Monthly Archives: August 2014

Can Fauntleroy ferry terminal get a traffic light?

The in basket: Raymond Craig of Port Orchard writes to say he misses the days when a state trooper was posted at the  Fauntleroy ferry terminal during rush hour.

“Getting off or on the ferry was a breeze because the officer efficiently metered traffic to match the boat off-load,” he said.

“With no traffic control, the ferry off-load gets bogged down on the ramp and during peak commute times this results in extensive delays. It is frustrating to see 50-plus cars idling on the dock while crossing traffic dribbles by on Fauntleroy (Avenue). With a bus stop at the top of the dock, adding a Metro double bus in the midst of the commute makes things even worse.

“More importantly,” he continued, “the exit at the end of the Fauntleroy ferry dock is a ‘triple point’ of safety issues. Cars, trucks, metro buses and pedestrians are all trying to cross without control or monitoring.  It is a dangerous crossing where sight lines are limited and drivers compete with Metro buses and pedestrians.

 “I have asked managers at WSDOT why they don’t install a traffic light to help the situation.  They tell me the Fauntleroy community will not allow the light to be installed because they don’t like having the ferry dock there. The community would like the terminal to be removed and resists any effort that will aid the ferry system.

“It makes no sense that the personal priorities of the Fauntleroy community could override a serious traffic safety situation,” Raymond said. “If a pedestrian or bicycle rider is injured at the ferry terminal crossing……you could logically blame the lack of traffic light as the cause.  With the emphasis today on the environment and safety, how can WSDOT not override the community and install a traffic light.”

The out basket: The city of Seattle has the whip hand on this and is sensitive to the feelings of city residents who live near the terminal. But Rick Sheridan of the Seattle Department of Transportation says the city is willing to consider ways to make the intersection safer if the ferry system provides the money.

First, though, Marta Coursey of the ferry system’s public affairs office sent along these thoughts: “In 2011, Washington State Patrol’s budget was reduced significantly, resulting in the loss of officer traffic control at the intersection of Fauntleroy Way and Fauntleroy Terminal in West Seattle. The Fauntleroy terminal presents many challenges and the officers were extremely helpful to us in providing safety, security and traffic control around this terminal.

 “Because Fauntleroy Way is also a city street, not a state highway, the state has no jurisdictional control over the intersection. In order for the state to install a signal here, we would need to get a permit from the city.”

Which brings us back to Rick Sheridan’s reply: “Our traffic engineers reviewed the intersection that supports the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal,” he said. “The City of Seattle is open to the idea of modifying this intersection. We would be happy to explore changes that can better facilitate ferry terminal operations while also ensuring a safe roadway for all users.

“As this request is driven by their operational needs, changes at this location would need to be funded by the Washington state ferry system. We will reach out to them to share our perspective on the matter.”

Reader finds rush hour road job ill-timed

The in basket: Pete Wimmer of Silverdale e-mailed me on July 31 to say, “This morning coming in to work, a road crew (don’t know if it was city, county or state) was in the process of taking up the old crosswalk stripes at the corner of National and Loxie Eagans (in Bremerton). I can fully understand that it needs to be clearly marked for the school, but 6:30 a.m. is not the time.

“Now mind you that the backup was minimal, in the big picture of things, Loxie Eagans to the northbound Highway 3 on-ramp light, but to have started it after 7:30 might have been better.”

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works says it was a county crew and it wasn’t starting early, it was finishing late.

“Our crews completed that work as part of an overnight work assignment of several intersections like that one,” he said. “The crew you saw working there was actually finishing up their overnight work projects and felt they could get that particular intersection done that morning. We usually try to wrap up overnight work by 6 o’clock but since the crew was out there they felt it would be efficient to get it done while they were in the area.

“We do try to minimize disruptions to traffic and don’t usually work during the rush hour.”

I hadn’t realized that the county had taken a page from state contract crews in doing road work at night. I asked how common it was.

