Monthly Archives: August 2015

Cluster of Kingston message signs questioned

The in basket: Walt Elliott of Kingston wonders about an array of signs he sees on weekends a block from the KIngston ferry terminal.

“A well-intentioned individual regularly puts up a cluster of message signs,” Walt said. “Putting up a sign or two is the norm for yard sales, events, messages etc. and is A-OK with most, but 10 signs is over the top for me.

“As I recall this isn’t allowed by RCW.  Although the stretch is patrolled by WSP to manage traffic, this weekend flock of signs remains as predictable as mushrooms after a spring rain.  Is there an acceptable upper limit ?”

Among the messages he’s seen, which vary, he says, are Kingston Port of Peace, 22 Vets Die Every Day, Earth Care not Warfare, Move to amend, Corps are not people, Be a well informed voter, No Lies radio, Informed consent, World Peace Thru 911 Truth, End Wars and Occupations, Time for Women to Stand Equal and 5 Women on the Supreme Court.

“The location is on SR 104 where it divides into two one way streets,” he said. “This is 2 and one half blocks from the toll booths.  The display normally runs from the fork in the road where the current community center parking lot is (and where WSP traffic control routinely parks) up past the intersection with Illinois Avenue.

“The individual has also set up his display in Poulsbo at the junction of 305 and Bond Rd. (307),” Walt said.

The out basket: . Claudia Bingham Baker of the Olympic region of state highways says, “We will have our maintenance crews look into it.  Private signs are not allowed on state right of way, so if that is occurring, we will first try to contact the signs’ owner, and follow up as needed after that.”


Promised Chico Way repaving yet to happen

The in basket: Ian MacKenzie writes to followup on a Road Warrior column from last October regarding Chico Way in Central Kitsap.

“At that time, Sam Watland commented on the recent substandard patching of Chico Way that had just occurred,” Ian noted. “Doug Bear at Kitsap County Public Works indicated it was only prep work for a scheduled asphalt overlay of Chico Way that was to occur in late spring or early summer of 2015.

“Well, we are about at the end of summer 2015 and there is no indication that this new asphalt overlay is going to take place. In fact, they even re-striped the existing roadway that is still riddled with all the bad patching that took place last fall. What happened to the plans?”

I asked about it, noting the electronic signs on Lund Avenue in South Kitsap, which also got dig-outs (also called full-depth patching) last year, that say Lund will be repaved beginning Aug. 31. I asked if both are examples of a prep-now, pave-later approach.

The out basket: The Chico Way plans have changed, said county Road Superintendent Jacques Dean, and the paving there now is scheduled for 2016.

“It is common practice for us to maintain our roadways in this fashion,” he said. “Prior to a scheduled resurfacing of either asphalt overlay or chip seal, deteriorated areas are repaired, by either one or a combination of full depth patching, pre-leveling, crack sealing, fog sealing, etc.

“If we fail to complete this preparation work prior to resurfacing, the underlying deficiencies will soon reflect back up through the new road surface, defeating the purpose of the maintenance work.

“Most typically, resurfacing work is completed immediately following the preparation work during the same year.  Sometimes the preparation work is completed a year or more in advance.  This is usually dictated be weather, work windows and/or availability of equipment and crew.

“Both Lund Avenue and Chico Way were littered with areas of significant alligator cracking and potholing.  These deficiencies needed immediate attention to preclude further, and expanding deterioration.

“On Lund Avenue, it was our intent to complete an asphalt overlay immediately following the preparation work. We were not able to accomplish this work due to the onset of inclement weather, and as such, the overlay was rescheduled for this year.

“The preparation work on Chico Way was completed in advance of a planned overlay that will be completed by a contractor through a grant-funded County Road Project (CRP) in 2016.  This project was originally scheduled for 2015, but was rescheduled for 2016 due to a robust CRP schedule in 2015.”

$4 million to restripe 3-304 merge?

The in basket: I read that money has been set aside to modify the merge where highways 3 and 304 meet west of Bremerton, described in news stories as restriping to allow both lanes of Highway 3 to flow through and eliminate the merge into a single lane that now backs traffic up past theta Loxie Eagans interchange during rush hour.

