Monthly Archives: October 2016

School signage on Ridgetop Boulevard confuses

The in basket: Norm and Karen Kunkel are concerned about how much of Ridgetop Boulevard uphill from Highway 303 is a school zone.

They said they saw a yellow pedestrian crossing sign depicting what appears to be a woman and a child, posted just west of Hillsboro Drive and an “End of School Zone” sign just past the intersection and concluded it was a school zone. Karen told me they have been going 20 mph from there all the way up to the actual school zone at the street leading to Emerald Heights Elementary, even though there are 35 mph speed limit signs posted there.

She said she has talked to people who have gotten a school zone citation somewhere in there.

The “End of School Zone” sign just past Hillsboro no longer is there, Norm said last week.

I asked the county where there are school zones on Ridgetop, what the yellow two-figure sign denotes, and if signage on that stretch of Ridgetop Boulevard had recently been changed.

The out basket: Jeff Shea, traffic engineer for Kitsap County says, “The only school speed zone on Ridgetop Boulevard is on either side of the intersection of Pinnacle Court leading to Emerald Heights Elementary School. There is no school speed limit zone at Hillsboro.

“The School Sign (it is actually 2 students, not an adult and student) which looks like an old school house (5 sided; floor, sides and roof) is actually a warning sign alerting motorists that a school or school crossing is nearby.  It is to warn motorists that they could see school-age children on or near the roadway.  It does not require the motorist to reduce speed.

“The posted speed limit is the legal speed.  Not until you see a rectangular sign with a school speed limit 20, and flashing lights, times, or “when children are present” placards does the speed limit change.

“We recently revisited all school zones county-wide. Some changes to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Devices triggered sign modifications.  The end school zone signs were removed because motorists don’t actually go through the school speed zone.  The directional arrow below the School Sign is new to the MUTCD and denotes that the school zone is around the corner on Hillsboro.

Port Orchard makes quick work of weedy guard rail

BEFORE
BEFORE    
AFTER
AFTER

The in basket: Nancy Fuller-Hall wrote, “I moved to 282 Farragut Avenue  in February. Who is responsible for the Farragut road?  As you can see the area where we live is a mess but just up the street the                                        guard rail and street is nice and neat.

 

The out basket: That Farragut, as opposed to the one in Bremerton, is in Port Orchard. Public Works Director Mark Dorsey of that city replied, “The City does maintain the vegetation along these guardrails.  BUT…….please understand that we (Public Works) only have 12 employees to operate/maintain/repair (2) public water systems, the sanitary sewer system, the storm drainage system, the road system and our city parks and facilities, for a population that has doubled in the last eight years.  We do this two ways:

1) identified and scheduled routine maintenance

2) response to citizen complaints.

“For the prior, roadside vegetation control with our roadside vegetation mower is a constant from early Spring to Fall ….but guardrails require hand labor (weed-eater) and we keep up on those as best as we can.

“For the latter, we maintain a Complaint Log whereby we receive a citizen complaint, determine who is responsible (often times, it’s the adjacent property owner’s responsibility, i.e., sidewalks, trees, etc.), schedule the work if it’s our responsibility and follow up with the complainant.  We rely on the community to help us keep on top of things that we just don’t see in our day to day.”

He asked one employee to add the Farragut complaint to the Complaint Log and another to schedule the work.

Just two days later, Nancy wrote again to say, “Just wanted you to know that the Department of Public Works cleaned up the street yesterday. Thank you so much for your referral and quick action.  Not only does it look great but I can now pull out of our driveway and see the oncoming traffic.”

The day the troopers association called me

The in basket: A while back I got a call that began, cheerfully, “Hi, this is Matt, calling for the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association.”

Having recently met a local trooper named Matt, I asked if it was he calling.

After about 10 second of silence, “Matt” resumed, giving no indication that he’d heard my question. So I asked again.

Another period of silence, and the voice resumed, again giving no sign I had asked anything, but seeking a donation. I listened long enough to determine that the solicitation seemed legitimate, as he asked permission to send out a donation packet with information on the association. I hung up.

I asked Trooper Russ Winger, my local WSP contact, if it WAS on the level, and whether the trooper named Matt that I had met was the one who called. Also I asked if this was some kind of anticipatory robo-call that presumes to predict what the person called will say and includes a stock one-size-fits-all answer that somehow disguises the fact it’s not a real person calling. And if it was legitimate, why choose such a oddball way of making the request.

The out basket: Yes, it was a legitimate solicitation from the troopers’ association, Russ said. He didn’t know anything about the technology behind the call, but gave me the phone number of the company on the east coast that conducted the campaign.

