Tag Archives: railroad crossing

Westgate Road RR crossing an unneeded obstacle, says reader

The in basket: Ernest Behrle has an idea for how the Navy can help compensate Kitsap County folks for whatever environmental damage results from the new pier it wants to build at the Trident base..

“I live out near Seabeck,” he said, “and the best way to go to Poulsbo and other points north involves (using) Westgate Road.  There are lots of people using this route each day and we all have to stop at the railroad crossing (which wastes fuel, brakes and is an inconvenience) at Westgate Road.  In all the years I’ve been going that route, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a train.”

There are stop signs on each side of the tracks, requiring vehicles to stop.

“I know the Navy was looking for some way to pay this area back for the damage that will be caused by adding another pier at Bangor,” Ernest said. “One thing they could do is to work with the railroad to put in a drop arm to stop car traffic if a train would actually be on the tracks.  The whole purpose of the tracks is for benefit of the sub-base and the Navy.

“Westgate is used by a lot of Navy personnel going in and out of the Bangor gate,” he said.

The out basket: The news coverage I’ve read suggests that Kitsap has much larger fish to fry in seeking mitigation for the pier project, mostly of a shoreline improvement nature. Big Beef Creek and Port Gamble are mentioned. County commissioners also are trying to head off plans to spend the estimated $15 million in mitigation money on the Jefferson County side of Hood Canal.

I asked county public works about chipping out enough to improve the Westgate railroad crossing.

Doug Bear of Public Works said the money to mitigate the new pier’s impacts isn’t available for road projects.

There has been other money available for this kind of project, and two Central Kitsap RR crossing recently have benefited.

“The railroad crossings are managed by the Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad Company,” said County Engineer Jon Brand, “and are under the jurisdiction of the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission. The county received a federal Railway/Highway Crossing Program grant in 2002 for mechanical cross arms at the Seabeck Highway and Newberry Hill crossings and worked with the railroad for those improvements.

“There was also an application filed for Westgate but grant funds were not secured for this location,” Jon said.

Those funds are no longer available, he said. “There is a current round of discretionary federal grant funds available for railroad crossing hazard mitigation, but it is limited to federally designated high speed corridors only.”

School buses at railroad crossings


The in basket: Sharon O’Hara, a frequent commenter on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com, used the comment form to ask a question.

“Why do school buses stop at the railroad crossing on Provost Road in Central Kitsap?

“There is no stop sign there but yesterday I followed three school buses and each in turn, came to a full and complete stop at the crossing.”

The out basket: Another blog commenter who goes by Smoking Mouse leaped in with an answer:

“The buses stop because it is required by law,” he said, even including the text of RCW 46.61.350
“The driver of any motor vehicle carrying passengers for hire, other than a passenger car, or of any school bus or private carrier bus carrying any school child or other passenger, or of any vehicle carrying explosive substances or flammable liquids as a cargo or part of a cargo, before crossing at grade any track or tracks of a railroad, shall stop such vehicle within fifty feet but not less than fifteen feet from the nearest rail of such railroad and while so stopped shall listen and look in both directions along such track for any approaching train, and for signals indicating the approach of a train and shall not proceed until he can do so safely. 

It also says the bus can’t change gears while crossing the tracks. 

Laura Nowland, acting transportation director for Central Kitsap schools, says that law is expanded upon by the Washington Administrative Code, which repeats much of the law and also requires that noise on the school bus be kept down while the driver checks for approaching trains . 

There are exceptions which would allow the CK buses to not stop at some of the district’s RR crossings, but Laura said it is district policy that its school bus drivers stop and look at all railroad crossings except two where traffic signals control the crossing – on Newberry Hill and on Tresher Avenue on the Bangor base.