Monthly Archives: August 2011

Apparent paving waste had a reason

The in basket: Two readers – Louis Oliver and Paul Goodwin – thought Kitsap County wasted a lot of money in the way it went about repaving Central Valley Road between Bucklin Hill and Holland roads in August.

Louis said, “If you (go to) that part of Central Valley Road just north of Fairgrounds Road, you will find the road is torn up.

“However, just last week the county ripped up 40 percent of this same part of the road and repaved it.

“This week they are ripping up the same road and redoing it. It appears to be around 65 percent of the road this time and, yes, they ripped out the newly patched parts again, after just a few days.

“Why? Did the county come into money it does not need?”

Paul said he drives down Central Valley Road daily, and observed the patch paving between Holland and Bucklin Hill.

Then, starting Monday, he said, road crews were out grinding out the whole road, including the asphalt they had just laid down.

He thinks it’s a giant waste of money for the flagger, equipment and materials for the patch paving, and “now they are doing it all over again.”

The out basket: As is usually the case, there is a method to what appears to be madness. Don Schultz, Kitsap County Road Superintendent, explains the process.

“Full depth patching on this section of road was completed to a depth of 4 inches,” he said.  “The patches were in response to distressed areas subject to heavy truck and bus traffic.

“A condition review of the existing paved shoulders showed they were still in very good condition, and did not need an overlay,” he said. “This allowed us to consider a partial overlay that can result in significant cost savings.

“If you do not overlay the full width of a road surface you must establish a vertical butt joint at the edge of the paving limits. The process of creating that butt joint could lead a passing motorist to conclude we were grinding out the patches we just placed.

“A butt joint is established by grinding a depth of 1½ inches at the outer edge of the travel way to level near the center line of the road. This butt joint did overlap some areas previously patched. We could have left the patches below grade in the interim period between patching and the overlay, but that would have created some safety concerns.

“Using this approach to limit the overlay to the actual travel lanes and creating a butt joint to support that resulted in saving about 600 tons of asphalt, reducing the overlay cost by $40,000 in material alone. The associated labor costs are also lowered by limiting the overlay to the traffic lanes.

“Some of the fresh patch material was removed, but considering the safety concerns a 1½-inch drop-off would cause in the interim, and the savings created by this approach, I felt the tradeoff was acceptable.

“It’s also important for readers to know that the asphalt we did remove from the patch is ground up and reused as fill material for shoulder work,” Don said.

License AAA0000 seen frequently around here

This photo found on Facebook

The in basket: Richard West writes, “In March 2010 your article mentioned the new seven-digit license plates starting to appear in Kitsap County. It also mentioned that the first plates went to Whitman County (the Colfax-Pullman area).

“As I watch cars with the new plates all around the area, I have noticed a car with what might be the first plate, AAA0000, seems to spend a lot of time in the Kitsap area.

“Is it a WSU parent? Maybe your contacts can shed light on who got the first plate.”

The out basket: The plate is registered to a Mason County resident, says Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing.

“The transaction for the first plate was processed through our headquarters office here in Olympia,” he said, “so it appears the actual ‘first box’ or at least part of that box was retained here for use by our staff who still process some transactions by mail.”

The Mason County owner of that plate may have been savvy enough to have placed his or her order with the intent of getting the first plate in the series, or it might have been happenstance.

I was of the belief that ordinary citizens could pay to learn who owned cars with particular plate numbers, but I was wrong. The federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act passed in 1994 places restrictions on what information a state licensing department can release. It appears it wasn’t even true before then.

“The federal law spells out pretty clearly who can get registered owner information,” Brad said. “Beyond law enforcement/legal or other government use, the release of this type of information is limited to uses where it is required to conduct a particular business — like parking lot or towing companies.

“There are no provisions for the release of this type of information—for a fee or otherwise—for news gathering or to satisfy curiosities about a vehicle’s owner,” he said.

Of course, if the owner of that plate happens to learn of this discussion, perhaps he could e-mail or otherwise contact me and tell the story of what it’s like to own license AAA0000.


