve safety.

It also funded installation of recessed pavement markings on approximately 90 miles of arterial roads, including Miller Bay, Belfair Valley, and Mullenix roads.

Funds from this grant will be used to inventory eight roads for roadside hazards in the clear zone. County staff still are working to identify what the 2010 grant will be spend on, he said.

“These are the general projects this grant funded:,” Jeff said.

” We identified urban areas where adding spot lighting improved visibility and has the potential to reduce collisions.  No specific locations have been selected yet.

” We plan to install recessed pavement markings on about 75 more miles of roads.

“We will replace lower grade reflective sheeting with material that meets new retro-reflectivity standards on about 300 signs throughout the county.

” We will purchase 10 radar speed signs to install at problem speeding areas.  Likely permanent locations for these signs will be at McWilliams Road, Sidney Road, Silverdale Way, Augusta Avenue and Colchester Drive.


The grant also provides money to supplement local funds on a safety project to construct a left turn lane at Bethel-Burley to Mullenix Road.  This intersection is on the county’s high collision list


“We will install 10 permanent speed radar signs,” which tell a driver how fast he’s going. “We have one other permanent location on Illahee Road that was purchased by the Port of Illahee.  We have four portable solar signs we move around the county.   We currently have no plans to purchase any more portable signs.


Chico Way left turns strike driver as dangerous

The in basket: Mike Spieker says his drive to work takes him southbound on Chico Way to turn left on Erlands Point.

“The left turn lane is marked with a double yellow line,” he said. ” On several occasions vehicles in front of me have unexpectedly stopped short of the turn and made

a left turn into the gas station on the east side of the road.

“The gas station entrance has a traffic control island that seems to be an attempt to limit such a turn,” he said, “with ingress access apparently intended only for northbound Chico Way traffic on one side and an “exit only” side  (marked with a sign) to allow egress for northbound traffic on the other side.”

“Can you comment on accident activity at the site and whether the left turn into the gas station is legal?  Is there anything that might be modified to address what appears to be a perfect recipe for a rear-end collision?”

The out basket: There are no signs visible to drivers on Chico Way forbidding a left turn and no cross-hatching on the pavement on Chico Way to make left turns illegal.

The northernmost of the two accesses is quite wide and has room for two-way traffic.

The other one is narrower and built so that a left turn is difficult but not impossible. The left turn pocket for turns onto Erlands Point Road extends back to the narrower access, with a turn arrow on the pavement.

I can find no “exit only” sign on the service station property.

Similar situations probably exist all over the county. One I’ve noticed serves the new Walgreen’s store at Kitsap Way and National Avenue in Bremerton. It’s even worse because that left-turn lane leads to a traffic signal which creates a sense of urgency for drivers trying to get through the light before it turns red. A car on its way to Walgreen’s and waiting in the turn lane for oncoming traffic to clear can surprise a driver looking past the stopped car and concentrating on the signal.

Nevertheless, there is nothing to make a left turn illegal at either spot.

Unless rear-enders actually increase at such spots, they’ll probably remain the way they are.


Do you know the way to Highway 303?

The in basket: Pat Ryan of Brownsville has contacted me twice, years apart, suggesting that more directional signs around the northbound on-ramp to Highway 303 from Callahan Drive in East Bremerton are needed.

At present, only drivers westbound on Callahan have signs showing the way to the highway. Drivers who come north on Clare Avenue, which arcs around as a one-way street in its final couple hundred feet, can see the ramp, and maybe the highway, but are left to put two and two together without benefit of a sign saying, yes, a left turn will get you onto 303.

This year, Pat added that a sign down the hill at Lebo Boulevard and Clare, directing drivers seeking northbound Highway 303 up the hill would also be helpful.

There also is doubt about whether a left turn from Callahan onto the ramp is legal. A sign says no U-turn, but is mum on left turns.

Richard Gonzales e-mailed to say he knows a person who was stopped and warned by a Bremerton officer for making the left turn.

