Tag Archives: Belfair

Driver wonders about Belfair center striping

The in basket: Martha Washington says, “The southern segment of the current Belfair widening project seems to be mostly done, but I hope not. Do they really plan to keep the new lane markings as they currently are?

“Instead of a center turn lane in front of Belfair Elementary, there are three travel lanes. one southbound lane and two northbound.  Anyone needing to make a left into the school is still going to be making their turn from the travel lane.

“If it’s because buses can’t make the turn out of the school and stay in their lane, why didn’t they just give that side a wider shoulder or expand the driveway?” she asked.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways replies, “We have not completed the final striping yet on this project.  The final configuration will stripe a two-way left-turn lane between the school and Roessel.  That final striping will occur next year when we get into drier weather.”

Lot of pipe left to bury in Belfair

The in basket: I had some time to kill in Belfair a week or so ago, so I walked around looking at the widening project under way through town.

I walked a bit off the roadway near Romance Hill Road and saw about 200 lengths of pipe stacked three- and four-deep next to what appeared to be a completed storm water detention pond. I estimated each pipe to be 20 feet long and about two feet in diameter. It seemed like an awful lot of pipe yet to go in the ground on a project with curbs already poured. I asked if it was all for the Belfair project and what the likely impacts would be on traffic when it’s installed, if so.

The out basket: Yes, says Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways.

“The pipe you saw is corrugated plastic pipe that will be installed as part of the drainage system in the Belfair project. It ranges in diameter between 24″ and 18″, and is being installed during night hours during normal single-lane closures so we can reduce impacts to traffic.

“Much of this pipe has been installed on the job already – it’s noticeable now because the contractor moved it to a new location,” she said.

Masonic parking lot in Belfair prompts reader question

The in basket: Greg Tyree has a couple of questions about the road widening project going on in Belfair.

He wonders about the elaborate concrete walls and grading being done next to the Masonic Lodge in town, to serve as its parking lot. He estimates that the work is costing “probably three times the value of the entire property” and wonders why it’s so elaborate.

He also wonders whether the traffic signal in front of Belfair Elementary, removed for the summer while school is out, will be restored and whether an overhead walkway could be built in its place.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways, says, “”The widening work required that we either install walls or fill the parcel to accommodate the wider road. Walls were less expensive than filling the parcel, thus the walls were included in the project design.”

I didn’t think there was much likelihood of an overhead walkway being built in front of the school, and that people choosing to climb up to use it when they could just dash across the highway seems just as unlikely. But I asked Claudia about it and she said, “”We will replace the signal at the school on our project.  There are no plans or funds to build a pedestrian bridge.”

Belfair highway work raises questions


The in basket: Byron McKenzie of Allyn and Martha Washington have questions about the continuing road work in Belfair.

Byron writes, “North Mason residents have lived with the Highway 3 widening project in Belfair for over four years. The utility work has been completed and now  the road construction has been in work since early last year.

“However, in the last two months nothing is being done. Is the contractor on strike? Have they run out of funds? Are they on schedule and budget? Is the contractor having problems or is he inexperienced? What is the status of this project? This heavily traveled corridor is a real mess.”

Asks Martha, “Is the speed limit reduction temporary?  Back in December, signs for a 25 mph speed limit through the Belfair construction zone started popping up.  So far they mostly seem to be ignored. I was assuming it was a safety issue due to the jersey barriers on the shoulder in some places and the speed limit would go back up to 35 mph once the widening project is done.  Can your contacts confirm this?”

The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the state highway department, replies, “Construction on this WSDOT project began in mid-July, 2015. Work previous to that was done by the Belfair water utility in preparation for our project.

“The contractor on our project was initially restricted to working between Belfair Elementary and a retention pond just north of Romance Hill Road.  We are now allowing the contractor to work north of there to build a third retention pond. Over the next month, we expect the contractor to complete work on nine new retaining walls and continue work on the three ponds.

“Wet weather has slowed the work on the retention ponds. To facilitate the work, we are using (large metal) tanks to help manage the high ground water levels at the site before construction begins on drainage installation and highway widening.”

I had driven through Belfair and noticed that all the striping seemed normal, even over the obvious pavement patches.

