Monthly Archives: April 2012

State has shut down commuter maneuver at Loxie Eagans interchange

The in basket: A few readers have suggested in the past that the state prohibit a maneuver one can see any weekday at the Loxie Eagans interchange on Highway 3 in Bremerton. Drivers in a hurry exit on that interchange’s off-ramp, scoot across Loxie Eagans Boulevard and re-enter traffic via the on-ramp, presumably skipping ahead of some of those backed up during rush hour who stayed in line.

Another reader said last year he’d seen that very prohibition at an interchange on another freeway on the other side of the Sound.

The state has declined to do it in the past. But not any more.

The out basket: Thursday, I learned from State Trooper Russ Winger of the Bremerton detachment that the state changed its mind late last year and put up signs saying only left and right turns are permitted at the head of that off-ramp. It also scrubbed off an arrow on the pavement that indicated that a straight-ahead movement could be made there.

It came as a surprise to me, as it’s been a long time since I’ve used that off-ramp. I asked Steve Bennett, operations engineer for state highways here, what changed their minds and he said, “We imposed the restriction after conversations with troopers in the area who thought it would help traffic flow and be something they could enforce.”

Russ Winger said, “This appears to be a regular maneuver for some commuters. I personally stopped a vehicle for the action just after the new signage went into effect. The driver did not deny doing it to cheat ahead in the backup.  In fact, he said ‘So you guys are taking away our little secret .’ Russ gave him a warning.

“We have been getting some complaints about motorists ignoring the road signage and lane restriction,” he said Thursday, and one of the detachment sergeants told him an emphasis patrol to underscore the change would be a good idea.

“The intent of the emphasis in the area will be to highlight the problem and attempt to gain better compliance,” Russ said. “Our troopers will likely be issuing citations rather than warning drivers. We believe sufficient warning time has elapsed since the signage was changed.” The date of the emphasis hasn’t been set.

“Loxie Eagans is a very busy and congested roadway during late afternoon rush hour,” he said. “Visibility is limited due to vehicles making right and left turns onto Loxie Eagans, as well as heavy east- and west-bound traffic. This makes crossing there both illegal and dangerous for all motorists.”

It also creates driver animosity among those who stay on the freeway and believe those making the maneuver are taking unfair advantage, he said.

 

 

 

Just how many specialty license plates are there?

The in basket: Greg Salo of Silverdale writes to say, “With the 2012 introduction of the new WSU crimson college license plate design, I am curious about the number of special plates on the roads.

“There are 40 special plates available (seven college plates, 13 military plates, seven organizational plates, seven parks and rec plates, and six hobby plates.)

“Is there an online site where the state details the amount of money each organization earns annually through the $28 donation that is associated with each plate?  Or alternatively an online site that lists (how many there are) of  of each plate registered annually?

Greg helpfully included a Web addresses he’d found listing the various specialty plates and what they cost to acquire. It’s

http://www.dol.wa.gov/vehicleregistration/specialdesign.html.

The out basket: Brad Benfield , spokesman for the Department of Licensing, says, “The total number of specialty plate types offered can vary depending on how you define them. When we create reports, we have 31 that typically are reported on.

“We don’t typically include rideshare, disabled parking, collector vehicle, horseless carriage, restored, ham radio, medal of honor, gold star parent, former POW, or disabled American veteran (plates). These don’t generally get included because of one or more of the following reasons: They aren’t used for fundraising, they aren’t fundamentally different from standard plates, there are very few of them actually issued and/or they are available to a very small population of vehicle owners.”

He included a spreadsheet that showed how many of each kind of plate existed as of 2011.

