Monthly Archives: January 2013

When turn arrow flashes yellow and through signals are red…

The in basket: Ann Sevaaetasi e-mailed me to say, “I was turning left from Lund onto Jackson (in South Kitsap) and in the left-hand turn lane. The left-turn arrow turned yellow blinking.

“I understand that it is legal to make a left, after checking traffic. My problem was that the straight away signal turned red, (but) I still had a blinking yellow turn arrow.  I felt very uncomfortable turning left with the yellow arrow while the traffic signal was red.

“This is the first I had ever seen the light turn red with a left yellow arrow. Should I have made the left turn?”

The out basket: Ann was lawfully able to make the turn through the blinking yellow after yielding to other traffic. The signals next to yellow flashing left turns will display red for through traffic when a car using the opposing left turn light got there in time to get a green arrow, providing a protected opportunity to turn.That protection is provided by holding oncoming through traffic at a red light.

Ann evidently didn’t arrive in her left turn lane in time to get a protected turn with a green arrow, so got a flashing yellow signal and had to yield to oncoming traffic, which would have had a green light.

Stuck behind a school bus on Miller Bay Road

The in basket: Walt Elliott of North Kitsap said in a Jan. 18 e-mail, “Driving down Miller Road, we had a backup behind a school bus of 20 cars that I could count and more that I couldn’t.

“Is there any requirement for vehicles to pull over to let a line of traffic pass as there is on the state highways?”

The out basket: Walt apparently was referring to the law making it illegal to delay more than five cars behind you, which is enforceable on county roads as well as state highways.

It reads, “On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow moving vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in a line, shall turn off the roadway wherever sufficient area for a safe turn-out exists, in order to permit the vehicles following to proceed. A slow moving vehicle is one which is proceeding at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place.” The law doesn’t exempt vehicles traveling the speed limit.

Trooper Russ Winger of the state patrol here said, “I am not aware of an RCW that exempts school buses from the law. However, school buses operating on rural roadways make many stops and starts during morning and afternoon runs.

As the large and awkward buses travel the narrow rural roadways there are not frequent suitable or safe places to pull over and let traffic pass. Backups with that many vehicles (20 or more) most probably occur in relatively slow speed areas with stops fairly close together.

“Most veteran drivers know that if they find themselves behind a school bus full of kids at certain locations and times – well, hurry up and wait, because you drew the short stick that day.”

“I know bus drivers do watch out for this and do pull over when safe to do so, because I’ve seen them do it numerous times. I don’t think the safety of school children should take a back seat to impatient drivers, however. The actual time that it will take to get the kids picked up and dropped off safely during the runs is not really that long.”

Kat Peterson of North Kitsap Schools says the caveat “wherever sufficient area for a safe turn-out exists” serves to exempt their buses.

“Our stipulation for a bus over 26,000 pounds is you have to have a safe place to turn of,” she said.

“If we can’t pull over and get completely off the roadway, it’s not safe,” she said.

She could think of only a couple of places on Miller Bay Road going one way and only one going the other direction wide enough for a bus to get completely out of the road.

Driving the CK hinterlands

The in basket: Bill Ikaika of Morganmarsh Lane in rural Central Kitsap called me to say he feels endangered whenever he’s driving away from his home and comes to the stop sign on One Mile Road at Peter Hagen Road. He can’t see more than a couple dozen feet to his right because of a brushy promontory that blocks his view.

I drove out their to check it out, knowing that in 50 years of reporting in this county, I don’t recall ever being on either One Mile or Peter Hagen roads. While I was there, I made it a point to drive on nearby Lost Highway, an ominously named road I’d heard of for decades but also had never driven on.

The out basket: l could see Bill’s point about the lack of visibility, but I’m not sure how much peril there is. I drove the final dead-end mile of Peter Hagen that begins at One Mile Road, and met not a single car going either way about 3:30 p.m. on a weekday.

But I told the county it should be a simple thing to fix, as the dead-end sign and a speed limit sign are on a post smack in the middle of the promontory, so it must be in the road right of way and subject to modification

If nothing else, it would be a good place for a warning side on Peter Hagen. Cars coming out of the dead-end don’t have any better view of the intersection than cars at the stop sign have to their right.

Doug Bear of county public works says he has forwarded the matter as a service request to the road maintenance folks for their consideration.

As for Lost Highway, I didn’t go more than a couple hundred yards on it, for fear my Mazda 3 would be shaken apart by the pot holes. It’s not so lost, though, that people haven’t built homes on it. It fact, I saw a few homes and met two cars in that 200 yards, unlike my experience on Peter Hagen’s dead end.

