Tag Archives: 303

Driver worries about lefts and rights against red signals

The in basket: Yvonne Dean has some questions, she said in an e-mail, starting with one about an odd state law that I don’t see mentioned accept in the Road Warrior column and remains little known by drivers. It’s the one permitting left turns against a red arrow signal, but only onto a one-way road or street and only after coming to a full stop and yielding to any vehicles with a green light or to pedestrians.

“I have been wondering if this type of left turn would be permitted on Ridgetop (in Silverdale) when you are coming down from Ridgetop Junior High and turning left to go toward East Bremerton,” Yvonne said. “Before making the turn on red I assume you have to check to make sure there was no one coming off of Waaga Way who might be turning left up Ridgetop and no one coming up Ridgetop up to that intersection.”

Then she asks about two right-turn-on-red situations at 11th and Warren Avenue (in Bremerton).

“Tonight I was coming east on 11th and a fire truck was in the curb lane with his right-turn signal blinking,” he said. “He didn’t turn until the light turned green.  Can you not turn right at that (red) light after coming to a complete stop and having no traffic coming toward you?”

Finally, “when I am coming south on Warren Avenue to that same intersection and I want to turn right to go up 11th if the light is red I have stopped and check to make sure there is no on-coming traffic and then turned up the hill.  Is that legal?”

The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger and Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police provide answers for Yvonne.

A left on red at Ridgetop onto the southbound Highway 303 on-ramp is legal if done with the restrictions Yvonne and I stated above.

But as I’ve said before, the odds that the first driver in line to turn left knows the law and dares to use it are so low that it’s usually not seen.

The right turn on red is legal on 11th at Warren. Pete Fisher guesses the length of the first truck would have required it to swing too wide to make the turn comfortably if cars were coming south in either lane of Warren. Fire Chief Al Duke says that sounds right. There’s no department policy forbidding legal rights on red, he said.

And the presence of the traffic signal that offers a protected right turn on Warren at 11th does nothing to negate the opportunity to turn right when it’s red, after a full stop and while yielding to any conflicting traffic or pedestrians.

Silverdale interchange is no place to try odd left-turn-on-red law

The in basket: Ben Pearson e-mailed to say, “I know that left turns on red are legal onto a one-way road like an on-ramp but can they be used at that odd intersection of Highway 303 and Highway 3 where you are crossing over the traffic lane?”
The out basket: Ben is in the minority, as most drivers don’t know that that is legal. I write about it a lot, but it hadn’t occurred to me until Ben asked that it technically would apply to left turns from eastbound Highway 303 to northbound Highway 3 in Silverdale.
It would be wildly unwise to try it there. To do it legally one must make a complete stop at the red light before proceeding and be sure no traffic with a green light would conflict with the turn. It can be done only onto a one-way street.
That Silverdale intersection is so long, with a hump in the middle, that it would be difficult if not impossible to see conflicting traffic that would make the turn illegal – and would risk a fender bender or worse.
“It would be a crazy thing to try and if there isn’t a sign already prohibiting it, there should be,” I told Ben, and asked State Trooper Russ Winger, my State Patrol contact what he thought.
“I would agree,” he said. “That would not be a simple left turn from a stop line to the ramp. You must travel several hundred feet prior to even making the left turn.
“The timing of the lights, distance and design of the roadway make that type of turn, at a minimum, unsafe. The intersection can be confusing already for some drivers not familiar with it and that type of action would not be safe at all in that location.”
But I wondered what such a sign would say. “No left turn on red” would mystify the great majority of drivers who don’t know a left turn on red is EVER legal.
Claudia Bingham Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways said, “We agree with you that drivers would have no idea what such a sign would mean, and we would not install it.”
It’s a moot point in most cases, anyway. Even where a left turn on red would be safe as well as legal, the odds of the first driver in line knowing of the odd law and daring to take advantage of it are so low it’s rarely seen.

