All posts by Administrator

Driving across the “gore” is illegal

The in basket: Gary Crehan writes, “My friends and I have been trying to figure this one out. On approaching some exits, the freeway is painted with white lines that end up showing the division of the exit lane from the freeway traffic lane.
As one gets closer to the actual exit, these two lanes diverge forming (usually) a V and having what would be like an island in the middle, some quite wide, (where) I have seen motorists, construction trucks, city vehicles, and police vehicles occasionally parked between the lines essentially between the freeway traffic, and the exit lane traffic.
“Is it legal to even cross these lines? I know I have come upon my exit rather quickly and not having paid enough attention, have crossed this painted area to make my exit.
“I cannot find any place that tells me that these lines are anything more that a way to provide guidance and information. We have looked in the drivers manual, and in the rules of the road and cannot find any information. I think there is even a name for these V-shaped areas that occur on different parts of the highways. Can you tell us anything more about these?”
The out basket: Yes, those areas are called “gores,” and whether their use as driving surfaces is legal most often involves crossing them while ENTERING a freeway, often to get around a car not traveling fast enough for the driver doing it.
It isn’t legal to drive across them, so Gary committed an infraction when he did it, as do those who cross them when entering a freeway. That’s a $124 infraction called driving off the roadway.
Gores are equivalent to shoulders, except that you can’t legally stop in them except in an emergency. Missing one’s exit might seem like an emergency, but I doubt that it would qualify if a patrolman saw one do it.
Shoulders can also be used to stop to read a map, use a cell phone, deal with children or any of the other things that make freeway driving more dangerous if done while in motion.
Krista Hedstrom of the local State Patrol detachment said doing those things in the gore would constitute illegal parking and be punishable by a $20 fine. But its enforcement is so rare she had to look it up and found it in RCW 46.61.570

Did hard feelings lead to Sedgwick Road as interchange site?

The in basket: Dave Dahlke asked me “Do you remember when the Highway 16 project was being built what the dispute was between WSDOT and the service station at Nelson’s Corner?
“I seem to remember that WSDOT didn’t like dealing with the service station owner and decided to show them, so the off-ramp and overpass was directed down to Sedgwick,” he said.
“I always think about this when I see the backup of traffic going up the Sedgwick hill towards Bethel and the hazard of that hill during the winter,” Dave said.
 “It is easy to imagine how uncongested Sedgwick at SR16 would be if the WSDOT would only put an off-ramp at Nelson’s Corner. But if they do, it is just about guaranteed that I would not see it in my lifetime and my children probably won’t see it in theirs either.”
The out basket: I don’t recall the dispute Dave asks about.
My recollections of Sedgwick and Highway 16 as an on-grade intersection and the construction of the bridge that now takes Bethel Road over the freeway are dim.
So I’ll toss this out to the readers to see if any of you recall whether hard feelings between the state and a property owner were behind Sedgwick’s selection for the interchange.
It seems a timely discussion, with property owners along Sedgwick between Bethel Avenue and the interchange struggling to add a center turn lane there to a state project that won’t provide one.
More retrospective: While looking back, I wanted to pass along an observation by longtime political columnist Adele Ferguson, who I saw at a group breakfast recently.
She said she read the obituaries and news stories about the passing of former Bremerton Mayor Morrie Dawkins for mention of what she felt was one his lasting accomplishments, but didn’t see it.
She recalls that Morrie was alarmed one day to see a child topple off the sidewalk on the Manette Bridge and into traffic. There was no fence then, and he made sure one got added to separate pedestrians and vehicles, she said.

