Category Archives: Transportation

It helps to be in the room

The pictures you see here are of recently, as in the last week, filled potholes at the base of speed humps on Marion Avenue in Bremerton. For a long time the potholes here have been a nasty encounter in front of the Frances Haddon Morgan Center.

The timing of the fix might be instructive. On Wednesday the Bremerton City Council, acting in its role as the Benefit Transportation District board, met to discuss how to spend the money the city will soon begin getting on Bremerton resident vehicle license tabs. In July residents, Bremerton city residents only, will begin paying $20 a year extra when they go to license their cars or trucks. That money will go to the city’s street fund. The district board will decide each year how to spend it.

Wednesday’s meeting was an effort to set priorities before money begins trickling in. Maintenance was the overwhelming choice, which might seem obvious to you, but there were other options that could get some play in the future as well. And by maintenance the focus is on the city’s Pavement Management Index, a scoring system that grades the conditions of a road. Other factors the council considered were how well traveled a road is; cost to repair; proximity to schools, parks and hospitals; whether there is a bus or bike route; the complaint frequency; geographic equity and coordination with other projects.

The pavement index was the overwhelming pick, with a preference for roads considered “fair” or better. Roads rated worse than fair will need more than a little maintenance, so much that any TBD money would quickly be exhausted. The second-strongest priority was a scoring system put together by the city’s Public Works department, allowing that city staff will often have the best idea what needs work in town.

As part of the conversation Carol Arends, city councilwoman, opened a discussion about potholes. “Every district has potholes,” she said, launching into a description of the ones pictured here. They’re a danger, she said. Other council members knew of this particular set of holes.

Jim Orton, streets manager, said his department knew of the problem here and that the site was on the city’s list for fixing.

The city has spent $10,000 on potholes this year and plans to spend about $100,000 by the end of the year. “They’re hard to keep up with,” Orton said. “But we’re trying to fix as much as we can.”

On Sunday I happened to be driving down Marion and noticed the holes Arends complained about had been filled in.

Red-light camera numbers (lots of them) in Bremerton

This post on red-light cameras will have lots of figures for you to digest. There. You’ve been warned.

The Seattle Times has a story highlighting how Tim Eyman has found a cause that crosses party lines. He has helped or led efforts to see red-light cameras either eliminated or at least approved by voters in multiple communities.

Earlier in August we pointed out the (Everett) Herald story on the cash Lynnwood was making from cameras, enough that the chief warned the city would have to lay off officers if they were gone.

Some of you asked (“Asked” is a polite description of what you did.) for information about Bremerton. Here is what I have.

In 2010 Bremerton took in $685,232 in revenue for red-light cameras. The money sent to Redflex Inc, the Arizona company that runs the system, was $443,639. That gets us $241,593 for the year. In 2009 Andy Parks, former financial services director, said it cost the city about $7,500 a month in staff time to run the program. I can only assume now that the figure came from paying for the officers to look at the ticket and estimating the extra cost it takes to run each infraction through the municipal court system. That’s $90,000 a year. So if that accounts for all the city takes in, the annual net income for Bremerton in 2010 would have been $151,593.

This means approximately 5,525 tickets were successfully prosecuted in 2010.
That means the city issues an average of 15.1 tickets per day that will result in a paid citation.
That means each camera issues an average of 1.6 tickets per day that will result in a paid citation.
Citations would have to go down 22 percent for the city to hit the break even point.

That last part, though, is affected by the contract with Redflex. Each camera is supposed to generate enough tickets to earn the $4,000 per month charge. That’s 33 tickets. As of now each camera appears to be averaging about 51. Remember, that number reflects the number of tickets actually prosecuted.

The number of tickets are going down. In 2009 the number of tickets was in the neighborhood of 6,600. That’s based on the net figures I received from the city, added to the contract that was in place then, and then dividing that figure by $124, the cost of the ticket.

Another factoid worth noting. I said cameras issued an average of 51 prosecutable tickets per month. In May each camera issued about 83 tickets, which means nearly 40 percent of all tickets are not prosecuted.

Red-light cameras pay off in Lynwood, literally

Anyone who willingly gives up an income stream is, in some cases, to be admired. That’s because many people spend whatever new money they get, thereby creating a new baseline for what they need. Governments are the same, which is why it is so hard to get rid of a tax no one likes, the business and occupation tax.

