Tag Archives: roundabout

Don’t stop in a roundabout

The in basket: Dan Calnan says, “So, the latest roundabout head scratcher is the increasing number of people already in a roundabout circle, coming to a full stop and waving in others just approaching from another access.

“I see this most often at the Newberry Hill (roundabout), perhaps because it is relatively new, usually during busy hours. In my opinion, this really slows down the whole operation due to requiring a full stop with subsequent acceleration. I have almost rear-ended such vehicles never dreaming I would encounter this action.

“Funny, I never see people on a freeway come to a full stop and wave on a yield/merger from an on-ramp, just the opposite.

“Not quite as annoying but more common is folks approaching a roundabout and coming to a full stop every time no matter what, before proceeding to merge in. Really backs thing up having to come to a full dead stop behind them. Question, is this illegal or just plain bad driving?”

The out basket: I’m guessing Dan is asking about stopping in a roundabout to let someone enter, not stopping for no reason at one of the entrances. That’s legal, as at any yield point, but stopping when already in a roundabout to let another driver enter is not. If you get rear-ended trying to be courteous (or extra careful) in such a fashion, you’ll likely join the driver that hit you from behind in getting ticketed. Of course, stopping in a roundabout when you or traffic ahead in your lane is yielding to a pedestrian in a crosswalk is not only legal, but required.

Stopping in a road or street anywhere to let another car enter that street is illegal under RCW 46.61.570(1), and roundabouts get special attention in a state Department of Transportation web site on “How to drive a roundabout,” saying bluntly “Do not stop in a roundabout.”

How pending changes will help at Fairgrounds and Central Valley

The in basket: Ralph Gribbin read a recent article about lane projects coming to the intersection of Central Valley and Fairgrounds roads in Central Kitsap, and questioned some of the assertions made. He wrote to me rather than the existing reporting staff.

“The article states ‘vehicles going straight have to wait for vehicles in front of them to turn left who are waiting for those coming from the other direction to go past,” he said. “NOT SO.  Each direction goes independently from the other three directions, and opposing traffic is at a standstill.

“It also quotes a statement supposedly made by Kitsap Public Works project manager Dick Dadisman ‘There is really nothing wrong the roadway other than turn lanes are needed to get the large volume of traffic through the intersection.’”

“Left turn lanes are not going to eliminate ‘waiting’ at the intersection,” Ralph wrote. “The difference will be the sequence in which each of the eight directions will be waiting. Opposing straight through and right turns will go while while those associated left turners and all cross traffic is waiting.

“The $2 million cost for this change could probably be much better spent in other county road repairs,” Ralph said.

I asked the county to comment, adding that I’d heard discussion of replacing the intersection with a roundabout.

The out basket: Dick Dadisman responded in defense of the expenditure, calling it “a safety and operational improvement project.

“This intersection is ranked 33 of 139 on the county’s high accident intersection list,” he said. “Additionally, with three schools nearby and this intersection located on a county bike route, the safety of non-motorized traffic is also a major concern.

“The proposed project will provide left turn channelization on all legs of the intersection, construct a new eight-phase traffic signal, provide widened travel lanes for improved bicycle safety and construct sidewalks with handicap ramps for pedestrians.

“During the planning stage for this project a roundabout was considered, but it was deemed not appropriate for this intersection.  A roundabout typically requires much more land to construct and sufficient right of way does not exist at this intersection. Additionally, the vertical grades on all four legs of this intersection are not conducive for the construction of a roundabout and roundabouts tend to cause safety issues for pedestrians and bicyclists when compared with a traffic signal, sidewalks and curb ramps.

“Mr. Gribbin’s description of the current traffic signal operation is correct in that ‘split phasing’ occurs on all four legs of the intersection.  This split phasing causes long delays making this intersection operate at an unacceptable level of service.

“Mr. Gribbon is also correct in his operational description of the proposed eight-phase traffic signal. Construction of this project proposes new left-turn channelization on all legs in addition to the new traffic signal.

“A traffic study was prepared where the level of service of the intersection was evaluated.  The study indicates the current intersection level of service (LOS) is F with an average control delay of 95.5 seconds in the PM-peak hour.  For the AM-peak hour the intersection operates at a LOS of D with an average control delay of 47.1 seconds.

