Monthly Archives: September 2012

Gunfights on the highways

The in basket:  Sharell Lee said in an e-mail, “The incident in the news about the road rage murder in Seattle had a group of us discussing the rules of self defense on the highways.
“A question was asked: If a person, who has a concealed weapon’s permit, has a gun in the car with him and is fired upon by another driver, does he have the legal right – based on self defense – to fire back? Or are the rules of self-defense different on the highways than in other situations, especially given the proximity of other vehicles, moving traffic, etcetera?”
The out basket: l wrote the following and fired it off to the Kitsap County prosecutor’s office to see if they would support my assumptions:
“I’m fairly certain that if you shot back on the highway you would be arrested on suspicion of several felonies, which then would be sorted out over several weeks with your lawyer seeking a self-defense dismissal. You might or might not be jailed in the meantime.
“That’s what usually happens in gunfire incidents away from the roads.
“Sharell already anticipates some of the complicating factors that would make a road rage duel different, (moving traffic, close proximity of others) but all would work to make law enforcement’s response more stern, not less.”
Ione George, one of the senior deputies in Prosecutor’ Russ Hauge’s office, declined to advise me, not surprising given how ex parte comments  can derail a future prosecution under some of the most unexpected circumstances.
She just said, “As your question reflects, this is a complicated matter, and I am not able to give you a simple answer.  The circumstances of every situation are unique, and this office cannot render advance legal judgment as to the appropriateness of any action involving use of deadly force.”

Comparing costs of roundabouts and traffic signals

The in basket: Robert Balcomb of Silverdale wasn’t satisfied with the answer he got from the Road Warior column in December about the comparative costs of a roundabout, such is being built south of Silverdale, and a traffic signal there.

“Here I am again,” he wrote on May 21. The public has a right to know what these ‘awful’ (as stated in this morning’s Sun) traffic circles cost compared with traffic lights.

“Let the brains who decided on these monstrosities answer to residents of the affected neighborhoods, especially those living on the north end of Silverdale Way, who (for how many months?) must drive miles south to Eldorado, north on Provost to get to Silverdale.  No more of their weak excuses, tell us the dollars.”

That was missing from the December response, which instead focused on the greater safety and lower future maintenance costs of roundabouts.

So I asked the county for the numbers to build each.

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says a cost analysis comparing the Silverdale roundabout with signals there says the roundabout would be less expensive in the first place, $1.35 million to $1.4 million.

I don’t know how persuaded Robert and others who dislike roundabouts will be that signals would cost $1.4 million. You can look at that cost analysis at and judge for yourself.

Either option includes contingency allowances running into the hundred of thousands of dollars, but those amounts are about the same for both.

Nearly a quarter of the signals’ cost  – $199,500 – would go to constructing a soldier pile wall, nearly as much as the $300,000 for the signal equipment itself.

Doug says “The variables in considering costs are numerous which makes a direct comparison challenging. (Besides the initial construction costs), ongoing maintenance costs are generally higher for a signalized intersection than the cost of maintaining a roundabout.

“Where long-term costs are considered, roundabouts eliminate hardware, maintenance and electrical costs associated with traffic signals, which can cost between $5,000 and $10,000 per year.

“Engineers also consider how the improvement affects the capacity of the intersection, and how the improvement affects traffic flow. Every intersection is unique, and the particular characteristics of each project are considered as the project is developed.

“What is clear in almost every roundabout application is that roundabouts are safer for motorists than signalized intersections. At a four-way intersection there are, at least, 32 possible vehicle-to-vehicle conflicts. At a four-way roundabout there are only eight.

“Roundabouts reduced injury crashes by 75 percent at intersections where stop signs or signals were previously used for traffic control, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Studies by the IIHS and Federal Highway Administration have shown that roundabouts typically achieve:

·        A 37 percent reduction in overall collisions

·        A 75 percent reduction in injury collisions

·        A 90 percent reduction in fatality collisions

·        A 40 percent reduction in pedestrian collisions

The combination of lower speeds through the intersection, no light to beat, and one-direction travel improve safety in the intersection. In addition they also generally reduce delays and improve traffic flow. Roundabouts promote a continuous flow of traffic which allows the intersection to handle more traffic in the same amount of time.”

More information can be seen at

Why was Greaves Way built?

The in basket: Mary Barton e-mailed to say, “I’m wondering if you can tell me why Greaves Road in Silverdale was created.  “I was driving on Old Frontier from Trigger Avenue” she said, “and encountered this new (to me) intersection (Old Frontier and Greaves).  I took Greaves road by mistake probably because I was confused by the change.