The stories say it will cost about $4 million. I asked how on earth they could spend that much on restriping.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highway, replied, “The work at the SR 3/SR 304 merge will be much more than just a restripe. The project will do some widening and ramp reconstruction to change the configuration of the interchange.

“When the work is complete, the two southbound SR 3 lanes will continue through the interchange (where now they narrow to one lane), and SR 304 traffic will merge onto SR 3.

“This project’s goal will be to relieve peak-hour congestion. The current timeline of this $4.2 million project is design from 2015 to 2017; construction from 2017 through 2018.”

So much for my advocacy of eliminating the signs directing Highway 3 traffic to merge left early and adding signage encouraging the “zipper’ move of cars alternating at the actual merge point. With both lanes going through, there no longer will be a need for that. The state is unlikely to introduce such a change for the three years the existing merge will continue.

Passing legal, but not advised, into double uphill lanes

The in basket: On recent trips out to Belfair and back, I have been eying the centerline striping on the downgrade from Sunnyslope Road to Gorst on Highway 3. It begins as a double yellow line, which I would expect, but part way down, it turns into a skip stripe for downhill traffic. There a two lanes uphill and one downhill at that point

Normally a skip stripe denotes a place you can pass. I faintly recall a sign along there years ago that said something about downhill traffic having to yield to uphill traffic, but it’s been gone a long time.

I wondered if passing is legal there by crossing over the skip stripe into the uphill lanes. There is so much uphill traffic there, that even if the inside lane was empty when one started to pass, a car in the outside lane could move into the lane you’re using to pass at any moment.

I’d have to be following someone going no more than 25 miles per house before I’d dare try it.

I included a similar alignment of Highway 104 where it intersects US 101 at Discovery Bay in Jefferson County when I asked.

The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger, who speaks for the patrol here, says, “It is legal to pass in that situation unless posted no passing. If there is traffic in the outside lane then it is not legal to pass as they have the right of way.  The downhill car must yield to all uphill traffic.”

So if there is oncoming traffic in EITHER uphill lane close enough that you can’t get back into the downhill lane before meeting it, it’s illegal to pass there.

“It is NOT advisable to do this in the area south of Gorst,” Russ said. “The speeds here are very high and traffic volume is also very high. The cross street at Division also makes this dangerous.

“It is also legal to do so in a portion of the section on US101 you describe. This is a straight section approximately two miles in length. It is also very dangerous and not advisable to pass here due to the high speeds and volume of Peninsula traffic, especially during the tourist season.

“A year or two back we had a fatality collision involving a motorcycle traveling east that had to take evasive action to avoid colliding with a vehicle making such a pass ‎traveling west. The rider died. We were not able to locate the car but had witness information that the pass occurred and was improper and dangerous,” he said.

Bone-jarring park speed bumps widened

The in basket: Peter Madsen writes, “We were at Anderson Point County Park August 13, and I think that the county really got carried away with the speed bumps they installed. They are higher and more abrupt than any I’ve seen elsewhere, and even at dead slow speed our 2009 Accord bottomed out on the one next to the park entrance. So far it isn’t dribbling oil all over the place….

“Isn’t there some sort of a standard for speed bumps?” he asked. “More and more, your replies in this column strongly imply that there’s some federal or state standard for everything with regard to traffic. I’d think that the normal speed bump should be navigable by the normal average sedan without fear of damage. But those speed bumps are too abrupt and too high.”

The out basket: Peter e-mailed later that day to say a Facebook post from someone else said the bumps had been smoothed, and by the time I got out there, four of the five were widened to a comfortable level. But the fifth one, the one closest to the parking lot, was bone jarring. It was as bad as some you will encounter in some mobile home parks or the ones that were briefly in place at South Park Village Shopping Center in South Kitsap a few years ago before, I assume, shopper protest got them lowered and/or widened.

