Monthly Archives: April 2013

Left turns at tricky Clare-Callahan merge are legal

The in basket: Curt Bay says he’s been taking the off-ramp more often lately from the northbound side of Warren Avenue Bridge in Bremerton to get to Callahan Avenue. The same off-ramp also serves Clare Avenue, and he’s seen a number of drivers who had come up Clare and merged with Callahan then turn left onto the northbound on-ramp to Wheaton Way. He wonders if that is a legal turn.

The out basket: It’s an unusual intersection, with two streets served by the same off-ramp, and westbound Callahan going  from two-way to one-way traffic going in the opposite direction at that spot. But yes, turning left onto the on-ramp there is legal as long as a driver on Clare yields to cars coming off the bridge on Callahan, and to any oncoming traffic. A U-turn is illegal, though, as there is a sign there prohibiting that.

Poulsbo’s 305 HOV lanes deemed effective

The in basket: Some months ago, a reader told me she believed the timing of the traffic signals on Highway 305 through Poulsbo was to be reviewed at some point after completion of its widening project and the establishment of the HOV lanes.

The Poulsbo City Council has opted for fairly long red light wait times on the side streets to keep the through movements flowing.

I didn’t recall ever hearing of such a planned review of the signal timing, but did report back then that the unorthodox placing of the HOV lanes on the outside rather than against the center barrier was to be reviewed at some point – five years after they opened, as I recall.

The outside lane was chosen to be the HOV lanes to make it easier for transit buses to get to and from the roadside to pick up and discharge passengers.

I asked Andrzej L. Kasiniak, Poulsbo city engineer, what he recalled. And I asked Olympic Region officials for the state Department of Transportation if the HOV lane review had ever been done.

The out basket: Andrzej said he was unaware of a council pledge to review the signal timing at a particular time.

Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region, replied, “While no formal study was done, we did look at the numbers and types of collisions that occurred within the limits of the HOV lane and the numbers and types of complaints we received about the lane, especially over the last five years.

“An informal before-and-after study showed a drop in collisions of about a third throughout the corridor. “Similarly, while there were a handful of complaints soon after the lane was constructed, there have been a very small number in the last five years.  From this, we feel the HOV lanes are working fine and plan no further study.”

11th and Warren signals and missing turn lane draw comments

The in basket: Two commenters on a past Road Warrior column, first names Kari and Robin, have made observations about changes at the 11th Street and Warren Avenue intersection, which has just undergone  a substantial renovation.

Keri wonders about what he thinks are longer waits for the signals to change to green and Robin noticed something I hadn’t, that the dedicated right-turn-only lane from westbound 11th to northbound Warren no longer exists

“I commute through this intersection daily during the week, eastbound,” Kari said. “It seems that the lights for north-south traffic stay green, even when there’s no traffic. Just last Monday, at about 6 a.m., I timed the lights as staying green for 30 seconds without a single car going through the intersection, either north- or southbound. It used to be that the lights would change much quicker when no traffic was detected.
“I’ve learned that if I don’t catch the left turn onto northbound Warren,” he said, ” but the light is still green to go straight, it is much faster for me to go through the light and turn on Park Avenue (even if I have to wait for the turn signal there, as the lights cycle faster) and then back to Warren at 17th, than it is to wait for the lights to cycle back to a green left turn.”

“Aren’t there traffic detectors on the light poles now? ” he asked.

Robin said he asked Chal Martin, city public works director, about removal of that turn lane, and “he told me it was to better line up the lanes.

“I went on the record as being unhappy about losing the right turn lane and mentioned that the lanes lined up fine for my last 50 years in Bremerton,” Robin said.

The out basket: Gunnar Fridriksson of the city of Bremerton street engineers had told me a couple of months ago that most of the movements at that intersection would operate on timer during its paving, which required destroying most of the in-pavement wire detectors, called “loops.” Keri’s complaint sounded to me like a residue of that.

But no, Gunnar says,  “The signal there was never put on a time setting, we went directly from using the in-ground loops to the radar detection.

“There have been two changes here with the signal coordination package that we are currently working to adjust,” Gunnar said, “timing and coordination with the new signal on Warren at 13th Street and tying in coordination with the signals at Burwell and Sixth Street to the rest of the corridor.

“Our eventual goal will be to have the signals from Burwell all the way up to Riddell Road (synchronized),” he said. “We do have adjustments to make and that will be continuing for the next several weeks, as the (electronics) shop schedules this work in with regular maintenance, emergency call-outs, etc.”

