Monthly Archives: May 2015

Winding road south of Eagle Harbor worries Islander

The in basket: A Bainbridge Island resident e-mails to say, “Bainbridge Island is doing shoulder work along all of Eagle Harbor Drive on south Bainbridge. This is a road that gets a lot of use by commuter cyclists but there’s no shoulder and the road is winding with a long uphill section. That means cyclists have to be in the lane and are pedaling slowly uphill.

“Because it’s a winding road, motorists can’t see what’s coming and can’t pass the cyclists. This leads to irate and impatient drivers and cyclists that feel under pressure with cars backing up behind their back wheel. I’ve seen near-collisions when cars try to pass and nearly collide with traffic in the oncoming lane.

“Anyway, the city’s doing this ambitious shoulder improvement project. It looks great – wide and flush with the road, but they’re going just short of paving it for a bike lane. Road bikes are not going to ride on the gravel shoulder, no matter the improvements.

“So my question is: why is the city doing all this work but falling just short of solving a major problem? They’re going to need that bike lane eventually. Why not do it now rather than wait a few years and then have to fix the shoulder again before paving? Bainbridge touts its self as being bike-friendly but this seems bike-oblivious. What gives?”

The out basket: The city has a plan that ultimately will address bicycle safety on Eagle Harbor Drive, but it will be done in 2017 or later, according to Kellie Stickney, the city’s community engagement specialist.

She says, ““The shoulders are being pulled and graveled (now) as part of the city’s Public Works Operations and Maintenance Division’s routine maintenance program. The purpose of the work is to maintain drainage and support for the road edge to preserve the roadway.”

The non-motorized transportation segment of the City’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) deals with paving of shoulders to benefit bicyclists and pedestrians and shows that to be done on Eagle Harbor Drive, but in two phases.  The first phase, scheduled for 2017, works on the stretch between just past Bucklin Hill Road to McDonald Avenue. The stretch between Wyatt Way and just past Bucklin Hill Road is clustered with a bunch of others vaguely set for 2019 to 2033. My reader says the curvy stretch he asked about is between Bucklin Hill Road and McDonald Avenue, so relief could be on the way in just two years.

Alyse Nelson, chair of the city’s Non-Motorized Transportation Plan, which recommended the work set forth in the existing plan, says transportation documents will be among city comprehensive plans now being reviewed, so changes may be in the wind.

Ruined Illahee Road guard rail worked as intended

The in basket: Yvonne Dean wondered if I knew what hit the guardrail on Illahee Road just downhill from Fischer Park in Central Kitsap. It was badly damaged, she said.

The out basket: This didn’t sound like the makings of a Road Warrior column until I went and looked at it. Then I saw that the inner workings of modern guard rails are shown by what’s left of this one.

County Road Superintendent  Jacques Dean said the guard rail worked just as it’s intended to when its end is struck by a vehicle. It buckles, curls and pops loose from its spacers to keep the guardrail from spearing into the vehicle, a possible additional source of injury or death.

He said the identity and type of vehicle that hit this guardrail isn’t known, and the sheriff’s department is trying to identify who and what it was.

Normally, the responsible driver is known from the outset, and the county seeks compensation for the damage through it’s risk management department from the driver or his insurance. Some of this rail may be salvageable, but the repair still could be a $5,000 project, he said.

The county installed a lot of new guard rails on this stretch of Illahee Road a few years ago, using a safety grant, and this stretch is one of them. The others use the same technology, as do all of the county’s new guard rail installations. The county adds a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of new guard rail every other year.

How modern guard rail works
How modern guard rail works

No Parking warnings sprouting on Highway 16

The in basket: George Maybe of North Kitsap writes, “I may have just not noticed until recently, but on my commute the other day I noticed signs stating No Parking – Tow Away Zone all along Highway 16 and wonder what the reasoning is for that.

“I haven’t noticed them on Highway 3 except between Gorst and Highway 304 into Bremerton.  Or anywhere else for that matter except where there are narrow shoulders,” he said.

I hadn’t noticed them either, but there definitely are a lot of them, many of them attached to one of the two legs of the large signs listing distances to upcoming locations or identifying upcoming exits. On the downgrade into Gorst, where the shoulders narrow perceptibly. they got their own posts.

I checked them out nearly to the Pierce County line and found them in both directions.

I asked what prompted them.

The out basket: It took a while to sort it out, as my state highway contact was of the misimpression that the State Patrol had requested the signs and the state Department of

Transportation (WSDOT) had simply complied.

