Tag Archives: off-ramp

A new view of SR303 off-ramp to Ridgetop Boulevard

The in basket: Lani Bogart  writes, “I am concerned about the traffic heading towards Bremerton on Highway 303/Waaga Way that takes the Ridgetop Exit. At the bottom of the exit they recently installed a traffic signal EXCEPT for the right turning traffic. They don’t even have a yield sign there and I see that traffic come whipping around that corner without even slowing down and immediately pulling over into the left lane, since that right lane turns into a right turn only.

“I witnessed a very close call by a company van pulling directly in front of the car in front of me, causing both of us to stand on our brakes to avoid a collision (We had the right of way with a green light through the intersection as we had come off the opposite direction and gone underneath the freeway).

“Why haven’t they put a yield sign there? Or better yet, a stop sign? It’s really dangerous. Sometimes when I’ve got the green light, going through the intersection and need to make that right turn into the hospital parking lot, I’m not able to get over because of that exiting traffic just barreling on through that turn into the right lane. They finally do pull over in that left lane, without checking many times, because they discover they have to turn right if they keep going. That exit really needs to be controlled, please!”

The out basket: All the drivers who have complained to the Road Warrior column about others who DO stop before turning right at the end of that off-ramp will find it interesting to hear from someone like Lani who finds that practice desirable.

The fact is there is a separate lane dedicated to those turning right to go west on Ridgetop Boulevard, so there is no need to either yield or stop there. Nor is there reason for signage requiring either.

Any driver using that dedicated lane who moves into the inside lane without  yielding and signaling, or anyone who moves into the dedicated lane from the inside lane without yielding or signaling has committed a traffic infraction and will be held responsible if a collision results. Lani is required to wait for drivers who come “barreling through that turn” to leave a space before moving right herself.

I often hear from drivers upset about others who stop at the end of that off-ramp and wait for traffic in the inside lane to pass by. Lani is the first to contact me about danger from those who don’t. I rarely approach that intersection heading west but don’t recall feeling imperiled by exiting traffic from the off-ramp when I do.

Others who agree with Lani that more control of those making that right turn is needed can comment on this column online, or contact the state at BakerC@wsdot.wa.gov.

Rush-hour incidents in Silverdale blamed on noise wall

The in basket: Dave Matney sees a problem with the southbound off-ramp from Highway 3 to Highway 303 and Silverdale.

“This off-ramp makes a blind turn around a tall concrete wall, then opens up and splits into three lanes leading up to the signal. Normally this process flows smoothly, (but) occasional traffic will back up onto SR-3 well before the blind turn. This happens very quickly and violently, one second you’re cruising in the outer lane doing 60mph, the next instantly slamming on your brakes to keep from rear-ending the guy in front of you.

“The signal changes, everybody starts to flow and the traffic clears out. Except the ones that did not get stopped in time. The second time this happened to me,” Dave said, “I was not going to stop in time, swerved to the right shoulder and came to a stop next to the car in front of me. The car behind me came to a stop behind the car in front of me, where I should have been. I heard a screeching sound and looked in my rear view mirror in time to see the off-ramp sign fall backwards with a car on top of it. My quick action saved the three of us from being in an accident.”

State troopers and tow trucks were on the scene when he came back the other way, he said.

“Over the last year, I have had this happen to me three times and have witnessed three other occurrences,” Dave says. “It always happens in the afternoons, between 3 and 5 p.m., coinciding with the Bangor commute that starts at 3 and lots of traffic is flowing out of both the Trident and Trigger avenue gates heading south in the outside lane.

“What is the purpose of this wall? Normally these walls are built for sound dampening when the freeway backs up to a housing development. But in this case there is no housing, just a ball field. The sharp turn with a wall blocks the driver’s sight line from seeing the traffic back up.

“Has the state patrol starting noticing this trend at this location?

“Maybe a warning sign,  ‘Traffic can backup suddenly.'”

The out basket: It is a noise wall, designed to reduce roadway noise from reaching the play field behind it, says Claudia Bingham Baker of the state highway department. She says she’s unaware of any plans to modify it.