The Road Warrior tries a questionable turn in Silverdale

The in basket: Eric Blair said in an e-mail this week, “Now that the lights are installed and working at Ridgetop and 303 (in Silverdale), nothing has changed regarding folks wanting to get over to turn left onto Sid Uhinck Drive. Cars still stop in the right lane and wait for traffic to clear so they can jump over to the left-turn lane. The only difference is there is now a guaranteed break in traffic when the light turns green for those turning left from the exit ramp.

“This was a terribly designed intersection,” Eric said. “Either the light needed to control all directions, left, right and straight coming from the off ramp, or there needed to be a barrier installed to prevent this unsafe maneuver.”

He and Rob Davy objected in a March Road Warrior column to the traffic disruption created by drivers who turn right at the end of that southbound Highway 303 off-ramp to Ridgetop Boulevard then quickly move over two lanes to get into the left turn pocket to reach Sid Uhinck Drive.

At best it can be a chancy double lane change and at worst they have to stop in the outside lane to wait for a break in inside lane traffic, which is illegal and annoys drivers behind them. Besides, Rob argued, changing lanes requires signaling a minimum of 100 feet, 200 feet for a double lane change, and there aren’t 200 feet between the ramp and the left turn pocket.

Both men asked for a row of pylons to keep cars in the outside lane from moving over until past Sid Uhinck, as Eric did again in this week’s e-mail.

Rob also suggested allowing right turns from the other lane on the ramp, the one controlled by the new signal and designed for left turns and straight ahead movement. Anyone turning right there would have only one lane change to get to Sid Uhinck.

The state and county didn’t make that change, but I sat on the off-ramp for a while this week, contemplating making the very right turn Rob suggested, at the light.

A traffic island guiding left turn traffic makes it a bit of an awkward turn for a large vehicle, but there are no signs there forbidding a right turn. When I got up my nerve to try it, while the light was green, I made the turn effortlessly in my 2013 Malibu.

What’s to prevent a driver wanting to go from the off-ramp to Sid Uhinck from turning at the light like I did, I asked State Trooper Russ Winger and Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Wilson.

The out basket: There are no signs prohibiting a right turn there, said Russ, but there are pavement markings that do. Pavement arrows are as restrictive as signs, he said. I had made an illegal turn.

“As the intersection is currently configured, a right turn from the left lane is prohibited,” he said. “There are large white arrows within the lane that indicate left turn or straight through movement to access the on-ramp to SR303. The straight through arrow is fading but it is still in place.

“An additional sign prohibiting a right turn from that lane might help clarify that but it is not required.”

Scott agreed. “If turning right from the inside (left) lane were permitted,” he said, “along with the free right turn already in place from the right lane, it is a set-up for confusion by drivers and collisions would be highly likely.

“If this idea were authorized, then (in my opinion) the county would need to install a lane barrier to prevent drivers who have just completed the free right turn from changing lanes to the left (inside lane) until the outside (channelization) lane is west of the intersection with NW Sid Uhinck Drive.

“When I say confusion… there will always be those who won’t understand or comprehend the signage and believe that they also have a free right turn, even from the left lane, leading to an increase in vehicle collisions.

“I think that it’s best to leave it as the traffic engineers designed (it),” Scott said.

The Road Warrior wonders if ending those double lane changes might not offset the collision hazards inherent in the added right turn opportunity, but barring someone with clout getting behind this idea, I guess we won’t find out.

$4 million Ridgetop Drive ‘widening’ coming in 2019

The in basket: I was looking through Kitsap County’s six-year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) recently when I came upon an entry that really surprised me.

It says that in 2019 the county plans to spend $4 million widening Ridgetop Boulevard between Highway 303 and Avante Drive, which is practically its entire length from 303 north.

The only detail listed is “widening, channelization, rain gardens.” I asked if it would become four lane all that distance and whether the center planting areas would be eliminated.

The out basket: The answer was generally no, and most of the work will be addressing storm water, not traffic.

