Tag Archives: Mile Hill

Woods/Mile Hill signal changes for no apparent reason

The in basket: Dave Dahlke of Port Orchard writes, “What’s with the light on Woods Road/Mile Hill Drive? When I went through there Sunday and Monday mornings it turned red for the east/west traffic on Mile Hill Drive when there were no cars going north or south on Woods.”

The out basket: Daren Miller, signal supervisor for Kitsap County Public Works, says, “Both Mile Hill and Woods Road use video (traffic) detection. The pluses of video detection is that you have no problem with detection of motorcycles/bicycles and when you repave a road you do not have to replace costly detection loops that are installed in the pavement.

“The drawback of video detection is that if something changes in the camera’s field of view –  shadow across the drive lane caused by the angle of sun on trees or poles – it will put in a call to the controller to change the signal.

“Cars are detected because they cause a change in the camera’s detection field. The south side of Mile Hill at Woods has trees at the intersection that create shadows at this time of year. We are working on a solution.”


Diamond shapes on signal cross-arms go unquestioned

The in basket: Usually when something unfamiliar shows up on the cross-arms of traffic signal poles, I get a question from someone who suspects we’re being tracked electronically.

That was the question when tall, camera-like objects were put on the cross-arms a few years back. And when camera-like devices like the one in the arcing off-ramp from southbound Highway 303 to Central Valley Road and along the uphill lanes of Port Orchard Boulevard appeared.

The first ones are optical traffic detectors that replace the in-pavement wire detectors that are expensive to work on when they fail. The others allow emergency vehicles to change an upcoming traffic signal to green even though it’s  around a curve from the approaching vehicles.

It hasn’t happened this time, although diamond-shaped devices I hadn’t noticed before have appeared on the signals on Mile Hill Drive in South Kitsap in front of South Park Village shopping center and at Long Lake Road.

Those are Kitsap County signals, so I asked the county about them.

The out basket: Doug Bear, spokesman for county public works says, “Those are radio antennas that are placed at intersections where we don’t have wire connections for the signals.”  They allow the county signal shop to communicate with the signal to diagnose problems and check on and/or alter its operation. “They are pretty uncommon as we usually have wired connections,” he said.

State will repair Mile Hill’s rough pavement

The in basket: Bill Bellman and Bob Baxter wrote me earlier this year about the spot half-way up Mile Hill in Port Orchard where the pavement had developed shallow patches where the upper layer of asphalt had chipped away. The  surface is quite rough.

Bill said in February, “I believe you wrote in the past about the 200 feet or so of Mile Hill Drive where we who drive it daily weave around pot holes in the section of road that has not been maintained.

“The issue I believe was who was responsible for this strip, the city, the county or the state.  It seems by now the issue of responsibility should have been resolved and the short section repaired and repaved.

“Can you determine the status of who is responsible and when we can expect this section to be repaired?” he asked.

Bob wrote in April, “My concern is the removal of the trees along Mile Hill road in Port Orchard. The road surface from the stop light up the hill and on both sides has many pot holes in it.

“To spend the money taking the trees down along the road needlessly is not a good decision. Instead the potholes should have been taken care of. Who makes these decisions and how are they held accountable?”

The out basket: The Legislature assigned the care of that stretch, the last few hundred feet of Highway 166 before it becomes a county road, to the state over a year ago. The state had hinted that it should be the city of Port Orchard’s responsibility, but the city got help from local legislators and was able to turn back that attempt.

Robert mistakenly linked the tree cutting and the road work. The trees were cut on Puget Sound Energy’s dime, as part of a new $4 million power transmission line to help prevent outages in Manchester. That money couldn’t have been spent on road work.

Duke Stryker, head of state highway maintenance here, said the site had “fallen off our radar” until I sent copies of Bill and Bob’s inquiries to him. He and some of his employees visited that area on July 3 and saw that something needed to be done.

You can see white paint on the pavement bracketing where they soon will be digging out the old pavement and replacing it with new. Duke said it should be done sometime in the next four weeks and probably will take only a day.

