Tag Archives: Washington

When is a one-way street a one-way street?

The in basket: Elaine Henderson sent a typed letter (it’s been a long time since the Road Warrior has gotten one of those) to ask “Is it ever permissible to make a LEFT TURN on a RED LIGHT after making sure the cross street is clear of traffic?

“Yesterday I was driving east on Burwell Street approaching Washington Avenue (in Bremerton) ” she wrote on May 16. “‘The traffic light was red and there was one vehicle waiting at the light. As I stopped behind the vehicle, it made a left turn onto Washington Avenue while the light was still red.

“I drive this route at least once a week, the light at that intersection is usually red. I’ve always waited until the light changes to green before making my left turn.

“Is there perhaps an exception at this intersection regarding no left turn on red because two-way traffic ends at Burwell Street?”

The out basket: It sounds like Elaine may be aware of the little known law permitting lefts against a red light, but only  onto a one-way street going in the direction of the turn.

This could be a thorny legal issue were someone to be stopped and cited for what Elaine saw that driver do, but I’d have to guess that law doesn’t extend to a street that’s one-way SOMEWHERE along its length.

The wording of the state law (RCW 46.61.055) says “vehicle operators facing a steady circular red signal may, after stopping, proceed to make a right turn from a one-way or two-way street into a two-way street or into a one-way street carrying traffic in the direction of the right turn; or a left turn from a one-way or two-way street into a one-way street carrying traffic in the direction of the left turn; unless a sign posted by competent authority prohibits such movement.”

The same thing is permitted at a red arrow light.

Just a block west of Washington, going the other way on Burwell, such a turn is legal onto one-way Pacific Avenue, providing one comes to a complete stop and yields to any traffic with a green light or pedestrian in the way.

I suppose a driver could argue that he WAS turning onto a one-way street, even though the one-way portion of Washington ends before the portion of the street he’s entering. But I wouldn’t expect the arguement  to prevail in court, unless he gets a judge who delights in splitting hairs. And I’d advise Elaine to continue waiting for the green light there.

City staff demonstrates the plight of pedestrians

The in basket: When I gently questioned the wisdom of turning Bremerton’s Washington Avenue into a two-lane street between Sixth Street and the Manette Bridge in a recent column, the city public works department decided it would pay to try to convince me of the value of the project, set for 2015.

So Public Works Director Chal Martin, Managing Street Engineer Gunnar Fridriksson and Administrative Division Manager Milenka Hawkins-Bates of their office took me on a tour of city work sites, ending at Sixth and Washington.

The out basket: Chal evidently had been getting some questions about the capacity of Washington to handle rush hour traffic with only one lane in each direction, though that wasn’t what I had questioned. He spent a lot of time demonstrating how little the second lane northbound is needed even with a ferry arrival and shipyard closing time only minutes apart.

And it certainly looked that day that almost all northbound traffic on Washington in the afternoon uses the outside lane to reach the bridge. Only briefly did traffic back up in the inside lane.

Those are the people who will be impeded by having to wait while the signal at the bridge is red and would-be bridge users are in their way. But I’m sure those people will quickly learn that turning left onto Sixth Street, which will keep its left-turn lane, will shorten any delays.

What impressed me far more on our tour was the case Chal made for wider sidewalks, which will be created in the Washington project.

Our tour began at the northwest corner of 11th Street and Naval Avenue, where we stood as traffic zoomed past. The speed limit is only 30 there, but that close to it, it seems to be zooming.

I’d never walked it, so in my many trips along 11th in my car never noticed how frighteningly slender the sidewalks are there.

Chal said, “I think about all the people I see who walk here. I see women pushing double baby buggies walking here. I see moms and little kids and people in motorized wheelchairs.

“When you’re in your car,” he continued, “you’re surrounded by modern safety conveniences, you have a radio and a heater. You’re not exposed to the elements. So I ask, is it OK to delay someone two or three minutes in their normal commute in a trade-off to get more safety for pedestrians and bicyclists?

“My answer,” said Chal, “is a resounding yes.”

The Road Warrior’s argument has been that the focus on providing for the relatively few bikes and walkers by further frustrating the vastly larger number of drivers is ill-conceived. You might agree with that, as I might still, but we should test that belief by walking from Naval to Callow on the north side of 11th occasionally.

And, as Milenka added, “If the sidewalk is safer, would you have more people using it?”