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works, which did the work for the parks department, said, “The original speed bumps installed were not viewed as being effective in slowing traffic. They were built up, then residents and park visitors felt they were too abrupt. So the bumps were lengthened to create 12 feet long speed humps which are in place now. These conform to the existing county standard.” The fifth one was to be smoothed that day, he said.

As for standards for installing them, Jeff Shea, the county’s traffic engineer says, “Traffic calming devices that cause vertical displacement are usually called either speed bumps, speed humps, or speed tables.  Speed bumps are generally small and generally very abrupt.  They are used in parking lots quite often.  They are designed to force a vehicle to nearly come to a stop to maneuver over them. Kitsap County doesn’t use these on public roads.

“Speed humps are less abrupt, but do require a significant speed reduction to go over them comfortably.  They are normally spaced to allow motorists to achieve the posted speed between the bumps while decelerating and accelerating.  Speed humps are used by the county on local streets.  Speed tables are even less abrupt and are used primarily on roads that have bus traffic and larger vehicles on them.” Tracyton Boulevard has speed tables.

“The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices doesn’t spell out how to build nor does it give specifications for the shape of the device,” Jeff said.  “The MUTCD gives the signing and marking requirements if speed humps or tables are used.

“The MUTCD doesn’t require signs, but recommends them with an Advisory Speed sign below the warning sign.  If (pavement) markings are used, it specifies how those markings should look and be placed.

“There is no federal requirement on the dimensions of a speed hump or table. Kitsap County tries to get their speed humps to about 3 inches (tall).  The width of the speed hump is usually about 12 feet. The speed humps can be formed into several shapes.”

Getting the humps to look as planned is a challenge, he said.  “Kitsap County builds their speed humps from asphalt. It is extremely difficult to screed the hot material into one of the shapes and compaction of the asphalt will impact the actual final height of the speed hump. This explains why speed humps around the county can vary in their impact to motorists.

“We could build them closer to the specifications, but that would take concrete.  Concrete costs significantly more and requires a much longer cure period before traffic can drive on it.

“A speed table is simply a speed hump with a flat top,” he said.  “The flat area is normally about 10 feet long.  The flat top makes if a little more comfortable for long wheelbase vehicles to maneuver over the device.  It also allows passenger vehicles to traverse a little faster than over a speed hump.”

I notice that the county’s signs warning of them call them ‘speed bumps’ and urge a 10 mile-per-hour speed to cross, though they really are speed humps. Bremerton’s signs say “speed humps” and urge 15 mph, though there’s not much difference in the two jurisdictions’ humps.

Over-intersection flashers may give way to sign post flashers

The in basket: I noticed the other day that the intersection of Fircrest Drive and Madrona Drive in South Kitsap’s Parkwood development, which has gotten more than the usual traffic control in the past, has something new.
Above the stop signs for traffic on Madrona wanting to cross Fircrest there now are flashing red beacons with solar sensors above them, their power source.
I didn’t recall seeing anything like them before, though they called to mind the stop signs on Fairgrounds Road at Old Military Road, which are bordered by small red flashing lights.
I asked if they are something new and what it is about Fircrest and Madrona which requires extra attention. Until now, that consisted of a sign warning Madrona drivers that cross-traffic on Fircrest doesn’t have to stop.
The out basket: Kitsap County Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea says, “Both the LED lights bordering the signs (on Fairgrounds Road) and the above sign beacons (on Madrona) are (federally) approved applications to improve sign conspicuity.
“The LED border lights at Old Military and Fairgrounds is the only location with this configuration, although we do have a Warning Arrow sign with LED border lights on Southworth Drive.
“The intersection had a higher than average collision rate, so we decided to enhance the stop signs with the LED lights.  We will be monitoring this site to see if this enhanced conspicuity of the sign reduces collisions.  I have seen some concern noted in the literature about glare from the LEDs obscuring the sign to some degree.
“The (Madrona) sign beacons are currently under a replacement test program.  Our traffic safety team has been doing research on safety related to over-intersection beacons. They found that some motorists are confused on the meaning of the red in one direction and yellow in the other direction. Several jurisdictions around the country are replacing all their intersection beacons with above-sign beacons.
“Currently we have replaced two overhead beacons with above-sign beacons; 30th and Trenton, and Madrona and Fircrest.
“You are correct that this intersection has gotten a lot of attention for safety measures.  We aren’t exactly sure why motorists are having problems, but we will continue to monitor it. If we find that above sign beacons improve safety, we will eventually change out all overhead intersection beacons.”