Mindy Fohn of the county storm water division says, “This project involves roadway widening  at the south end, intersection channelization near the center, and multiple bioretention storm water treatment facilities  (commonly called “rain gardens”) along the full length of the project.

“The project will widen Ridgetop Boulevard to provide two northbound and two southbound lanes from Waaga Way (SR 303) to Hillsboro Drive. This section of Ridgetop Boulevard frequently experiences intersection congestion and long vehicular queues.  The improvement will provide needed intersection capacity and alleviate queue spillback that occurs between the closely spaced intersections.”

I’m not sure what spillback is, but I’m sure the project will please drivers wanting to turn onto 303 to go north but can’t because through traffic waiting at the red light is blocking the only lane approaching the  existing right turn lane.

“The Ridgetop Boulevard widening project,” Mindy continued, “will also reconstruct Ridgetop Boulevard from Ridgepoint Drive to Timber Shadow Court by removing the planted medians in the vicinity of the intersections.

“The Traffic Division has received requests for improved pedestrian crossings to the commercial land uses and transit stops in the area.  The improvement will provide shorter pedestrian crossings and better define vehicular paths for turning movements.

“Up to 13 bioretention facilities will be constructed in the median providing a high level of storm water treatment of the road runoff, which currently is untreated and flows into Dyes Inlet.  The soils in this area, generally, are permeable to infiltrate the runoff.

“These storm water facilities are partially funded with a $375,000 grant from Washington State Department of Ecology and are an essential project in the continuing effort to clean up storm water flowing into Dyes Inlet.”

Disparate signal operation on Highway 303 puzzles reader

The in basket: Robert Arper e-mails to say, “I am curious why the left turn lane into the East Bremerton Fred Meyer is programmed so differently than the left turn lane into the East Bremerton Walmart.

“Right now it would appear that Walmart shoppers are getting preferential treatment but Fred Meyer shoppers are getting the shaft. Yet it is the motoring public that is paying the price in the form of delays in both cases.

“Those of us waiting for the light to turn to allow us to turn into Fred Meyer have to wait forever while traffic heading north on 303 gets the green regardless of the amount of traffic.

“Those of us traveling south on 303 are delayed by those wishing to turn left from the northbound lane into Walmart even if there are only one or two cars in the left-turn lane.  It would seem that the people programming the lights at these two intersections are not the same person or they just want to make it difficult for the motoring public.”

The out basket: The history of those intersections is quite different, accounting for the difference in treatment.

Former officials in the Olympic Region signal shop for state highways have told me that when Fred Meyer wouldn’t agree to shift its main entrance when the store was built, the entrance didn’t line up with the existing road across Highway 303, creating an offset intersection.

As a result, the two opposing left-turns onto 303 must happen separately, prolonging the wait for those wanting to make other movements. I often hear complaints about the left turn into Fred Meyer being annoyingly short when it finally does come around, but in my experience, that comes and goes and isn’t always the case.

In front of Walmart, the center barrier installed there between McWilliams and Fairgrounds roads to eliminate left-turn accidents at other intersections near there was finished during the holidays and heavy traffic into Walmart soon spilled out of the left turn lane into the inside northbound through lane.

So the signal shop gave it an extra left turn opportunity in each cycle to eliminate the danger of rear-end accidents that created. It’s been that way ever since, though watching that turn lane, I’m not sure I often or ever see enough turning traffic during the two cycles combined that it would fill up the turn lane. But I’m not often there during the holidays.

Nonetheless, the Olympic Region signal shop and the city of Bremerton are considering whether changes should be made in the timing of signals between Fred Meyer and points south.

Ken Burns of the signal shop says, “Robert’s assessment of the signals’ being operated by different people is correct.” The city has one and the state the other.

“(We) are working together on a corridor analysis for the system on Highway 303 from Sheridan Road to the Fred Meyer/Furneys Lane signal,” Ken said. “This analysis will examine left-turn volumes, pedestrian crossing clearance times, as well as the overall delay at the intersections in this corridor.”

