Tag Archives: Highway 304

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.

False alarm about sign at dreaded Bremerton merge

The in basket: Cpl. Bob Millard of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office made a wholly unexpected comment at a coffee group a while back when the conversation turned to the much-discussed rush-hour backup on southbound Highway 3 approaching Highway 304 at the west end of Bremerton. 
He said all the discussion of what’s legal or polite in moving over to the left lane early or staying in the right lane until a merge is physically necessary is theoretically settled long before a driver even reaches the backup. 
It’s way back nearly to the Kitsap Way overpass, he said, where a sign says “Thru Traffic Kept Left.” It’s a white sign with black lettering, which makes it a regulatory sign as opposed to an advisory sign. Advisory signs usually are yellow. 
He’d never stopped anyone for staying in the right lane and never expects to, Bob said, but it would be theoretically possible.
I was dumbfounded. Bob’s analysis seemed sound, but if true it would make illegal any use of the right lane beyond the Loxie Eagans off-ramp, the last chance to do anything EXCEPT go straight.
The same sign is posted in the curve in Gorst as one heads to Bremerton, but it’s past the point where anything but proceeding straight is possible. 
I asked the intent and significance of those signs.
The out basket: I wasn’t alone in my surprise. State Trooper Krista Hedstrom, my source for WSP information, admitted she’d never even noticed the sign until I asked. She said Bob Millard appeared to be correct, based on the color of the sign, but that she couldn’t find anyone in the local detachment who had ever enforced it.
But it turns out not to be a regulatory sign despite its color. There is no state law that makes ignoring it a violation, said Lisa Murdock of the state Department of Transportation.
Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the state’s Olympic Region elaborated. He said, “At one time black/white was also used for informational signing, but that use is being phased out.”
An example is the recent conversion of the black/white Speed Zone Ahead signs, the very essence of an advisory sign, to have a prominent yellow component. The old signs are to be replaced between now and 2018, and many already are.
The Keep Left sign in Gorst is intended to create gaps in the outside lane traffic for cars needing to merge as they enter on the on-ramp from Belfair, he said.
Generally, he said, drivers can used the following color coding to evaluate the need to observe a highway sign:
Black/White – regulatory (enforceable)
Blue – Service Guidance (food, gas, lodging) and tourist info
Brown – Recreational (mainly state parks)
Orange – Temporary traffic control  (work zones)
Yellow – Warning (advisory)
Red – Stop or Prohibition.
As for the merge of highways 3 and 304, things are as they always have been, with each driver free to choose whether to get over early or stay in the right lane to reach the actual merge point.

Why must city share in tunnel maintenance costs?

The in basket: Ernie Moreno of Bremerton read a report in this paper in September that described the city of Bremerton’s share of annual maintenance costs on the downtown ferry egress tunnel that is nearing completion. 

“We had a ballot whether we wanted that or not,” Ernie said, “and we voted no. Then Norm Dicks got it done. Why should we have to share maintenance cost on a state highway?”

The city will pick up $17,000 of the tunnel’s estimated $58,000 in maintenance each year, mostly in labor costs to maintain the appearance of the tunnel, the storm drain systems, fire alarm systems and two emergency phones. The state will pay the rest.

The out basket: I didn’t recall there having been such a vote, and Lynn Price, city project manager for the tunnel, says there was none. 

“As part of the project’s environmental assessment , citizen input was obtained at several open houses and a public hearing, but no votes were taken,” he said. Opponents of the tunnel asked for one, an advisory vote, but the city council said no, as reader Bob Meadows points out in a comment below.  

“The tunnel is part of (Highway) 304” Lynn said, “and as such the allocation of

maintenance responsibilities between and the city and the state is generally covered under RCW 47.24.020.  Since a tunnel is not specifically mentioned in (that law), it was necessary to for the city and

the state to come to an agreement on the non-standard elements that are

part of a tunnel.” 

That law has 16 clauses, one of which says a city will provide street lighting, street cleaning and snow removal and maintain storm drains on state highways passing through it. 

“The agreement was developed,” Lynn said, ‘”with the understanding that the city is

receiving benefits from the project including reducing vehicular traffic

on the downtown surface streets and thereby reducing pedestrians-vehicle

conflicts. The city will be maintaining those items that are within our normal area

of responsibility for state routes within the city.” 

SOV drivers taking their chances on Highway 304


The in basket: Tom Marcucci of Allyn writes to say, “I drive the new Navy Yard Highway several times each week, usually carpooling. Last week I drove it alone and did not use the carpool lane, but noticed about every third car in the HOV lane (had) a single occupant and had some type of PSNS base sticker on it.  

“Do shipyard workers automatically get to use the HOV lane even when they are driving alone?” he asked.

The out basket: No, they are taking their chances that they won’t be noticed by a law enforcement officer and ticketed to a tune of $124.

“We have also noticed that there numerous SOVs using the HOV lane and have asked for enforcement from the State Patrol,” says Lynn Price,  who headed the project for the city of Bremerton. 

Trooper Krista Hedstrom. spokesman for the state patrol here, says, “Shipyard workers are not allowed a free pass. The troopers in this area are certainly aware of this problem. As time allows, depending on the volume of calls for service, they are working the area and this issue has been addressed.”



Where and when of Highway 304 changes are questioned


The in basket: Lena Swanson of Bremerton wants to know why the planners of the Highway 304 improvement with the HOV lane at the west end of Bremerton didn’t carry the inside two lanes over the bridge that crosses Highway 3, where only two lanes would be merging instead of three, as now.