Tanker trucks on wrong Manchester streets

The in basket: One of the items on the Tuesday morning agenda of the Manchester public safety group was a caravan of tanker trucks spotted moving along Alaska Avenue and steep Madrone Avenue on their way to the Manchester Fuel Depot on Monday.
The designated route for those trucks, both arriving empty and leaving full, is Colchester Drive, and the group wondered how the trucks wound up on the wrong streets.
The out basket: It was a mistake, said Bob Cairns, acting director of the fuel depot.
Bob had already fielded a call from the county about the incident and was a little upset.
It was the first trip here by an Army reserve unit from Minnesota that is temporarily stationed in Yakima while they train for delivering fuel in the Iraqi war zone, he said. They are ferrying the fuel they get here to Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane. They drive camouflaged trucks, rather than the dull red ones Manchester residents usually see coming and going.
“They made a wrong turn,” one street before Colchester, Bob said. “We corrected it as soon as we found out.”
“I’d like to see the public give them some slack,” he added. “They’re on their way to Iraq next month.”
He noted that the wrong turn, while inadvertent, may have been a valuable training experience. “Making a wrong turn in Iraq can have catastrophic results,” he said.

Widening of Ridgetop uphill from freeway not likely

The in basket: Monica Berninghaus of Silverdale says in an e-mail,
“I read in the Sun a few years ago that there was consideration to
widen Ridgetop to four lanes throughout the residential section.
“That would mean we would lose all the trees and foliage in the buffer regions, reducing our ‘noise’
buffer, and would allow people to pass each other while driving – creating more
reason for people to race and speed up there. It would also detract
from the park-like setting up there and would make it more dangerous for
bikers, runners, dog walkers, etc.
“The only real problems I see,” she said, “are these:
a) The right hand turning lane going south towards the mall (to get on
Highway 303) is too short and traffic backs up there (near Ridgetop Junior
High), and
b) The buses have no place to load other than to block traffic on
the north- and southbound lanes.
She’d like to see that right turn lane lengthened and turnouts created for buses. either in the median or on the right shoulders. “I notice some of the school bus drivers pull into the housing development entryways to load, and this really alleviates the back-ups,” she said.
The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says, “There are no current plans to widen that portion of Ridgetop. If traffic volumes ever warranted widening, an evaluation would be done to consider the most cost-effective way to accomplish that. That could include using the median, buying additional rights-of-way, or something else.
“As to Monica’s suggestions,” Doug said, “they would require a capital project to build what she suggests. We will evaluate her ideas for consideration in the next Transportation Improvement Program process later this year.
“Most school buses stop in traffic lanes throughout the county for the safety of the students. This ensures that traffic stops and reduces the likelihood of vehicle/student accidents.”
County Commissioner Josh Brown, who represents Silverdale, says the county is having trouble raising money for more likely road improvements, like the widening of Bucklin Hill Road and Ridgetop Boulevard through the commercial area downhill from Highway 303. No one has ever even suggested to him that widening of Ridgetop uphill from 303 would be a good idea,” he said.

New Highway 305 HOV lanes not much used

The in basket: Nita Moore writes, “Everyone around here is very happy that the Highway 305 upgrade (in Poulsbo) is close to finished and usable. 
“The HOV lanes are only in effect at certain times of the day,” she said, “in the morning and 3 to 6 in the afternoon, which is the heavy traffic time and seems logical.  BUT….
“I had the misfortune the other day of  traveling ALONE west on 305 at around 4 p.m. The HOV lane was almost empty and buzzing right along, but the lone ranger lane was almost as backed up as it was before the widening.  (It was nice to know that most everyone was obeying the restriction.)  
“My grandson drives himself and his brother to North Kitsap High School and travels this every afternoon and says it is like this every day.  The solution, of course, is that everyone travels through downtown to avoid it, which, of course, is one to the things it was meant to alleviate. How now?”
The out basket: The OTHER solution, and the one HOV lanes everywhere are intended to promote, is to have a lot of those lone ranger drivers pair up or trio up and so forth, moving cars legally from the all-purpose lane to the HOV lane.
Nita’s grandson does it, though I imagine that has more to do with available cars or occupants’ ages than what lane they can use. But every time people who might have driven alone pair up, that’s one fewer car on the highway and two fewer in the all-purpose lane. If enough people do it, the lanes will achieve a closer balance and waits will be shorter in the all-purpose lane.
These are the first HOV lanes in Kitsap County and they may or may not achieve their purpose. They are considered a four-year test project, but that deadline has more to do with the unusual placement of the HOV lanes on the outside of the highway than it does with the general concept of HOV lanes and their benefits.
They are on the outside, as I’ve said before, to better serve bus riders. Lisa Murdock of the state highway’s Olympic Region calls them “urban arterial HOV lanes similar to those found on (Highway) 99 and at SeaTac.
“The HOV lanes are on the outside to accommodate transit/pedestrians.” she said. “If the lanes were on the left, bus stops would have to be in the median and you can only imagine the potential danger with pedestrians with that scenario.”

