Tag Archives: Wheaton

Riddell Road runoff distresses pair of readers

The in basket: Two readers say storm water runoff on Riddell Road in East Bremerton just west of  Highway 303 needs attention.

Bob Carter wrote in early March to say, “During  a hard rain while driving west on Riddell Road from Wheaton Way most of the entire lane is water flowing down from further west on Riddell Road. This creates a hazard while driving and the road gets large chuck holes and loose gravel on the roadway.

“I noticed the other day the city of Bremerton was patching the holes but after the next rain there will be additional chuck holes in that area. Water run-off needs to be better contained to keep it out of the roadway.

Glen Adrig wrote a couple weeks later to say,  “Since there is only one drain grating on the north side of Riddell (located close to the corner of Riddell/Wheaton), which is tasked to collect and drain the water run off for about a 1/3 of a mile from the west (from Redwood Plaza, to Peace Lutheran, and on up to Bowwood Circle), each moderate rainfall results in flooding and cars splashing huge quantities of water as they travel past Redwood Plaza.

“The closest drain grating is uphill near the intersection of Bowwood Circle and Riddell Road, and it does very little to mitigate the historic flooding on the north side of the road near Riddell and Wheaton.

“I’ve noticed pavement markings from locator services around the northwest corner of Wheaton Way and Riddell Road. Is this an indication that the city of Bremerton is going to finally address the lack of adequate drainage, and the subsequent flooding and bad pavement surfaces caused by all of the water run off that collects on the north side of Riddell at Wheaton Way whenever there is a moderate rainfall?

“This is a fix that has been needed for more than 20 years, and the city is long overdue to remedy this problem,” Glen said.

The out basket: Neither the patching Bob saw nor the painted markings at the Wheaton Way intersection are indications the city has plans to correct this, though it does. Public Works Director Chal Martin says, “We do have a capital improvement project in our Drainage Utility plan for this work.  It is currently scheduled for design work in 2017 and construction work in 2018.”

The markings Glen sees are on nearly every public intersection along Wheaton Way and are preparation for improvements at the intersections to meet Americans with Disability Act standards for pedestrian access.

The pedestrian signals will be converted to audible-beep buttons that sound when they are pushed, and countdown signal heads that tell those in the crosswalk how much more time they have to get across. The curb cuts will be brought up to current standards and the yellow rumble pads that help the blind know where they are will be added.

It’s a state project on that state highway and is related to the repaving on the highway in the city due in 2017. Work on the pedestrian improvements already has begun and workmen can be seen modifying the  poles on which the electronics are mounted.


Power pole along old Wheaton awfully close to driveway

The in basket: Pete Wimmer of Silverdale e-mailed to say, “A couple of weeks ago, I went to dinner at RimNam Thai Cuisine on Wheaton Way and noticed that one of the power poles was placed in the new driveway or the new driveway was set around the pole.

“No matter which came first, this seems to be an accident waiting to happen,” he said. “Can you find out if it is in specifications and if they are going to add more markings to the pole to warn drivers?”
The out basket: This is part of the improvements to Old Wheaton Way that widened the water-side sidewalk. There are three short power poles fairly close to the curb cuts that denote future driveways near the Thai restaurant (the former Bay Bowl) and it does seem that the pole closest to the business’ front door could pose a collision hazard to a careless driver turning right into the restaurant’s driveway without slowing down enough.

It’s not in the driveway, just right beside it.

Tom Knuckey of the city’s engineering staff says,  “After looking into this, we’ve concluded that while the location of the power pole is not ideal, it will need to remain where it is.

“The issue is that alternatives for locating the pole were constrained by the wire span and pole height which limited our options during construction, and while the pole would ideally have been sited away from the driveway approach wing, it is OK to have it in the right-of-way at that location.

“If the adjacent business contacts us to request revisions, we’ll likely look at providing a reflector of some sort on the pole,” he said.

