Tag Archives: 305

Poulsbo’s 305 HOV lanes deemed effective

The in basket: Some months ago, a reader told me she believed the timing of the traffic signals on Highway 305 through Poulsbo was to be reviewed at some point after completion of its widening project and the establishment of the HOV lanes.

The Poulsbo City Council has opted for fairly long red light wait times on the side streets to keep the through movements flowing.

I didn’t recall ever hearing of such a planned review of the signal timing, but did report back then that the unorthodox placing of the HOV lanes on the outside rather than against the center barrier was to be reviewed at some point – five years after they opened, as I recall.

The outside lane was chosen to be the HOV lanes to make it easier for transit buses to get to and from the roadside to pick up and discharge passengers.

I asked Andrzej L. Kasiniak, Poulsbo city engineer, what he recalled. And I asked Olympic Region officials for the state Department of Transportation if the HOV lane review had ever been done.

The out basket: Andrzej said he was unaware of a council pledge to review the signal timing at a particular time.

Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region, replied, “While no formal study was done, we did look at the numbers and types of collisions that occurred within the limits of the HOV lane and the numbers and types of complaints we received about the lane, especially over the last five years.

“An informal before-and-after study showed a drop in collisions of about a third throughout the corridor. “Similarly, while there were a handful of complaints soon after the lane was constructed, there have been a very small number in the last five years.  From this, we feel the HOV lanes are working fine and plan no further study.”

Right turns and the Poulsbo HOV lanes

The in basket: Michael Schuyler read the recent Road Warrior column about it’s being illegal to turn right out of Charleston Beach Drive in Bremerton directly into the Highway 304 HOV lane and asked on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com, “OK. Let’s say you are alone turning right onto a highway where the HOV lane is the right lane, such as SR 305 through Poulsbo. Let’s just say traffic is also heavy at the time.

“If you turn right into the HOV lane you are using the lane illegally. If you turn into the inside lane, you violate the “turn into the nearest lane” rule.

“Will the WSP give you some slack here, or will they cite you for not moving over immediately?” he asked.

The out basket: When that HOV lane opened, the official answer to Michael’s question was kind of vague, saying that turning right into the lane was permissible for a single occupant vehicle if it moved quickly to the general purpose lane. Likewise, moving into the HOV lane was OK to prepare for a right turn off of the highway if you did it right before the turn.

The official advice hasn’t changed. State Trooper Russ Winger says, “He should turn into the closest lane, even if it is the HOV lane. That is not an illegal use of the HOV lane. If not allowed to be in the HOV lane by restriction, move to the other lane as soon as practical.”

If I’m ever in a situation where I take that advice, I’d be careful not to pass any cars in the general purpose lane before moving over, signaling and moving over when a break in traffic appears.

Councilmen ask about BI right turn signs and Highway 305 ferry signs

No Right Turn sign hard to see on wire above intersection
No Right Turn on Red signis on wire above the intersection

The in basket: A couple of city councilmen from Kitsap County’s north end recently asked the Road Warrior for help with problems they had spotted in the area, and I was happy to oblige.

Bill Knobloch of Bainbridge Island was the first, appealing for help in February for a situation in which he’d found the state intransigent. Citizen Paul Sanders had brought it to his attention.

“I am writing you as a result of a lost-in-translation communication with WSDOT concerning a continuing problem that directly affects the pocket book of many of my constituents,” Bill said. Right turns on red are prohibited from Highway 305 heading away from downtown onto Madison Avenue, but only by a small sign hanging from the wire that supports the traffic signal heads on 305, he said. Meanwhile, a more obvious sign on the roadside limits the right lane to right turns.

“Considering the existing signs at the side of the highway just prior to the right hand turn, it appears to be a setup for the ordinary driver who will follow the ‘right turn only’ while not having the average scan to see the little white sign saying ‘no turn on red,’ Bill said.

The state had refused to add to the signage due to “current sign congestion.”

This summer Ed Stern of the Poulsbo council sent me the following: “I notice on Highway 3, the signs for the Bremerton Ferry in the vicinity of Bremerton, all read ‘Seattle Ferry’ — very helpful and illustrative, especially for our out-of-town travelers of which we have more than a few, especially in the summer.

