Monthly Archives: March 2014

Port Orchard intersection worries nearby resident

The in basket: Bryan McKinnon says the steep intersection of Sidney Avenue and Kitsap Street in Port Orchard is hazardous.

“Having experienced vehicular woes here myself, I can say that it is very difficult (day or night) to monitor traffic moving north-south on Sidney, especially if driving in a car (vs. an SUV/Truck).  Night time, headlights from uphill, southbound vehicles seem to get lost at one point just past the museum.

“Try driving this and please share your experiences with me,’ he asked. “Dangerous or not?  Changes required?”

I asked him what he’d suggest and he replied, “I’ve started focusing on vehicles turning right off of Prospect Street to head south up Sidney. I think those can be the ones that slip past plain view. Perhaps the simple fix is put a stop sign for southbound traffic at Kitsap/Sidney.  However, if right turns off Prospect are suspect, then no right turns off Prospect onto Sydney.

“Please keep it slow and safe on Kitsap,” he added. “We’ve a lot of kids up the hill, elderly, and a lot of pets. I constantly battle the ‘short cutters’ with speeding …and regarding the stop signs as ‘optional.'”

The out basket: I’m very familiar with this intersection and am one of the short cutters who use it to bypass some of the backup on Bay Street in the afternoon. I don’t speed on Kitsap though and have never felt “battled” when I’m there.

I do agree the uphill traffic is obscured by the slope and can surprise someone waiting at the stop sign at Kitsap Street, but a stop sign on that steep upgrade would be very unpopular with southbound drivers.

I’ve never had a close call there.

I asked Port Orchard Public Works Director Mark Dorsey if the intersection is on their radar for any improvements and he said, “I concur that this ‘historic’ and vital intersection has limited sight distance with respect to southbound traffic visibility, but….there really are no viable solutions to improve the intersection, other than making it a four-way stop, and the city currently has no plan to do so as there is no accident history to warrant the change.”

Driver describes odd incidents at end of street past the Y

The in basket: Suzi Hubert writes, “Homer Jones Drive, which runs up past the East Bremerton YMCA is marked as one way. I turn left from the parking lot to head up to the point where you have to turn left or right (onto Schley Boulevard) and when turning left have kept to the left side of the street.

“Several times I have gotten to the point where I need to turn left and the car coming up the road on the right side of the road turns left in front of me. I always thought turning left from a one-way street would mean you hang to left side of the street. Maybe it’s meant to be a one-lane road but at that point of turning there is plenty of room for two lanes.”

I asked if it’s the same vehicle that does it and she said no, they are different each time.

The out basket: This is a puzzling complaint in that it’s easy to imagine it happening once, but several times is hard to explain.

I think that Lt. Pete Fisher of the Bremerton police, who I asked about this, senses the same thing I do, that perhaps Suzi travels too slow for many Y members or patrons from the Bremerton ice rink, who must use Homer Jones Drive to leave either facility.

“I would say there may be an issue where the writer maybe (is) holding up traffic,” Pete said, “and out of frustration they are going around her, or she is so far to the left, that other drivers think she is parked/parking and are going around her.  There could be violations for each, depending on the circumstances. There could be issues with the first driver impeding traffic and there could be issues for the other driver for improper passing, or improper lane use/change but that would be an officer discretion issues, based upon the officers’ observations.”

There is only one lane on Schley to receive cars turning left from Homer Jones Drive, so I think it very likely the impatient turners would be ticketed were Suzi to make her turn at the same time and they collided.

Certainly it would be helpful if lane lines and arrows were put on the pavement to separate the flows of vehicles and denote one lane for turning left and another for turning right. There are none now.

Pacing a speeding cop car

The in basket: Bob Baxter of Port Orchard said he saw something in February that made him wonder if police agencies have any kind of agreement among themselves to ignore traffic infractions by the officers of other departments.

On Feb. 16 and 18, he said, he had occasion to drive from Sedgwick Road in South Kitsap to Newberry Hill Road in Silverdale. Both times he encountered a patrol vehicle, from the Lakewood Police Department the first time and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office the second, traveling the same route.

He paced them and said both went about 10 miles over the speed limit on Highway 16, through Gorst, on the four-lane stretch between Gorst and Bremerton, and then north to Newberry Hill Road, where they continued on but he pulled off to go to his destination. Both did 15 over the 60 mph limit on that final stretch of Highway 3, he said.

He also wondered if he might have been ticketed for keeping pace with them.

The out basket: I thought it highly improbable that there is any such standing agreement between departments, and State Trooper Russ Winger says that’s correct.

