Monthly Archives: January 2016

Homer Jones Drive complaint is revived

The in basket: Longtime friend Vickie Barrie wrote the other day, “Well, Travis, you answered this concern a few years ago, but it continues and I don’t think it was addressed quite right.

“Homer Jones Drive is a one-way street running past the Bremerton YMCA,” she said. “When I leave the YMCA, I go to the north end of the street, driving and staying in the left lane because I plan to make a left turn. Many times, another driver pulls up in the right hand lane and plans to turn left also (they may have forgotten that this is a one-way street).

“I have had fingers wagged at me and near-miss collisions. Could there be arrows painted on the road or a sign put up indicating that the right lane is for right turns and the left lane is for left turns?”

The out basket: Vickie is right that I didn’t give much credence to this when a reader first brought it to my attention a few years ago. It just didn’t seem likely that it was a common occurrence.

I quickly got a snarl from another reader saying it does happen regularly and now Vickie checks in with her update. She says it occurs in her presence a couple of times a month.

I’ve sat and watched the intersection off and on over the ensuing years, but it seems I always choose the wrong hour, early afternoon, as there is hardly any traffic at all while I’m there, let alone conflicts.

Jerry Hauth, in his first year as street engineer for Bremerton, says, “This is the first that I have heard of this one though I can see how it could happen. I am passing this on to the Road Department, with this email, to see what they think of the arrows idea.”

I’m still stumped by how a succession of drivers could make this mistake. Are they assuming cars in the curb lane on the left are parked, or parking? Perhaps some red paint on the curb to create a short no-parking zone would help a little.

20 mph zones in Bremerton raise school zone question

The in basket: After one of my intermittent Road Warrior columns about school zones mentioned the 20 mph zone in front of and near Bremerton High School, Joe Keller commented on the blog version at kitsapsun.com, saying “There is no ‘school zone’ in front of the BHS. The speed limit is just 20 mph with marked crosswalks. I’m sure that just adds to the confusion….”

I checked and he appears to be correct, but if so, it raises the question of whether the doubling of the fine and not allowing a judge to reduce the fine, hallmarks of school zone speed citations, apply there.

I’ve since noticed the same situation on Marion Avenue in front of the Bremerton schools administration building.

The out basket: I haven’t gotten a very clear answer and it may be up to the citing officer whether to make it an ordinary speeding ticket or a school zone infraction.

Jerry Hauth, the city’s street engineer, replied, “I went to one of the city attorneys to get this one for you. We both thought that it seemed logical the double fines would apply, regardless of the posting (or not). However, reading the (state law), it references creating a ‘School or playground speed zone,’ then goes on to reference the double penalties. Having a ‘speed zone,’ certainly implies that it has been posted.”

Next I asked Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police if his traffic officers have instructions as to how to cite excessive speed there.

Pete answered, “ I just checked Marion and the high school.  Both zones are posted 20 mph and have school crosswalk signs.  There is no school zone specific signs, except the school crosswalk signs so I am unsure how a judge would rule.

“If an officer cited the school zone violation when children were present, I think there is a strong argument that it is within the scope of 46.61.440.  However, if it is 10 p.m and no school function was occurring, I do not think that would be justifiable.”

So…have any of you readers been stopped for speeding in either place, and what was the citation, and the outcome in court, if you took it that far?

Road patches on Miller Bay Road having problems

The in basket: Jerry Darnall of Kingston writes, “The recent county road patches on Miller Bay Road from Kountry Korners south to Gunderson are crumbling faster than a graham cracker in milk. Opposing traffic splashes gravel like shotgun pellets. Defective mix? Improper install? Is county assuming any liability for an obvious problem?”

I asked if it was another chip seal that had problems, which has happened in the past.

The out basket: Jacques Dean, county road superintendent says, “Miller Bay Road is surfaced with asphalt pavement, not chip seal.  Crews used cold mix asphalt to repair the potholes with the intent of returning during better weather to complete a more permanent repair.”

“Cold mix is a temporary repair product that typically holds up well in wet weather applications but can degrade under extreme wet conditions.”  Crews were to revisit the area Friday and repair again with cold mix, he said.

“Dryer weather should ensure a better bond with the underlying pavement.  We will look for a longer dry weather window to complete more permanent hot mix asphalt repairs,” Jacques said.

As for liability, I’m sure the county won’t make any blanket offers, but individuals can make a claim to county risk management and see what the response is.

 

Driving in the land of killer speed bumps

The in basket: I have written a lot about speed bumps, and speed humps and speed tables and their various approaches to slowing down drivers by requiring then to slow down or suffer anything from a rattle in the trunk to a broken suspension.

Generally I’ve addressed complaints about them from readers or ideas on how they can be made less disruptive.

I have been spending a lot of time recently in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and environs, and let me tell you you don’t know how good you’ve got it in Kitsap County.

