Monthly Archives: May 2012

Old Wheaton and Callahan proposed for four-way stop

The in basket: Alison Slow Loris writes, “It’s a mystery to me why the Bremerton intersection of Callahan Street with Wheaton Way (Old Wheaton, before it becomes Highway 303) is a two-way stop, with Wheaton traffic unimpeded and Callahan traffic forced to stop.

“Traffic appears equal on both streets. Callahan gives access to 303 and serves several medical facilities as well as cross streets leading to more of the same.

“Furthermore,” she said, “while westbound drivers on Callahan have a reasonable line of sight, Wheaton’s curves make it very difficult for eastbound drivers to see when it’s safe to proceed. Due to the nature of the district, many hyper-cautious elderly drivers use those streets, and it’s not unusual to see several eastbound cars lined up at the stop sign waiting for a westbound car to enter the intersection.

“Wouldn’t it make a whole lot more sense to have a four-way stop there?”

The out basket: Another reader suggested the same thing years ago. I didn’t see a problem then and still don’t, but my travel through that intersection is usually westbound, not the direction Alison says is a problem, and in the early evening, not during business hours.

Gunnar Fridriksson, street engineer for Bremerton, who says he regularly uses that intersection, says the traffic control there is adequate.

Old Wheaton Way had about twice the traffic of Callahan, 5,000 to 2.500 vehicles per day, when it was last tallied in 2001. The federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, says, “Multi-way stop control can be useful as a safety measure at intersections if certain traffic conditions exist. Safety concerns associated with multi-way stops include pedestrians, bicyclists, and all road users expecting other road users to stop. Multi-way stop control is used where the volume of traffic on the intersecting roads is approximately equal.”

“These traffic volumes are modest,” Gunnar said, “and we’re not aware of an accident history here that would prompt any traffic revisions. We would need to perform further investigation (new traffic counts, etc.,) to see whether (national standards) are met for any proposed improvements.

“I also drive this route fairly regularly, as our offices are up at Olympus Drive,” he said, “and have not seen a problem.  At this time we’ll log this inquiry from Ms. Loris, and see whether additional requests are made for traffic revisions in this area in the future.”

 

 

Wee hour power outages linked to transmission line job

The in basket: This Road Warrior will go a bit afield from our normal subject matter, dealing with a series of power outages, but since my wife and I had been wondering about the same thing, I told Dave Dahlke of South Kitsap I’d try to get him an answer.

When I saw Dave at the Memorial Day ceremony at Sunset Lane Cemetery, he asked if I knew what has been causing the power to go out briefly in the wee hours of the morning in the Manchester area. It had happened three times at his house, and at ours, over the past couple of months. The most recent was last Sunday at 2:50 a.m..

Each time the outage lasted an hour or so. It meant unplugging our various computer-enhanced appliances to guard against power-surge damage when the power was restored, and, of course, resetting our clocks.

Dave wondered if it was related in any way to the multi-million dollar transmission line Puget Sound Energy has had built along Mile Hill Drive and Baby Doll, Collins and Woods roads.

The out basket: Thanks to the sharp  eye of Linda Streissguth, PSE’s manager of government and community relations, I got an answer.

She spotted an entry on their call log showing that I had inquired about the outages. The first PSE employee I talked with was able to tell me only that Sunday’s resulted from a branch on a limb. Without the dates of the other outages, she couldn’t tell me more.

But Linda was aware of the two outages without needing to know the dates. And yes, they were related to the transmission line project., she said.

The work includes modifications inside three substations in addition to the work along the roads, she said. It involves transferring the power load from one line to another, and on those two occasions early in the morning, an equipment failure knocked out the power for an hour or so.

It was just an odd coincidence that Sunday’s outage was at the same approximate time of day and duration as those two, she said. It wasn’t related to the project.

“We’re working hard on this very significant project,” she said, and asked the customers to be patient. The job is to improve the reliability of electrical service in eastern South Kitsap. More detail can be found online at www.pse.com/inyourcommunity/kitsap/constructionprojects, and clicking on East Port Orchard to Manchester transmission line.