Matt turned out to be Matt Crow of Ellis-Crow Solutions, and he said he remembers that day (two days, actually) when he was unable to hear what the person called said though they could hear him. “We had a lot of issues and as the day progressed, it got worse and worse,” he said. There were a lot of such calls, so some of you reading this may have gotten one and wondered what on earth it was about.

They use something called Voice Over Internet Protocol to make the calls, Matt said, and those two days it malfunctioned. Though he didn’t seem to be getting any response on the line, he plunged ahead with his spiel, with me, anyway.

The association has a Web site if you want to know more about it. It’s a collective bargaining organization, but also donates to a variety of benevolent groups, the site says, and just now is promoting a GoFundMe campaign on behalf of a WSP employee’s daughter with a rare form of cancer. The site is wspta.org.

Revisiting Riddell Road storm runoff

The in basket: Bob Carter, who complained to the Road Warrior last spring about storm water allowed to flow down Riddell Road in Bremerton during heavy rains, writes again to say, “Paving on Riddell Road between Pine and Highway 303 was just completed. There had been a problem with water on the roadway during a hard rain storm.

“After the paving, there seems to be still a water problem on the roadway during a rain storm and it starts up by Peace Lutheran Church. The water from the culvert under the driveway going to Peace Lutheran Church needs to be contained and routed to a drain before it enters the roadway which causes hazardous driving.

“Now most of the water enters the roadway and some of the water flows downhill and enters the parking lot at Redwood Plaza with excess water depositing sand/gravel in the parking lot and it also has created standing water as you enter the Redwood Plaza parking lot by Bank of America.

“The exit to the parking lot was filled in with asphalt but the entrance side was not. The new paving did, however, improve the water on the roadway at Riddell and Highway 303,” he said.

The out basket: Colen Corey of Bremerton Public Works, says, “We added some catch basins to catch water in the right of way east of the church so that there is less water traveling the entire distance on the road surface.

“We have not completed the various tasks associated with this project yet, such as some shoulder work, paving of driveway areas and completion of lane channelization. We will accomplish these tasks this fall/winter as time allows.

“This area is very flat and the surface water does not move very fast, causing the perception of a lot of water in the roadway during heavy rain periods. However, the new drainage is working good and handling storm water as planned.

Left turns at Bucklin Hill Road spot worry reader

The in basket: Shawn from Silverdale, as he signed himself, says, “I have a concern about a left turn that is being made into the Starbucks parking lot on Bucklin Hill Road in Silverdale. I see drivers turning left into the parking lot between Starbucks and IHOP.

Now the way the little island is set up, it looks to be designed to enter as a right hand turn coming down the hill rather than a left going up. There are no turn markers on the pavement except for the left hand turn onto Bayshore Drive.  Also to make the left turn into Starbucks, drivers cross over a double-yellow line.

“All the time I see many close calls with that turn and have even seen a couple cars almost hit head on.  I have even seen oversized trucks make that turn while running over the curb in the process.

“I have been unable to turn left onto Bayshore Drive because the left turn is full of cars, backed up to go to Starbucks,” he said. “Is this an illegal left turn?

“Further up the road there was a turning curve barrier installed for Levin Road to prevent left turns from Levin.  Is there a possibility of some sort of barrier installed by Starbucks that allows cars to turn onto Bayshore and prevent turning into Starbucks?

“There is a turning spot just about 100 feet past IHOP that goes into the same parking lot, (but) drivers just don’t use it. And I personally believe putting up a sign that says Do Not Enter might be something, but won’t help much, since most drivers are too distracted to see road signs and will still make that turn.

“I just have a feeling that this is going to be a bad accident waiting to happen,” he said.

The out basket: This complain echoes ones I’ve dealt with recently on Lund Avenue in Port Orchard, where right-in-right-out configurations make left turns into and out of them difficult, but not illegal. The turns Shawn is seeing also are legal.

Double-yellow lines don’t forbid a left turn, unless there is a raised barrier, crosshatching between the lines or a sign saying no left turn. There are none at this location.

Jeff Shea, traffic engineer for Kitsap County, says there will be a sign forbidding left turns.

“We recognized the issue before the Starbucks was built.  We conditioned the developer to install a channelizing device at his approach.  But, like similar devices, motorists either don’t recognize it as a turn restrictor or choose to make the left turn against the restriction. It is difficult to construct a true turn restrictor.  The angle has to be so extreme that it forces traffic to practically do a U-turn. That takes up a lot of space and property.

“The property owner is aware of the restricted turn, so placing a barrier in the road is an option.  The difficulty with a barrier is that it blocks turning movements in both directions.  In this case it would restrict movements into Hop Jacks across the street.  Hop Jacks doesn’t have any turning movement restrictions placed on it.  This would restrict their only driveway entrance to a right-in-right-out only access.

“Our Community Development Division is talking to the Starbucks property owner about this issue.  To make it clear, we will install a no-left-turn sign at the turning location.

