Tag Archives: school zone

School signage on Ridgetop Boulevard confuses

The in basket: Norm and Karen Kunkel are concerned about how much of Ridgetop Boulevard uphill from Highway 303 is a school zone.

They said they saw a yellow pedestrian crossing sign depicting what appears to be a woman and a child, posted just west of Hillsboro Drive and an “End of School Zone” sign just past the intersection and concluded it was a school zone. Karen told me they have been going 20 mph from there all the way up to the actual school zone at the street leading to Emerald Heights Elementary, even though there are 35 mph speed limit signs posted there.

She said she has talked to people who have gotten a school zone citation somewhere in there.

The “End of School Zone” sign just past Hillsboro no longer is there, Norm said last week.

I asked the county where there are school zones on Ridgetop, what the yellow two-figure sign denotes, and if signage on that stretch of Ridgetop Boulevard had recently been changed.

The out basket: Jeff Shea, traffic engineer for Kitsap County says, “The only school speed zone on Ridgetop Boulevard is on either side of the intersection of Pinnacle Court leading to Emerald Heights Elementary School. There is no school speed limit zone at Hillsboro.

“The School Sign (it is actually 2 students, not an adult and student) which looks like an old school house (5 sided; floor, sides and roof) is actually a warning sign alerting motorists that a school or school crossing is nearby.  It is to warn motorists that they could see school-age children on or near the roadway.  It does not require the motorist to reduce speed.

“The posted speed limit is the legal speed.  Not until you see a rectangular sign with a school speed limit 20, and flashing lights, times, or “when children are present” placards does the speed limit change.

“We recently revisited all school zones county-wide. Some changes to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Devices triggered sign modifications.  The end school zone signs were removed because motorists don’t actually go through the school speed zone.  The directional arrow below the School Sign is new to the MUTCD and denotes that the school zone is around the corner on Hillsboro.

West Kingston Road school zone flashers still operating, says readers

The in basket: Hollace Vaughn asked Wednesday, “Do you know why the flashing lights for school zones is still activated every afternoon even though school is out on West Kingston Road for the middle and high school in Kingston?”

The out basket: Curiously, those flashing lights are controlled by the county signal shop when they are on county roads, such as West Kingston, not by the schools.

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says “Each year we get a schedule from the schools and program the lights accordingly. In this case, we either have a wrong date on the schedule, or we missed it. In either regard we will have a crew go out and look at the situation. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.”

It may no longer be blinking by now.

20 mph zones in Bremerton raise school zone question

The in basket: After one of my intermittent Road Warrior columns about school zones mentioned the 20 mph zone in front of and near Bremerton High School, Joe Keller commented on the blog version at kitsapsun.com, saying “There is no ‘school zone’ in front of the BHS. The speed limit is just 20 mph with marked crosswalks. I’m sure that just adds to the confusion….”

I checked and he appears to be correct, but if so, it raises the question of whether the doubling of the fine and not allowing a judge to reduce the fine, hallmarks of school zone speed citations, apply there.

I’ve since noticed the same situation on Marion Avenue in front of the Bremerton schools administration building.

The out basket: I haven’t gotten a very clear answer and it may be up to the citing officer whether to make it an ordinary speeding ticket or a school zone infraction.

Jerry Hauth, the city’s street engineer, replied, “I went to one of the city attorneys to get this one for you. We both thought that it seemed logical the double fines would apply, regardless of the posting (or not). However, reading the (state law), it references creating a ‘School or playground speed zone,’ then goes on to reference the double penalties. Having a ‘speed zone,’ certainly implies that it has been posted.”

Next I asked Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police if his traffic officers have instructions as to how to cite excessive speed there.

Pete answered, “ I just checked Marion and the high school.  Both zones are posted 20 mph and have school crosswalk signs.  There is no school zone specific signs, except the school crosswalk signs so I am unsure how a judge would rule.

“If an officer cited the school zone violation when children were present, I think there is a strong argument that it is within the scope of 46.61.440.  However, if it is 10 p.m and no school function was occurring, I do not think that would be justifiable.”

So…have any of you readers been stopped for speeding in either place, and what was the citation, and the outcome in court, if you took it that far?

Reader wonders about extra Esquire Hills school zone

The in basket: Matt Clous writes, “Esquire Hills Elementary has a properly marked school zone on John Carlson Road. A quarter-mile west from the school is a marked pedestrian crosswalk – the intersection is also marked as a school zone, yet there is no visible school nearby. What’s up with that?”