I asked Doug what the letter U on the Lost Highway road sign means, and what its status is with the county.

‘U’ means an “unmaintained county right-of-way,” he said. “These are areas where the county has been granted the right-of-way under the road but the road has never been developed to county road standards. Maintenance for these types of the roads belongs to the homeowners alongside it.”

The more common designation ‘Pvt” on roads the county doesn’t maintain means the county doesn’t even own the right of way under them, he said.

Height of new Silverdale roundabout middle is no accident

The in basket: Retired educator Dick Barich is the second person to contact me with the opinion that the “Welcome to Silverdale” monument in the middle of the new Silverdale roundabout at the base of Newberry Hill Road is too high.

It obscures the view of oncoming traffic already in the roundabout, he said, and unnecessarily reduces the reaction time for a driver approaching on Newberry Hill to decide whether to pull into the roundabout, he said.

The out basket: I had a feeling the county had considered this in the design of the roundabout, and it didn’t take long before Tina Nelson, Kitsap County engineering’s senior project manager, provided me with the rationale.

“A raised center island is a preferable feature in a roundabout,” Tina said. “This is so that drivers entering a roundabout are not focused on, or distracted by, cars opposite the roundabout which should not be a concern.

“The goal is to have the driver’s focus on pedestrians and the vehicles within the roundabout that they would have a conflict with. It is actually recommended that the sight distance for entering the roundabout be kept at the minimum required, again with a focus on getting drivers to slow down.

“The wall also provides a visual cue to drivers that they are approaching a non-standard intersection, as well as a break in headlight glare of oncoming vehicles,” Tina said.

She provided an online link to the state Department of Transportation’s design manual for roundabouts,

http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/publications/manuals/fulltext/M22-01/1320.pdf, pages 1320-40, which will tell you a lot more about them than you ever wondered about. Or, she said, Google “roundabouts” and you’ll get even more.

PO lane closure for extension of shoreline trail

The in basket: A short stretch of one of the three lanes that comprise Bay Street in Port Orchard has been closed and its traffic detoured into the center two-way turn lane, prohibiting left turns at Seattle and Rockwell streets and pedestrian use of the north side of the street,

I figured it was for work to extend the city boardwalk trail eastward. Steve Slayton of the Port of Bremerton gave me a call before I asked about it, and confirmed that that’s one purpose of the work.

The out basket: The city of Port Orchard ultimately would like to have the trail extend all the way to Retsil, I think, and has made the next extension part of the port’s project to enlarge its Marina Park, where summer concerts and year-round playground activity occur.

It will be passive recreation project with a viewing platform built atop part of the foundation of one of two houses to be demolished. One is half gone, he said, and the other will bereaved shortly. There also will be a stairwell to the beach near the Marlee Apartments, which will be the eastern end of the trail for the time being when the project is finished in May, he said.

I’ve always wondered how residents of the two homes managed to come and go via their steep accesses, and Steve said it’s a tight fit for the trucks removing the rubble, which requires the extra room provided by the lane closure. It will be closed probably until mid-April, Steve said.

I’ve never understood why so many pedestrians use the water side of the street, which has no improvements for them, and there is a sidewalk on the other side. Its temporary closure to them seems to me to be a good thing.

Parking won’t take place of demolished NAD Park cabin

The in basket: Karen Ebersole e-mailed Jan. 14 to say, “I couldn’t help but wonder what the plans are for the space freed up by the demolished cabin in NAD Park. Yesterday morning … I drove through around 9 a.m., veering around cars lining the road on both sides (must have been 40-plus vehicles)  and dodging people crossing the road in both directions. There was obviously a very well-attended disc golf match under way. This is not the first time this has happened, and I know the Scout Shop is often lacking for parking.

“The article in the Sun this morning indicated they will use it for open space,” Karen said. “I wonder if additional parking was ever considered, as it is often a hazard to drive through there – it tends to be a major thoroughfare.”

The out basket: No additional parking, though a recognized need, isn’t imminent.

Wyn Birkenthal, head of Bremerton Parks, says, “The Parks Department is working on plans to provide additional parking and pedestrian crossing safety on Austin Drive at NAD. (But,) ideally, additional parking wouldn’t come into the open space as far as the old cabin footprint.

“Funding to design and pave a new lot and pedestrian crosswalk is not available at this time and would have to be

procured through grants and\or community participation,” Wyn said.

If, like me, you weren’t sure from the from the story and photo about the demolition, which cabin was razed, it was an old caretakers cabin by the restrooms, not the one the Scouts use.