 

Most dangerous intersections identified indirectly

The in basket: Dana Schaible asks, “Does the city / county have a list of, let’s say, the top 10 most dangerous locations for the driving public?  How about listing, let’s say, North, South and Central Kitsap also maybe include Bremerton / Port Orchard? The idea being, do they actually keep a list and after seeing it would the public agree?

“I would hope they at least have an idea….if nothing else, placing a sign saying, ‘Warning, Voted Most Dangerous Intersection in Central Kitsap – Drive Nice And With Extreme Caution – Have a Nice Day.’

“OK,  maybe too wordy, but get the word out,” Dana said. “That would make a lovely banner to hang over Malfunction Junction. I’m thinking the public servants and the citizens might learn something,” she said.

The out basket: I recall reading a report a few years ago naming the intersection of Sahara and Rainbow avenues in Las Vegas the most dangerous intersection in the nation, based on accident history.

The magazine that printed the story must have done the leg work to reach its conclusion because governments here aren’t nearly so direct in assessing what roadways need safety improvements.

Lisa Copeland of the state’s Olympic Region says, “No, WSDOT does not rank highways that way. We collect collision data, prioritize and identify safety needs. We submit our list to the Legislature and they budget what projects we take on.

Gunnar Fridriksson of the city of Bremerton replied, “Speaking for the city: (the state) maintains an accident database that we use to help identify priorities for improvements.

  • “We also will look at the history of complaints (about) roadways. We do have a system in place which allows us to track these by using the bremerton1@ci.bremerton.wa.us e-mail address or calls to 360.473.5920.

“Improvements are scheduled, designed and constructed based on prioritization (as noted above) and available funding.  The city pursues funding as grants are available, and as matching funds are available to pursue improvements to the street infrastructure.”

They didn’t say so, but I would think a list professing to rank the most dangerous places to drive within a jurisdiction would be a lawyer’s dream when filling a lawsuit arising out of an accident at one of them.

If you wonder what Dana means by Malfunction Junction, I think it’s the interchange in Silverdale where highways 3 and 303 meet.

 

 

Move Byron Street signal to Carlton, says Silverdale commuter

The in basket: Paula Crane, who commutes to Silverdale from Chico Way, proposes a major and a minor change in traffic control between Highway 3 and Byron Street in Silverdale.

She said he doesn’t expect the new roundabout being built midway along that stretch to help with the problems she sees, and proposes relocating the Byron Street traffic signal a block north to Carlton Street.

She said the routine backup from the light at Byron for traffic coming into town, “is caused by heavy traffic and the great frequency of the light on Byron being ‘set off’ so that it goes red for traffic on Silverdale Road.  I have seen it ‘set off’ even by a car on Byron turning RIGHT onto Silverdale Way to go north.  At times, just one car waiting to turn left onto Silverdale Way triggers the cycle and all the traffic on Silverdale Way has to wait.”

The traffic backup in the other direction also is exacerbated by the Byron signal, she said. “The traffic now starts to line up in the left lane all the way back at the Kitsap Mall Boulevard for folks who are going straight south out of Silverdale.”

Two collateral problems are rear-end accidents on northbound Silverdale Way because drivers don’t realize they are coming to an urban center and the Byron signal, and “sometimes cars entering from Byron, on their green light, don’t have enough space for all the waiting cars to enter Silverdale Way.”

She suggests that making Carlton Street the way in and out of Old Town Silverdale by moving the signal from Byron to there would have several benefits.

“There would be more room on Silverdale Way for cars to wait for the cycle (the road is four lanes there) and folks coming north would know they were in an urban area and have more time to react to stopped cars. There would be more room for cars coming from Old Town to get onto Silverdale Way on the left turn signal.”

In the short term, she proposed, “please get them to make the signal (at Byron) take longer to be triggered during rush hour.  I think that there is some delay already but I don’t think it is enough.”

The out basket: Jeff Shea, Kitsap County traffic engineer, said, “Moving the signal to Carlton has its issues. First, it would be very expensive, and the limited storage gain for queuing traffic would be minimal.  Also Carlton would have to be widened for a turn lane, which means taking private property.

“This intersection is less than 300 feet from the next signalized intersection (at Anderson Hill), which could result in conflicts between left turning vehicles at each intersection, and Munson Street would be right in the middle of the channelization for this signalized intersection.

