Monthly Archives: November 2013

Ross Point parking limit puzzles Road Warrior

The in basket: I noticed a couple of months ago that the Ross Point area on Highway 166 had been posted for four-hour parking. That’s where smelt fishermen park their cars while they fish in Sinclair Inlet.

There can be dozen of cars lining the highway when the fish are running, but it seemed odd that anyone would need to park longer than four hours in pursuit of smelt, or for any other reason.  I asked what prompted the time limit.

The out basket: Port Orchard Police Chief Geoffrey Marti says, “Approximately two years ago we received many complaints regarding a homeless encampment that had developed at Ross Point. In investigating, we discovered a large campsite with several make-shift structures. The grounds had also become unsanitary, as you can imagine. A cleanup was organized, it took two days and several dumpsters.

“In order to prevent a reoccurrence and monitor this issue, four-hour parking limits allowed for lawful use of this area but helped curtail the developments of homeless camps,” he said.

If I’m wrong about what species the fisherman are after, I’m sure I’ll hear about it from you readers.

Worker/driver program is unique in the nation

The in basket: When I recently joined Bremerton Public Works execs on a tour of city projects, Managing Street Engineer Gunnar Fridriksson told me something that came as quite a surprise.

He said Kitsap Transit’s worker/driver bus program, in which civilians, mostly working for the Navy, drive transit-provided motor coaches to and from work, picking up and dropping off co-workers en route, is the only thing of its kind in the whole nation.

Given its success here, that was hard to believe.

The out basket: And yet, it appears to be true. Well, nearly true. Mason Transit has four such routes, but they serve the same work sites.

John Clauson, Kitsap Transit’s executive director, says there were only eight or 10 routes in the program they inherited in 1983 from the private bus company that was the forerunner to Kitsap Transit. Today there are 30 routes, plus those Mason Transit runs.

“As far as I know, we are the only system in the U.S. that has this type of program and I know that we are the only one in the state, along with Mason Transit now, that have this type of unique operation,” John said.

I Googled and Binged “workers/driver bus programs” and found no others

Gunnar made his remark as we watched a procession of worker/driver buses make their way north on Washington Avenue at shipyard quitting time. Public Works director Chal Martin was there, too, and observed that city plans to reduce

Washington to one lane in each direction in 2015 would never work if the buses weren’t taking dozens if not hundreds of single-car drivers off that street by providing them rides to and from work.

Temporary Highway 3 repair said to have made things worse

The in basket: Lee Hanson and John Pearson both say the temporary repair of the depression in the outside lane of southbound Highway 3 just north of the Kitsap Way interchange made it worse, not better.

Duke Stryker, head of state highway maintenance crews here, said in October that a culvert under the highway there was damaged in last November’s heavy rainstorm and that permanent repair would have to wait until next year. But they’d due a temporary repair in the meantime, he said.

The out basket: I didn’t drive over the depression before the temporary work was done, but have now. I can’t say it’s much of a disruption, at least not in my 2013 Malibu.

Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region state highway information office, says, “Our maintenance crews are keeping an eye on SR 3 at the location your readers mentioned. We will re-patch the area when we see more settling.”

Enormous Chico Way stump just part of stream restoration story

The in basket: The Road Warrior today will step a few feet off the road  (Chico Way, precisely) to ask about an enormous stump that has found its way onto Kitsap County property in Chico.

I saw the behemoth when I took advantage of the Salmon Tour the county offered a few weeks ago. On the Golf Club Road park property, there the stump sat. Some of those touring the site photographed their kids sitting on it.

There was no sign of a big hole from which it tipped. It was well-weathered, indicating it hadn’t been alive for years, if not decades. Moving it there looked like it must have been a gargantuan project.

I asked its history.

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says the large stump was transported to the site in 2009 by a contractor for public works.

“It was the stump of a large tree that washed out in South Kitsap during the big storm in December 2007,” he said.

“The plan was to store it there for future use in stream restoration and culvert replacement projects.  Since then Kitsap County Public Works has accumulated over 270 trees with root wads and 300 trees without root wads that we store at the former Markwick Property (just north of Silverdale).