“The is no signage prohibiting the turn,” he noted. “Since my coworker wasn’t cited, can I assume that this officer just felt it was unsafe to turn left there or is it truly illegal?”

The out basket: It’s a legal place to make a left turn, says, Lt. Pete Fisher, head of BPD’s traffic division. He speculated that there may have been something dangerous about how Richard’s co-worker made the turn, perhaps not yielding to a car on Callahan, that prompted the warning.

Larry Matel of the city engineers says this about the signs Pat proposes:

While often times we all might like another roadway sign here or there, signs are deployed based upon a number of factors including traffic volume, complexity of traffic movements, traffic speed, and consequences of missing a turn, as well as economics.

That said, the city of Bremerton has thousands of street signs that all need to be maintained, regardless of the state of the economy. Therefore, we always look carefully at all requests for additional signing placement because the initial cost of the sign is only a portion of the cost of maintaining the sign over the life of the roadway. The costs do add up.

In this specific case, I do not see overwhelming life/safety or convenience issues creating a strong need to add additional maintenance responsibilities to our operations, especially in times of very tight budgets.”

I drove around the area, imagining that I was a stranger to the city coming from the direction of Lion’s Field, and I think a greater need for sign installation or maintenance exists on old Wheaton Way, which gets a lot more traffic.

There are no signs at Lebo and old Wheaton Way showing the way to 303, and a sign up the hill on old Wheaton that is intended to is almost entirely hidden by trees. Even then, it describes it as the way to “Warren Avenue/Wheaton Way,” which a newcomer probably wouldn’t know is also Highway 303.



How far from the ear is “to the ear?”

The in basket: Barb Coombs e-mailed in early June to say, “A friend and I were having a discussion after we saw someone driving and holding the phone away from his ear as he was talking on it.
“I said that was now illegal and she said, no, it was OK, since it was not up to his ear and he was on speakerphone.
“I was under the impression that hands-free meant that you were not using your hands to talk on the phone.  She looked it up in the RCW’s and evidently she is right… long as the phone is not up to your ear, you are legal.  That doesn’t make sense to me  at all!”
The out basket: I doubt that there is a definitive answer to just how far from the ear the phone can be held to make its use legal, but the law does specify “held to the ear” as the infraction. Other use of the hands, such as to listen and talk on speaker phone, is not forbidden.
I would imagine different courts would rule differently should a citation be appealed for almost having a cell phone to one’s ear while driving
By happenstance, I came across the following in the June 17 edition of The Week magazine, which got it from Under Tip of the Week, it had this to say about reducing health impacts from cell phone radiation:
“Give your phone some space…User manuals typically advise against direct contact. Holding a cell phone 2 inches from your ear reduces the radiation “by a factor of four.'”
One more reason not to drive with a cell phone to your ear.
As to whether the cell phone law makes sense, I’d hate to have to defend its logic. Dialing a number, which I always have found to create the greatest peril while driving, is not forbidden.

Incident at the driver’s license office

The in basket: Sharon O’Hara, a frequent commenter on Road Warrior columns on my blog at, has an issue of her own with the state Department of Licensing.

She was made to waste an hour waiting to renew her license only to learn she had to return for a driving test because she needs “walking sticks” to walk, she said.

“Yesterday I dropped by to renew my license,” she said, “used my two walking sticks to the first counter, waited in line until the person behind the desk asked what I wanted and received a number after I told her.

“She did not mention the walking sticks and I walked back to sit in the hard, uncomfortable chairs for almost an hour before my number was called.

She gave the next person her license. “She asked me if I had trouble driving and I said ‘No, not once I got into the car.’  I can’t walk without the sticks.

The employee excused herself to talk with someone in a side room, Sharon said, “and came back to tell me that people who use canes had to take the driver’s test.

“Surprised, I said, ‘Okay, let’s go.'”

