Monthly Archives: February 2014

State stripe paint is eco-friendly, but requires drier weather than before

The in basket: Carol Seig of Silverdale had some trouble recently traveling on the Highway 3 northbound off-ramp to Newberry Hill Road that she felt could have been avoided if the highway striping had been less worn.

In addition to contacting me, she made some calls to the state Department of Transportation, where an employee told her that the state has recently gone to a less toxic kind of striping paint in the interests of the environment, but that it was less durable than the former paint so the stripes don’t last as long.

I hadn’t heard that before, so I asked WSDOT if it was true.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker of the WSDOT’s Olympic Region replied, “About 14 years ago, WSDOT switched from an oil-based paint to a water-based paint because of changing environmental requirements. I asked our regional paint guy about consequences from that change.

“He noted that the biggest change is a reduced weather window in which to paint the highways. He said the oil-based paint could be applied in damp conditions, whereas water-based paints can be applied only in dry weather.

“In our seven-county region, our paint crews are responsible for painting 3,800 ‘line miles’ (highway miles that need to be painted, including skip-stripes on multi-lane highways). When crews used the moisture-tolerant oil paints, they could restripe the entire region every year.  With the reduced work window for water-based paints, they can restripe about 70-80 percent of the region every year.

“He was hesitant to say whether one type of paint lasted longer than another, since several variables can affect the life of a paint stripe, including traffic volumes and weather conditions, both during and after paint applications.

“By the way,” Claudia said, “paint is only one product we use to delineate roadways. Most painted highway stripes are 4 inches wide, but there are areas that require 8-inch stripes (gore points at freeway ramps, stripes to separate HOV lanes from mainline lanes, etc.). At those locations, we use a plastic-based product for the stripes.”

I-5 traffic camera could be more helpful

The in basket: I find radio and TV traffic reports to be more befuddling than helpful, mostly because I rarely know enough about where they’re talking about.

When I tried extra hard recently to divine the meaning of a couple of TV traffic reports about something going on along I-5, they were showing emergency lights (on one occasion) and snow (on the other) “on I-5 at the Pierce County line.” The image was from a state Department of Transportation camera, and the legend didn’t say whether it was Pierce County’s border with King or Thurston county. I recognized the landscape as being at the King County line one time, but the other was at night and I couldn’t tell where it was.

I asked if there is a technical reason they didn’t make clear which Pierce County line they mean.

The out basket: No technical reason, says Claudia Bingham Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways. It’s just that there is no freeway traffic camera at the Thurston County line, only the one just past Fife at the King County line.

“The closest camera to the south of that (Thurston) line is labeled Nisqually, and to north it’s labeled Mounts Road,” she said.

“We will be installing more cameras this summer and next, so we may need to look at more clearly delineating county lines at that point,” she added.

West Bremerton beacon raises question

The in basket: Kathy Weigel e-mails to say, “I was wondering about the intersection of Patten and South Lafayette Avenue in West Bremerton.

“When traveling east on Patten towards Lafayette, you come to a stop sign. There you will see a flashing yellow light. “Aren’t these types of yellow lights usually used for warning, not for stopping?

“It has been that way as long as I have lived here. It seems it would make more sense to have flashing red lights, as it has a stop sign. Just wondering.”

The out basket: The light is a warning, says Gunnar Fridriksson, Bremerton’s managing street engineer.

“The beacon is there to call attention to the directional sign on the east side of the intersection,” he said. “My understanding is that there were a number of accidents here with people missing this sign and driving into the lawn and residence just beyond where the beacon is located now.

“Lafayette in this section is a very old concrete street with a rolled curb and driveway for the residence almost directly across from the intersection, so a motorist would not even feel much of a bump rolling over the curb. “I believe we have records on this beacon going back to 1962 or so.  It is likely older than that.

Driver describes close call with a transit bus on 305

The in basket: J. B. Holcomb of Bainbridge Island e-mailed to described an incident on Thursday as he was driving north on Highway 305 just beyond the Agate Pass Bridge.

“I was driving at 45 mph and was two or three seconds away from a transit bus stopped at a bus stop (ostensibly),” he said.

“That yo-yo driver immediately pulls out in front of me,” J.B. said. “I had to dynamite my brakes and veer to the left to avoid collision with his bus.  I just, and I do mean just by inches, avoided a head-on collision with an on-coming driver, who, thankfully, took protection of his own in timely turning slightly right.

“I noticed that the driver snapped on the yellow ‘yield’ sign on the rear of the bus after I started braking.  I immediately laid on my horn while behind him for about two miles indicating my displeasure and stopped beside him at the next stop with my window rolled down for a few not-so-kind words.  He paid no attention to me.