Caught behind a bus at camera-enforced intersection

The in basket: Mary Watson writes, “In September, I was headed north on Wheaton Way and was attempting to turn left onto Sylvan Way. There were two buses ahead of me. I could not see the turn light so I took my cue to go from the bus ahead of me.

“I could not see the light until the bus was halfway into its turn and I was well past the white line of the crosswalk. I saw that the light was red and rather than reverse and go backwards, I quickly followed the bus through the light and drove home.

“A few weeks later, I got a ticket in the mail for $124 dollars for running a red light and was caught by the red light camera posted there. Because I did indeed go through a red light but not intentionally, I decided to admit it and go to a mitigation hearing.

“(At) the hearing, Commissioner Shane Seaman, after hearing my explanation, fined me $85 dollars. He even said ‘Oh, yeah, I have been behind those buses.’ I told him clearly that I could not see the light until it was too late and I was glad for the light delay so that I was not in danger of being hit by oncoming traffic.

“I don’t know what else I could have done. Was I supposed to stop and reverse once I saw it was a red light?
I have heard from a friend who told me that she knows of several people who have had this happen to them. The commissioner did not offer any suggestions and I was disappointed that he still fined me $85 dollars. Others who had committed similar offenses were fined $70 and $75 dollars.

“I am curious as to two things…why did I get fined more? And what else was I supposed to do? I honestly did not RUN the red light with intent. I had to take my cue from the bus until I could see the light and by the time I saw it – it was too late. So in the interest of safety I just proceeded through the intersection as quickly as I could.”

The out basket: This dilemma is not unique to red light camera intersections. Any time a driver is following a large vehicle that obscures the view beyond it, he or she can find that a traffic signal has turned red while the large vehicle was transiting the intersection.

I asked Lt. Pete Fisher of the Bremerton police what he would advise and his two-sentence response is essentially what I would recommend: “The best advice is to follow at a distance that allows you to see the light. Just assuming it’s green because a truck or bus is going through could result in a collision.”

It means leaving a larger gap than normal between you and the vehicle ahead.

A driver can get away with following at a normal distance at most signals, as the one-second delay on signal changes that Mary mentions will keep cross traffic from starting up quickly enough to risk a collision. And an officer would rarely be there to see it.

But enforcement at red light camera intersections is constant. If you know you’re coming to one and are behind a large vehicle, allow the extra distance.

When I watched several of these red light camera mitigation hearings a few years ago, the presiding official would reliably reduce the $124 fine for those appearing, but never nullified it completely. The reductions varied, and the official didn’t explain why, nor could I.


Broken traffic detector affects Manette Bridge closure detour

Update as of Aug. 22, 2011. I found the light at Lower Wheaton and Lebo/Cherry working fine when I went through it. Gunnar Fridriksson of the city’s engineers says the dry weather may have temporarily corrected the detection problem there, but he would expect it to return with the fall rains.  — Road Warrior.


The in basket: Jim Lawson of Manette thinks the traffic signal on Lower Wheaton Way (often called “Old Wheaton Way) where Lebo Boulevard and Cherry Avenue intersect it has gotten worse not better since closure of the Manette Bridge has increased traffic there.

That intersection lies on the main detour route for former Manette Bridge traffic wanting to reach West Bremerton. It’s always been a key route for Manette residents heading for northbound Highway 303, known as Wheaton Way.

Jim says “Six weeks or longer ago the city of Bremerton changed the sequence so Wheaton Way stays green most of the time. Now at any time of day with no other cars at the intersection, to turn left from Cherry to Wheaton, you sit and sit and sit and sit and sit.“

He also is hopeful the city might take a page from Kitsap County’s book and deploy one of the flashing yellow left-turn lights to allow traffic heading uphill on Old Wheaton to turn left and reach southbound Highway 303 via the Lebo access, rather than waiting for the red left turn light to change.

Jim also described a circuitous route he takes to hasten his trip back to his home from north of Sheridan Road. It takes him down Cherry past Harrison Medical Center to the light on Old Wheaton, where he once again is delayed longer than he’d like before getting to turn left.