Red light cameras mostly catch illegal right turners

The in basket: Mary Bulmer says her neighbor told her his nephew recently got a ticket for making a legal right turn on a red light at an intersection in Bremerton equipped with one of the red light enforcement cameras. She’s heard a lot of people have been ticketed for right turns on red and wonders how that might effect her, particularly at Warren Avenue and Sheridan Road.
The out basket: That intersection is not one that has the red light cameras, but Mary is right that right turners who don’t stop properly before turning on a red light where there is a camera are getting tickets.
In fact, I was surprised to learn from Lt. Pete Fisher of the Bremerton police traffic division that improper right turns are far and away the most often cited infraction caught by the cameras.
The camera at 11th Street and Callow Avenue, for example, between April 7 and May 7, caught violations for which tickets were issued for 146 right turns against the light, 45 left turns and only five through traffic red light infractions.
At Sylvan and Wheaton ways during the same period, there were 57 right turns, 23 left turns and nine through traffic infractions.
Right turns on red remain legal at the camera intersections, but they have to be done correctly. Sgt. Wendy Davis of Pete’s division says that technically requires stopping before crossing the broad white stop bar. But the department is usually waiving a citation for those who cross the stop bar but come to a complete stop before entering the cross street. Exceptions are when the person doesn’t stop until well into the intersection, she said. That often happens when a driver sees the flash from the red light camera and realizes he or she has been captured in a violation.
They waive an infraction in about 10 percent of the times the cameras record a right turn done against the light, she said.
I was glad to hear about that measure of leniency, because I’ve come to realize I almost never stop at a stop sign or red light until I’m across the stop bar if cars ahead of me don’t stop me farther back. Check out Colleen Smidt’s comment below for another perspective on that.
On its face, Pete’s figures seemed to me to validate my belief that the cameras are preying on the turners who run the light, rather than those passing straight through and hence probably moving much faster. They present the only real accident hazard, I have said in the past.
What I forget, Pete told me, is pedestrians. A pedestrian can be badly injured or killed by even a slow moving car, and pedestrians can easily be hit by cars turning against a red light.
“When you see the video, you get a greater appreciation for the hazards these violators are creating for other motorists and pedestrians,” he said. “Both right and left-turn violators threaten pedestrians. We have seen pedestrians shaking their fists or otherwise reacting when there is a conflict.”
The cameras take a 12-second video of each violation as well as two still shots. Those ticketed can go online and see the shots of their violation, but other members of the public can’t.
I was also surprised to learn that no intersection can have more than two directions of travel monitored by the cameras. The law allowing them limits them to two per intersection, and each camera takes pictures of only one direction of travel. He didn’t know why, it’s just the way the law reads.
Also of interest is the fact that someone who ignores and nearly hits a pedestrian in the crosswalk after coming to a full stop behind the stop bar can’t be cited for that on the basis of the photos. They can lead to citations only for red light violations, regardless of whatever else they show, Pete said.