State Trooper Russ Winger says, “We have not observed abnormally high collision numbers in this area. Collisions do occur there but many of those occur at the right turn yield sign (at the top of the off-ramp).

“We have had collisions occur in the straight section on SR3  when traffics backs up during heavy volumes and anywhere in between up to the intersection. The bulk of these collisions – rear end type –  are usually attributed to A) following  too closely. B) speed too fast for conditions. C) driver inattention.

“I am not so sure it is a sight distance problem rather than a driver awareness problem. Traffic can and does back up here during peak traffic times and I’m sure there are plenty of close calls that go unnoticed but it does not appear to be greatly different than other congested urban sections in Kitsap County.

“We have a fairly high collision rate on SR303 at the various intersections between Riddell and Fairgrounds roads. These are straight roadways with long sight distances. Many of the collisions are also rear-end collisions with some intersection collisions. Again, the various contributing factors noted above are the causing factors, along with running signal lights.”

The Road Warrior tries a questionable turn in Silverdale

The in basket: Eric Blair said in an e-mail this week, “Now that the lights are installed and working at Ridgetop and 303 (in Silverdale), nothing has changed regarding folks wanting to get over to turn left onto Sid Uhinck Drive. Cars still stop in the right lane and wait for traffic to clear so they can jump over to the left-turn lane. The only difference is there is now a guaranteed break in traffic when the light turns green for those turning left from the exit ramp.

“This was a terribly designed intersection,” Eric said. “Either the light needed to control all directions, left, right and straight coming from the off ramp, or there needed to be a barrier installed to prevent this unsafe maneuver.”

He and Rob Davy objected in a March Road Warrior column to the traffic disruption created by drivers who turn right at the end of that southbound Highway 303 off-ramp to Ridgetop Boulevard then quickly move over two lanes to get into the left turn pocket to reach Sid Uhinck Drive.

At best it can be a chancy double lane change and at worst they have to stop in the outside lane to wait for a break in inside lane traffic, which is illegal and annoys drivers behind them. Besides, Rob argued, changing lanes requires signaling a minimum of 100 feet, 200 feet for a double lane change, and there aren’t 200 feet between the ramp and the left turn pocket.

Both men asked for a row of pylons to keep cars in the outside lane from moving over until past Sid Uhinck, as Eric did again in this week’s e-mail.

Rob also suggested allowing right turns from the other lane on the ramp, the one controlled by the new signal and designed for left turns and straight ahead movement. Anyone turning right there would have only one lane change to get to Sid Uhinck.

The state and county didn’t make that change, but I sat on the off-ramp for a while this week, contemplating making the very right turn Rob suggested, at the light.

A traffic island guiding left turn traffic makes it a bit of an awkward turn for a large vehicle, but there are no signs there forbidding a right turn. When I got up my nerve to try it, while the light was green, I made the turn effortlessly in my 2013 Malibu.

What’s to prevent a driver wanting to go from the off-ramp to Sid Uhinck from turning at the light like I did, I asked State Trooper Russ Winger and Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Wilson.

The out basket: There are no signs prohibiting a right turn there, said Russ, but there are pavement markings that do. Pavement arrows are as restrictive as signs, he said. I had made an illegal turn.

“As the intersection is currently configured, a right turn from the left lane is prohibited,” he said. “There are large white arrows within the lane that indicate left turn or straight through movement to access the on-ramp to SR303. The straight through arrow is fading but it is still in place.

“An additional sign prohibiting a right turn from that lane might help clarify that but it is not required.”

Scott agreed. “If turning right from the inside (left) lane were permitted,” he said, “along with the free right turn already in place from the right lane, it is a set-up for confusion by drivers and collisions would be highly likely.

“If this idea were authorized, then (in my opinion) the county would need to install a lane barrier to prevent drivers who have just completed the free right turn from changing lanes to the left (inside lane) until the outside (channelization) lane is west of the intersection with NW Sid Uhinck Drive.

“When I say confusion… there will always be those who won’t understand or comprehend the signage and believe that they also have a free right turn, even from the left lane, leading to an increase in vehicle collisions.

“I think that it’s best to leave it as the traffic engineers designed (it),” Scott said.