In fact, Paul Petrinovich, owner of AAA0000, got the word and you can read about that plate and his other 50,000 0r s0 at


What prompted Windy Point rock work?

The in basket: I got the impression somewhere that the rock work on Highway 3 at Windy Point between Bremerton and Gorst that may create long backups this year isn’t so much prompted by worsening of the conditions on the cliff as by the evolving state slope stabilization program and the Windy Point area gradually working its way to the top of the list of needed projects.

I asked the state if I was right.

The out basket: Lisa Copeland of the Olympic Region of state highways says there have been rock falls there. “(We receive) “regular reports from the maintenance team about rock falling in the area, most of it is contained to the ditch,” she said. “The most recent, significant event occurred in 2006, when 10-20 cubic yards of debris came down the cliffs. A similar event occurred during the Nisqually earthquake in 2001.

“This project falls under WSDOT’s Unstable Slope Management Program which prioritizes the need for statewide unstable slope improvements.”

“According to Gabriel Taylor, WSDOT engineering geologist, the scale is based on 11 factors, each one ranging from 3 to 81,” Lisa said. “They are all combined for the rating. As a result, the low end and high end are ridiculously unrealistic numbers and most slopes rate between 200 and 500. The slopes on this project rate 450.

“The slopes are rated not just on rock fall history,” she said, “but on risk to the traveling public, which is accounted for by (average daily traffic) as well as other factors.(It’s 71,000 (trips per day) in the Windy Point vicinity).”

Snow, the bridge detour and the Sedgwick hill

The in basket: I was talking with Roger Wiley at the recent all-’60s-classes South Kitsap High School reunion and he asked a question I imagine was asked by interested parties during public meetings leading up to the South Colby bridge closure. But I hadn’t heard it before and didn’t know the answer.

With all Southworth Drive traffic routed to Sedgwick Road for the months the road is closed for replacement of the bridge, how can people expect to get up or down the steep hill on Sedgwick just east of Locker Road in a snowstorm. That’s where nearly all of the detoured traffic will get onto or off of Sedgwick, using the prescribed detour.

The out basket: Kitsap County has made one adjustment to its normal snow removal plan in recognition of the detour, says Doug Bear of its public works department.

It has added Lake Valley Road between Sedgwick and Long Lake to its list of priority plowing routes. A lot of savvy drivers probably have used a “flat-land” detour in past snows to get around that hill. It skirts the problem via Lake Valley, Long Lake, Mullenix, Olalla Valley and Banner roads, or in reverse order coming from the east.

“(The state), the ferry system, SK Fire & Rescue, South Kitsap schools, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Postal Service are all aware of this project,” Doug said. “Both Locker Road and SE Southworth Drive are primary routes in our snow and ice plan. SR 160 is a primary route for the state, and usually receives prompt attention during snow and ice events.

“We are actively working with (the state) to develop inclement weather contingencies for SR 160, up to and including assistance in treating and plowing that stretch of the highway between Locker and Banner.”

The county doesn’t usually divert any of its plows to a state highway during snow, so that is another  departure from past practice and will be done at just the one location for the duration of the bridge project.

They won’t sign the route that goes out to Mullenix during a snow, as they haven’t the past, but will rely on drivers to figure it out.”We don’t have any official ‘snow’ routes posted,” Doug said. “Rather we use the priority and secondary route approach as outlined in our snow and ice removal policy.” You can see that at and it’s a good resource to understand what to expect of the county when it snows, irrespective of the detour and Sedgwick Hill.

Honk if you can bear it

The in basket:  I was talking recently with a local doctor who had been to France this summer and had previously lived in Boston. After we shared our mutual appreciation for the effectiveness of roundabouts, he had an observation.

Driving around here would be safer if we Northwesterners would get over our aversion to honking our vehicles’ horns, he said.

Beeping at other drivers is a common practice in Boston and France, he said, and is as common as using your turn signal. He didn’t mean laying on your horn, just tapping it to say, “I’m here next to you.”

In the Northwest, it’s taken either as an insult or a provocation, he said.

The out basket: It don’t know how many of you have seen the movie “Waitress,” but the main character’s brute of a husband always announced his arrival at wherever she was with three blasts of his car horn. It was very annoying.