‘The sign would have to go on the right side of the road.  We may, depending on the success/failure of the right side sign, try to place another no-left-turn sign near the Starbucks entrance,” Jeff said.

 

Little Beef Creek bridge paving job criticized

The in basket: Warren Lewis of Seabeck writes, “Could you put a bug in the ear of the county black-toppers to repair the rutted road surface on the Little Beef Creek bridge, especially heading north? I sometimes cross the center line to avoid tire damage.”

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works replied, “Crews patched the pavement last week where it had delaminated from the base pavement as a temporary repair. We plan to resurface the bridge next year when weather allows.”

Road work sign blocked view from driveway

The in basket: Phil Hunter of Glenwood Road in South Kitsap says, “The other day when leaving (home) there was a large diamond-shaped sign, placed right at the end of my driveway. The sign was to notify people that there was a flagger ahead.

“It was very difficult to enter the road, because the sign was completely blocking my view.

“There was a contractor just down the road that appeared to be doing work for the phone company, so I walked down and asked him about the placement of the signs. His response was that they just place the signs at a place where it is easy for them to pull off the road.

“While driving back towards Port Orchard, in the 12000 block of Glenwood Road, I came across the county doing some work on the road as well. The county employee was placing the exact same type of signs and he was placing them in between driveways, allowing plenty of visibility for drivers to see while entering the road.

“Just wondering if there are any rules and regulations for the placement of temporary construction signs by work crews?”

The out basket: Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office says, “Requirements concerning the placement of temporary traffic control signs are delineated within the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a publication issued by the Federal Highway Administration an agency under the U. S. Department of Transportation.

“The manual specifies the standards by which traffic signs, road surface markings and signals are designed, installed and used.  These include shapes, colors and fonts used.

“In the U. S., all traffic control devices must conform to these standards.

“The manual also specifies the placement of temporary traffic control signs… including those indicating that a flagger is ahead.  Sign placement is predicated on type of roadway and speed limits in effect in the area.

“The manual contains several charts and templates for use in determining temporary traffic control sign placement.  The signs must be easily and readily observed by approaching motorists.  Common sense would dictate that the placement of temporary traffic control signs does not interfere with visual sight lines of drivers entering a roadway from a private driveway.

“Should a situation on a county roadway be brought to the attention of KCSO patrol or traffic deputies, as presented by Mr. Hunter, a deputy would make a point to stop by the construction site, verify the complaint, and then speak with the supervisor to advise about the safety aspect and request that placement of the sign be adjusted.”

 

 

How strong must winds be to close Narrows bridges?

The in basket: With a Baker family function scheduled for Saturday on the east side of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, there erupted quite a flurry of Facebook posts and e-mails wondering whether the predicted weekend storm posed a threat of family members being stuck in Tacoma should the gusts close the Narrows bridges.

I know there is a widely publicized standard for closure of the state’s floating bridges (sustained winds of 45 miles per hour, I think) but I’d never heard comparable thresholds for the Narrows. So I asked about that and when they activate the common precautions of “severe wide winds on bridge’ on the electronic signs on each side of the spans.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways, had the answer ready and waiting, having already fielded a request for the information from the Tacoma newspaper.

“We don’t have a specific wind speed criterion for closing the bridge; it’s a call we make based on the (following) criteria, and we err on the side of public safety,” she said.

“Staff at our Traffic Management Center monitor the wind blowing across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge decks in three ways, all low-tech and all effective:

1) They monitor the wind socks on the bridges and issuing a warning when the socks are fully extended.

2) They monitor how well motorists, and large trucks in particular, are staying in their lanes.

3) they use input from WSP and other partners to help gauge when winds are getting unruly.

“We do have electronic wind monitors on the eastbound bridge that relay wind data directly into our Traffic Management Center. That instrumentation is, however, on the tops of the towers and wind speeds at that elevation are often different than wind speeds at the roadway deck level.

“We know the word “severe” is not a term used on the Beaufort Wind Scale. We use it because it matches static signs approaching the bridge. Our goal is not to be alarmist, but to warn drivers of all types of vehicles when they need to be aware of the wind conditions so they can adjust their driving accordingly.

“We care more about the safety of drivers crossing the bridges than we do about the nautical correctness of the term or the frequency with which the wind conditions justify the warning.  After all, it is not unknown for semis to be blown over while trying to cross those bridges.”

The target audience for those warnings, I’ve been told in the past, are those semis, not passenger cars, though all drivers should heed them.

She could recall the closure of one or both bridges only twice, once during an ice storm and the other when a semi was blown onto ints side, she said

How pending changes will help at Fairgrounds and Central Valley

The in basket: Ralph Gribbin read a recent article about lane projects coming to the intersection of Central Valley and Fairgrounds roads in Central Kitsap, and questioned some of the assertions made. He wrote to me rather than the existing reporting staff.