The Road Warrior wonders if ending those double lane changes might not offset the collision hazards inherent in the added right turn opportunity, but barring someone with clout getting behind this idea, I guess we won’t find out.

Drivers on 303 off-ramp still stopping unnecessarily

The in basket: Peggy Griffel writes about the southbound Highway 303 off-ramp at Ridgetop Boulevard in Silvelrdale, “Now that the traffic light is finally complete at this intersection, they still haven’t fixed the problem that drives me crazy every morning as I drive to work at Harrison Silverdale from Poulsbo.

“There is still no signage that tells the right hand lane not to stop.  Every morning I come close to witnessing an accident as someone is stopped in that lane either waiting to get over in the other lane to make a left hand turn or they simply don’t know that they have their own lane after turning.

“What would be the harm in signage that those in right hand lane do not stop and need to stay in lane?” she asked.

The out basket: This must be more of an annoyance or safety problem that you’d think, as often as I hear complaints about it.

I asked if there is an approved sign that would convey the message, something like, “Right Turners Don’t Have to Stop,” though I can’t recall seeing a sign like that anywhere else.

Doug Adamson of the Olympic Region public affairs office for state highways says a small change is coming, but I don’t see how it will convey the message Peggy wants conveyed.

“To encourage right-turning drivers not to stop, (state) sign crews will relocate an existing sign showing that drivers turning right are not required to stop,” Doug said. “At this time, there are no other changes planned for the highway exit in this area.”

That sign, he said, is a yellow diamond-shaped sign with two arrows angling right, one with a crook in it. It’s more puzzling than instructive, to my eye.

Combined on- and off-ramp on 303 troubles driver

The in basket:  Norman Marten of Bainbridge Island wrote in March about what he considered to be “possibly the worst intersection configuration imaginable … at least for me.”

“I was on Central Valley Road traveling north to get onto Route 303 toward Silverdale,” he said. “I crossed over 303 and saw what appeared to be the entrance on the left.

“Immediately I saw a one-way sign and a large “DO NO ENTER sign. I kept going by and turned left on what I thought was the entrance. No. It is a parallel local road, which is an issue in itself.

“It is separated from the actual entrance lanes by a low chain link fence such that oncoming cars there appear to be headed right at you until the last moment (it curves).

“In any case, I turned around and proceeded back and discovered that the opening from Central Valley is a wide, shared area with the entrance and exit lanes combined.  Who is the rocket scientist that designed that?

“A ways into this there is a slightly raised divider on the pavement but you need to actually turn into this to realize what is happening.

“What I totally don’t understand,” he said, “is why they don’t have an island at the edge of Central Valley with clear signage that the entrance is to the right of the divide.  Putting the low divider back from where Central Valley passes is crazy.  I can’t imagine getting there on a rainy night.  Really scary.  Combined exit/entrance lanes should be outlawed.”

The out basket: I don’t often use this combined exit-entrance and haven’t had any trouble there the few times I did. I’m fairly certain it wasn’t dark and rainy.

There was an indication the day I went to look at it that someone else might have had a problem. On the sign pointing to the left to go to Silverdale, someone had added a peculiar-looking decal, pointing down at a 45-degree angle, as if to provide some added instruction. It was gone the next time I visited there.

Also, I turned onto the short dead-end street Norman mentions, and in coming back out, saw a pickup truck moving at what seemed too high a speed for that road coming at me. He actually was over on the on-ramp to 303, which became obvious when it curved, but it was a momentary thrill.

The state doesn’t see need for a change. Claudia Bingham Baker of the state’s Olympic Region says, “Your reader is asking for a sign to be placed on a center island between the ramps on the north side of the interchange.  We believe such a sign would be a hazard for left-turning trucks and would probably be knocked down in short order.

“Since the way to Silverdale is already signed before the on-ramp, we have no current plans to make sign changes at that location.”

She didn’t address extending the center divider to Central Valley Road, but I suppose that would be hit by far more turning drivers than would be confused by the current alignment.

Is new Ridgetop traffic signal coming soon?

The in basket: Robin Jensen wonders when the promised new traffic signal on Ridgetop Boulecard at the southbound off-ramp from Highway 303 will be done.

