Limited access isn’t just for freeways

The in basket: For several years, I have been driving past a sign along Highway 3 just north of Lake Flora Road, reading, “Leaving limited access area.”

My understanding of limited access highways has been that they are freeways that one can enter and leave only at on- and off-ramps, and where private driveways and on-grade intersections are forbidden.

But this stretch of Highway 3 isn’t a freeway and there are a few driveways and at least one house just before you come to the sign. Further, there is no indication of where the limited access area begins.

The out basket: It turns out there are three levels of limited access on state highways, I learned from Doug Adamson and Dale Severson of the Olympic Region for state highways. Full limited access along freeways is only one of them.

The sign evidently is a remnant of a time when the state put up such signs and after Highway 3 between Gorst and the sign was designated a “partial limited access area.”

That was in 1957, Dale said, when the state bought access rights along that five-mile stretch. “When we bought the rights, those areas were rural and buying access rights didn’t cost as much.”

There are differences between partial limited access and modified limited access, the third kind, but the most significant is that commercial businesses can have customer access to the highway in modified areas. Much of Highway 303 between Silverdale and Bremerton is modified.

Partial access allows driveways from homes, farms and forest lands but not for retail sales. Farms by their nature are businesses but partial limited access would only prohibit that site from conducting on-site retail sales, they said. .

Highway 305 on Bainbridge Island is one such. “That’s why you don’t see many driveways on 305,” Dale said.

It’s all done in the interest of making highways as safe and efficient as possible in moving traffic by limiting conflict points.

The state planned to build frontage roads some day on Highway 3 near the Rodeo Theater, Dale said, but it never got done. “Until such time las the frontage road is built they have access (to the highway),” he said.

The state’s access control should show up on any title search on a partial or modified limited access highway, he said.

Access to all highways has some degree of control, requiring a permit for a new access. Highways not designated limited access of one kind or another have “managed access,” and there are five degrees of that, too.

Bond Road, for example, is managed class 2, as are most state highways not designated limited access, and Highway 160 (most of Sedgwick Road) is class 3, “because it had more driveways on it when we got it,” Dale said. The lower the class number, the stricter the rules.

Anyway, the sign that aroused my curiosity, which seems to have survived decades of possible vandalism or theft, will be removed, Doug said.

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