Monthly Archives: March 2013

New warning flashers come to 5 Kitsap locations

The in basket: When I attended the annual confab of electronics vendors and their mostly government buyers in February, I found a spirited competition among the vendors in the area of “rectangular flashers.”

I’d heard them mentioned in a talk by a Seattle engineer, but didn’t know what they were. It didn’t take long after I stepped into the trade show room that I found out.

I talked with representatives from Coral Sales Company and Traffic Safety Supply Co. which offered them. Both used solar powered LED lights.

Each had them mounted at each end of a horizontal bar on a pole below a sign, usually a school zone sign. Each was activated by a button that both blinks and beeps, as required by the Americans with Disabiliti4es Act.

One said its product was better because it flashed brightest 45 degrees from forward, where a motorist would be most likely to be. The other said it had the better one because the flashers pivoted so they could be faced and locked in the optimum direction for each location.

Only a couple weeks later, I noticed that Kitsap County had acquired a pair of them, positioned at each end of a crosswalk on Jackson Avenue at South Kitsap Community Park, near where a young student was hit and killed last year.

I asked Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works if they had any others.

The out basket: Yes, Doug said, they have them in pairs on Newberry Hill Road at Klahowya school, Ridgetop Boulevard and Levin Road at the Clear Creek Trail crossing in Silverdale, Central Valley and Foster roads, and at the other entrance to SK Community Park on Lund Avenue. One is being readied for Bucklin Hill Road at Olson Road, he said.

LED lights and solar power were all the rage at the convention, and Kitsap’s are LED and a mix of hard-wired and solar. Theirs flash straight ahead in three of the four directions and came from Cascade Signals. It was also at the conference, but its booth isn’t one I stopped at.

I asked if solar or hard-wired are preferable, and County Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea said, “The hard-wired flashers tend to be cheaper if the power source is readily available. Also, they are fairly maintenance free and require very little electricity due to the infrequent use and the LED technology.

“Solar powered are more expensive to purchase because of the solar panel and battery.  They also tend to have a little more maintenance issues because of the panel and battery.

“Also, for the solar applications we don’t have a hard wire between the two devices on each side of the road, so we have to connect them with a radio so they will flash at the same time.

“Needless to say, the solar flashers have to be in a good location to get good sun exposure,” Jeff said.

Bucklin Hill ‘potholes’ are prep work for project

The in basket: Chuck Gurrad says “Recently a road crew installed 24 manufactured pot holes on Bucklin Hill Road between the Tracyton Boulevard-Myhre Road intersection eastward up the hill. They were scattered on all of the three lanes.

“What they were looking for under the asphalt?” he asked. “Do they intend to fill them in properly, and when?

“This was a road in fair condition except for the manhole at the edge of the west bound lane which  needs to be brought up to grade,” Charles said.

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says, “The potholes your reader referred to were small holes used to help locate utilities for an upcoming stormwater and pedestrian improvement project.

“The holes were patched using cold patch. We’ll send a crew out to take a look and see if some of the patches have come up. The road will be repaved once the project is completed later this summer” Doug said. He sent along a fact sheet, describing the work:7109-CFP Bucklin Hill Fact Sheet (3).pdf

Beaver floods North Shore Road

The in basket: Jean Bray of Tahuya writes, “For several days there has been inexplicable water on North Shore Road (Highway 300) on the north side of the road just west of where it intersects with Sand Hill Road.

“Even before there was no measurable rain – about four or five days ago – water enough to spray an auto to drive through was there.

“Might there be beaver activity in that area that the state highways department needs to look in to?” she asked.

The out basket: Good guess, Jean. Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region for state highways told me Tuesday, “There is beaver activity in the area and WSDOT maintenance crews removed a beaver dam from that spot just yesterday.

“We are in the process of acquiring a permit to remove the beaver and will continue to monitor for beaver activity.  We are also monitoring for water over the roadway,” she said.

