Monthly Archives: December 2013

Long Lake Road depression getting more noticeable

The in basket: James Pape writes, “I drive Long Lake Road from Woods Road to Sedgwick (in South Kitsap) most days. In the southbound lane just past the big farm on the right the road way is sinking. In the last couple of months it has dropped 6 to 8 inches on the right edge of the road and extends in to the middle of the roadway.

“At 40 mph it is quite a jolt and seems to be getting worse,” he said  “Has the county any answer to why and when this might be fixed?”

The out basket: Coincidentally, I had driven that route twice the day before James wrote, and hadn’t noticed the dip. When I later went looking for it, there was a small but noticeable  jolt at that spot. For someone in vehicle with stiff suspension or on a motorcycle, I can see how it would be more disorienting.

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says they are aware of the dip. “We are monitoring it and will evaluate any action needed in the spring or summer,” he said. “There is no culvert, spring or other obvious cause for the problem. We need to excavate the site to determine the reason, and that type of work is very weather dependent. We will take action sooner than spring if conditions warrant, or if we get an extended period of favorable weather.”

Old Wheaton and Lebo could use yellow flashing lefts, says reader

The in basket: Joan Wright e-mailed to say, “The intersection of Wheaton Way and Lebo Boulevard (in Bremerton), heading north, would be so much better to have a flashing yellow light to turn left when no one is waiting, going in either location.

“It seems to stay red so long as we sit, sit and sit some more.  This seems to work very well in other locations and we can all move forward with a flashing yellow light to turn left,” she said.

The out basket: This is a popular improvement where it has been done, but it requires money that can be hard to come by.

Bremerton was able to add a bunch of the yellow left-turn flashers on Sixth Street last year, but got the money from a fund for sewer replacement work on 11th Street. Sixth Street was the designated detour during the work, so use of that fund for a street improvement was permissible. Once the flashing lefts were in, the city kept them.

The cost of the retrofits varies with the adaptability of the existing controllers at each intersection. The cities here generally choose to spend their street money otherwise.

Gunnar Fridriksson, the city’s managing street engineer said the Wheaton and Lebo intersection will be evaluated as part of the rebuilding of Old Wheaton Way next year, but complete removal of the signal in favor of a four-way stop might be the outcome. rather than  a more intricate signal.

The existing signal’s aged in-ground detection wires are prone to malfunctioning, which may create the waits Joan describes.

Kitsap County introduced yellow flashing lefts here, adding them incrementally in South and Central Kitsap, and most recently in North Kitsap at Miller Bay roads intersections withWest Kingston, Indianola and Gunderson roads.

“All the signals that warrant flashing yellow are complete,” says Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works. “The only place where new flashing yellow applications would be considered is new intersection construction.”

There is a new signal about to debut, at Highway 303 and Ridgetop in Silverdale, which is a county project but a state signal and it won’t have a flashing yellow left light.

There is a lack of enthusiasm for the yellow lefts at the state level in the Olympic Region, which includes Kitsap County, and no state highway signal here has them. The state’s position is that lessening the level of control at any of its intersections is acceptable only when the intersection is physically improved in some fashion, including modernization of the controller boxes to allow for yellow flashing lefts.

Jim Johnstone of the Olympic Region signal shop says Kitsap County has led the way on the flashing lefts and his shop doesn’t hear much demand for them from cities and counties elsewhere in the region, where motorists don’t see them.

He notes that the convenience for drivers is offset somewhat by greater danger to pedestrians, who are allowed to cross at the moments the drivers are permitted to turn left on yellow and might not be seen by the drivers.

Some drivers refuse to turn right on red

The in basket: It looks like turning right at a red light is the issue of the week. Three readers have suggested it for discussion in this column.

Jane Rebelowski writes, “Can you please clarify right on red laws? I am starting to see lots of bumper stickers stating that they choose NOT to turn right on red.

“In places with heavy ped or bike traffic, I do not always take the option,” she added.

Jim Oas asks, “In a right-turn lane, you may come up to a red arrow, stop, and proceed, correct?

“If the right-turn arrow is green, you simply proceed without stopping, yes?

“I get soooo many elderly folks or slow pokies that are younger, that won’t turn on a red arrow,” Jim said. “Even when you honk at them, they look in the mirror at you in disgust and just sit there.”

And a commenter on the Road Warrior blog at who goes by Maseace topped a list of driving behaviors he thinks should be the subject of a public awareness campaign by saying, “A lot of drivers in this state don’t turn right on red lights. The red arrow only means that right is the only direction for that lane. The only time you can’t turn right on red is when there’s a ‘No right turn on red’ sign,” he concluded, correctly.

