Tag Archives: Highway 16

Business info signs on Highway 16 lying flat


The in basket: Bob Cairns of Olalla e-mailed to ask, “Do merchants pay to have their businesses advertised, as an example, (on) Highway 16 signs carrying the names of multiple restaurants or service stations etc.? Or does the county/state provide this signage as a service to the community?”

And John Moore asked on April 28 about three of those signs that were lying flat on Highway 16, one near the Tremont interchange  in South Kitsap and two in the Gig Harbor area.

The out basket: The businesses named on the Food-Gas-Lodging signs, as I call them (the state calls them Motorist Information Signs), do pay for having their establishment listed on those signs. 

Inclusion on the signs is available to tourist activities, camping, recreation and 24-hour pharmacies as well as eateries, lodging and gas stations. The business must be open to the public, so private clubs aren’t eligible. 

The annual cost varies with the amount of traffic on the highway. Freeways with more than 80,000 vehicles per day require a payment of $910 each year to be mentioned in both directions, $455 for just one. Four-lane highways with fewer than 80,000 cars per day charge $683 and $342. Two-lane highway rates are $364 and $182. There are no 80,000-plus VPD highways in Kitsap County.

The state Department of Transportation collects the money and puts up the signs. 

No more than four such signs, with not more than six businesses each, are permitted at any interchange or intersection. There is a waiting list where demand exceeds that.

Lots of information about what business are eligible and limitations on what can be put on the signs can be found online at www.wsdot.wa.gov/Operations/Traffic/Signs/faq.htm.

Gerald Nelson, long-time head of the Motorist Information Signs program, says two of the three flattened signs on Highway 16 are testimony to the force of the spring windstorms in our area. They got a 77 mph wind gust in Tumwater, he said, but didn’t have a reading from where the two signs blew over.

The fallen sign near Wollochet was hit by a vehicle, he said.

The other two are to be replaced Wednesday (May 12), he said, and the third also will be put back up. They will be put on steel posts in place of the wood ones, he said, in keeping with a state program to replace all wooden highway sign posts with breakaway steel ones. They minimize damage and injury to motorists when hit.

Pavement losing its color at Burley-Olalla

The in basket: As I drove north on Highway 16 past the new Burley-Olalla Road interchange recently, i thought the wheel paths in the pavement had lost more of their black coloration than I would have expected. The asphalt looked more like what I see on aging parts of I-5, but without the obvious rutting and the loud tire noise. 

I asked if the asphalt wasn’t wearing well.

The out basket: The project engineer for the interchange project, Brenden Clarke, says the loss of color is normal.

“It is typical for asphalt pavement to fade to gray in about nine months,” he said. “The pavement is actually wearing well.”

Speed limit around Narrows Bridge questioned

The in basket: Michael Johnson asks, “Why is the speed limit on (Highway)16 in Tacoma and Gig Harbor still 55?  

“Before the new bridge was built, traffic was really bad through there, so I understood the decreased speed limit,” he said. “With the new bridge there is no such thing as ‘bridge traffic’ any more so I don’t know why the speed limit hasn’t been raised up to 60 like the rest of the freeways in the area.” 

The out basket: I wonder the same thing every time I encounter the reduced speed sign at the Wollochet interchange going toward the bridge, and especially when I must wait until I get to the same interchange heading away from the bridge to see a 60 mph speed limit sign. Highway 16 between the Olympic and Wollochet interchanges includes no complications not found farther north, where the speed limit is 60.

The state must have noticed the same thing. Lisa Copeland of the Olympic Region public affairs staff says they are working toward a hike in the speed limit from 55 to 60 between Union Avenue in Tacoma and the Wollochet interchange.

But it requires environmental approval, surprisingly, because of possible air pollution implications, and may not happen for months, it at all.

All that work at Burnham Drive on Highway 16

The in basket: Jeff Paskett suggested when I encountered him at his South Park Rexall store that I probably could tell him what is going on at the Burnham Drive interchange on Highway 16 in Gig Harbor.

I had to tell him I couldn’t, but that I’d been wondering the same thing myself. 

The out basket: I went online and it didn’t take long to find a description of the $6.4 million project on the Web site of Gig Harbor Public Works, which is supervising the work. Woodworth & Co. is the contractor. It’s all largely being paid for by mitigation payments by developers in that area, notably the owners of St. Anthony’s Hospital.