The out basket: In Mexico, or at least in Baja California Sur, as the southern half of the Baja Peninsula is called, speed bumps/humps/tables are called “topes,” pronounced TOH-pays, and they will make you thankful for a mere speed bump, which is the worst of the three kinds in the Northwest.

There are two kinds in Cabo. The least objectionable are a series of round rises that run in a row across the road. In the states they would be called RPMs, for raised pavement markers, or, familiarly, “turtles.” They are, at least, not hard to see and not especially damaging if you hit them too hard. Many of the rows are missing a turtle or several and you can minimize the bounce by aiming for the gaps.

They can be deployed as they are in the states, but I’ve also seen them at the stop signs on two downhill legs of  a city intersection, forcing great care at the signs.

Then there is the other kind. They might be made of asphalt, concrete or even dirt. They span the roadway and are tall and painful to go over at a normal speed. Worst of all, little effort is made to make them visible as a variation in the road surface and there are no signs warning of them. They are devilishly hard to see at night.

I’m told it’s not unusual for passengers to yell out “Tope!!” when they don’t think the driver has seen one. Brake shops in Cabo must love them, as braking suddenly when you realize you’re about to cross one (or your passengers have just loudly warned you)

is a common experience. Still, that’s a lot better than hitting one at the speed limit. That could require an auto repair shop or conceivably, a body shop.

A main freeway through Cabo will be flanked by parallel access roads on each side, ingress and egress to which is regulated, as you see in HOV lanes in the states. You don’t have to worry about topes on the freeway, where the speed limit is 90 kilometers per hour (60 mph). It’s on the access roads that you’ll find topes and, perhaps as a result of the widespread destruction wreaked in 2014 by Hurricane Odile, they are often augmented by fearsome potholes.

I’ve been driven around the area so far, and haven’t had to watch for topes while behind the wheel. It’s a thrill I can’t say I’m looking forward to.

Olympic Avenue in Bremerton proposed for one-way traffic

The in basket: A Gomez writes, “Olympic Avenue between Sixth Street and Burwell Avenue (in Bremerton) is so narrow and with parking allowed on both sides, only one car can fit going in any direction.

“Why doesn’t the city of Bremerton make Olympic Avenue a one-way street just like Fourth and Fifth streets between Olympic and Naval that are as narrow and long as Olympic Avenue?”

The out basket: I had not heard this suggestion before, and neither had Jerry Hauth, who took over the job of city traffic engineer just last year.

“Without further consideration, and probably public input, I don’t have an opinion on this,” he said. “This is the first I have heard of this. As we saw with the suggested closure of Veneta, the community sometimes has very strong feelings about some of this stuff.”

Changing two-way streets to one-way is often a hot-button issue, especially if there are businesses on the street, which isn’t the case on Olympic.

It would be a logical place for such a change through. As the reader notes, the block of Fourth and Fifth between Naval Avenue and Olympic already is what’s called a one-way couplet, with traffic moving in opposite directions. More significantly, the next parallel street to Olympic on the west is one-way southbound.

A. Gomez should take it up with his city councilperson, Dino Davis, who can be reached through the council office at 473-5280 or online at city.council@ci.bremerton.wa.us

An Alzheimer’s patient and his driver’s license

The in basket: I have been providing transportation for a friend who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a year or so ago and was told by his doctor not to drive anymore. He’s not obviously physically impaired by the disease so far and said he misses driving.

I asked the state Department of Licensing if voiding of a person’s driver’s license is automatic with such a diagnosis and if doctors face sanctions if they don’t report it.

The out basket: Brad Benfield, DOL spokesman, says, “In our state, we do not have any mandatory reporting laws for physicians, but it is very common for physicians to report medial conditions that would affect an individual’s ability to operate a vehicle safely (personal safety and public safety).

“We have a form available that physicians (and law enforcement officers) commonly use to report issues. Family members can also use this form. You can see it here:

http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/reportunsafe.html

“Our authority to take action on these is found in RCW 46.20.031:

which says, in part: “The department shall not issue a driver’s license to a person who has previously been adjudged to be incompetent due to a mental disability or disease.”

Anyone reporting such incompetence on that form, labeled How to Report an Unsafe Driver, should know that the report isn’t confidential, can be reported to the subject and his lawyer, and requires first-hand knowledge of the subject’s condition.

Actually. my friend’s license may still be valid and hasn’t been taken away. But he’s following doctor’s orders, and long ago sold his car. He said he witnessed an incident in which an elderly man suffering from dementia had car trouble on the steep hill on Sidney Road coming out of downtown Port Orchard, and doesn’t want to be in his shoes.

Reader wonders about extra Esquire Hills school zone

The in basket: Matt Clous writes, “Esquire Hills Elementary has a properly marked school zone on John Carlson Road. A quarter-mile west from the school is a marked pedestrian crosswalk – the intersection is also marked as a school zone, yet there is no visible school nearby. What’s up with that?”