The same goes for revenues generated by red-light cameras. In Lynnwood the police chief admitted that if the program, which creates $4 million a year, were eliminated he’d have to eliminate officers. (By “eliminate” in the first reference I mean “get rid off.” In the second reference I mean they would no longer be police officers, not “eliminated” in the organized crime sense.)

It’s Friday (officially a municipal day off since you all stopped spending so much money in Bremerton.), so I couldn’t get full numbers from Bremerton on the income stream here. The cameras issue $124 tickets and the city pays RedFlex $4,000 a month per camera if those tickets add up to $4,000 or more. Plus there is the cost of having an officer review each infraction and whatever it costs to hear them in municipal court. The bottom line is I don’t know what the city nets from these cameras.

Nobody is really calling for the cameras to be eliminated anyway, so essentially I’m just sayin’.

Pitch your road project ideas to Kitsap County public works

Have you got a pet peeve about potholes? Concerns about sharp curves? Anxiety over lack of signage?
The Kitsap County Public Works Department invites residents to pitch road project ideas for inclusion in the county’s 6-year Transportation Improvement Program.
As projects are completed, the department adds new projects annually to its to-do list. Projects selected this year will be added to the 2012-2017 TIP list.
The deadline for suggestions is April 30.
Projects are scored and ranked using objective criteria, according to Jim Rogers, transportation planner. Criteria include safety, capacity needs, structural condition, environmental retrofits and non-motorized needs. Projects are selected based on the availability and timing of funding, especially for state and federally funded projects.
If you want to see how your neighborhood fared in last year’s list-making process, check out the copy of the county’s roadwork plan for 2011 below.
Submit your road project ideas to the county’s website here. For information, call (360) 337-5777.
Kitsap County 2011 Transportation Project List

How Often Are You on That Late Ferry?

Speaking of ferries after dark, as we did in the previous post, how about telling us how often you’re on it by voting to the right.

For myself, I probably would do the 6-10 entry, figuring in a few Mariners games, visits to family over there and other reasons to cross the pond.

My biggest complaint, since moving somewhere that the Bremerton boat was the best option, was the 10:30 p.m. return time from Seattle, followed by the 12:50 a.m. I don’t like leaving baseball games early. I don’t like leaving most things early, especially if I have bothered to go over to Seattle to participate.

One time Chris Dunagan and I went to a banquet over in Seattle. I was new to Bremerton, having lived in Poulsbo for three years and frequenting the Bainbridge Island trip. I had no idea 10:30 p.m. was my last chance to get back to Bremerton at a decent hour. Chris forgot, until it was too late. We boarded the 10:50 for Bainbridge and his wife was kind enough to drive to Bainbridge to come get us. I learned my lesson, but almost missed the boat back after a Mariners game ran long, back at a time when the Mariners mattered.

Vote in the poll on the right and weigh in here if you like.

Seattle Music Scene a Loser If Ferries Are Cut

Chris Kornelis at the Seattle Weekly has two blog posts that deal with the proposed cuts to the Bremerton ferry, eliminating any sailings past 9:05 p.m. Kornelis is making the case local leaders have not yet proven, that losing Bremerton’s business hurts Seattle.

These cuts would massively reduce the accessibility of Seattle music to Bremertonians — and Seattle clubs’ access to their wallets — and would be devastating loss to show-goers in the ferry-dependent community. It would be a huge loss for the Seattle music community as well.

In the second piece Kornelis speaks exclusively with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. Gibbard grew up here, went to Olympic High School and was a regular traveler to pick up shows in Seattle.

“As a native Bremertonian, it’s really unfortunate to me that Bremerton continues to get the short end of the stick,” Gibbard says. “We grew up always having the busted ferry. Whenever Bainbridge Island got a new ferry, we got the hand-me-downs. (This proposal is) a further kind of indication of how much political influence the affluent West Side suburbs have, that they are relatively immune to this part of the budget cuts, and Bremerton as usual has to take Bainbridge Island’s leftovers.”

Red-Light Camera Comments in Olympia

Traffic safety cameras were part of the House Transportation Committee’s work Wednesday. We posted a story about it Sunday evening. Following the jump here there is a TVW video of the entire meeting. Following that is an e-mail sent by state Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, to fellow House members and CC’d to reporters. He is taking issue with pro-camera comments made by Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata at the hearing. The hearing is in two pieces, sandwiching a hearing on limousine laws. The Olympian argues that legislators ought to butt out of the camera issue, now that the state has given local government the right to employ their use.