 

“Adding the proposed left turn channelization and optimizing the proposed traffic signal cycle length with permissive left-turn phasing on the northbound and southbound approaches and with protected left-turn phasing on the eastbound and westbound approaches, the intersection level of service improves to LOS B.  The control delays will also decrease to 16.6 seconds for the PM-peak hour and 15.8 seconds for the AM-peak hour.

“The decreased control delays are due to left turning vehicles moving out of the travel lanes and into the new left-turn lanes, thereby not choking the intersection,” he said.

Permissive left turn phasing uses flashing yellow lights and protected left turns can be made only with a green arrow light.

 

Second Manette Bridge roundabout just speculation for now

The in basket: Reading that city of Bremerton is contemplating creating a roundabout at the downtown end of the Manette Bridge, I studied the site as a passed through it, trying to imagine how a functional roundabout could be squeezed into it. I asked whether it would require cutting into the tall concrete wall with its matching stairwells on its west side, contorting the roundabout into some shape less than round, like the one on Anderson Hill Road in Central Kitsap, or some other strategy.

The out basket: It’s too early to say. The idea remains conceptual, but some preliminary drawings exist. The city recently took delivery of some first-cut drawings from a consultant that looked at how a 45-foot bus and a 50-foot truck would negotiate the roundabout in the space available today.

They showed that neither would be able to make a U-turn going all the way around. Even turning from the bridge onto Washington heading south would be a challenge for such a truck, which would require nearly the entire circle to get through, using the apron around the center as it passed, the drawings showed.

Of course, I don’t know that a 50-foot-long truck could make it all the way around the existing roundabout at the other end of the bridge, or if any truck that long would ever have occasion to use either roundabout. And as Chal Martin, the city’s public works director notes, no U-turn is possible at the existing traffic signal.

I asked Chal what benefits a roundabout would offer in place of the signal. He said, “I love roundabouts, especially for two-lane roads, and especially for three-way intersections like both ends of the Manette Bridge. They are functional and safe.  They handle truck traffic very well, so long as the truck aprons are properly designed to be easily mountable by the rear wheels of the truck. They are quiet – people let up on the gas pedal when they drive through, as opposed to signalized intersections. And they are a great architectural feature for many locations, providing an ‘entrance’ effect for the area or neighborhood.”

That said, he added that trying to create a roundabout at the west end of the bridge won’t occur soon, if ever.

“A couple of years ago the city council authorized a small investment to produce a conceptual design and cost estimate for a roundabout at that location, thinking ahead that this may be an option …  in the future,” Chal said. “There was considerable discussion at the time about installing a roundabout with the Washington Avenue project – but we didn’t have enough money. In the future it is possible that a roundabout could be installed in conjunction with a project that would reconstruct the north end of Washington, around the corner to 11th, and out to Warren Avenue. But that’s for later.

“The council has not made any decisions on such a project yet, and likely there are other projects that the city will pursue before coming back to this one.”

 

Roundabout yield rules are the opposite of standard intersections

The in basket: Joan Dingfield asks, “Can you find out why the yield directions on roundabouts are exactly opposite of what state law states about rights-of-way?

“When cars arrive at an intersection at the same time, it is the car on the right that has the right-of-way. When approaching a roundabout, however, it is the car to your left you need to yield to.”

The out basket: As a practical matter, applying the standard right of way rule to a roundabout would create havoc in them and they’d never get built. Imagine the chaos of drivers stopping to let just one car into the roundabout, let alone a stream of them. Soon the circle would be blocked even if there were no rear-end collisions.

But a formal answer to Joan’s question comes from Brian Walsh, state  highways’ traffic design and operations manager.

“The ‘yield to the right law’ is the rule at a standard intersection where the intersection is considered an  ‘uncontrolled intersection.’ Brian said. “Many neighborhood intersections are typically uncontrolled, therefore the basic rule is for the driver to ‘yield to the vehicle approaching’ from the right when arriving at the intersection.  If an intersection has a stop or yield sign or signal on an approach, it is considered a ‘controlled intersection,”’and the placement of the traffic control defines the rules for drivers.

