Tag Archives: Gorst

Would lane barrier in Gorst help morning commute?

The in basket: Phil Seratt, who must contend with the morning rush hour slowdowns in Gorst as three lanes of traffic heading north shrink to two, suggested installation of a barrier to separate the two through-lanes of travel as a driver nears the railroad overpass.

“I am not an expert,” he said,”but it would seem to me that the left lane would be able to continue moving while the right lanes are merging.

“As it is, people driving in left lane want to stop for the people in the two right lanes to merge.”

The out basket: It had been years since I’d been through Gorst in the early morning. Working from home for four years and then retiring as anything but a freelance columnist in 2007 will do that.

So I visited that spot on June 29. Sure enough, the free flow of traffic at 6:15 a.m. was backed up to the Mattress Ranch by 6:40. It didn’t back up any further and traffic was flowing well again by 7, but school was out for the summer, so it’s probably worse in the winter.

Even so, I didn’t even have to ask my state sources about Phil’s idea. Off the top of my head, I told him that a stationary barrier of concrete or water-filled plastic would narrow the through lanes by two feet or more, require a cushioning structure to minimize injury when vehicles hit its leading edge and trap vehicles behind a disabled car in the inside lane. 

Worse, it would be in place all day every day, preventing the common driver courtesy of moving over to allow for merging traffic ahead, which would increase the likelihood of accidents in the remaining lanes.

A row of upright pylons instead of a continuous barrier would do the same, and present a maintenance and replacement headache when they are knocked over.

It also seemed unlikely the state would stand the expense of either to deal with a short daily period of congestion. 

Steve Bennett of the region’s highway engineers agreed with my analysis, but said a solid barrier takes closer to six feet in width than two.

I did get a surprise in that I’d never gotten a complaint about the drivers who scoot past the backup in the outside lane, which is about to end, then merge into traffic. That maneuver generates regular objections about drivers who do it in the afternoons on southbound Highway 3 in front of Parr Ford and the city sewer plant.

Pavement arrows in Gorst puzzle reader — and me

The in basket: Alan Lowe of Port Orchard wants to know the purpose of the arrows in the through lanes in Gorst westbound, shortly after one passes beneath the railroad overpass. 

There are three in a row in each of the three lanes, pointing straight ahead. What else might a driver do but continue straight, Alan asked.

The in basket: I had driven over the arrows hundreds of times without ever noticing them until Alan asked. Afterward, though, I saw the same kind of arrows in the southbound lanes of Highway 16 near Gig Harbor between the Wollochet and Burnham Drive interchanges. I had to concede that I couldn’t puzzle out what message they are intended to send drivers. 

The out basket: Both locations are near spots where a confused, impaired or inattentive driver might head in the wrong direction and travel into oncoming traffic. In Gorst, it is the wide area in the middle of the town where drivers can turn around and go back the other way. In Gig Harbor it’s the Haven of Rest Cemetery. 

In each case the arrows are extra visual cues that would tell a driver he’s going in the wrong direction — if all those cars coming at him or her hadn’t already conveyed the message.

Glare screen coming to downhill run into Gorst


The in basket: Joel Wadsworth of Belfair and Ginette Dalton recently protested the difficulty they have seeing as they look into the glare of oncoming headlights when they begin the descent into Gorst coming downhill on Highway 16 westbound from the direction of Tacoma.  

“If its raining, its 100 times worse,” said Gina. “All they need to do is put up those glare strips on top of the median that separates both directions of the highway.” They have them atop the concrete barrier just east of Gorst and also between Gorst and Bremerton and I recall how much easier they made it to see how close to the center barrier I was at night.

Joel found it particularly difficult during December’s prolonged snow siege. But “whenever I come around that corner, the lights from the oncoming cars just blind you,” he said.

The out basket:  When Jim Lawson asked for a glare screen at that location  in 2006 and Adele Ferguson before that, the state said there it would be putting its safety improvement money into more urgent needs, but this year the answer will be more to the liking of drivers who have this problem. 

Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region said they have budgeted for a glare screen to be installed there in April, and scheduling issues have moved it up. The screen may be installed the week of March 16, he said. 

