|The in basket: Phil Crane, who says he drives a
van pool, writes, “For the last few months I’ve noticed some
changes in the road leading to the overpass toward Gorst.
“Just past the motorcycle dealer, HOV lane…the road is sagging
in a few spots…one spot has about a six inches depth in the
middle…the depressed area being about five feet in diameter.
“I’m wondering…will it take a full sink hole to develop before something is done out there.??”
The out basket: I have to say I had not noticed it before leaving the county for a time, but asked Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways, if they had.
She replied, “Our maintenance crews took a look at that roadway section and didn’t see anything particularly unusual. Closer to the area where the SR 16/SR 166/Anderson Hill Road fish culvert project was built, in the eastbound direction there are a couple of low spots and a bump coming off the newly-paved area. We have asked the contractor to repair that section of roadway, (but) it’s likely it won’t occur until warmer, drier weather next spring.”
The in basket: On my intermittent trips between Port Orchard and Belfair, I’ve noticed that the underbrush has been removed from beneath the power lines on the west side of Highway 3 between Gorst and Sunnyslope Road. The clearing is about the width of a road, but with the power poles in the way, that didn’t seem like a probable explanation for the work. Trucks for Potelco, Puget Sound Energy’s repair contractor, are often in the area.
I asked PSE what’s up.
The out basket: Akiko Oda, spokeswoman for PSE replied, “We have several projects along State Route 3 slated for this year:
– A tree wire project along SR 3 beginning at Sunnyslope Road to the end of PSE’s line, just south of Lake Flora Road (about 4.3 miles). This project replaces the center conductor with tree wire.”
Tree wire is a specially coated, overhead wire that’s designed to prevent an electric short (and subsequent outage) when a tree limb falls into a power line, a PSE Web site says. “Where installed, it significantly reduces the frequency of tree-related outages, but cannot prevent all disruptions (e.g. if an entire tree falls into a power line),” it says.
”As a permitting requirement, we’ll be working 20 feet from the fog line and also conducting some night work, which will require closing a lane of traffic,” she said. The work began last month and is expected to take four months.
– “Overhead and underground construction work along SR 3 from North Birch Avenue W to Sunnyslope Road. We’ll be installing a second circuit and rebuilding the existing circuit using tree wire (about 1.3 miles).
– “Rebuilding the distribution line from SR 3 along Victory Drive, east along Old Clifton, stopping at Feigley Road (about 2.8 miles).
A PSE Web site has more information, under its “In Your Community” link
The in basket: The impending work to replace the culverts that run beneath highways 16 and 166 in Gorst to allow Anderson Creek to flow better seems likely to be a traffic headache perhaps less than what has been happening in Seattle and Snohomish County, but significant.
I wondered exactly where the creek passes beneath the highways, knowing that the state had to unplug a culvert a few years back just on the Port Orchard side of the turnaround for those wanting to go back to Gorst. And, of course, I wondered how the state hopes to get that many cars through a work zone that will, of necessity, involve digging up the pavement.
The out basket: My recollection of the culvert east of the turnaround just clouded the issue, as the creek is west of there, on the other side of the turnaround. I notice there are even signs on the shoulder saying “Anderson Creek.”
Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways, says, “In this project, crews will replace culverts that run under SR 16, SR 166 and Anderson Hill Road near Gorst. The existing culverts, which are each about 5 feet in diameter, will be replaced with three 3-sided 18-foot-wide concrete box culverts.
“The work will take place between June and October, and the contractor is proposing to do the work in three stages. Each stage will have a concurrent detour route.
“We expect the contractor to first tackle the culvert that runs under SR 166,” she said. “That work will require a several-week total closure of SR 166. We will detour traffic onto Tremont Street and Port Orchard Boulevard. Local traffic will still be able to use SR 166, but only to the physical closure point.” That’s the same detour used whenever a slide closed 166 in the past.