“I thought about calling 911 to complain to the State Patrol about his reckless driving, but I did not, because my thought was that the ‘yield’ sign exempts that yo-yo from any such claim.

“Should I have?  Whatever the rule, he surely does not have the right to place following drivers at risk of his or her life in order to be able to pull out, even with a ‘yield’ sign on!!!”

The out basket: State law does require drivers to yield to a transit bus reentering traffic, but the bus driver must do so carefully. Transit executives also demand it as a matter of policy.

We have only J.B.’s side of the incident, as State Trooper Russ Winger noted when I asked him about the likely assignment of blame had the bus and J.B.s car collided. It probably wouldn’t have done much good to phone 911 about the close call.

But, Russ continued, “I can tell you this much. All vehicles, including transit buses, even police vehicles, must ‘safely’ enter the roadway from the shoulder, side streets etc. Signs and flashing lights do not give immunity to the driver. All drivers have that responsibility.

“If we were, in fact, investigating a collision, we would gather as much information and evidence as possible, including witness statements hopefully, to arrive at some sort of logical and factual conclusion. If these factors led us to believe that the transit vehicle did not give sufficient right of way to the other vehicle – just pulled out – (he or she) could be found at fault. We would definitely not just take one driver’s version of the event and make a decision based on that.

“As for your reader’s actions about following the bus for two miles, laying on the horn and even trying to confront the other driver, well, I believe you already know the WSP’s feeling on that type of behavior.”

If you don’t, they discourage it, and can ticket for unlawful use of the vehicle’s horn, which state law says must be used only to alert drivers of an imminent. danger, as was mentioned in a January Road Warrior column.

Transit Executive Director John Clauson asked for B.J.’s contact information so that he might inquire further into the incident.

 

Valid handicapped space must have vertical sign

The in basket: Becky Argyle has a question about handicapped parking in front of a new Subway sandwich shop on Werner Road, across from the Bremerton car dealerships.

There are two handicapped parking pavement markings in front of the store, but one has a white line running through it, giving the appearance of two parking spots were it not for the painted image on the asphalt.

“I would guess they took a handicapped space and converted it into two parking spots and never painted it correctly,” she said.

“if there is any marking of a handicapped space in the parking space, is it illegal to park there if you do not have a tag, even if it appears that its not a real marked spot?” Becky asked.  “I always hesitate to park there, but there is hardly any parking along their building.”

The out basket: Becky’s guess is correct. To be a valid handicapped space, it must be marked with a vertical sign in front of it, either on a wall or post.. There is no such sign on the space with the line painted through it.

There is a valid handicapped space several feet to the right, which has the pavement marking AND the vertical sign. You can’t legally park there without a handicapped plate or placard.

Deputy Sheriff Scot Wilson said it appears the building owners are just waiting for the wheelchair logo on the pavement of the first space to wear away in time. The KCSO Citizens on Patrol volunteers, who patrol and cite for improper use of handicapped spaces won’t cite for parking in the Subway space without the vertical sign.

Flashing crosswalk light in Silverdale just to attract attention

The in basket: Jo Clark writes, “Traveling east on Bucklin Hill Road at night I was in a line of cars and saw a flashing light on each side of the road – a new pedestrian crossing at Olson Road.

“The first car (I was probably #3 or #4) stopped and a man quickly crossed the road.  As soon as he crossed, traffic began to move again, including me, but the light continued to flash even after I passed it.

“This seems to be a new traffic signal. I haven’t seen this type anywhere before.  If there is no one trying to cross but the light is still flashing, should the motorist wait till the light goes off, or only wait till the pedestrian has crossed?”

The out basket: These are a fairly new traffic device here, akin to the in-pavement flashers in a crosswalk in downtown Port Orchard, but mounted on a pole. They are designed to call attention to a crosswalk and someone crossing in it.

A driver need stop only if there is a pedestrian in or poised to enter the crosswalk, regardless of the flashing lights. The rule is the same as at any crosswalk.

The county has put them at the two entrances to South Kitsap Regional Park in South Kitsap, on Central Valley Road at Foster Road, in front of Klahowya Secondary School, where the Clear Creek Trail crosses Bucklin Hill Road and just up the hill at Olson. They don’t flash unless a pedestrian pushes a button to activate them, so it’s not surprising Jo hasn’t noticed any of them. The only time I’ve seen one flash is when I pushed the button myself to test one of those at the SK park.