According to the Web site, the main improvements will be: 

– Widening the state’s small roundabout on the west side of  Highway 16 (near Sehmel Drive) from one lane to two.

– Adding a “slip lane” from Canterwood Boulevard to the Highway 16 westbound on-ramp (to Bremerton), to let vehicles bypass the large roundabout and “slip” onto Highway 16 to Bremerton. St. Anthony’s is on Canterwood, so travel from the hospital to the freeway westbound will be easier. In picturing this, remember that the state insists that Highway 16 is an east-west highway because that’s the direction it runs on the Tacoma side of the Narrows. On the Kitsap Peninsula it runs north-south but the references still are to east and west.

– Adding a slip lane from the Highway 16 westbound off-ramp to Burnham Drive, which will allow vehicles to exit westbound Highway 16, bypass the large roundabout and slip onto Burnham Drive.

– Adding another lane to both Highway 16 off-ramps that exit from Tacoma and exit from Bremerton. That’s the reason to go to two lanes on the west side roundabout.

The Web site doesn’t mention it, but the work also will widen both the east- and westbound on-ramps to two lanes at the roundabouts, but they will taper to a single lane entering the freeway, says Project Engineer Marcos McGraw

Work began in August, he said, and will take a year. They’re having to build some large walls to contain the construction. 

The Web site includes a drawing of the completed work. Go to www.cityofgigharbor.net/page.php?id=759 to take a look.

Are two big state projects in SK done?

The in basket: Sharon Demianiw asks “Who is responsible for removing road work signs and black plastic environmental fencing along finished road work/improvement areas?

“Assuming the road work is completed on Highway 16 at the Olalla/Burley intersection area.” she said, “and along Sedgwick where the road was widened between Jackson Avenue and Highway 16, ugly, black plastic fencing remains along the side of the road. 

“On Highway 16,” she said, “going north towards the new overpass area are signs warning of road work ahead. After going through this intersection, signs representing the (state) and contractor thank drivers for their patience while driving through this work area.

“Are black, plastic environmental fencing and road work signs required to remain for a specific amount of time after work is completed, or did the responsible parties forget to remove these items?”

The out basket: Road Work Ahead signs and Thank Yous from the contractor typically remain up until the state or other governmental entity signs off on the work as complete. Also typically, there is what’s called a “punch list” of small things to be done before that final approval, which keeps the contractor working for a period after the job appears to be done. 

Brenden Clarke, project engineer for both jobs, says, “On the Burley Ollala project, we need to complete the tree plantings, and on  (Sedgwick), we need to remove silt fence after the slopes are proven to be stable.”

The “ugly black plastic fencing” Sharon described probably is the silt fence Brenden mentions, and it will all be removed, he said. But it will stay in place until the disrupted slopes from the work have proven stable. 

Sometimes it’s never removed. I still can see some of it lining Salmonberry Creek at Howe Farm Park, left from the widening of Mile Hill Drive two years ago.

Corolla driver has problem with new Highway 16 merge

The in basket: Marsha Bradshaw prefaces her complaint about the new interchange at the Burley-Olalla Road on Highway 16 by calling it “wonderful”

“I lost the year to construction but it is so worth it.  The contractor did an excellent job on our wee little overpass and so timely, too!

“But….when one is headed towards Gig Harbor from the Burley-Olalla road on the new on-ramp…those of us with small cars cannot see to merge until the last teeth-grinding seconds of the ramp and the freeway travelers cannot see us to help us merge because the Jersey barriers block our approach all the more. (There’ve) been some fearful moments for a lot of us!

“Side mirrors, twisted necks and rear views are of little help if all one can see is the cement barrier.

I drive a Corolla sedan,” she said. “There are a lot of us short cars around using the on-ramp as well as the taller, more  visible SUV’s and semi’s….please help.”

The out basket: State Project Engineer Brenden Clarke says it’s the first complaint he’s heard about this and there are no plans to modify what is there.

“The distance between the end of the barrier and the beginning of merge area into Highway 16 (the end of acceleration length) is approximately 1,025 feet.  Based upon the average driver and automobile, a 1,025-foot acceleration length would take a driver from 25 mph up to 60 mph.  

“Assuming that a motorist is traveling at 60 mph when they enter into the ‘merge area,’ they will then have adequate distance to merge into Highway 16 traffic and they will be a thousand feet from the barrier so it will not block their line of sight.  

“Difficulties could arise if a motorist does not accelerate up to 60 mph while traveling on the ramp, but this would be true at any interchange.  