“Roundabouts are considered controlled intersections that have a ‘yield’ and ‘one-way’ sign on every approach. The ‘one way’ and ‘yield’ signs direct drivers to proceed to the right of the central island, and to yield to anyone already circulating in the roundabout in front of them. The signs are the determining factors, per state statute, in assigning fault in the event of a collision.”

A reader who signed only as Ben offered another possible rationalization in a comment on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com. He notes that state law regarding entering an intersection also says ““…after slowing or stopping, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection…” If a car in a roundabout might be considered “in the intersection,” that might cover it too.

 

Comparing roundabouts and traffic signals

The in basket: Al Shelborne of Kingston wants to know the cost comparison of traffic signals versus roundabouts , such as the one being built at the intersection of Holly Road and Seabeck Highway.

And Cindy Warwick of Seabeck spoke for what I’m sure are a number of skeptics that a roundabout is a good idea there. “Are they crazy?” she asked. “This roundabout thing isn’t going to work.”

The out basket: Cindy didn’t get a lot of comfort from me, as I have come to regard roundabouts as a major improvement in traffic control. Like yellow flashing left turn signals, they save a lot of waiting and idling, from a driver’s perspective. We’ll get to the Kitsap County’s perspective in a moment.

There is a learning curve with both, of course, and my stepdaughter, Ronda Armstrong, who lives out there, says she has seen a few drivers at the under-construction roundabout on Seabeck Highway turn left into it from Holly Road to go toward Silverdale, rather than going around to the right, as is required.

It’s hard to understand how a driver could be that unacquainted with roundabout driving with so many of them being built, so maybe those folks just decided to take advantage of the incompleteness of it all to save a second or two.

Anyway, about comparative costs. The county did a direct comparison of a roundabout and traffic signals before it built the Newberry Hill-Chico Way-Silverdale Way roundabout and found the signals to be slightly more costly. I wrote at the time that that analysis probably wouldn’t persuade a roundabout-hater, as there were a lot of variables and assumptions.

This time, they didn’t bother with such a cost comparison (sorry, Al) , and hang their hat on the greater safety and lower ongoing maintenance and operation costs.

Here’s how Tina Nelson, the county’s senior program manager puts it:

“The county conducts a traffic study for every Roads Capital Improvement Project. Typical study elements for an intersection are operation and safety. The data collected told us that traffic control was needed at the intersection to improve the flow of traffic.

Ronda steps in to put a little meat on the bones of that assertion. She says cars coming toward Holly Road from the north are in a curve and often travel at a speed that leaves those waiting to pull out from Holly Road uncertain whether they dare go in case the approaching driver doesn’t turn right onto Holly, as most of them do. If they guess wrong and pull out, a serious T-bone accident can result

Back to Tina. “Our primary improvement in the past has been to install a signal,” she said. “Now with roundabouts and their advantages, we seriously consider them as an alternate to signals. Roundabouts don’t have the maintenance and operations requirements that signals have and they nearly eliminate severe collisions.

“On the flip side they typically require more land space than a signal does.

“The county policy is that: “When an intersection meets all-way stop and/or signal (criteria), roundabouts should be considered as an alternative. Based on the policy, a roundabout ended up becoming the recommended alternative.

“The traffic study specifically determined that: a roundabout would provide a better flow (operation) of the intersection than a signal and channelization, and that it would offer greater reduction in the frequency of injury crashes, and particularly in severity of crashes,” she said.

 

Roundabout coming to Seabeck Highway & Holly Road

The in basket: My step-daughter, Ronda Armstrong, of the Lake Symington area says there has been trenching work going on where Holly Road ends at Seabeck Highway and the rumor in the area is that a roundabout will be built there.

I found a difficult-to-decipher mention in the county’s six-year road improvement plan (TIP) of $1.6 million in improvements to that intersection in 2015, but no mention of a roundabout. And the weekly road report made no mention of the trenching work when I looked.

The out basket: The rumor is true, says Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works.

“The work being done there currently is under-grounding of utilities in preparation of the intersection improvements next year,” he said. “The project was on the road report previously but slipped off last week. I’ve reposted it.

