Monthly Archives: June 2013

Burwell & Pacific, signs and buses

The in basket: Melani Williams thinks the city of Bremerton should post a sign on westbound Burwell Street at Pacific Avenue saying that left turners must yield to oncoming traffic when the light is green.

She regularly makes that turn to go down to Kitsap Credit Union, she said.

The out basket: Yielding to oncoming traffic in making a left turn at a green ball light is what’s called a rule of the road, of which drivers are expected to be knowledgable.

Street engineer sometimes have signs put up to emphasize rules of the road, but usually don’t want to incur the expense.

Gunnar Fridriksson of the city street engineers says, “You are correct, that is the rule of the road so no sign is actually

needed.  However, one can be added if there starts to be an accident history where a reminder may be helpful to prevent them.”

I last wrote about turning left there back in August of 2011, when I took the opportunity to once again publicize a little known law permitting vehicles to turn left against a red light, whether a solid ball or an arrow, but only onto a one-way street and only after coming to a complete stop and yielding to any traffic with the right of way.

There are not many such locations in our county, mostly signal-controlled freeway on-ramps, but Burwell and Pacific is another one.

That column was about having to wait behind buses when the light is green, but it mentioned that transit officials didn’t know about the red light law. John Clauson, since named transit’s executive director, said then he’d look into the law’s applicability to buses. I neglected until now to find out what they decided.

Jack Freer, Transit’s operations manager, says that though it’s legal, it’s not something the bus drivers should do.

“I don’t think this would be a safe practice for transit…at that intersection specifically” he said, “because there is a fair amount of eastbound traffic on Burwell intending to make a right turn into one of those (Pacific Avenue) lanes…plus there is a fair amount of traffic southbound on Pacific that may be intending to continue on down Pacific or turn left on to Burwell, in front of the bus.

“If an operator misjudged the intentions of any of those other vehicles, an accident would most likely occur. For the most part, most of us are not aware that a left turn on a red light, after coming to a stop, is allowed…and confusion, and consternation, would most likely ensue. Frankly, I don’t think the few seconds this maneuver might save is worth the risk of an accident.”

Since I don’t want to be contributing to accidents, and Jack doesn’t say it specifically, I want to emphasize one more time that left turns against a red light are allowed ONLY ONTO A ONE-WAY STREET. And that probably isn’t legal in other states. I’ve never heard an explanation as to why it’s permitted here.

 

Has new Silverdale roundabout helped with congestion?

The in basket: When the roundabout Kitsap County built south of Silverdale was being planned, the county said it was a safety project that wouldn’t address congestion. I thought that an odd disclaimer based on my observations of other roundabouts.

Since the project was complete, I’ve been there at rush hour a couple of times and found the traffic to being flowing smoothly, with no more serious backups that I see at the Port Orchard roundabout, which I frequent more often.

Friends who live close by on Chico Way say they have the same impression, that congestion has lessened

I asked the county if their prediction before the project opened was just to keep expectations low or if the roundabout was exceeding their own expectations.

The out basket: Tina Nelson, the county public works senior program manager, says, “During the design phase we were honest with the public about what the project was intended to accomplish, and what it wasn’t going to accomplish, based on studies and data available.

“This was an intersection control/safety project. This project has met our expectations. It is a safer intersection. It is much easier and safer to get to and from Chico Way.

“Those were two of our objectives with the project.  Another was to construct something that we didn’t need to re-construct when we address the capacity of the Silverdale Way corridor in the future.

“As for congestion relief with the new roundabout, we don’t see it.  If there is perception out there that it has relieved congestion, great.  Our impression is the roundabout functions well, and the public has grown accustomed to it.  As the landscaping has established itself, it has become a pleasing and positive gateway as you enter Silverdale.”

What do you readers who frequent the roundabout daily at rush hour think?

New Port Orchard path’s entrance called ‘most dangerous’

The in basket: Don Rude of Port Orchard says, “Bay Street, westbound just west of Rockwell Street, is the start of the new walking path. This is the most dangerous spot in town.

“A car can go to the right and down that path very easy, either a young driver being stupid or a DUI driver! There should be a curb along Bay Street! There should be a steel post in the middle of the path where it starts to go down hill! Whoever engineered that path was not thinking straight.”

The out basket: It’s not done yet, says Mark Dorsey, public works director for Port Orchard. Fencing and guardrail to keep drivers from making the kind of mistake Don envisions are yet to come.

Uphill ride from BI ferry terminal gets bicycle-unfriendly

The in basket: Casper “Cap” Lane bicycles to and from Seattle on the Bainbridge Island ferry and finds a fairly comfortable ride up Highway 305 after disembarking in Winslow turning into a hairy competition with cars just uphill from where a bridge appears just off the shoulder, running parallel to the highway

Beyond the end of the bridge, on which he says bicycles are expected to be walked, not ridden, the shoulder pretty much disappears and bicyclists are in more danger of being hit by cars. I imagine a lot of those cars are traveling pretty fast, based on those I’ve seen leaving ferries elsewhere, especially at rush hour.

