Tag Archives: 304

Highway 304 HOV lane violations said still to be rampant

The in basket: David Barr writes to say he found a Road Warrior column from 2011 about widespread flouting of the rules in the HOV lanes coming out of Bremerton heading toward Gorst and “sadly I can report that the situation has remained completely unchanged and I believe revisiting this story is warranted.

“A few times a week I leave Bremerton around 4 p.m. when shipyard traffic floods the area, and I consistently see a significant portion of people occupying the HOV lane do so without meeting the requirements of that lane.

“It has to be true that enforcement of the rules during the 3:45-5:30 peak commuting time would only complicate the congestion situation. Can you imagine pulling 30-50 people over in a half an hour in that location?  It would not only be a nightmare for traffic, but also for the safety of the troopers.  Additionally, the state patrol would be likely be exposed to public outcry for making the commute more difficult.  Its a lose-lose for them.

“I can’t help but feel that these conditions contribute to the lawlessness I perceive when it comes to these particular HOV lanes,” David said. “A practical person would simply conclude that it seems unsafe to enforce the rules during these heavy commuting times and this is why daily commuters have little motivation to follow the rules.

“Does the state patrol have any plan to fix this?”

The out basket: I see the same thing when it’s light enough to see into the vehicles passing me in that HOV lane. One recent night when it was raining heavily that wasn’t possible, but the stream of vehicles in the HOV lane was so heavy I had to assume that most were breaking the rules.

Still I could get upset only on principle as their behavior really wasn’t delaying me much. I suspect that that HOV lane was created more to qualify for federal money for the Gateway improvements than to help with traffic.

State Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the state patrol here, says, “It is true that enforcement during this time would probably contribute to slower traffic movement. Emergency lights on the shoulder tend to do that. This does not mean our troopers are going to shy away from enforcing the law. Regardless of a driver’s rationale for violating the HOV restriction, it is still illegal. Assuming that we are going to avoid the area and enforcing the law because of ‘public outcry’ is incorrect.

“As to your reader’s question of do we have a plan to ‘fix it,’ no, we do not. The only real ‘fix’ is more lanes and fewer vehicles. Not likely soon.

“Making traffic stops out on the highway is dangerous, period. That comes with our job. Our troopers will continue to enforce the speed and HOV law here when they can and at random times.”

 

$4 million to restripe 3-304 merge?

The in basket: I read that money has been set aside to modify the merge where highways 3 and 304 meet west of Bremerton, described in news stories as restriping to allow both lanes of Highway 3 to flow through and eliminate the merge into a single lane that now backs traffic up past theta Loxie Eagans interchange during rush hour.

The stories say it will cost about $4 million. I asked how on earth they could spend that much on restriping.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highway, replied, “The work at the SR 3/SR 304 merge will be much more than just a restripe. The project will do some widening and ramp reconstruction to change the configuration of the interchange.

“When the work is complete, the two southbound SR 3 lanes will continue through the interchange (where now they narrow to one lane), and SR 304 traffic will merge onto SR 3.

“This project’s goal will be to relieve peak-hour congestion. The current timeline of this $4.2 million project is design from 2015 to 2017; construction from 2017 through 2018.”

So much for my advocacy of eliminating the signs directing Highway 3 traffic to merge left early and adding signage encouraging the “zipper’ move of cars alternating at the actual merge point. With both lanes going through, there no longer will be a need for that. The state is unlikely to introduce such a change for the three years the existing merge will continue.

Speed reduction deficiencies being corrected

The in basket: Two readers, Alison Loris and Jim Fornes,  protested the absence of adequate warning of two speed limit changes several months ago, one on Highway 304 entering Bremerton and the other on Highway 303 (Waaga Way) south of Brownsville Highway.

Alison noted last summer that the expected notice of an upcoming speed reduction as one approached the 30 mph zone that begins at Charleston Beach Road and stretches to  First Street on 304 was missing. She also mentioned the dense foliage on the trees along the shoulder that obscured the 30 mph size until a driver was almost right beside it.