Wide yellow stripe prohibits left turns

The in  basket: The state repainted its highway striping in the Port Orchard area late in May, and I thought they had done something different with the center line on Highway 166 in front of the South Sound Cinemas.

They painted a broad yellow stripe, which prohibits left turns across it, so no one headed uphill can turn left into the theater legally.

There used to be a No Left Turn sign on the shoulder there, but it went away some time in the past.

A month or so ago, I was a few cars behind a car that stopped in the inside lane, signaling to make that illegal left turn and waiting for oncoming traffic to clear. It’s a dangerous thing to do, as drivers in that lane are already looking back over their shoulder for outside lane traffic, knowing they’ll have to merge right very soon as the left lane ends. It’s a set-up for rear-end crashes.

Among that oncoming traffic was a Port Orchard police car, I noted after merging right and continuing uphill.

“This should be interesting,” I thought, and turned around to go downhill as soon as I could to see what the officer did. Alas, it took too long, and there was no sign of the turner or the police car when I got back to the scene.

It all reminded me that a similar wide yellow stripe had been added in front of what then was Silverdale Baptist Church on Highway 303 (aka Waaga Way) a couple of years ago. I kept forgetting to call the church (it’s been renamed Grace Point Church) and ask if it was their idea or the state’s.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker, of the Olympic Region public affairs staff, says the wide stripe in front of the theater has been there since 2008. “It was placed there to prevent left turning accidents,” she said.

Even though I drive past there at least twice a day, it took the new coat of paint for my brain to register it, I guess.

Wendy Fox of Grace Point Church tells me the state required the broad stripe in front of the church when Silverdale Baptist  asked for a second access in and out. It led to the current alignment of an exit-only north of the entrance to the church. The stripe forbids left turns into the exit.

Incidentally, those who believe that left turns are forbidden across double yellow lines of normal width are in error. Without the extra width of the stripes, such as in  front of the theater and church, cross-hatching between the lines on the pavement, a raised barrier or a sign forbidding them, left turns are legal. It’s a good thing, too. Otherwise thousands of people wouldn’t be able to turn into their driveways

Drivers on 303 off-ramp still stopping unnecessarily

The in basket: Peggy Griffel writes about the southbound Highway 303 off-ramp at Ridgetop Boulevard in Silvelrdale, “Now that the traffic light is finally complete at this intersection, they still haven’t fixed the problem that drives me crazy every morning as I drive to work at Harrison Silverdale from Poulsbo.

“There is still no signage that tells the right hand lane not to stop.  Every morning I come close to witnessing an accident as someone is stopped in that lane either waiting to get over in the other lane to make a left hand turn or they simply don’t know that they have their own lane after turning.

“What would be the harm in signage that those in right hand lane do not stop and need to stay in lane?” she asked.

The out basket: This must be more of an annoyance or safety problem that you’d think, as often as I hear complaints about it.

I asked if there is an approved sign that would convey the message, something like, “Right Turners Don’t Have to Stop,” though I can’t recall seeing a sign like that anywhere else.

Doug Adamson of the Olympic Region public affairs office for state highways says a small change is coming, but I don’t see how it will convey the message Peggy wants conveyed.

“To encourage right-turning drivers not to stop, (state) sign crews will relocate an existing sign showing that drivers turning right are not required to stop,” Doug said. “At this time, there are no other changes planned for the highway exit in this area.”

That sign, he said, is a yellow diamond-shaped sign with two arrows angling right, one with a crook in it. It’s more puzzling than instructive, to my eye.

Combined on- and off-ramp on 303 troubles driver

The in basket:  Norman Marten of Bainbridge Island wrote in March about what he considered to be “possibly the worst intersection configuration imaginable … at least for me.”

“I was on Central Valley Road traveling north to get onto Route 303 toward Silverdale,” he said. “I crossed over 303 and saw what appeared to be the entrance on the left.

“Immediately I saw a one-way sign and a large “DO NO ENTER sign. I kept going by and turned left on what I thought was the entrance. No. It is a parallel local road, which is an issue in itself.

