Monthly Archives: October 2011

A ‘No’ and a great big ‘Yes!’ for Highway 304 HOV lane

The in basket: Jo Webb has a suggestion for where the three lanes of Highway 304 leading out of Bremerton constrict to one at Highway 3.

“I work in Bremerton and have the misfortune of commuting via Highway 304 (the Navy Yard Highway) regularly,” she said. “As you are probably aware, there (is) one exit-only to Silverdale, one HOV lane, and the one lane that merges with the HOV lane, heading to Tacoma.

“In addition, I am sure you are aware of the backup of traffic in the merging lane, the little use the HOV lane gets, as well as the lack of enforcement by the police…. Coupled with this are those who pass everyone on the right in the exit-only lane and then rudely pull in front of people who have patiently waited. Tempers flare.

“My question,” she said, “has it ever been considered to put in metered lights, i.e., (red) lights for the two lanes allowing so many cars through for one lane and then switching, allowing the same number of cars through from the other lane? It seems to me it would reduce the congestion and move the traffic through a little more efficiently.”

The out basket: The big news in this reply is in the final two paragraphs, so be sure to read on, or at least skip down to there.

I occasionally hear requests for metered signals in that area, including five years ago when Joel Dahlke suggested them on the lanes coming south on Highway 3 and merging with 304. I have to report that cameras to show the signal operators how traffic is flowing are an integral part of any metering system, so they can set the best interval for the changing of the lights. There are no traffic cameras at that interchange.

It also seems to me that the suggested change would create ideal conditions for rear-end accidents as unexpected stopping of traffic would result.

But Steve Bennett, operations engineer for the Olympic Region of state highways, had a different reasons to say no this time.

“The first reason is that there are no funds identified by the Legislature in which to construct such a system,” he said. “Secondly, metering the HOV lane defeats the purpose of the HOV lane by eliminating any advantage that lane might have over the general purpose lane.”

But there is other, good news about those 304 HOV lanes. The state has finally concluded it can make them HOV lanes only during rush hour, Steve said.

“Because of requests from Navy and the city, we have agreed to change the HOV hours from all day to 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday,” he said. “In other words, during non-peak hours that lane will operate as a general purpose lane. We expect the switch over to occur in mid-November.”

 

13th and Warren to get a new traffic signal

The in basket: Tom Baker (no relation) of the city of Bremerton electronics department was kind enough to let me know in an Oct. 19 e-mail that I was behind the curve in understanding changes the city will be making to Warren Avenue next year.

He was a few days ahead of Broadway Avenue resident Rena Caton in telling me there soon will be a new traffic signal on Warren at 13th Street, the southern end of Olympic College’s new parking lots.

I had been reporting that the city would extend the right turn lane on southbound Warren for turns onto 11th Street, but was unaware the college wanted to add a new signal.

I was glad for the opportunity to revisit the issue, as it had occurred to me that vehicles waiting in the southbound LEFT turn lane to go east on 11th were spilling into the inside through lanes, making their own contribution to the worsening backups on Warren.

The out basket: Gunnar Fridriksson of the city street engineers tells me, yes, he hopes to fold the college’s plans for a traffic signal at 13th and Warren into the city’s plans, so that both can be done at the same time.

The southbound left turn lane on Warren will be lengthened, he said, though not as much as the right turn lane.

“All we need (now) are two buses in the left hand turn lane and it blocks the inside southbound lane,” he said.

So the 11th and Warren intersection will get longer lanes for turns in both directions, and all new traffic signal equipment to replace the lights now hanging from wires there.

Left turns from Warren at 13th’s new signal will be prohibited, he said, allowing shorter stops and avoiding further delay of Warren Avenue through traffic.

Left turns will be allowed from 13th onto Warren, he said, good news for Rena and her neighbors, who otherwise would continue having trouble getting headed toward the Warren Avenue Bridge.

The yellow center line curbing that prohibits all left turns at 13th and Warren today will be removed when the signal goes in, he said.

Gunnar said the college will ask the city to turn the section of Broadway between 13th and 16th streets over to the college in what’s called a “vacation.”

If approved that stretch would remain a street, but under college control, he said. The college probably would make it off-limits to most vehicle traffic, to minimize danger to students crossing back and forth from the its new parking lots.

The one or two properties on that portion of Broadway not owed by the college would get easements to allow them a way in and out, Gunnar said.