“Officers in various departments generally have no idea what other officers are responding to unless they are monitoring other agencies’ radio traffic,” he said. “The general idea is that these various officers are trained to act responsibly within their duties and they should know what they are doing.

“As for my agency, the WSP, we are taught and expected to monitor fellow troopers’ actions, especially newer troopers’ work actions. If a senior officer witnesses another trooper driving in an irresponsible/and or unprofessional manner for no apparent reason, it is incumbent upon them to bring it up and discuss it with the trooper, get both sides of the story. If there is a problem this reaffirming of how we are expected to conduct business is successful in most cases.

“Mentoring, setting an example and not taking a blind eye to unprofessional conduct are some examples of how the WSP monitors its personnel from within. Any officer’s action that degrades the public perception is a concern for us. Troopers are expected to uphold the professionalism and conduct that is expected both within and outside the agency,” Russ said.

The Road Warrior has a couple of additional thoughts. First, it’s unlikely an officer would stop a civilian driver, let alone another officer. for 10 mph over the speed limit. They won’t admit it, but there appears to be about that much “give” in what’s considered a dangerous speed in excess of the posted limit.

Second, as I’ve written before, there are a number of reasons police officers might exceed the speed limit without activating their emergency lights and/or siren.

They may want to not tip off a miscreant that they are on the way, they may be following a driver who has been driving aggressively, in anticipation of a citable infraction, or trying to catch up with a car the officer suspects but isn’t sure is stolen or driven by an unlicensed driver or someone with outstanding warrants.

None of those reasons would ordinarily require excess speed for as many miles as Bob witnessed, of course. I think those officers were just taking the extra miles per hour that they’d give civilian drivers.

And had an officer decided to pull Bob over for 10 or 15 above the speed limit  those days, I’m sure that the act of pacing the other officer wouldn’t have been  considered an excusable justification.

Signs routinely ignored at secondary Winco exit

The in basket: Charles Malley and Sharon Jackson are the latest readers to complain about the number of drivers coming out of the new Winco store in Bremerton on what used to be the end of Arsenal Way who drive straight across to Shorewood Drive, even though signage on that side of the Kitsap Way intends to forbid that movement.

Sharon says sometimes drivers coming straight across hold up would-be left turners, occasionally leaving not enough time for all those waiting to make the turn. It’s also an accident hazard, she said.

“I have never seen anyone ticketed, or even stopped for this infraction,” she said, “and I’ve wondered why. I think it’s possible that when their light turns green, people coming directly across think they can do so legally, despite the right turn only.”

Charles said, “People who live in the Shorewood Drive area are likely to know how this turn is marked.
“There will eventually be an accident when someone turns left from Shorewood onto Kitsap Way and someone else goes straight through the intersection from Winco. So who will get a ticket, the person turning left for failing to yield or the person going straight?”

The out basket: Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police says the driver who proceeds straight would be cited in the collision Charles describes. He also said, “I have also sent this e-mail to our motor officer.  Due to the configuration of the intersection, it is extremely difficult to set up enforcement in a car at that location.” He didn’t elaborate.

I spent about 15 minutes this week watching the intersection. Only three vehicles came out of Winco on that street during that time, but one, a black Lincoln SUV, did come straight across. There was no conflict with a left turner for that driver, and no cars were left waiting to turn out of Shorewood when the light changed.

But it WAS at 2 in the afternoon. Other times might be worse, though I wouldn’t expect a lot of rush hour traffic out of Shorewood and Madrona Point. The wait on Shorewood after the light turned red was a minute and 45 seconds.

I then crossed Kitsap Way to see what signs drivers coming out of Winco see. There are two signs saying only right turns can be made from the right lane, and a no-left-turn sign on the cross-arm for the traffic signal. But nothing about not pulling straight across.

The center lane, from which straight-ahead traffic normally would cross, has several yellow raised pavement markers (turtles, colloquially) creating cross-hatching on the pavement, which makes driving there illegal.

But it seems that some inexperienced drivers might not get the intended message from those pavement markings and use the lane to go straight. Probably most of the violators simply say “Screw it!” I won’t get caught.” But I wonder if more definitive signing banning straight ahead travel would reduce the problem.

When left turners and right turners conflict

The in basket: Edgar Ahiers of Port Orchard called to say that one day in March he was sitting at a green light at the Bremerton National Airport, wanting to turn right onto Highway 3 to go toward Gorst, when a steady stream of vehicles turning left from the Olympic View Industrial Park across the intersection kept him from making his turn.