“Recently we did refresh the roadway striping through the area,” Claudia explained, “not as final striping but interim striping to help motorists navigate better through the area.  The construction signs and jersey barrier are needed for the retaining wall work.

“The project web page is located here:  http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR3/BelfairImprovements/

That site says, “WSDOT has lowered the current 35 mph speed limit to 25 miles because of construction. The speed limit has been temporarily reduced between mileposts 25.3 and 26.6, which is the area near Belfair Elementary School and Northeast Clifton Lane. The reduced speed limit will continue until spring 2016.

  • WSDOT contractor, Ceccanti, has crews building stormwater ponds, walls, and a new stream crossing at Romance Hill Road.
  • This widening project will extend the center turn lane and provide paved shoulders and sidewalks on both sides of SR 3. The improvements are intended to be built in two separate stages.
  • Stage 1 of the project will begin at milepost 25.36 (just south of Belfair Elementary School and Theler Center) to milepost 27.08 (Ridge Point Blvd.).

What’s new on Belfair Bypass?

The in basket: Julie Burghardt of Allyn writes, “I thought I had heard that the Belfair Bypass was finally being funded in the latest transportation plan but the DOT website doesn’t list it in its ‘2015 Highway Construction Current Law 6-Year Plan.’  They do list an improvement to the SR3-SR302 intersection as its own project now.
“Their preferred plan relocated the SR3-SR302 intersection to where the entrance to the North Mason schools off of 302 currently is, and brought the bypass in to meet them there.  The last report listed this as ‘subject to change’ because of new buildings and renovations at the schools, although those are all at the north side of the school property.
“Because the DOT doesn’t list the bypass but does list as a project something that used to be part of the bypass project, I was wondering if they’re going to do the (needed) safety improvement at SR3-SR302 now and do the bypass as part of the next 6-year plan (or the one after that). What’s the latest story?”
The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways says, “Funding for the Belfair Bypass doesn’t begin until July 2019.  Even so, we believe the overall alignment for the bypass will remain as detailed in our environmental document,” which can be seen online at www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/SR3/SR3BelfairBypassEnvironmentalAssessment.
“We do plan to reach out to stakeholders and the public when design begins in July 2019 to address the connection points,” she said. “We believe that much passage of time, development in the corridor, a fresh look at traffic patterns and public input may affect the ultimate decision on the connections.  We will also have to refresh our environmental document.
“Consequently we do not have a firm answer to your questions.  The SR 3/SR 302 project your reader mentioned was removed from the books once the Belfair Bypass project was funded, so it will no longer be built as a separate project.
“Given that it’s six years out, we don’t have a web page up yet. We do have plans to get a web page active in the not-too-distant future.”

Children under 13 must ride in the back seat, if possible

The in basket: Driving through Belfair the other day, I spotted a billboard with a surprising message.

“Patrols Now,” it said. “Children up to age 13 must ride in the back seat.” It depicted a woman officer talking with a child in the back seat of a car. Nowhere was there any indication of who had the message put up or what ‘Patrols Now” means.

I have been vaguely aware of the child restraint requirements, but thought they applied to infants and toddlers. I was surprised by the up-to-age-13 element.

But mostly I wondered what “Patrols Now” means

The out basket: The billboard is the work of the child passenger safety unit of the state Traffic Safety Commission.

Cesi Velez, associated with the unit, tells me, “Each year Washington participates in a national seat belt mobilization; Click It or Ticket (CIOT). Seat belt and proper child restraint use reduces the risk of serious injury and death in a crash by half.

“A statewide survey showed that there are two areas of opportunity in keeping children safe when riding in vehicles; improving booster seat use and children under the age of 13 riding in the back seat. For this reason, this year’s CIOT campaign focused on education about Washington’s child restraint law RCW 46.61.687 and the placement of billboard messaging.

“In addition to the messaging, an online training was released with law enforcement its intended audience. The RCW can be confusing for officers as well as parents. Enforcement occurs 24/7 although this emphasis started a concerted effort to focus on child passengers.

“I regret we did not include a sponsor on the billboard and appreciate you bringing it to our attention,” Cesi said. “In the future, it will be incorporated so that persons will know where to direct any questions.”

