Tag Archives: Burley-Olalla

Parking at interchanges prompts a question

The in basket: Debbie Corpolongo of Olalla is curious about what she thinks is an unusual number of cars stopped on Burley-Olalla Road under the overpass on which Highway 16 crosses it.

They are usually passenger vehicles, always have someone in them and are there all hours of the day and night, about every other time she passes that spot, she said.

The out basket: I can’t shed any light on this phenomenon. There were no cars parked there, with or without occupants, the seven times I pulled down the exit ramps to look for someone on my way to or from Tacoma .

Possibilities that occur to me are illicit romantic meetings, drug deals  and child custody visitation hand-offs. I’m not likely to find anyone admitting to two of those if I’m every able to find anyone stopped there to ask.

I did notice something interesting though. Should someone leave their car there unoccupied, they would be subject to having it impounded as soon as law enforcement sees it.

The ubiquitous “No Parking – Tow Away Zones” signs with which the state has lined Highway 16 this year are posted under the bridge too.

Out of curiosity, I checked the Mullenix Road and Tremont Street interchanges, the next two north of Burley Olalla. Mullenix had only Emergency Parking Only signs and there were no signs regarding parking at Tremont. I asked what guides the decision on what parking limitations to impose at the interchanges and whether it matters if someone is in the car.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways replied, “The signs were installed at different times, and as a result their wording varies a little. They all mean the same thing, which is that parking is prohibited.

“Parking on highway or interchange shoulders in areas not signed is not illegal, but it’s also not a good idea. A car parked on a roadway shoulder becomes in essence a fixed object that can be hit by other vehicles. We hear of such collisions frequently.”

Washington State Patrol has a somewhat different attitude. Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for WSP here, says a car owner has longer to remove his car at Mullenix than at Burley-Olalla.

“If a motorist (at Burley-Olalla) leaves a disabled vehicle on the shoulder,  it is subject to impound,” he said. ” (Our communications) generally make an attempt to contact the registered owner via a phone listing prior to towing but this not usually effective due to reliance on cell phones these days.

“If possible, troopers will give the driver time to call in or return to the vehicle. An hour is normal but not required. We suggest a driver leave a note and phone number with the vehicle, if possible.

“Failing this, the vehicle is subject  to immediate impound. We try to use common sense and be reasonable with this. However, if a vehicle is abandoned in a unsafe location (in lane of travel, blind curve etc, the trooper can immediately remove the vehicle.

“If someone is present with the vehicle and just briefly stopped,  then common sense and reasonableness with the situation is expected.”

Where signs allow only emergency parking, such as at Mullenix Road, “That would be OK to leave a disabled vehicle safely off road, at least until tagged by county sheriff’s office,” Russ said. “(It’s) similar to the way SR16 used to be with our 24-hour rule. I’m not certain what time limit, if any, they use.”

Corolla driver has problem with new Highway 16 merge

The in basket: Marsha Bradshaw prefaces her complaint about the new interchange at the Burley-Olalla Road on Highway 16 by calling it “wonderful”

“I lost the year to construction but it is so worth it.  The contractor did an excellent job on our wee little overpass and so timely, too!

“But….when one is headed towards Gig Harbor from the Burley-Olalla road on the new on-ramp…those of us with small cars cannot see to merge until the last teeth-grinding seconds of the ramp and the freeway travelers cannot see us to help us merge because the Jersey barriers block our approach all the more. (There’ve) been some fearful moments for a lot of us!

“Side mirrors, twisted necks and rear views are of little help if all one can see is the cement barrier.

I drive a Corolla sedan,” she said. “There are a lot of us short cars around using the on-ramp as well as the taller, more  visible SUV’s and semi’s….please help.”

The out basket: State Project Engineer Brenden Clarke says it’s the first complaint he’s heard about this and there are no plans to modify what is there.

“The distance between the end of the barrier and the beginning of merge area into Highway 16 (the end of acceleration length) is approximately 1,025 feet.  Based upon the average driver and automobile, a 1,025-foot acceleration length would take a driver from 25 mph up to 60 mph.  

“Assuming that a motorist is traveling at 60 mph when they enter into the ‘merge area,’ they will then have adequate distance to merge into Highway 16 traffic and they will be a thousand feet from the barrier so it will not block their line of sight.  

“Difficulties could arise if a motorist does not accelerate up to 60 mph while traveling on the ramp, but this would be true at any interchange.  

“I understand that it does feel more comfortable for motorists to be able to see mainline traffic for the entire duration of the on-ramp, but again, there is sufficient distance in what we call the ‘merge area’ for motorists to look over their shoulder and in their mirrors to identify traffic and make adjustments in order to safely merge into mainline Highway 16.