 

You can move your toll passes between vehicles now

The in basket: When notice of my Good tot Go! statement for December turned up in my e-mail, I looked it over and saw that my only trip across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that month had been properly included. I was puzzled, though, that the car was identified only by the sticker number on my windshield-mounted Good to Go! Pass. There was no indication of the license number.

I knew what car I had been in, but for someone whose family makes a lot of trips across the state’s tolled bridges or uses the HOV lanes on Highway 167, it would be kind of arduous to track which car was used each time.

It seemed like the monthly statement used to include the license number for each billed crossing.

The out basket: I was reluctant to ask about it, since it wasn’t a big issue, but I’m glad I did. It turns out I was way behind in understanding all the latest wrinkles in the passes (I know them as transponders, but the state doesn’t seem to call them that anymore) that bill us electronically for use of toll facilities.

Emily Pace of the state’s Good to Go! office says, “Good To Go! no longer associates each pass with a specific vehicle now that we offer passes which can be moved between vehicles. This change was made when we opened the statewide customer service center on February 14, 2011. Prior to February 2011, we offered two pass types (a sticker pass and a license plate mounted pass) which couldn’t be moved between vehicles, therefore each pass was associated with a specific vehicle and license plate.

“We now offer five pass types, two of which are easily movable between vehicles. Our new pass options are the result of advances in tolling technology and listening to our customers, many of whom wanted more pass options.

“Customers may have multiple vehicles including some they don’t use very often; for example, a motor home. With a movable pass they only need to purchase one pass and then they can move the pass between any vehicle registered on their account.” The moveable passes attach with velcro.

“Our new passes allow us to offer more options to drivers and provide them at lower cost. The older version of the sticker pass was $12 and the license plate mounted pass was $30. Today our pass options range from $5 to $12.

“Currently, if you have a pass installed in your vehicle, when you view your account history and account statements you’ll see toll activity shown by pass number, not by vehicle or license plate number. If you don’t have a pass installed in your vehicle, but your license plate is registered on an account, your license plate number will post to the account instead of the pass number – or Pay By Plate. “Customers will see an extra 25 cents photo enforced fee per toll for each Pay By Plate transaction.

“We suggest that customers with multiple vehicles on their account take note of which pass is installed on each specific vehicle if they need this information for their own tracking purposes. Your pass number is located on the front of both the sticker and movable passes and on the back of the switchable pass.

“Just a heads up, the last digit of your pass will not appear on your account view. No need to worry, the pass is entered correctly, the system just does not read the last digit of the pass,” she said.

All the pass options can be seen online

at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/GoodToGo/PassesAvailable2011.htm. There is

even a guide (the link is at the top of the page) to help you decide which pass is best for you.

License plate scans are used here

The in basket: Jerry Jurgens of Poulsbo e-mails to say “I recently heard on the radio that some state in the mid-west had a policy of having police taking photos of the license plates of cars in a general and continuous format, not just when they were stopping a vehicle for some citation or infraction.

“That, in and of itself, seemed a bit Big Brotherish but what sort of raised my hackles was that everyone could acquire that information through the freedom of information act. That means that an insurance company, a jealous wife, a predator, etc. could get records of where your vehicle goes on a routine basis and where it had been on a number of specific days.

“Does Washington State take photos of license plates and if they do, what is the policy as to who has access to that information?” Jerry asked.

The out basket: I asked only the State Patrol and Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office about this, and both say they have such a capability.

Trooper Russ Winger  of WSP says it “utilizes the ALPR (Automated License Plate Reader) in two capacities at the moment.

“The Auto Theft Division utilizes some vehicles equipped with the camera/computer system to identify possible stolen license plates and vehicles. If there is a ‘hit’ on a plate, the detective can investigate further and has several ways of cross checking about the validity of the hit prior to taking action to stop and identify the vehicle and driver/occupants, if present.”  Any  information not of value to those purposes is automatically purged from the system each 60 days, he said..

“Another use of the ALPR is at the WSF terminals,” Russ said. “WSP’s Division of Homeland Security uses the system to screen vehicles. Only law enforcement has access to the WSP information and the same retention policy is utilized for stored information.

Deputy Scott Wilson of KCSO says, “The sheriff’s office has one ALPR installed within its fleet of marked patrol vehicles, as a result of a grant from the federal government. It’s use has added to the sheriff’s office capabilities to check for stolen vehicles or those identified as being involved in major felony criminal cases.

“Unless the ALPR detects a vehicle that has been previously reported stolen (as the scan is taking place), the sheriff’s deputy operating the ALPR has no access to the information contained in the ALPR database.