“We think the next culvert will be one that runs under westbound SR 16,” she said. “During that work, we’ll detour westbound SR 16 traffic into the highway median with a reduced speed limit (of 35 mph) and we’ll keep the westbound direction of the SR 166 detour in place.
“We expect the last culvert to be replaced is the one that runs under eastbound SR 16 and Anderson Hill Road. That culvert will require eastbound SR 16 to use the highway median, again at a reduced speed limit (of 35 mph) and a closure of Anderson Hill Road.
“Specific dates for all this work and the roadway closures will be forthcoming as the contractor gets mobilized on site” she said “Initial detour maps and other information about the project can be found on our project web site: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr16/andersoncreekfishbarriers/
That Web site says work will begin in mid-July and says, “All in-stream work will occur in late summer through Oct. 15 to meet environmental requirements and accommodate fish windows.
“In 2013, a federal court injunction required the state to significantly increase the state’s efforts in removing state-owned culverts that block habitat for salmon and steelhead,” the site says.
It’s a $9.5 million project.
“Note the order of work and schedule are still preliminary and subject to change,” Claudia said.
The in basket: Sam Watland read the recent Road Warrior column about Kitsap County turning the dead end of Hawthorne Avenue in Gorst over to the adjacent property owners through a process called “vacating” it and asked some questions.
“Who now owns the property in question?” he asked. “What does it mean for the county to ‘vacate’ the property? Was it sold to someone or now does it belong to the state? If no one owns it then isn’t it considered public property?”
The out basket: Molly Foster, right-of-way supervisor for Kitsap County Public Works, says, “The County initiated this road vacation to release public liability and any question of maintenance for this area, which is only a portion of the roadway. Per RCW 36.87.010, the county commissioners can declare its intention to vacate a right of way and did approve the vacation on March 19, 2015.
“This right of way did not connect to Highway 3 and the adjacent owners, H.D. Fowler and Robert Mathwig, were both contacted. They both supported the vacation and acknowledged they would regain part of this area as their private property.
“When the County ‘vacates’ right of way, it simply releases the easement for road use lifting the public’s interest off the area and it reverts back to its origin which in this case was split between the two adjacent owners.
“There was no compensation recommended back to the county because the county initiated the action. A sale of county-owned land is an entirely separate process and action.
The in basket: Jack Niemi writes, “I live in Gorst and have noticed H.D. Fowler at the intersection of Hawthorn Avenue and Highway 3 fenced off the last 200 feet of the Hawthorn.
“The route has been available for use on foot for the 40 years I have lived in Gorst. Hawthorn Avenue allowed for foot traffic and was an important migration route for animals.
“The auto body shop across the street was vacated and H.D. Fowler secured the structure and fenced off the last 200 feet of Hawthorn Avenue, leaving no path through the previously public area.
“I have traveled this route frequently and am very familiar with it,” Jack said. “It was not uncommon for deer, bear, and other forest creatures to use this path for access to the Gorst Creek drainage and points west including the vast Bremerton watershed lands.
“How did public land go to fenced private? Did Kitsap County approve the change in use and transfer of property from public to private? Did the county planning office review and approve the change in use? Was an environmental review conducted? Did the Washington Department of Game or other environmental agencies solicited for input before approval of the changes?
“Gorst is very dangerous for migrating or foraging wildlife without choking off another path,” he said. “It is almost certain the interaction between traffic and wildlife at Sam Christopherson and Highway 3 will increase.
The out basket: Doug Bear, spokesman for Kitsap County Public Works, says, “The fence your reader refers to is on right-of-way that was vacated by the county on March 9, 2015, and is therefore no longer public land.”
He sent along copies of the paper work that accompanied the action by the county commissioners and it is voluminous. None of it shares Jack’s view of the vacated parcel.
Public Works commented that the right of way wasn’t maintained by the county, “no public vehicular or pedestrian usage is evident” and the (action) will not deny access to the abutting property owners. All of its component divisions, including roads, sewers, and stormwater, were consulted, as was Puget Sound Energy. None objected. Four nearby property owners were notified by registered mail. A large notice of the impending action was posted on the street
A utilities easement was retained in case PSE ever wants to put power lines underground there.