“Greaves road is nice, wide and empty.  Why did we spend money on a road that isn’t used?   What if anything is the county planning for this new road, that if you take a left at

Highway 303 takes us to the worst intersections in the county?”

The out basket: The road (it’s name is actually Greaves Way) is intended to provide a more direct route between west Silverdale/rural Central Kitsap and that “worst” intersection, which gets one onto the Highway 3 and Highway 303 freeways, and to link Clear Creek and Old Frontier roads more directly, while providing access to an area designated by county planners as a major commercial area of the future.

A statement from the county says, “Discussion on design of this roadway was originally initiated in the 1990s, with funding acquired over the years from local and federal sources. (It) was added to the County’s Transportation Improvement Plan in 2000 to initiate design and engineering.  “In 2006, the Kitsap County Comprehensive Plan expanded the Silverdale Urban Growth Area and added 450 acres of land for new opportunities for commercial, office and industrial uses. The new road was, and still is (the economy turned and the developments got put on hold), intended to provide a development catalyst to these lands by providing access to a wide-range of new employment and service opportunities for Kitsap County residents.

(It) was also offered as an alternate route into, and around, Silverdale, reducing congestions on Anderson Hill Road and Bucklin Hill Road,” the statement said.


Mystery message on stop bar punished

The in basket: Dave of Port Orchard sent me a photo of the white stop bar on Van Skiver Road at Bethel Road in South Kitsap that show some odd writing.

“Can you tell me what the county was doing here?” he asked. “I’m disgusted by this if it was done by a county crew.  It’s burned into the stop line.”

The out basket: It looked like vandalism to me, but it turns out it was done by a county crew – to the regret of those who did it.

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works said, “The majority of our traffic marking is done by summer help crews under the lead of one of our sign technicians. This provides cost-savings for the county, and expands our ability to make sure pavement markings are visible and effective.

“In this instance an ill-conceived idea was coupled with a bad judgment call by the lead worker resulting in the marking your reader reported.

“We take pavement marking very seriously, and recognize the importance of proper procedures to mark pavement. This action is unacceptable, and those involved are being disciplined accordingly. We have fixed the marking and will ensure that this type of activity does not happen again.”

If there is some meaning or message in the odd letters, they go over my head.

Doug says he’s in the same boat. “I don’t know what the intention was or the meaning of the message,” he said.

Rain gardens on Forest Drive leave room for parking

The in basket: Sandra Caster writes, “On the corner of 31st and Forest in East Bremerton the county is making a rain garden in front of the three houses on the east side of the street.  In doing this they have eliminated the parking area of one house and are now paving the parking area with bricks in front of the other two. Can you tell us what’s actually happening?”

The out basket: Chris May, senior program manager with  county Surface and Stormwater Management, replies, “The three homes on Forest on the side with the curb-bulbs all have driveways for parking, but there will still be spaces on the permeable pavers for additional on-street parking. The opposite side of the street will also still have parking on-street as before the project .

“The road was very wide so the new project actually narrows it down to standard width for a residential street while at the same time reducing overall imperviousness. The big benefit will be the new stormwater system which should significantly reduce local flooding along 31st, which had no formal drainage system before. The entire Forest drainage basin will also now have water quality treatment treatment.

“This project,” Chris said, “is a partnership among the Kitsap County Surface and Stormwater Management (SSWM) Division, Road Division, and Kitsap Conservation District.   SSWM installed the bioretention, permeable pavers, curb and gutter, and the stormwater pipes and catch basins.  The Roads Division paved Forest Drive and 31st Street.  KCD will plant the rain gardens in the fall. ”



H2O stigmata on Highway 166?

The in basket: Michael Shearing of Port Orchard, in an e-mail he titled “Stigmata on Route 166?,” says, “I am curious about the mysterious perpetually weeping roadway in two places on Highway 166. One is about a mile east of Gorst in front of Tony Otto’s law office and the other is about 200 yards west of that in front of what appears to be an equipment storage lot.

“It seems like they first appeared two or three years ago and have been there every day since,” he said. “Water (I assume it’s water) is continually seeping from beneath the roadway/asphalt. No matter how hot in the middle of summer or how cold in the middle of winter (and yes, they do freeze over) these areas are always wet.

“Is this from some kind of underground spring or high water table? If it was from a broken pipe I assume it would have been fixed by now. Any idea what this is and if there are any plans to  ‘cure’ it?

