Monthly Archives: July 2011

Agitated driver wants update on Lake Flora roundabout

The in basket: Rich Farrell says he “recently I skidded 10,000 miles of rubber off a new set of tires and depreciated my brake lining life span by at least five years at the intersection of Lake Flora Road and Lake Flora/JM Dickenson….the famous T-intersection where many drivers will not come to a complete stop!!

“At one point in time there was a planned roundabout  proposed for the intersection,” Rich said. “Whatever happened? How many accidents will it take before such an animal is constructed? Does the country have a ‘death quota’ before acting on such? With the traffic increase of the area, it won’t take long before someone is either seriously injured or killed at the intersection.”

The out basket: I got the misimpression somewhere that the roundabout Rich asks about was under way. It isn’t but it soon will be.

Doug Bear, public works spokesman for the county, says work is to begin Aug. 8. The contract was on the county commissioners’ schedule for approval on July 25. A November completion is planned.

 

‘Perfect’ cul-de-sac not what it seems, says county

The in basket: Jim De Lorm wrote in mid-July, “I just received a notice that the county is going to pave the cul-de-sac where I live on Friday, July 22.” It’s Fircrest Place SE, just off Fircrest Drive in South Kitsap.

“Believe me, this cul-de-sac is in perfect shape. What a waste of money. I would think the money could be put to better use some place else.”

I guessed that it might be another of the county’s pervious pavement test sites and asked if I was close.

The out basket: No, says Don Schultz, county road superintendent, it’s just regular maintenance.

“While your reader believes Fircrest Place SE is in perfect shape, our pavement management system rates the road in poor condition,” Don said.

“Roads in Kitsap County are periodically inspected and assigned a rating score. The overall score considers pavement conditions including alligator cracking, rutting, surface deterioration due to raveling or aging and other factors. The score assigned to a road relates to its relative condition. (Fircrest Place) was last paved in 1974 and has a current surface score of 32.”

On that scale, 89 to 100 is excellent, 67 to 88 is good, 49 to 66 is fair,  21 to 48 is poor and zero to 20 means failed

“Each year road supervisors review road ratings to determine the best way to utilize the limited funds available to preserve the  county road system. Based on the rating score and other factors (proximity to other projects, equipment and material availability, the ‘window’ available for this type of maintenance work) they select roads to include on our annual paving schedule (http://www.kitsapgov.com/pw/roadpave.htm).

“Systematic preventive maintenance is usually much more cost effective than waiting until a road fails,” he said. “It’s like the old FRAM oil filter cliché, ‘You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.’ By maintaining roads in the poor category before they fail, and restoring them to good or excellent condition, we keep those roads functional and ensure their use well into the future.”

 

Trying for all-green signals on Highway 305

The in basket:  Dr. Craig Benson writes, “Perhaps you can help me crack the code of the traffic lights along Highway 305 in Poulsbo. I read in the Sun that as part of the revamping of the 305 corridor the lights were supposed to be timed to provide for smoother traffic flow and less stopping, to save gas.

“Since I live off Hostmark and often shop at College Marketplace,” he said, “I have occasion to pass through all six lights in between at various times of the day and night, sometimes with no other traffic interfering, but rarely at rush hours. I’m pretty sure I’ve never made it through all the lights without stopping.

“I’ve tried setting my cruise control right at the posted limit, a little higher, a little lower, accelerating faster and slower from the lights, everything I can think of to pass through the lights as timed, without success.

“This is an every day occurrence for me,” he said, “and probably for hundreds if not thousands of others – those stops add up! Can you find out from the powers that be what I’m supposed to be doing to get through the corridor without making unnecessary and inefficient stops?”

The out basket: The state gets this inquiry enough that it has posted a discussion of the limitations of synchronization on its Web site, at wsdot.wa.gov/Operations/Traffic/Signals/signal_coordination.htm.

After noting that synchronization requires the same number of seconds for each signal to serve all of its various traffic flows,, it poses a question of itself: “Does this mean I will never have to stop for a red light?”

 

“Unfortunately, the answer to this question is No,” it replies. “There are many reasons why, even when traffic signals are coordinated, you will still have to stop at red lights.”

Among the reasons:

– Pedestrians. Whether those on foot consume some of the time devoted to the various movements  affects the amount of time for other movements.

– Side streets. Even where through traffic is given preference, such as on Highway 305, making for long waits for a green, the goal is to make sure all cars waiting when their queue gets a green light are served. The number of cars crossing affects the main line timing.

– Left turns. The amount of time devoted to them and the number of vehicles waiting to turn subtracts seconds from the main line.

– Two-way traffic flow: Coordinating flows in opposite directions is difficult, especially if the signals in the corridor are spaced differently. “If the spacing is not equal between traffic signals, the green lights may only ‘line up’ well in one direction,” the site says. “When this happens, the green lights will normally ‘line up’ better in the direction with the most traffic. The traffic in the other direction may have to stop.”

– When you drive. Many coordinated system are taken out of synchronization at night and on weekends.

I’ve had to abridge the information on the Web site, for space reasons. Look it up for a more detailed explanation.

