Monthly Archives: December 2015

On big trucks speeding and bypassing weigh stations

The in baskets: Nancy Bryant writes, “My daughter and her family have moved to Ellensburg.  During my trips back and forth from Bremerton, I have noticed that many truck drivers bypass the open weigh station heading west on I-90.  Don’t all trucks have to stop to be weighed?

“A side note,” she said, “is that it amazes me how fast those semis go. I set my cruise control at exactly the speed limit (hey, I’m retired and have no need to hurry any longer, so why go over the speed limit!!!) and basically watch as the semis pass me like I’m standing still.  Cars pass me, too, but I see an amazing number of them  pulled over later by the WSP.  I’ve never seen a semi pulled over for speeding.

The out basket: Many trucks take advantage of what’s called “weigh-in-motion,” accomplished by the sensors you see suspended over the travel lanes near the weigh stations and in-pavement sensors.

The state’s expert on the technology says, “The Weigh-In-Motion (WIM) system is part of the Electronic Screening process (E-Screening) that not only weighs the vehicle at highway speeds but also identifies the vehicle so that credentials – registration, licensed weight for haul, safety ratings for the carrier, safety values for the vehicle, etc. – can be validated before the vehicle reaches the weigh station.  This allows for a more efficient way to determine if a commercial vehicle has a potential safety issue.

“The vehicle travels over the WIM and passes by the sensors at the same time, this is how we determine if the vehicle is a commercial vehicle and whether the vehicle should report to the weigh station.  After the vehicle passes by the WIM system, there are signs that tell the driver to either ‘Report’ to or ‘Bypass’ the weigh station.

As for whether semis get stopped for speeding, I wondered if the height and length of those vehicles factor into decisions on when and whether to pull them over.

State Trooper /Russ Winger says, “We stop them all the time. They are unique in the way you mentioned, more consideration is needed for stop location and we don’t like to climb up on the cabs for obvious officer safety considerations.

“We normally have the driver contact outside the trucks after initial contact. Professional truck drivers are contacted by (commercial vehicle division) troopers on a regular basis due to inspections and weight checks as well as traffic stops for observed violations. They are usually well-versed in protocol for these contacts. It is their livelihood and they obviously wish to have their ducks in a row.”


Again, the rule on stopping for a school bus

The in basket: Carol Haskins of Poulsbo asks “In Washington, are drivers required to stop for a school bus that is stopped on a three-lane road, and the center lane is a two-way turn lane?”

The out basket: Regular readers of the Road Warrior column probably know the answer to this one, as I’ve addressed it several times before.

But maybe today I can educate a few more drivers who stop when they don’t have to. It’s not often a person who knows the law isn’t stuck behind one who doesn’t.

Every car following a bus must stop when the bus has its red lights blinking and side ‘stop’ paddle out, regardless of how many lanes are traveling in that direction. So do all drivers coming in the other direction on a two-lane road.

But as Carol’s question suggests, if there is a lane between your lane and the one the bus is in, even a one- or two-way turn lane, there is no requirement to stop.

If it’s not a law, it’s common practice for school districts to not allow children to be let off a school bus where they’d have to cross three lanes to get to the other shoulder.

Beach Drive seawall work hard to spot

The in basket: There has been for several weeks an intriguing entry on the weekly Road Report from Kitsap County Public Works which alerts citizens to where they may find road work in the way that week.

It says ,”Beach Drive (between Hillcrest Drive to Woods Road) Crews are doing seawall maintenance in this area Monday through Friday. Flaggers will assist motorists through the work area. Delays of up to 10 minutes can be expected in the immediate vicinity of the work.”

Knowing the enormity of the seawall work on the Seattle waterfront, and never having seen such a project listed on previous Road Reports, I was curious to see what it looked like. But as I drove between Hillcrest and Woods, I couldn’t spot anything out of the ordinary except reconstruction of the Waterman Dock. I asked if that was it.

The out basket: Jacques Dean, county road superintendent, replied, “There were three sites between Hillcrest and Woods where the county did bulkhead repairs.  You can identify them by the straw mulch that has been placed on the road shoulder for erosion control.  “The Port of Waterman was performing dock demolition and wall repairs during the same timeframe that our crews were in the area.”



Readers worry about dangerous trees and limbs

The in basket: Al and/or Barb Johnson and Clint Newell have asked about trees and limbs they think pose a hazard to drivers in a couple of places in South Kitsap and Bremerton.

“Traveling east on Mile Hill Drive past Colchester,” the Johnsons say, “there are several large limbs over the road forming an impressive archway. It looks like a potential danger if we get heavy snowfall or high winds. Why would these not be trimmed back?”