The out basket: Those who share Jim’s frustration won’t see the problem rectified soon.

Gunnar Fridriksson, interim managing engineer for Bremerton’s public works department, says, “Timing to the light has not been changed.  The northbound traffic detector loop has failed, which means the signal has defaulted to continually ‘detecting’ northbound traffic” whether there is any or not.

The city knew the loop was fragile when the detour route for the bridge closure was selected a year ago, but hoped it would last until an upgrade of Lower Wheaton Way, for which they have money in 2012. But it failed this year.

Because the problem actually serves the detour by giving uphill traffic more time than it otherwise would to reach the Callahan Avenue interchange with Highway 303, they have opted not to make the repair, which would be costly due to the age of the controller equipment, the condition of the pavement and plans for work there next year, he said.

But it comes at a cost of longer waits on the side streets. At present, when a vehicle approaches on either Lebo or Cherry, the working detector loops on that street sense it, but that just starts the preset countdown before they get a green light, rather than an immediate signal change. That accounts for what Jim sees during his route home via Cherry.

There’s an alternate route to the southbound on-ramp to the bridge reached by turned left onto Lebo, a movement also delayed by the broken loop. But the difference in distance is miniscule. The city and state chose in setting up the detour route last year to send all detoured traffic looking to go to West Bremerton north to Callahan rather than indicating that a left turn on Lebo is an option. “That simplifies directions to the motoring public unfamiliar with the area,” he said.

I didn’t expect the city to introduce a yellow flashing left turn light at Old Wheaton/Lebo/Cherry, as it hasn’t chosen to spend the money on that new technology anywhere else up to now. That is the answer I got.

“No funding is identified to upgrade signal systems,” Gunnar said. “As this is an older system and controller, upgrading would be a significant cost.”


Wheaton Way called worse than California freeway

The in basket: Katie Holden, a Navy wife and recent arrival here from San Diego, writes, “Another accident on Wheaton Way. When I first moved here, it struck me while driving on Wheaton Way that it feels like a ‘free for all.’ There are so many points of exit and entry while the center lane is for both directions.

“Shortly after that, I read in the paper that a baby had lost his life when the parents were involved in a traffic accident on Wheaton Way. This morning I read about another accident.

“Isn’t there a better way to deal with the amount of traffic on this road? Maybe there should be turn lanes dedicated to a certain direction rather than both directions.

“I would rather drive on San Diego’s deadly I-5 in rush hour traffic than on Wheaton Way during rush hour. Does this road seem dangerous to you?”

The out basket: As far back as I can recall in my 40-plus years as a reporter in Bremerton, Wheaton Way has been held out as a bad example of handling heavy traffic.

“You don’t want to make this another Wheaton Way” would be a frequent cry at meetings to discuss some planned development somewhere else.

At one time, it was proposed to pair it with a parallel street, probably a widened Pine Road, with a new bridge across the Port Washington Narrows, providing one-way travel in each direction. It would tie into High Avenue on the west side, its proponents said.

The idea died without making much progress, opposed by Pine Road and High Avenue residents and hobbled by lack of money.

Still, I don’t avoid Wheaton unless I think I’ll move faster on a side road. About the only time I feel in danger  there is when I’m northbound in the outside lane. The lack of deceleration lanes for right turns creates a risk of rear-enders, especially between Sylvan and Riddell.

Given the amount of traffic the highway must handle, I think the state and city do a pretty good job keeping it moving, albeit at the expense of those waiting on the side streets.

I don’t know what would be gained by eliminating the two-way turn lanes in favor of one-way turns. Who knows what confusion and risk would accompany requiring one direction of travel to find some way to get turned around to make a right where lefts no longer would be allowed.

And I’d hate to turn left onto Wheaton anywhere there’s no traffic light without the two-way turn lane to use as a refuge lane to wait in half-way across.