And yes, the new radar traffic detectors are mounted on the poles at the 11th and Warren intersection.

As for the missing right turn lane, he said, it was deleted “to provide a five-foot shoulder area. This will make it easier for buses and trucks to turn northbound onto Warren, along with helping line the lanes up a little better through the intersection.

“If you get a chance to go out and take a look, you will see quite a few tire marks going across the new ADA ramps (for the disabled) and sidewalk at this corner.  It is a fairly tight corner and a tough one to make for larger vehicles with the lane adjacent to the sidewalk.”

Gunnar also noted that the most recent traffic counts done for 11th Street’s three westbound lanes, while dated, showed that of the 5,700 vehicles counted, only 1,800 turned right.

The red light enforcement camera watching westbound traffic is still there and functioning as before, he said.

Earthwork at Nalley Valley raises reader’s curiosity

The in basket: Bruce Fields of Bremerton e-mailed to say, “I drive by the I-5/Highway 16/38th Street project in Tacoma each day. A few weeks ago they built up the north landing for the new bridge section, put big blocks on top and marked it with survey stakes.

“A few days later they lowered the staked spot 30-plus feet and moved it southwest by about the same.

“Was this for compaction of the bank for the piling bore holes or did they make a mistake and had to relocate the ‘spot?'”he asked.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways says “What the driver is seeing is a ‘pre-load’ of weight to purposefully compact the ground in that area.

“The pre-load material has been on-site for about two weeks, and twice daily surveyors have checked for settlement. Once the area settles to our geotechnical engineers’ satisfaction, the material will be removed,” she said.


Rolling slow down puzzles Highway 3 drivers

The in basket: Glenn Hostetter called to say he saw a puzzling thing coming out of Bremerton on Highway 304 on Monday. April 15. The line of cars he was in was met by a state Department of Transportation truck that pulled out in front of them just as they reached the merge with southbound Highway 3 traffic.

A second WSDOT truck did the same thing with the Highway 3 traffic. A car positioned itself between the two trucks as the caravan crawled toward Gorst at about 5 miles per hour. One of the trucks had an electronic sign on the back saying it was a rolling slow down.

When they got almost to Gorst, the car pulled to the side and the two trucks sped up and continued on their way.

Traffic in the other directions was proceeding normally.

What was it all about? he asked.

The out basket: Duke Stryker, head of the state maintenance crews here, said the slowdown kept traffic away from another state crew that was removing some debris from the roadway up ahead. He didn’t say what it was, but it clearly wasn’t big enough to require closure of a lane of the highway, with all the attendant signs and warnings, or small enough a state trooper could throw it onto the shoulder.

Rolling slow downs occur from time to time, but the only one I’ve ever witnessed personally involved a state patrol car weaving back and forth at slow speed across all the lanes of southbound Highway 3 as it approached Highway 304. I think that one involved a complicated traffic stop on the shoulder.


Moving or waiting after you’re in a fender bender

The in basket: Paul Krause wrote in February with a plea that those involved in a minor accident between Bremerton and Gorst help keep their mishap from backing up traffic on Highway 3.

“The traffic jam 2/7/2013 caused by a fender bender resulted in 1.5 hours waiting in a traffic jam,” he said. “This costs local employers thousands in overtime paid to employees. Another thought is the devastating amount of emissions added to our atmosphere because of idling.

“If you are involved in a mechanical failure or fender bender, you must move to the nearest exit,” he said. “Heading northbound from Gorst, move it all the way to the Charleston Highway (Navy Yard Highway) or the Loxie Eagans Boulevard exit.  If heading southbound you must move your car to the gas station in Gorst and not use the middle area to pull off.

“There are regulatory signs posted in the area to remind of the importance to keep moving until a wider area of the road,” Paul said.

“It is time for a causeway or some sort of bridge over Sinclair Inlet to create better traffic flow and an alternative routes for evacuations,” he said. “Yes, make it a toll bridge,” he concluded.

The out basket: Paul is far more specific in his recommendations than the authorities are, but there are signs on the stretch telling drivers to move to a safe location if they are in a fender bender and not wait around for law enforcement to arrive at the crash scene. Fender bender means no one is injured.

I told Trooper Russ Winger of the State Patrol here that I’d always figured those signs were intended to remove the distraction that backs up traffic and to keep things flowing. I asked him about Paul’s e-mail.