Pedestrians will be allowed to cross Warren at 13th only on the southern part of the intersection. Configuration of a crosswalk on the northern side would endanger those on foot, he said.

The college will pay 100 percent of the 13th street signals, he said. The state will pay 86.5 percent of the 11th and Warren upgrades, with the city paying the rest.

Readers question need for, lighting of Lake Flora roundabout

The in basket: There is some skepticism about the need for a roundabout at the Lake Flora Road-JM Dickenson Road intersection in South Kitsap. It’s nearly complete and about to open.

This week, Larry Taylor of Bremerton e-mailed to say, “I thought this state was hurting for money. So why in the world would they build a roundabout at Lake Flora and Dickerson Road or any rural area for that matter.

“I used to travel that road very frequently, sometimes three or four times a week and never had a problem with the stop sign that was there,” Larry said. “Even if the economy was booming, I think it is a complete waste of the taxpayers money. I don’t think the words ‘save money’ (are) in the government’s vocabulary.”

Back in August, Ed Kalmbach, a commenter on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com asked, “How does the state and county determine that an intersection like Lake Flora and JM Dickenson requires alteration due to safety concerns. Do they have a formula or algorithm and if so what is the data for this intersection that determined a roundabout was required and the correct solution?”

Another e-mailer had a different concern. Sandy Gold wrote this month to say, “Is there any plan to put a light in the roundabout on Lake Flora? We live out beyond the roundabout, and have noticed how dark that corner is.

“Once the construction barrels are gone, it will be really easy to have folks running into the center of the roundabout, just like they used to run the stop sign.  If they crash in the roundabout there won’t be any way for traffic to get around,” Sandy said.

The out basket: It’s a Kitsap County project and County Engineer Jon Brand explains the reasoning:

“There were several factors that led to the decision to move forward with a roundabout in this location. The intersection was selected for improvements because of the accident history, traffic volumes and pavement condition.

“There were 16 collisions in this location between January 2003 and December 2007, seven of which involved injuries.  This is well above the countywide average.  A roundabout reduces the likelihood of rear-end accidents or motorists’ blowing through a stop sign.

“Transportation projects undertaken by public works design for 20 years in the future, in this case 2028,” Jon continued, adding that Lake Flora links highways 3 and 16, the South Kitsap Industrial Area, and the city of Port Orchard.

“Traffic volumes are expected to increase significantly in the future and they are distributed in a relatively equal manner,” he said. “This was a major factor in the decision to proceed with a roundabout instead of a stop-controlled intersection. A roundabout offers more traffic capacity and efficiency than a stop-controlled intersection, especially when the volumes are balanced.”

As for Sandy’s concern, lights are coming, says Doug Bear of

county public works, and their foundations are already there. There’ll be a street light on each of the three approaches to the roundabout and two inside it. They’ll be installed soon, he said.

Is new Manette Bridge roundabout too small for big trucks?

The in basket: I heard second hand at the dentist’s office Thursday that one of Kitsap Transit’s worker/driver buses had had a hard time getting around the new roundabout being opened at the end of the Manette Bridge in Bremerton. The driver had to back up to maneuver his way around it, the report said.

It might have resulted from the driver’s unfamiliarity with the just-opened roundabout, I remarked.

It reminded me that Gary Reed had e-mailed on Oct. 6 to ask, “Is the roundabout on the Manette-side sized to allow buses, semi trucks, and fire trucks to safely negotiate it, or will there be a vehicle length restriction?

“It looks pretty small,” he said.

The out basket: Jeff Cook, project engineer for the bridge project said at the time, “There are no length restrictions being imposed on the bridge.  The design vehicle for this particular roundabout was the longest bus in the Kitsap Transit fleet.

“Keep in mind there are two components of a roundabout when it comes to traversable areas.  The first is the asphalt itself.  The second is the truck apron.  The truck apron is the concrete circle between the asphalt and the roundabout stubwall.  By definition it is “a raised section…around the central island that acts as an extra lane for large vehicles.

“The back wheels of the oversize vehicle can ride up on the truck apron so the truck can easily complete the turn, while the raised portion of concrete discourages use by smaller vehicles.”

John Clauson of Kitsap Transit confirmed that a worker-driver bus had run into trouble getting around the circle. State officials called them Thursday,” John said,  “asking us to bring out a bus so they could see just where the problem was. Our experience during that exercise was the same as the Worker/Driver.” I’m not sure where this will lead.

