Tag Archives: Agate Pass

Bike signal at Agate Pass is new technology

The in basket: Nancy Trauth writes, “At either end of the Agate Pass Bridge there are caution signs with caution flashing lights when bicycle riders are on the bridge.  We’ve seen the lights flash with no sign of a biker on or even near the bridge.

“What sets the flashers off, how long do they stay on and why don’t bikers ride the sidewalk for that short distance?” she asked

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways, explains, “The flashing signal is new technology that we’re trying out on the bridge.  It is radar-based and has three criteria that activate the lights, but basically it looks for an object traveling toward the detector at bicycle speeds.

“It is possible for a slow-moving vehicle to meet the criteria and trigger the lights. Once activated, the lights stay on for 62 seconds. Any object traveling through the detection zone that fits the programmed requirements will re-set the timer for another 62 seconds.

“We are still learning about the capabilities and limitations of the system, and have made adjustments to it to minimize false (non-bike) activations. We will continue to monitor the system to determine its effectiveness for this location,” Claudia said.

Any hope for Highway 305 commuter congestion relief?

The in basket:   J. B. Holcomb of Bainbridge Island writes, “Something has to be done about the heavy traffic on (Highway) 305 between the ferry terminal on Bainbridge and Poulsbo.
“After a ferry arrives from Seattle, especially between 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., it is now the norm DAILY, and year around, that it is bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way to Poulsbo, only slightly relieved at the Suquamish/casino intersection.
“At intersections along the way and without a traffic signal, it is not uncommon to wait between 10 and 25 minutes to obtain access onto 305. Last week, I spent 20 minutes between Day Road and the Suquamish traffic signal, a distance of about three miles.
“We now have a large, indeed huge, urban metropolitan area commuter/transportation problem, when, not too many years ago around here, this was non-existent. Where are the complaints about this?  Why are people complacent about this?  Why should we tolerate this?
“Maybe a ban on truck traffic during these times?  How about a ban on one person in an auto during these times (if legal)? Subsidized home-office workers?  Flex-time work hours for persons employed in Seattle having a West Sound home?
“Any suggestions?”
The out basket: I had always ducked experiencing this, not wanting to spend an hour in bumper to bumper traffic. But twice in August, my wife and I motored up to the island from my South Kitsap home, with the intent of following a ferry load of traffic north.
Once was an ordinary Wednesday and a ferry that arrived a little after 4. The second was a Seahawks game day Friday, and a ferry that came in about 7:15. Each time I waited until very near the end of the off-load before joining the flow.
The first thing I noticed is the traffic signal just downhill from Winslow Way, that allows pedestrians to cross during ferry off-loads. It was a fairly long light and I would think it would provide long breaks in traffic on 305 to allow side-street traffic chances to get onto the highway. That, of course, would assume corresponding breaks in southbound 305 traffic, which may often be wishful thinking.
While I don’t doubt that it can be as bad as J.B, describes, neither day did I experience it. It took me 26 minutes to reach Poulsbo on the Wednesday, with bumper to bumper traffic from Hidden Cove Road to Suquamish Way. It took only 16 minutes on the Friday, with little bumper to bumper slowdown.
On the way south to the ferry terminal about 5 p.m. that Friday, we did see oncoming bumper to bumper northbound traffic for sizable distances,  There was some bumper to bumper southbound traffic, as well, probably due to the Seahawks game.
I’m sure it’s somewhere between irritating and infuriating to have to travel that gauntlet every afternoon, but I think J.B. will just have to get used to it.
Everything I’ve read or heard over the years tells me all really plausible relief, whether widening Highway 305 and the Agate Pass Bridge or moving the ferry terminal to Blakely Harbor and bridging to the Illahee area, are opposed by most islanders.
I asked Claudia Bingham-Baker of the state highway’s Olympic region is that’s what the state hears and she declined to characterize it one way or the other.
She did say, “We agree with your reader that traffic is heavy on SR 305, especially between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on weekdays.
“WSDOT, in partnership with the cities of Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo, Kitsap Transit, Port Madison Enterprises (Suquamish Tribe), Kitsap County and the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, recently completed a study on how to improve traffic flow through the SR 305/Suquamish Intersection.
“The study determined that the best long-term (20-year) solution for congestion relief at that intersection was to build a roundabout. However, we have no funding to build a roundabout and are currently looking for funding to build an interim solution – a right-lane turn from westbound SR 305 to northbound Suquamish Way.
“Beyond the intersection, we have no plans or funding to provide added capacity to SR 305.”
Barry Loveless, public works director for  Bainbridge Island, says the city councils of Bainbridge and Poulsbo support a list of proposed improvements to 305, but the list he sent me has few specifics, beyond undescribed work at the intersections, and all have a six- to 10-year time line, even work at Suquamish Way.
I’m sure there are individual efforts to encourage tele-commuting and flex-time, but I think there would be longer and louder howls of anger about restricting trucks and one-occupant vehicles than there are about the daily backups.