Mile Hill Drive vs. Sedgwick Road – again

The in basket: Tom Myers Jr. asked me recently what the impetus was to widen Mile Hill Drive between Woods Road and Long Lake Road to put in a center turn lane, which was done last year even though there are hardly any places one can turn left through that stretch.
He asked me in a meeting in which he and various other Sedgwick Road property owners west of Bethel Avenue were exploring ways to get a two-way center turn lane added there, an improvement left out of state plans to make that stretch safer and extend the two-way center turn lane east of Bethel Avenue all the way to Brasch Road.
His underlying assertion was that a center turn lane was needed much more west of Bethel on Sedgwick than on that portion of Mile Hill Drive.
The out basket: As I said when Tim Ferris made a similar comparison between the two highways back in March of ’07, Mile Hill is a county road and Sedgwick a state highway and the two governments have their own priority lists as to what gets improved.
But I had to concede to Tom that I didn’t know why the stretch between Long Lake and Woods Roads was included in the Mile Hill Drive widening, which continued east from Woods past Alaska Avenue. Left turns are numerous east of Woods, but rare west of there.
Dick Dadisman of the Kitsap County public works staff replies, “The main reason is for continuity of the roadway through the length of the project area.
“Pre-project, there were left turn lanes at Bulman and Woods Roads. This project installed a traffic light on Long Lake Road and the westbound left turn lane at the Long Lake intersection.
“With turn lanes and their associated tapers at Long Lake, Bulman, and Woods, there isn’t much distance left to taper the roadway back to two lanes.” If they had, he said. “through traffic would be weaving in and out through the width of the pavement at all these intersections.”

Musings on a motor trip in S.C., Ga. and Fla.

The Road Warrior and his wife, the Judybaker, spent two weeks driving a rental car around eastern South Carolina, Georgia and Florida recently. Here are some musings on the experience:

– I was told it was flat, and that’s for sure. When roads are built in the Northwest, designers try to balance the dirt removed in cuts through hills with that needed to fill the valleys, limiting the amount of dirt that has to be hauled and minimizing elevation changes for drivers. I don’t think I saw a single highway cut in any of the three Southern states. They all had to be built up with the shoulders sloping gently downward. I wondered where they got the dirt.

– Those freeways are unique in my experience. You can drive for miles without seeing signs of civilization, not counting the freeway itself. The shoulders are bordered in thickets of palm, long-leaf pines and other vegetation that kept me from seeing whether there were houses and businesses behind them or just more of the ubiquitous marshes that cover most of the coast. Interchanges were often 10 miles or so apart.

– The medians and shoulders were among the most litter-free I’ve ever seen, especially along I-95 in Georgia. And the pavement and medians were wide and well kept.

– I saw an interesting wrinkle on traffic signals at one (and just one) spot along Highway 170 south of Beaufort, S.C. The speed limit was 50 mph, and the red light had a white ring around it that blinked, calling attention to the light. Seemed like a good idea for all stop signals.

– South Carolina’s low, marshy topography requires lots of bridges and it is far enough north that they can have freezing weather in the winter. I puzzled for a while over signs reading “Bridge Ices Before Roadway,” wondering what bridge ices are and why they would be put before the roadway. I realized shortly that it’s just their way of saying “Watch for Ice” on an upcoming bridge.

– People tend to notice cars of the same model as the one’s they own or are driving, so we were predisposed to see Priuses and Mazda 3s, which we own, and PT Cruisers, one of which Dollar rental cars provided us. It was silver colored.
The Prius also is much in vogue, with gas prices jumping so steeply. They are increasingly common in Kitsap County.
I was in Beaufort, home of the Parris Island Marine recruit center, for three days before I saw a Prius there, and saw only six in seven days there. I didn’t spot a single Prius in four days in Orlando, and only one in three days on the Space Coast around Titusville and Cocoa Beach, Fla.
I wonder if there’s some cultural thing in the South that keeps the Prius from selling.
Mazda 3s were commonplace, and I came to suspect silver PT Cruisers are the state car of Florida, or at least are revered in Orlando. They were all over the place. I also had never noticed how many there around here until I got back. Yet, Chrysler will stop making it after 2009, according to Wikpedia, calling it a “now slow-selling vehicle.”

