Monthly Archives: October 2013

Highway 304 median not done yet

The in basket: I joined an estimated 100 volunteers in cleaning up the badly overgrown median in Highway 304 coming into Bremerton last Saturday.

The combined effort made impressive progress between 9 a.m. and noon, getting from the First Street intersection westward to almost past the Kitsap Transit maintenance shop.

At noon, after downing a couple pieces of the many pizzas the city had provided for the workers, I decided not to push my just-turned-70-year-old body any further and left.

But I felt sure those who remained would be able to finish the short distance to Farragut Avenue in the remaining three hours the event was scheduled. Maybe they’d even get across Farragut to the median on the other side, I thought, though that would have mean moving the inside lane closures for the safety of the workers to the west.

Though it was a volunteer effort, it was clear the city had put a lot of money and effort into it, between closing the inside lanes, deploying electric signs to warn of them, equipment and truck drivers to haul away the displaced weeds and dump garden bark, manning the sign-up tent, and providing gloves and yellow vests for the workers.

When I came back through at 3:10 I was surprised that not much more had been done. It looked like it must have ended early.

I asked Public Works Director Chal Martin, whom I had met working in the median, what happened.

The out basket: “Several things,” Chal said. “There were sections where the going

was tougher and we ran into tougher work at the far end.”

And I wasn’t the only one who left at half-time.

“We lost some folks after lunch,” he said.

“Finally, at about 1:30, it became apparent that

people were getting tired and tired equates to a safety issue — we noticed several volunteers being less aware of the work zone and stepping out into the travel lanes. “So we began migrating folks to the exits.”

They’d intended to use the last hour to remove the lane closures anyway, he said. And parks officials had told him even before the event that  volunteers get predictably tired if you go longer than four hours.

“I was disappointed to not get the first section done,” Chal said. “But this was a learning exercise.  I think that in general, we learned a lot and accomplished a lot.

“But, of course, we need to get out there again and

complete the first section.  This needs to be done in November.”

They’ll meet at the parks department building on Lebo Boulevard Friday afternoon to plan the next step.

Differing dates for Gorst area work were intentional

The in basket: In the days before the state highway maintenance crews cut brush and swept Jersey barrier alongside Highway 16 just south of Gorst, they announced their plans with a couple of portable electronic signs

The one in Gorst said Road Work would be done on Oct. 23, but the one up by Tremont Street, facing the other direction, said it would done Oct. 22.

“Somebody screwed up,” I thought to myself and jetted off an e-mail to Olympic Region information employees to ask which was right and what was to be done.

The out basket: Happily, I didn’t use the term “somebody screwed up” in my e-mail, because it turned out to be on purpose.

The work from Gorst west was done on the 23rd and that in the other direction was done the day before, so the signs described the dates of the work for traffic moving in that direction.

The key is the barrier between the directions of travel. Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region public information state said, “We always try to give directional information when we’re talking about multi-lane highways.

“On the smaller, two-lane highways, when you close one lane you affect both directions because you have to do alternating traffic,” she said.

First Street crosswalk hard to see

The in basket: John Jurgens writes, “Can you look into the crosswalk on the north end of the Gateway right near the Chinese restaurant (at First Street and Highway 304 in Bremerton)?

“I drive a worker-driver bus in every work day and coming from the south is a challenge in bad weather,” John said. “The road sweeps a bit to the left just before the crosswalk so we don’t have a clear view of anyone crossing to the east until we are almost at the crosswalk. This morning someone was trying to cross west and I almost did not see her.

“Is there any way the city could install some sort of crossing signal to warn drivers coming from the south that someone is waiting to cross?”

He also suggests a change to discourage left turns onto First Street at the intersection, which requires driving into oncoming northbound traffic lanes briefly.

“While it is not an issue now because the Montgomery Gate (to the shipyard) is closed, I have seen cars and even a tractor-trailer sitting in the median area southbound waiting to turn left onto First Street. If the median was just a bit longer or even squared off, it might discourage these left turns.

The out basket: There is a plan completed for addressing those issues, created in 2007 and called the Non-Motorized Plan, providing improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians.

It calls for what’s called a “half-signal” that pedestrians and bicyclists can activate to stop traffic on the arterial highway long enough for them to cross. There would be no signal for First Street traffic, which can’t cross there anyway.

Seattle has a bunch of them and has a description of them you can access by asking Google for “half-signal.”

As for the median barrier, the plan calls for two new gaps in it for bikes to cross the highway, but makes no mention of lengthening it to discourage risky left turns.

