Monthly Archives: September 2009

New Highway 16 interchange due Oct. 7 opening

 

The in basket: Paul  Morton, who lives on Bandix Road east of the Burley-Olalla Road intersection project on Highway 16 wonders when it will be done and he can get on and off the freeway there again.

I’d been wondering the same thing, since the work has dropped out of sight behind the safety barriers since the contractor and state announced they were way ahead of schedule, opened the lanes over the new bridges and returned the speed limit to 60 mph. I couldn’t tell if perhaps something had gone wrong and the work had slowed or stopped.

And a blogger on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com asks if the bump as one crosses onto the freeway bridge heading toward Tacoma will be eliminated.

The out basket: Project Engineer Brenden Clarke of the state highway department says work has continued at its stepped-up pace. “In fact, Ceccanti (the contractor) has been working long shifts, including Saturdays, to complete the work to reconfigure the on- and off-ramps to their final profile,” he said.

Those ramps were used for the freeway traffic while the new bridges were built. Since the speed limit went back up, large portions of the ramps “were re-graded along with Burley-Olalla Road to (give) Burley-Olalla a smooth profile and have the ramps come to an angle point as they will come to a stop,” he said. “The slopes off of the ramps were re-graded after removing about six feet of pavement that was used for the detour.” 

“In addition,” Brenden said, “the contractor had a short window to 

complete stream re-alignments into the structures that were 

constructed as a part of this project to remove two ‘fish barrier’ 

culverts.  This work had to be done during August.”

By using the ramps to keep the freeway traffic flowing, albeit at 40 mph, they cut nine months and about a million dollars off the cost of the work, he said.

They have scheduled an opening ceremony for Oct. 7 at 10 a.m. and “hope to be able to open the new interchange after the ceremony,” he said. The final paving of the southbound through lanes is scheduled for tonight and Friday, Sept. 17-18, and will remove the bump at the bridge.

Paul works in Bremerton, and has been using the Mullenix intersection or going into Purdy and doubling back during the closure. Even happier about the reopening of access to Burley-Olalla Road at the freeway, I would imagine, will be all those people who live near the intersection and come and go each day from Gig Harbor or Tacoma. They have been forced down into Purdy where the overworked Highway 302 traffic signal was backing up Key Peninsula traffic even before the Burley-Olalla vehicles got added to the mix.

What about an emergency vehicle across a barrier?

 

The in basket: Bob Miller, who says he holds a commercial drivers license and takes “extreme pride in being as safe as possible” has a question about approaching emergency vehicles.

“I know that you are to pull over to a safe place at first opportunity if

a vehicle is approaching you from either direction in order to give it

plenty of room,” he said.

“Logically, I can’t imagine this same rule applies if the vehicle is in

the oncoming lanes on a divided highway with a barrier, but what about a

4-lane road such as SR 303 north of Fairgrounds Road?

Obviously if the emergency vehicle is coming from behind you, you get

out of the way as quickly and safely as possible, but what about if it’s

in one of the oncoming lanes?”

The out basket: If there is a physical barrier between you and the emergency vehicle that would prevent it from crossing into your lane to proceed around traffic, you are not required to slow or stop. Otherwise, including when there is a two-way left turn lane between you, you must.

In real life, I find that an emergency vehicle coming toward me often is passed me before I manage to get stopped on the shoulder, but I always slow down and make the effort.

Highway 308 signal having trouble

The out basket: Mike McDermott of Poulsbo writes that at least twice in the first week of September, “the traffic signal at Central Valley Road and Highway 308 (the road to Keyport) was flashing red instead of their usual red/green/yellow sequence. 

“This intersection is usually busy, even on weekends without the Navy traffic to Keyport,” Mike said. “At first, I thought it must be a glitch, but if this was done on purpose i want to know.

“This is a potentially dangerous intersection,” he said. “Because of the hills and curves that approach it, visibility of approaching traffic from the other directions is limited.”

At 11 a.m. one Sunday, he said, “when I approached the intersection, cars in three directions were just sitting there. No one was moving because no one could figure out who got there first.”

He wondered who he could call to find out what is happening with the light.

The out basket: Don Anders of the Olympic Region signal shop for state highways says, “We are having problems in this signal cabinet and our crew has been working with it to solve the problem.” They go to all-way flashing red when the problem arises or they are working on it. 

“This cabinet is over 20 years old and may have to be replaced,” Don said, “but a new unit is $25,000 and we are trying to fix the problem before we (have to) replace it.  As we all know funding is very tight for the state and we are working hard to do the right thing.”

People like Mike with a concern about a signal on a state highway in the region can call him at  (360) 357-2616, Don said.

The rules at all-way stops apply when all four directions have a flashing red. The topography Mike describes at 308 and Central Valley is difficult, but all drivers stopped at the light can easily see one another. If they are too timid to sort it out among themselves with eye contact, a wave of the hand and/or a cautious start by one of the cars, all drivers must yield to a car on their right. With only three cars stopped in the situation Mike describes, one of them will have no one to the right and should start first.

Herbicides used in state and county brush control

 

The in basket: Tom Loushe of Keyport writes, “I’ve noticed that on at least Highway 308 it seems the county has sprayed herbicide on roadside growth. Can this be true? And if so, is the solution detrimental to fish?