“However, when approaching the Poulsbo/Kingston exits on Highway 3, it reads ‘Bainbridge Ferry’ and not the more informative ‘Seattle Ferry’. I have to ask why?”

The out basket: Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region of WSDOT, sent me an e-mail on Aug. 19 saying, “I wanted you to know that we will be ordering a second No Turn On Red sign to be placed on the side of the highway (305)….  I would expect that the sign will be installed next month.” Perhaps it already has been.

Steve more or less concedes Ed’s point, but says it doesn’t rate high on the list of problems his department hopes to address quickly “We can look at a sign redesign when the sign is up for replacement,” he said. “We don’t want to spend the money now as the sign is relatively new and we have not had any other complaints.

“Also,” he said. “we do have ‘Seattle Ferry’ signs on the beginning of (Highway) 305.”

Trying for all-green signals on Highway 305

The in basket:  Dr. Craig Benson writes, “Perhaps you can help me crack the code of the traffic lights along Highway 305 in Poulsbo. I read in the Sun that as part of the revamping of the 305 corridor the lights were supposed to be timed to provide for smoother traffic flow and less stopping, to save gas.

“Since I live off Hostmark and often shop at College Marketplace,” he said, “I have occasion to pass through all six lights in between at various times of the day and night, sometimes with no other traffic interfering, but rarely at rush hours. I’m pretty sure I’ve never made it through all the lights without stopping.

“I’ve tried setting my cruise control right at the posted limit, a little higher, a little lower, accelerating faster and slower from the lights, everything I can think of to pass through the lights as timed, without success.

“This is an every day occurrence for me,” he said, “and probably for hundreds if not thousands of others – those stops add up! Can you find out from the powers that be what I’m supposed to be doing to get through the corridor without making unnecessary and inefficient stops?”

The out basket: The state gets this inquiry enough that it has posted a discussion of the limitations of synchronization on its Web site, at wsdot.wa.gov/Operations/Traffic/Signals/signal_coordination.htm.

After noting that synchronization requires the same number of seconds for each signal to serve all of its various traffic flows,, it poses a question of itself: “Does this mean I will never have to stop for a red light?”

 

“Unfortunately, the answer to this question is No,” it replies. “There are many reasons why, even when traffic signals are coordinated, you will still have to stop at red lights.”

Among the reasons:

– Pedestrians. Whether those on foot consume some of the time devoted to the various movements  affects the amount of time for other movements.

– Side streets. Even where through traffic is given preference, such as on Highway 305, making for long waits for a green, the goal is to make sure all cars waiting when their queue gets a green light are served. The number of cars crossing affects the main line timing.

– Left turns. The amount of time devoted to them and the number of vehicles waiting to turn subtracts seconds from the main line.

– Two-way traffic flow: Coordinating flows in opposite directions is difficult, especially if the signals in the corridor are spaced differently. “If the spacing is not equal between traffic signals, the green lights may only ‘line up’ well in one direction,” the site says. “When this happens, the green lights will normally ‘line up’ better in the direction with the most traffic. The traffic in the other direction may have to stop.”

– When you drive. Many coordinated system are taken out of synchronization at night and on weekends.

I’ve had to abridge the information on the Web site, for space reasons. Look it up for a more detailed explanation.

 

305 culvert job creates a dip in pavement

The in basket: Gary Nolta writes, “I travel Highway 305 four or five times a week, and I have noticed that the road is sinking where they have been working with the stream for the fish under the road.

“There was no dip there before the work began. It is really noticeable in the south bound lane. Hopefully they will fix it before the contractors leave,” he said.

It was noticeable but not alarming when I looked for it on a drive along 305 a while ago. I asked if the office handling the culvert replacement there was aware of it.

The out basket: Jerry Moore, project engineer for the state on that job, says, “Yes, I am aware of the dip in the road. Two to three months ago we had profiled the road so that potential settlement could be monitored.  There was some minor settlement a month ago but that was not enough to be of concern.  Just recently the settlement of the roadway has increased and is noticeable.  Now that the pipe insertion work is done we are evaluating what is the best course of action addressing the dip in the roadway.”

Why steel, not concrete for Highway 305 culverts?

The in basket: Don Hein is puzzled by the material in the new culverts being put under Highway 305 in North Kitsap to remove fish barriers. “I’d like to know why the culverts are made of steel instead of concrete,” he said. “Steel rusts.