“During the summer months we shift a crew to overnight work to focus on intersection and crosswalk striping as well as thermoplastic applications,” Doug said. “This minimizes the impact on motorists due to the lower traffic volumes.”

Thermoplastic is the material used in pavement arrows and many crosswalks and is melted onto the asphalt surface in lieu of paint.

 

Diamond shapes on signal cross-arms go unquestioned

The in basket: Usually when something unfamiliar shows up on the cross-arms of traffic signal poles, I get a question from someone who suspects we’re being tracked electronically.

That was the question when tall, camera-like objects were put on the cross-arms a few years back. And when camera-like devices like the one in the arcing off-ramp from southbound Highway 303 to Central Valley Road and along the uphill lanes of Port Orchard Boulevard appeared.

The first ones are optical traffic detectors that replace the in-pavement wire detectors that are expensive to work on when they fail. The others allow emergency vehicles to change an upcoming traffic signal to green even though it’s  around a curve from the approaching vehicles.

It hasn’t happened this time, although diamond-shaped devices I hadn’t noticed before have appeared on the signals on Mile Hill Drive in South Kitsap in front of South Park Village shopping center and at Long Lake Road.

Those are Kitsap County signals, so I asked the county about them.

The out basket: Doug Bear, spokesman for county public works says, “Those are radio antennas that are placed at intersections where we don’t have wire connections for the signals.”  They allow the county signal shop to communicate with the signal to diagnose problems and check on and/or alter its operation. “They are pretty uncommon as we usually have wired connections,” he said.

Registration in the trunk? Not a good idea

The in basket: One of the Seattle TV stations ran a weird story last week about a woman who had had her vehicle registration stolen from her glove box in a car prowl, leaving her fearful of ID theft and home invasion.

The report suggested taking your registration with you when parking in public. I don’t recall if that recommendation was attributed to any agency. An alternative would be to put it in the trunk.

If I followed the suggestion, I’d be applying for a new registration every month or so because I’d lose the one I’d taken from its relatively safe location in my glove box.

I asked my police sources if this is really a concern and about the most likely reaction by a police officer told by a stopped driver that his registration was in the trunk. And I asked the Department of Licensing if they charge for a replacement registration.

The out basket: None thought it to be much of a threat.

Brad Benfield of the Department of Licensing said, “This is an issue that came up a couple years ago, but I don’t get the sense that it’s a widespread problem or any more concerning than mail theft or other types of potential ID crime.”

Thieves had broken into cars at a movie theater and taken the registration and garage door opener, he recalled. “That way they would have the home address, a key, and knowledge the owners wouldn’t be home for at least an hour,” he said.

“From a document standpoint, a registration certificate just has a name and address on it – no driver license number or Social Security number. I don’t think it would be a highly valuable document for ID fraud purposes.”

And yes, they charge $5 for a replacement registration plus $5 more if at a subagent office.

Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office said storing one’s registration in the trunk is not a recommended action.

“Should a driver advise an officer that the document is in the trunk it will, most likely, result in a request by the officer for a second unit to respond to the location as a back-up, unless the patrol vehicle is a two-officer unit.

“Law enforcement officers aren’t real keen on vehicle occupants rummaging around inside of a car or wanting to gain access to the vehicle’s trunk.

“Performing these actions probably would lengthen the time of the vehicle traffic stop,” he said.

State Trooper Russ Winger added, “We can’t have motorists getting in and out of vehicles on a regular basis. It’s dangerous traffic-wise and also for officer safety.

“In rare cases, we can run a DOL check and get the information we require. But we need to have that registration produced by the driver as a routine procedure.

“I personally doubt that the criminal activity you are talking about is a common problem, although I have heard the instance of the garage door opener theft. But that was long ago.

“If you weigh the risks involved, I think driver and officer safety is far more important.

“Keep the papers in your car, not the trunk though. You can also fold it up and keep it in your wallet or purse if it is that concerning to you. Most insurance companies provide wallet size ID cards or can, if requested.”

Scott also noted that using a post office box number for your registration address, if you have one, would frustrate such a crime.