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Smile for the Cameras in Medina

People complain about Bremerton’s “Big Brother” in the form of red-light cameras. How about Medina?

The Seattle Times reports cameras read the license plates of every car coming into town.

If a hit comes up for a felony — say, the vehicle was reported stolen or is being driven by a homicide suspect — the information is transmitted instantaneously to police, who can “leap into action,” said Police Chief Jeffrey Chen.

Choosing Easy with Stimulus Money

Been meaning to post this for some time. Stimulus money, in this AP story, is creating construction jobs for roads as intended, but it’s not going to many bad bridges.

President Barack Obama urged Congress last winter to pass his $787 billion stimulus package so some of the economic recovery money could be used to rebuild what he called America’s “crumbling bridges.” Lawmakers said it was a historic chance to chip away at the $65 billion backlog of deficient structures, often neglected until a catastrophe like the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed two years ago this Saturday.

States, however, have other plans. Of the 2,476 bridges scheduled to receive stimulus money so far, nearly half have passed inspections with high marks, according to federal data. Those 1,123 sound bridges received such high inspection ratings that they normally would not qualify for federal bridge money, yet they will share in more than $1.2 billion in stimulus money.

This doesn’t mean those bridges won’t get worked on eventually, but the emphasis on the initial infusion of cash was on what were called “shovel-ready” projects. Bridges take a lot more planning, while road repaving can be acted on quickly.

Some states were prescient enough to plan to make their bridges ready quickly, but most didn’t. Though my recollection of the stimulus package was that it was to get things done quickly, one of the selling points was that it would go to bad bridges.

The story ends in our state, showing that targeting bad bridges with stimulus money was difficult.

Live Blog of Bremerton $30 Car Tab Meeting

Tonight’s meeting of Bremerton’s Transportation Benefit District board (the Bremerton City Council operating in another capacity) will decide whether Bremerton voters will be asked to approve a $30 car tab fee increase. This decision will only directly affect Bremerton residents. However, we believe the discussion has implications interesting beyond Bremerton city boundaries, so we’re going to live blog the event on this site. Join us at 5 p.m.

Turns Out the Feds Do Love Washington Ferries

Yesterday we learned the largest ferry system in the country wasn’t sharing in a $60 million recovery pie and that local electeds were upset, mystified, shocked, I tell you, shocked.

Today we get a press release from Sen. Patty Murray’s office with the headline, “Murray Muscles Ferry Money.”

Washington State Ferries will get $3 million for Anacortes terminal improvements and King County is set for $2 million for ferry acquisition.

The bigger news to us, though, is Kitsap Transit will get $2.596 million to operate the passener-only Bremerton-Seattle run for six months.

As always, Ed Friedrich is on the case.

The Murray press release follows the jump.
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Little Recovery Love for Washington Ferries

You get a press release from the White House announcing big bucks to build and improve ferry docks and facilities and you’re thinking, “Ooh, the ferry system is set.” then you read on and realize that “illion” after the “$60” starts with an “m” and you temper your expectations.

Good thing, because the nation’s largest ferry system got nothing and the state overall got a comparative pittance.

Of the $60 million out of economic recovery funds, Washington’s sole recipient was in Skagit County for the Guernes Island Ferry, allowing for construction of a new ferry terminal with expanded service.

The largest single award went to Texas, $7.2 million to build a new boat and expand service in a place called Port Aransas.

Washington State Ferries did apply for two grants from the fund. One application was for $9 million. If you’re scoring at home that amount is larger than any other single recipient. The other application was for $35 million $26 million. I don’t think I have to do much math for you there.

At this point we don’t know that it was the size of WSF’s requests that resulted in their denials, but it’s a great question to ask. Ed Friedrich is on it.

You Get a Year to Get That Thing Off the Road


The U.S. House of Representatives agreed on a deal that could net you a $4,500 voucher if you trade in your gas guzzling behemoth for a nifty little efficient number. For passenger cars a 4-mile-per-gallon difference is worth $3,500. For the full pot you need to show a 10 mpg gain.

This thing still has to go to the Senate.

After the jump you’ll find Bainbridge Island Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee’s take on the “Cash for Clunkers” agreement and a pretty specific explanation of how it would work. I didn’t include the graph, but the written explanation should suffice.

