Tag Archives: loops

Stay over the detectors at traffic lights that are red

The in basket: Janine Barrie writes, impassionedly, “Please put the word out to all who are the first vehicle in the left turn lane. This problem has happened numerous times to me, but (last) week was the last straw. I need to complain to someone who might be able to help.

“I have been the second or third car from the white stop line in the left turn lane. The first car is 10 to 15 feet from the white line, and guess what happens, or should I say does not happen.


“That problem happened three times last week, and made me late for an appointment,” she said. “It happened on McWilliams in front of Safeway, on Central Valley at Fairgrounds and Central Valley at Bucklin. The first one mentioned was the worst and the longest wait.


The out basket: Unlike Janine, I rarely fall victim to such a clueless driver ahead of me. But for those drivers who don’t understand where traffic detector wires, called “loops,” are located in the pavement, and how they work, I’m happy to oblige.

The wires are imbedded in the pavement just behind the broad white stop bar at signalized intersections. You often can see the patched grooves into which they have been inserted. They detect the mass of a vehicle above them and inform the traffic signal that someone is waiting.

If a waiting driver at a red light doesn’t position his vehicle over the wires, the signal probably won’t react to the vehicle’s presence.

I occasionally do see some car pulled past the white stop bar, which inconveniences only that driver, and only until someone else pulls up behind, over the wires. If a driver doesn’t pull forward far enough to cover the wires, as Janine describes, there’s not much those behind can do except walk up to the driver and say to pull forward. Honking usually doesn’t convey the intended message.

Fortunately, I’m usually in another lane when I see this, and am not delayed by it. The last time I was behind a driver who stopped short of the wires, I finally got out to urge him forward … and the light changed before I got to the car. Then I became the problem, as I had to run back to my car, start it and proceed. I caused a bunch of drivers behind me to wait another full cycle, as I did. Evidently, the driver ahead of me wasn’t a far off the wires as I thought.

It’s hard to imagine would kind of bum luck would cause a person to run into this frustration three times in a week, as Janine says she did.

If you see a slender vertical pole with a camera-like device on the signal cross-arm ahead of you, the detectors are optical and you have more latitude as to where you can stop.

For both loops and optical detection there is a defined detection area,” says Jeff Shea, Kitsap County traffic engineer. “So the vehicle does have to be in a specific area, but with optical detection we can make that area bigger than some loop configurations.”

Lots of failed vehicle detectors in Bremerton

The in basket: Three readers have complained about non-responsive stop lights in Bremerton that stay red while drivers sit there.

Ron Canfield asks, “What’s the deal with the light at the intersection of 11th Street and Pacific Avenue? When heading east on 11th, the light to turn left (north) onto Pacific engages even when there are no cars turning left, which is the case most of the time. The light stays green long enough for about 40 cars to make the light, causing vehicles heading west on 11th to sit at a light for no reason.”

On at least two occasions, he said, he has turned right and worked his way back onto 11th, and saw in his mirror that the left turn light back at Pacific was still green even as he passed through the light at Warren and even when he got up to Chester Avenue.

Mike Burton says the same thing happens at Sixth and Washington  in one southbound lane of Washington.

“If there are people waiting to turn left onto Washington from 6th Street and people in the left lane of northbound Washington, the traffic headed southbound on Washington does not get picked up at all unless they are in the left lane, which most don’t use since it disappears so quickly after the intersection with 6th.

“The only time that the southbound traffic in the right lane gets a green light is when the light reverts to its “default” state, which is green for northbound and southbound Washington,” Mike said.

And back in September, Bryan, who didn’t want his last name used, said the light at Burwell and Washington wouldn’t turn green for his wee hours trip home after the swing shift at the shipyard, stalling him on Burwell for a long  time while few vehicles, if any,  passed by on Washington. It had changed almost instantly before, he said.

The out basket:  I asked Gunnar Fridriksson of the city street engineers about Mike and Ron’s complaints, saying it sounded like the in-pavement traffic detectors, called “loops,” in the affected lanes had failed. Bryan had said by then that the problem on Burwell had been fixed in November.

“Both 11th and Pacific and 6th and Washington have broken loops, along with Wheaton and Cherry and about 10 more locations in town,” says Gunnar. “We have been adjusting timing at the signals as we have time to, but have not make it to either 11th or 6th yet.

“Spending a couple of thousand dollars for loop replacements on signals that are going to be under construction shortly would not be a good expenditure of taxpayer monies.

“The upcoming project for Pacific Avenue is this summer, which will (correct) the malfunctioning intersection at 11th.  The Washington Avenue project will be correcting the signal at 6th and Washington.”

The upcoming projects are to make Washington a two-lane street and widen the sidewalks between  Burwell and the Manette Bridge, and to continue the Pacific Avenue improvements done south of Sixth Street to between Sixth and 11th.