Technically those aren’t pot holes, though. Pot holes go all the way down to the road base and can be quite destructive to cars’ tires and suspensions. The problems on Mile Hill are called “delaminations,” when a previous layer of pavement is exposed when a later one wears away in patches.

Asplundh on tree felling binge on Mile Hill Drive

The in basket: Asplundh Tree Experts have been conspicuously busy along Mile Hill Drive in South Kitsap the past few weeks. They began, it appeared, on Baby Doll Road a few feet off of Mile Hill Drive where they spent at least two days removing branches if not entire trees.

They definitely appeared to be taking down entire trees next to the Abbey Lane apartments just downhill from Harrison Avenue and then went into full tree removal mode just downhill from Jackson Avenue the first week of this month.

You often see Asplundh crews limbing trees as part of Puget Sound Energy’s ongoing vegetation management program to prevent weather-caused power outages. But this was clearly a lot more than than.

The out basket: Indeed it is, says Lindsey Walimaki of PSE. It’s the middle part of a $9 million transmission line-substation upgrade to help curtail power outages in the Manchester area. The substations on Mitchell Avenue and Woods Road have been improved and now work has begun on a new four-mile transmission line that will cost $4 million of the total.

It will run along Mitchell Avenue, Mile Hill Drive, Baby Doll Road, Collins Road and end at the substation just east of Collins on Woods.

Many of the small power poles that now carry distribution lines along that route will be replaced by taller ones that will carry the new transmission lines as well as the

distribution lines. The tree work will continue into April, and the new wires should be strung and in service by June, Lindsey said.

It all includes upgrades at the Long Lake substation too, with that work scheduled from April to July with transmission line work there in July.

Unfortunately for wood gatherers, the wood isn’t available to the public, she said, though private property owners can keep that which is left on their land if they wish. Perhaps a person could make a deal with the property owner. The rest is hauled away.

You can read a lot more about the project and five other ones PSE  has under way or about to start in Kitsap County at its Web site, www.pse.com/ Click on kitsap at the bottom then Construction Projects in the box on the left of the window.

Most don’t involved a lot of tree work, but there is a pilot project in the Wildcat Lake area of Central Kitsap, and along Seabeck Highway south of Holly Road.

That area is hard hit by power outages, Lindsey said. So the company will experiment will taking limbs above power lines that might fall on them in a windstorm, rather than it’s usual practice of just removing limbs that have grown within reach of the wires.

Three of the other projects described on the Web site are on Bainbridge Island and the sixth is at a substation between Bremerton and Gorst.

Mystery blue bulb at Harrison & Mile Hill Drive

The in basket: Every time I turn right from Harrison Avenue onto Mile Hill Drive in front of the China West restaurant with my wife in the car, she asks me if I’d found out the purpose of a blue light bulb inside a wire cage atop a short pole in front of the restaurant.

That’s more often than you might think. I always turn from Jackson Avenue and go through Parkwood rather than continue downhill to the signal where right turners are often backed up at the red light in the only lane.

The bulb is never lit, she told me, asking “What’s it for?”

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says it’s not a light bulb at all.

“It’s a photocell that turns on the street light when it gets dark,” he said. “There are hundreds of them and on almost every street light.

“The one at China West happens to be at street level so is more visible than the others. The county does maintain them.”


Plowing when there is no snow

The in basket: My wife, The Judybaker, saw four Kitsap County snow plows working on Mile Hill Drive over a 45-minute period Monday afternoon, but said it had stopped snowing and there was no snow on the road. They were plowing nothing. Isn’t that hard on the road surface for no reason, she asked.

The out basket: They weren’t plowing nothing, says Doug Bear, spokesman for county public works. They were plowing slush.

“Very cold weather (was) expected to move in overnight and freeze anything on the road surface. While the pavement appeared bare to your wife, we (were) plowing slush off the roads. This prevents it from freezing and channeling cars.”

