Tag Archives: South Kitsap

SK distracted drivers get task force attention

The in basket: When I saw a Bremerton police black and white patrol car pull out of a side road on Mile Hill in South Kitsap Monday about 10:15 a.m., I thought it mildly curious. When I saw it again or one just like it making a traffic stop on Highway 166 near the Banana Hammock expresso stand in Port Orchard about an hour later, my curiosity was piqued.

It lasted only until I got back on my computer and found a tweet from State Trooper Russ Winger saying, “‘Hopefully, you won’t meet one of these officers in South Kitsap today,” accompanied by a photo of 11 uniformed officers.

He was touting the distracted driving emphasis patrol being done between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday, just in SK.

Marsha Master of the county’s Traffic Safety Commission said the 11 were working the south end with an eye out specifically for drivers not paying attention to what they were doing. I imagine cell phone use and texting generated most of the stops made, but personal grooming and eating were candidates.

Marsha had gotten only one anecdote about a stop by Thursday, and it was off-topic. An officer heard chains dragging on the pavement in Gorst which called his attention to a driver towing a trailer without his safety chains secured to prevent his trailer from getting away .

Reports from the officers received by Thursday detailed 80 or so stops during the four hours, and she expected it would total more than 100 when she gets them all. She hadn’t counted how many citations were issued, she said.

Those officers will be doing another one on Bainbridge Island on April 18, a countywide seat belt emphasis on May 18, and a speed emphasis around June 1.

She drove around watching some of the stops Monday,  and the drivers pulled over seemed more chagrined than angry, she said.

There were reports Monday of a lockdown at South Kitsap High School (unfounded) and just a lot of police activity near the high school. I couldn’t find out what it was about, but maybe it was young texters and cell phone users getting the attention they need.

Fatalities on Glenwood Road prompt past and future improvements

The in basket: Christine Larsen of Lake Helena Road writes, “My concern is about Glenwood Road (in South Kitsap). With the death on that road (in November), I have counted at least 7-8 deaths in separate accidents of mostly young people since I moved here in 1997. That just seems like a high rate for a country road. Every time it happens, I wonder if someone is going to look into why it’s so frequent.
“I’d be very interested,” Christine said, “to breakdown the causes of the fatalities on Glenwood in the last 20 years or so and attempt to determine what the dangerous factors are. Obviously speed is one of them. I am guessing the curvy road and large trees are another, but is there anything else that these accidents have in common?
Also curious if the road department has any idea of what could help. Barriers on corners? A safer wall than the large brick one where Glenwood T’s with Lake Flora? Slower speeds? More warning signs?”
The out basket: Jeff Shea, traffic engineer for Kitsap County, which owns the road, says, “We have collision records back to 1992.  Between then and now our records show nine fatal collisions with 10 fatalities along the eight miles of Glenwood Road.  This does not include the most recent collision.

“’Had been drinking’ was noted on the collision report for six of the nine reported collisions.  Excessive speed was also listed on some of them.  Five of the collisions were run-off-the-roads at curves and straightaways, and only one of those didn’t involve alcohol. Two collisions involved a motorist pulling out in front of another vehicle, and in both of those cases alcohol was involved.

“Except for the Lake Flora intersection, there is no other location where more than one fatal collision occurred.

In 2004 and then again in 2009 motorists failed to stop for the Lake Flora stop sign and fatally crashed into the concrete block wall. Neither driver had been drinking. There were no skid marks noted on the collision reports, so there is no indication the drivers made an attempt to stop before hitting the wall.

“The intersection has a large conspicuous stop sign and advanced warning stop ahead sign, along with street lighting at the intersection. Since the drivers died at the scene, it was impossible to determine why they missed the stop sign.

“The block wall is there to support a large cut slope on which a house sits not too far from the wall.  Cutting the slope back significantly would require moving the house.

“Furthermore, I am not certain we could build a wall of any material that would prevent a fatality if struck by a car going 40 mph.”

Glenwood Road is listed on the county Transportation Improvement Program for $2.6 million in improvements to include widening it, paving its shoulders and intersection improvements, between Wildwood and JH roads, to be done in 2016.

Previous work, in 2004, was done between JH Road and Lider Road, included widening of the travel lanes to 12 feet, eight-foot shoulders, six feet of which are paved, some flattening of rises in the travel lanes, and a two-way turn lane between Lake Flora and Lider. It included storm water management and fish passage enhancement work, too.

