Monthly Archives: July 2013

Fiber optic installation made an odd scene

The in basket: My wife, the Judybaker, phoned one recent morning to report an odd site. A line of workers in neon orange vests were positioned along Mile Hill Drive in South Kitsap, each one appearing to be pulling wire out a utility box on the shoulder. The boxes, and hence the workers, were each about 50 yards apart between Bulman Road and Woods Road.

I went to check it out and it was as described. I’d never seen anything like it, so I stopped and asked if they were with Wave Cable.

The out basket: No, said Dan O’Brien, who was supervising the mostly very young crew along with Daren Miller, acting head of the Kitsap County public works signal shop. It was a county job, Dan said, to link the traffic signals on Mile Hill Drive from Long Lake Road to California Avenue with fiber optic cable.

And they weren’t pulling it out, they were putting it in, each worker pulling it from the previous utility box as they worked east toward California Avenue, curling it into a temporary loop that gave the impression the cable was coming out.

The cable will allow the electronics shop to diagnose and repair problems with the signals without having to drive to the location, Dan said. If there is no problem, drivers shouldn’t notice any change.

The utility boxes were installed when the county widened and repaved Mile Hill Drive between Long Lake Road and California Avenue several years ago and have sat empty waiting for the day when the fiber optic cable was strung, Dan said. They put in a mile and a half of the cable that day, Daren said.

Other county locations have the remote diagnosis capability already, he said. All of Silverdale does.

As I drove away, I noted the extreme youth of the chain gang,  the county’s public works summer hires.

Tim Eyman and Galloping Gertie

The in basket:  When I read the item in Friday’s paper about someone wanting to name the Skagit River bridge at I-5 after Tim Eyman, “dedicated to (his) efforts to reduce Washington state tax revenue and the collapse of the Skagit River bridge…” it wasn’t immediately clear to me whether it was proposing an actual plaudit or taking a tongue-in-cheek swipe at Eyman for depriving projects such as fortifying the aged bridge the money to do it.

Eyman’s response that personal attacks on him are “silly” cleared that up.

But had it been a real plaudit, it would not be without precedent.

I’ve been hanging onto a new release for about a year, announcing that “the state Department of Transportation and the American Society of Civil Engineers have joined in recognizing the collapse of the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge (in 1940) as a major event in the development of building bridges.”

It announced a ceremony at the Living War Memorial Park at the Tacoma end of the existing Narrows bridges last Aug. 11 dedicating the old bridge as an ASCE Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

“Even though no human lives were lost,” the news release said, “the unforgettable images of twisting metal and concrete deck sections crashing into Puget Sound immortalized engineering gone wrong. Galloping Gertie, open for only four months at the time of its collapse, became a powerful symbol of the importance of aerodynamics on suspension-bridge stability.”

The ceremony would “formally recognize the significant effect the failure of the 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge had on advancing the science of suspension-bridge design,” it said.

I didn’t get down to that park on Aug. 11, and during a brief, wind-chilled visit there last fall, I didn’t see any permanent evidence of the honor. I asked if there was one and if the ceremony was held.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker of the Olympic Region of WSDOT, replied to say the ceremony was held.

“The chapter (of ASCE) funded the fabrication of a very nice plaque commemorating the contribution of Galloping Gertie to the importance of aerodynamics in suspension bridge design, which they ceremoniously presented to WSDOT (Kevin Dayton, Olympic Region Administrator).

“They are working to raise more money to build a permanent display in War Memorial Park, in which the plaque would be embedded. But they’ve not achieved that yet.”



Towed vehicles, HOV lanes and passengers

The in basket:  Don Geidel of Seabeck asks, “Are passenger vehicles towing travel trailers or boats allowed in the HOV/car pool lanes if two or more people are in the car?”

He hadn’t been able to get an answer, he said.

The out basket: I didn’t see any reason they wouldn’t be, but I checked with Trooper Russ Winger, my State Patrol contact here to be sure. I expanded on the inquiry by asking if it mattered whether the other people were in the towed vehicle, whether it’s even legal for a person to be in a towed vehicle, and whether the rules in that regard are different for pets.

The out basket: Russ replied, “A vehicle with two or more occupants towing a trailer can utilize the HOV lane as long as the combined gross vehicle weight of the two vehicles is less than 10,000 pounds and the vehicle can keep up with the flow of traffic and not impede the flow of traffic in  the lane.