He or she also nominated keeping right except to pass, using turn signals, using the zipper tactic to take turns at a merge, use of headlights in darkness and rain, checking tire pressure and tread depth and (for pedestrians) not wearing dark clothing at night as requirements or good advice worthy of broadcast.

The out basket: I hadn’t seen any bumper stickers notifying others that the driver won’t turn right on red. Such turns can be a hazard to pedestrians and bicyclists, but shouldn’t be if the turn is done legally, with a complete stop that provides time to look around for them – and for other cars.

I guess some drivers must assume red arrow lights impose some further restriction than do red ball lights, or why bother with the arrow? I haven’t been able to get an official answer to that last question, but they don’t.

State Trooper Russ Winger says, “You can make the turn after stopping and yielding on either a red arrow or red ball light. UNLESS there is additional signage prohibiting turning on red.”

The wording of the state law governing this, RCW 46.61.055 (3) a) and c), is identical for red ball and red arrow signals, so where you can turn at one, you can turn at the other.

Yes, Jim, a green arrow turn signal gives a driver the right-of-way to proceed without stopping as much as does a green ball signal.

And finally, Coleen Smidt, another blog commenter, noted just Thursday that “The most ignored ‘No Turn on Red’ sign in the city of Bremerton is just a couple of blocks from my house at the corner of 11th and Naval. Very few drivers pay any attention to it. These are the same drivers that pay very little attention to the school zone in that area.”



Bagged Silverdale right-turn signal awaits protection for pedestrians

The in basket: Peter Wimmer of Silverdale writes, “A week or so ago, I noticed that the turn light from Randall Way to go north on Kitsap Mall Boulevard had been covered up. Do you know why and for how long they will be covered?  They had seemed to have kept Randall Way a little clearer in the past and should be uncovered and working.
The out basket: Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer, says, “We overlooked the pedestrian at this crossing when we put in the right-turn signal. We cannot have a signalized movement without giving pedestrians a safe crossing.

“When it is a yield-controlled crossing as it is now, motorists are required to stop if pedestrians are in the crosswalk.  With the right arrow signal on, it is possible to have conflicting movements with vehicles and pedestrians.

“We are hoping to put in pedestrian crossing equipment in the near future and turn the signal back on. We are a little challenged by the lack of flat surface to mount a pedestrian pole on the sidewalk side of the intersection so it won’t be a quick and easy fix.

“The signal was put in to reduce the number of collisions we were having at this location.  While it was operating it seemed to be doing a good job of reducing these collisions, so we are actively working at the signal modifications so we can turn the signal head back on.”

A  Yield sign  at the turn will control right turns in the meantime.

No law against demonstrations in roundabouts

The in basket: Don Rude asks,”Is there a law that prohibits folks from demonstrating, like car washes, voting preferences, etc, in the center of traffic circles?  I think it is a very bad distraction, as still many folks don’t really know how to drive the circles.”

The out basket: Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office says, “I’ve not been able to find anything in (state law) or Kitsap County Code that addresses this issue.

“I agree,” he continued “much like those young persons whom we observe spinning small surfboard size signs around on street corners proclaiming a sale event at a local retail store, those using the center or internal core of a traffic circle / roundabout are distracting to many drivers.

“I suppose if you really stretched the intent / meaning of the wording found in RCW 47.32.130(1) you might be able to make a case,” he said. It deals with “any structure, device, or natural or artificial thing that threatens or endangers the state highway or portion thereof, or that tends to endanger persons traveling thereon, or obstructs or tends to obstruct or constitutes a hazard to vehicles or persons traveling thereon,” saying that thing can be removed.

“The complaint brought up by Mr. Rude,” Scott concluded, “may have to be formally addressed by the state Legislature or a change made to the Kitsap County Code about distractions to drivers of motor vehicles where such distractions are in close proximity to streets / roadways. Then the definition of ‘distraction’ becomes a point of argument!”


Once again, the 3-304 merge in Bremerton

The in basket: Mark Darling e-mailed recently with a suggestion about the afternoon backups where highways 3 and 304 merge west of Bremerton. His words matched almost exactly my opinion of how things can be made as non-aggravating as possible.

“It seems to me,” he said, “that it would be safer and more efficient to just state that there is one lane ahead and not give preference to one lane or the other.
“That way the merge point would move closer to where the two lanes actually become one and neither lane would feel ownership that they are in the continuing lane, maybe lessening some of the road rage that comes from the cutters and the blockers,” he said.

“I’ve seen a lot of gyrations from drivers moving left as soon as possible, racing down the right lane to pass those on the left, inching along in the right lane to prevent those who would pass on the
right and drivers with no traffic near them moving to the left lane at the last minute before it narrows down to one lane.” He said “This one really puzzles me, as there is no real reason to move left at that point and the right lane seems to be banked better for the right hand sweeping turn than the left.”

