Tag Archives: North Kitsap

Totten at 305 not slated for traffic light

The in basket: Christine Goodson asked, very succinctly,  “What is the timeline for placement of a traffic signal light at Totten Road and 305 in Poulsbo?”

The out basket: The tone of her question made me wonder if she had heard something I hadn’t, that a signal was on its way.

Maybe she just considers it such an obvious place for a signal, an intersection coming out of a sweeping curve.

Whatever, Olympic Region spokeswoman Claudia Bingham Baker with state highways, was just as succinct. “Currently we have no plans to install a signal at that location,” she said.

Should drought increase need for mowing on shoulders?

The in basket: Christina  Stewart asks, “Can anyone tell me if the county is out in their area actively mowing the sides of the road? With the fire danger off the charts, shouldn’t (they be) mowing down all the dry grass and weeds next to the county roads? I just drove in to work today up Columbia Street (Port Gamble-Suquamish Rd.) and then into Poulsbo on Lincoln. The grass is taller than most vehicles in some areas. Yesterday I was in the Kingston area, same issue. We are creating our own potential safety problem! The county should be mowing all day everyday.”

The out basket: Actually, mowing can start grass fires as well as prevent them, and leave cut grass slightly more likely to burn,.

Practices vary among jurisdictions, but since Christina asks about the North Kitsap area, I’ve limited my inquiries to Kitsap County, the state and Poulsbo.

I asked their normal practices and whether the heat and lack of rain has changed them this year.

Jacques Dean, road superintendent for the county, said on July 7″, “We have not made any changes to our vegetation management program. Our mower in the north end has been unavailable due to mechanical problems, which has put us behind schedule there.  We were waiting for parts to make repairs. It is back in operation now. We do mow all day, every day during the growing season when equipment is available.


“Our vegetation mowers operate five days a week over eight months per year (vegetation is generally dormant November through February).  With this approach we have been able to mow 1,900 shoulder miles of roadway each year, or approximately 950 centerline miles. We are able to mow most, if not all of our roadways at least once per year.  It should also be noted that our crews apply vegetation herbicides to approximately 840 shoulder miles of roadway each year, which assists in keeping vegetation in check.


Logistically, and realistically, we cannot address all of our roadways simultaneously, specifically during the peak of the growing season.  We have to take a systematic approach to our vegetation management program, considering the overall scope of work, available schedule, resource availability, roadway level of service, types of vegetation, geographic location/proximity, etc.  Our crews are working hard to ensure that our roadways are safe, in good condition, and aesthetically pleasing.  They are doing the best possible job.”

Claudia Bingham Baker, state highway spokesman here, said, “When conditions get extremely dry we stop most mowing activities. This link http://wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2015/07/working-to-prevent-roadside-brush-fires.html talks about our efforts to reduce the risk of fires.”

That site says, in part, “Every year, we do most of our mowing in early spring or late fall to avoid the hot, dry summer season. We also leave bare ground barriers alongside roadways in many cases to provide extra protection against sparks and other fire risks. This year is no different.

“That said, some of our maintenance work can’t wait, often because to do so would comprise motorist safety. And work like mowing, grinding or welding carry some inherent risks of sparks that could lead to a fire.

That’s why whenever we complete maintenance work during the dry season we take several precautions. That includes having water and tools on site to immediately extinguish any sparks or fires that start due to our work.

We also limit our maintenance work during the hottest part of the day. Work is done from 8 p.m. to 1 p.m., when it’s more humid and less likely for a fire to start. If weather conditions are particularly severe, everything except emergency work is halted.”

Dan Wilson, head of Poulsbo Public Works, says he isn’t sure that Christina got into the city, but if she did, he thinks she would have found the city’s shoulders well tended by their mostly hand-done streetside brush clearing.

Stuck behind a school bus on Miller Bay Road

The in basket: Walt Elliott of North Kitsap said in a Jan. 18 e-mail, “Driving down Miller Road, we had a backup behind a school bus of 20 cars that I could count and more that I couldn’t.

“Is there any requirement for vehicles to pull over to let a line of traffic pass as there is on the state highways?”

The out basket: Walt apparently was referring to the law making it illegal to delay more than five cars behind you, which is enforceable on county roads as well as state highways.

It reads, “On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow moving vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in a line, shall turn off the roadway wherever sufficient area for a safe turn-out exists, in order to permit the vehicles following to proceed. A slow moving vehicle is one which is proceeding at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place.” The law doesn’t exempt vehicles traveling the speed limit.

