Tag Archives: 16

Why is Highway 16 called an east-west route?

The in basket: Mel Thompson asks, “

I suspect this question has been asked many times, but why do signs referencing Highway 16 destinations use “east/west” choices when Highway 16 clearly runs in a north/south direction? At different locations, especially when somewhat distracted, these sign references are suddenly confusing when a driver has to reorient themselves directionally in a split second to decide to go east or west when the actual directional choice is north or south?”

The out basket: Highway 16 does run east-west where it begins at I-5 in Tacoma, though most of it is north-south after crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

There’s an even more basic reason, says Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways.

“Before SR 16 was SR 16, it was Primary State Highway 14,” she said. “PSH 14 went mostly east-west between Hoodsport and Gig Harbor. The east/west designation carried over when the highway was renumbered.”

I asked if there had been any discussion of changing it to recognize the current reality of SR16’s heading, and she said she’d never heard of any.


Sedgwick Road backups may get studied

The in basket: I get occasional complaints about the growing congestion on Sedgwick Road in South Kitsap on either side of Highway 16.

The first one, a couple of years ago, mentioned backups eastbound from Sidney Road past Bethel Road in the afternoon, but most lately discuss the long backups at the Bethel Road signal going westbound, toward Highway 16.

One recent Saturday afternoon, those who got through that backup found themselves in another one, from the freeway almost to Ramsey Road. I was one of them and wasn’t expecting that.

I asked state highway folks if they are working on anything to address Sedgwick’s problems.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways says, “WSDOT received funding to conduct a study along SR 16 that identifies contributors to highway congestion.  “We expect, as part of that study, to look at interchanges between the Tacoma Narrows bridges and SR 3 and identify potential strategies to reduce congestion.”

Why recovery of truck on Memorial Day weekend?


The in basket: Dave Dahlke says he wasn’t personally affected by the Memorial Day weekend blockage by the state Department of Transportation of the southbound lanes of Highway 16 to pull a semi out of a ravine but he read the letter to the editor from Frank Kolb in the Kitsap Sun excoriating the agency for its timing.

Frank, who WAS personally affected, wrote, in part, “It had been there for days! The removal could have been done at night, but the morning schedule meant that at 11 a.m. traffic was stopped before Mullenix Road heading south. Thousands of motorists (myself included) had their holiday weekend ruined due to this all-day fiasco. I tried to go down Bethel-Burley Road, but that was no better, so myself and countless others just turned around and went home.

“I called 511, no info there,” Frank said, “no notice was posted anywhere that would have warned us. I thought it must have been a fatal accident, no one at DOT would lack the common sense to plan something like this. But I was wrong…”

Dave asked if I could “find out who and why this travesty was done at the time it was and with no notification to the public that it was going to happen.”

The out basket: Doug Adamson of the Olympic Region public affairs office for WSDOT, replied, “I’d like to first apologize for the inconvenience this semi-truck recovery caused the traveling public.

“Our plan was to choose a low-volume time to remove the semi-truck. We, of course, knew that the Sunday in question was in the middle of the Memorial Day weekend. That fact would normally work in our favor, as the middle day of a three-day weekend normally sees lighter traffic volumes (especially in those early-morning hours). We expected the recovery to take place between 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., and to have all lanes back open long before traffic volumes built.

“Unfortunately things did not go exactly as planned.  The semi had gone down a steep embankment while carrying tens of thousands of pounds of cargo. We chose to do the recovery during daylight hours because, while our goal is to keep traffic moving, safety is our number one priority.  During recovery, unfortunately the heavy load inside the trailer shifted and resulted in a much longer recovery time than planned to retrieve the trailer and semi-truck.

“Information about the closure did go out to the public, via WSDOT’s GovDelivery email and text system. It was also posted on our travel alerts web page, and shared on the WSDOT Twitter account.

“We certainly do thank drivers for their patience,” Doug concluded. “We understand how delays are frustrating.”

Rest areas on Highway 16 not likely

The in basket: After a recent Road Warrior column discussed the scant use of the weigh stations on Highway 16, the highway to and from Tacoma, Bert Gegner  suggested that they be turned into rest areas, which seems to be their main function these days. But there are no restrooms or other amenities.