“Also, the culverts seem to be made of 1-inch thick steel plate.  How, where and by whom is such thick steel plate rolled into a cylinder?

“You can see one of the culverts close up in the parking lot of the George fireworks stand on Highway 305,” he said.

The out basket: Jerry Moore, state project engineer says, it results from having to pound the culverts beneath the highway.

“Steel pipe was chosen because it can be driven or pushed through the fill at a reasonable cost. Technically, concrete pipe can be pushed through the fill.  However, according to technical reports that I read, special attention has to be given to prevent damage to the ‘brittle’ concrete especially at the joints.  Both the technical reports and our contractor said it would cost more to push concrete pipe through the fill.

“The pipe is made of 1 and 1/8-inch-thick steel,” Jerry said. “This thickness was chosen by the contractor to handle the driving forces generated from the hammer.  Structurally, only 5/8-inch thick steel is required for the load generated by the weight of the highway fill.

“And, yes, steel does rust but not that fast.  The pipe should last more than 50 years especially with the extra thickness.  If, by chance, the steel pipe does rust to a point that it becomes structurally deficient, it can be repaired by relining it with another layer of steel or by other methods.”

Jerry didn’t include information on the maker of the culverts, and I didn’t ask again, but there is no shortage of companies dying to tell you about their steel cylinders online. Just Google it.

Of right/left turn conflicts & speed limit signs

 

The in basket: Mark Powell of Poulsbo e-mailed a pair of unrelated questions to the Road Warrior.

He first asked about turns onto two-lane highways, using as an example the intersection of Highway 305, Forest Rock Lane and Seventh Avenue in Poulsbo. He asked whether a driver wanting to turn right on a red light from Forest Rock onto Highway 305 needs to wait for the left-turners coming from Seventh, who have a green light.
“While trying to turn RIGHT on RED most drivers wait for all vehicles to complete the LEFT. My contention is they are required to turn into the LEFT lane, therefore allowing an unimpeded RIGHT on RED. Am I correct?

“Secondly,” he asked, “when am I allowed or required to change speeds? I think I remember reading recently that if (for example) you are driving in a zone with a 35 mph speed limit and see a sign increasing the speed limit to 40, you may increase prior to actually passing the 40 mph sign.

“I have a daughter in drivers education and I want to make sure of my answers and assistance,” he said. 

The out basket: Turners onto a multi-lane highway are required to use the closest available lane of the highway being entered, so, yes, the left turners from Seventh Avenue are required to use the inside lane of Highway 305 northbound. That would leave the outside lane available for right turns from Forest Rock while the opposing left turners are in motion. 

I must assume right turners who wait for all left turners to go by are simply being careful and don’t trust the left turners to not swing wide and endanger them.

For turns onto a two-lane highway, the traffic with a stop sign or red light must yield to traffic with a green light, which might condition the Forest Rock right turners to defer to oncoming left turners even though the two lanes of Highway 305 theoretically provide room for both streams. 

As for when speed zones begin, officially it is at the speed limit sign, not before. Just as drivers don’t have to slow down to the lower speed when the speed limit drops until they pass the sign showing the lower speed limit, they are not entitled to increase to the higher speed until they have passed the sign showing it.

As a practical matter, though, citations for five over the speed limit are quite rare, so I wouldn’t expect it to matter whether a driver speeds up in the short distance between when the sign with the higher speed limit becomes visible and the car passes the sign. 

I would regard a speed enforcement in such a transition zone to be predatory policing, but I suppose it might happen. Of course, if you’re already way over the speed limit in the zone you’re entering, you’d be fair game.

Bond Road right turners might get a green arrow light

 

The in basket: Val Tangen of Hansville thinks right turn traffic from Bond Road to northbound Highway 3 in Poulsbo could be made to clear more quickly. 

“As you come to the light on Bond Road and want to turn right and go up the hill to (Highway) 3, there is a right turn lane,” she noted. 

“Why can’t there be a right-turn arrow when the traffic going towards Poulsbo/Bainbridge is making left turns on their arrow?”

Each car now must come to a stop before proceeding with that turn though no conflicting traffic can be coming.

The out basket: It might be done, says Don Anders of the Olympic Region signal shop for state highways here.

