The in basket: Ellen Baxter is concerned about where road
closure signs are placed.
“In the past year, I cannot tell you how many times a road has
been closed (due to accident, tree over wires, etc.) with a
dangerous closure spot,” she wrote. “For example, just this week a
car went over Tracyton Beach Road. The road should be closed at
Riddell and down by Lebo, in my opinion, in spots where cars can
safely turn around and detour.
“Instead, cars are forced to do dangerous 3-way turns in pitch
black, rainy conditions because the closure was within yards of the
scene. It was scary to do this in horrific weather and sight
“Last year, I was forced to complete another dangerous
turn-around in icy conditions near the same spot because a car
had gone off, yet again. There were no driveways, no safe spots to
turn my car back around.
“Another example is several weeks ago during the wind storm, a
tree was over the power line near Fairgrounds and Tracyton. Again,
the sign came in a dangerous spot, well above Barker Creek…instead
of a more logical spot down at the WIDE Barker Creek road and
before the speed bumps when heading toward Tracyton from
“We have young drivers on the road as well, who haven’t all had
experience with adverse conditions, let alone, changes in
directions and having to make dangerous u-turns on closed roads.”
The out basket: Jeff Shea, traffic engineer for Kitsap County,
which handled the recent Tracyton Beach Road closure and many of
the windstorm closures, replied, comprehensively, “There are state
laws that govern the closure of roads temporarily. The county
is fairly restricted when it comes to road closures. Basically
the law allows us to close roads for emergencies and to do
maintenance and improvements on public roads. For road
construction, we are allowed to close a road for up to 12 hours
without Board of County Commissioner’s approval. Anything
longer than 12 hours requires an approved resolution signed by the
Planned construction allows us to look at different options for
traffic management. We can close the road, we can detour
traffic or we can flag traffic through the construction zone.
If we close a road we normally provide a signed detour route. In
all cases we comply with federal and WSDOT standards for signage of
any closure or flagging operation.
Emergency closures present several challenges we don’t have with
– We don’t know when they will occur.
– We have no way of knowing how long they will last.
– Normally they occur during storm events, which means many
roads will be closed.
– Many involve utility wires in trees which we can’t clear until
the utility company clears the wires. During big storms the
utility doesn’t always tell us when the lines have been
cleared. They are busy with multiple problems throughout the
county, just as we are.
– Sometimes we are directed by a sheriff’s deputy to close a
road and we are not made aware of the reason.
“Our first concern on emergency closures is the safety of the
traveling public. The first thing we will do is close the road at
the downed tree, the washed away road, or whatever it may be.
We try to close it at the nearest intersection, so motorists can
turn their vehicles around. This creates a problem for
residents that live within the intersection and the actual obstacle
in the road. They are forced to drive around the barrier to
see if they can get to their homes.
“Sometimes we are asked to set up detours for these temporary
events. If we figure the closure will last longer than a day
or two we may consider setting up a detour.
“In most cases, though, the detours we are asked to set up
require custom-made signs that need to be fabricated. Making
and transporting the signs can take several hours in most
“Another problem we run into is the lack of road network in the
county. Some remote closures can require miles of detour with
many turns. Every turn requires two signs, one for each
direction. Even short detours can take up to 10 signs or
more. If we have several closures, we will run out of signs
very fast. As I pointed out we normally don’t know when the
road will reopen. On one closure we were about to put our last
detour sign up, and the road re-opened.
“A great way to stay ‘in-the-know’ is to subscribe to the county
road report,” Jeff said. “This service will alert you to any
road closures throughout Kitsap County.