Monthly Archives: July 2014

Olympic Interchange being fixed – again?

The in basket: The news release issued this week telling of a protracted repair project on the Olympic Interchange bridge on Highway 16 in Gig Harbor surprised me. I thought it had already been fixed. I recall seeing the exposed rebar after a reader asked me what happened, and lane closures for work that covered the damage.

The news release also said the state would be seeking compensation from the company responsible for the damage, but didn’t say how much it will cost, or if they know who hit it.

The out basket: What I was recalling was an earlier incident that damaged the bridge in 2011, says Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region public affairs staff for the state Department of Transportation. That damage was repaired but the bridge was hit by an over-height load again last year.

This time, in addition to installing a new girder on the westbound half of the bridge, “to restore the integrity of the overpass,” the westbound lanes of SR 16 will be restriped to gain just over two inches of vertical clearance, and new overhead signs will be installed, she said. The westbound lanes are the ones heading toward Kitsap County.

The highway will be closed four nights with traffic detoured onto the off- and on-ramps, she said. The closures haven’t been scheduled.

They do know who hit it and the bill for the work, to last the rest of 2014, is estimated to be $1.4 million, she said.

24/7 HOV lanes perplex reader

The in basket: Richard Geasland writes, “My question is about the diamond lanes on Highway 16 at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, northbound and southbound.  I have not seen any signs on that stretch denoting times that the diamond lanes are in force. Am I to assume that they are in force 24/7? Other diamond lanes around this area have signs that are around normal commute times.”

The out basket: I’m not sure where Richard has seen diamond (HOV) lanes in the past, but most of the ones I’ve encountered, here and elsewhere  (but not those in Kitsap County) are in effect at all hours of all days.

The HOV lanes on Highway 305 in Poulsbo were introduced with specific hours they were  in effect, and they remain that way. The single HOV lane on Highway 304 coming out of Bremerton was effective 24/7 when built. But it became apparent that congestion outside of the weekday afternoon commute was non-existent and the state made it a general purpose lane except for 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday a year or so ago.

Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region public affairs office says, “The 24/7 designation on HOV lanes is still the norm, however on the east side of Lake Washington in King County, several freeways, including I-90, SR 167 and I-405, have variable HOV hours.  All I-5 HOV lanes are 24/7, and at the moment so are all SR 16 HOV lanes.”

Tolls for use of the HOV lanes account for the variable hours on some of the highways she cited.

“Traffic engineers look at a variety of elements when determining whether to relax the restriction, and once the projects in the Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program build HOV lanes through Tacoma they’ll take another look,” she said.

The Road Warrior tries a questionable turn in Silverdale

The in basket: Eric Blair said in an e-mail this week, “Now that the lights are installed and working at Ridgetop and 303 (in Silverdale), nothing has changed regarding folks wanting to get over to turn left onto Sid Uhinck Drive. Cars still stop in the right lane and wait for traffic to clear so they can jump over to the left-turn lane. The only difference is there is now a guaranteed break in traffic when the light turns green for those turning left from the exit ramp.

“This was a terribly designed intersection,” Eric said. “Either the light needed to control all directions, left, right and straight coming from the off ramp, or there needed to be a barrier installed to prevent this unsafe maneuver.”

He and Rob Davy objected in a March Road Warrior column to the traffic disruption created by drivers who turn right at the end of that southbound Highway 303 off-ramp to Ridgetop Boulevard then quickly move over two lanes to get into the left turn pocket to reach Sid Uhinck Drive.

At best it can be a chancy double lane change and at worst they have to stop in the outside lane to wait for a break in inside lane traffic, which is illegal and annoys drivers behind them. Besides, Rob argued, changing lanes requires signaling a minimum of 100 feet, 200 feet for a double lane change, and there aren’t 200 feet between the ramp and the left turn pocket.

Both men asked for a row of pylons to keep cars in the outside lane from moving over until past Sid Uhinck, as Eric did again in this week’s e-mail.

Rob also suggested allowing right turns from the other lane on the ramp, the one controlled by the new signal and designed for left turns and straight ahead movement. Anyone turning right there would have only one lane change to get to Sid Uhinck.