Impacts on wildlife weren’t mentioned.
The in basket: Josh Farley of the Sun reporting staff said following the lengthy closure of the highway in Gorst recently, “Several people today have asked on the Kitsap Sun’s Facebook page if the state’s Department of Transportation has ever considered putting cameras through the highway intersections in Gorst.
“As you know, there was a tragic crash this morning in the area and many people’s commutes were also affected. I wondered if you knew how many cameras WSDOT maintains in Kitsap County and if the state has thought of Gorst at all.”
The out basket: Doug Adamson of the Olympic Region’s public affairs staff says, “(We’re) considering adding a new camera at the SR 3/SR 304 interchange in 2017-2018. If funding is available, (we) would like to add a second camera in Gorst near the SR 3 and SR 16 interchange. Currently there is a camera at the intersection of SR 3 and Sam Christopherson Avenue. This camera along with 22 others can be seen on our Hood Canal Bridge Area Traffic Alerts and Cameras webpage,” he said.
The Christopherson camera was installed to guide drivers on the detour route while the Hood Canal Bridge was closed a few years ago and remains in place.
“Drivers looking for information about collisions on a state highway can find frequently updated information around-the-clock via WSDOT’s online travel tools,” Doug continued. “Those include our travel alerts web page, email updates, and WSDOT’s free mobile app.”
· Gorst area camera http://www.wsdot.com/traffic/trafficalerts/default.aspx
· WSDOT Travel Alerts web page http://www.wsdot.com/traffic/hoodcanal/default.aspx?cam=3084
· Email updates https://service.govdelivery.com/accounts/WADOT/subscriber/new
· Mobile app http://www.wsdot.com/Inform/mobile.htm
There also is a traffic map on the Kitsap Sun Web page, which depicts slowdowns, though I can’t say how accurate it is. It’s provided by the paper’s corporate parent and the local staff doesn’t know a lot about it. It has no camera images.
The in basket: Annette Griffus, a sports reporter here, asks,
“What is the city/county ordinance, if any, on the use of jake
brakes for trucks traveling on Highway 3 near Gorst early (very
early) in the morning, or really any time of day?
“It has really become a problem with the noise where I live and I was just curious.”
She lives along the downgrade from Sunnyslope Road to the Gorst businesses, she said.
The out basket: I see signs saying unmuffled compression brakes are forbidden, but they mostly are at the entries to cities. There is no such sign on the downgrade where Annette lives, a state highway, and from what I’ve been able to determine, there isn’t likely to be.
Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer, says, “State law RCW 46.37.395 requires compression brakes be muffled for any vehicle over five tons. Kitsap County Code 46.37.010 simply states that unmuffled brakes are prohibited.
“We post all roads entering the county with a sign that states this restriction; excluding the state routes. We also respond to residents near trucking routes, normally on steep slopes where trucks are using their brakes, and we post a similar sign.
“The (state) will not post this restriction on the state routes because they are reluctant to post regulations that should be common knowledge,” Jeff said.
“To my knowledge,” he added, “this restriction has never been enforced by law enforcement. My understanding from talking to the sheriff is that it is difficult to tell if the brakes are muffled or not. I have also been told that even if they are muffled, they still make a significant amount of noise.
“Some communities have passed ordinances to restrict compression brakes altogether,” he said. “The trucking industry has told us that this is a safety issue. On steep slopes trucks with large loads cannot be controlled without the use of compression brakes.
“Also, this type of ordinance becomes an environmental law. Specific noise levels must be established which makes enforcement very difficult. Normally with these laws a stipulation is put into the regulation that allows for their use in emergencies, which can pretty much be claimed at any time making enforcement even more of an issue.”
I asked Claudia Bingham Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways if Jeff’s characterization is accurate, and she replied, “It is true that WSDOT is reluctant to post regulations already covered under RCW 46.61 “Rules of the Road.” We don’t post signs, for example, that tell people to drive in the right lane.