“Public Works obtains the trees that are marked for cutting during construction projects, such as the (Central Kitsap) treatment plant expansion or expansion of a storm pond.  The trees are ‘recycled’ and used in restoration projects, including the Sunde Road culvert replacement.

“Their new purpose is to provide habitat for juvenile salmon, cutthroat, provide a natural mechanism to catch stream sediment, and enhance habitat.

“We hope to construct the Dickerson and Clear Creek floodplain projects in 2015-2017, where over 300 trees will be needed for Clear Creek alone.  By storing these ‘byproduct’ trees the county saves a large amount of money and giving these trees a new life.

60 working days aren’t calendar days

The in basket: An earlier Road Warrior column about the slow progress on the new traffic signal at the southbound off-ramp from Highway 303 (Waaga Way) to Ridgetop Boulevard in Silverdale brought some reader comment asking how the county can figure that the contractor is still within the 60 working days allotted to get it completed.

Robin Jensen submitted one of them and said  “I believe construction did not begin until July, after the Road Warrior posed questions to county staff.

“If construction began in July, how can this project be within the 60 days allowed? We had so little rain in October, and it seems those dry days were wasted.

“I wonder if someone can ask the questions regarding when the poles and other delayed materials were ordered, since it is known that some of these are ‘long lead items’. How about a COMPLETE review of how this project was handled from start to whenever it does get finished?”

The out basket: Jacques Dean, construction manager for the county, says, “The contract was executed on June 25.  We did not start construction until August 5, but this was a county directive, based on availability of county staff.  We had multiple other projects underway and did not have staff available to manage this project until then.

“Pole submittals were received by Kitsap County on August 6, which indicates that the poles were ordered a few weeks prior to the submittal date.  It takes some time for the fabricator to develop the project specific drawings and submittals.”

The poles aren’t ordered by the county, but by the bidder who gets the contract, which it’s reluctant to do until the contract is signed. The limited number of pole manufacturers (two) in the country means getting the poles quickly is unlikely.

“There are 60 ‘working days’ assigned to this project,” Jacques said.  “Working days are Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.  The project started on August 5.

“There were six non-working days due to heavy rain in late September/early October.  The project was suspended on Oct. 21, pending delivery of water quality vaults, a long-lead item.  The suspension was lifted on November 6, when the water quality vaults were delivered.  The contractor continued with installation that week, and also completion of curb/gutter and sidewalk.

Finished paving, removing a pole sitting in the new right turn lane to go toward Bremerton, striping and other pavement work will be complete next week

“When this work is complete, the project will be suspended again pending delivery of the traffic signal poles and components,” he said. Installation, expected sometime in December, will take three or four days and the project will be done.

There were 13 working days remaining on Nov. 12, and the contractor still is under 60, Jacques said.

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Pedestrians buttons at 11th and Warren questioned

The in basket: Gary Reed writes with a question about the revamped intersection of 11th Street and Warren Avenue in Bremerton.

“Why are the “‘Push to Cross’ buttons placed so close to the curb? Seems like if a wheelchair user didn’t set the chairs brakes correctly before trying to use the buttons, they could roll out into traffic. Or, if a person had a couple of rambunctious children so close to the curb, they could easily fall into traffic.

“Why weren’t the buttons located on the light poles, away from the traffic?  I have never seen the lights change (anywhere) so fast a person couldn’t get to the curb from the light pole before the lights changed.”

The out basket: As with most things street engineers do, they must locate pedestrians signal buttons in accordance with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a federal publication.

Gunnar Fridriksson, Bremerton’s managing street engineer, sent me the relevant parts of that manual.

“The provisions in this section,” it says, “place pedestrian pushbuttons within easy reach of pedestrians who are intending to cross each crosswalk and make it obvious which pushbutton is associated with each crosswalk.

“If pedestrian pushbuttons are used, they should be capable of easy activation and conveniently located near each end of the crosswalks. Pedestrian pushbuttons should be located to meet all of the following criteria:

A.    Unobstructed and adjacent to a level all-weather surface to provide access from a wheelchair;

B.    Where there is an all-weather surface, a wheelchair accessible route from the pushbutton to the ramp;

C.    Between the edge of the crosswalk line (extended) farthest from the center of the intersection and the side of a curb ramp (if present), but not greater than 5 feet from said crosswalk line;

D.   Between 1.5 and 6 feet from the edge of the curb, shoulder, or pavement;

E.    With the face of the pushbutton parallel to the crosswalk to be used; and

F.    At a mounting height of approximately 3.5 feet, but no more than 4 feet, above the sidewalk.”

I haven’t measured the buttons’ locations relative to the curb and crosswalk, but must assume they comply with these rules, including C., whatever it means.