“Ms. Crane’s concept of moving the signal to a location with more lanes is the reason we have a project in the county Transportation Improvement Program to add lanes to the Byron intersection.  This project at Byron (it’s listed as No. 54 on the TIP, scheduled for 2016) extends the two lanes well south of the intersection and north to connect with the two existing lanes on Silverdale Way.

“We recognize the Byron intersection as a problem area,” Jeff said. “We have the signal timing set to give the main line, Silverdale Way, the majority of the green time. We have to give time to Byron at some point, but it is on an as-needed basis only, with limited green time.  The right turning vehicles are on a 15-second delay before the light will go green.  During congested times right turning vehicles can’t get out, so this triggers more frequently than other times.

“The county did a corridor study of that area last year because of the significant congestion it sees there,” Jeff said. “The recommended solution was a four-lane section of roadway from SR 3 to the five-lane section on Silverdale Way.

“The new roundabout is being built to address intersection capacity issues and not congestion.  But, it should be noted that is being built so that it can be restriped in the future to accommodate two lanes of traffic.  The two-lane configuration will not be striped until we have the added lanes from both directions.”

 

SR3 and Sunnyslope Road to be improved – some day

The in basket: JoAnne Stefanac writes “I have read, with interest, the list of upcoming/wished-for road projects in the area.  I noticed that the intersection of Sunnyslope Road and Highway 3 is on that list.

“Do you know what that upgrade is going to be?  Are they wanting to put a (please, God!) light at that intersection or (please, no, God!) one of those awful traffic circles?

“Living in Sunnyslope, I have to face this intersection quite often and, in all honesty, it scares me every time,” JoAnne said, “especially if I’m headed south on 3, going towards Belfair. There is so much traffic racing up that hill (everyone trying to outdo each other before they lose their passing lane) and there’s always someone wanting to turn left onto Sunnyslope Road.  Try that turn on a Friday around 5 p.m. and, well, good luck! ”
The out basket: Richard Warren, project director the long-range analysis,  oddly named the Bremerton Economic Development Study, told me the study recommends either a traffic signal or a roundabout at Sunnyslope Road and Highway 3, but doesn’t choose between them.

The completed study is online at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/BremertonEcon/ and that intersection is discussed on pages 89 and 98. Click on “Status” to see the report. Sunnyslope/3 got a ranking of 71 points, with other projects ranked at 46 to 75, in terms of importance.
“Please note that there is currently no funding committed or allocated for any of the project recommendations in the BEDS report.” Richard added.

 

Teenage drivers are limited for first year after getting a license

The in basket: When I was just out of high school, I was driving my dad’s old Chevy station wagon with three friends with me, leaving a round of golf at what was then Clover Valley Golf Course in South Kitsap.

As we approached Sedgwick Road on Long Lake Road, a car that had stopped at the stop sign ahead of us was beginning to pull onto Sedgwick.

“Don’t stop!” one of my passengers said. “If he can make it, you can make it.”

Not that sound of an argument, of course, as we couldn’t see what was coming on Sedgwick on either said of the intersection. But I did what he suggested. Luckily, no cross-traffic was close to us and I made it across.

I think of that reckless decision from time to time, as I did after reading a report in a the May 13 Sunday Kitsap Sun about how much more likely a teenager is to die in a traffic accident if there area other teens and no adult in the car. The chances more that double.

My stupidity that day a half century ago was a textbook demonstration of that hazard.

The story says every state now has limitations on what a drivers license allows a teenager to do. I looked up this state’s rule, then asked State Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the local WSP detachment, whether violating it is a primary or secondary infraction, and how tough it is to enforce it.

The out basket: The law says a licensed driver under age 18 can’t drive with passengers under the age of 20 for the first six months after getting the license, unless the passengers are members of the driver’s  immediate family.

For the next six months, the teen can’t carry more than three passengers who are under 20 years old and aren’t members of his or her immediate family.

Also, for the first 12 months, the teen can’t drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless a licensed driver age 25 or old is in the car.

And an under-18 driver also cannot use a cell phone while at the wheel, even with a hands-free device.

Trooper Winger said violating those rules is a secondary offense, meaning the driver has to be stopped for some primary offense, such as speeding, before the licensing limitations can support a citation.