I just drove LA’s I-405 and I-110, right through the heart of downtown, and would consider either worse than Wheaton Way, attributable mostly to LA’s greater congestion.

And I’d rather drive any of them than 45th Street in Seattle’s U District.


Do you know the way to Highway 303?

The in basket: Pat Ryan of Brownsville has contacted me twice, years apart, suggesting that more directional signs around the northbound on-ramp to Highway 303 from Callahan Drive in East Bremerton are needed.

At present, only drivers westbound on Callahan have signs showing the way to the highway. Drivers who come north on Clare Avenue, which arcs around as a one-way street in its final couple hundred feet, can see the ramp, and maybe the highway, but are left to put two and two together without benefit of a sign saying, yes, a left turn will get you onto 303.

This year, Pat added that a sign down the hill at Lebo Boulevard and Clare, directing drivers seeking northbound Highway 303 up the hill would also be helpful.

There also is doubt about whether a left turn from Callahan onto the ramp is legal. A sign says no U-turn, but is mum on left turns.

Richard Gonzales e-mailed to say he knows a person who was stopped and warned by a Bremerton officer for making the left turn.

“The is no signage prohibiting the turn,” he noted. “Since my coworker wasn’t cited, can I assume that this officer just felt it was unsafe to turn left there or is it truly illegal?”

The out basket: It’s a legal place to make a left turn, says, Lt. Pete Fisher, head of BPD’s traffic division. He speculated that there may have been something dangerous about how Richard’s co-worker made the turn, perhaps not yielding to a car on Callahan, that prompted the warning.

Larry Matel of the city engineers says this about the signs Pat proposes:

While often times we all might like another roadway sign here or there, signs are deployed based upon a number of factors including traffic volume, complexity of traffic movements, traffic speed, and consequences of missing a turn, as well as economics.

That said, the city of Bremerton has thousands of street signs that all need to be maintained, regardless of the state of the economy. Therefore, we always look carefully at all requests for additional signing placement because the initial cost of the sign is only a portion of the cost of maintaining the sign over the life of the roadway. The costs do add up.

In this specific case, I do not see overwhelming life/safety or convenience issues creating a strong need to add additional maintenance responsibilities to our operations, especially in times of very tight budgets.”

I drove around the area, imagining that I was a stranger to the city coming from the direction of Lion’s Field, and I think a greater need for sign installation or maintenance exists on old Wheaton Way, which gets a lot more traffic.

There are no signs at Lebo and old Wheaton Way showing the way to 303, and a sign up the hill on old Wheaton that is intended to is almost entirely hidden by trees. Even then, it describes it as the way to “Warren Avenue/Wheaton Way,” which a newcomer probably wouldn’t know is also Highway 303.



Was it a tornado that closed Wheaton Way Tuesday?

Wheaton Way Tuesday morning

The in basket: Mike Brown, who had to travel back and forth between East and West Bremerton Tuesday in his job as development project manager with Bremerton Housing Authority, spent a lot  of time in the traffic jams around the prolonged, complete closure of Bremerton’s busiest street, Wheaton Way, while power crews worked to clear a huge tree and other debris from the street.

The closure went on for hours, from about 12:15 a.m. to just after 7 p.m., around 19 hours.

The detours were congested, and drivers trying to get through, including Mike, tried side streets that didn’t work and l had to wait to get back onto the designated detour among drivers who weren’t very cooperative about letting them in, he said.

The mess could have benefited from some police officers on foot in the worst intersections, he said, especially Halvorsen Avenue and Sylvan Way, so cars didn’t have to wait for passing traffic on Sylvan to pull out. As it was, traffic on Halvorsen backed up for blocks.

The out basket: This was an extraordinary event about which not much has been printed or aired. Davina Gruenstein, of Puget Sound Energy says the company thinks it actually may have been caused by a tornado, a view shared by an occupant of a nearby business building at the time. Some people are describing the scene near Flowers to Go and Cooper’s Fuel and Auto Repair as like a war zone, she said.