But there is a crosswalk there from one side of Highway 305 to the other. Pedestrians can be endangered by a right turn arrow if drivers make the turn carelessly, emboldened by the green arrow. 

Chances are there are very few pedestrians who cross there, as there is no development on the north side of Bond Road on either side of the highway. The crosswalk on the south side of that intersection would be more useful to most people on foot. That may be a deciding factor.

They’ve been approved to spend the money if the pedestrian issue can be resolved, Don said.

More speed limit signs needed on Highway 305, says driver

The in basket: Glenda Wagoner, who concedes that she’s the kind of driver who has generated complaints about how she passes (though she says it’s always in a legal manner), thinks there is an explanation of danger on the two-lane stretches of Highway 305 that can be reduced without reducing the speed limit. 

The state has dropped that limit from 55 to 50 mph between Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island.

Even before the announcement of that impending change, she was on the line to me saying there should be more 55 mph signs on 305, because a lot of drivers won’t go higher that 50 or even less. They miss the only sign coming out of Poulsbo southbound raising the limit and keep at the speed they were going while in Poulsbo, she contends. 

 That creates unsafe passing by drivers who know the speed limit and get anxious behind those who stay way below it, she said. 

Put up more 55 mph signs, she said in her first call. Don’t lower the speed limit, she said in her second.

The out basket: Well, says Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region of state highways, more signs she’ll get. But they’ll say 50 mph.

“We plan on placing four new speed limit signs on the corridor next month,” he said.

“As far as the speed limit goes,” he said, “our speed studies did indicate that 50 mph was the appropriate speed limit for the highway given current levels of congestion.  

“In terms of collisions, the major cause of collisions on the corridor is rear-end type accidents, and generally those are caused by inattention on the part of the trailing driver.”

Masi Shop access on 305 a work in progress

 

The in basket: Andrew McMillen said in an e-mail, “When the Masi Shop on Highway 305 in Suquamish added the new buildings, they  got an on/off merge lane in the southwest direction and an additional exit on the opposing side. 

“The speed limit is 55 mph and soon dropping to 50. However, in both directions traffic frequently has to slow to as low as 20 mph for exiting/entering traffic, sometimes abruptly. 

“Cars coming from the shop heading towards Poulsbo cause through traffic on the highway to slow drastically,” he said. “They don’t enter the merge lane and wait, they just merge all the way onto the highway, which is uphill at that point and slows them down.

“What traffic studies were done on the highway modifications, or will be?” he asked.

The out basket: I can’t answer that exact question, but the Suquamish tribe and the state are working to correct the shortcomings on that short stretch of highway.

It’s clear the highway alignment has been a work in progress. Andrew referred me to a Google Maps aerial of that spot, presumable taken last year. It showed two large arrows indicating a merge of traffic that has just turned left out of the shops to go toward Poulsbo and some left turn arrows for turns into the shops. 

Today. the two large arrows have been scrubbed off and the left turn lane is farther toward the center of the shopping complex. One of three egresses Google Maps showed is now closed and another enlarged.

“What they have done so far is not according to our procedures,” Art Sporseen of state highways told me, “but we are on board with them now and have an improved plan for future improvements.” 

Bob Gatz, tribal engineer, says the tentative plans have not gotten final approval, but he expects the revised alignment to provide a deceleration lane for traffic from Poulsbo turning right into the shops. That should eliminate one of Andrew’s concerns. 

That will widen the highway and allow for a longer acceleration lane toward Poulsbo, Bob said. At present there isn’t enough length to let entering cars get up to highway speed before merging, so it will interesting to see if the changes will fix that.

The center egress from the shops will remain closed and the one closest to Agate Passage will remain right-out-only, Bob said. Allowing left turns there would put cars into the left turn pocket, from which they could not proceed toward Poulsbo.

The tribe’s Port Madison Enterprises, which runs the Masi Shop, Clearwater Casino, Kiana Lodge and a number of other things is paying for the work, state and tribal officials said.

Incidentally, when I pronounced Masi like Masai, as in the African tribe, Russell Steele, head of Port Madison Enterprises corrected me and said it’s pronounced “mossy.” He didn’t know its meaning. 

The old store will soon be torn down, he said, but all the existing gas pumps will remain.