“Persons cannot ride in a towed vehicle, such as a travel trailer or boat. There is no provision against pets riding in a towed trailer, except if the trailer was open to the outside. Then the animal would need to be restrained and secured by leash or container so the animal could not fall out of the vehicle. This is no different than pets in riding in the back of a truck.”

Then Russ did a little expanding of his own, by referencing the  change made just this year in the law on riding in a towed vehicle on a flat-bed tow truck.

People can now do that, when there isn’t room for them in the cab of the tow truck or they have some disability that keeps them from getting into the cab and if they have a means of communicating with the tow truck driver in an emergency. It doesn’t say so, but I imagine the car’s horn would qualify.

I think having a towed vehicle catch fire that isn’t noticed by the towing driver, giving the towed passengers no means of escape is the main rationale for the law in the first place.

The last time I dealt with a limitation based on the weight of a vehicle it was too obvious that I don’t have any real experience in that area, but I think a 10,000-pound combined limit would exclude a lot of fifth wheelers.


Where’d all the idle RR cars go?

The in basket: A couple of years ago I wrote a column explaining the long row of empty container-carrying railroad cars that lined I-5 for what seemed like miles just north of Centralia.

They had been idled by the economic slump, I had learned, and were essentially mothballed until they were needed to resume container shipments from the West Coast to other parts of the nation.

On a trip through that area the second week of July, I noticed they were gone. I decided to find out if they had been put to work, when they were hauled away and to where.

The out basket: Dale King of Tacoma Rail, an arm of the city of Tacoma which owns those tracks, said they aren’t actually all gone. But a lot of them have been removed, some to be scrapped.

“The cars are not all gone but some are just no longer in sight of the adjacent highways,” he said. “The cars have been slowly moving out of storage for rehabilitation by their new owner, Greenbrier Leasing.

“Those that are not repairable are being scrapped at Schnitzer Steel in Tacoma and Portland,” he said. “At the rate they are moving, there is still about two years’ supply hidden in the woods.”

Though Tacoma owns the tracks, he said, “they are currently operated by a new start-up company, Western Washington Railroad, who is leasing the line from Maytown down to Chehalis.

“This portion of the Mountain Division is for sale and the city is currently negotiating a purchase agreement with Lewis County.

“The intermodal flat cars were owned by GATX Leasing when they were put into storage and then sold by GATX to Greenbrier Leasing about two years ago,” Dale said.


Left turn signal at Manette Bridge is oddly positioned

The in basket: Jim Wieck and Katherine Adams both say the left turn signal for those heading south on 11th Street at the Manette Bridge in Bremerton is easy to miss.

Jim says, “As you approach from the north, the two traffic lights for the inside and outside Washington Avenue lanes appear to be located too far to the left side of the lanes.

“The inside lane traffic light appears to line up with the turn lane. Although there is a turn light directly above the turn lane, I have seen drivers not recognize that light but use the inside Washington Avenue light to determine when they can proceed, which can result in running the red turn light.

“I’ve probably done it,” he said. “While riding with my wife she did it and I have observed a car in front of me do the same.

“If this illusion is not corrected, I can imagine future accidents caused by drivers responding to the wrong traffic light.”

Katherine writes, “The left turn light is sometimes not seen and the drivers follow the light for the through lane. Maybe it isn’t located correctly?

“This happened to us once so we are very careful and I have seen it happen numerous times and it is scary if you are driving through on Washington going north and a car turns in front of you.

The out basket: In my few times through there, I haven’t reacted to the wrong signal head, but apparently a lot of people do.

I see a possible explanation in that the left turn signal isn’t mounted on the same crossarm as the two through signals. Instead, it’s mounted on the back of the crossarm for the signals controlling oncoming traffic. I haven’t been able to get an explanation for the unusual design.

That signal was designed by the state, but it’s operation is controlled by the city. Street Engineer Gunnar Fridriksson says they changed that left turn signal to go green at the same time as the two through signal heads, rather than following them as was the case when they first went into service. They did it because a number of vehicles were running the red while turning left, he said.

That will eliminate the problem described by Jim and Katherine except when the left turn signal “times out” for lack of traffic and goes red while the through lights stay green.

