Monthly Archives: March 2013

New median cable barrier adds a strand

The in basket: I was surprised to read in Monday’s Sun that  cable barrier projects would be beginning this week on Highway 16 from Purdy to Sedgwick Road.

I was surprised because I’d seen cable barrier being replaced at the Burnham Drive interchange in Gig Harbor on Feb. 11. It seemed like the work had started much earlier.

The new metal uprights at Burnham Drive looked taller to me. and the cables farther from the ground

The motorcycle community is no fan of the cable barriers. Some call them cheese cutters, more from anticipation of what it would be like to slide into one than from actual experience with such a mishap, I think.

Not expecting to be right, I asked if the new barrier would allow a motorcyclist to slide under the bottom cable.

The out basket: And I wasn’t right. It’s got nothing to do with motorcycles specifically.

And it’s a separate project from the one described in Monday’s paper. Though Peterson Brothers of Sumner has both jobs, Dennis Engel’s project office in Tumwater is supervising the work just starting.

Andy Larson with the state’s Port Orchard Project Office supervised the Burnham Drive job that extends up the hill to the Highway 302 exit.

“The safety improvement project replaces and extends the current three-strand cable barrier with a high-tension four-strand system,” he said. “The additional strand is probably what made the barrier seem higher than the existing one.

“Once the four-strand cable barrier (was) in, the three-strand cable rail (was) removed,” Andy said. “In this project we have also installed new guardrail along the outside of SR 16.”

Dennis Engel explained the genesis of the work, called the Olympic Region Redirection Landform Mitigation project.

“Over the years, we have built up berms under the bridges, and the landforms aren’t as effective as they could be. So we add cable barrier and guardrails to protect people.”

Though a lot of three-strand cable barrier was replaced at Burnham Drive, Dennis said not much would be at the three interchanges his office is supervising.

The Purdy part of the project is at the northern interchange, on the on-ramp from Purdy to go north toward Port Orchard.

I wondered if perhaps the three-strand barrier had been discredited by accident figures, but couldn’t get a clear idea on that.

The Federal Highway Administration does says on an online site that “Research by the National Crash Analysis Center found that adding a fourth cable to the generic three-cable design increases the likelihood that the cable barrier will catch a broader spectrum of vehicles.

“Tensioning the cables after installation improves the performance of the system by reducing deflection and increasing the potential to capture the impacting vehicle,” it said.



A Narrows bridge repaving – so soon?

The in basket: I’ve read a couple of stories about efforts to avoid or minimize toll increases on the Tacoma Narrow Bridges, and was struck by one proposal from State Sen. Nathan Schlicher to reduce pressure for an increase.

He’s asked that an overlay (repaving) of the bridges be delayed from the next two-year budget cycle to the one after.

Why would the bridges require an overlay at all so soon after the construction of the new one and retrofitting of the old one, I wondered.

The out basket: Annie Johnson of the state toll program, Good to Go!, says, “The asphalt bridge deck overlays on the Tacoma Narrows Bridges are relatively shallow. Shallower overlays, like the one on the bridge, have a typical lifespan of seven to eight years. The new bridge opened in 2007 which means that it would likely need a new overlay in 2014 or 2015.”

Only the new bridge is to be overlaid this time, she said. It’s described in the news stories as a $3 million job.

Locked or not, don’t leave your car running to de-ice the windshield

The in basket: When I was going to Olympic College back in the 1960s, a friend who drove would start his car and go back in the house on frosty mornings until the windows were clear. He managed not to get the car stolen.

PEMCO Insurance has been polling Northwest residents about things, and doing what my friend did way back then was a recent subject.

“About half (53 percent) of respondents who live in Eastern Washington deal with frost, ice or snow on their windshield each day in colder months,” a company news release said. “In the moderate temperatures on the west side of the state, about two-thirds (60 percent) of drivers tend to an icy windshield at least once per week.

“But icy windshields present more than a tedious winter task – they also can be invitations to car thieves looking for unattended, idling cars left running by drivers waiting for them to warm up,” the company said.

“According to PEMCO’s poll, about two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) who wake up to icy windshields opt to crank their car’s heater before using a scraper to clear their windshield of ice or frost or snow.

“You’ve probably seen ‘puffers’ – people who start their cars and then go back inside while the heater warms up, and that’s against the law in many areas,” the company said. “Even if you leave your car unattended for just a few minutes, that’s plenty of time for a thief to break in and drive away,” said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO Insurance spokesperson.

“In fact, Washington state law requires drivers to stop their car’s engine, lock the ignition, remove the keys and set the brake before leaving a vehicle unattended.

“Car theft isn’t the only risk posed by frosty windshields,” it continued. “The poll finds that about a quarter (24 percent) of residents in Portland and slightly fewer in Washington (17 percent) don’t always finish scraping their windshields clear of ice or snow. What’s more, an equal number are unaware that a frosty windshield could get them pulled over.”

I asked if locking your car with a second set of keys and leaving it running changed the picture. I also asked my State Patrol contact if fog or ice on the other windows can be cause for a citation.

The out basket: Not at all, Osterberg told me. It still would be illegal and professional car thieves aren’t deterred much by locked doors. Some professional thieves cruise neighborhoods looking for an unoccupied car running and would have the ability to enter the car quickly and steal it, locked or not, he said.

State Trooper Russ Winger had this to say about my second question:

“You need to be able see out of the vehicle in order to drive safely. That would include front, rear and side windows. It would be a basic violation of driving with due care. It is just plain dangerous to yourself and other motorists to drive with obscured visibility.
“You can be stopped for this and potentially issued a citation.
“Taking a few minutes to scrape ice, snow or defrost the windows so you can see properly is not to much to expect from any motorist,” Russ said. “If a driver causes an accident due to this lack of common sense and basic effort, one could make a case for a negligent driving citation.