Clint sees a similar danger on Almira Drive in Bremerton.

“For years I have been very concerned about three trees at the intersection of Almira Drive and Clemens,” he said. “They lean completely over Almira Drive on a 35-40 degree angle. Three or four years ago, the city painted a big X on all three, and I assumed they would be taken down. On rainy or windy days, my wife and I avoid that street, fearing for our safety.”

The out basket: The Mile Hill Drive site does look dangerous should one or more of the large limbs snap and fall on passing traffic. There probably a lot of places in the county as bad, though.

The Almira Drive location is more impressive, as the trees actually are permanently bent at the base and lean outward precipitously. It’s surprising they’ve stood for the three or four years Clint describes.

A bigger surprise: Those trees aren’t as scary as they look, says Bremerton city street engineer Jerry Hauth. “The trees in question have been examined by an arborist and determined not to be an imminent threat. So they aren’t an issue at the present.”

He included an excerpt from the city ordinances that says dangerous trees are among the things property owners are responsible for rectifying, but added, “If it’s property we own (and there are several parcels that have been given to us) or a street end (S. Cambrian @ Coontz, for example), I send it to Public Works.

“We also have the street crew do work in places that isn’t sensible for the adjacent property owners to do it, for example, along 11th street east of Highland north of the west end of the Manette Bridge, and the separation area between upper and lower Shore Drive.”

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says of the canopy just past Colchester Drive (I think the main road becomes Southworth Drive, no longer Mile Hill Drive, at that spot), “We are aware of this location and monitor the area as a priority during storms. We do have policy that addresses danger trees, as well as roadside vegetation management, but no specific policy regarding overhead canopies.

“There are other locations in the county with similar canopies over the roadway. With the number of trees in Kitsap County the chance of limbs being blown down during a storm is a concern in all locations, including those with overhead canopies.”


Highway 304 HOV lane violations said still to be rampant

The in basket: David Barr writes to say he found a Road Warrior column from 2011 about widespread flouting of the rules in the HOV lanes coming out of Bremerton heading toward Gorst and “sadly I can report that the situation has remained completely unchanged and I believe revisiting this story is warranted.

“A few times a week I leave Bremerton around 4 p.m. when shipyard traffic floods the area, and I consistently see a significant portion of people occupying the HOV lane do so without meeting the requirements of that lane.

“It has to be true that enforcement of the rules during the 3:45-5:30 peak commuting time would only complicate the congestion situation. Can you imagine pulling 30-50 people over in a half an hour in that location?  It would not only be a nightmare for traffic, but also for the safety of the troopers.  Additionally, the state patrol would be likely be exposed to public outcry for making the commute more difficult.  Its a lose-lose for them.

“I can’t help but feel that these conditions contribute to the lawlessness I perceive when it comes to these particular HOV lanes,” David said. “A practical person would simply conclude that it seems unsafe to enforce the rules during these heavy commuting times and this is why daily commuters have little motivation to follow the rules.

“Does the state patrol have any plan to fix this?”

The out basket: I see the same thing when it’s light enough to see into the vehicles passing me in that HOV lane. One recent night when it was raining heavily that wasn’t possible, but the stream of vehicles in the HOV lane was so heavy I had to assume that most were breaking the rules.

Still I could get upset only on principle as their behavior really wasn’t delaying me much. I suspect that that HOV lane was created more to qualify for federal money for the Gateway improvements than to help with traffic.

State Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the state patrol here, says, “It is true that enforcement during this time would probably contribute to slower traffic movement. Emergency lights on the shoulder tend to do that. This does not mean our troopers are going to shy away from enforcing the law. Regardless of a driver’s rationale for violating the HOV restriction, it is still illegal. Assuming that we are going to avoid the area and enforcing the law because of ‘public outcry’ is incorrect.

“As to your reader’s question of do we have a plan to ‘fix it,’ no, we do not. The only real ‘fix’ is more lanes and fewer vehicles. Not likely soon.

“Making traffic stops out on the highway is dangerous, period. That comes with our job. Our troopers will continue to enforce the speed and HOV law here when they can and at random times.”


Freeway lane changes can be hazardous

The in basket: Jim Hazel writes, “Coming back from the airport, I was following a car that decided to move right to a slower lane at the same time as a person two lanes over tried to move left into the same spot. Fortunately, they both backed off before there was a problem, but my son and I got into a debate about who had the ‘right of way’ in that situation.

