Tag Archives: guardrail

Highway 166 guardrail slumping

The in basket: I’ve been driving past a number of traffic cones deployed along the waterside guardrail on Highway 166 between Port Orchard and Gorst for a couple of months now. There once were four on the pavement and two atop the guardrail, but I think one of our windstorms blew away all but two of those on the pavement.

It’s easy to see why they are there. A section of guardrail is slumping away. A little farther toward Gorst, a crack has developed in the pavement.

That stretch is well known to most locals for the series of slides that until recently came down from above regularly and blocked the highway until they could be removed.

Less well known is the time, perhaps 25 years ago or longer, when the entire roadway dropped 10 feet or so, closing it for weeks. As crews removed what fell, they found layer after layer of asphalt that had been used to address lesser slumps over the years. All that extra weight was believed to have contributed to the highway’s failure.

The state used light weight material, wood chips, if I recall correctly, for the fill that repaired the failure.

I wondered if today’s problems are just a failed guardrail of if something worse is suspected.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highways, says “Our materials staff looked at the site in question (milepost 1.2). They will add the area to our statewide Unstable Slope List, which will put it in the line-up for a more robust permanent fix as funds become available (which, to be candid, could take years).

“In the meantime, our maintenance crews will maintain the road with guardrail repairs and asphalt patches.”

She included mention of the Web site describing the state’s Unstable Slope Management Program. The address is about a mile long, so I went to http://www.wsdot.wa.gov and asked for Unstable Slopes Program, which got me there.

I thought it odd the site wasn’t already on the unstable slopes list, due to all the past slides from above, but Claudia says it’s just now being added.


Bremerton watershed highway needs guardrail, says reader

The in basket: Julia Benz e-mailed to say, “I’m 76 years old and have lived most of my life on the Old Belfair Highway/West Belfair Valley Road. About a year ago, there were guard rails installed near my house, in three of four different places.

“My first thought was ‘Why here? Why now?’  My second thought was, ‘Why aren’t there guard rails in the ‘watershed?’  Recently, a young man lost his life….his car left the road and wasn’t found for hours.  The paper said he died in the hospital, which, if true, meant he spent quite a few hours, gravely injured, in his car.

“There are several places through the watershed, where a car could leave the road and not be found for hours. Why aren’t there any guard rails in those places?” she asked.

The out basket: I’d better start by noting that West Belfair Valley Road and Old Belfair Highway are the same road. The portion in Mason County is called Old Belfair Highway and the Kitsap County segment is called West Belfair Valley Road.

Kitsap County bears maintenance responsibility for only a portion of its stretch. The city of Bremerton annexed its watershed many years ago and the stretch through the densely wooded portion on both sides of the entrance to Gold Mountain Golf Course is, curiously, a city street.

The county used a federal safety grant in the last few year to install a lot of guard rail, including the three places between where the city ends and the Mason County line, where Julie sees them.

I was surprised at the long, steep slopes along the north side of the city’s stretch through its watershed when I drove it after Julia wrote. They are largely hidden by roadside vegetation.

Tom Knuckey, who has stepped in as spokesman for Bremerton city street issues with the departure of Gunnar Fridriksson for another job, says Julia’s complaint caused him to check out the situation.

“We’re looking into the roadway configuration on the Belfair Valley Road, and are considering including a project in our 2016 Capital Improvement Plan to evaluate the road,” he said afterward.  The city may seek a safety grant of its own to address hazards they identify on the watershed road.

If the engineers decide it would be a good project and the city council says yes, it would go on the plan. But it’s a six-year plan ending in 2021 and would have to await funding, so if guardrails come to the watershed, it would be well in the future.

No new guardrail in Sedgwick’s immediate future

The in basket: Ken Hovater writes,”A couple of years ago the county installed several feet of heavy duty guardrail on Long Lake Road. At the time I believe the reasoning was to bring the road into compliance with a highway construction standard.

“I am wondering when and if the state is going to do the same work on Highway 160 (Sedgwick Road). There are some very deep valleys in spots along that road. A crash into one could prove fatal.”

The out basket: The county project on Long Lake Road came out of a safety grant received for that purpose.