And I must admit to suffering from the very aversion the doctor mentioned. I’m even reluctant to use my horn to acknowledge someone or say hi. I do honk if the driver ahead of me doesn’t respond to the light turning green, and is looking sideways.

I do so despite knowing that there is a law against it. Our state law says “The driver of a motor vehicle shall when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation give audible warning with his or her horn but shall not otherwise use such horn when upon a highway.” The fine is $124 in the off chance one gets cited for not complying.

The doctor said his suggestion fits comfortably within that safe-operation guideline, broadly defined.

I have no illusions about the Road Warrior column’s  ability to overcome this ingrained societal aversion to honking. But I’m curious as to how far east one must go before horn honking is customary. I associate it with East Coast cab drivers.

I’m hoping to mine the collective experiences of you readers about this phenomenon. Drop a comment below or send me an e-mail if you have something to say.

Why bother fixing lower Elfendahl Pass Road?

The in basket: Mary Axter of North Shore Road in North Mason says she and her husband walk the lower nearly two miles of Elfendahl Pass Road, closed to vehicles since the historic December 2007 rains washed it out , and wonder why the county is bothering to rebuild it.

Work hasn’t begun, but she said they have seen surveyors at work, who say they often are asked the same question, why?

It seems like the money could be better spent on something else, like the highway between Bremerton and Gorst, or for sidewalks in Belfair, she said.

The out basket: Mason County Engineer Brian Matthews says that short stretch of Elfendahl Pass Road is the only link between North Shore Road and Belfair-Tahuya Road except for the ends of each. “It provides a valuable alternative route between the two roads, in the event access is blocked by acts of nature or other needs to close either North Shore or the Belfair-Tahuya Road,” he said.

Fire and sheriff’s officials both favor its restoration. he said. “The road reduces the first responders travel time by shortening the route to get from North Shore Road to Belfair-Tahuya Road,” he said.

The highway between Bremerton and Gorst is a state highway and improvements of it aren’t interchangeable with a county project. Also the money to rebuild Elfendahl Pass Road is federal emergency management money, except for 12.5 percent of the cost the county must kick in, and must go to undo the damage the rain emergency caused.

“Road abandonment for trail use (as some have suggested) would require that the county remove the roadway and related infrastructure,” Brian said. “It is estimated that the cost to mitigate the road is much greater then the repair cost,”  estimated to be between $1.6 and $1.9 million. “I believe that the county would be required to abate the roadway to prevent the roadway material from eroding into the creek and degrading the water and habitat quality,” he said.

County crew will do the work, beginning in September.

Tidying up inquiries on South Colby bridge job

The in basket: A commenter going by Verdann on the Road Warrior blog at is among some readers who read the entry saying the South Colby bridge being replaced will be done by December and wondered why the static signs posted just before Southworth Drive is closed say March.

And The Judybaker, my wife, said she had wrongly concluded that the job was done already because the being electronic message board on Mile Hill Drive near Baby Doll Road had been removed.

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works, which has contracted the job, says, “The project contract runs through December, and we expect the project will be completed by then.

“(But) because major components of the project are scheduled during the fall when inclement weather can delay and postpone work, we’ve asked for an additional window of time to allow for weather-related delays. This allows delayed work to be rescheduled without further resolution from the Board of County Commissioners.

“The bridge will be opened to traffic as soon as the work is completed,” Doug said.

As for removal of the electronic sign, he said, it “was intended to be placed for a limited time.  It helps increase awareness for regular commuters that the project is starting.

“We have a limited number of these types of signs and use them for road projects throughout the county, and move them frequently. There are signs near the project site routing infrequent users to detour routes.”

Why merge traffic toward the center line and not the shoulder?

The in basket: Linda Bruns of Belfair, a frequent traveler on Highway 3 between there and Gorst, read the recent Road Warrior column about left turns off the highway into Airport Auto Wrecking near Sunnyslope Road and called me up with a suggestion,

Why not have the merge of the two uphill southbound lanes of Highway 3 into the single lane be to the outside lane rather than the inside lane, she asked. That way the cars would be moving toward the ditch rather than oncoming traffic during the merge, which struck her as a lot safer if something goes wrong. It might even make those left turns into the wrecking yard safer, she said.