 

Different reload thresholds for ORCA and Good-To-Go! cards

The in basket: Larry Hoback of Bremerton says, “I have two prepaid passes, Good-to-Go! and ORCA. On the ORCA card, it only reloads from my credit card when there is not enough more to pay the fare.

“In Good-to-Go!, my credit card is hit when the balance falls below $10.

“Who is keeping that $10 float and what is it for?” he asked.

The out basket: Janet Matkin of the Good-to-Go! program says the discrepancy is not by chance.

“The policy for your Good To Go! account is to auto-replenish when the balance gets down to $8 or lower,” she said. “This ensures that you’re never without money in your account.

“If we waited until the account is totally depleted, you might make a trip the next day before the account is re-charged and you would be in violation because there is no money in your account. That could result in a $52 infraction.

“By contrast, if you don’t have money on your ORCA card, the worst that could happen is that the driver won’t let you on the bus or you won’t get through the turnstile onto the ferry.

“The money in your Good To Go! account is always yours,” she said.”If you close the account, you are refunded the entire amount remaining in your account. The ‘float’ is to benefit the customer and ensure the account does not go negative.”

BPD on patrol way out at Bremerton airport

The in basket: MikeFromRoswell, otherwise unidentified, writes to say that while attending the Sept. 3 Blackberry Festival car show and fly-in at the Bremerton Airport, he observed the aftermath of an accident on Highway 3 just south of the traffic signal at the airport.

“I was somewhat surprised to see no less than three Bremerton Police cruisers tending to the accident on a state highway, and no sign of a WSP unit,” he said.

“While I understand that as part of the South Kitsap Industrial Area annexation that whole neighborhood around the airport is now technically in the city,” he said, “I have to wonder who was minding the store while more than half the on-duty police force was miles out of the actual city tending to an accident on a state highway.

“Is this the most effective use of our scarce police resources?  I’m curious as to just how the annexation has effected patrol services for those of us in the city proper.”

The out basket: Capt. Tom Wolfe of BPD supplies this answer:

“Bremerton annexed the SKIA area some time back, years back, and in doing so took on responsibility for the stretch of Highway 3 from Lake Flora Road to just east of the airport as well as the industrial area to the north of Highway 3.

“The city is aware of the distance from the downtown core to the SKIA area and the number of officers available to respond to major incidents.  The Washington State Patrol is available to assist us if and when the circumstances are such that we do not have officers available to respond to an accident on Highway 3.  It is a priority for the State Patrol to keep Highway 3 open and moving so if our response or ability to respond is hampered they will help out.

“The reverse of that is also true, if the state is tied up we will go and help them on issues within our jurisdiction.”

 

Counting days for SK roundabout and bridge projects

The in basket: I drove past the new roundabout at Lake Flora and JM Dickenson roads in rural South Kitsap on Oct. 1, going past a sign as I did saying road work there will continue into November. It looked to me like it’s ready to handle traffic now.

I asked if it’s ahead of schedule.

While I was at it, I asked for an update on the South Colby bridge project and closure of Southworth Drive and prospects for its carrying into March.

The out basket: Jacques Dean, construction manager for Kitsap County Public Works, says, “Lake Flora is moving along well and should be completed in October, weather permitting.”

As for the bridge and its road closure, Jacque said, “The contractor there experienced some challenges excavating for channel widening due to excessive groundwater and working around the tides.

“That work is complete and they are moving into major bridge construction activities. Drilled shafts are complete and the cap, abutment wall and wing walls on the west side of the bridge are finished.

“The project is still scheduled to wrap up by the end of the year, weather permitting,” Jacque said.

New OC crosswalk and accesses bring concern

The in basket: Phil Olwell of Bremerton thinks one of the signs recently posted on Broadway Avenue in Bremerton along the expanded Olympic College parking lot between Broadway and Warren Avenue mis-characterizes its crosswalk.

“I think that first sign northbound shouldn’t say ‘raised crosswalk,’ it should say ‘depression in the road,’ ” Phil said.

Another reader who didn’t leave a name called the Sun’s assignment desk to suggest the new parking lot will worsen things for drivers on Warren.

“He said it seems like there are more entrances and exits, and that brings the potential for more congestion in that area,” assignment editor Kim Rubenstein said in passing it along to me.

The out basket: I suppose Phil has a point about the first of the crosswalks one encounters heading north from 13th Street. It actually is kind of a raised crosswalk on its leading edge and a dip in the road on its trailing edge. as it provides a flat place for pedestrians to walk on what otherwise would be a slope.