Trooper Russ Winger of the state patrol here said, “I am not aware of an RCW that exempts school buses from the law. However, school buses operating on rural roadways make many stops and starts during morning and afternoon runs.

As the large and awkward buses travel the narrow rural roadways there are not frequent suitable or safe places to pull over and let traffic pass. Backups with that many vehicles (20 or more) most probably occur in relatively slow speed areas with stops fairly close together.

“Most veteran drivers know that if they find themselves behind a school bus full of kids at certain locations and times – well, hurry up and wait, because you drew the short stick that day.”

“I know bus drivers do watch out for this and do pull over when safe to do so, because I’ve seen them do it numerous times. I don’t think the safety of school children should take a back seat to impatient drivers, however. The actual time that it will take to get the kids picked up and dropped off safely during the runs is not really that long.”

Kat Peterson of North Kitsap Schools says the caveat “wherever sufficient area for a safe turn-out exists” serves to exempt their buses.

“Our stipulation for a bus over 26,000 pounds is you have to have a safe place to turn of,” she said.

“If we can’t pull over and get completely off the roadway, it’s not safe,” she said.

She could think of only a couple of places on Miller Bay Road going one way and only one going the other direction wide enough for a bus to get completely out of the road.

What’s the story with NK’s white on blue house number signs?

The in basket: I was driving around North Kitsap recently and once again noticed the proliferation of blue signs with white numerals listing the house numbers where homes are grouped on a common driveway. There are dozens of them on Viking Way coming into Poulsbo from the south, and many more at other locations, including quite a few in Central Kitsap.

I rarely see them in South Kitsap, where I live.

Was the placement of those signs the result of some organized campaign, perhaps by North Kitsap firefighters? It seems like it would have taken collaboration by a lot of people, to acquire them and mount them one above the other, which seems to be the common display.

The out basket: Three readers and Susan Gibbs  of Poulsbo Fire replied when this first was posted. Susan said,

“Fire Districts in Kitsap County initially recieved a grant for address signs about five years ago. Poulsbo Fire has continued offering the signs to citizens in our district, and as mentioned above, gladly accept donations to continue the program. We have promoted the signs in our annual newsletter, and at various community events. I would advise contacting your local fire department to inquire if the signs are available to you, it is a great way to clearly display your address.

Greg Rogers of South Kitsap Fire says they participated in the grant and have given out many of the signs, despite my experience of not seeing them. They’re mostly in rural areas. For lack of funding, SK fire no longer provides them, he said.


No stripes for 2 small NK roads

The in basket: Marja Bjarnson says, “I have a question that’s been bugging me for a weeks. My parents live on Virginia Point Road (in North Kitsap) and the county paved their road and nearby Pearson Point Road over two months ago. But, neither road has been lined.

“My parents have lived there for 28 years and the road has always been lined. Is the county planning on painting the lines or leaving it as is (or did they just forget to come back and line it)?

The out basket: It’s a common question , so much so that I addressed it a few weeks ago, dealing with Harris Road in South Kitsap.

The answer then, and now, is “The only mandates we have for striping are on paved urban arterials and collectors with traffic volumes of 6,000 cars per day.  (Federal standards state) that urban arterials and collectors with 4,000 vehicles per day and rural arterials and collectors with 3,000 vehicles or more per day should be striped.

“The ‘should’ statement doesn’t make it mandatory to stripe these roads, but we do stripe them. We can also stripe roads for other reasons such as road alignment, collision history or parking conflicts.  For the most part we don’t stripe 30 mph or less posted speed limit, local access roads.”

Harris Road doesn’t meet those standards and both Virginia and Pearson Point roads have even less traffic, the county says. They’ll be left unstriped.

Standards may have been different when they were striped in the past.

Sign at Pioneer Hill in NK gives oddball info to drivers

The in basket: Dan Godecke of Lofall in North Kitsap says, “When (the state) put up the new cameras on Highway 3 from the bridge to Highway 305, they also installed a sign southbound on Highway 3 at Pioneer Hill.  It is one of the kind that has flashing yellow lights telling drivers to tune to a radio channel for highway information.
“I have seen this sign’s light come on three times now,” Dan wrote. “All three times it was the same message, “The Hood Canal Bridge is open for marine traffic at this time”.