Not many people go less than 40 through there, but if one got stopped for exceeding 30, he or she would have had a pretty good excuse, I’d think.

Jim said drivers entering Highway 303 from Brownsville Highway to go toward Bremerton, unaware that the state had just reduced the speed limit from there to Fairgrounds Road from 50 to 45 mph, wouldn’t have any way of learning about it as they proceeded.

There was a speed reduction ahead sign there, but both it and the 45 mph sign were posted before one got to Brownsville Highway. Anyone turning left onto 303 there wouldn’t see them.

I recognize that there are hundreds of opportunities to enter from driveways and businesses onto highways and roads where a driver would have to travel quite a ways before seeing a speed limit sign. But one with enough traffic to warrant a traffic signal, as Brownsville Highway does,  probably should deserve quick notice of the speed limit.

The out basket: For some reason, it took me a long time and a reminder call from Jim before I got comment from the state. In the meantime, either the city of Bremerton had trimmed the foliage obscuring the 30 mph sign or nature did it for them by removing the leaves for the winter. We’ll know when the trees leaf out again.

And a speed reduction sign warning of the reduction to 30 mph appeared on the shoulder in 304’s 45 mph zone a few weeks ago.

On 303, Claudia Bingham Baker of the state highway’s Olympic Region says she’s been told a 45 mph speed limit sign on southbound 303 south of Brownsville Highway will be installed within the next two weeks.

Driver unimpressed with 3-304 merge proposals

The in basket: David McCloskey e-mailed to ask and comment about a state Department of Transportation study of ways to make traffic flow more smoothly west of Bremerton on the way to Gorst, including consultant work by the Parametrix company

 “Why did WSDOT spend $500,000 to use the Parametrix company instead of their own highly skilled engineers? he began, then addressed the preliminary suggestions announced in May and added his own.

“Five of the suggestions most likely will not work, just forcing the traffic backup more towards Gorst,” he said. . “My fix would be to place a metering light at the Auto Center Way exit and make Highway 3 two lanes all the way through. Get rid of the 304 HOV lane in front of the ship yard (1% usage at 3-6pm).

“Spending this money was HOGWASH, with no improvements seen till next year. We need a resolve now. I have driven this route for five years already. The highway speeds reduce to 5 mph.” 

Except for one, those preliminary recommendations are limited to modifying the existing merge by adding lanes where there is room for more and letting both lanes of Highway 3 flow under the Highway 304 overpass,

The other one would create a third lane from the interchange all the way to Gorst, which would entail cutting into the rock cliffs that line the highway now.

A state Web site says a workshop will be held this summer to choose one of the options as the best.

I passed David’s comments on to the state and asked if the third lane alternative doesn’t stand out as far and away the most expensive. It’s been proposed off and on for decades, without ever going forward.

I also asked if the workshop has been scheduled.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker of WSDOT’s Olympic Region, replied, “We do plan to hold a workshop in August, in which the stakeholders involved in the SR 3/SR 304 study will be presented the study results, including the various options being considered.  The stakeholder committee and WSDOT together will determine which option becomes the preferred alternative.

“Once the preferred alternative is identified, WSDOT will hold a public meeting to share that alternative with the public.  Neither meeting has been scheduled yet.”

David’s comments will be added to others received since the list of possible options came out, for the stakeholders’ consideration, she said.

“Cutting into the rock face adjacent to the highway to make room for the lane “(would make) that option an expensive one indeed,” Claudia said.  “Whether it would be the ‘most’ expensive option depends on what other ideas the stakeholder committee may come up with.

 “Mr. McCloskey claimed that WSDOT paid the consultant Parametrix $500,000 for the SR 3/SR 304 study rather than using their own ‘highly skilled engineers.’  We, in fact, paid Parametrix $43,000 for specialized traffic modeling services needed for the study, and we picked up the analysis process from there.  We’d like to thank Mr. McCloskey for recognizing that our engineers are highly skilled.