“As regards signs prohibiting compression brakes, if a local jurisdiction passes an ordinance prohibiting muffled compression brakes on a state highway within their jurisdiction, we will post the sign.
“Absent an ordinance, we will not, since without the ordinance they are not illegal. And since unmuffled compression brakes are already prohibited, it would be like signing the ‘drive in the right lane.’ message.”
Since the Kitsap County ordinance addresses only unmuffled jake brakes, I wouldn’t expect a sign on Highway 3 entering Gorst.
The in basket: On recent trips out to Belfair and back, I have been eying the centerline striping on the downgrade from Sunnyslope Road to Gorst on Highway 3. It begins as a double yellow line, which I would expect, but part way down, it turns into a skip stripe for downhill traffic. There a two lanes uphill and one downhill at that point
Normally a skip stripe denotes a place you can pass. I faintly recall a sign along there years ago that said something about downhill traffic having to yield to uphill traffic, but it’s been gone a long time.
I wondered if passing is legal there by crossing over the skip stripe into the uphill lanes. There is so much uphill traffic there, that even if the inside lane was empty when one started to pass, a car in the outside lane could move into the lane you’re using to pass at any moment.
I’d have to be following someone going no more than 25 miles per house before I’d dare try it.
I included a similar alignment of Highway 104 where it intersects US 101 at Discovery Bay in Jefferson County when I asked.
The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger, who speaks for the patrol here, says, “It is legal to pass in that situation unless posted no passing. If there is traffic in the outside lane then it is not legal to pass as they have the right of way. The downhill car must yield to all uphill traffic.”
So if there is oncoming traffic in EITHER uphill lane close enough that you can’t get back into the downhill lane before meeting it, it’s illegal to pass there.
“It is NOT advisable to do this in the area south of Gorst,” Russ said. “The speeds here are very high and traffic volume is also very high. The cross street at Division also makes this dangerous.
“It is also legal to do so in a portion of the section on US101 you describe. This is a straight section approximately two miles in length. It is also very dangerous and not advisable to pass here due to the high speeds and volume of Peninsula traffic, especially during the tourist season.
“A year or two back we had a fatality collision involving a motorcycle traveling east that had to take evasive action to avoid colliding with a vehicle making such a pass traveling west. The rider died. We were not able to locate the car but had witness information that the pass occurred and was improper and dangerous,” he said.
The in basket: My neighbor Teresa Adams said she and her son had a dispute the other day about whether there is a brief 35 mile per hour speed limit in Gorst, with a 40 mph zone on each side of it.
She lost the contest, as she contended there were no signs saying that. When she looked closely, there they were, she said, one in each direction.
The out basket: I had to look carefully too, as the one heading toward Bremerton is tucked under the overpass. I had to get pretty close to it to see the 35 mph segment, which is beneath an arrow indicating a curve. I didn’t drive all the way to Bremerton and return to check that the other direction has one, but Don Palmer of Gorst has complained a couple of times in the past that an arrow sign warning people coming from Bremerton of the upcoming curve isn’t sufficient warning, so I’ll assume it has 35 mph shown beneath it too.
But they aren’t speed limit signs. Yellow signs indicating a speed are advisory. You can’t be ticketed for going faster if you’re within the speed limit otherwise posted. Only the white signs with black lettering are enforceable with a ticket for exceeding the speed shown.
So, for example, the 35 mph sign approaching Ross Point coming out of Port Orchard is advisory, as is the 10 mph sign facing Highway 303 traffic about to turn to go north on Highway 3 in Silverdale. Both are yellow. There are hundreds of other examples in the county, many just before a speed hump.
I find that I can do 10 mph faster than the speeds shown on those yellow signs without any discomfort making the curve (most are posted at curves). Of course, if you’re driving a big awkward top-heavy vehicle and tip over, or hit an oncoming vehicle, you can be ticketed for going too fast for conditions, even if you got down to the advised speed.