 

Right turns and the Poulsbo HOV lanes

The in basket: Michael Schuyler read the recent Road Warrior column about it’s being illegal to turn right out of Charleston Beach Drive in Bremerton directly into the Highway 304 HOV lane and asked on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com, “OK. Let’s say you are alone turning right onto a highway where the HOV lane is the right lane, such as SR 305 through Poulsbo. Let’s just say traffic is also heavy at the time.

“If you turn right into the HOV lane you are using the lane illegally. If you turn into the inside lane, you violate the “turn into the nearest lane” rule.

“Will the WSP give you some slack here, or will they cite you for not moving over immediately?” he asked.

The out basket: When that HOV lane opened, the official answer to Michael’s question was kind of vague, saying that turning right into the lane was permissible for a single occupant vehicle if it moved quickly to the general purpose lane. Likewise, moving into the HOV lane was OK to prepare for a right turn off of the highway if you did it right before the turn.

The official advice hasn’t changed. State Trooper Russ Winger says, “He should turn into the closest lane, even if it is the HOV lane. That is not an illegal use of the HOV lane. If not allowed to be in the HOV lane by restriction, move to the other lane as soon as practical.”

If I’m ever in a situation where I take that advice, I’d be careful not to pass any cars in the general purpose lane before moving over, signaling and moving over when a break in traffic appears.

Bay Shore Drive curve bad place for a crosswalk

The in basket: Gary Garbini of the Golden Tides senior residential complex on Bay Shore Drive in Silverdale raises a concern that I first heard from another resident of that facility years ago.

“We need a way to slow traffic down in front of our place,” he said. “They are all seniors here and they cross in walkers and wheelchairs. Someone is going to get killed out in front of here. It’s kind of a blind corner.”

They cross to reach a small viewpoint “and watch the seagulls and ducks,” he said. He wondered about a crosswalk or speed humps.

The out basket: County Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea says, “We met with the manager of the apartments and Lt. Gese of the sheriff’s department to discuss this issue several years ago.

“One of the challenges there is limited sight distance.  A crosswalk there would have to be placed in what amounts to a hidden curve, decreasing its effectiveness. That is never a safe proposition, regardless of traffic conditions.

“Our compromise, which I agree is a little ‘out of the box’,'” he said,  “was to construct curb ramps and install a marked crosswalk at the stop sign at Bay Street and Washington Avenue. While this may not be as convenient for the residents, it is by far a much better place to cross the road.

“We do not plan any further modification there,” he said. “The Average Daily Traffic would make this road ineligible for the speed hump program.  Our program restricts roads to less than 3,000 vehicles per day.  Shore Drive had 3,258 vehicles per day recorded in 2012.

 

 

Darkness shrouds new Warren Avenue barriers

The in basket: Dale Gilchrist tells me that he was driving on Warren Avenue in Bremerton one night recently when he nearly hit a pedestrian crossing Warren through the median barrier the city built there between Burwell and Sixth streets.

The walker was dressed in dark clothes and there is very little street lighting there, Dale said. It’s very dark.

I made it a point to go there while it was dark, and I saw what Dale meant. There may be only one street light along that stretch of Warren. I asked the city street engineers if more are planned.

A few weeks earlier, I came to wonder when a driver must stop for a pedestrian crossing at those barriers, day or night.

Where there is no barrier, a driver must stop when a pedestrian is within one lane of his own. So on a three-lane street with a center turn lane, the driver must stop when a pedestrian enters the turn lane. If the walker is proceeding away from the driver’s lane, the car must not proceed until the person has stepped out of the turn lane.

I asked Bremerton police Lt. Pete Fisher if the barrier was equivalent to a center turn lane for purposes of deciding when a driver must stop

The out basket: Gunnar Fridriksson of the city street engineers says a recent city traffic study showed little nighttime accident history on Warren at that point.

“The accidents were primarily daytime – very few nighttime accidents,” he said. “I think there were four total for the report period in our traffic study – all vehicle accidents.