“Mr. McCloskey mentioned ramp meters (already being considered), making SR 3 two lanes all the way to Gorst (included in several options being studied), and getting rid of the SR 304 HOV lane (we’re looking at potential impacts of converting the HOV lane to general-purpose).

“We sympathize with drivers’ frustration that studies take a long time and design and construction of a permanent fix takes even longer. All the while, we know that people just want to get from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time.

“The purpose of the study is to identify a fix that will work not only now, but at least 20 years into the future. Even once we identify that preferred alternative, no 3-304 merge preoposals or construction funds are currently identified for the work. Until that time, we can only offer up behavioral solutions – adjust work hours to avoid peak commute times, share the ride so he can use that HOV lane, and pack patience.”

Spotting the HOV lane violator

The in basket: I’ve always wondered how police officers manage to enforce HOV lane rules, with tinted windows on many cars obscuring who’s inside and a law the makes someone lying down in the back seat or even an infant in a car seat a valid second passenger.

Out of curiosity, I watch the Highway 304 HOV lanes coming out of Bremerton when I’m there at rush hour, viewing from the next lane over. It affords me a view of the two front seats of any vehicle coming up from behind me, as windshield tinting is rarely as dark as side window tinting. Even that requires taking my eyes off the car in front of me briefly, always a risky thing to do in bumper to bumper traffic.

One recent afternoon, I saw a state trooper parked on the southbound shoulder of 304 and figured he was watching for speeders in the outside lane anxious to get out of town toward Silverdale, or to get ahead of traffic and cut in closer to the merge with Highway 3.

I turned my attention back to the HOV lane and noticed an expensive gold-colored hard-top sports car with only the driver visible, using that lane.

He was far from the only one, but the car gave the impression of a driver who’s used to doing things his way. I profiled him, I suppose.

When I got across the bridge over Highway 3, there was the sports car on the shoulder with a trooper leaning in the window, the emergency lights flashing on the patrol car stopped behind them.

Was it a tandem HOV lane enforcement by two officers?, I asked Trooper /Russ Winger, spokesman for the local patrol detachment.

The out basket: Russ wasn’t certain, but said, “Our officers do work together in tandem and multiples on occasion. In that particular location troopers can keep an eye out for speeders as well as seat belt and HOV violations. We have radios that allow us to communicate violations and vehicles to other troopers when it would otherwise be difficult, due to traffic, for the observing officer to safely overtake the vehicle and stop it.”

It’s easy to rationalize using the HOV lane when one is alone in one’s car. The lanes’ purpose is to make a long-term impression that you can get through faster if you car-pool or take the bus, reducing traffic and demand for more lanes over time.

But at that given moment, an HOV scofflaw can tell himself  he’s taking his vehicle out of the backup in the general purpose lanes, making things a little better.

The slim chance that I might get caught and have to pay the hefty HOV violation fine is enough to keep me out of them when I’m alone in my car, though.

 

Once again, the 3-304 merge in Bremerton

The in basket: Mark Darling e-mailed recently with a suggestion about the afternoon backups where highways 3 and 304 merge west of Bremerton. His words matched almost exactly my opinion of how things can be made as non-aggravating as possible.

“It seems to me,” he said, “that it would be safer and more efficient to just state that there is one lane ahead and not give preference to one lane or the other.
“That way the merge point would move closer to where the two lanes actually become one and neither lane would feel ownership that they are in the continuing lane, maybe lessening some of the road rage that comes from the cutters and the blockers,” he said.

“I’ve seen a lot of gyrations from drivers moving left as soon as possible, racing down the right lane to pass those on the left, inching along in the right lane to prevent those who would pass on the
right and drivers with no traffic near them moving to the left lane at the last minute before it narrows down to one lane.” He said “This one really puzzles me, as there is no real reason to move left at that point and the right lane seems to be banked better for the right hand sweeping turn than the left.”

The out basket: Here, here, I told Mark, referring him to some of my past columns that urge just that, as well as adoption of the “zipper” maneuver in which drivers at the actual merge point alternate, having filled the two lanes equally by ignoring the merge left signs and choosing the lane with the shortest backup when they come to the congestion.