Agate Pass Bridge called a ‘black hole”

The in basket: Richard Holl said in a March e-mail that the Agate Pass Bridge in North Kitsap needs better lighting.

“At night the bridge becomes a black hole that absorbs light,” he said.” All you can see is the oncoming lights of the cars  coming at you. You can’t see the sides, the center line, the bridge walkway. Nothing.”

“God forbid if anyone sticks their arm out from the walkway. All a driver can do is aim for the middle of the blackness on their side of the road and hope for the best. Maybe you can see better  if there is no oncoming traffic but I couldn’t tell you the last time I crossed that bridge at night when there was no oncoming traffic,” Richard said.

“Contrast that to the new (Greaves Way in Silverdale) where there is very little traffic. I bet you can see that road from space at night. If you roped the road off, you could play a ball game under those lights.

“I know they are different projects and different funds, yada, yada, yada but what the hell ever happened to a little common sense?”

The out basket: Steve Bennett, the traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region replies, “The standards for lighting on a bridge state the bridge should be lit at the same level as the rest of the corridor.  As there is not continuous lighting on the corridor, there is no requirement for lighting on the bridge.

“We also checked the collision rate on the bridge and found that in the last 11 years almost 90 percent of the collisions occurred in the daytime and it is not clear that any of the  night time collisions would have been prevented with the addition of lighting.

“Of the twelve collisions that occurred at dawn/dusk/night, eight were rear end collisions,” Steve said. “It is unlikely that night-time lighting would have helped prevent these because the brake lights of cars tend to show up better without overhead lighting.

“An additional three crashes occurred because drivers lost control of their vehicle and struck the bridge rail,” he said.

Agate Pass Bridge and bicycles


The in basket: M.S. Marimon writes to say, “My husband and I moved to Bainbridge Island over 34 years ago. At that time, the Agate Pass Bridge was posted ‘Bike Riders Must Walk Over the Bridge.’ 

“That sign disappeared long ago and many times we have had to watch carefully for bike riders that insist upon riding over the bridge. We are considerate with our driving, especially where they are no bike lanes, but it is an accident waiting to happen with the heavy commuter traffic traveling north from Bainbridge.

“What will it take to have the sign posted?” she asked. 

The out basket: Probably it would take a major shift in government and societal attitudes toward bicyclists, who have grown more numerous and politically influential in the past three decades. Increasingly, they are encouraged to serve as alternatives to automobiles, even and perhaps especially during rush hour.

But there is more direct reason for the sign’s removal at Agate Pass, says T.J. Nedrow, a transportation planner for the state and the go-to guy for bicycle issues here. 

“We would all like to better accommodate both the cyclist and the traveling motorist crossing the bridge,” he said, “To date we’ve been able to do little more than continue to analyze opportunities, provide education measures and respond to inquiries and complaints.

“We’ve stopped short of prohibiting cyclists on the roadway,” he said. “For starters, access to the sidewalks has been made difficult with recent safety improvements (made with motorists in mind).  Bridge railing safety improvements have also made it more difficult to walk the bikes across the bridge.  

“The sign that was removed stating bikes had to be walked across the bridge was unenforceable since it wasn’t codified in (state law).  

“(We) researched the possibility of constructing a cantilever shared-use path section to the bridge but found the historical nature of the bridge to trump that notion. The additional weight was a serious concern for the bridge folks, as well. Lastly, we had no funding.

“Yes, the section of highway does present challenges to the cyclists using the roadway,” he said,”but to my knowledge we’ve not had a recordable car/cyclist collision accident. And the complaints have fallen off fairly significantly.  

“One could conclude that the mixture, when it does occur is being dealt with due consideration to the bicyclists (on) the roadway. That said, the cyclist would be prudent to wear highly visible clothing, ensuring that they are seen cycling upon the roadway section on the bridge.”