“Why was this sign installed on the southbound direction of Highway 3 to tell southbound traffic that the bridge behind them is open for marine traffic?  Who going south could possibly care if the bridge behind them is open or closed?
“This brings up the second question.  Why was this sign (or another sign) not installed for northbound traffic.  The people going north on highway 3 would have a need to know if the bridge in front of them is closed.
“I am beginning to think that the people who dream up this stuff don’t drive on the highways or even have a clue what direction is north or south.”
The out basket: Well, I suppose there are a few drivers going south who might find the current status of the bridge helpful, but that’s not the explanation.

The messages Dan heard were a mistake, says Tony Leingang, freeway operations manager for this region.

“The sign installed at this location gave our regional Traffic Management Center a new tool to talk to motorists traveling south towards Bremerton and east towards Poulsbo when incidents affecting that area occur,” Tony said. “The recent project that installed the cameras and this sign also brought a new Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) transmitter located near SR 3/SR 305 and a new frequency of AM 1650. That is why the sign in question was added in this area.

“Hood Canal Bridge information on the HAR transmitter located near the bridge is supported by four different flashing beacon signs located

northbound on SR 3 at Lofall, westbound on SR 104 at Port Gamble,

eastbound on SR 104 near Paradise Bay and southbound on US 101 near the US 101/SR 104 junction.

“This group of devices asks motorists to tune to a different frequency (AM 530).l. That system has been in place for quite some time and covers Mr. Godecke’s concern about northbound SR 3 traffic receiving information relative to the bridge.

“I can only point to human error that must have occurred when the Pioneer Hill flashers were inadvertently activated relative to (bridge)activities. I apologize for the confusion and we are reviewing this with the staff now to ensure the issue gets resolved.”

Keyport speed limit reduction questioned

The in basket: Mike Knapp of Keyport asks “What is the story with the reduced speed coming into Keyport from 35 mph to 25 mph just before the traffic light at the base yet the other side of the road is still 35 mph?

“You have to brake really hard to get down to that speed. What is this all about?”

The out basket: The change was made at the request of the Keyport Improvement Club.

Keyport resident Doug Chamberlain, who just stepped down as club president after three years in the position, said the state had studied the need for a lower speed limit there about three years ago. The issue went back on the front burner last year when a club member who takes care of his grandkids said “cars are coming into town too fast, barreling in and out, and that crossing the highway was dangerous,”according to Doug.

Though it’s a quiet city street in the town center, it’s still a state highway and the state made the change in November.

There is confusion, though, about what the speed limit is at various points, as evidenced by Mike’s assertion that it’s still  35 going out of town.

It isn’t supposed to be, says state Traffic Operations Engineer  Steve Bennett and Doug Chamberlain. It’s supposed to be 25 in both directions from just north of the traffic signal at the Navy base entrance to the end of the highway, 35 in both directions from there across the causeway and 50 beyond that. Steve said they’ll check on the signs to see if they’re where they should be.

If Mike really has trouble getting slowed from 35mph to 25 as he comes into town, he may be an example of what prompted the improvement club to seek the reduction.

While I had Doug on the line, I asked about the parking area just outside the Navy base’s old main gate at the highway’s end, about which a reader complained years ago.

It’s narrow, designed for one-way traffic and tapers to the point that a car parked at its end makes it hard for other cars to get past and leave. There’s a “Motorcycles Only” sign at the narrow end but it sometimes isn’t observed.

Doug said the club is aware of it, but has taken no action beyond asking the base to encourage employees to honor the “Motorcycles Only” sign. The state owns the spot but it’s uncertain who put up the sign, Doug said.

Rough paving job on Stottlemeyer explained

The in basket: Betty Ann Sallis e-mails to say, “Late this fall, Stottlemeyer Road was excavated in numerous areas between Lincoln and Gunderson. It was subsequently patched.

“The road is now very uneven with big areas of patching in each lane on both sides. These patches are very uneven and make driving difficult and bumpy.

“The road was actually in pretty good shape before with the exception of a few potholes,” she said. “It now needs a total topcoat but this was only done in two areas – one being the section where it tees at Lincoln.

“Why did they do this? Is there a plan to topcoat the entire road?”

The in basket: Yes, there is, says Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works. What one sees there now “was a pre-level for paving,” he said. “We had planned to pave the road in October, but were unable to get asphalt from our supplier. We were able to get a couple of loads in November that allowed us to pave the tapers off each end. It is planned for one of our first projects during the paving season next year.”