He wonders if there is any hope of extending the shoulder from the terminal all the way up to High School Road.

The out basket: There is hope, as the city is working on just that, but another spot will be done first.

K. Chris Hammer, engineering manager for the city of Bainbridge Island public works, says, “We expect to receive a State Ped-Bike program grant for Olympic Drive between Winslow Way and Harborview.” That’s down close to the ferry landing.

“The City is also pursuing grant opportunities for the ‘next mile’ of the Sound-to-Olympics trail along SR305 between Winslow Way and High School road,” Chris said. “This project would provide for a separated pathway.”

 

Driving with disabled placard on your mirror

The in basket: Beverly Romig said it irritates her to see drivers with handicapped parking placards dangling from their rearview mirrors as they drive.

The placards instruct the driver to remove it from the mirror when driving.

She asked about it at a recent AARP driving course, she said, and the instructor didn’t have an answer. He suggested she ask me.

When I asked if it’s an infraction to disregard the instruction, I drew a comparison between that, air fresheners, fuzzy dice and even driving with a dog in your lap, something that isn’t specifically illegal, but can result in a citation if the driver is obviously struggling to control the car.

The out basket: Trooper Russ Winger of the State Patrol here, says, “I am not aware of any specific (law) that prohibits driving with a disabled placard hanging on a mirror.

 

“I would say that it is a bad idea” Russ said, “to drive with any object – or pet – that might interfere with the driver’s ability to observe other motorists, make appropriate eye contact with other motorists at intersections, or identify hazards to safe driving. Specific items hanging from a mirror are not identified in any RCW.

 

“Any officer would have to make a judgment call when observing this type of thing,” he said. “If an infraction ticket were issued the officer should be able to articulate why they felt it was a clear hazard. More than likely it would be after the fact, when this situation may have either caused or contributed to a collision.”

Is new Ridgetop traffic signal coming soon?

The in basket: Robin Jensen wonders when the promised new traffic signal on Ridgetop Boulecard at the southbound off-ramp from Highway 303 will be done.

“This project is still showing on the (county’s Transportation Improvement Plan) for construction beginning this month,” he said. “Because this signal has been needed for so long, Ridgetop residents are looking for signs of construction every day. Can you confirm whether this project is scheduled to start soon?”

The out basket: Quite soon, actually. Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says, “The project is out to bid with bid opening set for June 18. Work is expected to begin in July sometime. We will post more information after we open bids.

For what it’s worth, the bid specs can be seen online at http://www.kitsapgov.com/pw/pdf/CRP_3658/3658_Ridgetop_sr303_bid_inv.pdf)

The county has taken over this work at a state intersection to compensate for congestion on detours when Bucklin Hill Road closes next year for replacement of the Clear Creek bridge.

 

When safety belts are painful

The in basket: Margaret Hereth asked me at The Willows senior apartments the other day whether a pacemaker scar that makes wearing a seat belt over the shoulder uncomfortable would allow a person to legally were it under her arm rather than over it.

The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger, my contact for WSP  enforcement issues, replies that RCW 46.61.688 confers that privilege. It reads, “This section does not apply to an operator or passenger who possesses written verification from a licensed physician that the operator or passenger is unable to wear a safety belt for physical or medical reasons.”

Marine Drive lane markings demonstrate city problem

The in basket: Claudia Hunt writes, “The Kitsap Way and Marine Drive intersection is one I negotiate frequently. The lane markings have become obliterated so completely that twice in the recent past I’ve met someone turning left from Kitsap Way entering Marine Drive occupying the left turn lane I need to exit Marine Drive.

“In daylight hours, it’s possible to avoid collision but if it should happen at night the potential for an unhappy outcome increases,” she said.

The out basket: The missing lane markings are raised pavement markers, RPMs or “turtles,” rather than stripes. The entire two rows separating the turn lane from the northbound Marine Drive lane are gone, with the mastic that used to secure them still visible.

I often report that street departments restripe their streets, roads and highways each year, but that was before I noticed Bremerton has as many or more RPM lines as stripes.

I asked if they are all replaced annually, and what is planned for Marine Drive at Kitsap Way.

The out basket: Gunnar Fridriksson of the Bremerton street engineers says where the city uses stripes, mostly for edge lines, they will be renewed shortly by Kitsap County paint crews under an agreement between the city and county.

“The city adopted RPMs for roadway delineation quite a few years ago,” he said. “This was done when we started looking at life-cycle costs for an annual painting program, or using RPMs that can easily last 7-10 years before needing replacement.

“Good example – the Manette Bridge.  The fog lines on the bridge need to be painted every year, but the centerline RPM’s are still there and in good shape. Or the Eastpark development and Schley Boulevard.  The City has not had to do any maintenance on either street since the RPM’s where installed several years ago.