The state and county didn’t make that change, but I sat on the off-ramp for a while this week, contemplating making the very right turn Rob suggested, at the light.

A traffic island guiding left turn traffic makes it a bit of an awkward turn for a large vehicle, but there are no signs there forbidding a right turn. When I got up my nerve to try it, while the light was green, I made the turn effortlessly in my 2013 Malibu.

What’s to prevent a driver wanting to go from the off-ramp to Sid Uhinck from turning at the light like I did, I asked State Trooper Russ Winger and Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Wilson.

The out basket: There are no signs prohibiting a right turn there, said Russ, but there are pavement markings that do. Pavement arrows are as restrictive as signs, he said. I had made an illegal turn.

“As the intersection is currently configured, a right turn from the left lane is prohibited,” he said. “There are large white arrows within the lane that indicate left turn or straight through movement to access the on-ramp to SR303. The straight through arrow is fading but it is still in place.

“An additional sign prohibiting a right turn from that lane might help clarify that but it is not required.”

Scott agreed. “If turning right from the inside (left) lane were permitted,” he said, “along with the free right turn already in place from the right lane, it is a set-up for confusion by drivers and collisions would be highly likely.

“If this idea were authorized, then (in my opinion) the county would need to install a lane barrier to prevent drivers who have just completed the free right turn from changing lanes to the left (inside lane) until the outside (channelization) lane is west of the intersection with NW Sid Uhinck Drive.

“When I say confusion… there will always be those who won’t understand or comprehend the signage and believe that they also have a free right turn, even from the left lane, leading to an increase in vehicle collisions.

“I think that it’s best to leave it as the traffic engineers designed (it),” Scott said.

The Road Warrior wonders if ending those double lane changes might not offset the collision hazards inherent in the added right turn opportunity, but barring someone with clout getting behind this idea, I guess we won’t find out.

Burwell signal at Warren continues to rankle

The in basket: My friend Bill Throm is the latest to angrily object to what he and others see as an unnecessary obstacle to getting into downtown Bremerton on Burwell Street – the Warren Avenue signal that keeps the eastbound through traffic stuck at a red light for little reason.

The reason is a small parking lot up against the shipyard fence, to which a westbound left-turn green light provides access. Bill and others note that they almost never see anyone turn left into the lot, while they are among dozens of eastbound drivers waiting at the opposing red light.

A reader a couple of years ago suggested making access to the lot available only by turning right from eastbound Burwell or pulling straight across on Warren. That would eliminate the westbound left turn and let through eastbound traffic move at the same time as those in the inside lane are turning left onto northbound Warren.

I would think that would provide more time for other movements at that light.

I asked city officials their latest thinking on this conundrum.

The out basket: As in the past, city street engineers are loathe to make piecemeal changes in traffic control, for fear of having to undo them when an unintended consequence raised its head.

I imagine collateral issues would begin with in what directions vehicles would be allowed OUT of the parking lot if a change is made.

Gunnar Fridriksson, the city’s senior street engineer, says,  “We were waiting on traffic counts and modeling to take a look at what can be done here. We received an initial copy (and) reading through the lines on the report, we currently have the signal optimized as much as possible without making a number of other timing changes in the corridor or reconfiguring the signals.

“The Burwell/SR 304 corridor is one (in which) we are currently reviewing all of the timing packages for the signals and trying to synchronize to maximize our flows. This is an effort we are working with Kitsap County on.

“You will be seeing traffic counters (tubes) out for all of the signalized intersections along this stretch (Missouri Gate to Pacific Avenue) over the next several months, as we have time and resources to get the work done.

“We will be working on modeling the entire corridor next, and be likely implementing changes early in 2015.

“Reconfiguring the light at Burwell/Warren to be a right in/right out is something we will be looking at this fall with our analysis. I would just ask your reader for a little more patience as we try to work through this effort with the resources we have.”



Driver unimpressed with 3-304 merge proposals

The in basket: David McCloskey e-mailed to ask and comment about a state Department of Transportation study of ways to make traffic flow more smoothly west of Bremerton on the way to Gorst, including consultant work by the Parametrix company

 “Why did WSDOT spend $500,000 to use the Parametrix company instead of their own highly skilled engineers? he began, then addressed the preliminary suggestions announced in May and added his own.