He was unaware of the short stretch of glare screen that has been demolished by vandals or accidents between Gorst and Bremerton, but said he would talk with the state maintenance crews here about whether they have the money and time to replace that as well.

Tale of two speed limits approaching Gorst



The in basket: Diane Violette writes that she finds the merge of highways 16 and 166 westbound into Gorst stressful because she and others on 166 have been governed by a 45-mile-per-hour speed limit while those on 16 have been able to go 60.

“It is a huge hazard trying to stay at the 45-mph speed limit while being in the left lane,” she said. “I can’t help being in this lane because it’s automatic when getting out of Port Orchard, but NOBODY from 16 follows the 45 mph speed limit. I attempt to safely move to the next right lane ASAP but because that lane becomes a merge lane very soon, it is dangerous to get over there. 

“Someone needs to look at what is happening in this area because it is so dangerous and scary to follow the speed limit there if you are in the left lane coming from Port Orchard. What speed limit do those coming from 16 think it is in that area?”

The out basket: They probably think it’s 60 mph, which it is, the State Patrol tells me. She should skip all the lane changing and just speed up to 60 mph until she reaches the 40 mph zone just a few hundred feet ahead. 

Told this, she noted there are no signs informing a driver coming out of Port Orchard that that speed limit has gone up to 60. Diane’s gun-shy, she said, because she got nailed in a school zone for speeding recently, even though there no longer was a school there. The cop told her, “it doesn’t matter where or if there is a school nearby—you follow the sign,” she said. 

“If I got a ticket for going 60 mph where that P.O./16 merge is, what would be my defense?” she asked. “Your column? Why has no speed limit sign been posted there yet—talk about an accident waiting to happen!”

I guess my column will have to do. Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the state’s Olympic Region said they won’t add a sign notifying drivers of the increase to 60 mph coming out of Highway 166. 

He explained that the sign warning of the upcoming reduction in Gorst to 40 mph is “just 700 feet beyond the point that Highway 166 enters Highway 16.  We do not want to confuse motorists on Highway 16 with two speed limit signs so close together.”

Why did SK state highway numbers change?

The in basket: There was some discussion on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com back in January about notification to drivers in Gorst that Highway 166 was closed briefly by another slide.

Though a portable electronic sign in Gorst announced that Highway 166 was closed, enough people continued in that direction and had to turn around at the barricade that it became apparent that many drivers don’t know highways by their numbers. Specifically, it showed that a lot of drivers don’t know that the waterfront route between Gorst and Port Orchard IS Highway 166.

One of the bloggers wondered why the state moved the old Highway 160 designation for that Port Orchard-Gorst route to Sedgwick Road when it became a state highway and assigned a new number (166) to the old highway, contributing to the confusion.

I didn’t recall, so I asked.

The out basket: I should have recalled, because it was quite an issue at the time. State Traffic Operations Engineer Steve Bennett refreshed my memory.

“Highway 160 was shifted to Sedgwick Road by the 1991 legislature as part of the large Route Jurisdiction Transfer (RJT) legislation that affected hundreds of miles of county roads, city streets, and state highways,” Steve said. “. This legislation became effective April 1, 1992. At this time, old Highway 160 through Port Orchard was dropped from the state highway system.

“The 1993 session of the legislature added old Highway 160 from Highway 16 to the east city limits of Port Orchard back to the state highway system as Highway 166. The city or perhaps county had requested this action due to the slide conditions along old SR 160 on the west side of town.”

Repairs of those slides cost in the millions of dollars, too much for a small city and even a medium size county to afford.

All that green pipe between Gorst and Bremerton


The in basket: I noticed the big electronic sign warning of the closure of the Highway 304 ramp over Highway 3 west of Bremerton for sewer work the first four nights of this week, and decided I needed to learn more about that sewer project. 

Bremerton City Engineer Mike Mecham and Brad Ginn, his project manager for the work, filled me in.

The out basket: Neither man was on the job site these nights, so didn’t know if the ramp actually closed all four nights. They did know that little was done there Monday and Wednesday, so they suspect the closure didn’t occur then. 