– After four days in Orlando, I was still completely turned around about which direction to go to get places. It began with Interstate 4 being designated an east-west highway even though it runs north-south (like Highway 16 here).
Our motel was near Universal Orlando. I wonder if any of you readers have ever driven around Orlando and found it similarly confusing.

Where did patriotic banners on bridge go?

The in basket: Ann Lafair writes, “There were some flags on the Warren Avenue Bridge poles that honored some of the Kitsap County people who died fighting in Iraq. They were there for some time, although I do not recall how long.  They have been gone for several months now.” 
She wonders why.
The out basket: The city moved them to a spot that provides a better chance for drivers to notice and read them, and where wind won’t wear on them so much, says Bob Tulp, operations manager for Bremerton public works.
That spot is at and near the intersection of Highway 304 and Farragut Avenue near the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard gate on its west end.
“We determined with Lynn George that the speed limit on the bridge didn’t give people enough time to read them,” Bob said. “We wanted them near a stop light to give the public a real opportunity to see them.”
Lynette George heads Blue Star Banner Program of Kitsap County, the organization that has campaigned to get the recognition banners displayed on local streets. Gold stars denote those “who have given the ultimate sacrifice and died while serving,” as George’s Web site puts it, and will be displayed indefinitely. Blue star banners recognize someone serving in the military, who will be presented with the banner when he or she gets out.
“Lynn goes out and gets the money and works with the government entities to get them hung,” Bob said. “When our staff goes out and hangs them on a Saturday, we are donating our time and equipment.” There is often a ceremony when a gold star banner is hung, if the family wishes, he said. A motorcycle group often takes part.
The flags were on the bridge for a year or less before being moved several months ago, he said.
Learn more about the program at www.kitsapbluestar.org or (360) 440-6497

She can’t get the radio message in North Kitsap

The in basket: Gwen Duzenski writes, “I travel north on Highway 3 every day and lately the large information sign just has a message about tuning to 530 on the radio for bridge information.  I can’t get any information on 530 AM on the radio and I wonder what is going on.” All she gets on that frequency on her 2003 Subaru’s radio at that location is static, she said.
The big sign was blank over the weekend but the referral to 530 AM returned Monday, when she had no better luck on that frequency, she said.
She’d like to see it return to how it was, “so it will let us know when the Hood Canal bridge is open for marine traffic like it did before,” Gwen said.
The out basket: Lisa Murdock of the state highway’s Olympic Region said a state technician tested that HAR (for Highway Advisory Radio) transmission Monday and found it to be working properly. “He increased the power by two watts to see if that helps,” she said, “but it could be a matter on the receiving end.”
The HAR broadcasts cover only a limited area and
“depending on the location of the vehicle tuning in, as well as the quality of the
vehicle’s AM reception, at times highway advisory radio messages are
difficult to tune to,” she said.
Gwen needn’t worry about missing an important mention of traffic disruption on the bridge, Lisa said. “(We use) HARs for public service announcements only secondary to real-time traffic information. Information about marine openings that impede vehicle traffic would be conveyed over the HAR instead of the PSA, if the situation warranted.
“All of our HARs run PSAs when there is no real-time traffic
to report. We feel it’s a good way to get out important messages. That
said, we only turn on the flashing beacons or (big electronic signs) that tell you to tune
in, for real-time traffic or important ferry info.
That includes the public service message that was running on the HAR last week. It
explained to motorists some options for travel being considered
during the May-June 2009 closure of the Hood Canal Bridge, Lisa said. “It let
listeners know how to go about participating in a survey reviewing the
options. Visit www.hoodcanalbridge.com for more information.
“If ever you have questions about the current conditions of the Hood
Canal Bridge you can visit http://wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/hoodcanal/
or call the toll-free hot line at 800-419-9085,” she added.