“Five of the suggestions most likely will not work, just forcing the traffic backup more towards Gorst,” he said. . “My fix would be to place a metering light at the Auto Center Way exit and make Highway 3 two lanes all the way through. Get rid of the 304 HOV lane in front of the ship yard (1% usage at 3-6pm).

“Spending this money was HOGWASH, with no improvements seen till next year. We need a resolve now. I have driven this route for five years already. The highway speeds reduce to 5 mph.” 

Except for one, those preliminary recommendations are limited to modifying the existing merge by adding lanes where there is room for more and letting both lanes of Highway 3 flow under the Highway 304 overpass,

The other one would create a third lane from the interchange all the way to Gorst, which would entail cutting into the rock cliffs that line the highway now.

A state Web site says a workshop will be held this summer to choose one of the options as the best.

I passed David’s comments on to the state and asked if the third lane alternative doesn’t stand out as far and away the most expensive. It’s been proposed off and on for decades, without ever going forward.

I also asked if the workshop has been scheduled.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker of WSDOT’s Olympic Region, replied, “We do plan to hold a workshop in August, in which the stakeholders involved in the SR 3/SR 304 study will be presented the study results, including the various options being considered.  The stakeholder committee and WSDOT together will determine which option becomes the preferred alternative.

“Once the preferred alternative is identified, WSDOT will hold a public meeting to share that alternative with the public.  Neither meeting has been scheduled yet.”

David’s comments will be added to others received since the list of possible options came out, for the stakeholders’ consideration, she said.

“Cutting into the rock face adjacent to the highway to make room for the lane “(would make) that option an expensive one indeed,” Claudia said.  “Whether it would be the ‘most’ expensive option depends on what other ideas the stakeholder committee may come up with.

 “Mr. McCloskey claimed that WSDOT paid the consultant Parametrix $500,000 for the SR 3/SR 304 study rather than using their own ‘highly skilled engineers.’  We, in fact, paid Parametrix $43,000 for specialized traffic modeling services needed for the study, and we picked up the analysis process from there.  We’d like to thank Mr. McCloskey for recognizing that our engineers are highly skilled.

“Mr. McCloskey mentioned ramp meters (already being considered), making SR 3 two lanes all the way to Gorst (included in several options being studied), and getting rid of the SR 304 HOV lane (we’re looking at potential impacts of converting the HOV lane to general-purpose).

“We sympathize with drivers’ frustration that studies take a long time and design and construction of a permanent fix takes even longer. All the while, we know that people just want to get from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time.

“The purpose of the study is to identify a fix that will work not only now, but at least 20 years into the future. Even once we identify that preferred alternative, no 3-304 merge preoposals or construction funds are currently identified for the work. Until that time, we can only offer up behavioral solutions – adjust work hours to avoid peak commute times, share the ride so he can use that HOV lane, and pack patience.”

How soon to stop for a pedestrian in a roundabout

The in basket: After writing recently about peril to pedestrians at the Manette Bridge roundabout in Bremerton, it occurred to me that I hadn’t addressed an issue of interest to motorists.

How soon must a driver stop for a person in a roundabout crosswalk?

The question occurred to me when I saw a pedestrian crossing the large Highway 166 roundabout at what used to be called the Hi-Joy Y in Port Orchard. I was in the lane on the other side of the “refuge island” midway that provides walkers a relatively safe place to wait for a break in traffic. He was a long way from my lane and stopping for him then would have caused a lengthy delay for me and all traffic behind me. I didn’t stop.

The law requires a driver to stop for a pedestrian who is in a crosswalk, marked or unmarked, within one lane of his own. On a two-lane street, stopping is required when the walker enters the street on either side. On a three-lane street, when the walker enters the center lane. On a street with four or more lanes, when the walker enters the lane next to yours.

But what about in a roundabout?

The out basket: There doesn’t appear to be a clear answer to this. As a practical, if not a legal, matter, the size of the roundabout could make the difference.