A huge tree fell across Wheaton, she said, dropping wires on both sides of the four-lane street and snapping off two power poles. Broken limbs littered the pavement.

Just removing the tree took a long time, she said. The poles had to be replaced. cross-arms attached and a thousand feet of wire restrung.

Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police tells me they don’t have the manpower to assign officers to direct traffic, even in such an emergency. They had no reserve officers on duty.

They wouldn’t have been able to respond promptly to accidents and other wind-related problems had they added traffic control to their duties, he said.

The Road Warrior came upon the blocked street about noon and I phoned CenCom to suggest the traffic signals be retimed to handle the detoured traffic. They appeared to be set for normal traffic.

Lt. Fisher said he did the same between 1 and 2 p.m.

Jeff Collins, head of city signal shop said they did that at Sylvan Way early in the day, but the press of wind-related problems kept him from giving Sheridan Road more time to turn left onto Wheaton until about 3 p.m.

Pete added that they got the state to delay that night’s scheduled closure of Manette Bridge because of the Wheaton Way crisis.

Mike Brown said he eventually was able to devise his own way around the backups. It helped to know your way around. I got caught in the Halvorsen backup around 2:30 but turned right onto 31st and found Olympus Drive one block up the hill to be mostly clear. Mike said he found the same thing.

Dennis D’Amico at the National Weather Service said they have no reason to believe it was a tornado. But the kind of thunderstorm squalls that moved through the area about when the tree fell can do that kind of damage, he said.

Jason Hood, a manager at Cooper’s, isn’t convinced. He was doing late-night paperwork when the wind hit and said it was”fairly instantaneous and slammed against our building,” lasted 15 or 20 seconds and made him worry that it might peel the walls right off, he said. As it was, the roof of another part was torn off, he said.

“It was extremely scary. I tried to crawl under my desk because I didn’t know what would happen,” he said. “I’m convinced that it was a tornado.”

The wailing of their security system when the power failed and blue sparks from power transformers blowing out as the tree crashed across the highway added to the chaos, he said.

About bike lanes with dotted lines

The in basket: Mike McDermott of Poulsbo wrote in late July saying, “Driving north on Silverdale Way, coming down the hill towards the intersection where it turns into Viking Way (at Luoto Road), the shoulder (bike lane) curves to the right to make way for a right-turn lane near the gas station.

“A cyclist was in the bike lane, and if he wants to continue straight through the intersection he has to cross the solid shoulder line to enter the lane going straight, while I, in a car wanting to turn right at the intersection, simply follow the road as it curves to the right, without crossing any lines to be in the right-turn lane.

“The cyclist was just in front of me in the bike lane, and I saw the potential for an accident should he want to continue going straight, so I stayed behind him until I knew what he was going to do. Sure enough, without any indication he was changing lanes, he crossed the solid shoulder line to continue straight. Had I not considered the potential for an accident, we would have collided.

“Who would have been at fault and why?” Mike asked. “He crossed a solid line, while I crossed none.”

The out basket: It’s a helpful question, as a new kind of bike lane alignment has shown up here, on Viking Way at Finn Hill Road in Poulsbo and on Sheridan Road at Wheaton Way in Bremerton. There may be other places I haven’t noticed.

In those two places, a passage marked by a dotted line provides a path for bicyclists on the shoulder to reach a narrow lane between the through lane and the right turn lane.

But that’s not the alignment where Mike had his experience, and the answer to his question is pretty straight forward.

Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, says, “The motor vehicle has the right of way in this scenario. The bicyclist would have to yield to all other traffic, traveling in same direction/lane of travel, prior to entering the roadway to cross the intersection.

“It’s the same as if a car was stopped on the shoulder and the driver wanted to re-enter back onto the roadway,” Scott said. “The driver has to wait until traffic is clear and it’s safe to enter back onto the roadway before proceeding.

“If there had been a collision between Mr. McDermott and the bicyclist, the bicyclist would have been found at fault for causing the collision,” said Scott.