“It is separated from the actual entrance lanes by a low chain link fence such that oncoming cars there appear to be headed right at you until the last moment (it curves).

“In any case, I turned around and proceeded back and discovered that the opening from Central Valley is a wide, shared area with the entrance and exit lanes combined.  Who is the rocket scientist that designed that?

“A ways into this there is a slightly raised divider on the pavement but you need to actually turn into this to realize what is happening.

“What I totally don’t understand,” he said, “is why they don’t have an island at the edge of Central Valley with clear signage that the entrance is to the right of the divide.  Putting the low divider back from where Central Valley passes is crazy.  I can’t imagine getting there on a rainy night.  Really scary.  Combined exit/entrance lanes should be outlawed.”

The out basket: I don’t often use this combined exit-entrance and haven’t had any trouble there the few times I did. I’m fairly certain it wasn’t dark and rainy.

There was an indication the day I went to look at it that someone else might have had a problem. On the sign pointing to the left to go to Silverdale, someone had added a peculiar-looking decal, pointing down at a 45-degree angle, as if to provide some added instruction. It was gone the next time I visited there.

Also, I turned onto the short dead-end street Norman mentions, and in coming back out, saw a pickup truck moving at what seemed too high a speed for that road coming at me. He actually was over on the on-ramp to 303, which became obvious when it curved, but it was a momentary thrill.

The state doesn’t see need for a change. Claudia Bingham Baker of the state’s Olympic Region says, “Your reader is asking for a sign to be placed on a center island between the ramps on the north side of the interchange.  We believe such a sign would be a hazard for left-turning trucks and would probably be knocked down in short order.

“Since the way to Silverdale is already signed before the on-ramp, we have no current plans to make sign changes at that location.”

She didn’t address extending the center divider to Central Valley Road, but I suppose that would be hit by far more turning drivers than would be confused by the current alignment.

Tick-tock, Ridgetop/303 signal project

The in basket: Yvonne Dean and Sam Watland are the latest to ask about the seemingly endless project to put a traffic signal at the southbound off-ramp from Highway 303 (Waaga Way) to Ridgetop Boulevard in Silverdale.

“According to the sign the highway people put up,” said Yvonne, “the road project was to be completed the end of February, but as of March 6, there still isn’t a traffic light installed.  What is the hold up now?  Before it was the pole and the state programing the signal box.”

Sam quipped that he hopes the continual delays on the signal project aren’t an omen about how long Bucklin Hill Road really will be closed this year and next for the replacement of the culverts through which Clear Creek pass under it.

Yvonne also said the heavy rains the past two weeks have raised questions in her mind about the drainage slopes nearby. “I travel the lower part of Ridgetop several times a week,” she said, “and I have noticed with the heavy rains we have been having a lot of water that never gets to the drainage areas that are in place and therefore the water tends to accumulate at lower places causing puddles.

“The specific area I am talking about is at the intersection of the exit to Ridgetop coming north from Bremerton and going right up Ridgetop Junior High.”

The out basket: The county’s weekly Road Report says work was to resume this week with modification of the bases for the signal cross-arm poles, which have arrived. Field testing of the new controller cabinet also was to be done this week and completed Friday.

“The transfer over to the new service system begins this week,” it said. “The contractor is starting additional drainage work at the ramp entering the Ridgetop Boulevard Intersection.
“Two small areas of sidewalk modifications within the project limits are also planned. Remaining channelization markings will be installed upon completion of the new signal system.
“All paint markings, including the crosswalk across Ridgetop Boulevard, will be completed after the signal is operational.  Until that work is completed pedestrians should use marked crossings at other intersection locations.”

Public Works spokesman Doug Bear ways the drainage issues described by Yvonne are outside the signal project boundaries and have “been dispatched to road maintenance crews to resolve.”