Tuesday, Claudia Bingham Baker, spokesman for the Olympic Region of state highways told me, “It appears I was mistaken when I said WSP requested the restriction. I have since been informed that WSDOT initiated this action as part of a larger effort to put the no-parking signs along more of our high-speed urban highways.” They now are in place the length of Highway 16, from I-5 to Gorst

“The reason is that disabled vehicles create a potential hazard, both for drivers traveling on the highway and for those sitting in the disabled vehicles,” she said. “Disabled vehicles also negatively affect the ability of first responders and WSDOT Incident Response trucks to reach highway collisions.

“We do, and did, ask for WSP’s concurrence before making the change.”

What it means for drivers is they have a lot less time to get their vehicle moving again when they run out of gas or it breaks down on a state highway.

Without the signs, troopers have tagged cars on the shoulder and had them towed after 24 hours. Where the signs are now posted, towing can happen within an hour after an officer spots the disabled car.

They have ordered an immediate tow in the past if the car is in a curve, partially in the roadway or presents an obvious hazard, says Trooper Guy Gill of the Tacoma WSP district responsible for about half of Highway 16. Though he said the Patrol didn’t ask for them the length of Highway 16, it supports them for the reasons Claudia set forth.

He also passed along a piece of advice for anyone whose vehicle is disabled on a state highway, whether marked in a tow away zone or not. If parked on the left side of the highway, it’s automatically a hazard and will be towed as soon as possible, he said.

Always pull a vehicle likely to conk out to the right shoulder if at all possible, he said.

It sounds likely we’ll be seeing these signs on other state highways with 60 mph speed limits.

 

Stream of departing shipyard pedestrians make drivers sweat

The in basket: Elissa Torgeson of Bremerton writes, “We really need a crosswalk light

Steady pedestrian traffic out of the Bremerton shipyard keeps ferry traffic from proceeding
Steady pedestrian traffic out of the Bremerton shipyard keeps ferry traffic from proceeding

at the corner of 1st and Pacific (at the shipyard gate) for when the workers are leaving. It is pretty much impossible to get a car through there as the workers won’t stop at all and it’s basically a constant stream of pedestrian traffic.

“I am getting dropped off at 4pm for the 4:20pm ferry to Seattle and it’s a real problem,” she said.

The out basket: I watched this spot from 3:40 to 4:20 one Thursday this month and the situation she describes certainly raised the anxiety level for drivers trying to get to the ferry around 4 p.m. But while it’s always risky to use one day’s observation to generalize about a traffic situation, what I saw didn’t justify paying for a pedestrian light, by which I assume Elissa means a walk-don’t walk light with the requisite overhead signal heads to stop cars during the walk cycle.

It would have the advantage of letting drivers know they WILL get an opportunity to get to the toll booths before the ferry leaves. I saw one driver pull out of line and around the car stopped at the crosswalk in frustration when the line of vehicles extended back to Burwell. Some drivers seemed to be applying crosswalk law that says you have to have a lane of travel between you and the pedestrian before you can proceed, a practical impossibility at that hour.

Nonetheless, the flow of pedestrians had all but stopped by 4:15. no cars were backed up at either the crosswalk or the toll booths then and the only drivers uncertain of getting on the boat were the  late arrivals you see at any ferry departure.

Traffic signals are expensive and the city is struggling to stretch its street dollars as it is.

Since I assume Elissa’s ride is in the single lane that continues around without going to the toll booths, I would think her solution would be to get out at the crosswalk and walk from there. It’s not much farther from there to the ferry terminal than designated passenger drop-off locations.

Just to make sure the city wasn’t in the middle of something to address this, I asked. Street Engineer Tom Knuckey said only, “We’re always evaluating situations such as this and are interested in practical ideas to improve safety and efficiency.  The rush hour here definitely makes things more difficult.”

Parking changes coming to Bremerton’s 11th Street

The in basket: Tiffany Royal and Willadean Howell of Bremerton are perplexed by the changes in parking on 11th Street east of Warren Avenue.

Tiffany says “The city/parking enforcement finally put up 2-hour signs on 11th Street, so folks can only park for two hours, Mon-Fri from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Since the parking was added on 11th between Warren and Pacific in 2013, the additional parking has been used, during those hours, by those who are obviously shipyard/downtown workers, from basically 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Parking on 11th is empty after work hours.
“Today, as I sit at my house, it’s a desert and as empty as it was when 11th was four lanes wide,” she said..
“Why put restrictions on these particular parking spaces?” she asked. “They’re not super premium like the ones closer to the downtown core (or are they, since employees used them?). And who are these spaces for anyway? Outside of the work week, 11th is just as empty as it is right now.

Willadean, who lives on Pleasant Avenue, said that due to cars in the parking spaces on 11th east of Pacific, where there is no time limit,  “it’s nearly impossible to get out of Pleasant onto 11th without nearly getting hit. You can’t see traffic coming.”

