Tag Archives: left turns

Long wait for a green light on Burwell at Warren

The in basket: Robert Campbell says, “I travel by bus and sometimes by car to and from PSNS.  I have noticed that the new lights after the tunnel project was completed at Burwell and Warren are slowing commuter traffic eastbound. 

“For some reason,” he said, “the engineers felt that westbound traffic on Burwell needed a left-turn signal to enter a Diamond parking lot at the south end of Warren. Not only does this seem odd, the left hand light is very long. Eastbound drivers going to the ferry terminal stack up at the light in the mornings and during peak ferry loading times, while no one ever turns left. 

“I have not timed this light, but few people turn left into the parking lot.  And the time it delays eastbound traffic towards the terminal seems unwarranted.

 “I would submit that this light is totally unnecessary,” Robert said. “And certainly it should stay green for a very short time.  It is a back route into an alley that could access the back of the new police station, but the police station has a much shorter access just west of it.”

Also Bill Throm of South Kitsap told me many months ago he got the impression the light stayed green way too long for cars EXITING that parking lot.

The out basket: Brenden Clarke, project engineer on the tunnel, who also holds sway over the changes made to accommodate the tunnel, says the problem is kind of collateral damage from serving the main traffic flows.

“Due to the through and left movement on Burwell heading eastbound, the east and westbound directions of Burwell must have separate phases,” he said.  “As a result, when westbound comes up green the eastbound direction must receive a red so that the eastbound lefts are not in conflict.  

As long as they have to be stopping eastbound Burwell traffic while the westbound is flowing, they might as well leave the turn arrow into the parking lot on green even if traffic rarely demands it, he said. No other movement would be permissible during that time.

They tried splitting the left turns onto northbound Warren from the through eastbound traffic, giving the latter a green light while the inside lane from which turns must now be made stayed red. 

“Despite pavement markings and the signal displays, motorists who have been used to turning left only for two years did not take well to the new configuration,” he said. “People were turning left on red, or turning left from the right lane when left lane motorists were going through.” 

“The signal is currently set up as efficiently and safely as possible considering the constraints,” he said. “(The state)  and the city of Bremerton worked together to come up with the signal timing that is currently being used.  Without major (and costly) modifications to the signal, we feel that it is operating as well as it can be.” 

As for traffic leaving the parking lot, I can’t say what the case may have been back when Bill mentioned it, but it’s green only long enough to serve waiting cars now.





Waiting in two-way turn lanes


The in basket: Denis Kuwahara of Port Orchard asked in March about what is permissible in two-way turn lanes, specifically citing the one on Bethel Avenue between the roundabout and Lund Avenue. 

 ” The roadway is marked with ‘Two-Way Left Turn Lanes’ as identified in the Drivers Guide,” he said. “My question: Is it proper (traffic permitting) to make a left turn into the turn lane from a driveway and sit there until the right lane is clear?  

“Many times,” he said, ” while attempting to make the left turn the traffic coming from the left is clear but the traffic from the right is not and it would 

be beneficial to clear one lane and sit in the middle of the road 

(within the Two Way Left Turn Lane) and wait for a second lane opening.”

Then on June 5, Dave Dahlke of Port Orchard wrote to say he’d heard of someone getting a ticket for using the center turn lane on Bethel as an ingress from a side street. “I have never heard of this before,” he said, then cited an article in the Seattle Times’ equivalent to Road Warrior that said such a maneuver is quite legal.

The out basket: I have said the same thing in past columns, but because one Kitsap County Sheriff’s traffic officer said years ago that I was wrong, I decided to double-check with my current contacts in KCSO and the State Patrol when Denis asked. 

There followed several weeks of confusion.

The final answer is that the maneuver is legal, but that’s not the first answer Deputy Scott Wilson of KCSO got out of the county prosecutor’s office. A senior deputy read the obscure law and told Scott that using the two-way turn lane as a refuge lane mid-way through a left turn would be an infraction.

That, of course, was contrary to common practice, even by law enforcement officers, and came as quite a shock. To forbid the practice would encourage risky dashes into traffic at those moments there appears to be a break in both directions of through-traffic.

Mike Cassidy of Advantage Driving School said he teaches the use of the two-way turn lane as the safe way to enter a busy street, but adds that the driver should then stop and wait for traffic on the right to clear, rather than pacing it looking to merge at the speed of the passing traffic. 

“The reason being that the focus of attention is to the rear and not to traffic that may be approaching from the opposite direction in the center turn lane,” he explained.  

He also said many students pull into a left-turn lane going the wrong way. That IS an infraction and is easy to do since  most two-way turn lanes become left turn-only lanes at some point approaching intersections.

That senior prosecutor eventually said she had misunderstood the question, and the final ruling, as conveyed by Scott Wilson, is: 

“The two-way center turn lane is designed for vehicles turning into or

off of the roadway.  You can make a left turn into this lane and stop

while you wait for traffic to pass and allow a safe spot for you to

merge into the lane on your right.  You may not travel in this lane for a distance of no more than 300 feet.


“It is the responsibility of those using this lane to make sure it is safe before entering,” Scott continued.  “Those vehicles already on the main roadway will have the right of way.”

He added, “Without becoming involved in a public disagreement about this, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office would like to add that the wording in this statute, RCW 46.61.290, needs to be revised by the state Legislature for clarification.  

“Should a driver be issued a traffic notice of infraction for an alleged violation of this rule of the road, in any jurisdiction, then it would be up to the sitting judge in traffic court, and that judge’s interpretation of the statute, on whether or not the driver should have the ticket dismissed.”

To which I would add that while Mike Cassidy’s advice about sitting still while waiting for traffic to provide an opening on the right is very sound, the 300-foot rule in the law would appear to not make moving forward for up to 300 feet illegal.

Hostmark/Highway 305 lights are too short, bus driver says

The in basket: Michael Courtright, a school bus driver for North Kitsap schools, says he is happy with the improvements to Highway 305 through Poulsbo. 

“A trip that could sometimes take up to 15 minutes (and that was before the construction started), now takes less than five minutes,” he said. “Even if I catch the lights out of sequence it still takes a lot less time than it used to – and is a lot less frustrating than the stop-and-go traffic that resulted from the old two-lane road.”

But he finds that the left-turn arrows from the highway to go uphill on Hostmark and those for left turns from Hostmark to go south on 305 to be awfully short in the afternoons. Only about three vehicles can make it through before it turns red, he said. 

More, including school buses, get through on those turn lights in the mornings.  He wonders if it can be improved. 

The out basket: We’ve discussed in a past column how and why the needs of side road and left turn traffic are intentionally subordinate to through traffic on 305.

But the timing of the lights remains a works in progress, says Jim Johnstone of the state’s signal shop, and that was complicated until recently by a broken in-pavement detector at Hostmark. That has been fixed and “we are developing a time-of-day plan to operate from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m. which will give more time to both of the left turns mentioned by Mr. Courtright,” he said.

“This is all part of the retiming process. We put in our starting point times, tweak those to what we like and then see what kind of complaints we get and then address those as best as we can,” Jim said.