Motorcycle loading rules on ferries no different on holidays

The in basket: My stepdaughter Ronda Armstrong and I had need to drive to Blaine on July 3, the Friday of a holiday weekend. Because of the prospects for heavy end of the workweek and start of the holiday traffic, we took the Kingston ferry.

Arriving on time for the 8:30 a.m. departure from Kingston, we drove right on without waiting. But after getting off in Edmonds, we drove past miles of cars waiting to go west to Kingston.

Ronda, a budding motorcyclist, wondered if motorcycles (and bicycles) get the same preferential treatment under the conditions we saw that morning as they do at other times. She also wondered if there is a limit to how many motorcyclists would be thus accommodated per departure.

The out basket: Yes, says Susan Harris-Huether of Washington State Ferries. Specific to Edmonds, “She (would go) to the lower lot (past the railroad tracks) and she either has to get off her bike and go in to buy a ticket or hopefully, she pre-buys on line so she can just be scanned and get in line.  “So yes, she bypasses the line.”

Motorcycles and bicycles get preferential loading at all state ferry terminals, at all times, though logistics vary with each terminal.

I had included State Trooper Russ Winger in asking the question, and he said, “That is my understanding also. Motorcycles and bikes also bypass the tally system in Kingston when in effect.

“I believe the ferries take as many bikes and motorcycles as arrive on time for departure,” he said.

Woods/Mile Hill signal changes for no apparent reason

The in basket: Dave Dahlke of Port Orchard writes, “What’s with the light on Woods Road/Mile Hill Drive? When I went through there Sunday and Monday mornings it turned red for the east/west traffic on Mile Hill Drive when there were no cars going north or south on Woods.”

The out basket: Daren Miller, signal supervisor for Kitsap County Public Works, says, “Both Mile Hill and Woods Road use video (traffic) detection. The pluses of video detection is that you have no problem with detection of motorcycles/bicycles and when you repave a road you do not have to replace costly detection loops that are installed in the pavement.

“The drawback of video detection is that if something changes in the camera’s field of view –  shadow across the drive lane caused by the angle of sun on trees or poles – it will put in a call to the controller to change the signal.

“Cars are detected because they cause a change in the camera’s detection field. The south side of Mile Hill at Woods has trees at the intersection that create shadows at this time of year. We are working on a solution.”


Temporary signal should have been at Blaine, 2 readers contend

The in basket: Carole Patterson and Ann Emel think the county chose the wrong place for the temporary stop light in Silverdale during the Bucklin Hill Road closure.

“Kitsap County has installed new stop lights at the wrong intersection of Levin and Ridgetop,” Carole said. “The traffic backup is at Blaine and Ridgetop. At 6 p.m. today there were nine cars waiting on Blaine to turn right onto Ridgetop. Is their a logical explanation?”

Ann wrote, “I remember when I first read in the Kitsap Sun that a traffic light was going to be

installed at Levin and Ridgetop, my first thought was it just couldn’t be. Levin would become a dead-end road and Blaine, which  runs behind Safeway, would remain a  through street linking Bucklin and Ridgetop.

“I still don’t see the why of the light at Levin when I see very, very few cars waiting there to enter onto Ridgetop and most often six to eight cars lined up on Blaine to do the same thing.

“Since the light at Levin is now 30 days past predicted install, why couldn’t that idea be scrapped and a new light put in at Blaine where it would serve more cars?

The out basket: Tina Nelson, senior program manager for Kitsap County Public Works, says, “The traffic study that was completed for the Bucklin Hill bridge project did not indicate that a signal at Levin and Ridgetop would be beneficial during the closure. The close proximity to the signal at Mickelberry would make timing coordination difficult, if even possible.