The out basket: Thomas Knuckey of the city traffic engineers said of the timed spaces west of Pacific, “the two-hour parking is an interim restriction that was put on 11th to address parking issues associated with adjacent construction; both the Washington Avenue project along with an apartment building on Highland.

“The issue is that limiting parking to two hours makes spaces available both for Washington Avenue residents, and also provides parking for service/construction vehicles who were using the on-street parking in and around Highland and causing issues for residents.

“It is anticipated this time restriction will be removed after the work is complete,” he said.

As for Willadean’s complaint, Tom said “We checked the sight distance and concur that it needs to be improved; we’re therefore eliminating parking on the south side of 11th between Pacific and Pleasant to address the issue.”

 

 

Walker hopes for a Werner Road sidewalk

The in basket: Fred Chichester writes, “I have lived in the Navy Yard City most of my life. I have found a
perfect walk from my house off of National Avenue. I walk up to Loxie
Eagans and take a left and head up towards the State Patrol office. There is sidewalk to that point.

“I like to walk up the Werner Road hill to the end up by the UPS business at the end, and back. This is a challenging
walk with the hills and is a perfect 3 1/4 mile one-hour walk round trip to
my house.

“I know numerous folks walk this route but you’re always very
cautious with the traffic on the hill especially since there is no actual
sidewalk. I always face traffic so I have the last ditch
option if a car ever comes toward me.

“(It) would be ideal if we could get a sidewalk at least on the
side facing traffic going up the hill as it would make the walk a lot safer and I bet even more folks would use it.”

The out basket: I’ve been of the impression that new sidewalks are built only as part of a larger road project, or as mitigation required during some business development.

But since providing for bicyclists and pedestrians is so much in vogue in the road building business these days, as evidenced by all the shoulder paving listed in Kitsap County’s six-year road plan (called the TIP), I asked county officials if that’s no longer true.

The county’s answer was brief. Greg Cioc, Kitsap’s transportation planner, said, “Mr. Chichester should submit his request and solution to the TIP process and it will be ranked with all other requests.  Go to http://www.kitsapgov.com/pw/Tip_Project_Proposal_form.asp to submit an idea.”

The county commissioners approve the TIP each December, listing what is planned for the subsequent six years.

Another idea for bypassing Belfair

The in basket: I was cleaning out old e-mails and came across one from Tom Rosendale that slipped by me completely when I received it in January 2012.

Tom had read a  Road Warrior column about an idea to keep some of the traffic that is clogging Belfair out of the town by linking Old Belfair Highway with Highway 3, sometimes called the New Belfair Highway, by extending Newkirk Road between them.

It would provide Highway 300/North Shore Road traffic a way to reach Highway 3 without having to pass through the center of Belfair.

Tom’s idea had the same goal. “I’d like to mention how wonderful and logical it would be to connect the Bear Creek-Dewatto Road, which is a feeder road from the many communities within a few miles of the county lines, to Lake Flora Road,” he said. “There would be even more people who would bypass sections of Highway 3, diminish the unnecessary congestion in Belfair, and provide them quicker access to Belfair, Port Orchard, Highway 16, and Gorst.”

Such a road would link to Highway 3 across from its intersection with Lake Flora, another mile or so north of where Newkirk Road’s extension would. I don’t know how much, if any, of such a roadway already exists, as Newkirk Road does. It wouldn’t be completely within Mason County, though, and have to be a two-county project.

But it does sound like the kind of thing Kitsap County had in mind when it build the new Lake Flora Road roundabout, citing expected increased traffic from the South Kitsap Industrial Area as an instigator.

I asked Brian Matthews, Mason County public works director, if he’d ever heard Tom’s idea before. I also asked what the study of the Newkirk Road extension, the subject of that 2012 column, had decided.

The out basket: Brian replied, “The Newkirk road connection is feasible, but would have a high cost due to the need to build retaining walls etc… No cost estimate, but (it was) just a review to determine if the road is even physically possible.

“I don’t recall Mr. Rosendale’s recommendation ever being mentioned since I’ve been with the County,” he said.

Neither idea probably would go very far if prospects of the state funding the Belfair Bypass aren’t dashed again in the Legislature. Last thing I read, on May 4, held out hope for getting between $60 million and $110 million for the bypass, which would run from Lake Flora Road to Highway 302 near Allyn.

Showdown on Higbee Road

The in basket: I was interested to read Ed Friedrich’s front page story the other day regarding uncertainty about what jurisdiction is responsible for the condition of the short road leading from Austin Drive to Naval Hospital Bremerton, described as “crumbling.”.