Drivers who insist that they have trouble getting into the single lane at the merge because drivers in the left lane won’t let them in mystify me.

As Mark notes, the banking at the merge point makes merging there easy. Just proceed slowly along the edge line. There’ll always be an opening that doesn’t slow down those in the left lane, unless an aggrieved driver in the inside lane risks his own vehicle to frustrate you. The one time that happened to me, I just slowed down and pulled in behind the hot head.

I’m convinced that the driver whose conscience or lack of nerve causes him to force his way into the left lane before its necessary worsens the backup via what’s called the accordion effect, pushing the slowdown he creates backwards.

Mark replied to my reply and asked if the state has ever weighed in on the suggestion of not making it clear which lane is ending. I had to say I don’t ever recall getting the state’s opinion on that.

Claudia Bingham-Baker of the public affairs staff for the Olympic Region of state highways provided it for me when I then asked.

“(We) follow signing and roadway striping standards set in the federal Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD),” she said. “The MUTCD requires that when two lanes merge into one, signs be installed to let drivers know who has the right-of-way. The signs help drivers know what to expect. They also provide clear indication of right-of-way, which is essential for accident investigations.”

Incidentally, I’ve quit trying to apply the zipper theory where the Loxie Eagans on-ramp enters Highway 3, or coming out of Bremerton on Highway 304. The banking that makes it work at the 3-304 merge doesn’t exist in those other places.

Highway 304 median work to continue

The in basket: R.M. Parker commented on the recent Road Warrior column about the truncated cleanup of the Highway 303 median in Bremerton by saying, “I thought great progress was made considering the shape the Gateway was in and the really tough southern section. I am now wondering who is responsible and the contact for the non-city portion of the median further south. It would be nice to contact them and see if that portion can also be cleaned up.”

The out basket: The city itself is responsible for the entire median, even that outside the city limits, says Engineer Gunnar Fridriksson of city public works.

“The city has formal agreements with (the state) for maintenance,” he said. “The reason for our being responsible for the county portion of the roadway (the stretch from the Missouri Gate out to the 3-304 interchange) was the plan had been to annex this area after construction of the last city phase of the 304 project was completed.

“With the turmoil of the last few years, this annexation has been put on the back burner for now. We, as well, own and maintain the street lighting along Charleston Beach Road.

“We did have a maintenance contract with a landscaping company for just over a year (2011) shortly after construction, and this area was in really good shape back then. The contract was a casualty with the budget process.

“I am not sure who did the work, but if you notice the frontage along Cliff’s Cycle, someone has gone in there and cut and cleaned up that section very nicely,” Gunnar said.

As for the unfinished section of the First Street-to-Farragut Avenue section of the median attacked by volunteers on Oct. 22, it will be finished, including application of garden bark its entire length, by city crews this week.

April 5 has been chosen for the next volunteer cleaning, from Farragut to Charleston Beach Road, he said. That will leave the remainder of the median out to Highway 3. The speed limit there (45 miles per hour) is too high to have volunteers do it. The city wants to get it done, but the how and when remains undecided.

Highway 304 median not done yet

The in basket: I joined an estimated 100 volunteers in cleaning up the badly overgrown median in Highway 304 coming into Bremerton last Saturday.

The combined effort made impressive progress between 9 a.m. and noon, getting from the First Street intersection westward to almost past the Kitsap Transit maintenance shop.

At noon, after downing a couple pieces of the many pizzas the city had provided for the workers, I decided not to push my just-turned-70-year-old body any further and left.

But I felt sure those who remained would be able to finish the short distance to Farragut Avenue in the remaining three hours the event was scheduled. Maybe they’d even get across Farragut to the median on the other side, I thought, though that would have mean moving the inside lane closures for the safety of the workers to the west.

Though it was a volunteer effort, it was clear the city had put a lot of money and effort into it, between closing the inside lanes, deploying electric signs to warn of them, equipment and truck drivers to haul away the displaced weeds and dump garden bark, manning the sign-up tent, and providing gloves and yellow vests for the workers.

