Monthly Archives: May 2013

Flashing stop signs come at a high price

The in basket: Sharell Lee read the Road Warrior column about drivers not realizing McWilliams Road in Central Kitsap ends at East Boulevard and crashing into what’s across the T intersection, and she had a suggestion.

“In California they sometimes use stop signs

mounted with a small solar panel,” she said. “The stop sign itself has bright flashing lights around the circumference.  Such stop signs are very noticeable and attention getting.

“I’m wondering if this type of sign is ever used in Washington,” she said. “I realize our climate is less sunny, but small solar panels don’t really require that much sun. Where I work, we run a small electric car with them, which I’m sure requires a lot more power than lights on a sign would.’

The out basket: I’m told there is such a stop sign inside the industrial area at Bangor’s sub base, and Sharell says the one she saw also was on a military base. She wondered if vandalism discourages there use outside a secure area.

Jeff Shea, Kitsap County traffic engineer says, “Yes. The cost of one stop sign with blinking lights and solar panel is $1,700.  A regular stop sign is $80.

“There are over 3,000 stop signs in Kitsap County. Replacing all the stop signs in the county with this type of device would cost more than $5,000,000.

“The challenge,” Jeff said, “is determining which intersections warrant this type of upgrade, so that deploying this device is consistent throughout the county. The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices does not currently contain a warrant that sets that level.

“We would consider this as another tool in our toolbox for a solution to a problem location.  A tool like this would be used where a documented number of motorists are simply not seeing the sign, and less costly countermeasures have not worked.

“There are other factors considered when installing new signs. Each year we replace about 2,000 signs that are damaged through accidents and vandalism. The more unique the sign, the more likely vandalism occurs. You see this with street name signs that are popular.

“Adding an electric feature to a device requires additional maintenance and inspection to ensure solar panel and batteries operate correctly.

“We also have to consider how this type of application impacts neighbors. After installing flashing devices, we do get complaints from nearby neighbors that the constant flashing is a nuisance,” Jeff said..


Bootleg traffic signal changers targeted by Opticom upgrade

The in basket: For a couple of decades, Kitsap Transit buses and police and other emergency vehicles have had the capacity to change red lights to green in Bremerton and around the county as they approach.

But some private citizens have acquired equipment online or otherwise that enables them to do the same thing, though they aren’t supposed to and it’s probably illegal.

Tom Baker of the city of Bremerton electronics shop, told me, “There are emitters available on eBay that will work with the Opticom. I have seen signals pre-empted with no bus near by, so there are non-authorized users out there.”

If you are one of them, you may find yourself frustrated in Bremerton, where new digital controls have been substituted for the old ones this year, intended to prevent unauthorized use of bootleg emitters.

I learned this was afoot from Mike Singson of Advanced Traffic Products, which sold the old Opticom equipment back when it was first installed and was still around to help with the update. I encountered him at a big electronics convention at Sea-Tac in February.

The out basket: Wendy Clark-Getzin, Kitsap Transit’s capital development director (for another week or so) says it kicked in $31,000 to go with in-kind labor and services from the city to go with federal money that added up to the $200,000 project cost. It was finished April 30, she said.

In addition to ending unauthorized use of the signal changing equipment, it will reduce maintenance costs and replace some aging controller equipment,” she said.

She credited Jeff Collins of the city electronics shop with making the money stretch as far as it went, and former city engineer Mike Mecham for getting the money in the first place.

The work stops short of modernizing Opticom to the max, says Mike Singson. It’s capable of using GPS to track the buses and keep track of whether they are on time, taking changing of the lights out of the hands of the bus drivers, he said. They’re not supposed to use Opticom if they aren’t behind schedule.

Kitsap’s system won’t be using GPS any time soon and those behind the wheel of the buses still will be able to change the light to green.

You may wonder why Wendy will remain capital development director for only a short time. She will leave to become general manager of Clallam County Transit July 1, she tells me.

Poulsbo due for its first flashing yellow lefts

The in basket: Last September, Ann Nardo wrote to say, “The left turn signal to the North Kitsap school bus barn will trip when there is no vehicle in the lane to turn left.

“It does not do it often but seems mostly in the afternoon has been my observance.  With traffic increasing at this intersection, it can be a glitch in the flow of traffic.

“Not a big thing, but could help,” she said.

When I checked back with her in January to see if it was still doing the same thing, (it was, she said), she also put in a good word for the yellow flashing left turn signals she had seen at Kitsap County’s intersections in Silverdale. She called them “the best traffic organizational idea in years.”

The out basket: The signal is behaving as intended, says Jeff Collins of the city of Bremerton electronics shop, which maintains Poulsbo’s signals.

“The signal will only turn green in a direction when a vehicle is on a detector loop (in-pavement traffic detector) except in the main street direction, on  which it should rest,” he said.