“The article states ‘vehicles going straight have to wait for vehicles in front of them to turn left who are waiting for those coming from the other direction to go past,” he said. “NOT SO.  Each direction goes independently from the other three directions, and opposing traffic is at a standstill.

“It also quotes a statement supposedly made by Kitsap Public Works project manager Dick Dadisman ‘There is really nothing wrong the roadway other than turn lanes are needed to get the large volume of traffic through the intersection.’”

“Left turn lanes are not going to eliminate ‘waiting’ at the intersection,” Ralph wrote. “The difference will be the sequence in which each of the eight directions will be waiting. Opposing straight through and right turns will go while while those associated left turners and all cross traffic is waiting.

“The $2 million cost for this change could probably be much better spent in other county road repairs,” Ralph said.

I asked the county to comment, adding that I’d heard discussion of replacing the intersection with a roundabout.

The out basket: Dick Dadisman responded in defense of the expenditure, calling it “a safety and operational improvement project.

“This intersection is ranked 33 of 139 on the county’s high accident intersection list,” he said. “Additionally, with three schools nearby and this intersection located on a county bike route, the safety of non-motorized traffic is also a major concern.

“The proposed project will provide left turn channelization on all legs of the intersection, construct a new eight-phase traffic signal, provide widened travel lanes for improved bicycle safety and construct sidewalks with handicap ramps for pedestrians.

“During the planning stage for this project a roundabout was considered, but it was deemed not appropriate for this intersection.  A roundabout typically requires much more land to construct and sufficient right of way does not exist at this intersection. Additionally, the vertical grades on all four legs of this intersection are not conducive for the construction of a roundabout and roundabouts tend to cause safety issues for pedestrians and bicyclists when compared with a traffic signal, sidewalks and curb ramps.

“Mr. Gribbin’s description of the current traffic signal operation is correct in that ‘split phasing’ occurs on all four legs of the intersection.  This split phasing causes long delays making this intersection operate at an unacceptable level of service.

“Mr. Gribbon is also correct in his operational description of the proposed eight-phase traffic signal. Construction of this project proposes new left-turn channelization on all legs in addition to the new traffic signal.

“A traffic study was prepared where the level of service of the intersection was evaluated.  The study indicates the current intersection level of service (LOS) is F with an average control delay of 95.5 seconds in the PM-peak hour.  For the AM-peak hour the intersection operates at a LOS of D with an average control delay of 47.1 seconds.

 

“Adding the proposed left turn channelization and optimizing the proposed traffic signal cycle length with permissive left-turn phasing on the northbound and southbound approaches and with protected left-turn phasing on the eastbound and westbound approaches, the intersection level of service improves to LOS B.  The control delays will also decrease to 16.6 seconds for the PM-peak hour and 15.8 seconds for the AM-peak hour.

“The decreased control delays are due to left turning vehicles moving out of the travel lanes and into the new left-turn lanes, thereby not choking the intersection,” he said.

Permissive left turn phasing uses flashing yellow lights and protected left turns can be made only with a green arrow light.

 

Another country heard from on flashing yellow turn lights

The in basket: Jo Clark writes, “When you approach an intersection and need to turn left, if the (flashing) yellow arrow is showing, do you have to stop before you turn?

“I don’t think so but my Canadian relative was adamant, not wanting to earn a traffic ticket.

“I say that that impedes traffic flow and could cause a rear-ender. Please clarify Kitsap regs for me.”

The out basket: Jo is right and her Canadian relative is wrong.

“If there is no approaching traffic or there is significant distance between the two approaching vehicles where the turn can be made safely, then the driver conducting the left turn may execute the movement without having to first stop,” says Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the county sheriff’s office.

Knowing that Scott is originally from Canada, I asked him if it’s possible the Canadian person might be correct up there.

“There are federal, provincial and municipal traffic code laws in effect in Canada, and there are 13 provinces,” he replied. “Confusing enough? It can be.”

So he checked only with British Columbia and forwarded the section of the BC drivers training manual dealing with traffic signals to me.

The manual makes no mention of flashing yellow arrows at all, but it does mention flashing yellows generally, saying they mean “slow down and proceed with caution.” That’s close to the phrasing in Washington state law regarding flashing yellows, which says they mean “drivers may proceed through the intersection or past such signal only with caution.”

So I don’t see any support for Jo’s Canadian relative’s belief at all.

Stopping at a yellow flashing light when you don’t have to certainly impedes traffic. I suppose it increases the risk of rear-end accidents, but only slightly, since you DO have to stop if there is oncoming traffic and anyone behind you has to be ready for that.