The out basket: I told Linda her suggestion made a lot of sense and I’d ask the state  why the merge is the way it is. What Linda and I hadn’t considered is a countervailing hazard of doing it the other way – the blind spot all drivers have at the rear right of their vehicle.

Steve Bennett, operations engineer for the state highways in this region, told me, “Merging traffic from right to left has become the national

standard for lane reductions.  The reason it is done that way is because of better driver visibility.

“When a driver moves to his left, it is

fairly easy to determine if the lane is clear as there is no blind spot. It is somewhat more difficult to make that same determination when

moving to the right. Often, when moving to the right there can be a

small area to the right rear of the vehicle that is more difficult to

see.  For this reason, at most lane reductions, we move drivers from

right to left.”

Left turns on red and transit buses on Burwell

The in basket: Ric Logg sent an e-mail back in May asking if I’d heard any rumors of a left-turn arrow being added to the light at Pacific and Burwell (in Bremerton).

“The buses get jammed up in the morning commute to the ferry terminal,” he said. “Kinda stinks having to sit through two lights waiting for a break so the bus can make a left-hand turn and get to the ferry terminal.”

The out basket: I wouldn’t expect a change in the signal at that intersection, for lack of money, but there is hope of a change as regards the buses.

That left turn carries buses and all other traffic onto a one-way street leading downhill to the terminal. As I’ve written often before, a little known state law allows a left turn against a red light where no sign prohibits it, but only onto a one-way street and only after coming to a complete stop and yielding to conflicting traffic.

Kitsap Transit executive John Clauson turns out to be among those who had never heard of the law. (Some police officers also hadn’t and have ticketed Road Warrior readers for making such a turn, for whom I’ve interceded twice to get the ticket dismissed).

John said he’ll look into the law and it’s applicability to transit vehicles, so it’s possible Kitsap Transit drivers will be made aware of it and be allowed to make the turn against red in the future.

I’m not sure whether traffic flow will provide many chances for those turns during morning rush hours. It also sounds like Ric’s complaint addresses times when the Burwell light is green, not red, and it’s oncoming traffic that keeps the buses from proceeding.

It’s not much of a problem just now anyway, Ric tells me, as the closure of the Manette Bridge has reduced traffic on Burwell at Pacific.

What’s with the sharp corner on new Sprague Avenue off-ramp?

The in basket: Gary Reed and Ronda Armstrong both wonder about the reasoning behind the L-shaped angle at the top of one of the Sprague Avenue ramps in the Nalley Valley project where I-5 and Highway 16 meet in Tacoma.

“I noted the new Sprague Avenue exit from leaves 16, goes up the twice-built ramp, and quickly goes into a 90-degree left turn,” said Gary. “I’m wondering if the WSDOT engineers have a pool going as to how long before the first accident occurs at the end of the ramp.

“I can envision a person steaming up that ramp, at night, rainy and icy, and smashing into the barricade at the top of the ramp, or, maybe even flipping over the barricade and plunging down into Nalley Valley,” he said. “I’m wondering why the sudden left turn, and not a smooth transition? I suppose the 40 mph signs are the deterrent? Or maybe the money was spent on correcting the poor ramp build? Twice?”

The out basket: Lisa Coleman, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highway says that part of the interchange won’t be finished for more than a year, when it will have traffic signals.

“We considered leaving the exit closed until the eastbound project is done in 2013 but opted to open it in the interim, in the ‘L”’ configuration (eventually it will be  a ‘T’).  It will close for some time during eastbound construction.”

Bids on the remaining work are to be opened Aug. 24. You can get an idea what the finished project will look like online at

There is a video depiction online that runs a couple of minutes but it could really benefit from some narration rather than just the musical background it now has.

If you call it up, use the pause button to give yourself time to grasp what you are seeing. It appears there will be separate eastbound ramps to go north or south on I-5 from the existing structure with the 90-degree corner.