“I understand that it does feel more comfortable for motorists to be able to see mainline traffic for the entire duration of the on-ramp, but again, there is sufficient distance in what we call the ‘merge area’ for motorists to look over their shoulder and in their mirrors to identify traffic and make adjustments in order to safely merge into mainline Highway 16.

“The concrete barriers are a permanent feature,” he said. “The reason this interchange makes use of so many concrete barriers is that there are retaining walls between the on- and off-ramps with substantial differences in elevation.  The retaining walls allow the ramps to be closer to mainline Highway 16, reducing the amount of right-of-way necessary for the interchange foot print.



New Highway 16 interchange due Oct. 7 opening


The in basket: Paul  Morton, who lives on Bandix Road east of the Burley-Olalla Road intersection project on Highway 16 wonders when it will be done and he can get on and off the freeway there again.

I’d been wondering the same thing, since the work has dropped out of sight behind the safety barriers since the contractor and state announced they were way ahead of schedule, opened the lanes over the new bridges and returned the speed limit to 60 mph. I couldn’t tell if perhaps something had gone wrong and the work had slowed or stopped.

And a blogger on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com asks if the bump as one crosses onto the freeway bridge heading toward Tacoma will be eliminated.

The out basket: Project Engineer Brenden Clarke of the state highway department says work has continued at its stepped-up pace. “In fact, Ceccanti (the contractor) has been working long shifts, including Saturdays, to complete the work to reconfigure the on- and off-ramps to their final profile,” he said.

Those ramps were used for the freeway traffic while the new bridges were built. Since the speed limit went back up, large portions of the ramps “were re-graded along with Burley-Olalla Road to (give) Burley-Olalla a smooth profile and have the ramps come to an angle point as they will come to a stop,” he said. “The slopes off of the ramps were re-graded after removing about six feet of pavement that was used for the detour.” 

“In addition,” Brenden said, “the contractor had a short window to 

complete stream re-alignments into the structures that were 

constructed as a part of this project to remove two ‘fish barrier’ 

culverts.  This work had to be done during August.”

By using the ramps to keep the freeway traffic flowing, albeit at 40 mph, they cut nine months and about a million dollars off the cost of the work, he said.

They have scheduled an opening ceremony for Oct. 7 at 10 a.m. and “hope to be able to open the new interchange after the ceremony,” he said. The final paving of the southbound through lanes is scheduled for tonight and Friday, Sept. 17-18, and will remove the bump at the bridge.

Paul works in Bremerton, and has been using the Mullenix intersection or going into Purdy and doubling back during the closure. Even happier about the reopening of access to Burley-Olalla Road at the freeway, I would imagine, will be all those people who live near the intersection and come and go each day from Gig Harbor or Tacoma. They have been forced down into Purdy where the overworked Highway 302 traffic signal was backing up Key Peninsula traffic even before the Burley-Olalla vehicles got added to the mix.

Sedgwick work disappoints this reader

The in basket: “Is that all there is?” asks Bill Slach of South Kitsap in an e-mail that echoes Peggy Lee’s musical question of a few decades ago.

“The grading and paving of the portion of Sedgwick Road just east of Highway 16 seems nearly complete,” he said. “Is that all they are doing? Why no turn lanes for the intersecting streets? They have lots of room on the south side of the road to extend the paving. It’s as if they didn’t widen the road at all.”

He told of a car stalled “going up the hill from the intersection and right after the wide part narrows down. With oncoming traffic there wasn’t enough room to get around unless you waited for a break,” he said. “The car was as far to the right as possible which would have been on the bike, walking, or shoulder lane but it wasn’t enough.  All that money and they didn’t improve the street but a few inches, if that.” Bill said.

The out basket: It probably will be better when the project is complete, with some gravel on the shoulders beyond the pavement providing some extra width, but other than that, what you see is what you’ll get.

It became quite an issue last year when Don Ryan, Darlene Piper, Tom Myers, Jim Avery and other owners of property on or near Sedgwick on that side of Bethel Avenue mounted an eleventh-hour attempt to modify the project plans to add turn lanes, at their expense. State officials said such a change would have required that they reopen the environmental review process and they went ahead with the original plans. Project Engineer Brenden Clarke explains it this way: 

“With the limited funds for the project, the turn lanes were only added to the intersections on the east side of Bethel that have experienced the highest number of accidents.  The intersections in that area have much higher volumes of turning traffic.  