It’s called Higbee Road and, Ed reported, it was expected the city would take responsibility for it after it was built, probably when the hospital was built back in 1980. But that expectation was never finalized and Higbee probably has had no maintenance in 35 years.

The city is struggling to deal with deteriorating streets all over within its sprawling limits, which extend all the way out to West Belfair Valley Road leading out of Gorst. The last thing it needs is to take on the rehabilitation of Higbee, which appears to be in better condition than, say, Veldee Avenue, subject of another reader’s complaint that may be the topic of a later column. The city hopes the Navy can get it federal funds to do Higbee.

The out basket: I don’t really have anything to add to this, except an anecdote from probably two years ago. A reader whose name I can’t find or recall now asked me to look at Higbee. His or her complaint at the time was limited to the faint and worn paint striping.

I visited the road then, and again this week and I can’t say that it’s obviously “crumbling.” The paint certainly could use attention though.

But it was my previous visit  that is memorable.

There is an apartment complex also served by Higbee, but once you get past the entrance to it, you’re pretty much committed to going to the hospital gate or doing a U-turn in tight space in moderately heavy traffic.

It evidently had been more than a decade since I had been to the hospital, when I attended some news event there and had just driven in. I was surprised to find its entrance as heavily guarded as those to the shipyard and submarine base.

I blithely drove up and told the guard who I was and what I was trying to find. It must have struck him as unlikely, and I couldn’t have gotten a hairier eyeballing if I were dark- complected and wearing a bandolier over my shoulders.

After some time in which another guard took my name and some other information,  looked at my driver’s license and noted the license number of my car, I was permitted to use a turnaround inside the gate and escape – unshot.

Higbee was well-marked this week on a street sign, and my reader may not have given me the right street name, as the gate guards were little help in directing me to it and I wound up driving around Jackson Park without finding whatever it was I told them I wanted to write about. I think I concluded that it was the road into the hospital, and I fled the scene, lest I wound up at some other entrance with leery armed guards. I filed the day’s event away in case it ever became convenient to write about it – like now.

Aircraft help cite speeders here

The in basket: State Trooper Russ Winger tweeted an aerial photo recently, taken from a Washington State Patrol plane he was in during speed enforcement on Highway 3. The photo appeared to be of the stretch between the Mountain View Road overpass and the Highway 308 interchange near Bangor. I’ve known that such airplane-assisted patrols occur here. They are the reason you see painted Vs on the shoulder of our freeways, used to time cars as they pass between them.

But I wondered how often the planes are assigned here, if they can work at night, how the ground patrol units make sure they get the right car and whether ticketed motorists are told that they had been clocked from above.

The out basket: Russ told me, “We do aircraft patrols in Kitsap County on average of 2-4 times a month in the better weather months. Sometimes less and very rarely more.

“The aircraft can (keep) up to 5-6 troopers busy but most areas, like Kitsap, do not have that many available so it is usually 2, 3 or 4. Normally we will work the emphasis for two hours, sometimes slightly less or longer depending on circumstances.

“We do not work these at night in Kitsap County. The aircraft are capable of working at night using night vision and recording equipment. Most speed patrols, however, are done in the daytime hours.

“The aircraft utilize marked ‘courses’ on certain segments of highways. They are marked in half-mile segments with the ‘Vs’ you mentioned. Up to three, sometimes four, segments or half-mile checks can be attained  on a vehicle prior to ground units stopping the vehicle. In this situation, specialized digital stop watches are used to calculate speed using simple time distance to determine vehicle speed. The pilot tries to get at least two half-mile checks in to get a good idea what the vehicle speed is. Only one check is required, however.

“It is fairly easy to see vehicles that appear visually to be traveling above the posted limit and also faster than the surrounding traffic. The pilot starts his speed checks on these vehicles. Sometimes they do not work out and the pilot continues observing for better targets. Most courts have accepted the validity of this type of enforcement technique and support its use.

“The pilot radios ground units the vehicle speed, color and sometimes the model; SUV, truck, car, semi, etc., as well as lane position and time of check. The pilot keeps his eyes on the vehicle while ground units move into position —  usually from the freeway on-ramp — to stop the vehicle. The pilot monitors the vehicle until the ground unit is directly behind (it), assuring that the correct vehicle is being stopped.

The pilot can also relay more violation information such as unsafe following distance and improper or erratic  lane changes that may be observed.

“The trooper stops the vehicle, makes contact and advises the driver the reason (example, speed was checked at 77/79, utilizing aircraft).

“Occasionally some drivers are in disbelief of this and will ask to see this phantom aircraft. Troopers will usually take the time to point out the aircraft circling overhead.

“Occasionally a driver will complain that there are no signs on the road warning them of this aircraft spying on them. In Washington State, this is not required — and most likely would do little good.”