Why so many workers on road project?

The in basket: The over-staffed road project, commonly symbolized by someone leaning on a shovel, is so much a part of modern lore that I wasn’t surprised when my wife, The Judybaker, came home one recent day and said she’d seen it again at Mile Hill Drive and Woods Road, near our home.

When I drove past the crew twice in the next few days, I noticed that they were replacing the worn turn arrows, stop bars and crosswalk lines at Woods and Long Lake roads. Sure enough, there were six employees both times, and two or three didn’t seem to be doing anything at that moment.

They were Kitsap County crews, and I asked what the job assignments were and what required six people.

The out basket: Jeff Shea, county traffic engineer, supplies the answer:

“Our markings crew is made up of one permanent employee, and five to seven participants in our college summer help program,” he said, referring me to the online site www.kitsapgov.com/pw/summer_students.htm to learn more about it. Among the information is that there are 55 such jobs paying between $9.47 and $12.87 an hour.

“We no longer use painted markings,” Jeff continued. “All of our arrows, crosswalks, and stop lines are now applied with a durable material called thermoplastic.  Thermoplastic markings last longer than paint. The end result is less frequent maintenance. It stands up to traffic much better.

“The application process for the thermoplastic is totally different then the painting process. The process is labor-intensive and we look for ways to maximize the potential of each work crew.

“At large multi-lane intersections, we commonly use six employees and two work vehicles to replace pavement markings.  During the set-up phase, two to three employees use one vehicle to set up traffic control signs. The remaining employees use the other vehicle to ‘cone off’ traffic lanes and turn the traffic signal to an all-way stop flashing red.

“The employees remain in two groups.  One group  uses a grinder to remove the old markings. As they are doing that, the second group is marking out and installing the new thermoplastic marking.  This allows the crew to work at different legs of the intersection and limit the amount of time the intersection is ‘down.’

“We use four torches to pre-heat the asphalt and melt the thermoplastic markings on the asphalt.  It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for traffic to drive on it.

“There may be times when staff are not physically doing something.  We have a very good crew leader who orchestrates tasks to get the most from his crew.  Because these operations are so labor intensive we utilize the summer help staff. Their level of experience varies, and they are learning techniques ‘on-the-job”.’ which can limit the efficiency at times.

“There sometimes is a lag as the first group grinds and the second groups waits for that spot to be ready for application. Most intersections have several different markings that need application, and two groups seem to get the most production from the crew. That being said, we are using the information you provided to help us analyze  how we do things and see if there is a better approach to this type of work.”

Right turners and traffic detection

The in basket: Dave Dahlke asks, “What’s with the traffic light at the South Kitsap Mall? If a car comes up from the mall to take a right turn onto the highway the light almost always turns green for it without even giving the vehicle driver the chance to execute a free right. 

“The light stays red longer for drivers desiring to make a left turn onto the highway or to go straight through then for those vehicles which have the option of a free right turn. This causes numerous stops to east-west traffic on the highway.

“I have never seen a backup in the right turn lane from this parking lot and have to question why there is even a trigger for this light from the right turn lane.

“I believe the light should not be activated any sooner (if at all) then it is for those cars utilizing the right turn lanes at Long Lake Road, Woods Road and California Avenue,” Dave said.

The out basket: Actually, the lane for straight-ahead traffic and right-turn traffic coming out of the mall parking lot (It’s called Towne Square Mall now) is the same lane.

And that accounts for the detection in the right turn lane, says Jim Johnstone of the Olympic Region signal shop in Tumwater. If they didn’t have it, straight ahead traffic wouldn’t be detected. 

The other Mile Hill Drive signals David cites as preferable have dedicated lanes for right turners in at least one direction. They also belong to Kitsap County. The state owns and operates the mall signal.

I watched it one day recently and found it hard to see whether the time that elapsed between the arrival of a right turner and a green light for that car was attributable to that car’s arrival. 