The out basket: I don’t have any definitive answers for Michael, who is spot-on about the persistence of the leaking. It was there every day during our recent near-historic dry spell, never seeming to flow any faster or slower. I have to take his word about when it began.

The state highway people haven’t replied to my inquiries about this. It’s no surprise that an area at the bottom of a large hill would weep water from above, but just what it is about these two spots that provide less resistance to the water than the rest of the highway, I can’t say.

The one in front of the Otto law office looks like oil, but it’s just water. It must have a chemical component as it discolors the asphalt.

That’s not true of the other leak Michael mentioned, in the driveway of the Thompson’s Pile Driving equipment yard, or two other leaks onto Highway 166 in Port Orchard, both downhill from the roundabout in front of the Hi-Joy Bowl.

Paul Fritts, owner of Thompson’s Pile Driving next to the law office, said he got a call from a state highway official a while back asking if he had a water line leak, but he said, no, they don’t even have a water line through there. And the natural water pressure is great enough that some wells in that area don’t even need pumps, he said. He didn’t recall the name of who called.

You may have noticed mention in the Sunday Sun a while back in a caption under one of the historic pictures that run each week on the cover of the fourth section, of a one-time artesian well in downtown Port Orchard that ran constantly for years. It, too, was powered by uphill water pressure but was corralled into a pipe at the former site of Peninsula Feed, across Harrison Avenue from where it is now. It had a heavy rotten egg smell, as I recall.

Tony Otto didn’t have any explanation for the weeping in the roadway in front of his office. He wonders about danger from ice forming on the wet spot, but said he’s unaware of any accidents there.

Money woes are behind Highway 304 landscaping deterioration

The in basket: Jim Civilla and Julie Jones have asked about the deteriorating appearance of plantings along Highway 304 in Bremerton.

Jim wrote, “A couple of years ago the Navy Yard Highway was completely changed.  Businesses uprooted, roads changed…in an effort to make the gateway into Bremerton more appealing.
“But, from the Highway 3 interchange all the way to the shipyard is anything but beautiful. The weeds have taken over on both sides of the road as well as the middle barrier.
“Who is responsible now for maintaining???” he asked. “And why isn’t it being done?”
Julie focused on another part of that highway, including the curb protrusions at Burwell Street intersections.

“They keep the downtown area near the ferry terminal looking fantastic,” she wrote. “I love it down there. But I am wondering what their plans are concerning other very visible, and what I would consider important, parts of town – roads that visitors take to get into town.
“Specifically I am asking if they have any plans for maintenance along Burwell, especially those bump-outs, and the median along the shipyard.  Those areas are an embarrassing disgrace.  The median is so overgrown and full of weeds, and I spotted a very healthy blackberry bush in one of the bump-outs near State Street. on Burwell.
“Did the city not realize those plants would grow?  Or that weeds might invade those areas?  Maybe they should have invested in silk plants!
“If they can’t maintain the bump-outs, they ought to pull out all the vegetation and fill them in with concrete.  At least an unsuspecting passerby won’t get snagged by a thorny blackberry vine.

“And as for the median in front of the shipyard, the one that looked so great when they put it in a few years ago…please tell me they have a plan to get out there and clean up that mess.”

The out basket: I saw a city crew cleaning up a short stretch of the weeds near Kitsap Transit a few weeks ago, but the overgrowth is the dominating feature of that landscaping.

Gunnar Fridriksson of the city street engineers says,  “This is a little frustrating for me personally, as well, having been involved with the design and construction of the corridor, watching it be reduced to weeds, overgrown shrubs and litter.

“The city is responsible for maintenance of the landscaping along Highway 304 from the ferry terminal to the interchange with Highway 3.

“The landscaping installed with the various 304 projects was based on citizen input from public outreach meetings during the design phase at a time when the city was more able to handle this maintenance.  The city has seen significant budget/staff reductions over the last few years from the park and street departments and this work is low priority (compared) to park maintenance and street repairs.

“There have recently been a few volunteer groups who have contacted the city and expressed an interest in helping maintain these areas, and we are coordinating with them.  If there are additional readers, or a business, who would like to help in this effort, we can provide information on the groups so that they could join in.”

The engineers’ phone number is (360) 473-5270.

No stripes for 2 small NK roads

The in basket: Marja Bjarnson says, “I have a question that’s been bugging me for a weeks. My parents live on Virginia Point Road (in North Kitsap) and the county paved their road and nearby Pearson Point Road over two months ago. But, neither road has been lined.