Slow turning trucks at Pioneer Way and SR3 in North Kitsap

The in basket: Dan Godecke again raises an issue he brought up in late 2008 about the signal timing at Highway 3 and Pioneer Way in North Kitsap.

He said then that “when a truck makes the turn from Pioneer to 3, the sensors in the road were not picking up the truck between the time the truck axles passed over them and the trailer axles passed over.

“You helped out by contacting someone that set the signals and they lengthened the time before the light would turn yellow if no cars passed over the sensor,” he told me. “This fixed the problem and all was good…until someone set it back to the original short time setting.
“Now we are back to the same problem again,” he said. “If a truck with a trailer makes that turn, the light turns yellow before another car can follow it into the intersection.  When a truck is the first vehicle in the line it is the only vehicle to make it thorough the intersection regardless of how many cars are in line.”
There is a lot of truck traffic from the Twelve Trees industrial area, he said, and the trucks have to make the right turn slowly to avoid cars waiting at the northbound light.

“The afternoons are the worst time of the day,” he said. “The traffic to the light on Pioneer is heavy and trucks are mixed in that load.  I did notice the moving van trucks with the low center section on the trailer don’t have the same effect on the light.  Only the higher flatbed tailors are the problem ones.”
The out basket: Jim Johnstone of the Olympic Region signal shop, which is responsible for the signals on state highways here, there has been no recent change to the timing of that light.

They had a crew visit the light and “we watched several cycles where trucks came off the Pioneer approach and never saw a problem with the operation,” he said. “We verified that the sensitivity level of the detectors was appropriate to detect all vehicles on the approach and never saw it miss or drop a vehicle.

“The maximum (green)time for that approach is set at 25 seconds and the gap time is set to 4.0 seconds.  Originally the gap time was 3.0 seconds and after Dan’s initial inquiry in 2008 we increased it to 4.0 seconds. Gap time is the length of time between vehicles that tells the llght controller there are no more cars waiting to be served.

“My only conclusion is that if it is taking 10 to 15 seconds for a truck to make that turn then there is not much time left for others to make it through the intersection.  If this is occurring during afternoon peak, as Dan suggests, we are not left with much to remedy the problem.  If we start increasing the max time or increase the gap time beyond what we already have then we impact mainline movements.

“I’m sure everyone is aware of the volume of traffic on SR 3 at this location especially during the PM peak and the need to keep that traffic moving.  When we delay the SR 3 southbound uphill approach too much, traffic backs up and the large volume of trucks has a difficult time getting started again causing operational issues on the mainline.

“We will continue to spot check this intersection, and ask our Lofall crew to also keep an eye on it for any unusual operation They drive through this signal daily also.”

Agate Pass Bridge called a ‘black hole”

The in basket: Richard Holl said in a March e-mail that the Agate Pass Bridge in North Kitsap needs better lighting.

“At night the bridge becomes a black hole that absorbs light,” he said.” All you can see is the oncoming lights of the cars  coming at you. You can’t see the sides, the center line, the bridge walkway. Nothing.”

“God forbid if anyone sticks their arm out from the walkway. All a driver can do is aim for the middle of the blackness on their side of the road and hope for the best. Maybe you can see better  if there is no oncoming traffic but I couldn’t tell you the last time I crossed that bridge at night when there was no oncoming traffic,” Richard said.

“Contrast that to the new (Greaves Way in Silverdale) where there is very little traffic. I bet you can see that road from space at night. If you roped the road off, you could play a ball game under those lights.

“I know they are different projects and different funds, yada, yada, yada but what the hell ever happened to a little common sense?”

The out basket: Steve Bennett, the traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region replies, “The standards for lighting on a bridge state the bridge should be lit at the same level as the rest of the corridor.  As there is not continuous lighting on the corridor, there is no requirement for lighting on the bridge.

“We also checked the collision rate on the bridge and found that in the last 11 years almost 90 percent of the collisions occurred in the daytime and it is not clear that any of the  night time collisions would have been prevented with the addition of lighting.

“Of the twelve collisions that occurred at dawn/dusk/night, eight were rear end collisions,” Steve said. “It is unlikely that night-time lighting would have helped prevent these because the brake lights of cars tend to show up better without overhead lighting.

“An additional three crashes occurred because drivers lost control of their vehicle and struck the bridge rail,” he said.