“The concrete barriers are a permanent feature,” he said. “The reason this interchange makes use of so many concrete barriers is that there are retaining walls between the on- and off-ramps with substantial differences in elevation.  The retaining walls allow the ramps to be closer to mainline Highway 16, reducing the amount of right-of-way necessary for the interchange foot print.



New Highway 16 interchange due Oct. 7 opening


The in basket: Paul  Morton, who lives on Bandix Road east of the Burley-Olalla Road intersection project on Highway 16 wonders when it will be done and he can get on and off the freeway there again.

I’d been wondering the same thing, since the work has dropped out of sight behind the safety barriers since the contractor and state announced they were way ahead of schedule, opened the lanes over the new bridges and returned the speed limit to 60 mph. I couldn’t tell if perhaps something had gone wrong and the work had slowed or stopped.

And a blogger on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com asks if the bump as one crosses onto the freeway bridge heading toward Tacoma will be eliminated.

The out basket: Project Engineer Brenden Clarke of the state highway department says work has continued at its stepped-up pace. “In fact, Ceccanti (the contractor) has been working long shifts, including Saturdays, to complete the work to reconfigure the on- and off-ramps to their final profile,” he said.

Those ramps were used for the freeway traffic while the new bridges were built. Since the speed limit went back up, large portions of the ramps “were re-graded along with Burley-Olalla Road to (give) Burley-Olalla a smooth profile and have the ramps come to an angle point as they will come to a stop,” he said. “The slopes off of the ramps were re-graded after removing about six feet of pavement that was used for the detour.” 

“In addition,” Brenden said, “the contractor had a short window to 

complete stream re-alignments into the structures that were 

constructed as a part of this project to remove two ‘fish barrier’ 

culverts.  This work had to be done during August.”

By using the ramps to keep the freeway traffic flowing, albeit at 40 mph, they cut nine months and about a million dollars off the cost of the work, he said.

They have scheduled an opening ceremony for Oct. 7 at 10 a.m. and “hope to be able to open the new interchange after the ceremony,” he said. The final paving of the southbound through lanes is scheduled for tonight and Friday, Sept. 17-18, and will remove the bump at the bridge.

Paul works in Bremerton, and has been using the Mullenix intersection or going into Purdy and doubling back during the closure. Even happier about the reopening of access to Burley-Olalla Road at the freeway, I would imagine, will be all those people who live near the intersection and come and go each day from Gig Harbor or Tacoma. They have been forced down into Purdy where the overworked Highway 302 traffic signal was backing up Key Peninsula traffic even before the Burley-Olalla vehicles got added to the mix.

Highway 16 standoff raises familiar question


The in basket: Stephen Rachner of South Kitsap raises an all too familiar question after encountering some animosity on Highway 16 northbound where paving at the Burley-Olalla interchange project has been closing one of the two lanes.

Traffic backs up for miles in the inside lane, leaving those willing to abide the resulting hostility with room in the right lane to pass those cars in the left lane until the actual point where the right lane ends. Stephen, who must go that way twice a day, says he’s one of them.

The other day, he and everyone else staying in the right lane were getting the finger from a motorcyclist in the inside lane who then pulled into the outside lane after Steve had passed and attempted to block the lane. 

He also had a tense standoff with a school bus whose driver didn’t want to let him in at the merge point, he said, though the bus driver finally relented.

It’s exactly the scenario one can see any weekday afternoon on southbound Highway 3 as it approaches Highway 304 in Bremerton.

But Stephen said he’d read an article in the Tacoma News Tribune a year ago about yet another example of this conflict, the northbound off-ramp from I-5 in Tacoma to westbound Highway 16 at Nalley Valley.

That article, he said, quoted a trooper from Tacoma saying that blocking a lane, as the motorcyclist tried to do, is a citable infraction, as is refusing to make room for someone trying to merge from a lane that is ending into one that is continuing. 

I asked Trooper Krista Hedstrom, spokesman for the State Patrol here, if she agrees.

The out basket: Yes on attempts to block traffic in a travel lane, no on refusing to make room for a merging vehicle, Krista said.

“If a vehicle is in the outer lane and intentionally holding up traffic by stopping so that others cannot get by, you can receive a traffic infraction ($124) for that,” she said. 

She cites RCW 46.61.425, which reads  “No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.” 