But the tests are given only on Friday, Sharon was told, so she made a 1 p.m. appointment on a Friday. “She told me to park around back in one of the spaces provided and to wait in the car, I didn’t need to get out.
“I asked why the information wasn’t known or shown online? She looked online and couldn’t find (it).
“I told her of the wasted energy – gas – to drive there, not to speak of the almost hour wasted waiting there for something that couldn’t happen because I used ‘canes’ to walk.  That is discrimination in my book.
“My issue is not with the test.  It is that I should have known about that law/rule and been able to phone in for the appointment rather than waste the time and energy to drive there for nothing.
She was told in a phone call to DOL when she got back home that “they couldn’t take calls – that anyone could say anything over the phone – they couldn’t know the truth unless they saw the person.

“That makes no logical sense. Why would anyone claim to use canes to take a drivers test when they didn’t need to?  Nobody would do that.
“The lack of warning that cane users must take the driver test makes me feel we – walking stick and/or seniors might be discriminated against.”

The out basket: I asked Brad Benfield of the DOL if Sharon’s visit to the office had been handled correctly.

“Our staff are trained to watch individuals when they approach the service counters,” Brad said, “and listen to them during a transaction for signs that might indicate they have a physical or cognitive condition that might affect their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

“When the staff encounter an individual they believe may have a condition that would affect their ability to drive, they have options for handling it: they can require the individual to pass a driving test, they can require the individual to be cleared to drive by a medical professional, or they can further discuss and clarify the situation with the individual and issue the license.

“If an individual is required to take the driving test, it is because our staff had a reason to believe the person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle was in question.

“Because our staff are screening for a wide variety of physical and cognitive conditions and there are several possible outcomes, it simply wouldn’t be possible to detail all of the possible scenarios on our website or in a brochure.

“There is a very wide spectrum of reasons someone might use a walking aid. Some might affect a person’s ability to drive, and others might not. Without actually seeing and talking with someone, it would be impossible to make a determination about who should be tested and who should not.

“The use of a walking aid would certainly be a factor in screening someone for a driving test, but there are usually other factors that go along with the use of the aid when a determination is made. It would not be accurate to say ‘everyone who uses a cane has to retake a driving test.'”

Still, he said, “I certainly don’t have firsthand knowledge of (Sharon’s) situation, but it appears the staff handled it appropriately. We do not want to discriminate against anyone. We also do not want to inconvenience anyone by making them take a driving test when it is clear a condition will not affect their ability to drive.”

Trains have right of way over Edmonds ferries

The in basket: On one of my rare trips aboard the Kingston-Edmonds ferry this spring, I was signaled by a deckhand to got forward to offload at Edmonds, only to be forced to stop before I got off the boat.

It was clear to see why. A train was crossing from north to south on the tracks that cross in front of the terminal, interrupting the offload.

I thought that with offloading so close to complete, it would make more sense to stop the train to prevent the ferry’s running late.

It took me a beat to realize the whole on-loading process also would have to be finished before stopping the train would do any good.

But I asked the ferry officials if that’s an option when a train shows up when loading the ferry is nearly complete.

The out basket: Marta Coursey of Washington State Ferries said, “(We) routinely work with Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) on coordinating our ferry schedule with their train schedule. Thirty-six trains use the tracks daily, and we have 22 to 26 daily sailings out of Edmonds depending on the day of the week

“In spite of our best efforts, traffic volumes and service disruptions are unpredictable, and BNSF does have the right-of-way, so it’s inevitable that there are times when ferry traffic will be held up. We continue communications with our transportation partners and remain committed to constantly improving our related service schedule.”

Wrong-way bicyclists in downtown Bremerton worry reader

The in basket: Dan Wages and Michael Johnson are upset about two strategies use by shipyard workers in Bremerton to get to work in the morning. We’ll discuss Dan’s first and Michael’s in the next Road Warrior.

Dan says, “Every weekday morning at about 7 a.m. I see several bicyclists coming off of the Seattle ferry ride against traffic westbound on First Street heading towards the PSNS gate.