“So street lighting was not part of the design effort with the latest improvement. That being said, one issue we have been trying to get resources for is to look at overall street lighting levels citywide to prioritize where we need to be making adjustments. It is on our to-do list, just as we have time to get to it.”

As for my question to Pete Fisher, he said the center island should be treated as a curb, requiring a driver to stop when a pedestrian is standing there, waiting to enter the crosswalk.

Proposed Washington Avenue changes raise commuters’ hackles

The in basket: Doug Whittle and Jeff David both have expressed misgivings to me about the city of Bremerton’s plan to make Washington Avenue in Bremerton a single lane in each direction between Fifth Street and the new Manette Bridge, replacing a lane with wider sidewalks.

“It seems very unwise to clog traffic flow for the vast majority who travel by vehicle in favor of providing the ideal situation for the minority of bikers and pedestrians,” Doug said.

“In years past, I occasionally commuted to my former employment in the shipyard by bicycle,” he said, “At that time, it was truly an obstacle making the crossing over the old Manette bridge where traffic was mere inches away if you rode on the roadway in lieu of walking your bike on the pedestrian sidewalk. With the new bridge, bicyclists ‘have it made,’ in my opinion.

“The short block between Sixth Street and the bridge seems a very minor inconvenience in its shortcomings for pedestrian and bicycle commuters.  It seems ridiculous to squeeze the traffic lanes for vehicles in order to give the small minority the very best conditions.”

“And it will be interesting to hear what those responsible for these dimwit changes have to say when a police car or emergency vehicle gets caught in the one-lane traffic with no means of getting around it, and there is a significant consequence to their response delay,” he said.

Jeff said, “”What happens at Sixth Street when a car wants to turn left onto Sixth and blocks traffic going to the bridge and what happens at the bridge when a vehicle going over to 11th does not have a green (again stopping vehicles turning right onto the bridge)?

“Is it more important to move pedestrian traffic or vehicle traffic? I do think a nice bike/pedestrian sidewalk is great but does that bring more business to the downtown?” Jeff asked.

In passing their comments along to the city engineers, I tossed in my opinion that eliminating ways around cars waiting for traffic to clear before turning is the opposite of what street improvements should be accomplishing.

The out basket: Gunnar Fridriksson, the city’s extremely cooperative spokesman for such matters, asked for some patience on this subject.

“I have been getting comments from quite a few commuters that are very concerned about this, but I do not want to speak further until after we have a traffic study completed,” he said. “We are looking at (the state) awarding us design monies sometime in late July/early August.  Then a couple of weeks for consultant selection, eight weeks for council approval, and giving the consultant four to six weeks or so to complete the study – the earliest I can discuss this intelligently is probably sometime just before Christmas this year.”

 

Readers says repave old bridge first

The in basket: When I wrote in a recent column about why the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge will need to be repaved so soon, and the fact the only the new bridge would be done, I got some comments on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com. Two were certain the old bridge needs a repaving much worse than the new one.

H.W. Slach said, “Drove the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge today and the old one, too. The old one has lots of problems; the new one is great. Stop looking at a calendar and look at the road. If a repaving is done, choose the old bridge when the time comes.”

DAWGFAN063 said, “Have you driven across the old side? The potholes in the center lane almost make the lane unbearable.”

For those who didn’t see the first column, the state said bridges get a thinner layer of asphalt (to reduce weight, I suppose) and need repaving more often than other highways.

I am usually with my wife when I cross the old bridge and use the HOV lane, so I hadn’t noticed the row of rough patches in the centermost of the three general purpose lanes. I didn’t see any potholes when I made it a point to drive it, but it was a pretty rough ride.

The out basket: Chris Keegan of the state’s bridge division, said, “The old bridge received an overlay in 2007 after the new Narrows Bridge was opened. The new Narrows Bridge overlay will be paid for out of bridge tolls, which was the cause for the discussion (about delaying its repaving one biennium to keep tolls low). The old Narrows Bridge overlay will be paid for out of preservation funds which come from gas taxes.