The out basket: Here, here, I told Mark, referring him to some of my past columns that urge just that, as well as adoption of the “zipper” maneuver in which drivers at the actual merge point alternate, having filled the two lanes equally by ignoring the merge left signs and choosing the lane with the shortest backup when they come to the congestion.

Drivers who insist that they have trouble getting into the single lane at the merge because drivers in the left lane won’t let them in mystify me.

As Mark notes, the banking at the merge point makes merging there easy. Just proceed slowly along the edge line. There’ll always be an opening that doesn’t slow down those in the left lane, unless an aggrieved driver in the inside lane risks his own vehicle to frustrate you. The one time that happened to me, I just slowed down and pulled in behind the hot head.

I’m convinced that the driver whose conscience or lack of nerve causes him to force his way into the left lane before its necessary worsens the backup via what’s called the accordion effect, pushing the slowdown he creates backwards.

Mark replied to my reply and asked if the state has ever weighed in on the suggestion of not making it clear which lane is ending. I had to say I don’t ever recall getting the state’s opinion on that.

Claudia Bingham-Baker of the public affairs staff for the Olympic Region of state highways provided it for me when I then asked.

“(We) follow signing and roadway striping standards set in the federal Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD),” she said. “The MUTCD requires that when two lanes merge into one, signs be installed to let drivers know who has the right-of-way. The signs help drivers know what to expect. They also provide clear indication of right-of-way, which is essential for accident investigations.”

Incidentally, I’ve quit trying to apply the zipper theory where the Loxie Eagans on-ramp enters Highway 3, or coming out of Bremerton on Highway 304. The banking that makes it work at the 3-304 merge doesn’t exist in those other places.

No need to stop for a transit bus with flashing red lights

The in basket: Brian Horch writes, “I was following a Kitsap Transit bus and noticed when it stopped on the side

of the road that instead of yellow lights flashing it had red lights flashing.

“If the rules are the same as for school buses this would mean I cannot pass

the bus that is stopped to pick up passengers,” he said. “I always thought you could

pass a transit bus when it pulled over for a stop.  Could it be the flashing lights should be yellow instead of red?”

The out basket: No, a motorist doesn’t have to stop for a transit vehicle loading or unloading passengers, regardless of the color of the lights that may be flashing on the bus.

Kitsap Transit’s Vehicle Maintenance Director Hayward Seymore says their various routed, worker/driver and Access buses have various combinations of lights. Access buses will have amber flashers, usually found at the top of the back of the bus, activated if the driver is operating the wheelchair lift. “If they are merely pulled over,” he said. “they can just have the red flashers on, all perfectly legal.”

He said they’d appreciate it if any driver passing a stopped transit bus do so slowly with caution,

What a motorist IS required by law to do is yield to a transit bus reentering traffic from a stop. There is a Yield sign on the rear left of all the buses, and it’s lighted and blinks on the newer ones.

Of course, red lights on a stopped school bus require approaching traffic to stop, unless there is a lane between the motorist’s lane and the one the school bus is in, and the motorist isn’t following the bus. Two-way turn lanes meet that exemption.

It’s an exemption that rarely can be used, as cautious motorists unsure of the law usually stop and keep anyone behind them from proceeding until the red flashers go off and the stop paddle on the bus is retracted.

Fatalities on Glenwood Road prompt past and future improvements

The in basket: Christine Larsen of Lake Helena Road writes, “My concern is about Glenwood Road (in South Kitsap). With the death on that road (in November), I have counted at least 7-8 deaths in separate accidents of mostly young people since I moved here in 1997. That just seems like a high rate for a country road. Every time it happens, I wonder if someone is going to look into why it’s so frequent.
“I’d be very interested,” Christine said, “to breakdown the causes of the fatalities on Glenwood in the last 20 years or so and attempt to determine what the dangerous factors are. Obviously speed is one of them. I am guessing the curvy road and large trees are another, but is there anything else that these accidents have in common?
Also curious if the road department has any idea of what could help. Barriers on corners? A safer wall than the large brick one where Glenwood T’s with Lake Flora? Slower speeds? More warning signs?”
The out basket: Jeff Shea, traffic engineer for Kitsap County, which owns the road, says, “We have collision records back to 1992.  Between then and now our records show nine fatal collisions with 10 fatalities along the eight miles of Glenwood Road.  This does not include the most recent collision.

“’Had been drinking’ was noted on the collision report for six of the nine reported collisions.  Excessive speed was also listed on some of them.  Five of the collisions were run-off-the-roads at curves and straightaways, and only one of those didn’t involve alcohol. Two collisions involved a motorist pulling out in front of another vehicle, and in both of those cases alcohol was involved.