“It sounds like we still have a little issue,” Gunnar said. “We have discussed adding a secondary display for the turn on the signal pole itself, but have simply not had the time/resources to do so yet.”

Rights on red prompt question

The in basket: Lois Clauson writes, “I know it is legal in Washington state to make a right turn on a red light if it is safe to do so. I was told recently that it is not legal if there are two red lights at the intersection.  If that is correct, what is the reasoning behind it?”
The out basket: There are at least two traffic signals at almost every intersection in this state. It complies with a federal guideline requiring that stop signals be “double-hung,” providing redundancy if one burns out or is obscured by other traffic.
I can’t tell from Lois’ question whether she is addressing only places like 11th Street and Kitsap Way in Bremerton and the northbound Highway 3 off-ramp to Highway 305 in Poulsbo where there are two right-turn signal arrows regulating the turn. In both places a driver in either of those two lanes may turn right on red after stopping and yielding to any traffic with a green light, making sure he or she doesn’t encroach on the adjacent lane while turning.
If only the outer red signal points right, or if none do, in most cases only the outer lane is available for a right on red. In some places, signs or pavement markings will do the same thing as a second red light arrow, permit a right on red from the inner lane. Southbound Warren Avenue at 11th Street in Bremerton used to be such a place, before its recent reconstruction.

Army uses Highway 16 to train long-haul drivers

The in basket: As I returned from the Tacoma area on July 12, I saw something I’d never seen before. A convoy of four long- haul flatbed trucks, all Army vehicles driven by uniformed personnel, was making its way north on Highway 16 in South Kitsap. Signs reading “Student Driver’ were mounted on the front and back of each truck, none of which was carrying any cargo.

When they reached the Sedgwick interchange, they pulled off, and stopped at the red light at the head of the ramp. But when the light changed to green, they pulled across on the on-ramp and continued toward Gorst. I exited at Sedgwick so was left to wonder how far they went.

It obviously was a training mission, but I also wondered if the Army regularly uses Highway 16 for such things.

The out basket: Not surprisingly, there are too many Army units in the region, from Joint Base Lewis McChord to Army Reserve and National Guard units, for me to pin it down too precisely. I wasn’t smart enough to note the truck numbers on the sides of the vehicles that would have allowed Army public affairs to tell me where the trip originated.

But Col. David Johnson of the Army’s I Corp said trainee drivers of Army vehicles have to leave the bases to encounter freeway conditions, so it’s quite possible Highway 16 is often the site of such training. It may also have been a trip to pick up some cargo at one of the Navy bases in Kitsap County piggy-backed on a training exercise, he said.

Have any of you readers encountered student Army drivers motoring along Highway 16 or other local freeways?

Missing right turn opportunities at 11th and Warren

The in basket: Internet user jdubbya38 asked on the Road Warrior blog at if I’d addressed the reason the city of Bremerton eliminated the second of the two lanes from which a driver was permitted to make a right turn from southbound Warren Avenue to westbound 11th Street.

Then Lee and Lorna Crawford and Lorna’s sister, Linda Verbon, all told me their car tires had hit something on the curb as they made that right turn from the outside lane since the city revised the intersection. They initially hadn’t noticed the arc of RPMs (raised pavement markers or “turtles”) there that encourages drivers to swing out wide, and after seeing them, they said almost everyone making the turn cuts inside them.

While I was at it, I asked the reason for eliminating the dedicated right turn lane from westbound 11th to northbound Warren at the same intersection.

The out basket: Gunnar Fridriksson of the city street engineers says of the turtles in the right turn, “We actually have a similar marking out on SR 304 eastbound right by First Street. We initially had complaints about motorists hitting the curb there, so used RPMs to highlight/encourage them bumping out a bit from the curb.

“At 11th and Warren, we needed to contour the concrete panel right against the curb for storm drainage.  The contour is much more evident in a smaller vehicle than a truck, especially right at the curb.  It is not very noticeable a few feet out, so we used RPM’s again to highlight/encourage swinging the corner a little wider.

“The reason for the double-right turn lane southbound from Warren to 11th (in the first place) was the short length of the turn lane that was here previously.  With the new turn lane being over twice the length, we did not need the second lane anymore as the new right turn lane has the capacity needed.”

As for the eliminated right turn lane from westbound 11th to Warren, “We found that larger vehicles, particularly transit and school buses, were having problems making the corner without either driving over the new ADA ramps and sidewalk or swinging wide across multiple lanes.

