Tag Archives: Highway 303

Lack of stop sign at Silverdale off-ramp questioned

The in basket: Sharon Clark expressed concern a few months back about the Yield sign that controls vehicles coming off southbound Highway 3 via the off-ramp to Highway 303 north of Silverdale.

“I experienced a close call when exiting southbound to Silverdale, making a right turn at the yield sign,” she said. “Surprise — there’s no merging lane with traffic that’s fast-moving along the the far right lane.

“To make things worse, the visibility is bad. Small cars are hard to see when they’ve picked up speed from the traffic light zone, and are close to the overpass wall.  “Don’t most motorists expect there to be a merge lane, when yielding onto a four-lane road, coming off a freeway?” she asked. “Why not a stop sign instead?”

The out basket: I sent Sharon the explanation for the alignment at that location that I got from Project Engineer Brenden Clarke back in October 2007 while the interchange still was under construction. And I promised I’d ask for accident figures there since the ramp opened.

Brenden said then, “The sign there is a yield sign, not a merge sign.

“Traffic coming from southbound SR3 to 303 should not be merging,” he said. “It is either a signal-controlled or yield condition. Traffic heading toward Bremerton is controlled by the new traffic signal. Traffic heading toward Clear Creek or the Mall should be looking at the traffic signal as they approach to give them guidance as to how to proceed.

“If it is green, they obviously have the right-of-way and if it is red, they should be abiding by the Yield sign that is in place on the ramp and looking at oncoming traffic before they proceed.”

They didn’t install a stop sign for the right-turn movement, he told me then, because that would require traffic to stop even when the light is green for that movement. “The result of a stop sign would be a drastic decrease to capacity.  The yield sign allows traffic to proceed unencumbered while the signal is green, but it does not allow a merge.

“An added acceleration lane would have been nice,” he added. “but we did not have enough right-of-way to accommodate the widening for the added lane.”

So, have there been a lot of accidents at that yield since the ramp opened?

Geneva Hawkins of the state’s Collision Data & Analysis office says there had been 20 accidents at that location between the ramp’s opening Nov. 29, 2007, and the end of June this year, the most recent figures available.

All 20 have been rear-end accidents, 15 on the off-ramp (ruled as the result of following to closely), the other five on Highway 303, called the result of inattention. They were distributed evenly, with seven in 2008, eight in 2009 and five the first half of this year.

Four people had injuries, none serious, three of them in a pair of crashes in 2008. There have been no fatalities.

Do we really have to do 10 mph in Silverdale turn?

The in basket:  Peggy and Pat Tillery send an e-mail about a sign on westbound Highway 303 approaching the new urban interchange with Highway 3 in Silverdale, asking “Why is there a yellow 10 mph sign approaching the on-ramp when coming from Waaga Way, where you slow down to 35 and then get ready to head north on Highway 3 at that horrible interchange in Silverdale? 

“The on-ramp heading north on Highway 3 from that point,” their e-mail said, ” is tricky enough without having to slow down to 10 mph only to have to pick up speed to hit Highway 3 going north. Did they just forget to remove the sign when they constructed that area?”

The out basket: No, that is an advisory sign, suggesting a safe speed for making the turn onto the northbound on-ramp to Highway 3. It is not mandatory, as a black on white speed limit sign would be. It apparently anticipates a tall unstable vehicle that might tip over going faster than that. 

In a passenger car, I’ve found that going 10 miles per hour faster than any advisory speed sign I’ve ever encountered will get you through the turn or whatever the obstacle is safely. The 10 mph sign is an excess of caution that drivers of small vehicles normally can disregard.

But even if you choose to drop to 10 mph there, there’s lots of room on the on-ramp to get up to 60 mph for freeway driving, if your car is operating properly.  

Was that a propane sign??

The in basket: I was driving blithely along on Highway 3 passing the new interchange with Highway 303 the other day and happened to look up at the signs telling where the two upcoming off-ramps would take me.

On top of the sign indicating the way to southbound 303 was the familiar H that denotes a hospital. Atop the sign saying this way to Kitsap Mall Boulevard was a sign, also white on blue, of a symbol that looks like a propane tank. 

How long has that been there, I Wondered, does it mean propane is available that way, and  why is it there at all?