303 off-ramp to Sid Uhinck a hairy maneuver in Silverdale

The in basket: Eric Blair and Rob Davy have a quarrel with the way many drivers use the Ridgetop Boulevard intersection in Silverdale where traffic comes off of southbound Highway 303 on an off-ramp and sometimes stops either out of an excess of caution or in order to move quickly to the left to turn onto Sid Uhinck Drive.

That’s the place Kitsap County plans to put a new traffic signal if it ever gets all the needed approvals.

Eric says he uses that off-ramp often and “I almost always get stuck behind someone who is stopped, blocking the lane while waiting for traffic to clear so that they can jump lanes on Ridgetop to turn left onto Sid Uhinck.

“It appears that even with the installation of signals,” he said, “the right  turn lane from the exit ramp will continue to enter its own lane on Ridgetop, and isn’t going to be signaled. How is this going to help exiting traffic onto westbound Ridgetop?”

“Even with the light, I’ll still be waiting for cars who are trying to jump over to Sid Uhnick rather than travel westbound. Is this correct?”

Rob feels likewise and raises three objections.

He says it’s illegal to stop in a through lane to wait for traffic to clear for a lane change. The fact that the ramp is a through lane is obscured by the 90-degree curve it makes, but it has its own lane waiting on Ridgetop and neither a stop nor a yield sign controlling the turn.

Second, he argued, the solid white stripe separating that lane from the next cannot legally be crossed.

And, most tellingly, he says there isn’t enough room between the 90-degree curve and Sid Uhinck Drive for a driver to signal his lane change for the 100 feet the law requires. Two hundred feet are needed because one must change lanes twice to get from the ramp lane to the left turn lane onto Sid Uhinck, he says.

Both men want a row of pylons separating the ramp lane from the straight through lane to prevent those lane changes.

Rob even proposes a realignment that would allow those on the ramp to get to the Sid Uhinck left turn even if pylons are installed.

Let ramp drivers use the lane that allows left turns onto Ridgetop to turn right there too, both on a green light and on a red when traffic allows, he proposes. That way they could get into the Sid Uhinck left turn lane with only one lane change, for which there may be enough room to signal for the 100 feet.

The out basket: When the signal is installed, green lights for ramp traffic will stop all conflicting traffic with red lights and reduce the number of motorists who make the unnecessary stop at the 90-degree curve. Regardless of its legality, the move to Uhinck would be easier.

And single white lines don’t prohibit a lane change to another legal driving lane. Double white lines, such as those at HOV lanes, do that.

The law DOES prohibit stopping in a through lane to make a lane change. I’m sure tickets are rarely written for it, but a driver who gets hit from behind after stopping for that purpose can get a ticket as well as the driver who hit him. Many of those drivers who have been stopping where that off-ramp turns, for whatever reason, would be astounded,  I’m sure,  to learn they’re breaking the law.

As for the changes Eric and Rob propose there, County Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea says, “Before we make any modifications to this intersection, we will see how it works after the signal has been operating for a while.

“The reader makes an interesting recommendation, though.  For local traffic it might work once traffic gets used to it.  It would take time away from the left turners in that lane which could upset some motorists.

“It would be difficult to provide guide signs for the visiting motorist. We try to sign and mark roads in a manner that a motorist would expect.  Turning right from an inside lane is not a normal traffic movement.  This would lead to some real frustrated motorists that are confronted with a traffic barrier if they are in the right lane and want to get onto Sid Uhinck.

“Also, the ramp falls under the jurisdiction of (the state).  They would have to be convinced to change the configuration of the signal, markings and signage,” Jeff said.

I would guess the 100 feet of signaling requirement is enforced maybe one time in 10,000 it’s violated. State Trooper Russ Winger calls it “‘technically’ illegal to jump to the left turn lane (from the ramp lane), even though HUNDREDS of vehicles accomplish this on a daily basis. I suggest the (county) install a sign – and possibly barriers – prohibiting the left turn to Sid Uhinck from the right-turn lane, if the road engineers feel it is warranted. I do not know what kind of accident profile the county has in that section since the construction, so I give observation only.”