“It was decided to eliminate the right-turn lane and move the lane further from the curb to give the larger vehicles additional space to make the movement.”



What’s our $2 noxious weed fee being spent on?

The in basket: Michael Ball writes to ask, “What is the Kitsap County Noxious Weed Program doing with our tax dollars?

“With the amount of noxious weeds (scotch broom, gorse) present on our roadways,” he said, “I was wondering what Kitsap county is doing to prevent and eradicate the spread of noxious weeds? It doesn’t appear that anything is happening, each year the scotch broom seems to double and quadruple in size. On state highways it doesn’t appear that the state is doing anything in Kitsap County either.”

The out basket: It happened that I was working up a Road Warrior column about this year’s noxious weed spraying program when Michael’s e-mail came in.

He emphasizes scotch broom, but noxious as it is, it isn’t a target of the county program. Neither are Himalayan blackberries, which also strike me as noxious, except when their tasty berries are abundant.

But the focus of the program is attacking non-native weeds that force out native plants before they get too numerous to eradicate.

Dana Coggon, head of the program, explains.

“Scotch broom is not a designated noxious weed for control here in Kitsap County,” she said. “The State Weed Laws RCW 17.10 and WAC 16-750 state that “the goal of the Weed Board is to slow the spread of designated noxious weeds. Unfortunately for many Western Washington counties, Scotch broom is so widespread that it is not seen as good use of resources to mandate its control.

“Our goal is to stop the spread of many weeds before they become as widespread as Scotch broom. Your fees go towards trainings that are held throughout the county to inform citizens about the impacts of invasive weeds in hopes of empowering individuals to make a difference one site at a time.

 “We do, however, advocate for citizens to work on their Scotch broom and we have worked with home owners associations to put together community Scotch broom pulls in many neighborhoods. If you would like some information on how to set up a community pull, please contact me. (

“Many of us are allergic to Scotch broom,” she said. “I also find it difficult and frustrating that there is not more action on the control of this menace not only in our back yards but also along the roadways. I have been working with the county road crews and the State Department of Transportation to address some of the larger problem areas

“Unfortunately the county weed control program has only been in existence since 2005 and the Scotch broom has had about a 20-30 year jump on me.

“The best motto that I have with the Scotch broom is ‘One a day keeps millions away.’ If we all (pulled out) just one a day not only on our properties but also in public areas we could make a difference.

“I would like to have funds to address all of the noxious weed issues in the county, but unfortunately we are relegated to addressing the few challenges that our board feels are the highest priorities.

“I invite you to attend one of our County Noxious Weed Control Board meetings to voice your concerns about what the noxious weed priorities should be. I also challenge you to become more involved and active in our program to help stop the spread of invasive weeds.”

So what are the priorities that trump Scotch broom? That’s the subject of the next Road Warrior.

Backpack sprayers to attack noxious weeds

The in basket: Before Michael Ball triggered my inquiry into the lack of action by our county noxious program against Scotch broom (see the previous Road Warrior column), I got this from county.

“The Kitsap County Noxious weed control program is conducting on-going noxious weed control
throughout Kitsap County from June through September to control various noxious weeds. Some of the targeted species will include tansy, poison hemlock, hogweed, chervil, purple loosestrife, knotweed and
other state-listed noxious weeds (per WAC 16.750).
Staff is using aquatic formulations of Glyphosate,Triclopyr, and some select treatments of lmazapyr. All treatments conducted by County Noxious Weed Staff will be targeted treatments using backpack sprayers. Any areas of high foot traffic will be posted with information indicating the product used and the acceptable time for re-entry to an area.

“If you have any questions please contact the County Noxious Weed Control Program Coordinator at Follow our progress on Facebook”

I asked if the areas to be done are shown online anywhere and whether they are mostly along roads and highways.

Dana Coggon told me last year’s locations are shown on maps available online, but not this year’s. And, yes, she said, they were mostly along roads.

Giant hogweed, milk thistle, egg leaf spurge and European hawkweed are the top four priorities. The full list (Internet gibberish alert!! Mind-boggling online addresses ahead!! Prepare to cut and paste) can be seen at

The reasons the plants are problems are shown at

Maps of 2012 work are at

And that Facebook page listed above has some fairly lively discussions.