The out basket: “The primary reasoning is to clear the roadway so traffic can flow and driver/occupants are not exposed,”Russ said. “Dealing with the visual distractions is very helpful but not always possible.

“We are not really in the business of telling drivers exactly where to move off too. If the parties have some common sense, they can figure out something. If not, just moving off the road is sufficient, then when we get there or other law enforcement arrives, they can get the parties to a safer spot. The location may dictate the options available.

“In any type of collision involving injuries,” Russ said, “the parties should wait at the scene. In situations where vehicles are moved to remote locations prior to law enforcement’s arrival, the actual scene disappears and officers are left to investigate from driver statements and evidence that may or may not be present on the roadway.

“This is important because we are in the business of investigating collisions rather than simply reporting them,” Russ said. “There is a substantial difference.”

The idea of a bridging Sinclair Inlet or creating another route around it has been kicked around for years, but it’s so far down the list of proposed projects, I don’t expect to see it in my lifetime.

President Polk, meet President Taylor

The in basket: Patricia, who omitted her last name, e-mailed to say, “My son and I live in a rental on Taylor Street in Port Orchard. Half of the very short street is paved and maintained.  We live on the lower part of the street designated (from what I have been told) as a ‘private’ street and is not maintained.

“If you were to travel on our section you’d agree that this has to be one of the worst streets in Kitsap County,” she said. “We have poured gravel/rock into the countless huge potholes but they quickly disappear with usage.

“My landlord pays taxes on the property — why won’t the county maintain it?  Help!”

The out basket: Her description reminded me of the condition of the unpaved stretch of Polk Street near Manchester, the subject of a January 2011 Road Warrior column.

Once I determined that Patricia’s Taylor Street wasn’t the one that’s actually in Port Orchard, I went looking for it and found that its issues not only are shared by Polk Street, they’re only about two blocks apart. They’re just two of several streets intersecting California Avenue named after some of our less illustrious presidents.

As with Polk, the nearly undrivable part of Taylor was created without being built to county standards, and the county won’t assume responsibility for its maintenance until it meets them. Doing so would cost a lot of money and where it gets done, it’s usually as a local improvement district overseen by the county and paid for by county-collected assessments.

Until then, the residents bear the burden of dealing with its failures.

I revisited Polk as long as I was in the area, and it looked like someone have applied a fairly serviceable layer of crashed rock to a short stretch of its unpaved area. But the rest still rivaled the end of Taylor Street for mud holes that require slow speed and nimble maneuvering to avoid challenging one’s wheel alignment.


Cougar Valley’s flashing school zone sign raises questions

The in basket: Barbara Burns of Olympic View Road in Central Kitsap wonders about the effective hours of the school zone at Cougar Valley Elementary School, which she must pass going to and from her home.

“The signs on either end of the school zone have flashing yellow lights with the directive: ‘School Speed Limit 20mph When Flashing.’  Trouble is,” she said, “I’ve never seen the lights flashing except when buses are obviously loading and unloading children at regular times during the weekday. Other times of the day and night the lights are dark.

“Question 1,” she said. “In the evening, throughout the night, and on weekends when school is clearly not in session, are people still expected to do 20 mph or is 35 okay?” Thirty-five is the speed limit on the rest of the road.

“Question 2,” she continued. “The school parking lot is occasionally full to overflowing in the late afternoon/early evening for soccer practice, parent/teacher night and special events, forcing parents to park up and down both sides of the road.  The school is on a bend, which complicates matters, yet the flashing lights are rarely activated. Why?

“No conscientious driver would go through there doing 35 when vehicles and people are abundant, but according to the sign, 35 is acceptable because the lights aren’t flashing. Is it?”

And, finally, “if the lights aren’t being activated during times that obviously could benefit from it, I can only guess that the programming is complex, or the school relies on someone manually turning them on and off, which frankly doesn’t happen. Why have signs with lights at all?”

The out basket: Among the variety of school zone speed limit triggers (when children are present, during certain hours and, around Bremerton High School, 24/7), I think the flashing lights are far and away the best choice, except they cost a lot, require electricity and, Barbara is right – they are complex.

Some are controlled remotely by the county’s electronics shop, either by radio or hard wired. The one on Sedgwick Road was installed by the state (it’s a state highway) and may be operated by the school. A cursory survey of other schools tells me the ones on Pinecrest Elementary in Bremerton and Pearson Elementary in North Kitsap are run by the county after the school tells it what it wants, often for the entire school year in advance.