“Every two years we evaluate our collision records and determine trouble spots,” Jeff said. “We evaluate the high accident locations for safety improvements such as signs, lighting and guardrail just to mention a few safety measures we use.”


Huge Bethel Road project not proceeding soon

The in basket: Rance McEntyre and Richard Hood probably speak for thousands of South Kitsapers when they ask whether anything will be done soon to making Bethel Road south of Lund Avenue an easier place to drive.

Rance said last August, “I have heard over the years that the Bethel Corridor would receive an upgraded and/or be paved with turn lanes and beautify the area.

“Bethel Road is one of the worst roads most of us travel and is a major thoroughfare;. The road is full of cracks, dips, manhole plates and holes and literally shakes your car around while traveling. I am glad I don’t ride a motorcycle on this road!

“There are no turn lanes with drivers slamming on brakes and swerving onto the shoulders, causing near accidents near and around Salmonberry and Bethel Square. I ask this of our county government, when will we get a new and improved roadway?”

Richard said he was rear-ended on Bethel at Salmonberry in July, after barely stopping in time to avoid the car in front of him. There were no injuries and little damage, but he said, “I do not know the accident statistics on that stretch of Bethel, but I do wonder if there are any plans to add center lanes for turning traffic in the foreseeable future?

“The road has always seemed dangerous to me for drivers going in and out of traffic, and today made me scratch my head about it a little bit more,” he said.

The out basket: It’s no longer a Kitsap County project, as the road and its surroundings have been annexed into Port Orchard.

The city’s Public Works Director Mark Dorsey tells me the long-awaited improvements to Bethel are not imminent. The best he hopes for is about $200,000 worth of grinding out the worst pavement and replacing it, perhaps next year, “to at least address the poor road surface condition.”

“The Bethel plan has been designed and reviewed over 15 years, most recently in 2006,” he said. “We’ve inherited a very large problem to deal with, and first we must redesign the plan to break it into phases we can get funding for. And we must acquire the right of way, because the county didn’t.”

He wants to compare the costs and aesthetics of using roundabouts, which would look nicer, he said.

He sees no little federal money available to help. “Future federal funding is much more restrictive and/or risky,” he said. “Under MAP 21 rules, the city may not be able to accept (federal) grant funding for the redesign, environmental review or right-of-way acquisition.

“With luck, possibly the redesign (doubt it) in 2014, as well,” Mark said.

MAP-21 is shorthand for Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, a $105 billion “surface transportation” program signed into law by President Obama last July.

In the meantime, Mark is trying to find the money to proceed with two roundabouts on Tremont Street at Pottery Avenue and South Kitsap Boulevard, a project the city has had on the drawing boards almost as long as the county had the Bethel Corridor before surrendering it to the city.



Mullenix Road upgrade at 25 mph is tough for trucks

The in basket: Way back in May, Charles Dick got a ticket from a state trooper in the 25 mph zone on a short stretch of Mullenix Road in South Kitsap between Highway 16 and Bethel-Burley Road. He felt that whatever the need is for the reduced speed, it begins at a difficult place for drivers.

“It seems unusual to have a 25 mph limit start at the bottom of the hill instead at the top,” he said. “I realize that the traffic needs to slow down before the stop sign (on Bethel-Burley), but there is a sign for that stop ahead also.

“If I start at 25 mph at the bottom of the hill, it is hard to maintain speed in my old pickup without shifting down. Most people will get a slight ‘run’ at the bottom of a hill in order to maintain speed at the top.

“The speed limit is 35 just under the freeway,” he said, “and reduces to 25 just before the bottom of the hill.  I talked with truck drivers who drive for Morrison Gravel, and they have a tough time getting to the top of the hill when slowing to 25 at the bottom, and have been cited several times for going over the speed limit.

“This has become a LUCRATIVE SPEED TRAP. There is a police officer there almost any morning of the week, writing tickets as fast as they can get repositioned.  They picked my speed at the bottom of the hill, right at the sign.” He said a patrol motorcycle trooper and one in a patrol car work together there.