“This project is still showing on the (county’s Transportation Improvement Plan) for construction beginning this month,” he said. “Because this signal has been needed for so long, Ridgetop residents are looking for signs of construction every day. Can you confirm whether this project is scheduled to start soon?”

The out basket: Quite soon, actually. Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says, “The project is out to bid with bid opening set for June 18. Work is expected to begin in July sometime. We will post more information after we open bids.

For what it’s worth, the bid specs can be seen online at http://www.kitsapgov.com/pw/pdf/CRP_3658/3658_Ridgetop_sr303_bid_inv.pdf)

The county has taken over this work at a state intersection to compensate for congestion on detours when Bucklin Hill Road closes next year for replacement of the Clear Creek bridge.


New Silverdale signal on Ridgetop has a skeptic

The in basket: Jerry Van Fossen has his doubts about Kitsap County plans to put a stop signal at the off-ramp from southbound Highway 303 at Ridgetop Boulevard in Silverdale.

“That red light is going to create additional havoc for those heading west,” he predicts. “They will have four lights within a quarter mile.

“The  only problem is rush hours. Just forbid left turns from 3 to 6 p.m.,” he proposes.”What you will do there is back up traffic heading west.”

Eastbound traffic out of Silverdale greatly outnumbers left turn traffic at that off-ramp, he said.

Jerry’s may be a lone voice objecting to the traffic light, a project the county took out of the state’s hands in order, they expect, to lessen one bottleneck on a route likely to get a lot more use next year when they widen Bucklin Hill Road.

A signal at that on-ramp is one of the most common requests made to the Road Warrior column, and I would expect a no-left-turn limitation there in the afternoons to be wildly unpopular with those who use that off-ramp in the afternoons. There are no convenient alternate routes, especially for those who had come south on Highway 3.

I asked county Public Works about Jerry’s concerns.

The out basket: Jeff Shea, the county’s traffic engineer says, “Currently the delays and the safety issues related to the Highway 303 southbound offramp clearly justify a signal on the west side on/off ramps.

“The new signals will be interconnected with a fiber optics line to the Myhre signal.  We hope to  eventually connect Hillsboro also.

“I can’t give you a date on when that might happen – (it’s a) budget and manpower issue.

“The new signal will be under the control of the state.  (It) has many highway ramps with signalized intersections on both ramp terminals, including the SR 303/Silverdale ramps.  They have the trained personnel to make the signal timing coordination as facilitating as possible, and they are willing to work with us on signal coordinations.  “I can’t make the claim that this won’t impact the other delays, but they should be minimal if at all.

“We have received a request to look at extending the right turn lane for westbound traffic on the eastside of SR 303.  This would shorten the queues by allowing more motorists to reach that turn lane without getting delayed in the through-lane queue.

“The project is currently being evaluated in our Transportation Improvement Program.”




Speed limit rule the same for off- and on-ramps

The in basket: I learned last year that the speed limit on a freeway on-ramp is the speed limit of the highway being entered. That makes sense, since the ramp is intended to let you get up to freeway speed to merge.

That often crosses my mind when I’m EXITING  a freeway, especially from northbound Highway 3 in Silverdale onto southbound Highway 303, where the ramp ends in a merge, not a stop sign. .

There’s a yellow 35 mph sign on the ramp, but yellow signs are just advisory,  not mandatory. I asked what the speed limit is there or at any other off-ramp.

The out basket: The rule is the same for off-ramps as for on-ramps, says Trooper Russ Winger of the state patrol here.

“The speed limit is the still the limit until otherwise posted by a regulatory sign,” he said. “The merge on SR-303 you are describing is almost impossible to take the turn at 60 mph safely, however, unless the vehicle is operating out of control and otherwise endangering other motorists, the speed (limit) is still 60.

“But, this said, a vehicle will have very little time to slow to the posted 35 limit because the sign is only a short distance away from the start of the merge lane.

“I cannot see citing this vehicle for speeding – as you describe – unless it obviously interferes with the safety of other vehicles with its merge,” he said.