In any event, the fact less than expected was done this week means there’ll be two ramp closures at night next week, nights to be determined. The detour will be the same, up to the Loxie Eagans interchange and back.

The long green pipe sections we’ve seen lying on the highway shoulder for months ultimately will be put in the ground by Stan Palmer Construction, contractor on the $3 1/2 million job. But it won’t require ditching on the shoulder between Bremerton and Gorst as it did in and on the other side of Gorst. 

The city has an abandoned 24-inch water main running along Highway 3. The sewer pipe, 8 to 10 inches wide, will be slipped into the water main which will serve as a conduit. The highway will be reduced to one lane westbound during the work, for worker safety, but it will be done between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The contractor will have to bore beneath the railroad tracks for the sewer main. 

The city hopes the sewer lines will be completed by April.

The work where traffic from the direction of Belfair enters Highway 16 to head toward Port Orchard and Tacoma is completed, except for paving restoration, the two men said, making that short on-ramp less scary.

Work has begun along Highway 16 near Anderson Hill Road on the pump station that will force the effluent, to use the genteel term, to the city treatment plant next to the 304 ramp. 

There will be no manholes, as it’s a pressure line. But it will have stubs that in time will serve the Sherman Heights area, the Gorst urban growth area and the small  part of Bremerton on the south side of Sinclair Inlet. That first will include the 200-plus homes in a new development named Bayside. Port Orchard will be providing sewer service to the existing homes up on that hill, Mecham said, including McCormick Woods. The two cities’ systems will abut one another. 

If Bremerton wins the right to serve the South Kitsap Industrial Area, this sewer line would provide only interim service there, they said. Another line would be needed to service SKIA as it grows.

Accident outbreak and speed limit in Gorst


The in basket:  There was another accident on westbound Highway 16 approaching Gorst Monday, Tuesday’s paper tells us, It brings to mind the November admonition from the State Patrol for drivers to be careful there after seven fender benders had occurred there in just a week.

The state raised the speed limit from 50 to 60 mph there and in the opposite direction on Highway 16 in 2007. I was surprised then that the westbound lanes had the limit increased, and that the eastbound 60 mph zone was changed to begin back in Gorst, rather than past Anderson Hill Road, which I’d understood to be the original intent. 

Bill Alvis of Gorst agrees, especially about the eastbound change, noting that traffic engages in what’s called a “weave” there, with many drivers entering from the direction of Belfair wanting to move over to go to Port Orchard and many of those in the inside lane wanting to go to Tacoma also having to move over. 

I asked Traffic Operations Engineer Steve Bennett  of the state’s Olympic Region if there had been any rethinking of the speed limit increase.

The out basket: Steve said his office had looked at the accident history in the area. “We looked at collisions from August of 2003 to August of this year. August was chosen as that is the last month in which we have complete data for this year.  

“The recent collisions you mention are not yet in the State Patrol collision database so are not shown below.”  

He said the August to August collision figures for the one-mile stretch of westbound SR 16 east of Gorst, showed:. 

– 21 in ’03-’04

– 20 in ’04-’05

– 27 in ’05-’06

– 17 in ’06-’07

– 16 in ’07-’08

The speed limit in the westbound direction was changed in August of 2007.  “So, for the year following the change and a year after the change, we actually saw fewer collisions than we have in the past few years,” Steve said.    

“I can’t explain the rash of collisions seen (this fall),” he continued, “but we will monitor the area and make changes as needed. I would be surprised to see that spike in collisions continue.

“Strangely, it appears we had almost the opposite pattern eastbound, heading away from Gorst,” he said. Those figures:

– 5 in ’03-’04

– 3 in ’04-’05

– 3 in ’05-’06

– 11 in ’06-’07

– 10 in ’07-’08

The speed limit in the eastbound direction also was changed in August of 2007, so accidents dropped slightly after the change but remained quite a bit higher than two to four years earlier. 

“Again, we will monitor this area and make changes as needed,” he said.