Finally, he said, he saw an opening and made his turn, only to have one more vehicle coming out of the industrial park pull into the oncoming left turn lane, which had no other cars in it, to pass him and follow the others toward Gorst.

There was no collision, “but a very close call,” he said, and wondered who had the right of way.

The out basket: I told him that the right turner has right of way over left turners in such conflicts, and had there been a collision, the left turner would have been at fault. Further, I said, the driver who used the left turn lane to pass committed a lane violation as well as the right-of-way infraction.

Not so fast, State Trooper Russ Winger told me when I ran my advice to Edgar past hims. It’s a little more complicated than that.

It depends on the nature of the traffic signal, he said. As it happens, I was right in this instance. The signal at that intersection has no specific left turn phase, just a pair of round ball lamps, so is comparable to an intersection with stop signs. In those cases, left turners must yield to right turners as well as oncoming vehicles.

BUT, had it been a more sophisticated signal, with turn lanes and a left-turn phase protected by a green arrow light, the left turners have the right of way, he said. The right turner would have a red light on his side, telling him that the oncoming left turner is making a protected turn.

Though it didn’t apply in this case, yellow flashing arrow turn lights require the left turner to yield to conflicting traffic, right turners included. Russ cautioned, however, that in any such conflict, should the left turner be well into his turn when the right turner arrives, the right turner must wait until the left turner is out of his way.

Back to Edgar’s incident, the driver who used the oncoming left-turn lane to pass him did commit an infraction, Russ said. But at an intersection with a green arrow left-turn signal, fault would depend on whether Edgar was found to have cut off the other driver and forced him into the turn lane.

 

.

Part of Highway 304 median gets a close haircut

The in basket: I notice that a stretch of the overgrown median on Highway 304 just west of Bremerton, known as The Gateway,  has been mowed to neaten it up. I wondered when it was done and by whom, and whether the city of Bremerton still plans a volunteer cleanup of the remaining untended median between Charleston Beach Road and Farragut Avenue this spring.

The city had volunteers weed the stretch between Farragut and First Street last fall, with traffic control and beauty bark followup by city workers. The latest work was more of a clear cut than a weeding.

The out basket: Chal Martin, city public works director, says, “Yes, we are trying to improve the appearance of the Gateway. The middle section is planned for a volunteer event Saturday, April 26.  More to come on the specifics, but the concept is the same as last fall.

“The outer section work was a joint Public Works/Parks project on March 12. Over the winter in 2012-2013, we attempted to hand-weed this section using labor from our pool of work-release folks. Unfortunately the labor pool was not reliable and we spent a lot of time setting up a work zone every time the work crew was scheduled, and very little work got done.

“So although that idea was a failure, we learned a lot. One of the things we learned was that, due to the extensive growth of weeds, weeding was not possible without significantly cutting back all of the other growth. So we came up with the alternate idea of using a combination of heavy machinery and hand labor, but this time performing the job with our city staff.  They know what they are doing and can work safely, quickly and efficiently.

“We have some additional work planned this week, and then I think that will be it for the outer segment for this year.  We will then watch what happens and dial in what we have learned into next year’s maintenance.”

Passing on the right a common hazard at NK intersection

The in basket: Here’s another chapter from “Adventures at Bond, Foss and Pugh,” provided March 5 by Patty Hill, who has written about that North Kitsap intersection before.

“So I’m on Bond Road, heading towards Kingston,” she wrote, “and turning left onto Foss Road (we live out past Tree Farm Lane).  It’s raining and dark.  One truck in front of me and about four cars behind me just passed the 50 mph sign and the ‘no passing on the right’ sign.

“I put my turn signal on and then the truck in front of me put his on right after to also turn left.  I apply the brakes two or three times just so people know.

“I thought ‘great,’ they’re going to stop this time – you never know. There were about seven cars at the most coming from Kingston that we had to wait for.  The first car behind me stopped, the second one decided to go over the solid white line onto the shoulder to pass and about the time he started pulling up, the first car behind me decided they would do the same thing and almost collided. Then the cars farther back slammed on their brakes. We were able to turn onto Foss – without getting hit this time.

“I just can’t understand why no one seems to care about this intersection. You can normally see at least once a month (if not more), glass and car parts lying on the ground after someone must have hit someone else.

“They may be minor accidents, but it’s gotten ridiculous the way no one takes time to wait and has to pass on the right and I hate to say it, but there have been two police cars that have passed me on the right.

“What’s the point of posting a sign about not passing on the right that’s not really close to the intersection where the infraction occurs – no one can see it?!?  To have a busy two-way road with two roads coming off of it, both facing each other has become a nightmare.  It really is scary to sit there with your signals on, lights on, etc. wondering if the car coming up behind you is going to be able to stop.