State Trooper Russ Winger says, “I do not have a definitive answer to this question. I personally think the driver should stop and let the pedestrian cross when they are ready to enter or already in the opposite lane. This ‘refuge island’ is nothing more than a few feet of asphalt and puts a person very near a moving vehicle if the vehicle does not stop.

“I think the roundabout in Manette is a unique example of roundabouts,” he said, “due to the fact that it – at times – has a high volume of pedestrian traffic and (vehicle) traffic at the same time. It is also a very small roundabout with a short radius and the sight distances are not great.

“I have driven in it many times and it seems trickier than most. You have to be alert to traffic and pedestrians at all times. It can be a very busy intersection and I think pedestrian safety is the more important aspect.”

But he conceded he might feel otherwise with a larger roundabout with more room for error. “Rather a gray area with just the one RCW to deal with it,” he said.

As a guide, I might rely on what Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police told me last year about the rules at the Warren Avenue center barrier between Burwell and Sixth Street.. He said motorist should stop for a pedestrian there when the pedestrian is in the gap in the barrier about to enter your lane.

That gap would be comparable to the refuge island in a roundabout.

Dog in driver’s lap isn’t illegal — unless…..

The in basket: Shawn Morris asks about  “the law pertaining to drivers who drive with their dogs on their laps or even just loose in their vehicle and, if it is illegal, if law enforcement ever cites drivers for loose animals.

“I see almost as may drivers with their dogs on the laps and heads out the window than I do cell phone drivers,” he said.

The out basket: Nothing has changed since I last addressed this in 2005, says Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the state patrol here.

Back then, Russ’ predecessor twice removed, Trooper Brian George, said, “”There is no law specifically forbidding driving with a dog on your lap, but it fits under a law called ‘Obstruction to Driver’s View or Driving Mechanism.’

“If an animal or load (in this case a dog) obstructs the view to the front or side of the vehicle, or interferes with the controls of safely driving the vehicle, the driver may be cited.

“I have stopped drivers a few times for this violation,” he continued. “The times I can recall are when the dog is large or active in the lap of the driver, when it is obvious the driver is attempting to control the dog.”

A car full of furniture that blocks the driver’s view is another occasion for using the law, often around going-off-to-college time in the fall, he added.

Russ expanded on the issue by saying,”It is still a bad idea to let a pet move around the interior of a car, potentially distracting the driver. However, there remains no law regarding transporting animals – other than (to require)tethering a dog in the open bed of a truck – that addresses specifically dogs loose in the vehicle.

“Some people think it is a good idea to let the dog hang out of the window because ‘they like it.’ The question is would you let your child hang out the window?”  Russ asked.

Striping in a tight S-curve is no picnic

The in basket: Bob Cairns of Olalla says, “Recently lower Banner Road in Olalla was restriped with the exception of the very dangerous s-curves whose lines are obscured, doubtless, in large measure, from being ridden or crossed over by traffic.

“Was this an oversight? Does the county plan to return and restripe this area?”

The out basket: It’s a logistical thing, says Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer.

“Sharp corners like this are very challenging for a striping crew,” he said. “As good as they are, this situation is nearly impossible to restripe after the original stripe is painted.”

He attached a photo of what can result from trying.  “Each subsequent line is slightly off the original which makes the line look like a solid very wide line,” he said.

“Safety is also a factor on sharp limited visibility corners such as this. The striper maintains a constant speed when striping to get the required thickness of paint. At the same time it is essential that the driver be watching the centerline for a straight true line. Add the difficulty of a large truck with a long wheel base which makes cornering even more difficult.

“So it is pretty easy to see how difficult it would be for the driver to maintain speed while trying to maneuver a sharp limited visibility corner, not to mention narrow road with oncoming traffic.

“We are looking at alternative methods for the centerline, either thermoplastic line or raised pavement markings.  Either solution should make the corner very visible and easier to maneuver while staying in the correct lane of traffic,” he said.

Suction cups on windshields are technically illegal

The in basket: Flip Johnson of Bremerton asks, “Does Washington allow windshield suction mounts for GPS units, cell phones, and dash cameras?

RCW 46.37.410 says, ‘No person shall drive any motor vehicle with any sign, poster, or other nontransparent material upon the front windshield, side wings, or side or rear windows of such vehicle which obstructs the driver’s clear view of the highway or any intersecting highway.’