When I came back through at 3:10 I was surprised that not much more had been done. It looked like it must have ended early.

I asked Public Works Director Chal Martin, whom I had met working in the median, what happened.

The out basket: “Several things,” Chal said. “There were sections where the going

was tougher and we ran into tougher work at the far end.”

And I wasn’t the only one who left at half-time.

“We lost some folks after lunch,” he said.

“Finally, at about 1:30, it became apparent that

people were getting tired and tired equates to a safety issue — we noticed several volunteers being less aware of the work zone and stepping out into the travel lanes. “So we began migrating folks to the exits.”

They’d intended to use the last hour to remove the lane closures anyway, he said. And parks officials had told him even before the event that  volunteers get predictably tired if you go longer than four hours.

“I was disappointed to not get the first section done,” Chal said. “But this was a learning exercise.  I think that in general, we learned a lot and accomplished a lot.

“But, of course, we need to get out there again and

complete the first section.  This needs to be done in November.”

They’ll meet at the parks department building on Lebo Boulevard Friday afternoon to plan the next step.

Rolling slow down puzzles Highway 3 drivers

The in basket: Glenn Hostetter called to say he saw a puzzling thing coming out of Bremerton on Highway 304 on Monday. April 15. The line of cars he was in was met by a state Department of Transportation truck that pulled out in front of them just as they reached the merge with southbound Highway 3 traffic.

A second WSDOT truck did the same thing with the Highway 3 traffic. A car positioned itself between the two trucks as the caravan crawled toward Gorst at about 5 miles per hour. One of the trucks had an electronic sign on the back saying it was a rolling slow down.

When they got almost to Gorst, the car pulled to the side and the two trucks sped up and continued on their way.

Traffic in the other directions was proceeding normally.

What was it all about? he asked.

The out basket: Duke Stryker, head of the state maintenance crews here, said the slowdown kept traffic away from another state crew that was removing some debris from the roadway up ahead. He didn’t say what it was, but it clearly wasn’t big enough to require closure of a lane of the highway, with all the attendant signs and warnings, or small enough a state trooper could throw it onto the shoulder.

Rolling slow downs occur from time to time, but the only one I’ve ever witnessed personally involved a state patrol car weaving back and forth at slow speed across all the lanes of southbound Highway 3 as it approached Highway 304. I think that one involved a complicated traffic stop on the shoulder.

 

Right turn to SR304 HOV lane not legal

The in basket: I found myself in afternoon rush hour traffic leaving Bremerton on Highway 304 the other day and saw a maneuver I was quite sure is illegal.
The driver of a pickup truck coming out of Charleston Beach Road and wanting to use the HOV lane made the right turn directly from the side road into the HOV lane, crossing the flow of left turners coming out of the shipyard. The driver used a temporary gap in that flow, so there was no close call.
Surely, I asked State Trooper Russ Winger, spokesmen for the State Patrol here, the presence of the HOV lane doesn’t nullify the rule of the road saying drivers turning onto a street or highway must enter the closest available lane of the thoroughfare being entered, does it?
That usually means left turners must enter the inside lane and right turners must enter the outside lane.
The legal way to get to the HOV lane from Charleston Beach Road, it seemed to me, is to turn into the outside lane and move left in two movements, while signaling.
The out basket: Yes, said Russ, the pickup truck driver violated two laws, the one requiring use of the closest lane and the one requiring a signal for at least 100 feet before changing lanes.
“The act of turning, say, right at an intersection and immediately changing lanes – just completing the turn to the left lane – would be violating signal law as you could not possibly have signaled for 100 feet,” Russ said. When there are two adjoining turn lanes, though, the turning driver must head for the corresponding lane on the street being entered, not necessarily the closest one.
In traffic enforcement, Russ added, “I try to use good judgment when I see that and ask was it unsafe. You could plant yourself at such an intersection and see this movement hundreds or more times on any given day.”