And Glen Adrig of Bremerton and Bob Edwards of Manchester ask why that HOV lane is in effect 24 hours a day, while in Poulsbo, the new ones on Highway 305 are in effect only during the morning and evening rush periods.

“Everyone … who has ever spent time in Bremerton realizes that the only traffic backup on Highway 304 occurs when the shipyard releases workers on a typical … weekday afternoon,” Glen said..

“It seems like the only logical HOV restrictions should occur Monday thru Friday between about 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., which would allow early and late leaving shipyard workers to use the lane.”

Bob also cited shipyard workers required to come early or stay late who are unable to car pool as disadvantaged by the 24-hour enforcement.

The out basket: Lynn Price, with the Bremerton city engineer’s office, said “We did look into merging the lanes on the south side of the … interchange but (state highway officials) recommended against it due to a prior experience with a two-lane merge at that location. 

Steve Kim, state traffic engineer for the Olympic Region, elaborated. “We were concerned about the merge point being located on the structure over (Highway) 3. The structure is on a horizontal and vertical curve. We didn’t think it would be desirable in terms of driver’s expectancy as well as safety.”

As for the 24/7 HOV limitation, Steve said, “The time of day HOV operation is an on-going issue statewide.  (Our) current HOV policy so far is 24/7 with a few exceptions as an experiment. Highway 305 Time-of-Day HOV was designed with the TOD concept in mind from the beginning of the project and is supposed to be a two-year pilot project.  Other state routes such as Highway 167 HOT in Kent and I-90 HOV are the exceptions at this time. 

“I think we will eventually modify our policy to allow TOD HOV operations,” he said.  “I would rather see a statewide policy than implement it case by case. 

“Based on my observation, I think the general purpose section of Highway 304 was flowing freely during the off-peak so there is no incentive of having two general purpose lanes during that time period,” he added. 

Revisiting the merge west of Bremerton

The in basket: One of the most common complaints to the Road Warrior, and a frequent subject of this column, is the etiquette of merging on southbound Highway  3 as it approaches Highway 304 west of Bremerton. 

My wife, the Judybaker, who is caught in that backup much more often than I am, disagrees with me on the proper thing to do. She agrees with all the people who think merging as early as possible into the left lane is the proper approach. I advocate filling the two lanes equally and merging only at the last moment, the so-called “zipper” tactic that I’m told is  advocated on highway signs in Europe. 

I’ve been unable to explain why, but it seems to me the traffic moves faster when enough drivers stay in the right lane that it fills up equal with the inside lane. 

The out basket: An author named Tom Vanderbilt has written a book called “Traffic” that provides a a possible explanation of what I have observed.

Vanderbilt’s book has gotten quite a bit of publicity this summer. I’ve seen excerpts from it in the Los Angeles Times Sunday opinion section and in The Week magazine, and classmate Mary Thomas Rathke told me at a class reunion that she’d heard him interviewed on National Public Radio.

Among the interesting excerpts was the fact that even under the best conditions, only 5.5 percent of a highway is occupied by vehicles at any one time. And that percentage diminishes with increased vehicle speeds, as drivers leave more room between themselves and the car ahead. So higher speeds don’t make a highway more efficient.

Vanderbilt offers information that may comfort embattled Port Orchard officials who are having to defend their plans for roundabouts on Tremont Street. 

Roundabouts reduce traffic delays by 65 percent, he writes, eliminating time spent at red lights at traditional intersections and waiting for a long line of traffic to move when the light turns green. And they are safer, reducing the possible 56 possible collision points at a signalized intersection to only 16, he said.

Here is what he says about the conflict between Early Mergers and Late Mergers.

Early Merge produces fewer “traffic conflicts” and rear end collisions, but it “suffers from a critical flaw,” he wrote. “One simulation showed that it actually takes vehicles longer to travel through the narrowed zone, perhaps because faster-moving cars were being put behind slower-moving cars sooner than they might naturally have gotten there.

“The Late Merge,” he writes, “directs (drivers) to ‘Use Both Lanes to Merge Point.’ The beauty of the Late Merge system is that it removes the anxiety drivers may feel in choosing lanes, as well as their annoyance with a passing ‘cheating’ driver. It also compresses what may normally be thousands of feet of potential merging maneuvers to a single point. As a result, it produced a 15 percent improvement in traffic flow over conventional merges when traffic is heavy enough to create congestion,” Vanderbilt wrote.

I was predisposed to accept Vanderbilt’s analysis, of course. The Judybaker wasn’t convinced and still thinks merging early is better.

My hope is that hearing of Vanderbilt’s analysis will encourage more Late Mergers to test the theory at the 3-304 backup by using the right lane.

New Highway 304 HOV lane pummeled



The in basket: Debra Buchholz and Dave Dahlke, both of Port Orchard, consider the new HOV lane coming out of Bremerton on Highway 304 a waste of money. 

“We now have an HOV lane, wow, for what, a whole mile, just to have more idiots try to hurry and merge at

the last minute,” wrote Debra.

“Who’s idea was this?” she asked. “I truly would love to know so I can

charge them when someone in my family gets hit by some impatient driver who says, ‘Yeah, I will use the HOV to pass all of the patient people trying to get

home from the shipyard during rush hour.’ 

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Planting the new Highway 304 center area

The in basket:  Carl Erickson writes, “Now that the Highway 304 project from Highway 3 to the shipyard gate is done, I’m curious about what’s going to be planted in the median.
“It seems to me that deciduous trees, as are in the older section, are a dangerous, labor-intensive way to beautify the area with leaves falling and maintenance crews dodging vehicles to clean them up.

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