Sedgwick is a state highway and Olympic Region spokesperson Claudia Bingham Baker says, “Guardrail is usually installed when we have an active project in an area.  At present, we have no projects planned on SR 160, so no plans to add guardrail along the highway.

“Our maintenance crews replace and repair damaged guardrail, of course, where it already exists,” she said. State crews here just did that, replacing the guardrail around the Highway 16 overpass in front of Peninsula Subaru in Gorst. It had been mangled for the second time in a couple of years and was replaced Sept. 4.

Claudia continues, “We have many areas along our state highways that have dips along the roadway. Guardrail itself can become a hazardous object motorists can hit, so it’s installed only in areas that meet certain criteria. Even then, we do not have the funds to install guardrail in all the areas that could benefit from it.”

Need for Long Lake Road guard rails questioned

The in basket: Dave Dahlke of Port Orchard writes, “I have noticed new guardrails installed along portions of the Long Lake Road.  I was wondering what determines where the need is for guardrails.  I see many areas on county roads that would seem to warrant guardrails more than the ones installed along Long Lake Road.

The out basket: Christy DeGeus, traffic operations supervisor for Kitsap County, says,  “All of the locations are evaluated based on (a federal) Roadside Design Guide and (state) Design Manual standards.”

There are many factors, including amount of traffic, vehicle speeds, road alignment, what’s just beyond the shoulder, accident history and shading of the roadway.

“Guardrail should only be installed if it is clear that the result of a vehicle striking the barrier will be less severe than the crash resulting from hitting (an) unshielded object (tree, pole, critical slope, water hazard, etc.),” Christine wrote.

“Locations near or in curves are given priority over straightaways because the average crash rate for curves is about three times that of other highway segments,” she said. “Areas exiting curves can be of concern especially if they have a lot of tree shadows where ice and snow are slow to melt.”

Public Works spokesman Doug Bear added, “The Traffic Division keeps an ongoing list (of sites) generated from multiple sources. One source is citizen requests, either as a result of recent collisions or part of the outreach for the Transportation Improvement Program. Another source is our Traffic Safety Report. This report is prepared every two years and identifies locations by collision patterns that can be corrected by guardrail installation.

“Another source is county staff who observes obstacles within clear zones that would benefit from shielding. The latest round of locations was determined through a contract survey through a federal safety grant that identified high collision corridors on federal aid roads.

“Prior to each year’s construction season the sites listed on the guardrail list are evaluated and prioritized,” Doug said. “Work is completed based on that prioritization and the funds available each yea.,” Doug said.

The guardrails Dave questions are either in a curve or just coming out of one. Neither has a steep slope behind it, but the one in the curve screens two large power poles. The one coming out of a curve has a large power pole and a row of sizable trees just a few feet behind it.

I notice two other sites a short distance away with longer, steeper slopes and trees, houses at the base of the slopes and no guardrails. But neither is near a curve.

Christine goes on to say, “We still have two locations yet to install on Long Lake.  We have one location in a curve north of Salmonberry and one location near the north end of the lake that will protect from water and trees.”

They’re also evaluating locations on Gunderson, Mullenix, Seabeck-Holly, Seabeck, Gold Creek, Feigley, Bethel Burley and Central Valley roads and Hood Canal Drive, she said.

Need for new Illahee Road guardrail questioned

The in basket: Bryant Arnold wonders about

some new guardrail he has seen near Bremerton.

“Heading south out of Illahee, climbing the hill towards Trenton,” he said. “we are now the proud owners of new guardrails!

“Having driven that road at least twice a day for the past 12 years I cannot remember ever seeing anyone at the bottom of a ravine, but giving the county the benefit of the doubt how many lives have been lost on that stretch of road?

“Could that money not have been used for a more dangerous problem? Who authorized it and what were their thoughts?”

The out basket: I have driven that stretch far less often than Bryant, but I’m not a total stranger to it and I can’t say I agree with his notion that guardrails are unwarranted there.

In several spots, running off the east side of the road to the east has the potential for rolling one’s car several times unless some trees stop you.

In fact, Bryant said that within a week of his contacting me in early January, a car did run off one of the unprotected spots, but was still visible from the road.