RCW 46.61.570 also prohibits it, she said. That’s a law dealing with stopping, standing and parking.  That law has always been incomprehensible to me, beginning with what’s the difference between stopping and standing. It goes on for paragraphs, but ends by saying, “It shall be unlawful for any person to reserve or attempt to reserve any portion of a highway for the purpose of stopping, standing, or parking to the exclusion of any other like person, nor shall any person be granted such right.”

Krista continued, “As for the vehicles who have already merged over possibly being ticketed for not allowing those who wait until the last minute to merge in – not true. 

“Traffic in the outer lane whose lane is ending must merge (yield) to the left.  If they are unable to get over, those already in the lane who merged ahead of time are not obligated to let them in.  It is, however, a common courtesy that we encourage to avoid road rage/altercations – but those drivers who need to merge must stop (where the lane narrows down to one) and wait until they can safely get over.”


Since this column was posted Wednesday, it has drawn a predictable reaction among those commenting, with those excoriating Steve out-numbering those siding with him on use of the right lane. His detractors were obviously a lot angrier than his supporters, some using a common vulgarity to describe him.

To even things up a little, I will repeat what I’ve written often about the merge on Highway 3 coming south past Bremerton, which applies to the Highway 16 backups, as well..

Fill the two lanes equally, drivers, and don’t merge until you have to. If nothing else, it will eliminate the obvious animosity at the merge point because those in the right lane will have crawled along at the same pace as those in the left, and will not be seen as taking advantage of others’ patience. There also is evidence, though not persuasive to everyone, that traffic moves faster when both lanes are used.

Why do highway projects take so long now?


The in basket:  Chuck Hower of Harper in South Kitsap asks “why the state road administrators give contractors so much time to accomplish

projects that could obviously be completed in much shorter time.

“Specifically, I was asking about the new Olalla-Burley interchange,” Chuck said, “completion for which the state has allowed two years – two years of

traffic disruption for a project that would seem easily to be

constructed in a few months if sufficient resources were devoted to it.

“The mind boggles at the thought of the bunch of

turkeys running such operations today, were they to have been in charge

back in the early 1940s when similar projects had to be accomplished

quickly,” Chuck concluded.

The out basket: Brenden Clarke of the Port Orchard project office for state highways is the project engineer on the Olalla-Burley job and offers the following:

“There are a number of reasons why transportation projects take longer

now than they did in the ’40s.  

“One  of the primary reasons, and one

that certainly applies to Burley-Olalla, is traffic volumes and allowing

traffic to proceed through the work area.  

“Not too long ago, traffic volumes were low enough in many areas to allow work to occur that required lane closures or restrictions during the day. With traffic

volumes as high as they are currently, we can not allow lane closures

during the day in most cases without severely impacting traffic.  

“In addition, lane shifts or temporary detours to accommodate work

activities must now be designed for reasonable speeds and must meet

safety standards. Back in the day, a gravel 10-foot-wide lane around

the work area would suffice. Restrictions on lane closures and the need

to construct adequate temporary bypass lanes adds time and costs to

(state) projects.

“Environmental permitting is much more stringent now that

even 10 years ago. This certainly applies to Burley-Olalla as SR 16

traverses over two fish passages within the project limits and is

adjacent to numerous wetland areas. Environmental permit compliance adds time and cost to (our) projects.

“The Burley Olalla project is scheduled to be completed in two years due

to the above issues, and the need to revise the horizontal alignment of

(Highway) 16.  Due to geometric and environmental constraints, (Highway) 16 will be rebuilt to go over Burley-Olalla (Road).  This will require that temporary

lanes be constructed to detour traffic around the current alignment.  Our contractor is using the new on- and off-ramp alignment

for this detour which will reduce costs and time, but work cannot begin

on the new alignment until traffic is shifted.  In addition, work

on the new bridge will not be able to begin until the detour alignments

are constructed.

“Weather is another factor that increases the duration of projects in

Washington state. It is difficult to perform earth work in

inclement weather, and we do not allow paving or striping to occur

unless weather conditions are favorable.  We specified the use of

material on the Burley project that can withstand some poor weather

conditions, but if it gets too wet it will become unworkable.”

Brenden said bad weather causes delays imposed by environmental restrictions.

“Some additional time savings could have been realized on the

Burley-Olalla project by utilizing pre-cast structures for the bridge,” he said, “but the cost was prohibitive, considering

the limited time savings that would have been realized.  

“We have a very

motivated contractor and are working with them to reduce the duration of

the project, but two years is not unreasonable for a new interchange in


“If we were constructing an interchange in Arizona with lower

traffic volumes, I could guarantee that an interchange could be

constructed in less than a full year, assuming level terrain,” Brenden said.