But what about those two spots and any others where a dotted lines indicates a path for bicyclists to get from the shoulder to inside the right turn lane.

The answer is different there.

Sgt. Andy Pate of Poulsbo Police says, “The bike lane you are referring (to) is a designated bike lane by the city. Due to the right-turn-only lane on northbound Viking, the city positioned the bicycle lane across the right-turn-only lane for through bicycle traffic.

“This ‘crossing’ of the bicycle lane is treated similar to a crosswalk or a lane change. Motorists must yield to bicyclist that has entered their lane of travel using the bicycle lane to cross, just as they would a pedestrian or bicycle crossing at a crosswalk.

“However, there is a ‘due care and caution’ (duty) that must be exercised by the operator of the bicycle. They are not allowed to enter/cross the right-turn-only lane of travel suddenly or in such a way that an overtaking vehicle could not safely slow or stop for them to cross.

“The bicycle lane does not give either motorist or bicyclist exclusive right of way, both must yield to the lead vehicle to end in an orderly flow of traffic,” Andy said.

Lt. Pete Fisher, head of Bremerton police traffic division, says the rules are the same at the Sheridan-Wheaton alignment.

Odd strip of new pavement on Wheaton Way

The in basket: I was intrigued by an odd paving project done on Wheaton Way north of Sheridan Road the week of June 14. It was a continuous narrow strip of new asphalt after the old was dug out, running north from in front of Albertson’s in the northbound outer lane.

The state’s project information list said it would run all the way to the city limits at Riddell Road and all the way back to Sheridan. I wondered what on earth required it. It looked like perhaps some past utility trench wasn’t repaired correctly.

The out basket: The project list description was misleading, as the dig-outs and pavement replacement took on the more familiar intermittent pattern after it got north of Sylvan Way. Only a few places were patched in the southbound direction, once again near the curb.

Duke Stryker, head of maintenance operations for state highways in Kitsap and Mason counties, said the street, which to the state is Highway 303, was identified as a trouble spot in their annual spring review in which a state materials engineer drives state highways with local maintenance crews to plan the year’s pavement repair.

Duke said the outer wheel rut carved by millions of cars over the years, worsened by water accumulating against the curb, caused the deterioration. The three wheel ruts farther from the curb didn’t have the excess water to worsen the wear. The outer rut pavement was badly “alligatored” and needed replacement, he said. .

It took them a week. This week (June 21) the crews are doing similar work on Highway 3 in Gorst. Tuesday and Wednesday, they’ll be closing the Purdy Bridge at the east end of Highway 302 to repave it. The Gorst and Purdy work will be done at night. Purdy traffic will be detoured via Pine Road and other local streets during the closures.

Washouts in Bremerton, North Mason to be repaired


The in basket: Gary Reed asked on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com what the plans are for repairing the washout on old Wheaton Way near East 18th Street in Bremerton, one victim of the infamous December 2007 deluge. Since then concrete barrier has sealed off the steep embankment at that site and traffic lanes have been narrowed and moved away from it. 

While I was inquiring, I asked about yet another washout from that storm, which has reduced Sand Hill Road in North Mason County to a single lane past the same kind of concrete barriers. 

The out basket: Larry Matel of the city of Bremerton street engineers and Mason County engineer Bob Thuring say both their jurisdictions are awaiting bureaucratic approval to get the repair done this year. 

Larry says the plans for their repair were submitted to the state Department of Transportation this spring, and “final construction will be determined based upon the time frame of the state to review plans and approve construction funding.  We are hopeful for construction this summer season.”

Bob’s reply nearly echoed Larry’s. “We have a complete design and have acquired the easements from (the state Department of Natural Resources) for construction.  We are currently working on getting approval of our right of way plan through the state department of transportation.  At that point WSDOT will release the construction funding and we can advertise the project.  I really hate to speculate on how long that process will take but we plan to build the project this summer/fall.

The state must approve the work because it administers federal “pass-through” money such as will pay for most of the work.