“The problem Ann is seeing is most probably caused by the south-to-east left turn vehicles driving over the detection loop for west-to-south,” he said.

Andrzej Kasiniak, Poulsbo city engineer, said he likes the yellow left turn signals too, and one such signal is coming.

“The new signal at the intersection of 10th Avenue and Lincoln will have a yellow blinking left turn arrow,” he said. Safeway will install the traffic signal this summer as remediation for its new store’s traffic impacts.

Other than that, budget cuts keep him from retrofitting any other city signals, which county employees tell him can be a $6,000 project per signal, he said.

Mystery limitation on use of Admiral Pete’s restrooms

The in basket: I noticed many months ago that there are two restrooms on the foot ferry Admiral Pete that runs between Bremerton and Port Orchard, and both have signs saying they are for crew members only. That struck me as odd, so I asked a crew member why it was.

He told me neither restroom works, so the signs just prevent their use.

I asked Transit officials if that is correct.

The out basket: Charlotte Sampson, executive assistant for transit, replied and said, the Admiral Pete’s restrooms “are not open to the public because it would require too much time, effort, and funds to pump the system.  Restrooms are available on both sides of the water, and it’s only a seven-minute crossing.”

Port Orchard pier project, first phase, nearing completion

The in basket: Downtown Port Orchard traffic has been rerouted recently near the closed Lighthouse restaurant for work on a city pier. Incoming traffic is routed onto the outside shoulder and that leaving the city uses the center lane.

I thought I’d read that the city would redo the pier, but the work so far has been on the shore, and looked to me as I drove past like replacing the seawall.

I asked for specifics.

The out basket: George Thompson of the city says the concrete work isn’t a seawall replacement, but is to create an abutment to anchor the pier to the shore, plus a small public observation area just to the east.

A little work on the pier itself will be part of this project, but much more will be done in a second phase that’s at least a year away.

The current work, aiming for a June 14 conclusion, will put lights on the elevated portion of the dock, landscape the shoreline, replace the sidewalk, install some new decking and stringers as well as the observation area and abutment.

The later work will add 100 to 200 feet to the elevated portion of the pier, then drop down to the floats, which will be replaced, he said. He didn’t know if the overall length of the pier will grow.

Keyporter finds Navy base backups interfere with trip home

The in basket: Paul Jose writes, “I live in Keyport and every time there is a higher level of security the line to get on the (Navy) base extends sometimes to Virginia Loop Road. Many times I need to get home and have to wait up to 15 minutes to get past the entrance to the main gate at Keyport.

“There seems to be room on the right side of the road especially at the bridge where those going on to the base could pull over to allow those of us that actually live in Keyport to pass them to get home. Would the state highway people allow this and can they add signage or lines to facilitate this possibility?”

The out basket: They might if they had more room, but they don’t, says Traffic Operations Engineer Steve Bennett of the Olympic Region of state highways.

I think Paul essentially would like to see signs posted allowing motorists waiting to enter Keyport to drive on the shoulder under certain circumstances, like the state has posted on Highway 16 at the Purdy exit in Pierce County. That would allow traffic heading into the business and residential area to drive past those waiting.

But they have a lot more room at Purdy, says Steve, and not enough room at Keyport for a legal driving lane. At least that’s what their books show, but they’ll give it an in-person look to be sure, he said.

I talked with Tom Danaher, spokesman for the Navy bases here, and he knew of no recent event that would have backed up traffic at the Keyport gate.

Paul said the backups to Virginia Loop Road have been in the past, but there was one back to Hawk Avenue a week ago Tuesday.


‘Sharrows’ are new wrinkle in bike lane identification

The in basket: Kitsap Way between Callow Avenue and Highway 3 in Bremerton has a variety of pavement markings for where bicyclists should ride, I noticed as I headed west on it.

There are short stretches of painted bike lanes, separated by stencil markings painted in the outside vehicle lane showing a bicycle with two chevrons over the cyclist’s head.

I’d seen them on Fauntleroy Avenue in Seattle after I got off the Southworth ferry the past couple of years. I wondered what the chevrons were meant to add to what clearly was a designation for where bicyclists should ride.

The out basket: The chevrons are evidently just an arbitrary design feature of what are called “sharrows,” an authorized marking under the 2009 federal Uniform Manual for Uniform Traffic Devices. It’s a play on words, I guess, melding arrows and share.

As a whole, the sharrows emphasize the need for cars and bikes to share that lane, as well as suggesting bicyclists use enough of the lane that they don’t get picked off by the driver’s side doors of parked cars whose drivers are getting out.

That’s an issue in Seattle, but there aren’t many places in Kitsap with bike lanes next to on-street parking.

“We striped areas where there was sufficient space for a bike lane,” said Gunnar Fridricksson of the Bremerton street engineers. “As you noticed, where there was not space, the sharrows were installed along with signage.”

They don’t alter the law regarding the relationship between motor vehicles and bikes (they must obey the same laws, generally). They just emphasize the Share the Road philosophy.