Ridgetop/Uhinck crosswalk being relocated in Silverdale

The in basket: Patrick Burch of Silverdale e-mailed to say, “The crosswalk on Ridgetop Boulevard at Sid Uhinck has been removed, leaving a VERY dangerous situation to cross Ridgetop.  I challenge anyone traveling southwest on Ridgetop to safely AND legally cross Ridgetop without walking all the way down to Myhre Road.

“The crosswalk made easy access to the bus stop and entrance to Clear Creek Trails. If you were to cross Ridgetop at the Waaga Way light, you are not allowed to continue southwest on Ridgetop because there is a no crossing sign.  If you were to illegally cross there, you would have to take your life in your hands and dodge cars exiting Waaga Way onto Ridgetop.

“Walking all the way down to Myhre is totally unacceptable and will not be made by many individuals. Pedestrians will be forced to play dodge ball with the cars.

“Until a new permanent crosswalk is installed after the stoplight is finally in place, the crosswalk should be restored.  Help us with this unsafe condition.”

Back last winter, while the crosswalk was still there, Ronine Riggins proposed making lane changes approaching that crosswalk illegal, lest a driver looking back to see if it were clear for a lane change might not see a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

The out basket: Jacques Dean, the county’s construction manager, says, “The crosswalk will be replaced at a location near the west side SR 303 off/on ramp.  The old crossing was removed, as were the sidewalk ramps that existed on both sides of the crossing.

“The contractor has tentatively scheduled placement of new crosswalk markings for next week, but the work is weather dependent.  The plastic markings have to be placed when the pavement is relatively dry.”

The new location should eliminate the danger Ronine saw.

Clearing up a crosswalk rule

The in basket: The proper response by a driver to a pedestrian trying to cross the street is a subject that I’ve pondered for many a year.

The fact that the law requires something of a driver that I, when a pedestrian, don’t necessarily want helped propel my curiosity.

By that I mean that quite often I prefer to wait for a car to pass before starting across, because if there are no cars behind that one, I can cross at leisure, rather than hurrying across to minimize the driver’s delay. But the law usually requires him or her to stop if I’m poised at the curb.

In time, I have come to know that any intersection is a crosswalk, whether striped as one or not, and a driver is required to stop for anyone walking across the street.

But as I watched people stepping into a crosswalk on the other side of a multi-lane road or street, I came to wonder if I have to stop immediately.

The law says, “The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway within an unmarked or marked crosswalk when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning.”

So on a three- or four-lane street or road, is it legal to wait until the pedestrian steps into the lane closest to the one I’m in. Can I proceed even though the pedestrian is in the crosswalk, but more than a lane away from mine?

The out basket: I asked Police Chief Geoff Marti in Port Orchard, Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police and Trooper Russ Winger of the State Patrol here, and they agree that that is the logical meaning of the law.

So when I approach that crosswalk in downtown Port Orchard with the pedestrian activated flashing lights in the crosswalk, for example, and the walker is on the opposite curb, can I proceed until he or she is stepping into the center lane, I asked Geoff.

“Yes, that would be my interpretation,:” he replied.

The same is true if the pedestrian has crossed in front of you from your side of the street. You must wait only until he or she is leaving the intervening lane before proceeding.

Pete and Russ concurred.

In real life, of course, not stopping before you legally have to may intimidate a pedestrian into not starting across, especially if there is no protective island in the middle. As a matter of consideration, it still might be best to stop when the walker enters the street, no matter now wide, but you don’t have to if there is one or more lanes between you.

City staff demonstrates the plight of pedestrians

The in basket: When I gently questioned the wisdom of turning Bremerton’s Washington Avenue into a two-lane street between Sixth Street and the Manette Bridge in a recent column, the city public works department decided it would pay to try to convince me of the value of the project, set for 2015.