The out basket: This takes me back to my efforts to explain the school zone on Sedgwick Road (a state highway) at Converse Avenue in South Kitsap early last year, which a reader insisted was not legal under terms of the law that allows school zones, because it was more (way more) than 300 feet from Hidden Creek Elementary. I never did get a satisfactory explanation, but after that reader, Dave Dahlke, got state Sen. Jan Angel involved, the zone was removed and replaced by horizontal flashing lights at the crosswalk on Sedgwick.

The one of John Carlson is on a county road, so I asked county Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea, “what’s up with that?” I sent along a copy of my column on the Sedgwick zone.

Jeff said, “As you point out in your (column), there are two distinct applications at play here.  First is the school boundary.  The law states that a school speed zone can be established 300 feet from the school itself.  The second part of the law allows the establishment of a school speed zone 300 feet on either side of a marked school crossing.  The school crossing doesn’t have to be at the school itself.

“If the school and county determine that a student walking route warrants a marked school crossing that crossing can be controlled by a 20 mph school zone.”

 

New wrinkle in school zone speed control coming

The in basket: I get frequent complains about the inconsistency in the form of school zone speed control, with some specifying certain hours of enforceability, others “when children are present,” others accompanied by flashing lights that indicate enforceability and some, like those at Bremerton High School, active 24-7.

Now I see a new wrinkle that strikes me as almost zany and likely to be counter-productive.

I was driving past Burley-Glenwood Elementary School and saw one sign saying school zone 20 mph, then another a hundred feet or so beyond saying the same, but “when lights are flashing” was added. I saw the same thing in both directions.

On a second look, I saw that the first signs in each pair had an upward arrow above them. That’s what we see on signs warning of a speed limit reduction coming up. So they warned of the upcoming school zone, as if the flashing lights on the other clearly visible signs wasn’t warning enough.

I made a mental not to ask what on earth had happened there to warrant such overkill. Then I saw the same pairs of signs on Mullenix Road at Mullenix Ridge Elementary.

Well, I thought, sounds like some new demand had come down from above.

What strikes me as zany is that if the lights aren’t flashing at either school, the 20 mile per hour limit isn’t in effect, despite the warning sign. And if it is in effect, the flashing lights call  plenty of attention to the fact.

The out basket: Blame the federally directed Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer, says, “This is a new requirement of the MUTCD.  If the posted speed limit on a road is 10 mph higher than the school zone speed, 20 mph, the Manual states a Reduced School Speed Limit Ahead warning sign should be installed to alert motorists of the upcoming speed zone.  This is the new warning sign that precedes the zone.  It doesn’t trigger the 20 mph zone, it warns motorists that the zone is ahead.”

Doug Bear of county public works adds, “We are looking at each application and we will install the signs as warranted. The Mullenix signs went in in March, the Lakeway signs were installed in October.”

Seems to me the warning signs installed before one can see the actual school zone sign, especially those with flashing lights, would make a lot more sense.

Jeff replied, “Several warning sign types are used to do just as you suggest; alert the motorist of an unseeable condition ahead.  School Bus Stop Ahead, Stop Sign Ahead, and Signal Ahead are this type of warning signs.  We only install them if the condition is obscured by a curve or other object that blocks visibility.  Another type is simply a pre-warning sign of an upcoming road condition. The advanced speed limit change and the advanced school zone speed signs are this type.  With the larger speed differential it allows motorists a little more time to adjust his or her speed prior to the speed change or zone.”

 

Is that a school zone on Sedgwick Road?

The in basket: Dave Dahlke of South Kitsap thinks the school zone on Sedgwick Road at Converse Avenue is not allowed by state law.

“RCW 46.61.440 (2) states the qualifications for such a zone,” he said, quoting from section 2 of that law, which reads.

“A county or incorporated city or town may create a school or playground speed zone on a highway bordering a marked school or playground, in which zone it is unlawful for a person to operate a vehicle at a speed in excess of 20 miles per hour. The school or playground speed zone may extend three hundred feet from the border of the school or playground property; however, the speed zone may only include (an) area consistent with active school or playground use’.

“This school zone is nowhere near Hidden Creek Elementary School,” he said. “I have to believe that powers to be are using these lights to allow school buses easier access to Sedgwick since they don’t want to travel out to Bethel and then to Sedgwick.  This seems to me to violate the intent of the RCW.  If the intent was to allow students to walk to school across Sedgwick then I believe a flashing sidewalk should be used, as is used at the Jackson Avenue/ Lund Avenue park.”