Vanity plates were far and away the most numerous, with 88,170 of them. Others, in descending order of abundance, are Washington State University (14,309), Law Enforcement Memorial (9,866),  University of Washington (7,047), Wild on Washington (5,580), Professional Firefighters and Paramedics (4,521), U.S. Army (4,448), Endangered Wildlife (4,161), Washington National Park Fund (4,143), Washington Wildlife – Elk (4,098), Washington Lighthouse (3,954), Share the Road (3,904), Washington State Parks and Recreation (3,222), Stadium (2,923), U.S. Navy (2,827), Marines (2,758), U.S. Air Force (2,,417), We Love Our Pets (2.227), Washington Wildlife – Bear (2,157) Keep Kids Safe (1,605), Ski and Ride Washington (1,520), Gonzaga University Alums (1,390), Helping Kids Speak (1,445), Washington Wildlife -Deer (1,378), Square Dancing (858), Eastern Washington University (855), Western Washington University (832),  Coast Guard (721), Central Washington University (636), National Guard (475) and The Evergreen State College (161).

Revenue from the sales, for those agencies required to report it, is $338,293 for the various military plates combined, $257,801 for the Law Enforcement Memorial, $498,886 for the combined Washington Wildlife plates, $140,285 for Wild on Washington, and $124,063 for Professional Firefighters and Paramedics. Endangered Wildlife, Washington National Parks Fund, Washington’s Lighthouse and Share the Road are grouped at between $106,000 and $109,000 each, followed by Washington State Parks at $76,416, We Love Our Pets at $59,021, Keep Kids Safe at $44,856, Helping Kids Speak at $39,734, Gonzaga U at 38,187 and Ski and Ride Washington at $38,107.

That information is not available online.

Salmon enhancement’s role in Kitsap County road projects

The in basket: In reviewing the current six-year road plan for Kitsap County, called the TIP and projecting out to 2017, I was struck by the large number of culvert replacement jobs on it. They almost outnumber other kinds of work.

I asked county public works officials if they’d argue with the notion that salmon enhancement has become as much a priority as moving vehicles in planning their road projects.

The out basket: County Engineer Jon Brand said, yes, he ‘d argue with that.

“I would disagree  that the road plan has evolved into a salmon enhancement program,” Jon said.  “There’s no doubt, however, that salmon enhancement has become a major factor in the road division’s maintenance, preservation and construction programs.

“There are only three salmon enhancement projects on the adopted 2012-2017 TIP,” he said. “These are the South Kingston (Carpenter Creek) Bridge (#7), Kitty Hawk Drive (#17) and the Bethel-Burley Road Bridge (#45).  Carpenter Creek was 100 per cent grant-funded, Kitty Hawk is the county’s share of a Suquamish Tribe enhancement project and Bethel Burley is an identified barrier.  But, of course, it’s not that simple.

“Since about 1995,” he said, ” the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Kitsap County have maintained a prioritized database of county-owned fish passage barriers.  These are typically culverts that restrict fish movement because of velocity, vertical drop or depth issues.

“The county has a responsibility to address these barriers and since 1997 Public Works has spent over $8 million resolving 26 barriers (through the road and storm and surface water management divisions).  These were projects originally conceived of as salmon enhancement projects.  The database has changed in character as new projects have been identified and added to the barrier list.  Existing culverts requiring replacement because they’re deteriorated or too small, have been inspected for fish passage and added to the barrier list as applicable.

 

The other part of the story is that there are thousands of existing county-owned culverts and bridges that fall under the jurisdiction of (Fish and Wildlife), the Corps of Engineers and others.

Sometimes bad things happen like a major storm ala Hite Center (#11) or Hunter Road (#13).  Other times, structurally deficient bridges and culverts have to be repaired or replaced to maintain safe and reliable access, like Southworth Drive (#3), Stavis Bay (#4) Wildcat Lake (#12) and others.

“When work takes place in fish-bearing waters, the county is required to meet current requirements, and that means the project has to maintain or enhance fish passage.  These requirements are also applied to road widening projects, like Bucklin Hill Road (#21).

“Other culvert projects on the TIP may not involve fish at all,” Jon said.  “These typically involve replacement of a deteriorated culvert for maintenance purposes like Eastview (#9, Miami Beach (#6), and Southworth Drive (#33, 34).”

To conserve space I haven’t described these projects very fully. You can learn more by going on line at www.kitsapgov.com/pw/sixyear_tip.htm and reading it yourself.

 

Speed limit rule the same for off- and on-ramps

The in basket: I learned last year that the speed limit on a freeway on-ramp is the speed limit of the highway being entered. That makes sense, since the ramp is intended to let you get up to freeway speed to merge.