I think a better question is what commended the three sites on that downgrade that recently got guard rail over the four or five comparable drop-offs that didn’t.

The out basket: Kitsap County Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea says, “Running off the road is historically the most frequent type of collision on county roads. The danger increases when you run off the road and hit a fixed object or roll over on an embankment, often resulting in injury, and in some cases fatalities.

“We are working to bring all county roads up to clear-zone standards by eliminating safety issues or protecting motorists from the hazards with barriers such as guardrail.

“We dedicate funds every other year for installing and upgrading guardrail.

“We use very specific (criteria) for guardrail installation.  Our primary focus is on long steep embankments on higher speed (35 MPH or more) roadways, and high-volume roads. The area of Illahee Road to which your reader refers has a long steep embankment, exacerbated by seasonal standing water at the bottom of the slope.  Combined with the speed limit (35 mph) there, the fact that it is an arterial road, and an average daily volume of over 2,000 vehicles, installing guardrail there makes the road safer.”

There is a set amount of funding available each year for our guardrail program. This requires us to prioritize locations at which we make guardrail upgrades or installations. If we had unlimited funding we probably would have installed guardrail at each location you noted. With limited funding we had to make some choices.

“The rail above the mobile home park was installed because of the curve it is near, and recent collision history of a vehicle going down that slope. Two other locations, nearer the bottom of the hill, were chosen because of the combination of the long steep slope and the water hazards at the bottom.”

I had seen what looked like storm damage repair at the sight at which guardrail was installed on both sides of the road and guessed that emergency management money might have paid for that, but I guessed wrong.

Jeff says, “The uphill location, though not as steep as others, has a storm water device in it which allows water levels to rise. The combined slope with the possibility of standing water put this location on a higher priority than others.”

Guardrail changes in Harper raise eyebrows

The in basket: “Goolsby Snitworthy, who drives along Southworth Drive daily” (really, that’s what he wants to be called), writes, “Perhaps you could have your county road contacts explain to the folks why, as part of the reconstruction of Southworth Drive between the Harper Dock and Olympiad Drive, guard rails have been added along sections where they were not before and removed from other sections where they were before.

“It appears illogical to we non-road experts, but I suppose the county experts have what they think is a logical explanation for the guard rail changes.  I am certain others are puzzled by this development,” he said.

The out basket: I, too, was surprised that most of the project’s frontage, up against which the tide laps at high tide, has no guard rail, including in places that used to have it.

And, yes, the county does have an explanation.

Jeff Shea, county traffic engineer, says not all the planned guardrail has been installed yet but not every place that had it before will have it replaced.

Cones along the waterside shoulder from the Harper Dock south to Cambridge Road show where guardrail has yet to be installed, 270 feet of it. They’ve decided the need to bolt that guardrail to the seawall requires a special design being done now. That will add about $40,000 to the work, says Senior Program Manager Tina Nelson in public works..

“Guardrail itself is a hazard to motorists, especially motorcycles and bicycles,” Jeff said. “Guardrail is generally placed because it presents less hazard than the obstacle behind it,” in this case, water.

“Past guardrail locations do not necessarily dictate replacing a guardrail, if it is removed,” he said. The only other stretch of guardrail in the completed project, nearer Olympiad Drive, is required by the combination of the height of the rock wall behind it and the potential depth of water there, said Tina Nelson.

“We’ve researched our records and, other than vehicles that have hit the guardrail at the curve at the dock, there are no reported collisions with the guardrail previously placed there,” Jeff said.

“Environmental regulations and restrictions limit what can be done at that location. We are evaluating other methods, including barrier curbs and/or signs and markings, that can help delineate the road edge.”

One such change was approved by the county commissioners on Nov. 8. A suggestion of Commissioner Charolotte Garrido, it provides $52,352 to paint the shoulders brownish red when weather allows in the spring, says Tina. There is anecdotal evidence the visual impact of painted shoulders can slow traffic, she said. Neighbors who fought the widening often said they think it will increase speeds there.

Tina says even with the added cost of the painted shoulders, special guardrail design and reinforcement of the sea wall, the project will come in around $800,000, about $200,000 less than originally expected.