 

Wheaton Way called worse than California freeway

The in basket: Katie Holden, a Navy wife and recent arrival here from San Diego, writes, “Another accident on Wheaton Way. When I first moved here, it struck me while driving on Wheaton Way that it feels like a ‘free for all.’ There are so many points of exit and entry while the center lane is for both directions.

“Shortly after that, I read in the paper that a baby had lost his life when the parents were involved in a traffic accident on Wheaton Way. This morning I read about another accident.

“Isn’t there a better way to deal with the amount of traffic on this road? Maybe there should be turn lanes dedicated to a certain direction rather than both directions.

“I would rather drive on San Diego’s deadly I-5 in rush hour traffic than on Wheaton Way during rush hour. Does this road seem dangerous to you?”

The out basket: As far back as I can recall in my 40-plus years as a reporter in Bremerton, Wheaton Way has been held out as a bad example of handling heavy traffic.

“You don’t want to make this another Wheaton Way” would be a frequent cry at meetings to discuss some planned development somewhere else.

At one time, it was proposed to pair it with a parallel street, probably a widened Pine Road, with a new bridge across the Port Washington Narrows, providing one-way travel in each direction. It would tie into High Avenue on the west side, its proponents said.

The idea died without making much progress, opposed by Pine Road and High Avenue residents and hobbled by lack of money.

Still, I don’t avoid Wheaton unless I think I’ll move faster on a side road. About the only time I feel in danger  there is when I’m northbound in the outside lane. The lack of deceleration lanes for right turns creates a risk of rear-enders, especially between Sylvan and Riddell.

Given the amount of traffic the highway must handle, I think the state and city do a pretty good job keeping it moving, albeit at the expense of those waiting on the side streets.

I don’t know what would be gained by eliminating the two-way turn lanes in favor of one-way turns. Who knows what confusion and risk would accompany requiring one direction of travel to find some way to get turned around to make a right where lefts no longer would be allowed.

And I’d hate to turn left onto Wheaton anywhere there’s no traffic light without the two-way turn lane to use as a refuge lane to wait in half-way across.

I just drove LA’s I-405 and I-110, right through the heart of downtown, and would consider either worse than Wheaton Way, attributable mostly to LA’s greater congestion.

And I’d rather drive any of them than 45th Street in Seattle’s U District.

 

What’s holding up right lane extension on Warren?

The in basket: Whenever I get stuck behind traffic stopped at at a red light on Warren Avenue  in Bremerton at 11th street, unable to reach the right turn lane that would allow me to proceed up 11th instead of waiting, I wonder what’s holding up the city’s plan to make that right turn lane longer.

The work is to allow more cars to reach 11th in the outside lane and turn right, greatly reducing the lines of vehicles waiting on Warren.

Last I heard they planned to have it done this year, but the construction season is getting on toward rainy months. On the other hand, traffic in the city is about to be altered greatly by the months between the closure of the Manette Bridge and opening of its replacement.

I asked if the two things have something to do with one another.

The out basket: Indeed they do, says Gunnar Fridriksson of the city engineering staff.

“We are anticipating going to ad (for bids) late this year and delaying

construction until next spring,” he said. “Our acquisitions (of right of way) went fairly well and we were planning on going

out this year.  But with workload and then WSDOT announcing the Manette

bridge closure starting in July, we let the construction date slide to accommodate.”

 

Big waterfront wedding poses parking questions

The in basket: Karen Ross of North Kitsap said “We are having a wedding (at a home on) Beach Drive in Poulsbo on August 6 in the front yard, which is beach-front property.
“There will be a very large crowd, possibly 180 people, which could mean at least 120 cars.
“I am unable to find out what the law is regarding roadside parking.  The roads in our area have very wide shoulders.  Our neighborhood is rural.
“I plan to go door to door to let neighbors know that cars will be alongside the roads during the wedding,” Karen said.
“Do you know what the law is regarding roadside parking in our area? I would like to know what the law is first before I contact neighbors and I also think it would be good for me to let the county police know.”
The out basket: I would have known the answer had her road had white edge striping. It’s illegal to park on the shoulder with one’s tires on or across that white stripe.

But Beach Drive doesn’t have edge striping, so I had to go to Deputy Scott Wilson of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

“This should not be an issue for the Ross family and their wedding guests,” he said.

“Vehicles parked on roads without painted edge (‘fog’) lines follow the same rules as roads with painted edges. Cars parked in this neighborhood should be positioned on the roadway shoulder, facing the direction of travel. Parked vehicles should not block the traveled portion of the roadway,  not block driveways and must remain at least 15 feet from a fire hydrant.

“This is a safety aspect primarily,” Scott said. “if there’s a requirement for sheriff’s patrol, medic or fire engine units to enter the neighborhood for emergency response, they need to be able to do so without having parked vehicles block or hinder their ingress/egress.”

 

Highway 3 south of Gorst to get rumble strip soon

The in basket: Jack Egbert e-mailed to say, “The editorial cartoon in a recent Kitsap Sun featured the terrible accident reputation of Highway 3 between Gorst and Belfair.