Is there ever going to be a chance of getting a turn lane or even a roundabout at that location?  As much as that would be a pain, at least it would slow down some people allowing those entering and exiting Bond, Foss or Pugh a chance of not getting killed or having their car destroyed.”

The out basket: As when Jerry Darnall of Kingston made the same points in an October 2012 Road Warrior, there are no plans for a major improvement there.

Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region of state Highways, says, “There are still no plans to build a turn-lane at your reader’s intersection. Unfortunately, we do not have funds to improve this intersection, nor the many intersections that have worse collision histories than this one.  I wish I had better news.”

The state at lest put the “no passing on the right” signs there. That’s a rule of the road, and those aren’t routinely signed, but  having a ferry terminal at the end of the road makes many drivers anxious to shave seconds off their trip.

To cherry-pick one small part of Patty’s narrative, about pumping her brakes, I often marvel at the advice that one should just apply steady pressure on the brakes of a car with anti-lock brakes. That deprives a driver of one of the most helpful things he or she can do to avoid being hit from behind, making the brake lights more noticeable. Owners manuals and other car advisories don’t even hint at that reality, and I wonder why.

Tick-tock, Ridgetop/303 signal project

The in basket: Yvonne Dean and Sam Watland are the latest to ask about the seemingly endless project to put a traffic signal at the southbound off-ramp from Highway 303 (Waaga Way) to Ridgetop Boulevard in Silverdale.

“According to the sign the highway people put up,” said Yvonne, “the road project was to be completed the end of February, but as of March 6, there still isn’t a traffic light installed.  What is the hold up now?  Before it was the pole and the state programing the signal box.”

Sam quipped that he hopes the continual delays on the signal project aren’t an omen about how long Bucklin Hill Road really will be closed this year and next for the replacement of the culverts through which Clear Creek pass under it.

Yvonne also said the heavy rains the past two weeks have raised questions in her mind about the drainage slopes nearby. “I travel the lower part of Ridgetop several times a week,” she said, “and I have noticed with the heavy rains we have been having a lot of water that never gets to the drainage areas that are in place and therefore the water tends to accumulate at lower places causing puddles.

“The specific area I am talking about is at the intersection of the exit to Ridgetop coming north from Bremerton and going right up Ridgetop Junior High.”

The out basket: The county’s weekly Road Report says work was to resume this week with modification of the bases for the signal cross-arm poles, which have arrived. Field testing of the new controller cabinet also was to be done this week and completed Friday.

“The transfer over to the new service system begins this week,” it said. “The contractor is starting additional drainage work at the ramp entering the Ridgetop Boulevard Intersection.
“Two small areas of sidewalk modifications within the project limits are also planned. Remaining channelization markings will be installed upon completion of the new signal system.
“All paint markings, including the crosswalk across Ridgetop Boulevard, will be completed after the signal is operational.  Until that work is completed pedestrians should use marked crossings at other intersection locations.”

Public Works spokesman Doug Bear ways the drainage issues described by Yvonne are outside the signal project boundaries and have “been dispatched to road maintenance crews to resolve.”

 

 

Bremerton schools get into flashing school zone sign business

The in basket: Tom Baker of the city of Bremerton electronics shop keeps me informed about new things we’ll be seeing in the city and recently wrote, “The Bremerton School District is having the city install solar power school speed zone flashers for three schools, on Sylvan, Naval and Marine Drive.

“I welcome these signs that will indicate when the speed limit is 20 mph, instead of the blanket 20 mph 7:30 a.m  to 4 p.m. seven days a week,” Tom added.

The out basket: I got a little over-excited about this, as I envisioned one of those next-generation signs that blink themselves,  like the stop sign Kitsap County has installed on Fairgrounds Road at Old Military. And any change at the interminable school zone on Marine Drive would be an improvement.

It turns out the flashers are just the twin beacons, one above and the other below the school zone sign, that flash at designated intervals around the start and end of school. They are quite common and, in fact, the Sylvan Way Baptist school just down the hill from the Sylvan Way location of the View Ridge school zone has had them for some time.

But they turn out to be somewhat newsworthy, as Patty Glaser of the Bremerton School District says they are the first for her district. And they hope to add more soon.

“We applied for a Washington Traffic Safety Commission grant about a year ago,” Patty said, “and received notification of funding approval this last summer.  When we finally received notification of the funding, the vendor was going through some changes, which delayed the start of the project.  Our hope was to have the project completed before school started but the delays prevented that from happening.”

The beacons are up now.