“The 25 mph limit was installed,along with a school bus stop sign, in the late 60’s or early 70’s when there were children living in a home halfway up the hill.  One of the homes is long gone, and according to the South Kitsap bus schedule, there are no stops between the freeway and Bethel Burley Road.  It seems that the 25 mph sign could be moved to the top of the hill, and still allow drivers to slow for the stop.”

I asked Kitsap County Public Works about Charles’ idea and the state patrol about why it might have concentrated on a short stretch of county road.

The out basket: Jeff Shea, the county’s traffic engineer, replied, “The speed limit on that segment of Mullenix Road was set in 1974. We generally review speed limits only when there is some significant change in the roadway, such as increased collision rate, large development along roadway, or change in roadway geometrics.

“There has been little or no change in those areas since the original speed limit was set. The limited sight distance over the hill may have been a consideration in the lowered speed limit there. We do not plan any changes at this time.”

Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the State Patrol here, said, “I have spoken with our two motorcycle troopers about this issue. Neither trooper works this so-called ‘speed trap’ roadway on a regular basis.

“While the WSP focuses primarily on state highways, focusing often on identified problem areas, our troopers do occasionally proactively enforce violations on county roadways. Troopers transit the roadways, both county and state, and enforce the law in many places.

“We often investigate collisions on county roadways and it follows that enforcement to help prevent those collisions is warranted. The section of road you describe may be scarcely populated but it is certainly not scarcely traveled. The residents who live along this section of roadway have a valid expectation that vehicles traveling here will be doing the posted limit when they are pulling out of driveways or slowing to turn into them.

“It seems obvious from his response that Jeff Shea, as well as Kitsap County, feel that the speed limit is warranted in the area and are taking some enforcement in the area as well,” Russ said.

I called Morrison’s and Ken Morrison said though he’s unaware of any of his employees getting a ticket there in one of their trucks (he knows of one cited in his private car), he agrees that the 25 mph limit is too slow on that hill.

I asked him if he thought the state patrol was there because of his trucks, and he said no.

Short South Kitsap road needs striping, reader argues

The in basket: Chris Olmstead of South Kitsap asks, “Is there any law that says a road needs painted lines?  Harris Road has zero pained lines since it was paved nearly two years ago.

Harris Road is a straight shot between Lund Avenue and Salmonberry Road.
“The lack of a middle line creates a hazard when drivers drive in the middle of the road,” Chris said. “At night, the lack of lines makes seeing the corner at Harris and Lund (difficult). Some of the side of the road have been driven on.”

The out basket: Chris is mostly right, although there is about 20 yards of well-worn centerline stripe on Harris near Salmonberry Road.

Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer, says, “The only mandates we have for striping are on paved urban arterials and collectors with traffic volumes of 6,000 cars per day.  The (federal) Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices states 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 is classified a local access road with a posted speed limit of 25 mph,” Jeff said. “Traffic volumes on the road are only about 1,000 vehicles per day.



X marks the school bus

The in basket: As a South Kitsap school bus turned right while I sat at the Woods Road stop signal on Mile Hill Drive, I noticed a large white X on a black background on its side.

I’d never noticed it before and it seemed vaguely ominous. I subsequently saw other letters of the same kind on other SK buses, and one in Bremerton.

I asked their meaning.

The out basket: Here’s another measure of how far removed from my school days I am at age 68. Jay Rosepepe, transportation director for SK schools, said letters have been on the sides of their buses for about four years, supplementing the numbers that differentiated the buses when I was in school.

They are magnetic and can be moved from bus to bus. It eliminates confusion among the students when a bus has to be pulled out of regular service for maintenance or to carry students out of district, such as for athletics.

Something like it began 15 years ago in the district, when cardboard placards that serve the same purpose were displayed in the bus window or windshield. They got the idea for the magnetized metal ones from Bremerton School District, he said.

They’re used only on the district’s 48 large buses. They already need two letters on about half the buses to avoid duplication, and adding the smaller buses would require three-letter sets. Besides, the close relationship between the drivers and the often-disabled youngsters who ride the small buses reduces possible confusion by itself.

They still use bus numbers, but that’s usually for administrative purposes or in radio communications with the vehicles, he said.

Salmonberry Road upgrades depend on a couple of things

The in basket: Richard Brooks wonders when Salmonberry Road in South Kitsap will be repaved. It has needed resurfacing since 1965, he said, and gets patched about six times a year.