“The main contributors to a shorter lifespan on the RPMs are snow plows and heavy traffic,.” Gunnar said. “Plows can literally scrape the RPMs right off of the pavement, which is why the city plows are equipped with a hard rubber edge rather than a straight steel blade.  And traffic, especially in a turning movement, can pop them up as well.

“In years past, we typically would go out with good weather and replace buttons about the same time as the county would go out and paint. The last few years have had us deferring maintenance, as the real issue here is resources.  We are trying to get caught up this year – same as getting the marked crosswalks freshened up a bit.” The street crew may already be replacing missing RPMs, he said.

Marine Drive’s missing RPMS at Kitsap Way are to be replaced this summer, he said

First grader says speed signs should say Speed Up! too

The in basket: Denise Kilkenny-Tittle wrote, “About three months ago, my 7-year-old son Adrian asked whether the temporary electric speed sensor signs tell people to speed up if they are going too slow.

“I told him that I didn’t know, so one evening when nobody was behind me, I went really slow in my car to see what the sign would say.  The sign did not light up at all.  It did not register. So I tried again to determine at what speed the sign is activated. For a 35 mph zone, the sign only registered speeds of 20 mph and higher.

“Well,  my son said we need to tell somebody to fix that and make the electric sign say, ‘Speed Up!’ because cars that are going too slow are a hazard and cause traffic.”

She had Adrian write a letter which read, “Frum Adrian Tittle, age 7, grade 1st. Why don’t electric slowdown signs say speed up when someone is going slow and cases traffic.  That way there’s no traffic. To Road Warrior.”

The out basket: I can’t be sure, but Adrian may be the youngest inquirer ever to seek advice in the Road Warrior’s 2,011 columns (I’ve been keeping track).

Comedian and vegetable mangler Gallagher has a bit about seeing things with new eyes, and Adrian certainly used new eyes when he looked at the speed signs.

I asked the county for an answer.

They sent one to Adrian and copied it to me. County traffic engineer Jeff Shea told him, “That was a great question you asked. Unfortunately our signs are not designed to do what you have asked. We don’t have as many problems with slow cars as we do with cars going too fast. That is why our signs flash at motorists going faster than the speed limit.

“It’s also hard for police officers to write a ticket when motorists go too slowly. Motorists can drive slower than the speed limit; it’s not against the law to go slower than the speed limit. The speed limit is just that, the maximum speed drivers can go.

“On most of our roads, slower cars are not normally a safety problem, but they can be an inconvenience to other motorists.  On high speed highways, slow cars can be a real safety hazard so some highways have a minimum speed limit. Our local roads do not.

“There is a Washington State law that addresses slow moving cars. This state law requires a slower driver to pull off to the side of the road and let traffic get around them when they delay more than five cars.

“So Adrian, it is unlikely that you will see a sign that flashes at cars to make them go faster.  We try very hard to keep county roads as safe as possible.  We focus on cars going too fast.  They are the ones that cause a lot more accidents than slow-moving cars.  The accidents they cause tend to be very serious with injuries and sometimes deaths.

“Thanks again for your interesting question.  It’s great to see the drivers of tomorrow learning about our traffic today.”

The Road Warrior was on McWilliams Road the other day and the bossy sign there (It flashes “Slow Down” if you’re even one mile over the 25 mph limit) appeared to light up at 15 mph.

Opticom misuse alleged by readers

The in basket: Mention in the recent Road Warrior column about Kitsap Transit policy that its drivers aren’t the use the Opticom emitter system to change traffic signals to green as they approach unless they are behind schedule brought two similar comments.

Jane Rebelowski said, “The buses use it when leaving the transfer station off of Wheaton Way. How could they possibly be late if I just saw them sitting in the parking lot for 10 minutes?”

And Colleen Smidt wrote, “There must be a heck of a lot of buses behind schedule as they are entering and leaving the transfer complex on Auto Center Way. It is easy to watch all of this play out as I am sitting in the backup at the exit light at the end of the southbound ramp trying to make a left onto Kitsap Way around 4:50 in the afternoon.

“Several times a month the backup from the lights being out of rotation from the buses has traffic backed up onto the shoulder of the highway, making for very unsafe traffic conditions.

I asked Transit management to explain.

The out basket: Transit Executive Director John Clauson replies, “I do not have a reason why nor, until now, was I aware that this was going on with the regularity your reader suggests. Have you heard of this problem at this intersection, at this time of day from many others?

“I know that when a person has to travel each day in what is considered heavy traffic, any delay feels like hours and becomes a major concern. I’m sure your reader wonders if it is really needed or fair.

“I will have folks look into what is going on here and deal with it as needed,” John said.

Those wanting to answer John’s question about others seeing this, you can go online at kitsapsun.com and comment at the bottom of this column on the Road Warrior blog.