“The project you referenced in the TIP is the intersection improvement project at that location. Part of that project is determining what improvements would be most effective there. The engineers evaluated different options and a roundabout is considered the best approach to improve that intersection. The rumor is correct!”

The listing in the TIP won’t be modified to show the planned roundabout until the next TIP is approved by the county commissioners at the end of the year.

How soon to stop for a pedestrian in a roundabout

The in basket: After writing recently about peril to pedestrians at the Manette Bridge roundabout in Bremerton, it occurred to me that I hadn’t addressed an issue of interest to motorists.

How soon must a driver stop for a person in a roundabout crosswalk?

The question occurred to me when I saw a pedestrian crossing the large Highway 166 roundabout at what used to be called the Hi-Joy Y in Port Orchard. I was in the lane on the other side of the “refuge island” midway that provides walkers a relatively safe place to wait for a break in traffic. He was a long way from my lane and stopping for him then would have caused a lengthy delay for me and all traffic behind me. I didn’t stop.

The law requires a driver to stop for a pedestrian who is in a crosswalk, marked or unmarked, within one lane of his own. On a two-lane street, stopping is required when the walker enters the street on either side. On a three-lane street, when the walker enters the center lane. On a street with four or more lanes, when the walker enters the lane next to yours.

But what about in a roundabout?

The out basket: There doesn’t appear to be a clear answer to this. As a practical, if not a legal, matter, the size of the roundabout could make the difference.

State Trooper Russ Winger says, “I do not have a definitive answer to this question. I personally think the driver should stop and let the pedestrian cross when they are ready to enter or already in the opposite lane. This ‘refuge island’ is nothing more than a few feet of asphalt and puts a person very near a moving vehicle if the vehicle does not stop.

“I think the roundabout in Manette is a unique example of roundabouts,” he said, “due to the fact that it – at times – has a high volume of pedestrian traffic and (vehicle) traffic at the same time. It is also a very small roundabout with a short radius and the sight distances are not great.

“I have driven in it many times and it seems trickier than most. You have to be alert to traffic and pedestrians at all times. It can be a very busy intersection and I think pedestrian safety is the more important aspect.”

But he conceded he might feel otherwise with a larger roundabout with more room for error. “Rather a gray area with just the one RCW to deal with it,” he said.

As a guide, I might rely on what Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police told me last year about the rules at the Warren Avenue center barrier between Burwell and Sixth Street.. He said motorist should stop for a pedestrian there when the pedestrian is in the gap in the barrier about to enter your lane.

That gap would be comparable to the refuge island in a roundabout.

Roundabout at Central Valley & McWilliams not rated highly

The in basket: Several weeks ago, Laura Turner e-mailed to say the the area around Central Valley Road, McWilliams Road, 64th Street and Holland Road is a dangerous zoo, especially around school quitting time and the afternoon rush hour.  She said Olympic High School students use Holland and 64th as a short cut to McWilliams.

Central Valley and McWilliams had been identified in a Kitsap Sun article a year ago as the 12th most accident prone county intersections.

“We need speed humps on Holland and a crosswalk at the minimum at Central Valley and McWilliams,” Laura said. “There are accidents at this intersection several times a year, yet the country refuses to do anything to help the local residents.  Why is this? ”

I spent some time a couple of afternoons watching this intersection during the last weeks of the school year and had to tell Laura that it seemed unexceptional. Traffic was not very heavy, especially coming out 64th onto Central Valley. One school bus let off one child some distance up McWilliams. I saw one pedestrian, on a skateboard.

But since it was listed as among the county’s most accident prone, I asked county Public Works if there are any plans to make it safer. There’s no mention of it on the county’s six-year-road plan, called the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

The out basket: County Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea says, “Last year we proposed a project to construct a roundabout there.  It did not compete well against other projects and did not make it to the TIP.

“The collision numbers at this intersection are trending down,” he said, “and indications are that it will fall well below the top ten collision intersections.  In 2012 there were no reported collisions at the intersection.”

 

Pedestrians worry at Manette roundabout

 

The in basket: Josh Farley of the paper’s reporting staff told me in March about a Facebook string discussing perils facing pedestrians at the roundabout at the east end of the Manette Bridge. Manette resident Robin Henderson then tracked it down for me.