“During the ice storm a little over a year ago the overlay on the Old Narrows Bridge was damaged by the use of tire chains,” he said. “The damage was patched by our maintenance crews.

“We do expect that the old bridge will need another overlay about a year after the new Narrows Bridge.

“Because we can now switch traffic from one bridge to the other to do major projects we will likely do these projects at least a year apart. Being able to take traffic completely off a bridge will make the working conditions much safer for the contractor,” Chris said.

 

Right turn to SR304 HOV lane not legal

The in basket: I found myself in afternoon rush hour traffic leaving Bremerton on Highway 304 the other day and saw a maneuver I was quite sure is illegal.
The driver of a pickup truck coming out of Charleston Beach Road and wanting to use the HOV lane made the right turn directly from the side road into the HOV lane, crossing the flow of left turners coming out of the shipyard. The driver used a temporary gap in that flow, so there was no close call.
Surely, I asked State Trooper Russ Winger, spokesmen for the State Patrol here, the presence of the HOV lane doesn’t nullify the rule of the road saying drivers turning onto a street or highway must enter the closest available lane of the thoroughfare being entered, does it?
That usually means left turners must enter the inside lane and right turners must enter the outside lane.
The legal way to get to the HOV lane from Charleston Beach Road, it seemed to me, is to turn into the outside lane and move left in two movements, while signaling.
The out basket: Yes, said Russ, the pickup truck driver violated two laws, the one requiring use of the closest lane and the one requiring a signal for at least 100 feet before changing lanes.
“The act of turning, say, right at an intersection and immediately changing lanes – just completing the turn to the left lane – would be violating signal law as you could not possibly have signaled for 100 feet,” Russ said. When there are two adjoining turn lanes, though, the turning driver must head for the corresponding lane on the street being entered, not necessarily the closest one.
In traffic enforcement, Russ added, “I try to use good judgment when I see that and ask was it unsafe. You could plant yourself at such an intersection and see this movement hundreds or more times on any given day.”

Converse still a scary place on Sedgwick Road

The in basket: Julie Dawson of South Kitsap thinks the intersection of Sedgwick Road and Converse Avenue needs further work, beyond the realignment the state did a couple of years ago.

“I think I’ve heard that the Bethel/Sedgwick intersection is the busiest in Port Orchard, and it makes sense as Sedgwick carries traffic to and from Highway 16, the Southworth ferry, Fred Meyer and nearby shops, a number of residential developments, and Hidden Creek School, so there are lots of children walking and on bikes.

“Which is why there needs to be a roundabout at the very least at the Sedgwick/Converse intersection,” she said. “There is nothing to create gaps in the long lines of traffic that come from both directions, with lights on Sedgwick at Bethel and then on Jackson, a mile down.

“There is at least a center turn lane on Sedgwick which allows desperate drivers to make dangerous dashes from Converse into the middle lane to wait if there was a gap in one direction. But add late afternoon traffic, school buses, and pedestrians (especially after school), and a turn from Converse in either direction at that intersection can easily take four to six minutes at peak times.

“I live off of Converse,” Julie said, “and drive it frequently, so I’ve timed it plenty and watched some scary maneuvers by frustrated drivers. I will drive an extra half-mile just to avoid it at peak times, since it’s actually faster to drive further. “I’m frankly surprised there hasn’t been more uproar from the bus drivers since they endure more than anyone as they navigate that intersection multiple times daily and they see how dangerous it is,” she said.

The out basket: Kelly Stowe of the Olympic Region public affairs staff said she asked around and found no hint of a further project at Sedgwick and Converse on the drawing boards.

That’s not surprising given the money spent on a major safety project on Sedgwick between Highway 16 and Phillips Road so recently, which included lining up the two sides of Converse so the intersection isn’t further complicated by the former offset.

I told Julie enlisting the school district in campaigning for a further improvement there might help.