“My son suggested that the person moving right had precedence over the person moving left.  I said that they are both under a responsibility to avoid dangerous lane changes and that there is no ‘right of way’.  We both agreed that it is a moot point and perhaps would come down to the last person with a clear chance to avoid a collision.

“Do you know what the State Patrol’s position on this situation would be?”

The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger of the local detachment replies, “Any time you are changing lanes you are required to yield to vehicles previously occupying the lane. In the case your writer describes, the decision and action to change lanes occurred simultaneously – apparently – and neither driver was aware of the other vehicle until the last second where both recognized the situation and took evasive action to avoid a collision. This probably happens countless times a day on the multiple lane freeway of the I-5 corridor.

“This could be because of blind spots, not checking mirrors, defective or missing mirrors, driver distraction in or out of the vehicle, and the all-important last-second head checks that may or may not have taken place.

“You have to sort through the possibilities in a collision investigation and the bold answer is not always staring at you,” Russ said. “In the event of a collision, absent any independent witnesses that could shed more light on the ‎event, and possible physical evidence on roadway that could suggest impact point in lane,  both drivers could be cited for improper lane change,” he said.

New markings on new Seabeck Highway pavement called inadequate

The in basket: Kathryn Seals writes to say she has been

wondering if I’ve had any comments on the striping/reflectors on the new stretches of pavement leading to the recently completed roundabout at Seabeck Highway/Holly Road.

“The paint has minimal reflective content and the actual reflectors are few and far between,” she said. “Most of the new roads I’ve been on have been brightly marked and more reflective than an airport runway.

“However, driving Seabeck Highway home in the dark last night from the Bremerton direction was like trying to navigate a wet black sea.

“I could barely see a center line or shoulder stripes — and oncoming traffic glare made for a pretty nerve-wracking couple of miles.  Maybe the crews put down temporary ‘first coat’ markings but haven’t gotten back for the final application? Otherwise whatever they did hasn’t lasted.

“I know it’s the wrong time of year for a re-stripe (something sorely needed on ALL our roads out this way) but maybe the county road crews could slap down a few dozen more reflectors in all directions to help until spring.”

The out basket: Jeff Shea, the county’s traffic engineer says, “We have not noticed the problem encountered by your reader. The newly paved section of Seabeck Highway is marked the same as other roads with that speed and federal functional class.

“The road is striped with fresh paint, double coated, for both the yellow centerline and white edge lines. Raised reflective pavement markers are on the centerline to improve visibility.  The markers are spaced the same as on all other county roads.

“In addition to added visibility for the centerline, the markers also improve the visibility during rainy weather.  Water on the road tends to degrade the reflectivity of the paint making it much more difficult to see.  The markers help counter this problem by their height above the standing water.

“Of note in visibility issues during rainy weather is the pavement itself. New pavement is very dark and reflects little to no light.  This makes the roadway more difficult to see and adding the water from the rain makes the painted lines hard to see.  As a road ages and sees wear and tear from vehicles, the small stones in the asphalt start to wear through and reflect some light making roads easier to see.

“We restripe all county-maintained roads each year,” he added, though as Kathryn suggested, not this time of year.

Seabeck Highway STILL bumpy from PSE work

The in basket: Greg Salo writes, “For those of us that travel Seabeck Highway westbound from the Bremerton end to Holly Road, this year has been a year of construction and anticipation of the completion of the underground power line project and the repaving of a stretch of the road.

“Initially the ‘patch job’ that Puget Sound Energy did on the westbound lanes was so poor and bumpy the county told PSE to redo the entire lane (which they did).  The second paving effort has been an improvement, and did remove many of the bumps and dips caused by the installation of the underground power lines.

“However, each of the PSE access covers on the surface of the westbound lanes has now ‘matured’ into more bumps and holes that we have to negotiate around and through, in an attempt to not damage our tires and suspensions.

“Will the County again tell PSE to fix the hazards they have created on the westbound road surface?  At the very least, there needs to be a typical road hazard sign placed at the approach to each access cover.  (BUMP AHEAD)  It would also be beneficial for each access cover to be painted with reflective white paint as a warning to drivers. Seabeck Highway is very dark during our rainy December nights.

“Could you see if the county is satisfied with the road that PSE has created for us?  And, who will be responsible to mitigate the current hazards at each of the access covers?”

I asked my stepdaughter Ronda Armstrong, who lives out that way, about it and she said she has taken to straddling the edge line at the covers to avoid the bumps.

The out basket: Yes, says  Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works, PSE’s contractor Potelco will be working on it, but “it been spending a lot of time lately handling the recent storms and the damage caused by them. That said, they are still on the hook to adjust the vaults to match the existing grade of the road. Their plan, as of last Friday, is to be out there this week working on these issues.”