It occurred to me, though, that I didn’t know whether bike lanes alter that relationship – whether cars can drive in a bike lane. So I asked Trooper Russ Winger of the State Patrol here.

Russ said the term “sharrows’ was new to him, but he drove around looking at bike lanes and had this to say.

“Kitsap Way has several marked and signed bike lanes along it. The signs are black and white regulatory signs. They are also marked on the asphalt with white bike symbols.

“The roadway is of sufficient width to have a full travel lane and a bike lane. In these areas there is no reason for a vehicle to be in the bike lane. Most of the signs I observed said only ‘bike lane’ and depicted the bike symbol.

“At intersections with road ways and openings to businesses, the bike lane turned to skip lines, allowing a vehicle to cross. I would say that a vehicle traveling otherwise in the bike lane in this type of situation would be illegal, disobeying a restrictive sign to start. Infraction $124.

“This is a good example of local jurisdictions using their power to add restrictive signs and lanes to further restrict vehicle travel governed by RCW,” he said.

He also encouraged drivers to “pay more attention to the small road signs and lane markings. I learned a lot just by paying more close attention to them after you posed the question to me and I have driven and worked these roads for 24-plus years,” he said.


2 right turns and one no-turn in Poulsbo

The in basket: Tom Wisniewski of Bremerton asked in an e-mail, “Regarding the intersection of Lindvig Way, Front Street, and Bond Road in Poulsbo, is it legal to turn right in this intersection from one road to another?

“Bond on to Lindvig appears to have a dedicated right turn lane but I am not sure about the others ” he said.

The out basket: This was my first chance to get Road Warrior information from Al Townsend as the police chief of the city to the north, the job he took in April after leaving Port Orchard.

Al send along a Google Earth aerial photo of the intersection and said, “You may turn right on red (when safe to do so) onto Bond Road from Front Street.  You may also turn right on red from Bond Road to Lindvig when safe to do so.

“Front and Lindvig are really a straight road (even though it has a bit of a curve) and its name just changes at the intersection.  So there technically is no turn there.  Its just straight for those streets.”

Since that one’s not a right turn, no right turn on red is permissible (or possible) there.


End of McWilliams Road plagued by crashes

The in basket: Pete Waite. who lives at the east end of McWilliams Road in Central Kitsap, a T-intersection, told me in March that there has been a series of accidents involving drivers unaware the road is ending and crashing into his property and his neighbor’s.

It’s mostly teen-age drivers, he said, including a recent one in which the driver tried to pass someone slowing to stop and hit a tree across the intersection. Pete’s fence and garage door were damaged in another one.

Since we talked, there has been yet another one, in which a girl passenger was hurt and the driver was tracked down by a police dog after he ran, Pete said.

The county installed a larger stop sign after that one, he said. There also is a yellow arrow sign pointing left and right, and has ben for years. But he’d like to see the kind of flashing light one sees where Newberry Hill Road comes to the same kind of a T at Seabeck Highway.

The out basket: Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer, says, “We have talked to (Pete’s) neighbor who voiced similar concerns. We upsized the stop sign and the warning sign. We also plan to add reflective tape to the sign post to (make) it a little more conspicuous.

“We looked at the lighting, but the existing luminaire lights the intersection well.

“We talked to the Sheriff’s Department about the collisions,” he continued. “They didn’t have a clear idea as to what might be causing the motorists to miss the stop.  They did offer that one was under the influence and a couple others were driving with suspended licenses.

“Overhead flashing beacons are considered a last resort without making major modifications to the intersection. This type of control device (flashing overhead beacons) often are considered a nuisance by neighbors because they flash all day and all night, every day.

“We are monitoring the existing improvements and will consider other options if collisions continue to occur,” Jeff said.


What’s the point of 13th & Warren traffic detectors?

The in basket: I noticed that the new traffic signal at 13th and Warren in Bremerton has traffic detection wires (called “loops”) cut into the asphalt on Warren, even though left turns are forbidden by signs suspended over the intersection there and right turns don’t require a green light.

Having noticed that, I looked at Warren’s pavement just up the street at 16th Street, the entrance to Olympic College. It also has wires to detect southbound traffic, even though the only signal-controlled turn permitted there southbound was eliminated when right turns were given a Yield sign.

I asked what good the detectors do.

The out basket: Gunnar Fridricksson of the city street engineers says, “At 13th Street, the loops are functioning and being used now for vehicle

detection on Warren.  Even though left-hand turns on Warren are prohibited, the signal system still needs to know where the demand is.

“Same story at 16th Street – except for the southbound right turn lane,” he said.  “That

loop is still there, but I believe has been disconnected in the cabinet, as the Yield sign controls the lane.”

Without the loops, the signal would detect constant traffic on Warren, he said, just as it does when one of the in-pavement detectors fails. It won’t change as needed.