“The area between Highway 16 and Bethel does get widened shoulders and slope flattening that allows drivers to see stopped or slow traffic.  The odds would have been much higher that the disabled car would have been struck had it not been for the recent improvements that have been made to the highway. 

“I agree that turn lanes would have been nice throughout the project, but funds did not allow them to be constructed as a part of this project,” Brenden said. “We are doing the most improvements possible with the available funding.”

I also asked Brenden if there would be any work outside the orange mesh barriers along the highway between Jackson Avenue and Long Lake Road.

He said no, but the highway will be widened at Phillips Road to accommodate a left turn lane and there will be some widening at Long Lake Road to improve the turn radius from Long Lake to westbound Sedgwick.

You can read more about the project on line at www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr160/sr16_longlake/. Among the information there is the total price tag – $8.24 million. The contractor is being paid $3.15 million, which is the amount shown on the signs at each end of the project. The rest includes $3.25 million to buy right of way for this work and future expansion – $100,000 more than the construction contract. Design, engineering and environmental mitigation are also included, Brenden says.

Highway 16 standoff raises familiar question


The in basket: Stephen Rachner of South Kitsap raises an all too familiar question after encountering some animosity on Highway 16 northbound where paving at the Burley-Olalla interchange project has been closing one of the two lanes.

Traffic backs up for miles in the inside lane, leaving those willing to abide the resulting hostility with room in the right lane to pass those cars in the left lane until the actual point where the right lane ends. Stephen, who must go that way twice a day, says he’s one of them.

The other day, he and everyone else staying in the right lane were getting the finger from a motorcyclist in the inside lane who then pulled into the outside lane after Steve had passed and attempted to block the lane. 

He also had a tense standoff with a school bus whose driver didn’t want to let him in at the merge point, he said, though the bus driver finally relented.

It’s exactly the scenario one can see any weekday afternoon on southbound Highway 3 as it approaches Highway 304 in Bremerton.

But Stephen said he’d read an article in the Tacoma News Tribune a year ago about yet another example of this conflict, the northbound off-ramp from I-5 in Tacoma to westbound Highway 16 at Nalley Valley.

That article, he said, quoted a trooper from Tacoma saying that blocking a lane, as the motorcyclist tried to do, is a citable infraction, as is refusing to make room for someone trying to merge from a lane that is ending into one that is continuing. 

I asked Trooper Krista Hedstrom, spokesman for the State Patrol here, if she agrees.

The out basket: Yes on attempts to block traffic in a travel lane, no on refusing to make room for a merging vehicle, Krista said.

“If a vehicle is in the outer lane and intentionally holding up traffic by stopping so that others cannot get by, you can receive a traffic infraction ($124) for that,” she said. 

She cites RCW 46.61.425, which reads  “No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.” 

RCW 46.61.570 also prohibits it, she said. That’s a law dealing with stopping, standing and parking.  That law has always been incomprehensible to me, beginning with what’s the difference between stopping and standing. It goes on for paragraphs, but ends by saying, “It shall be unlawful for any person to reserve or attempt to reserve any portion of a highway for the purpose of stopping, standing, or parking to the exclusion of any other like person, nor shall any person be granted such right.”

Krista continued, “As for the vehicles who have already merged over possibly being ticketed for not allowing those who wait until the last minute to merge in – not true. 

“Traffic in the outer lane whose lane is ending must merge (yield) to the left.  If they are unable to get over, those already in the lane who merged ahead of time are not obligated to let them in.  It is, however, a common courtesy that we encourage to avoid road rage/altercations – but those drivers who need to merge must stop (where the lane narrows down to one) and wait until they can safely get over.”


Since this column was posted Wednesday, it has drawn a predictable reaction among those commenting, with those excoriating Steve out-numbering those siding with him on use of the right lane. His detractors were obviously a lot angrier than his supporters, some using a common vulgarity to describe him.

To even things up a little, I will repeat what I’ve written often about the merge on Highway 3 coming south past Bremerton, which applies to the Highway 16 backups, as well..

Fill the two lanes equally, drivers, and don’t merge until you have to. If nothing else, it will eliminate the obvious animosity at the merge point because those in the right lane will have crawled along at the same pace as those in the left, and will not be seen as taking advantage of others’ patience. There also is evidence, though not persuasive to everyone, that traffic moves faster when both lanes are used.

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.