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‘We got scoped’

Derek Kilmer, Gig Harbor Senate Democrat, and fellow Gig Harborian Larry Seaquist, also a Democrat on the House side, failed in another effort to get sales taxes exempted from Tacoma Narrows bridge tolls.

Here’s the story. Kilmer and Seaquist have tried several times to get the sales tax exemption, arguing that bridge toll payers should not be paying sales taxes that go into the state’s general fund. Each time it gets killed in Senate committee, particularly Ways & Means. That’s where budget-related bills go, and Committee Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, can see how much impact that would have on the general fund and there the idea dies.

So Kilmer writes a bill this year calling for a narrowing definition of how bridge toll money can be spent. Mostly, it’s to pay off bonds it took to get the bridge built. Seaquist, in the House, adds an amendment exempting the bridge from sales taxes, which are scheduled to begin getting paid in 2013. The House passes it.

The next step is getting it to the Senate floor. The new bill went to Senate Rules and onto the floor, farther than the sales tax issue had ever traveled. State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, transportation committee chairwoman, asked the lieutenant governor whether the sales tax measure met the scope of the underlying bill.

Sunday afternoon Brad Owen, said lieutenant governor, said it didn’t.

“We got scoped,” Kilmer said as he left the Senate chamber.

The pair said they have another year to get the idea passed before it has to be reported with a fiscal note, which basically means someone would have to calculate how much it would cost.

House Transportation Chair, Judy Clibborn, said a few minutes ago Republicans have crafted language that might do the trick. It would apply to all tolling projects. Look for it in 2010.

Transportation Budget onto the Governor

One budget that kind of, sort of, had some bipartisan support was the transportation appropriation bill.

In the House the bill passed 77-19, with state Rep. Jan Angel, R-South Kitsap, the lone Kitsap dissenter. In the Senate it was 41-8, with all three Kitsap senators voting in favor.

The bill is perhaps most important to Kitsap residents because it includes ferry building. Three 64-car ferries get built right away. Then there’s provisions for a fourth, either another small boat or one that would carry 144 cars, but it doesn’t identify the money to pay for the fourth boat.

That, said state Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, is one of the weaknesses of the transportation budget, which nonetheless got his vote.

“The ferry budget solves the immediate problem, (the Keystone-Port Townsend route), but does not get us to construction of mid-size boats. Those are not formally committed to in this budget,” Seaquist said. “As progressive as this budget is, it does not attack, and I think that’s the right verb, the cost of constructing these boats.”

The other weakness, he said, was the bill did not go after the costs of running the ferry system.

Tolls to Pay Taxes, or Not

On the Senate side there is a question that could determine how quickly the Tacoma Narrows bridge debt is retired. In a bill specifying how bridge tolls could be used, state Rep. Larry Seaquist added an amendment that would take deferred sales taxes for the bridge’s construction and make the bridge exempt.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen asked the lieutenant governor to rule that amendment was out of the scope of the bill. She argued that exempting sales taxes has nothing to do with limiting the use of toll money.

State Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, argued that the exemption amendment is within the scope, saying that paying sales taxes would become a “non-permitted use” under the amendment.

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen will give his decision tomorrow.

Bremerton Says ‘No New Taxes or Fees’ for Now

Bremerton residents have for several months been faced with the possibility that its city council could add $20 to its fees for cars, money that would be used to make road improvements mostly. Then last week a trial balloon of sorts was floated in front of the city council, but based on what happened Wednesday night it’s clear there was no one willing to argue let that thing keep flying.

First off, the mayor, Cary Bozeman, gave a presentation to the city council saying he instructed new financial services director, Andy Park, to address a potential $3.9 million shortfall in the city’s 2009 budget. He said he had two requirements. That there be no new taxes and that it be addressed right away.

The “no new taxes” must have happened in the last week, because that was still on the table then. It’s not anymore.

On car tabs a group of four in the minority convinced one who voted to establish a transportation benefit district to help them slow down the momentum toward actually establishing a higher fee on car tabs. City Councilman Brad Gehring voted in February to establish the district, the first step in the process of raising the fee. That vote was 5-4.

The second step is lengthy, though. The council, now acting as a district board, has to establish a charter and bylaws. The council was handed a draft and had expected to perhaps approve them both tonight, as well as electing board officers. Gehring, however, sided with the four original district opponents, saying one week is not enough time to be comfortable with a charter and bylaws. Approval won’t happen at least until June now, which means if the council, er, the board, decides to approve the $20 hike in car tab fees, it will be at least three months later than originally hoped.