The law, to which the up-to-13 element was added in 2007,  includes a qualifier as regards those under 13 having to be in the back seat. It says “where it is practical to do so.” A driver can be ticketed for not complying where it is practical.

I asked Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, what is considered unpractical. His response: “If there is a rear seat available in a motor vehicle, then a child passenger under age 13 must be seated in the rear seat.

“If no rear seat is available, such as in a single cab pick-up truck, or two-seater sports car, then the child may ride in the front passenger seat. The child’s seat position or placement must still be equipped to adhere to infant safety seat or child booster seat requirements, where applicable

“If there are more child passengers under age 13 than there are rear seat positions, that also would be an acceptable ‘where practical’ example.  Again, the provisions indicated in the above sentence apply.

“Here’s where sheriff’s deputies observe the most common violations of (this law),” Scott said.:

– Parents placing children under age 13 in the front seat while transporting them to / from school or the store.  ‘It’s quick trip, we’ll be home in a few minutes, we only live a short distance away… ‘

–  Parents who place the child in the front seat, with the rear seats folded forward / down in order to pack the car with luggage, possessions, sports equipment, etc.  In situations such as these, the child under age 13 must be seated in a rear seat, and the driver can place some items on the floorboard of the front seat, or restrain equipment on the seat with the seat’s safety belt.”

Maybe this is all common knowledge to the parents of pre-teens, but it was an education for me.

There may or may not be “patrols now” beyond day to day law enforcement. Marsha Masters of the Kitsap County Traffic Safety group says their Click It or Ticket emphasis patrols occur in May. Mason County Sheriff’s Department didn’t know much about the billboard.


Belfair Taco Bell creates left-turn headache

The in basket:  Karen Loren of Tahuya and Dan Dittmer of Belfair say the new Taco Bell in Belfair on Clifton Road has created a headache that stacks up cars waiting for the left-turners into the restaurant to get out of the way.

“With the new Taco Bell opening,” Dan said, “knot heads are turning left from Clifton into Taco Bell across a double yellow marked turn lane.  All this happens with Highway 3 traffic turning at the Safeway light to head towards South Shore (I think he must mean North Shore). Someone is going get nailed.”

Karen said that those who have turned right from Highway 3 quickly are stopped behind those wanting to turn into Taco Bell while cars in the left turn lane to enter the highway and go toward Bremerton block them, if traffic in the straight ahead/right turn lane hasn’t already.  It’ll get worse during the tourist-heavy summer, she predicts

Dan would like to see something like Kitsap County did on Myhre Road in Silverdale to prevent left turns just past PetSmart – a row of centerline pylons – and Karen advocates No Left Turn signage.

The out basket: Loretta Swanson of Mason County Public Works says, “The access to Taco Bell on Clifton Lane is to be a ‘right in, right out’ only access. There are some site improvements needed to make sure this happens and the project engineer for Taco Bell is following up on this.  Once the improvements are made, it should make it more difficult for drivers (westbound) to gain entrance from Clifton Lane.

“However, drivers may still attempt to cross the double yellow and turn pocket in an attempt to get to Taco Bell!  Public Works is presently evaluating sign and paint marking options to prevent this turning movement.”

It’s not illegal to turn across double yellow lines, not even pairs of them. Only signs, an 18-inch or wider centerline, crosshatching between the painted lines or a raised barrier forbids them.

Loretta continued to say, “We appreciate you and your readers passing along observations that may help improve traffic safety.  We also pass along a big ‘thank you’ for drivers being patient and safe during the many infrastructure improvements happening in Belfair.”

Belfair’s SR3 pavement to be smoothed in stages

The in basket: Alan Feldman asks when the highway through Belfair will be made smoother. The patches that have been done so far are terrible and rough to drive across, he said.

The out basket: The work so far is just temporary, and covers underground utility relocation work to prepare for a widening of most of Highway 3 through the town this summer.

The week of Feb. 23, ” the utility company plans to do some spot paving to smooth out the multiple patches on the road,” says Claudia Bingham-Baker of state highways’ Olympic Region. “The road will still be patched, but should be much easier to drive on.”