That often crosses my mind when I’m EXITING  a freeway, especially from northbound Highway 3 in Silverdale onto southbound Highway 303, where the ramp ends in a merge, not a stop sign. .

There’s a yellow 35 mph sign on the ramp, but yellow signs are just advisory,  not mandatory. I asked what the speed limit is there or at any other off-ramp.

The out basket: The rule is the same for off-ramps as for on-ramps, says Trooper Russ Winger of the state patrol here.

“The speed limit is the still the limit until otherwise posted by a regulatory sign,” he said. “The merge on SR-303 you are describing is almost impossible to take the turn at 60 mph safely, however, unless the vehicle is operating out of control and otherwise endangering other motorists, the speed (limit) is still 60.

“But, this said, a vehicle will have very little time to slow to the posted 35 limit because the sign is only a short distance away from the start of the merge lane.

“I cannot see citing this vehicle for speeding – as you describe – unless it obviously interferes with the safety of other vehicles with its merge,” he said.

Most off-ramps are self regulating, since they have a stop sign at their end. And citations for going too fast for conditions or negligent driving are always possible should a person crash, as one surely would trying to make the curve on the 3-303 off-ramp at 60 mph. But not a speeding ticket.”

What to do when traffic fills the left turn lane

The in basket: At a recent class in East Bremerton for older drivers, sponsored by AARP, the conversation turned to the legality of stopping at the end of a line of vehicles that had filled a left-turn lane, leaving the backside of your car sticking out into the inside through lane.

It then turned to a similar situation, when the drivers behind the last car that fits in the left turn lane occupy an area out of traffic but striped to indicate it’s not a place to drive.

The out basket: Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the state patrol here, says that being part of a backup into through traffic is legal, but occupying an area striped as a non-driving area is not.

“It is not an infraction to stop and wait for room to fill the left-turn lane,” he said, “You should have your turn signal on, alerting motorists to your intent, however. Traffic often backs up at certain intersections during heavy traffic and requires vehicles to wait, due to the fact that the turn channels are relatively small. Most commuters are aware of this and if they are not turning left, use the right lane – if (there are) two lanes or more.

“And, no, motorists are not advised to back up into an area not intended for vehicles,” he said.

“They should wait until such time as traffic flow allows proper entry into the left- or right-turn channels, such as at the right-turn channel southbound on SR-303 at the Bentley (in front of Wal-Mart).

“Traffic often backs up at rush hour and vehicles have to wait in the right lane until they can get over to the turn lane. You (also) are not allowed to move over onto the shoulder and proceed – or wait for traffic ahead of you that has done the same thing,” Russ said.

State records don’t confirm hazard at 303 and John Carlson Road

The in basket: Virginia Pace says she is concerned about “the increasing number of accidents. some with serious injuries, that take place at the corners of John Carlson/Fairgrounds roads and Highway 303.

“John Carlson has become a very busy and fast street,” she said. “Drivers exiting John Carlson on right turns have a large fast intersection to scope out before their turns. A pedestrian gets lost in that scope.

“I counted seven lanes on the north side of 303.  Pedestrians are taking chances in crossing that wide busy intersection. I live near (there), hear the sirens, see the skid marks, see the traffic being routed around the accidents, the broken glass, and motor liquids left on the highway.

“Can this dangerous intersection be evaluated for safety for pedestrians?” she asked. “I am suggesting blinking caution lights on the dividers between north and south lanes. The blinkers would alert drivers and pedestrians to be visually careful. And, without a doubt, there are more pedestrians and bicyclists using all intersections. I see more and more pedestrians walking up and down John Carlson.”

The out basket: State records don’t confirm what Virginia says she witnesses from her home.

Lisa Copeland of the Olympic Region of state highways, says, “In the last five years there have been no pedestrian collisions and two bike collisions at, or near the intersection.

“The first bike accident occurred at a driveway within a 100 feet of the intersection as a car emerging from a driveway hit a bike traveling on the shoulder. The bicyclist hurt his knee.