But since there is no funding for the plan’s recommended changes at present, there is time for those who would like to see it done to campaign for its being added to the project, if and when it’s done.

SR303 barrier gets cleaned after all

The in basket: Carole Atkinson sent an e-mail this week asking, “Who can I send a thank you for finally cleaning off the weeds and moss from the medians on Highway 303?”

The out basket: I was surprised when I saw that it had been done when I drove through there last week. When I last talked with Duke Stryker, head of state highway maintenance here, in August, when Joan Zellinsky asked if  they could be cleaned, he couldn’t guarantee that other more pressing demands wouldn’t keep them from getting to it.

“That clean-up was done by our crews on SR 303 last week,” Duke now tells me, “when they got a chance to sweep the median barrier and take care of the moss. In August it was tough to predict whether we would have the time to get that work done, but fortunately we were able to finish other projects sooner than we anticipated and we were able to squeeze it in.”

I don’t know if Carol used Duke’s e-mail address, which I gave her, to personally thank him, but he got the message.

“Please thank Ms. Atkinson for her positive feedback,” he said. “The crew really appreciates it.”

They were doing similar work on Highway 16’s Jersey barrier just east of Gorst this week.


Why are there both DV and disabled parking license plates?

The in basket: Garland Freymann writes, “I am a Vietnam 100 percent disabled amputee veteran with Washington “DV” license plates that are given by the state with no renewal fees. I also have a disabled placard. In a cost-cutting measure for the state, why do I still have to prove by the placard that I am qualified to park in a handicapped parking zone? We could save money by not having to produce these and allow the same privilege as handicapped plates.”

The out basket: Brad Benfield of the Department of Licensing says, “The Disabled American Veteran (DV) license plates are different from the plates issued to people with disabilities that enable them to use parking spaces reserved for people with disabilities.

“They were created in different sections of state law, for different purposes, and with different qualification requirements. It is true that many of our veterans who have DV plates also qualify for disabled parking privileges, but that isn’t automatically the case.

“To qualify for Disabled American Veteran license plates, a veteran must provide proof of honorable or medical discharge and a 100 percent service-connected disability. The advantage of this type of registration is an exemption from annual renewal fees.

“To quality for Disabled Parking license plates, a person has to present  a medical certificate signed by a medical professional with a determination that the individual has one of the specific medical conditions detailed in state law.  The advantage of this type of plate is, of course, the use of parking reserved for people with disabilities.”

“Your reader’s suggestion makes sense,” Brad said, “but the bottom line is that the conditions which may cause a veteran to be disabled can be far different from the conditions that qualify a person for disabled parking privileges (and the associated plates and placards).

“We have to keep them separate because there are conditions that may result in a 100 percent military disability that would not qualify an individual for disabled parking. Also, there are many conditions that would qualify a veteran for disabled parking that would not qualify them for DV plates.”



Kitsap not affected by snow/ice cutbacks

The in basket: Jerry Darnall of Kingston e-mailed to say, “Both King County and Pierce County public works departments have made the regional news regarding the serious cutbacks to snow removal\sanding in those counties due to the depression.

“Just curious how Kitsap’s snow removal \ sanding budget projections are looking?

“Since I do not live anywhere near an essential county employee, is it time to pull the ‘all weather’ tires and go back to the lugged studs?” he asked.

The out basket: If Jerry got by with all weather tires when it snowed in previous years, he should be able to stick with them this winter.

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works and Claudia Bingham-Baker of this region of state highways both say there will be no reductions in snow and ice removal services from previous winters.

Doug has just turned out a news release about the county’s electronic notification system that provides information in any kind of inclement weather.  

“We have several options that help residents keep informed during winter storms,” he said. “These options let residents choose the best way for them to receive automatic updates during inclement weather. Subscribers choose from several options on the type of information they want, how they want it delivered, and how frequently they want updates.” There is no charge and about 7,000 residents have subscribed so far, Doug said..

Information sent through this system is posted to the County’s Facebook page and sent to the County’s Twitter feed. Winter storm updates are also posted to the county’s Inclement Weather page at and can be sent to mobile devices. The news release includes a lot more information, and can be viewed in full at the top of the county’s home page at

Then there is the snow and ice plan itself, seen online at

It will tell you how soon you can expect the roads near you to be plowed and includes a color-coded map to show each road’s priority. It shows Priority 1 roads like Hansville, Clear Creek and Holly roads and Mile Hill Drive that are plowed first, then priority 2 roads like Sunnyslope, Willamette Meridian, Wildcat and Sawdust Hill roads, which they’ll get to when the Priority 1s are clear. If the snow continues or resumes falling, they’ll go back to the Priority 1s and those who use Priority 2s and even smaller roads will have to wait.