Since holding a cell phone to one’s ear or texting is an infraction for all ages, that would be such a primary offense.

“I don’t think it is a frequent violation we enforce,” he said of the license limitations, “but there is some.

“When an officer stops a driver who has the intermediate restriction (the officer) can ask questions but a driver could lie and say the passenger is a family member. Passengers can also lie. I don’t know how much of that goes on.  We are limited in what we can ask of a passenger that has not committed a violation.

“The night time restriction,” he said, “is easy to enforce because of the time of day and/or the passenger would have to prove they are licensed and the (correct) age because they are in effect ‘allowing’ the provisional  to drive with them.

“The bottom line,” Russ said, “is that you must first have a valid reason to stop and contact the driver.”

Waiting in the intersection before turning left is OK, until the light changes

The in basket: Kay Wilson e-mailed me after reading the recent Road Warrior about Bremerton introducing some flashing yellow left-turn lights this year, to say, “Every time I sit behind a car waiting to turn left while the yellow light is flashing, I think of retired Bremerton police officer Tom Pratt. When I worked at the city of Bremerton, I was privileged to take at least three driver education refresher courses from Officer Pratt. Later, he was replaced by instruction videos, which never felt quite as useful, because he was always happy to entertain questions and comments.

“One of the things I remember him advising was that, when waiting in a left-turn lane to turn left, you should pull out into the middle of the intersection and be ready to turn as soon as there was an opening in the traffic. If everyone would do this, he said, more vehicles would be able to make left turns than if they were to wait at the stop line.

“I see some cars doing this at the yellow flashing lights now, and assume it is still legal and recommended, but it would be nice to know for sure.”

The out basket: Well, it’s not ILLEGAL, but puts a driver in a possible bind that could lead to an infraction.

Trooper Russ Winger, public spokesman for the State Patrol here, said, “You can be in the intersection waiting to turn left. However, that light will eventually change to red and if you are stuck in the middle blocking the intersection on red because you failed to estimate oncoming traffic – that is not OK or legal.

“Motorists need to observe oncoming traffic as well as light timing,” he continued. “Driving requires you to assess the situation at all times because it is not static. I encounter flashing left-turn lights and I do just that. I have to make an assessment whether I may get caught with nowhere to go. I personally do not enter the intersection unless I am sure I will be able to complete the turn legally.

“It is not OK or legal to block any intersection (where) other motorists have the right of way, controlled by signage or traffic signals. Many intersections have signs that say just that – Do Not Block Intersection.”

Russ didn’t address it, but a common practice when oncoming traffic keeps drivers from making the turn before their light goes red is to make sure the last oncoming car isn’t going to hurry through and hit them when they turn, then complete the turn on red. Illegal, yes, but not unusual. And with the one-second delay most traffic signals have between going red in one direction and green in the other, you might not even delay anyone.

Of course, a variety of things might hold you up for several seconds after your light turns red, increasing the likelihood of a citation for blocking traffic, or for running a red light, or both. And if you misjudge the intentions of that last oncoming car, you could get into a head-on crash.

New Silverdale eateries create pedestrian worries

The in basket: Cathy Briggs, one of my classmates at the AARP senior driving safety course I took in

April, said she has seen a dangerous situation on Bucklin Hill Road in Silverdale where Hop Jacks restaurant and Taco Time recently opened.

The parking lot for Hop Jacks fills up and people have been parking on the other side of Bucklin Hill Road and scurrying across it to the new restaurant – some with little kids, she said. One other person in the class said he’d seen it too. There is no crosswalk there. Both thought it has car-pedestrian accident written all over it.

I asked Kitsap County Public Works and Community Development if they see it as a problem.

The out basket: A Community Development employee said the Sandpiper restaurant previously on that site had 59 parking spaces and the county code calls for only 53. “There are 65 off-street parking spaces on the commercial site (now), exceeding the minimum requirements,” the person said.

“I assume that the demand for parking will relax once the novelty of the new restaurant wears off,” the person continued. “The parking standards for restaurants are an estimate for parking demand and have been tested over time.  Sometimes the standard requires too much parking while there is not enough for popular establishments.”

