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Travis Baker blogs about the problems and idiosyncrasies of Kitsap highways and byways.
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Once again, the 3-304 merge in Bremerton

December 11th, 2013 by travis baker

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.

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4 Responses to “Once again, the 3-304 merge in Bremerton”

  1. Mase Says:

    We need better signage for people to understand and embrace the zipper merge. Some examples:
    http://www.wonderfulwaterloo.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=1169&d=1337616039
    http://media.oregonlive.com/commuting/photo/coloh4jpg-a9454079f8a5e2eb.jpg
    http://ckom.com/sites/default/files/news-image/traffic-%20cmc-%20zipper%20merge%20circle%20and%20millar%20construction-%20may%209,%202013.JPG
    http://www.newsline.dot.state.mn.us/images/11/May/May%2025/Zipper%20merge%20logo300.jpg
    http://tranbc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/3476-MergeSignTab-V5.jpg

  2. holycrap Says:

    Why can’t the state just make a sign that looks like a zipper with cars merging to replace the merge left sign? Never understood why people get so possessive of a lane of travel.

  3. Rick Feeney Says:

    I agree with the zipper merge idea and the advertising it as such at both the south and westbound mergers at that intersection of those highways. I would tremendously reduce the animosity (and therefore stress) that it currently creates. I further think, that moving the “zipper” merger point of the left two lanes on 304 to after the downhill side of the overpass should be considered. This may largely reduce the friction for the drivers trying to peel off 304 and head north. Further, it may reduce the regular backup often all the way Callow at Shipyard shift change. Although the state is restrictive in making any highway have “bicycle” shoulders, I have suggested they widen the shoulder marking from 4″ to 6″ wide and extend the bicycle lane from the Missouri Gate out to the end of 304. There are studies that this reduces shoulder passing by well over 50% immediately. As a bicycle and auto commuter on Hwy 304, it is dangerous and frustrating when people pass on that shoulder at speed, basically using it as a fourth lane. This is the norm for a significant quantity every day. (Heck, since the Sinclair Inlet Trail Plan remains stalled, let’s mark the (north and south) shoulders as bicycle lanes to enhance their safety for bicyclists (and motorists) over that dangerous section of road.

  4. Ducttapeo1 Says:

    It really should be obvious as to WHY the traffic is so bad in Bremerton. For employment purposes, people come to this town. When that work day is over they leave. Bremerton leads the area in a high violent crime rate, substandard infrastructure, gouging parking prices, and is the leading area for crimes associated with car theft/DUI’s.

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You can reach Travis Baker at tvisb@wavecable.com

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