That work will be done during the day Monday through Friday and at night beginning at 7 o’clock on Thursday and Friday that week.

“In addition, our upcoming construction project resurfaces all lanes of SR 3 through the project limits. That resurfacing, however, probably won’t occur until 2016.”

She refers those interested in the project to check it out at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr3/belfairimprovements/

This summer’s work will widen 1.72 miles of the town’s main drag from Belfair Elementary to half-way up the hill leaving town to the north. It will provide wider shoulder and a lengthened two-way turn lane. Another half-mile of the same, reaching to the Highway 106 intersection, is awaiting funding so will be done later.

Linking old and new Belfair highways IS being studied

The in basket: A Road Warrior column earlier this month about prospects for reconnecting Barney White Road’s two severed ends to create a link between the old and new Belfair highways generated a surprising amount of response and interest.

The column said there’s little chance of such a project in the foreseeable future, even though it would save miles of detouring when an .accident or weather closes one or the other of the highways.

Soon afterward Ken VanBuskirk, who serves on a Mason County transportation advisory committee, said my inquiry should have included his county. It has something along those lines in the works, and he said I should call County Engineer Brian Matthews.

Four readers assured me that Barney White Road does have a remaining stub that intersects West Belfair Valley Road. as Old Belfair Highway is known on the Kitsap side of the county line, despite my inability to find it on a map. I finally drove out and found it.

Finally Barbara Eklund of Belfair, daughter of a former Belfair postmaster,  called in with a history lesson. She said Barney White Road did indeed once run all the way between the two highways but that it was severed in the first half of the last century. Neither the large Olympic landfill nor the railroad tracks there today existed in those days, she said, and the road was dirt, as were most roads of that time and as the remainder on West Belfair Valley Road still is.

Her brother used to use Barney White Road to go watch planes at what now is Bremerton National Airport, she said.

I called  Brian Matthews for more information on what his office is working on.

The out basket: Brian told me that he has been instructed to study establishing a link between the two highways, but not at Barney White Road, which isn’t even in his county. Nor is providing a shorter detour route during highway closures the main motivation.

He is looking into pushing through Newkirk Road, which runs from Old Belfair Highway for half a mile as a paved county road and s little further as a private dirt road, so that it reaches Highway 3, known to some as New Belfair Highway. “I have this year to prepare a feasibility report with findings and recommendations to the county commissioners,” he said.

Such a new link would intersect Highway 3 slightly north of the railroad overpass, so it wouldn’t take that much distance off the detours when one of the highways closes.

What it would do, Brian said, is provide drivers wanting to go out North Shore Road or to some Old Belfair Highway location close to town, an alternative to adding themselves to the choking congestion in the heart of town.

It might reroute as much as 25 percent of that traffic, he said. Until the unfunded Belfair Bypass gets built, if it ever is, that would provide some relief to the backups Belfair drivers routinely face when traffic is heavy.



Why merge traffic toward the center line and not the shoulder?

The in basket: Linda Bruns of Belfair, a frequent traveler on Highway 3 between there and Gorst, read the recent Road Warrior column about left turns off the highway into Airport Auto Wrecking near Sunnyslope Road and called me up with a suggestion,

Why not have the merge of the two uphill southbound lanes of Highway 3 into the single lane be to the outside lane rather than the inside lane, she asked. That way the cars would be moving toward the ditch rather than oncoming traffic during the merge, which struck her as a lot safer if something goes wrong. It might even make those left turns into the wrecking yard safer, she said.

The out basket: I told Linda her suggestion made a lot of sense and I’d ask the state  why the merge is the way it is. What Linda and I hadn’t considered is a countervailing hazard of doing it the other way – the blind spot all drivers have at the rear right of their vehicle.

Steve Bennett, operations engineer for the state highways in this region, told me, “Merging traffic from right to left has become the national

standard for lane reductions.  The reason it is done that way is because of better driver visibility.

“When a driver moves to his left, it is

fairly easy to determine if the lane is clear as there is no blind spot. It is somewhat more difficult to make that same determination when

moving to the right. Often, when moving to the right there can be a

small area to the right rear of the vehicle that is more difficult to

see.  For this reason, at most lane reductions, we move drivers from

right to left.”