“My GPS unit is nontransparent,”Flip said, “but I don’t think it obstructs my view of the highway. Do our local police and highway patrol officers issue citations for these devices?”

The out basket: Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office says, ” (Mr.) Johnson is correct with his assessment of RCW 46.37.410 and according to the statute he could be issued a notice of infraction.

“Now, as with many statutes contained within RCW Title 46 there is what’s written in print and what’s actually enforced out on the roads and highways by law enforcement officers.

“All of us who have ‘worked the road’ have seen a variety of devices that drivers have affixed to their windshields and dashboards… GPS devices and cell phone holders being those most prominent.

“It’s a judgment call by the individual officer / deputy / trooper.

“To be clear, though,” Scott concluded, “if it’s determined that the affixed device was the cause of a motor vehicle collision due to its obstruction of a driver’s vision, even slightly, then I believe that you know what the outcome of the collision investigation will entail.”

State Trooper Russ Winger provided the state patrol’s viewpoint.

“These type of mounts and devices are not a problem unless they substantially interfere with driver visibility. Use common sense where you mount them and there should be no problem. They are a distraction so drivers should not program them when driving. Pull over and do that. Most modern units provide navigation and are not that difficult to use safely.”

Is there such a thing as a ‘citizen’s arrest?’

The in basket: Robert Arper wonders about something we’ve all heard of, but probably have never actually witnessed.

“My question has to do with ‘Citizen Arrest,’ he said. “When could a citizen invoke this procedure and when would the police officers recommend that we do not attempt a citizen arrest and what is the process for a citizen arrest?

“For example, would calling 911 to report a person or a license plate number for someone who litters or speeds be considered a citizen arrest? Is a citizen allowed to detain a person?”

The out basket: The term ‘arrest’ by definition would entail detaining a person, so reporting an offense to 911 wouldn’t constitute an arrest, citizen’s or otherwise.

Claire Bradley, a senior deputy in the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office, says, “There is no provision that I know of for a lawful ‘citizen’s arrest’ in our state statutes. RCW 10.31.100  (et seq) deals with arrests of suspects, and it is exclusively related to law enforcement officers executing lawful arrests.

“It would be extremely unwise for a citizen to attempt to make an arrest or detain someone they believed committed a crime. It is absolutely unsafe to attempt to do so, and may give rise to civil or criminal actions against the citizen conducting the ‘arrest.'”

She didn’t specify what actions, but assault or kidnapping come to mind as charges that could arise from detaining another by force or threat for reasons found to be insufficient.

“There is, however,” Claire continued, “a provision in the Washington Court Rules for a citizen complaint filed in a court of limited jurisdiction. So, citizens CAN file a criminal complaint in a district or municipal court, for any misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, provided they follow the requirements set out in the Court Rule. CrRLJ 2.1(c).  A citizen would need to file the complaint in proper form, and then the criminal action may be instituted.”

One assumes this would come into play if the prosecutor declined to bring the charge. Note also that felonies are excluded from this avenue.

Claire calls the following “the relevant portion of the rule:”

“(c) Citizen Complaints. Any person wishing to institute a criminal action

alleging a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor shall appear before a judge empowered to commit persons charged with offenses against the State, other than

a judge pro tem.

“The judge may require the appearance to be made on the

record, and under oath. The judge may consider any allegations on the basis of

an affidavit sworn to before the judge. The court may also grant an opportunity at said hearing for evidence to be given by the county prosecuting attorney or

deputy, the potential defendant or attorney of record, law enforcement or other

potential witnesses.  The court may also require the presence of other potential witnesses.”

Considerations that would likely result in refusal to let the citizen’s prosecution proceed include possible liability it would create for the county, possible disruption of other prosecutions, whether the complainant has adequate recourse in small claims court or other civil venues, and records of the parties involved as regards crimes of dishonesty.

If the case overcomes all those hurdles, the judge would warn the plaintiff about “the gravity of initiating a criminal complaint, of the necessity of a court

appearance or appearances for himself or herself and witnesses, of the possible

liability for false arrest and of the consequences of perjury” before authorizing the case to proceed.