“Road Closed” signs often in wrong spot, says reader

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 conditions.

“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 Silverdale.

“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.” she said.

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 BOCC board.

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 planned closures:

– 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 cases.

“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.

One thought on ““Road Closed” signs often in wrong spot, says reader

  1. In certain spots when there is a road closure due to emergency, does not necessarily have to set up a detour. But instead can just put up a road closed sign at the spot and a “road closed ahead to thru traffic @ Whatever street”. That way it is possible for cars to have the opportunity to not continue. But With all drivers out there who don’t read signs on the road or don’t believe the signs, they will continue to the area and then have to make a hard U-turn that they should already know how to do, because it should be taught to them by their parents or in drivers ed. And my daughter just took drivers ed and did not do one U-turn. But I took her out do drive in ways not taught to her, including u-turns and even driving through big puddles at a decent speed to feel hydroplaning. Even took her to the mountains to drive on ice and snow.

    But to sit there and use young kids who don’t have the experience of different types of road conditions or driving conditions is not an excuse for them to not know. One it should be taught in class, (minus the snow, I was taught how to drive in severe weather conditions in the South) or their parents should take the time to teach them more. But with that being said most people who drive up here have lived here their whole lives and still cannot drive in rain or snow. Drive Safe

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