I asked the state how it decides where rest areas are created.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways, says, “We choose rest area locations based on federal guidelines that recommend siting rest areas approximately every 60 miles if no other traveler services are available. Traveler services include local services such as restaurants, gas stations, etc. that allow travelers the opportunity to stop and rest.

“Along SR 16 there are many traveler services available, so it is unlikely WSDOT would site a rest area along that highway.

“Many of our rest areas used to be in more rural areas but over the years development has caught up to them.

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.”

Mystery caravan reported on Highway 16

The in basket: Mike Moore called a while back and said that around the first week of September he saw something that seemed unusual.

On his way down Highway 16 driving toward Tacoma, he said he saw a half dozen or so brand new Silverado pickup trucks with all white campers or canopies on the back, without windows in them. The trucks all had U.S. government plates. The campers/canopies were uniformly white, though the trucks were various colors.

As they approached the toll booths for the Tacoma Narrows bridge, one of the trucks was stopped at the side of the highway, with another vehicle in front of it. He didn’t know if the truck’s driver had stopped the other vehicle, was trying to aid it, or had nothing to do with it. But it had the red and blue  lights that law enforcement uses flashing in  its grill and somewhere on the rear.

He wondered what they were.

The out basket: I can’t add anything helpful here. My Washington State Patrol contact said he had no idea what they were. So I’ll just toss this one out there. Anyone in reader land know what Mike had seen?

How effective is freeway median cable barrier?

The in basket: John Rosinke of Silverdale wrote me on July 10 to say, “Read your column today and proceeded down the page to the Code 911 section. Noticed a pickup truck was able to cross the cable barriers on Route 16. Seems like I read several other reports that vehicles do cross cable barriers. Aren’t they supposed to prevent crossing to the oncoming lanes?”

The accident in question led to the death of the man whose pickup truck crossed the barrier.

I can recall reading of only one other such accident, also a fatality, but I’m sure there have been others.

I asked the state about the reliability of cable barrier in keeping out-of-control vehicles from crossing the median into the oncoming lanes.
The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker of the state highway department said, “Yes, we do look at the conditions surrounding collisions in which vehicles breach cable barrier. We promptly repair the cable barrier when hit, and we also do annual inspections of the cable barrier to ensure it is in good working order and at the proper tension.

“A little background on cable barrier might be helpful. Cable barrier, like all barrier, is not designed to prevent all collisions. It is designed and built to certain criteria. When vehicles exceed those criteria with speed, momentum, angle of impact or other factors, cable breaches can and do occur.


“(This state) has been using cable barrier in various locations since about 1995. Over a three-year period in the mid-2000s we did formal performance reviews of the efficacy of cable barrier and found that they are a worthwhile and cost-effective method to deter traffic from crossing medians and into opposing lanes.


“For example, in 2007 we found that 95.1 percent of vehicles that hit cable barrier did not cross into opposing traffic lanes. (Also) cable barrier is designed to flex upon impact, which dramatically reduces the impact forces on errant vehicle occupants when compared to solid types of barrier.


“We also can treat more miles per dollar with cable barrier, and that difference can be significant. Depending on site conditions and other factors, we can treat 1.5 to 6.3 times the mileage with cable barrier than with other barrier, such as concrete.


Road Warrior’s tragedy leads to some answers

The Judybaker, my wife of nearly 20 years whose observations and questions often enhanced the Road Warrior column, won’t be gracing it any longer. She was taken from me June 20 by a grotesque abdominal infection that grew out of a June 9 surgery.

Her suggestions and contributions to Road Warrior are just a tiny part of what I miss about her.

I want to thank all of you who learned of her death and sent expressions of condolence and sympathy.

A couple of columns I had finished before she died have appeared since her death but this is the first one I’ve tried to write with her gone.


The in basket: My visits to the hospital the week following the initial June 9 surgery, done in Federal Way, made me realize how much harder getting around is between there and Tacoma compared to what we Kitsappers imagine to be traffic congestion. Every day, seemingly at any hour, from the Tuesday of the surgery to the following Saturday, it was miles of vehicles crawling southbound on I-5. Fortunately, I mostly got to see it from the northbound lanes after fighting my way past equally bad backups of those trying to get from Highway 16 onto northbound I-5.