“I’ve also seen it north of the Hood Canal Bridge toward Port Gamble,” he said. He describes the evidence as brown shriveled weeds, mostly small alder trees.

The out basket: Those stretches are state highways, not county roads, and the state does use herbicides as part of its roadside vegetation control. Kitsap County does too.

A lengthy discussion of the program statewide can be found online at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/maintenance/vegetation/default.htm. And if you click on Roadside Vegetation Management Plans under More Detailed Information, you can get to the Olympic Region, District 2 plan that covers state highways in Kitsap and Mason counties. 

There is a huge amount of information that would fill more than 50 pages if printed out. 

The statewide site says, among other things, that the toxic potential of the herbicides used is regularly “screened through a scientific risk assessment specific to application rates and methods used… 

“Findings from these assessments indicate that for most herbicides in most situations, (our) use of herbicides poses a low to very low potential risk to human and environmental health. If certain herbicides are found to have a potential for higher toxicity to human health or the environment, their use on state highway roadsides may be limited, phased out, or immediately eliminated.”

Duke Stryker, maintenance superintendent of state highways here, said herbicides were sprayed in both locations Tom mentions, so he presumably is seeing the result. 

Kitsap County also has a manual describing its standards. Go to http://www.kitsapgov.com/pw/roads.htm and click on Vegetation Management.

I asked what percentage of clearing is done with chemicals vs. cutting and Doug Schultz, county road superintendent, replied. To understand his answer, you need to know that zone 1 is essentially the shoulder, zone 2 included where signs are installed and zone 3 extends to the limits of the right of way.

“Typically,” Don said, “we will shoulder spray about 1,200 miles yearly, primarily in zone 1. We mow about 1,600 miles yearly. Mowing is tracked by the shoulder mile as well, but includes zones 1, 2, and 3, so its difficult to compare apples to apples. We also hand spray (and) hand pull noxious weeds, spray brush in zones 2 and 3 and perform overhead brushing with the boom truck and mechanical air powered saws.”

Noise and traffic stoppages at Hood Canal Bridge

 

The in basket: Douglas Janachek, who lives near the Hood Canal Bridge, raises one new and one time-honored complaint about it. Larry Hilberg, another resident of the area, joins in the new one, unexpected noise levels.

“The new bridge creates a much louder noise when large trucks go over it than the old bridge did,” Douglas says. “It seems that when trucks hit the grated area on the approach there is a rather loud boom that is very noticeable. Just wondering if that can be addressed by the state highway department.”

Larry describes it as “ thundering and pounding noises being heard 24/7.  Depending

on the vehicle size and volume of traffic, the thundering noise is continuous at varying levels.”

Douglas also raises the historic complaint about delays and confusion over what drivers should do when the bridge’s center span opens and vehicle traffic stops. 

“Are there any plans to widen the road to allow traffic that is not driving over the bridge to proceed through the traffic light and not have to wait in line for drivers that are heading over the bridge?” he asked. “It is frustrating to be only a few cars back in line trying to drive to Port Gamble and be stuck in traffic that is stopped for the bridge opening.”

In the meantime, he said, “A few signs telling people to pull over would help when heading from Port Gamble toward Poulsbo.  Last weekend for instance, all the cars were in the travel lane – so most locals passed on the left onto oncoming traffic (not much because the bridge was closed) and hoped for the best.  This happens all the time.”

The out basket: Yes, the state has “addressed” the added noise at the new bridge, but only to explain it. They say they can’t correct it like they did back in the mid-’90s, when they revised the grates on the eastern transition span so trucks didn’t create such a din crossing onto the bridge.

Now, says Joe Irwin of the bridge staff, “the sound is being caused when vehicles run over the new expansion joints on the east half.  These 3-inch wide, recessed joints play a vital role in maintaining the bridge’s structural integrity.  They allow its concrete roadway sections to expand and contract as the concrete warms and cools. The joints also allow the bridge to move slightly during weather events, ensuring that the concrete roadway sections don’t (damage) one another.

 ‘The expansion joints are rectangular, rubber seals (and) must be slightly recessed in relation to the roadway to make certain they are not torn up by studded tires,” he said. “There simply isn’t a feasible mitigation alternative that can be accomplished in a fiscally reasonable way.”  

As for traffic left waiting when the center span opens, “design, environmental and financial issues” have prevented any highway widening to help those drivers, Joe said.  

 “With this in mind,” he said, the state “has increased its communication efforts in the Kitsap and Jefferson county areas near the bridge, providing better signage and real-time alerts about marine vessel openings that help travelers better prepare their trips.  More than 1,000 people have signed up to receive these alerts.”

 “We have been asked why our text alerts aren’t sent out before the bridge opens instead of after the fact,” he said. “This is tied into security decisions made after 9/11 that help ensure the safety of drivers and boaters. 

 “People are experiencing a higher number of marine vessel openings than usual as (we) and our contractor Kiewit-General of Poulsbo complete ongoing construction efforts at the bridge,” he said.  “We didn’t want to delay the June reopening of the bridge to accomplish these tasks, but they need to continue throughout the summer and into the fall to get the bridge in shape for winter and assure optimal performance in the future.

 “The bridge work is on schedule to conclude by the end of the year and when it does traffic on (highways) 3 and 104 will return to its pre-construction levels.  We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we wrap up the final stages of work to ensure the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas have a wider, safer, more reliable bridge for decades to come,” Joe said.