When there was traffic coming out of the high school complex on the highway’s opposite side, or a car wanting to go straight out of the mall, the count-down to a red light for Mile Hill Drive traffic often had already begun before the right turner even showed up. Pedestrians who had triggered their light for crossing the highway have the same effect. 

Jim says because traffic crossing the highway is light except when classes at the high school end for the day, and because of Dave’s observations, he has put a 7-second delay on the right turn-through signal leaving the mall. A car now has to be there seven second before the light will detect it. It then will take at least four seconds longer for the light to turn green, stopping traffic on Mile Hill Drive. 

“Please understand that this may minimize, but will not eliminate the signal changing to the side street as a right turner departs from the intersection,” he said. 

Seven seconds won’t be enough if traffic heading east on Mile Hill Drive is heavy, I would guess, or when two or three vehicles are waiting to turn right onto Mile Hill (it does happen).

Incidentally, the right turn lane delays on the county’s signals farther east on Mile Hill Drive are 10 seconds, except at Long Lake Road, where there is no traffic detection in the right turn lane.

Water causes swelling of Mile Hill Drive

The in basket: I was alarmed Thursday night when I suddenly ran over something in westbound Mile Hill Drive right at the Long Lake Road traffic signal. 

Neither my wife nor I had seen anything in the road. The sudden bump didn’t seem severe enough to have been a person, or even an animal, though it was more than a speed hump would have caused. We didn’t see anything in the road when we came back the other way. 

By Friday morning daylight, though, a large swell in the pavement was visible. The county had posted one of those “Motorcycles Use Extreme Caution” signs, one of the rare times they seemed to be helpful. By the next day, the lump was barely noticeable. 

I’ve seen many slumps and even washouts after the kind of rain we had Thursday. But a swelling was new to me. I would think a rise like that supported only by water would have made the asphalt break up. I asked what was going on.

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works said it was, indeed, caused by water. 

“We have found that water is infiltrating under the roadway causing the portion you saw to raise up. We did some preliminary work to minimize the bump and plan additional work in the next week or two to determine what is happening. 

“We are going to use our video pipe inspection system to look at the drainage there to determine where the problem is. Once we identify that we will develop a permanent solution.”

Port Orchard striping is a waiting game


The in basket: Sarann Walker and Cliff Kincaid are concerned about a couple of places inside the city of Port Orchard where the lane striping has worn off and drivers have to guess where they should be relative to other traffic.

Sarann lives near Marcus Whitman Junior High and is worried about the lack of striping on Mile Hill Drive at the city limits around Harrison Street.

“It’s a real mess trying to make a left turn onto Harrison or in the opposite direction,” she said. “The stripes are all worn away. l don’t feel really comfortable there.”

Cliff sees the same problem at the intersection of Sedgwick and Sidney roads at the town’s southern city limits.  

“If you are headed east at the new intersection,” he said, “the yellow line for the left turn lane heading west has been obliterated. I’ve almost had a head-on there, though I am a pretty cautious driver.”

The out basket: Mark Dorsey, public works director for Port Orchard, says he is getting anxious waiting for Kitsap County, with which the city contracts for the annual restriping of its streets, to get the job done. The contract has been signed for a couple of months, he said, and bad weather is coming. 

He expects the county’s work to include both the areas Sarann and Cliff describe, even though the Mile Hill spot is where the city and state are at odds over which should be maintaining it. The city this summer filled in the delaminations that were creating a rough roadway there and will pay for the striping while the jurisdictional issue is hashed out, he said.

The state plans to ask the Legislature for permission to turn Highway 166 from the Sidney Avenue intersection downtown to the eastern city limit near Harrison over to the city. Mark says the city doesn’t plan to “just roll over and let them,” and is working with state Sen. Derek Kilmer on a strategy for opposing the plan.

The striping of city streets also will include Tremont Street from the city limit to the Highway 16 freeway. Mark said the city’s contract with the county doesn’t call for the added expense of recessing the reflective lane markers there, as the county was able to do for the first time from the city limits east this spring.