Most off-ramps are self regulating, since they have a stop sign at their end. And citations for going too fast for conditions or negligent driving are always possible should a person crash, as one surely would trying to make the curve on the 3-303 off-ramp at 60 mph. But not a speeding ticket.”

Arrow and Yield sign puzzle drivers at Tremont interchange

The in basket: Dave Dahlke and Katie Ruley has questions about the Tremont interchange on Highway 16 in Port Orchard.

Dave wonders what the arrow at the downhill end of the northbound Highway 16 off-ramp there is supposed to mean.

“I see left-  and right-turn arrows in center turn lanes,” he said. “I see left-turn arrows and right-turn arrows signifying what I believe to be only those turns allowed in other lanes. What  (is) the purpose of a straight-ahead white arrow on the pavement on the off-ramp from Highway 16 to Tremont? “Makes me wonder if any out-of-town drivers assume the only option is to drive straight ahead which puts them  back on Highway 16 via the on-ramp.”

Katie is perplexed by the position of the Yield sign that assigns right-of-way to left turners coming off Tremont to head toward Gorst on the freeway, over right turners using the same on-ramp.

“If I am waiting to turn left into oncoming traffic to enter the highway,” she said, “it would seem to me impossible that I would have the right of way, but yet people do! And now there is a yield sign? This makes no sense.”

The out basket: The white arrows on that off-ramp and many others, which I had never noticed until Dave asked, are designed to tell drivers what not to do, not what to do.

They are a visual cue to anyone who has turned from Tremont onto the off-ramp that they ARE GOING THE WRONG WAY!! It hopes to keep them out of the high speed highway traffic.

You’ll also see them on the mainline of Highway 16 near Haven of Rest Cemetery in Gig Harbor and in Gorst in front of Navy City Metals. Both are near places where drivers have a way to get headed the wrong way on a divided highway.

As for the Yield sign, I told Katie that a right turner  certainly doesn’t have to yield to a car that is waiting for traffic to clear to begin the left turn. But when the two traffic flows actually conflict, right of way must be assigned to one or the other.

In this and similar cases, says Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region of state highways, giving the left turner the right of way “is more safe for all involved.

“The right turner is in a protected spot and can safely wait for the left turner to pass by. The left turner, if he has already begun his turn, may be blocking a lane if forced to wait for the right turner. This could cause traffic on the through road to make  sudden stops or swerve to avoid hitting the blocking vehicle.”

What’s with the sharp corner on new Sprague Avenue off-ramp?

The in basket: Gary Reed and Ronda Armstrong both wonder about the reasoning behind the L-shaped angle at the top of one of the Sprague Avenue ramps in the Nalley Valley project where I-5 and Highway 16 meet in Tacoma.

“I noted the new Sprague Avenue exit from leaves 16, goes up the twice-built ramp, and quickly goes into a 90-degree left turn,” said Gary. “I’m wondering if the WSDOT engineers have a pool going as to how long before the first accident occurs at the end of the ramp.

“I can envision a person steaming up that ramp, at night, rainy and icy, and smashing into the barricade at the top of the ramp, or, maybe even flipping over the barricade and plunging down into Nalley Valley,” he said. “I’m wondering why the sudden left turn, and not a smooth transition? I suppose the 40 mph signs are the deterrent? Or maybe the money was spent on correcting the poor ramp build? Twice?”

The out basket: Lisa Coleman, spokeswoman for the Olympic Region of state highway says that part of the interchange won’t be finished for more than a year, when it will have traffic signals.

“We considered leaving the exit closed until the eastbound project is done in 2013 but opted to open it in the interim, in the ‘L”’ configuration (eventually it will be  a ‘T’).  It will close for some time during eastbound construction.”

Bids on the remaining work are to be opened Aug. 24. You can get an idea what the finished project will look like online at www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/piercecountyhov/sr16_ebnalleyvalley/.

There is a video depiction online that runs a couple of minutes but it could really benefit from some narration rather than just the musical background it now has.

If you call it up, use the pause button to give yourself time to grasp what you are seeing. It appears there will be separate eastbound ramps to go north or south on I-5 from the existing structure with the 90-degree corner.