“The second occurred when a bike crossed against the signal and was struck. The bicyclist was considered at fault in the collision.”

It doesn’t sound like John Carlson/Fairgrounds and 303 stands much chance of being singled out for special pedestrian safety work.

Sign at Pioneer Hill in NK gives oddball info to drivers

The in basket: Dan Godecke of Lofall in North Kitsap says, “When (the state) put up the new cameras on Highway 3 from the bridge to Highway 305, they also installed a sign southbound on Highway 3 at Pioneer Hill.  It is one of the kind that has flashing yellow lights telling drivers to tune to a radio channel for highway information.
“I have seen this sign’s light come on three times now,” Dan wrote. “All three times it was the same message, “The Hood Canal Bridge is open for marine traffic at this time”.

“Why was this sign installed on the southbound direction of Highway 3 to tell southbound traffic that the bridge behind them is open for marine traffic?  Who going south could possibly care if the bridge behind them is open or closed?
“This brings up the second question.  Why was this sign (or another sign) not installed for northbound traffic.  The people going north on highway 3 would have a need to know if the bridge in front of them is closed.
“I am beginning to think that the people who dream up this stuff don’t drive on the highways or even have a clue what direction is north or south.”
The out basket: Well, I suppose there are a few drivers going south who might find the current status of the bridge helpful, but that’s not the explanation.

The messages Dan heard were a mistake, says Tony Leingang, freeway operations manager for this region.

“The sign installed at this location gave our regional Traffic Management Center a new tool to talk to motorists traveling south towards Bremerton and east towards Poulsbo when incidents affecting that area occur,” Tony said. “The recent project that installed the cameras and this sign also brought a new Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) transmitter located near SR 3/SR 305 and a new frequency of AM 1650. That is why the sign in question was added in this area.

“Hood Canal Bridge information on the HAR transmitter located near the bridge is supported by four different flashing beacon signs located

northbound on SR 3 at Lofall, westbound on SR 104 at Port Gamble,

eastbound on SR 104 near Paradise Bay and southbound on US 101 near the US 101/SR 104 junction.

“This group of devices asks motorists to tune to a different frequency (AM 530).l. That system has been in place for quite some time and covers Mr. Godecke’s concern about northbound SR 3 traffic receiving information relative to the bridge.

“I can only point to human error that must have occurred when the Pioneer Hill flashers were inadvertently activated relative to (bridge)activities. I apologize for the confusion and we are reviewing this with the staff now to ensure the issue gets resolved.”

Driver thinks signs forbidding passing on the right on Bond Road would help

The in basket: Jerry Darnall of Kingston writes, “I travel Bond Road on a regular basis. Very few left-turn lanes exist, and many times I see vehicles pass stopped left turners, often at high rates of speed, on the right, particularly at the Bond Road/Pugh-Foss Road intersection.

“Recently I witnessed a Kitsap County Sheriff do that very tactic. I have even been passed on the right going into Kingston with some driver using the ferry holding lane as a passing lane, which is very scary, considering the number of local residents using that as a sidewalk when there is no ferry traffic.

“It’s my understanding that to drive over the fog line is considered ‘driving off the roadway.’ Am I wrong?” he asks.

“We seem to have more and more advisory signage.. seat belts, burning material, pictured school buses, etc … How about strategically placed signs advising ‘Passing stopped vehicle on right illegal,’ especially at Pugh and Bond Road, as this seems to be a current high accident intersection.

“(Are there) any plans to add a left turn lanes at that intersection?” Jerry asked in conclusion.

The out basket: Jerry is correct, crossing the fog line to pass on the right is against the law, but as with speeding, it’s a common violation. I confess to doing it myself, albeit at a very low speed after coming nearly to a stop. Those who do it without slowing run a great risk of hitting a bicyclist or pedestrian on the shoulder, not to mention another driver who belatedly decides to commit the same infraction and pulls out of line to the right.

Despite the examples of signs that Jerry mentions stating other laws, the prohibition of passing on the right while crossing the edge line is not one of the “rules of the road” the state wants to spend money on signing.