“License plate scans into the ALPR database are downloaded at the end of the deputy’s shift and retained by the sheriff’s office for six months. Access to this information is limited within the sheriff’s office to supervisors and is granted when there is a law enforcement investigatory purpose,” Scott said.

He also said Kitsap Sun reporter Josh Farley wrote an article about the installed ALPRs in local law enforcement patrol vehicles in November 2009.

Here’s the link:  http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2009/nov/28/bremerton-police-adding-an-eye-on-the-street/#axzz2Gxh3ZW5c

 

 

Countdown pedestrian lights a sometimes thing at Kitsap & Adele

The in basket: Ian MacKenzie writes, “I have a question regarding signal lights at the intersection of Kitsap Way and Marine Drive/Adele Avenue (in Bremerton). As we all know, this is one of the red-light camera intersections.

“Specifically,” he wrote, “I am wondering about the walk/don’t walk signs (at) the intersection. I have noticed at times the orange Don’t Walk’ sign operates as a countdown timer letting both pedestrians and drivers know when the light is going to change. This is an improvement that probably reduces red light running far more than cameras but that is a different topic all together.

“Late at night and early in the morning when the signals are prioritized green for Kitsap Way, the Don’t Walk signs are solid orange at all times and when a vehicle approaches from either Marine Drive or Adele Avenue, the light on Kitsap changes immediately without any warning.

“Why can’t these countdown timers be in effect 24 hours a day. Do they require more energy to operate? All lights throughout downtown Seattle operate in this manner.”

The out basket: Jeff Collins of the city of Bremerton signal shop says the difference lies in whether the traffic lights in the Kitsap Way corridor are coordinated with one another at any given light change.

“During coordination, the pedestrian displays change to ‘walk’ at the start of green on the main street.

“There are two reasons we do this.

“First, it gives pedestrians more time to cross with walk displayed. Typically, the walk signal only comes up at the start of green and only stays on for the walk time and if they are not there to push the button before the light turns green, they will have to wait until the next green.

By having them come up with coordination, we can give the pedestrians more ‘walk’ time.

“Second, it gives the traffic technician an indication of where the signal is in coordination as we drive through the corridor.”

When the corridor is not running in coordination, the pedestrian signs light only when a pedestrian actually pushed the button to cross, which isn’t very often in the wee hours.

“The countdown indication works 24 hours a day but it will only display immediately after a walk display,” Jeff said. “At night, when the walk displays are not coming on automatically with coordination, the countdown display will only come on after a pedestrian presses the button and the ‘walk’ comes on.”

Only the Adele Avenue side of the intersection has the countdown lights, which eliminate much of the uncertainty pedestrians have about how much time they have to cross, and evidently are also a visual cue to drivers as to when the light will turn to red.

“The countdown signal is the new standard required by the federal Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices and when we have a failure we are replacing the displays in pairs,” Jeff said.

“Due to the cost, we can’t replace them all at once without some external funding,” he said.”

State, county have tutorials for driving in a roundabout

The in basket: John Stokes writes, “I was leaving Silverdale today and when I got to the roundabout at Chico Way, I say a car facing the wrong way trying to turn left on Chico Way.  This is not the first time I have seen this.

“I also noticed a car stopped in the roundabout at the Manette Bridge, letting traffic into the roundabout coming off the Manette Bridge,” he said.

“Does the county or state have any plans to teach people how to use roundabouts, as they are becoming more common?” John asked.

The out basket: I saw the same thing once in the Manette roundabout. I can’t say if it was a different driver than John saw. It’s the wrong thing to do, but not likely to cause an accident, which going clockwise in a roundabout very well could.

There is a learning curve with any new traffic control, but both the state and Kitsap County provide instructions on using a roundabout,

The county’s is the best, and can be seen at http://www.kitsapgov.com/pw/roundabout.htm

The state says the following in its drivers guide, the tutorial for all new drivers and a reference for any driver:

A roundabout is an intersection control device with traffic circulating around an island. Approaching vehicles must yield to the traffic in the circle. Always yield to pedestrians and bicyclists who are legally crossing the road. Inside the circle, always drive around the circle to the right.

How to drive in a roundabout:

1. Slow down as you approach the intersection; roundabouts are designed for speeds of 15-20 mph.

2. Enter the roundabout when there is a gap in traffic. Once inside, do not stop. Follow directions on signs or pavement markings about which lane to use.

3. You may exit at any street or continue around if you miss your exit.”

The county recommends signaling while approaching and while in a roundabout and readers often advocate it in contacting the Road Warrior column. The state is mum on that subject. It’s not required unless you change lanes, which doesn’t happen in a one-lane roundabout.

I find the speed and position of the car to be more helpful in predicting what it will do than what it might be signaling.