“The lights, officially called Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons, are a newer device that has interim approval from the Federal Highway Administration,” says Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer. “The lights are devised to give the crossing more attention from motorists. They have no legal standing. The legal requirement is predicated on the pedestrian being in the crosswalk.”

They are set to allow a walker time to travel 3.5 feet per second for the length of the crossing and about three or four seconds are added to either side of the crossing time to ensure pedestrians traffic has stopped for them, Jeff said.

So they will keep flashing well after a pedestrian crosses while running or otherwise making fast tracks.

 

Substandard motorcycle helmet can be reason for a ticket

The in basket: I came across an old e-mail from 2011 from the State Patrol warning motorcycle riders that motorcycle helmets have to meet certain standards to protect the rider.

It said to be sure your helmet “is DOT approved.”

“The Department of Transportation sets standards that manufacturers must follow when designing a helmet, it said.  Proof that a helmet meets the standards is “permanently affixed to the outside of the helmet. Beware of DOT stickers – a sticker is not a permanent fixture.” There also will be a permanent label inside the helmet saying who made it, when and out of what material.

“A proper helmet is typically heavier than a novelty helmet due to the one-inch thick inner form lining,” it said. It also will have a thick chin strap that fits well and is riveted to the helmet.

The news release was couched in terms of injuries that might result from having a substandard helmet, but it didn’t say whether you can be cited for riding with one that doesn’t meet requirements.

The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger said you can be, and can even be pulled over if an officer suspects your helmet doesn’t meet standards.

But as a practical matter, citations of this kind usually result when a motorcyclist is stopped for violating some other traffic law or not wearing a helmet at all.

“If a trooper suspects that a helmet worn by a rider is merely a ‘shell,’ the trooper can (make a) stop and inspect the helmet. Troopers are not going to rely on a ‘DOT STICKER’ on the outer shell as proof that the helmet meets the requirements. Stickers can be removed, painted over etc.

“If a helmet looks very thin and cheaply made, it probably is not conforming to these standards. A citation can certainly be written for violations of the statute,” he said.

 

SR166 shoulder cracks worry driver

The in basket: Sarah Harrison writes, “I am concerned about Highway 166 heading out of Port Orchard. I have noticed several slumps in the road for more than a month, and it seems to stretch for quite a ways this time.

“It started with dips at the edge, and now the paved road is cracking. Most of this currently lies outside of the fog line, but has been steadily progressing towards the road. I know that this has been a regular problem, and the road has been repaired several times.

“Are there any future plans for a permanent solution? Adding some kind of heavy duty seawall or something else to reduce the erosion seems like a reasonable idea, instead of repeated patching and repaving.

“I would not want to wait for tragedy before deciding it is time for a permanent solution,” she said.

I hadn’t noticed what Sarah had, but found at least three fractures that had slumped in the shoulder pavement along the straightaway just west of Ross Point when I went to look. Then there’s the slump in the westbound roadway on the east side of Ross Point, which was built up with additional asphalt last year. I can’t tell if it’s subsided any further.

Since the area west of Ross Point dropped away toward the water and was closed for months a couple of decades ago, I asked if there any special monitoring of this highway for conditions that could lead to slides from under the highway.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker of the state’s Olympic Region of state highways says, “We are aware of several areas along SR 166 that tend to settle.  Our maintenance crews keep a close eye on those areas and repair pavement sections as needed.

“WSDOT keeps a statewide database on slide/settlement areas, and fund long-term fixes to those areas on a priority basis. As you may imagine, the need for permanent repairs outweighs the funding for permanent repairs.

“The settlement areas along SR 166 do not rate high enough at this point to fund a permanent fix. Based on your reader’s observations, maintenance crews will go out to the area again to see if more pavement patches are needed.”

 

 

Has work on Bethel-Burley at Mullenix helped?

The in basket: Carol Dudley thinks the recent reworking of the intersection of Mullenix and Bethel-Burley rods in South Kitsap has made things worse.

“The problem,” she said, “was a dangerous left turn off of Mullenix onto Bethel-Burley or a left off of Bethel-Burley onto Mullenix.

“We had months and months of reconstructing the entire corner to add a turn lane on both Bethel-Burley and Mullenix and a free right turn lane on Mullenix.  The road (was) built up to accommodate the new reconfiguration.

“While the increased lighting is a plus I feel no safer turning left off of Mullenix on to Bethel-Burley as I have to  consider two lanes of traffic and a blind spot.

“As I sit on Mullenix waiting to turn left, the combination of the cars on my right pulling forward to turn right and blocking my view and then when there are more than two cars waiting to turn left onto Mullenix, I cannot see cars coming down the hill south doing about fifty miles per hour.