The out basket: Dave raised this question Oct. 1 and three months of intermittent inquiries to the state office of public instruction, SK schools, police agencies and the state highway department haven’t provided a clear answer.

Dave didn’t mention the law’s Section 1, which precedes the section he cites and says it is, “unlawful for the operator of any vehicle to operate the same at a speed in excess of 20 miles per hour when operating any vehicle … when passing any marked school or playground crosswalk when such marked crosswalk is fully posted with standard school speed limit signs … The speed zone at the crosswalk shall extend 300 feet in either direction from the marked crosswalk.”

The term school zone isn’t mentioned until Section 2. And the conflicting use of the words “shall” and “may’ as regards the 300-foot distance of the speed restriction gives the impression that two paragraphs were written without regard to making them agree.

Nathan Olson, who handles transportation issues for the SPI’s office, told me, “Are we doing a bit of parsing here? As I read 46.41.440 (1), I see that it allows for a “school … crosswalk.” Is that the same thing as a “school zone,” or is it a crosswalk designed to keep kids safe as they cross a busy highways? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. I’ll do some digging.”

It’s hard to believe, given the doubling of the fine for speeding in a school zone and the law’s prohibition of reducing it in court, that this issue hasn’t been adjudicated somewhere. Sedgwick isn’t the only place with a school zone removed from the school. Just in this county, Bremerton has one on Sylvan Way and there used to be one on Finn Hill Road in Poulsbo.

But Nathan’s digging, which included a call to the state transportation department, produced no clarification of the legal underpinnings of school zones not adjacent to schools.

Dave even heard directly from Steve Bennett, the state’s traffic operations engineer for this area, but he essentially just restated the question.

“You are correct,” he wrote. The zone was put into place over a decade ago to facilitate the crossing of the highway by children going to and from Hidden Creek Elementary.  Hidden Creek however,  is 2,100 feet from the highway.”

So I guess the bottom line is that unless you want to pay a double fine or argue in court that that’s a school zone and the law doesn’t allow for such school zones, I’d say you should do what the sign says.

Speed study confuses Rocky Point school zone rules

The in basket: Corinne White is mystified by speed controls in the school zone on Rocky Point Road and Marine Drive in front of Crownhill Elementary School in Bremerton.

Flashing yellow lights to indicate when the 20 mile per hour speed limit was in effect were deployed there early this year. But now a lighted radar trailer the tells a driver how fast he or she is going has been stationed just after the sign for traffic coming off of Rocky Point. It has a painted School Zone 20 mph sign mounted on it.

The speed reading flashes in blue on and off for a vehicle traveling over 20, until about 25 above which it instead flashes “Slow Down” in bright red.

She hasn’t seen the yellow flashers working when she passes them and wonders if they are inactive.

“According to the non-blinking light, that would make the speed limit 25 so I shouldn’t have to slow down. I was happy when I saw the blinking light towers go in, as I thought the (previous) signs telling you to go 20 for almost the entire day seemed asinine, but they never removed the one you see when you are headed north, and the blinking lights don’t seem to be active.

“I don’t understand what they are trying to accomplish there. Should we be going 20 most of the time as the sign and radar trailer indicate? Or can we do 25 unless the yellow blinking lights are active?

“Help? I can’t be the only resident of the area that is baffled by this.”

She also thinks the unlighted time-specific school zone sign back by the Methodist church on Marine Drive conflicts with information on the flashing yellow signs.

The out basket: Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police says the trailer is conducting a speed study to see if the flashing yellow lights have made a difference. The flashing yellow lights do still work when children are afoot in the area, and the speed limits are as before, regardless of the trailer.

The lights flash from 8:30 to 9:00 in the morning and from 3:30 to 4:00 in the afternoon. except Wednesday afternoon  when they flash from 1:30 – 2:00 because of early dismissal, Patty Glaser of the school district says.

The trailer records the speed of each vehicle that passes it, Pete Fisher said, along with the day and time. It records nothing about the vehicle, including license number, and isn’t used to enforce the speed limit.

It flashes the red “Slow Down” sign above 24 mph because some drivers regard the display as a challenge to see how fast they can go, so high speeds aren’t shown.

Pete said the trailer is used all over the city, often after citizen complaints about speeders, to determine the best time to assign an officer to patrol there.

He said he referred Corinne’s message about the possible conflict of the time-certain and flashing light signs to the city engineers’ office for review.

 

 

 

Marine Drive school zone to be tweaked

The in basket: Liz DuBois, who lives on one of the side streets along Marine Drive in Bremerton, wasn’t too impressed with my March column about the new school zone flashers just off Marine Drive on Rocky Point Road.