The out basket: Salmonberry is a peculiar looking road, in that the eastbound lane is in pretty good shape but the westbound lane is a mess. Most of those patch jobs Richard mentions must have been in that lane.

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public works says it has a chip seal surface, which involves pouring gravel over hot oil and letting traffic compact it into a paved surface. That was last done in 1972.

The county’s biannual rating of Salmonberry had it at 55 on a scale of 100 in 2010. It will be rated again this year. If it has dropped below 49, it will get a new chip seal, Doug said.

The county plans to do a $100,000 study in 2013 of widening the lanes of Salmonberry and building sidewalks from Bethel Road to Jackson, but the actual work doesn’t appear on the county’s road plan, which goes out to 2017.

About $700,000 in improvements to Jackson Avenue’s intersection with Salmonberry is on the road plan for 2017.



Guardrail changes in Harper raise eyebrows

The in basket: “Goolsby Snitworthy, who drives along Southworth Drive daily” (really, that’s what he wants to be called), writes, “Perhaps you could have your county road contacts explain to the folks why, as part of the reconstruction of Southworth Drive between the Harper Dock and Olympiad Drive, guard rails have been added along sections where they were not before and removed from other sections where they were before.

“It appears illogical to we non-road experts, but I suppose the county experts have what they think is a logical explanation for the guard rail changes.  I am certain others are puzzled by this development,” he said.

The out basket: I, too, was surprised that most of the project’s frontage, up against which the tide laps at high tide, has no guard rail, including in places that used to have it.

And, yes, the county does have an explanation.

Jeff Shea, county traffic engineer, says not all the planned guardrail has been installed yet but not every place that had it before will have it replaced.

Cones along the waterside shoulder from the Harper Dock south to Cambridge Road show where guardrail has yet to be installed, 270 feet of it. They’ve decided the need to bolt that guardrail to the seawall requires a special design being done now. That will add about $40,000 to the work, says Senior Program Manager Tina Nelson in public works..

“Guardrail itself is a hazard to motorists, especially motorcycles and bicycles,” Jeff said. “Guardrail is generally placed because it presents less hazard than the obstacle behind it,” in this case, water.

“Past guardrail locations do not necessarily dictate replacing a guardrail, if it is removed,” he said. The only other stretch of guardrail in the completed project, nearer Olympiad Drive, is required by the combination of the height of the rock wall behind it and the potential depth of water there, said Tina Nelson.

“We’ve researched our records and, other than vehicles that have hit the guardrail at the curve at the dock, there are no reported collisions with the guardrail previously placed there,” Jeff said.

“Environmental regulations and restrictions limit what can be done at that location. We are evaluating other methods, including barrier curbs and/or signs and markings, that can help delineate the road edge.”

One such change was approved by the county commissioners on Nov. 8. A suggestion of Commissioner Charolotte Garrido, it provides $52,352 to paint the shoulders brownish red when weather allows in the spring, says Tina. There is anecdotal evidence the visual impact of painted shoulders can slow traffic, she said. Neighbors who fought the widening often said they think it will increase speeds there.

Tina says even with the added cost of the painted shoulders, special guardrail design and reinforcement of the sea wall, the project will come in around $800,000, about $200,000 less than originally expected.

Blind corner on SK’s Mountain View Drive

The in basket; Twyla Cottrell of Mountain View Road in South Kitsap has been trying for a long time to get a sign posted on her road that will be more alarming to speeding drivers.

There is almost no sight distance to the left  of cars coming from the direction of Collins Road at the driveway she shares with others, she said.  There is a yellow sign just around the corner reading “Limited Sight Distance” with “20 mph” below it, but the sign is routinely ignored, endangering anyone pulling out of their driveway. A neighbor has a horse trailer, which takes a while to get moving, she said.

She advises visitors who are leaving to turn right no matter which way they want to go, then double back if they wanted to go left, rather than take a chance that a car might come around the arcing curve as they pull out.

I advised her to get a parabolic mirror such as I see out on North Shore Road in Mason County where sight distance is short. They have put one up across the road from their driveway, she said, but it’s still a dangerous place.

She’d like a sign reading “Danger” or something that would get more drivers’ attention.

The out basket: I sat in her driveway for several minutes recently and noticed three things:

A. The mirror isn’t that much help and you’re lucky to get three seconds warning between when you see a car coming and its arrival.