“My parents have lived there for 28 years and the road has always been lined. Is the county planning on painting the lines or leaving it as is (or did they just forget to come back and line it)?

The out basket: It’s a common question , so much so that I addressed it a few weeks ago, dealing with Harris Road in South Kitsap.

The answer then, and now, is “The only mandates we have for striping are on paved urban arterials and collectors with traffic volumes of 6,000 cars per day.  (Federal standards state) that urban arterials and collectors with 4,000 vehicles per day and rural arterials and collectors with 3,000 vehicles or more per day should be striped.

“The ‘should’ statement doesn’t make it mandatory to stripe these roads, but we do stripe them. We can also stripe roads for other reasons such as road alignment, collision history or parking conflicts.  For the most part we don’t stripe 30 mph or less posted speed limit, local access roads.”

Harris Road doesn’t meet those standards and both Virginia and Pearson Point roads have even less traffic, the county says. They’ll be left unstriped.

Standards may have been different when they were striped in the past.

Recessed reflectors are for safety more than cost-savings

The in basket: As I drove down one of the numerous Kitsap County roads in which the centerline is marked by reflectors recessed into the pavement, I got to wondering if the county has noticed a savings in not having to replace so many of the reflectors that get knocked off by snow plowing or other causes. I also wondered if the county has an ongoing program of recessing the reflectors, and whether all areas of the county are getting them.

The out basket: County Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea replied, “This is more a safety issue than a cost savings.  When it rains, moisture on the pavement tends to make painted centerlines difficult to see.  The recessed pavement markers greatly improve the centerline visibility.

“Raised pavement markers are often scraped off the road by winter snow and ice operations making them useless at the time when they are needed most. Recessing the markers prevents the plows from scraping the markers off, and motorists are given an added safety benefit during the winter months.

“Damage to markers during winter operations requires us to replace them during the summer. We don’t own a grinder for this type of work. It is more cost effective to contract the replacement work, as it only takes about two weeks each summer to do that.

“The contractor grinds the locations and we place the (reflectors) in the grind outs. The reason we only have a two-week window this year for our grind outs is that we have caught up with a backlog we used to have. The only grind outs we are doing now are those associated with the county road crews that are doing maintenance overlays and chip seals,” Jeff said.

“We have countywide criteria.  All county roads are treated the same.  First, the road has to have a striped centerline.  Secondly, the posted speed limit must be 35 mph or greater.  If a road meets those 2 criteria it gets recessed (reflectors).  Currently there are lower speed roads with (reflectors) on them, but they will not be replaced when they wear out.”

Northlake Way center line striping raises questions

The in basket: Bernie Fleming of Northlake Way just north of Bremerton wasn’t sure what to make of changed center line striping on his road.

“Until recently, passing was allowed on Northlake Way,” he wrote in August. “Due to our neighborhood problems, the

county has placed two stripes down the center of the road with intermittent stripes between the two

continuous yellow ones. Great!

“Now the problem. There are three residences on our paved road off of Northlake. Two other families

use this road as a secondary access.

Until the recent re-striping, there was a break in the single

stripe allowing us to legally turn left from Northlake into our road. Now there are two stripes at

that point.

“Can we still legally turn left from Northlake onto our road? Was this new striping perhaps inadvertent?

“We need the no-passing zone on Northlake, but we also need to get to our homes legally without a long trip down the road to turn around.”

At first this seemed to be another instance of the common misconception that it’s illegal to turn left across double yellow lines. It is not, in this state. The lines just prohibit passing.

Left turns are forbidden only by a single line 18-inches wide or more, like in front of Silverdale Baptist Church on Highway 303, or by cross-hatching between the solid lines.

But that intermittent dashed line between the two solid stripes on Northlake was a new one on me. I had to ask its meaning.

The out basket:  It turns out the striping WAS inadvertent, but it still forbids passing and still allows left turns.

Kitsap County Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea says, “This is the result of a malfunction with our paint striper.  A solenoid stuck and we couldn’t turn the spray gun off. By the time we cycled it enough times to shut it off we had a continuous solid line.

“Although you will not see this configuration in any manuals or guidance documents, the law is clear that if you face a solid yellow line, you cannot pass another vehicle.”

So Bernie and other Northlake Way residents who wanted a no-passing zone got one without the county actually intending to do it.

Though not a standard striping pattern, they will leave it as it is, Jeff says.