Add to that the common occurrence of a large truck coming out of Morrison Gravel and to be safe you can wait a long time to be sure you see everything.

“In my view, the Bethel-Burley intersection prior to this fix felt safer and a blinking light would have added caution to the situation.

The out basket: I grew up about a hundred yards from this intersection, and was amazed at the amount of traffic there as I watched it one Monday afternoon, It’s certainly not the quiet little corner I remember.

Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer, says, “The driving force for the project was the number of rear-end collisions that occurred for southbound traffic turning left onto Mullenix.

“The left turn lane was designed and built to get turning traffic out of the way of through traffic on Bethel-Burley.  A flashing beacon would not have been a good fix for this particular situation.  It isn’t a matter of knowing that the intersection is there, but that traffic has stopped at the intersection to make the turn.

“The added left turn lane on Mullenix addresses capacity for those waiting to turn southbound onto Bethel-Burley.  We understand the dilemma of seeing around cars adjacent to you, but there isn’t a good engineering fix for this situation. Adjusting the stop line on the lanes won’t improve the sight lines.

“We recommend that motorists make the turning movement when the gap between vehicles on Bethel-Burley ensures it is safe to pull out,” Jeff said.

 

 

 

Entering a left turn lane before the lines say you can

The in basket: I came across a four-year-old inquiry from Linda G, that read, “This afternoon, I entered onto Caldart in Poulsbo behind a North Kitsap school bus. The bus signaled an intention to turn left at Lincoln, and moved across the double yellow line before the left turn pocket.

“I wanted to turn left onto Lincoln  also, but waited to move left until the pocket entrance was accessible. Was the bus driver OK to move left before the left turn pocket opening?

“There is a space shaped by the double yellow lines that I have always believed was not for drivers, but was a safety barrier of sorts. What’s the law?”

I dredge up this old question, which I didn’t answer then, because it meshes somewhat with this recent one from Tom Baker of Bremerton about the eastbound left turn lane on Werner Road at National Avenue:

“The striped turn pocket is not long enough to hold the vehicles that can stack up,” he said. “The choices are to sit in the center area ahead of the turn pocket, or to extend out into the through lane, Since the center area ahead of the turn pocket is wide enough, that is the most popular choice.

“What’s legal here and had Kitsap County considered extending the turn pocket?”

The out basket: Since the old inquiry came from Poulsbo, I went to that city’s police chief, Al Townsend, for an answer.

I made a distinction between whether this driver behavior does or doesn’t result in a collision.

“It technically is illegal to cross the double yellow line,” Al said. “However, like all traffic issues, officers need to use discretion and good judgment, much like drivers.

“If the driver’s intent is just to line up into the turn lane early, either because it’s too short to hold all of the cars that will turn, or that the vehicle is too large to negotiate the small lane opening after the double yellows, or the traffic going straight is backed up past the open turn lane, and the driver can safely enter the turn lane early (as long as they don’t cross over the second double yellow that protects the traffic lane of the opposite direction), then they should be fine.

“When a driver can mitigate his/her intent for this turn lane and do so in a safe and prudent manner, I don’t see any problem with it, keeping in mind that the letter of the law is that you can’t cross over the double yellow line.

“What would likely determine whether someone was ticketed for that would be whether they did so safely (i.e. not when other cars are coming at them in the opposite direction, did so slowly, etc.)

“On the collision portion, if someone does it within the lines, the person who goes outside of that would likely be listed as the major contributing factor to the crash. Hence the reason they should do so slowly and with caution for other drivers.”

State Trooper Russ Winger agreed with Al.

As regards the Werner Road site Tom asks about, Deputy Sheriff Scott Wilson says, “We recognize that, in many instances, the left turn pocket is not long enough to hold all vehicles where the driver wishes to make a left turn onto a perpendicular roadway. This is especially noticeable during work commute periods and there are many intersections in the county with this same situation. The demand has exceeded the engineering design.

“Pulling into the center lane and then waiting in the area before the turn pocket opening is not a violation that I can find in the RCW,” Scott concluded.

Lastly county Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea said about National and Werner (actually it may have become Loxie Eagans Boulevard at that point), “We will take a look at lengthening the turn lane. This is a difficult location to lengthen the lane because we are restricted from widening the road by curb, gutter, and sidewalk on both sides of the roadway; our pavement width is not adjustable.

“We will have to ensure that we have enough taper length for the speed and enough lane width for two cars to pass without sideswiping. These two parameters may limit or restrict how much lengthening of the turn lane we can do.”