B. There is very little traffic. Two minutes can go by without a car passing.

C. You can hear a car coming long before you can see it.

Jeff Shea, traffic engineer for Kitsap County, says there are other words they can use under federal guidelines, but neither “Danger” nor Hazard” are used. Even if they were, the sign would have to be the same advisory black-on-yellow as the Limited Sight Distance sign that’s already there.

“Hidden Driveways” used to be an approved message in such situations, he said, but the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices no longer authorizes its use. Studies showed it did nothing to change driver behavior, Jeff said.

He also said, “We use as few words as possible on the sign face to provide motorists with plenty of time to read and react to it. Too many words require smaller fonts making it difficulty reading and requiring drivers to focus more time reading than driving. We are seeing more and more signs in the MUTCD using symbols and eliminating words all together.

“We do not install or maintain warning signs at privately owned approaches,” he said. “Existing data shows these signs are not always understood, and do little to change motorists’ behavior. Placing too many warning signs tends to degrade the limited impact they have.”

I told Twyla she and her neighbors might appeal to the county commissioners. Beyond that, her advice about turning right seems sound, and I’d suggest turning off the vehicle radio and rolling down the driver-side window while waiting to turn, to improve audibility of oncoming traffic.

How’s a driver to know he’s entering that school zone?

The in basket: Jim Cole writes that the school zone on Sedgwick Road at Converse Avenue in South Kitsap is an unfair speed trap for those on Converse.

“While driving west on Sedgwick,  I noticed a sheriff parked in a driveway just past Converse,” he said back in late May.  “The school zone lights were flashing on Sedgwick. OK, 20 mph.

“A car pulled out of Converse and turned left towards Bethel. I noticed in my mirror the sheriff pulled out, lights on, behind the car that just turned left out of Converse. I thought to myself, I don’t think there’s flashing lights on Converse approaching the intersection.

“Later in the week,” Jim continued, “I traveled Converse and, sure enough, there is an ‘end of school zone’ sign (at the end of the school zone at the school itself) but no warning that you are approaching another school zone at Sedgwick.  The flashing lights for Sedgwick face east and west and are not visible from Converse.

“I though to myself  “If this isn’t a trap what is.  It’s certainly unfair that our citizens may be sited for a zone that is unmarked on Converse.”

The out basket: A newcomer to the area wouldn’t know about  the school zone he’s approaching when northbound on Converse, and even someone aware of the zone wouldn’t know whether the signs’ lights were flashing or not.

There’s no way of knowing why the sheriff’s deputy Jim saw made the stop. It could have been anything from expired tabs to rolling through the stop sign to peeling out dangerously to the car’s having been stolen.

I suggested to Jim that a driver would really have to step on it to be over 20 mph before reaching the end of the Sedgwick school zone, but he didn’t buy it. He tested it and at his suggestion, I did too, and I found it’s easy to be at 30 mph from a standing and turning start at Converse while still in the zone.

There used to be a comparable situation on Finn Hill Road at Rhododendron Lane in North Kitsap, near Vinland Elementary. County public works removed it at the sheriff’s office request because it would have needed some further improvement to be enforced, Doug Bear of public works said.

Anyway, here is what two law enforcement agencies most likely to be patrolling Sedgwick Road have to say about the Sedgwick zone.

From Krista Hedstrom, spokesman for Washington State Patrol in Bremerton:

“It is up to drivers to be aware of the speed limits on the roads they drive, and if they do not know, they should drive at a reasonable safe speed until they see a speed limit sign.

“Most school zones are clearly marked and most drivers are aware that they are in one – especially when yellow lights are flashing.  If a driver was stopped and they explained that they had pulled out of a side street and did not see a sign, I would take that into consideration when choosing whether or not to issue an infraction.

“That does not necessarily mean that lack of knowledge is an excuse for getting out of a ticket, but it is good information to know and can always be used to determine if there is a location that is better suited for the posting of a speed limit sign.”

From Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office: “For this specific situation, the issue of ‘speeding’ in a school zone is not enforceable.

“A law enforcement officer must witness a vehicle exceeding the posted speed limit in a school zone after the vehicle passes a school zone warning sign.

“Traffic enforcement officers in the sheriff’s office are aware of this particular intersection and the fact that the specific situation indicated above is not enforceable.  They also are aware of and remember the similar situation on NW Finn Hill Road.”