Those new speed limit signs with an arrow pointing up


The in basket: Way back in July, Sun staff writer Brynn Grimley wrote, “I noticed that the speed limit on Highway 16 coming into Gorst has changed, and there’s no orange flags or anything to make it obvious.

“Originally the speed limit was 60 mph heading down the hill into Gorst. There was a sign by that wildlife viewing area indicating the “Speed Zone Ahead” and then by Natte Latte there was the 40 mph sign.

“Now, there’s just a 45 mph sign by Elandan Gardens, and then the 40 mph sign. There is no indication that the limit has been reduced by 15 mph. I’ve also noticed other drivers continuing at the 60 mph (or above) through Gorst until hitting the 40 mph sign. 

“When did they make this change?” Brynn asked.

The out basket: The 45 mph sign was a mistake and was quickly removed, says Deanna Brewer, a state highway engineer. I was on vacation in July so I never saw it. 

The reason I bring this up now is what really was intended there and has replaced the erroneous sign, a 40 mph speed limit sign framed by a yellow diamond-shaped sign with an arrow pointing up.

Had I not been told in the spring by engineer Steve Bennett of the state highways that they would be moving back toward Tacoma the advisory sign warning of the upcoming 40 mph zone in Gorst, I would have had to guess whether the arrow sign meant a 40 mph zone was coming up or that one began at that point. I’d never seen one like it.

Deanna Brewer says the signs are warnings of an upcoming speed reduction and that the speed limit between that one and the 40 mph signs in Gorst remains 60.

She said many more of the arrow signs will be appearing between now and 2018 and they will replace the signs that say “Speed Zone Ahead” with the upcoming speed limit beneath them. 

It’s all in the spirit of having signs that don’t require a person to understand English, which seems to me started with the symbols of men and women on restroom doors years ago.  

Deanna said the state is mandated by the federal government to comply with the design change, which was made in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the traffic engineers bible, with a compliance date of December 2018.  The old signs will be replaced as they wear out or disappear. The 2018 deadline allows the department plenty of time to meet their compliance date, she said.  

Since July, the new style of sign was put on the off-ramp from Highway 3 to Highway 304 entering Bremerton, and I spotted a couple of them on county roads in North Mason.

The new 60 mph Gorst speed limit goes both ways

The in basket: Last year, when the state raised the speed limit on Highway 16 between Gorst and Tremont Avenue, I was surprised to see they made it 60 mph in both directions.
A state spokesman had said earlier that it would be raised only southbound, which struck me as a good idea. Northbound, the highway has an S-curve, crosses a narrow bridge over Highway 166 and the speed limit drops to 40 mph at Gorst. Since most traffic was doing 60 or better there when the speed limit was 50 mph, I thought 50 mph northbound was appropriate.
Another surprising change was beginning the southbound 60 mph zone back in Gorst, rather than after a driver passes Anderson Hill Road, an on-grade intersection.
I asked why they went beyond increasing the southbound limit south of Anderson Hill Road.
The out basket: Steve Bennett, an engineer with the state Olympic Region, which includes our area, says, “As you know, speed limits are based on the actual vehicle speeds through the corridor.  While it may seem counter-intuitive to set speed limits based on the actual vehicle speeds, this method, called the “85 percentile method” makes for the safest roadway and has become the national standard for the setting of speed limits. 
 “This 85th percentile speed is the speed at which, or below which, 85 per cent of drivers are traveling.  It is based upon national roadway studies which have shown that the majority of drivers travel at a speed they believe to be reasonable and prudent, and setting the speed limit accordingly actually results in the fewest accidents. 
“An artificially low speed limit is ignored by the great majority of drivers and may provide a false sense of security for someone who actually expects drivers to travel at the lower speed. 
“The risk of accidents increases when a few law-abiding motorists travel at the lower posted speed and the majority of drivers come up behind them at a rate of speed they believe to be safe and prudent.  Unexpected swerves, skids, or unsafe passing maneuvers, and hence more accidents, are the result
South of Gorst, he said, “We conducted speed studies in both directions and found that 60 miles per hour was a closer fit to the speed of existing traffic. We will be watching the area and we can make adjustments if needed.”