“Except for the Lake Flora intersection, there is no other location where more than one fatal collision occurred.

In 2004 and then again in 2009 motorists failed to stop for the Lake Flora stop sign and fatally crashed into the concrete block wall. Neither driver had been drinking. There were no skid marks noted on the collision reports, so there is no indication the drivers made an attempt to stop before hitting the wall.

“The intersection has a large conspicuous stop sign and advanced warning stop ahead sign, along with street lighting at the intersection. Since the drivers died at the scene, it was impossible to determine why they missed the stop sign.

“The block wall is there to support a large cut slope on which a house sits not too far from the wall.  Cutting the slope back significantly would require moving the house.

“Furthermore, I am not certain we could build a wall of any material that would prevent a fatality if struck by a car going 40 mph.”

Glenwood Road is listed on the county Transportation Improvement Program for $2.6 million in improvements to include widening it, paving its shoulders and intersection improvements, between Wildwood and JH roads, to be done in 2016.

Previous work, in 2004, was done between JH Road and Lider Road, included widening of the travel lanes to 12 feet, eight-foot shoulders, six feet of which are paved, some flattening of rises in the travel lanes, and a two-way turn lane between Lake Flora and Lider. It included storm water management and fish passage enhancement work, too.

“Every two years we evaluate our collision records and determine trouble spots,” Jeff said. “We evaluate the high accident locations for safety improvements such as signs, lighting and guardrail just to mention a few safety measures we use.”


Leaking manhole on Highway 303 defies correction

The in basket: Ray Smith e-mails to say, “This question might be a little out of the ordinary, but maybe you can come up with an answer. On Highway 303 in the southbound lane about halfway between Fairgrounds Road and Echo Drive, there is a manhole cover marked ‘US West Communications’. There is always water seeping up around the cover and the roadway in the area is almost always wet.

“Is this a cover to a utilities tunnel of some type that is always flooded with ground water? Is this normal? Will it cause an icing problem in the current cold weather?

The out basket: It’s not so out of the ordinary that I haven’t been asked about it before, back in 2004.

It must have been leaking during our recent prolonged freeze, as thick ice surrounded it. But it was limited to the shoulder when I drove past and would have created a sharp jolt to anyone who hit it, probably not a skid.

Not knowing what utility might be responsible for it now, I asked the state highway’s Olympic Region.

Claudia Bingham-Baker of their public affairs staff replied, “The roadway at the location your reader referenced sits on ground with a high water table. On occasion, water accumulates in the utility vault and seeps onto the roadway. The utility is aware of the issue, but given the high water table, has not come up with any kind of solution.

“Our maintenance crews keep a close eye on weather forecasts. When colder weather comes, they pay particular attention to known problem areas such as this one and treat the road as conditions require.

Pedestrians have to use a sidewalk where one exists

The in basket: Diane Van Fossen of Silverdale says she often sees pedestrians walking on the south shoulder of Bucklin Hill Road even though there is a sidewalk on the other side of the road.

She had just read an earlier Road Warrior column about a state law that requires pedestrians to walk toward traffic when there is no sidewalk, and asked if those who choose to use the shoulder when a crosswalk is available on the same street are committing a violation.

The out basket: Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, says they are.

“When sidewalks are present / available, whether on both sides of the roadway or on only one side, a pedestrian is required to use the sidewalk,” he said.

“In situations where a sidewalk is present, walking along a roadway or roadway shoulder is not optional.

“A pedestrian may cross a roadway at an intersection or use a marked crosswalk, should they need to access a location on the side of the road that doesn’t have a sidewalk installed.

“For unincorporated areas of the county, a pedestrian may cross a roadway between intersections (or where there’s no marked crosswalk) since it’s expected that the roadway length between intersections in a county setting may involve significant distance, as compared to a municipal setting.

“In these circumstances, pedestrians do not have the right of way; they must yield to on-coming traffic in either direction.

“Crossing Bucklin Hill Road between Mickelberry Road and Tracyton Boulevard is permissible… although not recommended during periods of low visibility or high traffic volume.

He conceded that walking to an intersection in a city, crossing and then doubling back to where the pedestrian wants to go would be just as much of a violation as walking there on the shoulder across from the sidewalk in the first place, but added, “I don’t know of any law enforcement officers that would actually enforce this law by issuing a notice of infraction.”

Whenever I’ve heard of someone walking with traffic on the shoulder being contacted by an officer, they’d just been given a warning and told what the law says.

Incidentally, when I wrote that column about not walking with traffic, I neglected to say that being on the side facing traffic is required “where practical,” recognizing that running across the street in heavy traffic to be walking legally is not required