“O.K,” she wrote, “your column answered the question of ‘what are they,’ but now, where do they leave us?  Are the residents on Marine Drive still being held hostage by the metal signs that inform us that this is a school zone 365+ days of the year?

“As long as those signs remain in place, I’m assuming drivers on Marine Drive are still restricted to 20 mph from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every single day of the year,” she said. “Or will those signs come down, hopefully within our lifetime?  Where does the restriction end on Marine Drive?

“We feel like hostages in our own city…and we’re tired of this!  Who thought up this mess anyway?”

The out basket: Liz’ criticism of the column is well deserved, but I can bring a little good news this time around.

The Bremerton schools’ acquisition of money for the flashers has spurred the city to review the restriction, which Liz describes accurately. The school zone stretches from the church school a short distance from Kitsap Way all the way to the downgrade past Rocky Point Road. It’s the longest school zone I can recall.

The flashers impose the 20 mph zone where Marine Drive wraps around onto Rocky Point Road, and only when they are blinking.

The Marine Drive zone, on the other hand,  is in effect nine hours a day, every day.

Gunnar Fridriksson, Bremerton’s managing street engineer, says, “Unless we receive a complaint, accident history, change in federal/state law, etc…, we tend to leave things be. What precipitated our review here was the school district receiving a grant to purchase the beacons. The last time we were out was about 8-10 years ago.

“As time is available, we are planning to return and make additional sign modifications to the existing.  This will include a better definition of the school hours, including that they are Monday through Friday.  Give us a couple more weeks, you should be seeing changes shortly.”

They aren’t likely to make the zone any shorter though, he said.

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Bremerton schools get into flashing school zone sign business

The in basket: Tom Baker of the city of Bremerton electronics shop keeps me informed about new things we’ll be seeing in the city and recently wrote, “The Bremerton School District is having the city install solar power school speed zone flashers for three schools, on Sylvan, Naval and Marine Drive.

“I welcome these signs that will indicate when the speed limit is 20 mph, instead of the blanket 20 mph 7:30 a.m  to 4 p.m. seven days a week,” Tom added.

The out basket: I got a little over-excited about this, as I envisioned one of those next-generation signs that blink themselves,  like the stop sign Kitsap County has installed on Fairgrounds Road at Old Military. And any change at the interminable school zone on Marine Drive would be an improvement.

It turns out the flashers are just the twin beacons, one above and the other below the school zone sign, that flash at designated intervals around the start and end of school. They are quite common and, in fact, the Sylvan Way Baptist school just down the hill from the Sylvan Way location of the View Ridge school zone has had them for some time.

But they turn out to be somewhat newsworthy, as Patty Glaser of the Bremerton School District says they are the first for her district. And they hope to add more soon.

“We applied for a Washington Traffic Safety Commission grant about a year ago,” Patty said, “and received notification of funding approval this last summer.  When we finally received notification of the funding, the vendor was going through some changes, which delayed the start of the project.  Our hope was to have the project completed before school started but the delays prevented that from happening.”

The beacons are up now.

The three school zones are Crownhill Elementary, Naval Avenue Early Learning Center (as the elementary school is known these days) and View Ridge Elementary.  “When another grant cycle opens, we will be applying for additional funds for Kitsap Lake and Mountain View Middle School,” Patty said.

“The beacon at Marine Drive and Rocky Point will be moved as it should have been placed closer to Dora.  We are hoping to add another at Crownhill if we receive additional grant funding during the next round which I believe is later in 2014 or early 2015,” she said.

Highway 308 school zone to be clarified

The in basket: George Sovde wrote in March and again this month to say, “Driving west on SR 308 as you approach Central Valley Road there is a school zone speed limit light. I understand that the school is to the south on Central Valley Road.
“But if you keep going west on 308 there is no end school zone sign.
Or a speed sign telling you that you have left the school zone.

“The only speed limit sign is way past the intersection on the way to Keyport, when it changes to 50 mph.
“The other direction you would assume the speed limit changes when you hit the stop light at Silverdale Way.”

The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways says, “We have ordered two ‘End School Zone’ signs that will be delivered in a few months to install in that area.

“Our older standards allowed us to either use an End School Zone sign or a speed limit sign to indicate the end of a school zone.  We’ve always had a speed limit sign near there, but the new signage will help clarify the beginning and ending points of the school zone.”

She said the existing speed limit sign is farther away than it should be and will be moved closer to Central Valley Road when the new school zone signs go up.