Putting a crosswalk there might make the situation worse, as it conveys a sense of protection that may not really exist. County public works officials advocate using one or the two closest existing crosswalks, both at a traffic signal, which actually does provide protection, though I’ll be surprised if many people will be willing to walk that far.

“There are safer places to cross near there,” said Transportation Engineer Jeff Shea. “Pedestrians should use the marked crosswalks at Silverdale Way/Bucklin Hill or at the signal on Bucklin Hill Road at the entrance to the shopping center.”

 

What I learned in the AARP driving course

The in basket: My wife, The Judybaker, and I took part in one of the many April senior driving safety classes sponsored by AARP and administered by Glen Adrig of Bremerton.

Glen extended a personal invitation because I write this column, and I figured that my wife and I, in our mid-60s, could benefit. It cost us $12 each, being AARP members. It’s $14 for a non-member.

The course is offered every month at eight or ninelocations between Bainbridge Island and Shelton. They are taught by a variety of local people and Glen oversees the entire district. Call Glen at 360-377-2448 to find one near you.

The out basket: Among the things I learned is that the instruction we all got as youngsters to hold the steering wheel at the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions has been made obsolete by air bags.

If your hands are that high on the wheel when you are in a collision and your air bags deploy, they can smack you in the face, adding to your injuries. The 3 and 9 positions are safer, we were told.

I’ve since been noticing how I hold the wheel, and am alarmed at how often my right hand is at 12 o’clock, the top of the wheel. My nose would be a sitting duck for a self-inflicted punch if I’m ever in a bad crash.

I am constantly reminding myself to bring them down. I’m making progress but I have a ways to go.

Glen also instructed us in an alternative way to position our side mirrors to reduce their blind spots. I’ve heard of it for years, but never tried it. You tip the mirrors farther away from your car until you no longer can see see the side of it while sitting straight in the driver’s seat.

Glen modified the instruction in the AARP manual so that you can see the sides of your car by leaning a little one way or the other. The manual made the adjustment more extreme.

I’ve done it and am getting used to not being able to confirm what I see in my inside rearview mirror in the outside mirrors.

He also told us to try hitting our brakes hard at about 30 miles per hour in a deserted parking lot to acquaint ourselves with the unusual noises and pulsing of the brake pedal in a car with anti-lock brakes. I haven’t done that, as I often disregard the instruction not to pump anti-lock brakes.

Except in an emergency hard stop, in which case I doubt noises and pulsating would have any effect on how I press the brake pedal,  I regard flashing my brake lights when slowing to be a vital warning to the driver behind me that solid brake lights might not provide.

That’s just a taste of what the eilght-hour, two-day course covered and we got to take the 121-page course booklet home with us.

Why are right turns only allowed at alternate Winco egress?

The in basket: Don Diehl, who lives on Madrona Point Drive in Bremerton was distressed to find that what used to be the stub of Arsenal Way across Kitsap Way from Shorewood no longer can be used to turn left onto Kitsap Way or go straight across onto Shorewood, which is the only way to get to and from Madrona Point.
Signs there say only right turns are permitted. He goes straight across to get to the new Winco store, and would like to return the same way, but the signs prohibit it. Emergency vehicles, such as the fire trucks and aid cars at the Bremerton fire station there, are exempted.
Don wondered why the restriction was put on civilian vehicles.
The out basket: That intersection is very close to the new one built as part of the Winco project, and both have traffic signals. To avoid creating additional congestion on Kitsap Way, the two signals work together and two movements are forbidden at the older of the two intersections to maximize green time on Kitsap Way.
Don and other residents of Shorewood Drive and Madrona Point leaving Winco now can legally turn left only at the new intersection, then right on Shorewood to get to there homes.
Don said a Bremerton police officer he spotted in his patrol car in the Winco parking lot told him going straight across Kitsap Way at the older intersection still is permitted, but that was incorrect.
Gunnar Fridriksson of the city street engineers said some drivers are going straight despite the sign, but that is a traffic violation.
I told him that when the city of Port Orchard forbade left turns out of its post office on Bethel Road, it put up a row of pylons to prevent them. Gunnar said Bremerton didn’t have that option as it would interfere with fire trucks making the turn. And it sounds like straight-across traffic on Shorewood from north to south still is allowed and pylons would prevent that too.