But I don’t think the sign does any harm. “Raised crosswalk” would get drivers to slow down, which is the goal and would minimize the bump from the depression.

There is one more driveway into and out of the new parking lot, but curbing installed on Warren Avenue’s centerline prevents left turns into and out of it. It seems to me one or more of the pre-existing accesses also got that curbing, making them all right-in-right-out-only accesses, which should minimize congestion of an accidental nature.

Next year when the city extends the right turn lane from Warren to westbound 11th Street, there should be significant easing of the backups on Warren, which certainly are getting worse almost weekly.

Do ‘crash taxes’ await out-of-staters in California?

The in basket: Elizabeth Schulz of North Kitsap tells me that an acquaintance who had recently moved  here from California told her the state had enacted or was considering a law that provides that out-of-staters who are in a car wreck or need other emergency services can be billed for them.

She wondered if that is true.

The out basket:Since I was a week away at the time from driving to Los Angeles, the question was particularly timely for me.

It is an issue in California, but for the state Legislature, it’s more a question of whether to prohibit cities from imposing such fees, nicknamed “crash taxes,” than of imposing them statewide.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, up to 60 cities in California had imposed crash taxes as of February. But some have repealed them afterward, according to the Web site of an organization opposing the fees, California Crash Taxes.com.

Sacramento approved a crash tax in February, but repealed it in March before it took effect, says the opposition site. The Monitor says the fees would have ranged from $495 to $2,275 and be applicable not just to out-of-staters, but all non-residents of Sacramento.

The California Legislature refused last spring to forbid the fees, at the urging of the League of California Cities and a fire fighters union, says Crash Taxes.com.

“A series of ballot initiatives during the past 40 years has starved local governments of cash,” the Monitor article said. “The stuttering economy has made the shortfalls worse, with Sacramento facing a $35 million deficit this year, for example.”

California Crash Taxes.com says the California cities of Oceanside and Roseville repealed their crash taxes after they were in effect for a while. Oceanside found the measure ineffective, it said, bringing in only about 6 percent of the expected $266,000 a year.

Thirteen states have banned crash taxes, that site said.

Structure, balance of Road Warrior subjects questioned

The in basket: Gerry Warren of Port Ludlow suggests that I abandon the “In Basket-Out Basket” format for Road Warrior to use a dateline instead to alert the reader to just where the problem I’m about to address is located.

“Having the location like I suggested would help readers to quickly

and easily identify the location you’re talking about,” he said. “And for those

‘record keepers,’ say for example, someone from Bainbridge Island,

they could save those articles about Bainbridge Island. And researching

your blog – they could easily find Bainbridge Island articles.”

My friend Charlie Fleischbein told me years ago that he often has to get a ways into my column before deciding whether it’s about somewhere he cares about.

And Barbara Beagle of Silverdale asked me at the season’s first Winter Club dance if I might not be top-heavy on South Kitsap subjects.

The out basket: I’m really reluctant to drop the format I have used for  the nearly 16 years Road Warrior has existed. A lot of people refer to me as the In Basket-Out Basket guy rather than the Road Warrior columnist.

But I’ll redouble my efforts to get into the first paragraph of the In basket the location of the problem I’ll be discussing.

It wouldn’t surprise me if I write more about South Kitsap, where I live, than other parts of the county. That’s where I most often see things that seem to warrant an explanation, though that happens a lot in Bremerton and Central Kitsap, too. It’s rarer in places farther away, like the north end and the island, which I don’t often pass through by happenstance.

And I think SK is like a foreign country to a lot of North Kitsap, Bainbridge Island and even Central Kitsap folks. It’s hard to reach without passing through Gorst, which, fairly or unfairly, has an uninviting rep.

But I went back through my 2011 columns to date and found that Bremerton issues are in the lead, with 24 columns relating to or generated by Bremerton.

South Kitsap is next with 19 1/2 (I split votes when a column involves two communities, like the rumble strips coming to Highway 3 between Gorst and Belfair.)

Central Kitsap had been featured in 13 1/2 columns this year and North Kitsap in 8 1/2. The Hood Canal Bridge produced most of them, which Gerry probably found interesting.  North Mason had three and Bainbridge Island,  1 1/2. Out-of-county places generated eight, mostly Tacoma and its Narrows Bridge. Jefferson County, where Gerry lives, had none.