Joy Gjersvold kicked it off saying, “Good morning, Manette friends! Question for you all: Have you noticed as you enter and exit the traffic circle by the bridge the number of near misses of pedestrians? In the past three weeks I have noticed four incidents where pedestrians were nearly hit even after they waited for a safe moment to cross — using the crosswalk. In all four cases, the vehicles had to come to a screeching halt in order to keep from hitting someone. One of the vehicles was an oil truck. Yikes!

“Is there anything we can do to help make that area a bit safer for the folks out walking, jogging, and biking? My husband and I wish they’d put in the yellow flashing lights when someone is in the crosswalk.”

Catherine Tomko added, “I have noticed it worse coming from West Bremerton side into the circle, those drivers constantly never look, they race to get into the circle, thinking they have the right of way. Then the other one is those coming down from Wheaton Way into the circle, rushing into the circle ahead of any car coming.  I see the drivers in front of me and around me rush into that circle with no regard to the pedestrians. It honestly does make me nervous to walk anywhere around that circle.”

The lively Facebook discussion went on for much of that morning, with several others joining in, adding suggestions of the orange hand-held flags like Port Orchard has available at all its unsignalized crosswalks downtown.

The out basket: The state Transportation Department’s Web site has a lot about driving and walking in roundabouts. It says roundabouts are “designed to be safer for pedestrians than traditional intersections.”

The crosswalks are set farther back from vehicle conflict points and have an island in their center so those on foot can stop half-way across and need watch only one direction of traffic at a time, it says. Speeds often are lower in a roundabout too.

Still, roundabouts demand greater driver attention to meshing with other moving vehicles, so it’s easy to overlook a waiting or walking pedestrian.

I think the Manette one still is haunted my the pre-roundabout decades in which drivers coming off the bridge had the right of way in turning left. Even drivers who know that any traffic entering a roundabout must yield to traffic already in it might think incorrectly that the rules are somehow different at Manette.

Josh Farley and some who joined in the March morning Facenook exchange wondered if there is something that could be done to make the roundabout safer for pedestrians.

The state deferred to the city on that question and Gunnar Fridriksson, Bremerton’s managing engineer for streets, said “The city is reviewing signing associated with the Manette traffic circle and will be making changes with the Lower Wheaton Way project.  Our current focus is on bicyclists’ safety, but we will be reviewing for pedestrians as well.  To date, complaints received for the traffic circle have been bicycle-oriented, I am not familiar with any formal complaints from pedestrians.”

The Lower Wheaton Way project will widen sidewalks and make other improvements from the bridge to Lebo Boulevard.

It’s worth noting that the Port Orchard roundabout doesn’t have the orange flags most of the other unsignalized crosswalks in town do. Public works Director Mark Dorsey says that’s “because the issue and/or request has never come up. “

Has new Silverdale roundabout helped with congestion?

The in basket: When the roundabout Kitsap County built south of Silverdale was being planned, the county said it was a safety project that wouldn’t address congestion. I thought that an odd disclaimer based on my observations of other roundabouts.

Since the project was complete, I’ve been there at rush hour a couple of times and found the traffic to being flowing smoothly, with no more serious backups that I see at the Port Orchard roundabout, which I frequent more often.

Friends who live close by on Chico Way say they have the same impression, that congestion has lessened

I asked the county if their prediction before the project opened was just to keep expectations low or if the roundabout was exceeding their own expectations.

The out basket: Tina Nelson, the county public works senior program manager, says, “During the design phase we were honest with the public about what the project was intended to accomplish, and what it wasn’t going to accomplish, based on studies and data available.

“This was an intersection control/safety project. This project has met our expectations. It is a safer intersection. It is much easier and safer to get to and from Chico Way.

“Those were two of our objectives with the project.  Another was to construct something that we didn’t need to re-construct when we address the capacity of the Silverdale Way corridor in the future.

“As for congestion relief with the new roundabout, we don’t see it.  If there is perception out there that it has relieved congestion, great.  Our impression is the roundabout functions well, and the public has grown accustomed to it.  As the landscaping has established itself, it has become a pleasing and positive gateway as you enter Silverdale.”

What do you readers who frequent the roundabout daily at rush hour think?