I wondered if what I saw is just the day-to-day norm there, or if something unusual caused it all. And while all the construction on I-5 near the Tacoma Dome certainly will make it easier to get from Highway 16 onto northbound I-5, it isn’t obvious how it could help the southbound jams.

I asked State Trooper Guy Gill of the Tacoma my first question, and Claudia Bingham-Baker of the state Department of Transportation my second one.

The out basket: Guy told me the southbound congestion comes and goes and it doesn’t take much to get it started.

“We have our normal little fender-bender crashes, and when we have one in that corridor past the Tacoma Dome down into Fife, we are seeing people going to the shoulder with tow trucks and everyone likes to look at that stuff. (Backups) will set in from a crash like that and it will take hours to filter out.

“We ask folks to move both vehicles completely off the freeway, find a parking lot or and let us know where you are. If you can steer it, clear it.

“At least clear the lane. It’s up to the trooper to figure it out. Troopers will ask you for a written statement.”

He also put in a pitch for keeping the smart phone out of sight when driving, or you might cause one of those fender-benders.

Claudia replied, “The HOV lanes we are building will help both directions of I-5 traffic. We have two construction projects underway at present; one will add an HOV lane in the northbound direction between Portland Avenue and the Port of Tacoma Road; the second one will add HOV lanes in both directions between M Street and Portland Avenue.

“We have yet more construction coming down the pipeline after these two projects are complete that will add a southbound HOV lane between Portland Avenue and Port of Tacoma Road and an HOV roadway and ramp connections at the I-5/SR 16 interchange.

“These projects are all very large and take several years to complete. We are using the opportunity to not only expand I-5, but to rebuild all lanes of I-5 within each project. I-5 was built in the 1960s and the concrete needs to be replaced. The result is many traffic shifts and realignments that cause construction-related slowdowns.

“So the answer to your question is yes, the current construction will help traffic flow better through Tacoma when it is complete,” Claudia said.

I wish I had greater confidence in the worth of HOV lanes to reduce congestion, but I’ve also learned that the state’s traffic engineers have a good track record in solving problems (not counting the driving surface of the Warren Avenue Bridge in Bremerton) so I’ll take their word for it.

Sign is kinda one-way about prison escapees

The in basket: Tom Wisniewski said in an e-mail, “When one is traveling ‘east’ on Highway 16 toward Tacoma there are signs stating ”Correctional Facility – Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers” but there are no similar signs on the westbound side of the highway.

“Do they think no one wants to escape to Kitsap County?”

The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker of state highway’s Olympic Region says they just provided what the Department of Corrections requested near the Purdy women’s prison.

So I asked Corrections, and Norah West of their public relations staff had to ask around before telling me, “It’s likely that years ago, when the original signage request was made to the Department of Transportation, the Department of Corrections requested a sign for eastbound lanes since the facility is on the eastbound-facing side of Highway 16.

“We’ll certainly look into whether it makes sense to request that DOT place a similar sign for the westbound lanes. We’d also recommend that, no matter which side of the road, drivers use universal caution and common sense when encountering pedestrians on the highway.”

Olympic Interchange being fixed – again?

The in basket: The news release issued this week telling of a protracted repair project on the Olympic Interchange bridge on Highway 16 in Gig Harbor surprised me. I thought it had already been fixed. I recall seeing the exposed rebar after a reader asked me what happened, and lane closures for work that covered the damage.

The news release also said the state would be seeking compensation from the company responsible for the damage, but didn’t say how much it will cost, or if they know who hit it.

The out basket: What I was recalling was an earlier incident that damaged the bridge in 2011, says Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region public affairs staff for the state Department of Transportation. That damage was repaired but the bridge was hit by an over-height load again last year.

This time, in addition to installing a new girder on the westbound half of the bridge, “to restore the integrity of the overpass,” the westbound lanes of SR 16 will be restriped to gain just over two inches of vertical clearance, and new overhead signs will be installed, she said. The westbound lanes are the ones heading toward Kitsap County.

The highway will be closed four nights with traffic detoured onto the off- and on-ramps, she said. The closures haven’t been scheduled.

They do know who hit it and the bill for the work, to last the rest of 2014, is estimated to be $1.4 million, she said.