“This looks very dangerous,” he said, “in that cars coming down Pacific, which turns into First Street, do not expect two-way traffic on a one way street. I witnessed one accident a few months ago where a bicyclist struck a vehicle turning into the Kitsap Credit Union building’s underground parking and hear drivers of cars yelling at the bicyclists reminding them that they are on a one-way street going the wrong direction.”

He wonders if what the bicyclists are doing is legal and thinks the city of Bremerton is risking a “huge liability” if one of the bikes is hit by a car.

“There is no signage telling cars to watch for traffic going against the flow on this one-way street,” he said. “Bremerton police do not issue tickets for what appears to be an illegal action.

About a dozen bicyclists do this each day, he said.

The out basket: Lt. Pete Fisher of the Bremerton police traffic division didn’t waste many words on this, saying, that bicyclists must follow the rules of the road per RCW 46.61.755, which says they must comply with all laws applied to automobiles, except that they can ride on the shoulder or sidewalk.

“Our position is that bicyclists must comply with all pertinent laws or they subject themselves to potential enforcement action,” he said.

He didn’t address whether they have written any tickets for this, but it’s clear that a bicyclist in the roadway going the wrong way is violating the law. It sounds like they can get way with it on the sidewalk if they don’t run down any pedestrians.

Another shipyard commute beef

The in basket: Michael Johnson is annoyed by the practice of some drivers headed to work at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton who cut through the parking lot of the Lucky Wok fast food restaurant at First and Charleston and try to force their way into the line of cars on First who turned right off of northbound Charleston, also known as Highway 304.

“I have always heard that it is illegal to cut through a business’ parking lot to bypass an intersection,” he said. “Is that true?

“There are always one or two cars and sometime five or six at a time cutting through the parking lot to cut into the line to get in the gate,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are always enablers in that line that allow them to cut in.

“I feel it’s the same as people trying to cut into the ferry lines.  Why should they get to go ahead of everyone else that has been patiently waiting in line?”

The in basket: The common belief that it’s illegal to cut through a parking lot to avoid a traffic signal or for some other reason is incorrect. There is no law against it in this state.

I don’t know what the realities are for those heading to the shipyard in the morning who could turn onto Montgomery from Sixth Street or Burwell Street but choose instead to stay on Charleston until the start of the center barrier forces them to use the Lucky Wok’s lot. If it’s not a big hassle, I’d say they are at least self-centered.

But they aren’t doing anything illegal, thought they would probably be judged at fault if they were to collide with a car already on First Street when they try to get into line.

Power line work north of Poulsbo creates curiosity

The in basket: Dan Godecke, Barbara Jefferries and Gary Blakenship all have asked about what appears to be utility line work along Highway 3 north of Poulsbo, from Pioneer Hill Road to about three miles south of there.

Dan asked after signs went up in late April telling of upcoming nighttime lane closures from May 3 to 22.

Barbara and Gary were both intrigued by multi-colored wires being strung from pole to pole and Barbara also mentioned orange covers at that top of the poles and “two metal poles that appear to have cylindrical cameras (?) at the top.”

The out basket: Pete Townsend, utilities engineer for the state transportation here, says Puget Sound Eneergy is “reconducting,” meaning replacing the aging overhead electrical lines with new ones with greater capacity for future growth. New poles to support the new lines were installed a few years ago. Lane closures give the work crews room for their vehicles and large spools of wire.

It is night work and should be done by mid-July, he said.

The multi-colored lines aren’t wire, but guide ropes that are attached to the wires so that they can be pulled from pole to pole. They are much lighter and more pliable than the wires themselves. Color-coding helps avoid getting the wires crossed somewhere along the project distance, he said.

Lindsey Walimaki of PSE says the orange shrouds cover the old, still energized line at the poles so workmen don’t accidentally touch them. She’s not sure about the possible cameras on poles, but says they probably aren’t part of their project.