Gorst needs traffic cameras, say Facebook posters

The in basket: Josh Farley of the Sun reporting staff said following the lengthy closure of the highway in Gorst recently, “Several people today have asked on the Kitsap Sun’s Facebook page if the state’s Department of Transportation has ever considered putting cameras through the highway intersections in Gorst.

“As you know, there was a tragic crash this morning in the area and many people’s commutes were also affected. I wondered if you knew how many cameras WSDOT maintains in Kitsap County and if the state has thought of Gorst at all.”

The out basket: Doug Adamson of the Olympic Region’s public affairs staff says, “(We’re) considering adding a new camera at the SR 3/SR 304 interchange in 2017-2018. If funding is available, (we) would like to add a second camera in Gorst near the SR 3 and SR 16 interchange. Currently there is a camera at the intersection of SR 3 and Sam Christopherson Avenue. This camera along with 22 others can be seen on our Hood Canal Bridge Area Traffic Alerts and Cameras webpage,” he said.

The Christopherson camera was installed to guide drivers on the detour route while the Hood Canal Bridge was closed a few years ago and remains in place.

“Drivers looking for information about collisions on a state highway can find frequently updated information around-the-clock via WSDOT’s online travel tools,” Doug continued. “Those include our travel alerts web page, email updates, and WSDOT’s free mobile app.”

·         Gorst area camera

·         WSDOT Travel Alerts web page

·         Email updates

·         Mobile app

There also is a traffic map on the Kitsap Sun Web page, which depicts slowdowns, though I can’t say how accurate it is. It’s provided by the paper’s corporate parent and the local staff doesn’t know a lot about it. It has no camera images.


Parking at interchanges prompts a question

The in basket: Debbie Corpolongo of Olalla is curious about what she thinks is an unusual number of cars stopped on Burley-Olalla Road under the overpass on which Highway 16 crosses it.

They are usually passenger vehicles, always have someone in them and are there all hours of the day and night, about every other time she passes that spot, she said.

The out basket: I can’t shed any light on this phenomenon. There were no cars parked there, with or without occupants, the seven times I pulled down the exit ramps to look for someone on my way to or from Tacoma .

Possibilities that occur to me are illicit romantic meetings, drug deals  and child custody visitation hand-offs. I’m not likely to find anyone admitting to two of those if I’m every able to find anyone stopped there to ask.

I did notice something interesting though. Should someone leave their car there unoccupied, they would be subject to having it impounded as soon as law enforcement sees it.

The ubiquitous “No Parking – Tow Away Zones” signs with which the state has lined Highway 16 this year are posted under the bridge too.

Out of curiosity, I checked the Mullenix Road and Tremont Street interchanges, the next two north of Burley Olalla. Mullenix had only Emergency Parking Only signs and there were no signs regarding parking at Tremont. I asked what guides the decision on what parking limitations to impose at the interchanges and whether it matters if someone is in the car.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways replied, “The signs were installed at different times, and as a result their wording varies a little. They all mean the same thing, which is that parking is prohibited.

“Parking on highway or interchange shoulders in areas not signed is not illegal, but it’s also not a good idea. A car parked on a roadway shoulder becomes in essence a fixed object that can be hit by other vehicles. We hear of such collisions frequently.”

Washington State Patrol has a somewhat different attitude. Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for WSP here, says a car owner has longer to remove his car at Mullenix than at Burley-Olalla.

“If a motorist (at Burley-Olalla) leaves a disabled vehicle on the shoulder,  it is subject to impound,” he said. ” (Our communications) generally make an attempt to contact the registered owner via a phone listing prior to towing but this not usually effective due to reliance on cell phones these days.

“If possible, troopers will give the driver time to call in or return to the vehicle. An hour is normal but not required. We suggest a driver leave a note and phone number with the vehicle, if possible.

“Failing this, the vehicle is subject  to immediate impound. We try to use common sense and be reasonable with this. However, if a vehicle is abandoned in a unsafe location (in lane of travel, blind curve etc, the trooper can immediately remove the vehicle.

“If someone is present with the vehicle and just briefly stopped,  then common sense and reasonableness with the situation is expected.”

Where signs allow only emergency parking, such as at Mullenix Road, “That would be OK to leave a disabled vehicle safely off road, at least until tagged by county sheriff’s office,” Russ said. “(It’s) similar to the way SR16 used to be with our 24-hour rule. I’m not certain what time limit, if any, they use.”