“We typically don’t sign the ‘rules of the road,’ as the same rule or law applies everywhere and is widely known,” says Steve Bennett, state operations engineer for this area.  “If we began posting signs stating, “Passing Stopped Vehicles on Right –  Illegal” we could add hundreds of signs to the state inventory with probably little effect.  Signs like this do little to stop aggressive drivers from passing on the right, even though they know it is illegal.

“In terms of Pugh Road, we have no plans, meaning (no) legislative approval or funding, to widen the highway to add a left turn lane (there) at this time.”

 

 

 

 

Studded tires are OK until April 16

The in basket: Dixie Mars of North Kitsap wonders when studded tires have to be off to avoid a ticket. It’s supposedly April 1 by law, but it seems like it gets extended by bad weather every year.

The out basket: As it was this year, too. The deadline is April 16 now, and it looks like the weather has gotten springlike enough that that will hold.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Web site on this subject (www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter/studtire.htm) says:

“Motorists using studded tires after the deadline could incur a fine from law enforcement.
“Those traveling into higher elevations should carry chains and have approved traction tires year-round. When chains are required, studded tires alone will not meet the chain requirement unless your vehicle is a four- or all-wheel drive vehicle.
“There is no individual exception to the studded tire season. When traveling in Washington, you are required to follow the State of Washington’s motor vehicle laws.
“Ultimately, WSDOT would like to see the use of tire studs phased out to improve safety and reduce pavement maintenance and preservation costs. WSDOT hopes the trend will at least move to the introduction of new, even lighter weighted studs.
“The abrasion on pavement surfaces caused by studded tires wears down pavement at a much greater rate. Rutting damage caused by studded tires is limited to state routes, primarily the interstates, due to the higher speeds and volumes. Rutting leads to safety issues such as ponding/water on roadway, hydroplaning, excessive roads spray, and ‘auto-pilot/steering’ problems.” I think that means hydroplaning while in cruise control.
“See a WSDOT report on The Study of Pavement and Studded Tire Damage. (pdf 2mb),” the site says.

“Please share with us your ideas, comments, and concerns on studded tires by contacting: FimanA@wsdot.wa.gov,” it concludes.

The site also has a button to click to see the rules in other states. I was surprised to see that Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota are among the 10 states where studded tires are prohibited year-round, though there appear to be short-term exemptions for visitors from states that permit them.

 

 

Peril near Esquire Hills from lack of street light

The in basket: Bruce Reed wrote in November to say, “We have been in contact with the school and county officials to get a street light placed at the crosswalk at John Carlson Road and Berkeley Place at the corner of Esquire Hills Elementary School.

“Since fall began were reminded of how dark it is in the  morning when the kids are headed to school or on the nights the school has planned activities.

“There are two other crosswalks by the school and they both have street lights, however,  this particular crosswalk is dangerous,  especially with the sharp (blind) corner just before the crosswalk. My wife and I have attempted to cross the street at night using that crosswalk and, not to our surprise, have we yet (to have) a vehicle stop at the crosswalk for us.

“This crosswalk is pitch black at night and in the early morning and it is next to impossible for a car’s driver to see pedestrians.  Now with the increasing amount of children walking to school, we have become concerned about  the safety  of the students, staff and parents.”

Bruce also described a scary situation in which residents were trying to help the victim of a crash at the intersection in 2010, at night.

“The driver of the car was frantically crying and in pain and was not able to get out of the car. She was a sitting duck in the middle of the road with no headlights as were the good Samaritan’s that were there trying to calm her down and help.  We were trying to signal cars with an umbrella but they really could not see us until the last minute.

“I understand that the county has procedure they follow when putting up street lights,” Bruce said, “and they told us it could take a year or more to get a light at this crosswalk. What I don’t understand is why the county can’t put safety first and make this a priority rather than a possible statistic.”

The out basket: Help is on the way, said Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works last month.

“We are proceeding with installing a street light there,” he said. “Street lights are installed by Puget Sound Energy. I don’t have any estimate of when that work is scheduled by them. As you reader indicated it does take time to work through the process from the request to the actual installation.”

Before the start of school next fall would be a good target, I’d say.