(But) at public meetings the concern was raised and we re-visited the situation. There are several businesses off of Levin and getting in and out of Levin could become a challenge. Therefore we decided on the temporary signal. We did review putting one at Blaine, but that is not access to as many businesses, and having one at each would not work, so there was the decision to add it at Levin.

“Signal equipment has very long lead time and delivery timing is not predictable. (That’s) not unique to us, (it’s the) same across the state and the country.  You may recall the delay in getting the signal running at Ridgetop and SR 303.

“We knew that it was unreasonable to require that the signal be operational by July 1, but we needed to close the road at that time to move the project forward, working with fish windows etc.

“We required that the signal be operational by Aug. 14 in the contract.  Initially we thought that we would have it operational by mid-July, but delivery was delayed, and now it is finally up and running.”


Children under 13 must ride in the back seat, if possible

The in basket: Driving through Belfair the other day, I spotted a billboard with a surprising message.

“Patrols Now,” it said. “Children up to age 13 must ride in the back seat.” It depicted a woman officer talking with a child in the back seat of a car. Nowhere was there any indication of who had the message put up or what ‘Patrols Now” means.

I have been vaguely aware of the child restraint requirements, but thought they applied to infants and toddlers. I was surprised by the up-to-age-13 element.

But mostly I wondered what “Patrols Now” means

The out basket: The billboard is the work of the child passenger safety unit of the state Traffic Safety Commission.

Cesi Velez, associated with the unit, tells me, “Each year Washington participates in a national seat belt mobilization; Click It or Ticket (CIOT). Seat belt and proper child restraint use reduces the risk of serious injury and death in a crash by half.

“A statewide survey showed that there are two areas of opportunity in keeping children safe when riding in vehicles; improving booster seat use and children under the age of 13 riding in the back seat. For this reason, this year’s CIOT campaign focused on education about Washington’s child restraint law RCW 46.61.687 and the placement of billboard messaging.

“In addition to the messaging, an online training was released with law enforcement its intended audience. The RCW can be confusing for officers as well as parents. Enforcement occurs 24/7 although this emphasis started a concerted effort to focus on child passengers.

“I regret we did not include a sponsor on the billboard and appreciate you bringing it to our attention,” Cesi said. “In the future, it will be incorporated so that persons will know where to direct any questions.”

The law, to which the up-to-13 element was added in 2007,  includes a qualifier as regards those under 13 having to be in the back seat. It says “where it is practical to do so.” A driver can be ticketed for not complying where it is practical.

I asked Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, what is considered unpractical. His response: “If there is a rear seat available in a motor vehicle, then a child passenger under age 13 must be seated in the rear seat.

“If no rear seat is available, such as in a single cab pick-up truck, or two-seater sports car, then the child may ride in the front passenger seat. The child’s seat position or placement must still be equipped to adhere to infant safety seat or child booster seat requirements, where applicable

“If there are more child passengers under age 13 than there are rear seat positions, that also would be an acceptable ‘where practical’ example.  Again, the provisions indicated in the above sentence apply.

“Here’s where sheriff’s deputies observe the most common violations of (this law),” Scott said.:

– Parents placing children under age 13 in the front seat while transporting them to / from school or the store.  ‘It’s quick trip, we’ll be home in a few minutes, we only live a short distance away… ‘

–  Parents who place the child in the front seat, with the rear seats folded forward / down in order to pack the car with luggage, possessions, sports equipment, etc.  In situations such as these, the child under age 13 must be seated in a rear seat, and the driver can place some items on the floorboard of the front seat, or restrain equipment on the seat with the seat’s safety belt.”

Maybe this is all common knowledge to the parents of pre-teens, but it was an education for me.

There may or may not be “patrols now” beyond day to day law enforcement. Marsha Masters of the Kitsap County Traffic Safety group says their Click It or Ticket emphasis patrols occur in May. Mason County Sheriff’s Department didn’t know much about the billboard.