But the flashing lights eliminate the uncertainty that plagues the other zone formats to one degree or another, and what I have come to suspect is something less than a strict insistence on a child being present before a ticket is written in one of the zones specifying that, especially during emphasis patrols.

But to address Barbara’s specific questions, Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer says, “The 20 mph school zone speed limit is only in force at the times the flashers are activated.

“At other times the maximum speed limit is 35 mph. Motorists should always drive at a safe speed for the conditions, which can be below the posted speed limit.

“The signs cannot be activated other than by reprogramming them with a computer and connecting cord,” Jeff said. “That makes them very difficult to use for special events. During most events though, there is normally adult supervision which minimizes children alone along or crossing the road.  Even then, most prudent drivers are slowing down when the road gets congested like that.”

“The flashers are primarily for the school areas and crossings where young school age children are prevalent and don’t always have adult supervision.” Jeff concluded.

A barrel here, a barrel there…

The in basket: I’ve written a couple of times about the February conference I attended over at Sea-Tac at which vendors of the latest in high-tech traffic control got to show off their wares.

Today I’ll mine a couple more bits if information I found interesting.

Have you even driven through a construction zone marked by mile after mile of orange barrels on the shoulder? Often, when I encounter such a stretch, I find myself wondering what one of those barrels costs?

So I asked Todd Wilson of Traffic Safety Supply Co., who had a booth at the conference. His answer: $80 each, mostly due to the reflective tape that makes then visible at night. That tape is pretty pricey, he said. I also visited an online site that said the barrels aren’t just thrown together, but must meet federal standards that keep them from penetrating a vehicle in a high speed collision.

So next time you find yourself passing dozens or hundreds of those barrels at a work zone, have a passenger count them and multiply by $80. And that doesn’t even count the cost of setting them out. Usually, they belong to the contractor chosen to do the job.

Todd gave me another figure while we talked – $16,500. That’s the price of one of the new-generation impact attenuators that are installed on the end of concrete abutments to absorb the impact of a car hitting one, he said.

That’s what his company was paid for one that replaced an older one at the start of the ramp that carries northbound traffic on Highway 3 over the Gorst business district on its way to Bremerton after a vehicle hit it at high speed last summer. Todd had been told it was a suspected suicide attempt, but I couldn’t confirm that. The driver was badly hurt but survived, he said. The impact was nearly double the 45-mph design capacity of the old attenuator, which had to be scrapped.

The one his company sold the state won’t require that, he said. It is designed to be pulled back into shape after its hit to guard occupants of the next car that crashes into it.

New questions about revised 11th & Warren

The in basket: As I drove down 11th Street eastbound toward Warren Avenue the other day, I noticed a boxed area created by yellow stripes across Warren, westbound, where a left turn pocket would be. Left turns have been prohibited there for as long as I can remember.

I wondered if they will be allowed when the new widened intersection is fully opened.

As my wife and I sat at the eastbound red light, we discussed the four signal heads controlling the three lanes, two lanes for for left turns and the other two for straight ahead movements in the one lane dedicated to that, historically.

I recently wrote in this column that the extra signal head complies with federal regulations that the main movement at a signalized intersection have two signals for redundancy if one burns out or is blocked by a large vehicle.

But when the lights turned green that day, one of the two in the center showed an arrow to the left and the other an arrow pointing straight ahead. It seemed like a likely source of confusion for a newcomer to the intersection as to what is permitted from the inner left turn lane.

The out basket: First, says Gunnar Fridriksson of the city traffic engineers, no left turn is being created on westbound 11th to go south on Warren.

The striped box “was just an attempt to outline the hatched area that was here


The only change in permitted movement at the completed intersection will be that only the outside southbound lane on Warren will allow right turns. Previously, both outside southbound lanes allowed right turns, though I hardly ever saw anyone use the innermost of those lanes for a right turn.

Gunnar said I am not the first to ask about possible confusion about the four signal heads, and even sent along an inquiry about it from Bruce Hall, originally sent to his city councilman, Greg Wheeler.

Gunnar’s answer is as I had described, “The federal guidance we are required to follow for designing a signal

system has the through lane (single eastbound traffic on 11th Street)

with two sets of lights, and a single set of lights for the two turn

lanes.  So there are four sets of lights for the three lanes.”

It’s a puzzling issue to arise now, Gunnar said, since the same four-signal display for three lanes was there before the intersection was redone, but hanging from wires instead of the new metal poles and cross arms.