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.