So Public Works Director Chal Martin, Managing Street Engineer Gunnar Fridriksson and Administrative Division Manager Milenka Hawkins-Bates of their office took me on a tour of city work sites, ending at Sixth and Washington.

The out basket: Chal evidently had been getting some questions about the capacity of Washington to handle rush hour traffic with only one lane in each direction, though that wasn’t what I had questioned. He spent a lot of time demonstrating how little the second lane northbound is needed even with a ferry arrival and shipyard closing time only minutes apart.

And it certainly looked that day that almost all northbound traffic on Washington in the afternoon uses the outside lane to reach the bridge. Only briefly did traffic back up in the inside lane.

Those are the people who will be impeded by having to wait while the signal at the bridge is red and would-be bridge users are in their way. But I’m sure those people will quickly learn that turning left onto Sixth Street, which will keep its left-turn lane, will shorten any delays.

What impressed me far more on our tour was the case Chal made for wider sidewalks, which will be created in the Washington project.

Our tour began at the northwest corner of 11th Street and Naval Avenue, where we stood as traffic zoomed past. The speed limit is only 30 there, but that close to it, it seems to be zooming.

I’d never walked it, so in my many trips along 11th in my car never noticed how frighteningly slender the sidewalks are there.

Chal said, “I think about all the people I see who walk here. I see women pushing double baby buggies walking here. I see moms and little kids and people in motorized wheelchairs.

“When you’re in your car,” he continued, “you’re surrounded by modern safety conveniences, you have a radio and a heater. You’re not exposed to the elements. So I ask, is it OK to delay someone two or three minutes in their normal commute in a trade-off to get more safety for pedestrians and bicyclists?

“My answer,” said Chal, “is a resounding yes.”

The Road Warrior’s argument has been that the focus on providing for the relatively few bikes and walkers by further frustrating the vastly larger number of drivers is ill-conceived. You might agree with that, as I might still, but we should test that belief by walking from Naval to Callow on the north side of 11th occasionally.

And, as Milenka added, “If the sidewalk is safer, would you have more people using it?”

As for 11th, it can’t be widened, so making it safer for non-motorists would require reducing it to two or three lanes, as they are doing with Pacific Avenue north of Sixth Street right now. Don’t be shocked if that’s not proposed in some future year.

Birch Avenue just tip of iceberg for Bremerton street repair

The in basket: Bob Larry says in an e-mail, “Birch Ave off of Sylvan in Bremerton is in horrible shape. Other than the obvious reason of ‘it’s not downtown,’ is there any reason this road and others in the neighborhood aren’t being maintained?

The out basket: The answer is obvious, all right, but “not downtown” isn’t it.

It’s been well publicized that the city has dozens of streets that rate a zero in the annual assessment of their condition, and Birch is one of them. So are a lot of arterials, which will get attention before residential streets like Birch.

“The roadway (on Birch) has completely failed and needs reconstruction,” concedes Gunnar Fridriksson the city’s managing street engineer.  “The estimate to reconstruct was approximately $90,000 – but that does not include the storm water improvements we will also be required to do with the reconstruction.  I would guesstimate total cost to repair the street at about $200-250K.

“But there is some good news on the horizon,” he said. The additional license tab fee the city imposed two years ago will provide at least $500,000 for street maintenance in 2014.

“While recognizing many of our residential streets need a lot of help, it has nevertheless been our approach to focus this money on our arterial streets,” Gunnar said, “because arterials carry much more traffic, have bigger safety issues, and impact a larger number of people than our residential streets.”

They spent only $53,000 of the money the tab fee raised for 2013, mostly for sealing of pavement cracks on arterials to prolong their life. The carryover will leave the city with about $750,000 for arterial improvements next year.

In addition, Gunnar said, the city council recently redirected some city utilities money to the street fund. “This starts small but builds fairly quickly to several hundred thousand dollars per year,” he said. “We think this funding will enable us to begin to address some of our worst residential streets – but we are still probably three years out.

“We estimate our maintenance backlog at about $5 million a year. So we aren’t at the funding level we would like to be, but we are making progress, and we do expect to be able to take on some of these residential streets within the next few years.”