As for 11th, it can’t be widened, so making it safer for non-motorists would require reducing it to two or three lanes, as they are doing with Pacific Avenue north of Sixth Street right now. Don’t be shocked if that’s not proposed in some future year.

Why can’t cars leaving ferry use ramp to Washington Avenue?

The in basket: Tim Trembley, a 20-year commuter on the Bremerton ferry, says, “I have a question about the exit ramp from the ferry terminal to Washington Avenue.  

“Back when the state was surveying people about the tunnel project, we were told that drivers would still be able to exit to Washington Avenue after the tunnel was built.  Then, after the tunnel was built, we were told that in order to kept cars and pedestrians separate on Washington Avenue that all traffic exiting the ferry would have to use the tunnel.  

“Then they re-routed the ferry drop-off traffic down Washington Avenue. So what is the ‘official’ reason offloading traffic can’t use Washington Avenue? Is this the state’s ramp to nowhere?”

The out basket: I don’t know if many people take advantage of the fact they can continue past Second Street, the designated ferry drop-off point, and curve onto First Street to get closer to the ferry terminal to drop off or pick up ferry passengers. It’s not intended that they do.

But Brenden Clarke, project engineer for the tunnel, explains the rationale for allowing so little use of the ramp:

“The driving force behind the decision to route all vehicle traffic through the tunnel is overall safety – for pedestrians and motorists,” he said.

“Pedestrian traffic downtown continues to increase as a result of recent development in Bremerton, new parks, a marina, condominiums and local businesses.

“The primary issue that concerns engineers is the three streams of traffic that conflict at the Washington Avenue/First Street intersection during peak-commute times: buses exiting the transit station; pedestrian traffic (ferry riders, shipyard workers, business patrons); and vehicles offloading from the ferry.

Additional considerations, he said, are:

– There are line-of-sight concerns for buses and off-loading vehicle traffic at the Washington Avenue/First Street intersection due to grade separation and a retaining wall between the ferry terminal and the transit deck.

– Off-loading vehicles have only a short distance to get into the appropriate lane approaching the tunnel. This creates potential for weaving conflicts (a recognized accident cause) or vehicles stopping and blocking off-loading traffic while waiting for a gap to enter the proper lane.

– Line of sight is less than ideal for off-loading vehicles because the lanes wind around the piers supporting the transit deck.

The ramp was constructed to full standards, he said, in case an accident or something else closed the tunnel and all traffic had to use the ramp to Washington. Otherwise, only bicyclists can use it.

Lack of sign can get a ferry user lost in Bremerton

The in basket: Retired Judge Jim Maddock rang me up the other day to call attention to what he felt is a missing sign in downtown Bremerton.

When southbound on Washington Avenue, he said, there is a sign hanging in its intersection with Sixth Street indicating a right turn to get to the ferry to Seattle. When I checked, I saw the same sign overhead as one exits the Manette Bridge onto Washington.

But, Jim notes, there is no comparable sign on Sixth at Pacific Avenue, where a left turn must be made for the direct route to the ferry terminal. 

A person new to town would most likely continue straight on Sixth for who knows how long, Jim said. 

The out basket: Absolutely right, said Brenden Clarke, who has a lot to do with streets in Bremerton these days even though he’s a project engineer for the state. He was in charge of the tunnel project and incurred responsibility for a lot of city issues related to it. 

“We reviewed the site today and concur that there should be a sign at Sixth

and Pacific,” he said. “We are working on getting a sign installed at that

location.”

Maybe some of you familiar with GPS systems could let me know if having one operating in your car would alert you to the need to turn from Sixth onto Pacific to reach the ferry terminal even when no sign tells you to.

Change proposed on Washington at Sixth

The in basket: Gale Brown has a different take on the situation on Washington Avenue in Bremerton heading south, where two lanes of traffic must merge very quickly into one just south of Sixth Street. Gale says, “I would like to see the outside lane of southbound Washington at Sixth be changed to a right-turn only.

“This would improve traffic flow on to Sixth for those heading for the ferry,” he said, “and would eliminate the frustrations often caused by the forced merge immediately south of the intersection.”

The out basket: It could happen. Larry Matel of the city street engineers says, “The public works department is planning on doing a traffic circulation plan for the downtown area in 2010.  “This will look at operational changes on the street system that are now possible because of the traffic changes created by the opening of the tunnel. We have had other requests for changes and instead of doing them ‘piece meal’, and then only having to do them over again as a result of another issue that might need addressing, we have decided to look at the big picture and then make changes.”