The plan also details preventive measures, saying, “When conditions are favorable for ice forming on roadways, sand and/or salt brine is applied to the road surface. Initial sanding and/or brining operations prioritize hills, curves, intersections, bridges, and elevated structures on Priority 1 and Priority 2 routes.”

Bump in Highway 3’s outside lane to be tended to

The in basket: Pat Fuhrer of the Silverdale engineering consultants MAP Ltd. e-mailed to ask ,”Have you driven southbound  SR 3 in front of the Bayview apartments since the state closed the lane Sept. 20 & 21 to repair the culvert trench recently?  It’s worse now then it was before!   Do you know if another repair is planned soon, and might they use a lean concrete backfill so it doesn’t settle again?”

The out basket: They are aware of the problem, just north of the Kitsap Way interchange in Bremerton, and will be fixing it temporarily soon and permanently next year, says Duke Stryker, head of maintenance for state highways locally.

An 18-inch-wide culvert that runs under the highway was damaged in last November’s heavy rains, he said. They had to dig down 14 feet to repair the damaged section, and found that the entire culvert was in bad shape.

So they contracted to have a 16-inch-wide liner inserted through it’s entire length last month, which required another 14-foot trench tin which they had to “wrestle the liner through there, after which it was backfilled and repaved,” he said.

But the compaction of the finished product didn’t hold up, leaving a depression.

“We’ve had some settlement, similar to what we had before,” Duke said. “We’ll put some cold mix in there and keep and eye on it, and put it on our paving schedule next year.”

Revisiting licensing of tribal casino vans

The in basket: In my most recent column, regarding government exempt licensing of Suquamish tribal vehicles, specifically a van serving the Clearwater Casino, Don Erickson says, “You failed to answer the question. The operative word in the question is ‘Casino.’ Are casino vehicles considered part of the tribal government? Is this a misuse of exempt vehicle status by the casino?”

The out basket: Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing expanded on his original answer and says, “State law grants recognized tribal governments the right to register vehicles with exempt license plates when the vehicles are used for tribal business. The law is not specific about exactly what a government can or can’t do with an exempt vehicle.

“In general, if a tribal government owns the vehicle and owns the casino, we tend to view that as tribal government business. If a casino is not owned by the tribal government, the use of a tribally owned vehicle with exempt license plates becomes questionable.”

The law says exempt vehicles include “Vehicles owned or leased by the governing body of an Indian tribe located within this state and recognized as a governmental entity by the United States department of the interior, and used exclusively in its service.”

Port Madison Enterprises is the nominal owner of Clearwater Casino and its Web site says it was established in 1987 as an agency of the Suquamish Tribe. That would seem to legitimize use of exempt plates on the casino’s vans.

Tribal vehicles licensed as government vehicles

The in basket: Byrd Thibodaux e-mails to say, “I saw a Clearwater Casino van with a WA State XMT license plate I04495. Are the tribal casinos considered government agencies?  Are these plates free or do the tribes pay any fees for them?

The out basket: Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing says, “Tribal governments, like city and  county governments and state agencies, are entitled to register vehicles they own (registered to the tribal government, not to a tribal member) as exempt vehicles.

“When a government vehicle is first licensed as an exempt vehicle, the government or agency owning it pays fees that are typically around $30 to $35, depending on how it is titled and the number and size of the plates issued. Once licensed, the vehicle is exempt from annual renewal requirements fees.”

Rules are opposite for bikes and pedestrians on roadways

The in basket: Irene Olsen asks, “When walking along a road as a pedestrian, should you walk with the traffic flow or facing the oncoming traffic? And how about if you are on a bicycle?”

The out basket: This is a quick and easy one. State law requires pedestrians to walk toward oncoming traffic, so they can see an approaching danger.

The opposite is true of bicycles, which state law requires be ridden with traffic. While one might argue, as I once did, that bicyclists need to see approaching danger as much as pedestrians, the following from bicyclinginfo,org cites author Ken Kifer’s explanation as to why I was wrong.

“Turning motorists are not looking where wrong-way riders are riding, the motorist and bicyclist have limited time and little space in which to react to each others’ presence, the closing speed of a bicyclist and motorist riding head on into each other is higher than if the bicyclist and motorist were traveling in the same direction and riding with traffic decreases the number of vehicles passing you, and doesn’t bring you into conflict with bicyclists who are riding the right way with traffic.”