The out basket: This takes me back to my efforts to explain the school zone on Sedgwick Road (a state highway) at Converse Avenue in South Kitsap early last year, which a reader insisted was not legal under terms of the law that allows school zones, because it was more (way more) than 300 feet from Hidden Creek Elementary. I never did get a satisfactory explanation, but after that reader, Dave Dahlke, got state Sen. Jan Angel involved, the zone was removed and replaced by horizontal flashing lights at the crosswalk on Sedgwick.

The one of John Carlson is on a county road, so I asked county Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea, “what’s up with that?” I sent along a copy of my column on the Sedgwick zone.

Jeff said, “As you point out in your (column), there are two distinct applications at play here.  First is the school boundary.  The law states that a school speed zone can be established 300 feet from the school itself.  The second part of the law allows the establishment of a school speed zone 300 feet on either side of a marked school crossing.  The school crossing doesn’t have to be at the school itself.

“If the school and county determine that a student walking route warrants a marked school crossing that crossing can be controlled by a 20 mph school zone.”

 

Bucklin Hill Road closure should end on time

The in basket: During my intermittent visits to Silverdale, I come to wonder how the replacement of the Clear Creek culverts with a bridge on Bucklin Hill Road is coming, whether it’s on, ahead of or behind schedule and the likely date for reopening the road.

The county’s Web site describes the work being done each week, but I didn’t find anything about the time line.

It’s easy for me to be blasé about the difficulties the work creates for drivers, being there only every other week or so. Still, from what I’ve seen, I’d rather drive there during the construction that on I-5 on an average weekday morning.

The out basket: Tina Nelson, the county’s senior project manager says the work seems to be slightly ahead of schedule.

“The overall project is on schedule for completion and opening of the roadway in July,” she said, then added, “That is in essence ahead of schedule as we have been planning a 14-month closure, and we are now looking at no more than 13 months.

“The exact date in July will be determined this spring when all unknowns have been accounted for. We have encountered some challenges with the utility work, finding unknown utilities and old timbers, slowing down the utility work and requiring engineering revisions.

“As we get out of the ground, the unknowns are less likely, and we can be more certain of the completion date.  The contractor may be adding hours and working on Saturdays to assure a July completion.

“We have heard from the public that they like to know what is happening, so we started updating the webpage (www.bucklinhill.com) weekly with the activities taking place.”

SR16 weigh stations get little use

The in basket: Shortly after answering a reader’s question about why long-haul trucks are often seen bypassing weigh stations on I-90, I came to wonder about the wide spot next to Highway 16 just south of the Burley-Olalla interchange, that is marked as a weigh station.  I couldn’t recall seeing anything being weighed there, I first asked if it was no longer in use. Then after seeing four big trucks, a small panel truck and a passenger car there one weekday morning, with no law enforcement in sight, I suggested it seemed to be more rest area than anything else.

The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger replied that WSPs Commercial Vehicle Division “still utilizes the area for periodic spot inspections on commercial vehicles, which includes weight checks at times.”

He added that “trucks and occasional vehicles do pull into the area when there are no officers conducting inspections. The area is wide and normally there is room for vehicles to stop, adjust a load, make a cell call, etc., well beyond the area where inspections are done.

“You can drive right through past the inspection area on the right. It is not a chronic problem and troopers will also pull into the area and check vehicles stopped there.

“It is not a place to leave a disabled vehicle, however, as it is within the Tow Zone,” meaning the prohibition imposed in 2015 of all parking on the shoulder of Highway 16.

“The same situation exists on westbound SR16 just west of the Narrows Bridge,: he said, “although that old scale area is seldom, if at all, used anymore for inspecting trucks.”

Right vs. left turners at flashing yellow pose a question

The in basket: Margaret Gibbard writes, “Two cars are turning onto the same road- which has the right of way – the right-on-red car or the left-on-blinking-yellow car?

The out basket: That’s an excellent question that hadn’t occurred to me. A left turner with a green light would have right of way, but the blinking yellow left turn signals require yielding to vehicles with a green light, which, of course, a right-on-red turner wouldn’t have.  I had to ask Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Wilson to sort it out for me.

“A left turn is one of the most dangerous movements a motorist makes,” Scott replied. “Left turn traffic signals are designed to let drivers know when to yield to oncoming traffic and when they have the right of way, but the variety of the signals that are in use can be confusing.

“The person who submitted this question asked specifically about which driver has the right of way when two cars approach from opposite sides of an intersection:  a vehicle that is turning left has a flashing yellow arrow, while the other vehicle that is turning right  has a red light.

“In this instance the car turning right has to come to a complete stop before proceeding.  It must yield to any vehicles approaching from the left as well as any vehicles approaching from the opposite direction with a green left turn arrow or a flashing yellow arrow.

“The vehicle turning left on a flashing yellow arrow has the right of way over the car that’s stopped for the red signal, intending to turn right.  The car with the flashing yellow arrow must proceed with caution and yield to any vehicles that are entering and passing through the intersection from the opposite direction.”

So I guess it depends on whether the right turner has gotten into the intersection already.

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