The three school zones are Crownhill Elementary, Naval Avenue Early Learning Center (as the elementary school is known these days) and View Ridge Elementary.  “When another grant cycle opens, we will be applying for additional funds for Kitsap Lake and Mountain View Middle School,” Patty said.

“The beacon at Marine Drive and Rocky Point will be moved as it should have been placed closer to Dora.  We are hoping to add another at Crownhill if we receive additional grant funding during the next round which I believe is later in 2014 or early 2015,” she said.

303 off-ramp to Sid Uhinck a hairy maneuver in Silverdale

The in basket: Eric Blair and Rob Davy have a quarrel with the way many drivers use the Ridgetop Boulevard intersection in Silverdale where traffic comes off of southbound Highway 303 on an off-ramp and sometimes stops either out of an excess of caution or in order to move quickly to the left to turn onto Sid Uhinck Drive.

That’s the place Kitsap County plans to put a new traffic signal if it ever gets all the needed approvals.

Eric says he uses that off-ramp often and “I almost always get stuck behind someone who is stopped, blocking the lane while waiting for traffic to clear so that they can jump lanes on Ridgetop to turn left onto Sid Uhinck.

“It appears that even with the installation of signals,” he said, “the right  turn lane from the exit ramp will continue to enter its own lane on Ridgetop, and isn’t going to be signaled. How is this going to help exiting traffic onto westbound Ridgetop?”

“Even with the light, I’ll still be waiting for cars who are trying to jump over to Sid Uhnick rather than travel westbound. Is this correct?”

Rob feels likewise and raises three objections.

He says it’s illegal to stop in a through lane to wait for traffic to clear for a lane change. The fact that the ramp is a through lane is obscured by the 90-degree curve it makes, but it has its own lane waiting on Ridgetop and neither a stop nor a yield sign controlling the turn.

Second, he argued, the solid white stripe separating that lane from the next cannot legally be crossed.

And, most tellingly, he says there isn’t enough room between the 90-degree curve and Sid Uhinck Drive for a driver to signal his lane change for the 100 feet the law requires. Two hundred feet are needed because one must change lanes twice to get from the ramp lane to the left turn lane onto Sid Uhinck, he says.

Both men want a row of pylons separating the ramp lane from the straight through lane to prevent those lane changes.

Rob even proposes a realignment that would allow those on the ramp to get to the Sid Uhinck left turn even if pylons are installed.

Let ramp drivers use the lane that allows left turns onto Ridgetop to turn right there too, both on a green light and on a red when traffic allows, he proposes. That way they could get into the Sid Uhinck left turn lane with only one lane change, for which there may be enough room to signal for the 100 feet.

The out basket: When the signal is installed, green lights for ramp traffic will stop all conflicting traffic with red lights and reduce the number of motorists who make the unnecessary stop at the 90-degree curve. Regardless of its legality, the move to Uhinck would be easier.

And single white lines don’t prohibit a lane change to another legal driving lane. Double white lines, such as those at HOV lanes, do that.

The law DOES prohibit stopping in a through lane to make a lane change. I’m sure tickets are rarely written for it, but a driver who gets hit from behind after stopping for that purpose can get a ticket as well as the driver who hit him. Many of those drivers who have been stopping where that off-ramp turns, for whatever reason, would be astounded,  I’m sure,  to learn they’re breaking the law.

As for the changes Eric and Rob propose there, County Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea says, “Before we make any modifications to this intersection, we will see how it works after the signal has been operating for a while.

“The reader makes an interesting recommendation, though.  For local traffic it might work once traffic gets used to it.  It would take time away from the left turners in that lane which could upset some motorists.

“It would be difficult to provide guide signs for the visiting motorist. We try to sign and mark roads in a manner that a motorist would expect.  Turning right from an inside lane is not a normal traffic movement.  This would lead to some real frustrated motorists that are confronted with a traffic barrier if they are in the right lane and want to get onto Sid Uhinck.

“Also, the ramp falls under the jurisdiction of (the state).  They would have to be convinced to change the configuration of the signal, markings and signage,” Jeff said.

I would guess the 100 feet of signaling requirement is enforced maybe one time in 10,000 it’s violated. State Trooper Russ Winger calls it “‘technically’ illegal to jump to the left turn lane (from the ramp lane), even though HUNDREDS of vehicles accomplish this on a daily basis. I suggest the (county) install a sign – and possibly barriers – prohibiting the left turn to Sid Uhinck from the right-turn lane, if the road engineers feel it is warranted. I do not know what kind of accident profile the county has in that section since the construction, so I give observation only.”