“Why has the state not installed a ‘rumble strip’ down the center line like it has done from Belfair to Shelton and other accident-prone two-lane highways with higher speed limits?” Jack asked.  “The ‘rumble strip’ alerts the driver when crossing the center line and would be an improved safety feature.  This strip would also make the reflectors last longer.”

The out basket: A timely question. Lisa Copeland of the Olympic Region of state highways says nearly seven miles of that stretch of highway will get the center line rumble strip in the next few months.

“The project was awarded this week to Apply-a-Line, Inc. and (work) will take place in late summer/early fall,” she said.

 

 

More on vessel speeds at Hood Canal Bridge

The in basket: Back in June when Trish Olson complained about speeds of Navy and Coast Guard vessels under the transition spans of the Hood Canal Bridge, the official response generally minimizing the problem brought me an anonymous voice mail that said the following:

“Fishing as I do,” said a woman’s voice, “and listening to the marine band, the workers on the Hood Canal Bridge are always telling the Coast Guard,  the ones in the white boats, to slow down because of the waves that mess up not only the new bridge but the old one too.

“I have witnessed some of those waves on the Kitsap side,” she said, “and you can surf on those suckers. The new gray (Coast Guard) boats are not too bad but the other ones just haul ass and a lot of people on the Kitsap side are pretty upset with it.”

I asked Lt. Regina Caffrey of the Coast Guard in Seattle and the state Department of Transportation to comment on the allegations.

The out basket: Lisa Copeland, spokesman for WSDOT, says “(Bridge Superintendent) Dean Crawford tells me that when passing through the center opening section of the bridge, this is the only time we have issues with the speed.

“On occasion, speeds are above the 7 knots we like to see.” Dean said, “but we understand that steerage is the main issue here and each vessel requires a different minimum speed to maximize the ability to maintain a true course.

“The most important part of the process is that the bridge is not struck and damaged,” he continued. “The second issue is when the speeds of the ships are above that speed and tidal influences are working against the bridge, it will delay the time it takes to get the two ends of the floating structures to ‘settle down”’ and realign the centers so they will fit and lock.”

Regina of the Coast Guard replied, “While I understand your reader/source has concerns; I have not heard of any similar concerns or issues.  The Coast Guard has highly trained, professional mariners that follow commandant policy as well as applicable navigation rules.  Our vessels may operate at higher speeds in support of missions or training.

“If there are further questions or concerns from your readers,” she said, “you can provide the contact information for the District 13 Coast Guard Public Affairs Office; 206-220-7237.”

 

Mystery blue bulb at Harrison & Mile Hill Drive

The in basket: Every time I turn right from Harrison Avenue onto Mile Hill Drive in front of the China West restaurant with my wife in the car, she asks me if I’d found out the purpose of a blue light bulb inside a wire cage atop a short pole in front of the restaurant.

That’s more often than you might think. I always turn from Jackson Avenue and go through Parkwood rather than continue downhill to the signal where right turners are often backed up at the red light in the only lane.

The bulb is never lit, she told me, asking “What’s it for?”

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says it’s not a light bulb at all.

“It’s a photocell that turns on the street light when it gets dark,” he said. “There are hundreds of them and on almost every street light.

“The one at China West happens to be at street level so is more visible than the others. The county does maintain them.”

 

Hey, your turn signal’s still on!

The in basket: I was involved in a quiet encounter on Highway 3 just west of Bremerton a couple weeks ago that has me wondering.

I’d just merged into the single lane that meets traffic coming out of Bremerton headed toward Gorst, when the driver ahead of me turned on her left turn signal for one blink, then the right signal for one blink and the left signal again for one blink.

I looked at my dash and, sure enough, I’d left my turn signal on after merging, an all too common failing in my 60s.

I wrote a few years ago about whether there is a recognized means to tell another driver that he’s committing this gaffe regularly attributed to the elderly by humor writers.

Some possibilities:

– Make a repeated pinching motion with finger and thumb as you draw abreast of the car and get the driver’s attention. That puts you both at risk of rear ending a car ahead.

– Alternate your own signals once you get ahead of the other vehicle, as the woman on Highway 3 did with me.

-Yelling out your open window.

– Beeping TS for “turn signal” in Morse Code, or Dah-Dit-Dit-Dit. That was an invention of mine that, not surprisingly, hasn’t caught on. It stands a good chance of being misinterpreted as an aggressive action and an even better one of mystifying the other driver.

I have never had any success in communicating this message to any other driver by any of those means.

Did the woman in the gray Dodge Stratus who blinked it to me actually intend it to be the message I received? Was this one small victory for roadway cooperation?

The out basket: Probably not. I beeped while still behind her and gave her a thumbs up. I couldn’t see though her back window if there was any reaction.

When I got beside her, I tried another thumbs up but she didn’t even look my way.

As I pulled away from her, I saw in my rear-view mirror that she had her right turn signal blinking, but wasn’t slowing down as if to turn into one of the few places one can turn right along there.

She would have had to merge right moments earlier. Had she become just one more driver who had forgotten to turn off her turn signal after changing lanes?

I have no answer. Maybe she’ll recognize herself from this narrative and fill me in.