Tag Archives: Forest Rock

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.

Forest Rock left turn signal will stay as it is

The in basket: Mary Corbin writes about the left turn signal on southbound Highway 305 in Poulsbo, that allows turns toward Central Market at Forest Rock Lane.

It used to be that after a green arrow allowed left turns, others who wanted to make the turn could do so if they stopped and waited for on-coming traffic to clear, she said. 

“Now, since the new road opposite the Central Market store (Seventh Avenue) was constructed, there has been a major change in that turn signal,” she said. “The green arrow is very short, allowing only four or five cars to turn. Then the arrow turns red, and no one is allowed to turn toward Central Market, even (when) there are no cars approaching from the other direction.

“Sometimes the oncoming path is clear for a long time, and still we all just sit there waiting for the light cycle to finish and we get the green arrow again.

 “Last Saturday was exceptionally irritating,” she wrote. “That light went through several cycles allowing all forward moving traffic to head along Highway 305, but the  turn arrow for Central Market turned green only once out of four cycles.  We sat there for at least FIVE MINUTES (at that point I stopped counting).  Finally some cars simply went through the red turn signal, since there was no oncoming traffic.

 She wondered why the state didn’t go back to the old way.

The in basket: Not going to happen, says the Olympic Region signal shop, which changed  the left turn into what is called a “protected” turn, meaning it can only be made on a green arrow light,  when oncoming traffic has a red light. 

They did it during the widening of the highway, in the interests of “consistency”  in that traffic corridor, they said.

Don Anders, head of the signal shop says that hasn’t changed. 

“The more consistent we can operate a corridor the better driver expectancy is met,” he said. “This leads to less confusion and better overall traffic movement.  When the fourth leg of the intersection at Forest Rock opened it was best we changed this operation to match the corridor.” 

He also said they have no record of the signal malfunctioning on the Saturday Mary describes.

Right turners blocked at Forest Rock Lane

 

The in basket: Patty Tompkins was the latest, back in March, to complain about the alignment of Forest Rock Lane where in intersects Highway 305 in Poulsbo. 

She estimated that 95 percent of the traffic on Forest Rock turns right to go north on 305, but the outside lane is marked for both right turns and those wanting to go straight. When the rare driver who wants to go straight is there, it blocks all those right turners until the light turns green. They otherwise could have been on their way after making a right turn on red. 

The inside lane is reserved for left turns. 

She and others before her who also have noticed this suggest dedicating the inner lane to left turns and straight through traffic, leaving the outside lane for right turners. 

The out basket: When I drove this intersection several times late one afternoon, I found that Patty’s estimate of the percentage of right turners, at least among those in the outside lane, might even be conservative. I never saw a car pull up in the outside lane wanting to go straight. 

So I did it myself, and was able to pull far enough forward that right turners still could get past me and make their turn. But two cars wanting to go straight would block the lane.

Patty told me a lot of drivers don’t have that much consideration and others are in vehicles that take up more room than my Mazda 3.

Jim Johnstone of the state signal shop that handles all the signals on Highway 305 said in March they were considering restriping the intersection to create three lanes, one each for left, straight-ahead and right turn traffic. They found enough width for that, but “we can not achieve the necessary turning radius to accommodate a semi-truck turning into Forest Rock Lane,” he said. “So option one is out.”

They’ve decided to make the signal a “split phase” light, in which side street traffic on Forest Rock and that on Seventh Avenue across the highway will get green lights at different times. The outside lane will be for right turns and the inside lane for straight-ahead and left turn traffic. It’s similar to what drivers see at Liberty Road just south of there, he said.

“This option adds additional delay to the overall intersection operation,” he said, but does get other traffic out of the way of right turners.

“This revision will be subject to fitting it into our schedule, which could take several months,” he added. .

Goodbye to old left turn light at Forest Rock Lane

The in basket: Dana Culleney and Dan Batman are among those who miss the protected/permissive left-turn signal on Highway 305 at Forest Rock Lane in Poulsbo.
“It used to be that when you approached Central Market from the north and there was a green arrow and then the green ball light that let you go,” Dana said. That is called a protected/permissive signal
As part of the widening of the highway through that stretch, they have replaced it with what’s called a protected left turn, permitting the turn only when a green arrow tells you all conflicting movements have a red light.

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