The in basket: George Maybe of North Kitsap writes, “I may have just not noticed until recently, but on my commute the other day I noticed signs stating No Parking – Tow Away Zone all along Highway 16 and wonder what the reasoning is for that.
“I haven’t noticed them on Highway 3 except between Gorst and Highway 304 into Bremerton. Or anywhere else for that matter except where there are narrow shoulders,” he said.
I hadn’t noticed them either, but there definitely are a lot of them, many of them attached to one of the two legs of the large signs listing distances to upcoming locations or identifying upcoming exits. On the downgrade into Gorst, where the shoulders narrow perceptibly. they got their own posts.
I checked them out nearly to the Pierce County line and found them in both directions.
I asked what prompted them.
The out basket: It took a while to sort it out, as my state highway contact was of the misimpression that the State Patrol had requested the signs and the state Department of
Transportation (WSDOT) had simply complied.
Tuesday, Claudia Bingham Baker, spokesman for the Olympic Region of state highways told me, “It appears I was mistaken when I said WSP requested the restriction. I have since been informed that WSDOT initiated this action as part of a larger effort to put the no-parking signs along more of our high-speed urban highways.” They now are in place the length of Highway 16, from I-5 to Gorst
“The reason is that disabled vehicles create a potential hazard, both for drivers traveling on the highway and for those sitting in the disabled vehicles,” she said. “Disabled vehicles also negatively affect the ability of first responders and WSDOT Incident Response trucks to reach highway collisions.
“We do, and did, ask for WSP’s concurrence before making the change.”
What it means for drivers is they have a lot less time to get their vehicle moving again when they run out of gas or it breaks down on a state highway.
Without the signs, troopers have tagged cars on the shoulder and had them towed after 24 hours. Where the signs are now posted, towing can happen within an hour after an officer spots the disabled car.
They have ordered an immediate tow in the past if the car is in a curve, partially in the roadway or presents an obvious hazard, says Trooper Guy Gill of the Tacoma WSP district responsible for about half of Highway 16. Though he said the Patrol didn’t ask for them the length of Highway 16, it supports them for the reasons Claudia set forth.
He also passed along a piece of advice for anyone whose vehicle is disabled on a state highway, whether marked in a tow away zone or not. If parked on the left side of the highway, it’s automatically a hazard and will be towed as soon as possible, he said.
Always pull a vehicle likely to conk out to the right shoulder if at all possible, he said.
It sounds likely we’ll be seeing these signs on other state highways with 60 mph speed limits.