The out basket: It’s just another example of how highway signs can go unnoticed by drivers who are familiar with the area.

The sign has been there since 2000, says Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the Olympic Region, and denotes that propane is available at Clear Creek RV Center. It is augmented by the same kind of followup signs as the gas-food-lodging signs that are more prominently displayed alongside the highways, he said.

The next time through, I got off at Kitsap Mall Boulevard and, sure enough, there were matching blue signs on the off-ramp and on 303 that directed me to the RV center. I had never noticed any of the three.

There are similar signs all over the region, Steve said, and “businesses that apply for Motorist Information Signing and meet the criteria will be signed on the highway if space is available.”

When the business isn’t named, as on the generic propane signs, the business doesn’t have to pay the same yearly fee that restaurants, motels and such pay, said Gerald Nelson, head of the MIS program.

Waaga Way-Old Military access called dangerous

The in basket: Fred Lockett says he has would like to know why vehicles traveling northeast on Old Military Road in Central Kitsap are allowed to make left turns onto Waaga Way, also known as Highway 303.

I have seen several accidents at the intersection and have had several close calls myself,” said Fred.  “Traffic southbound on Waaga Way travels around a somewhat blind curve and has vehicles pulling out in front of them. Because of the same curve, drivers exiting Old Military Rd have a short line of sight, thus a very small window to turn safely onto Waaga Way.  

“I believe left turns should not be allowed at this intersection and some type of barrier should be installed to prevent them,” he said. “People that live on or near Old Military have other options they can use to access Waaga Way.”  

The out basket: Steve Bennett. traffic operations engineer in the state’s Olympic Region, says the accident history at Old Military and Waaga Way doesn’t support Fred’s idea.

“Closing movements at intersections is generally controversial within the affected communities,” he said. “People are very resistant to being forced to travel greater distances than they are accustomed to traveling. 

“We must have a significant collision history in order to justify elimination of any existing intersection movements.  In this case, I do not believe we have sufficient justification to restrict the left turn movements. 

 “A review of the Washington State Patrol collision records found that there were six collisions at this intersection in the last three years. Two of  these collisions  may have been related to the sight distance at the intersection. Fortunately, none …  have resulted in either fatal or serious injuries. 

“When looking at overall collision numbers, there are nearly 300 intersections in our region that have a higher crash frequency than this intersection.

“If we used the number of collisions at Old Military Road as our criteria for closing intersections or restricting movements within intersections, we have a lot of closing to do.”

Are Highway 303 traffic signals coordinated?

 

The in basket: Gary Reed put the following comment on the Road Warrior blog, attached to the column about the coordination of traffic signals on Highway 305 in Poulsbo, and its negative impact on the side street traffic:

“What about the timing of Highway 303 signals?” he asked. “Those are set to stop traffic at each light. Why is that?

The out basket: They aren’t, of course, but gaps in the coordination that does exist make it more difficult and less apparent.

Part of Highway 303 is in the city of Bremerton and the rest outside, so the responsibility is split between the city and state. The city controls the Fred Meyer light even though it’s outside the city. 

Jim Johnstone of the state’s Olympic Region signal shop said the signals at Fuson Road in front of Lowe’s, Bentley Drive at Walmart and Brownsville Highway are not coordinated with any others. The first two of those are the ones I have the least success getting through without being stopped.

“Fuson is not coordinated because of the low side street volumes,” Jim said. “Both sides of Fuson added together only have 10 percent of the overall volume during the PM peak and 87 percent of those are right turns.  

“If we were to put Fuson into coordination it would cause the same side street and left-turn delays that people are concerned about along (Highway) 305.”

“Bentley is not a part of the coordination because of issues with traffic in the left turn lane for Walmart spilling back and blocking the northbound through lane,” Jim continued. “In order to serve the left-turn into Walmart twice per cycle and prevent the backup, we need to use some features in the controller that do not work in the coordination mode. 

“We struggled with this operation for a long time and decided to coordinate the signals at McWilliams and Fairgrounds and leave Bentley uncoordinated.  The hope (is) that mainline through-traffic at Bentley would be green at least occasionally to allow progression through the signals at McWilliams and Fairgrounds.

Greg Cryder heads the city’s signal shop and says that the lights between Fred Meyer and Sheridan Road are coordinated, as are those between Sheridan and 11th Street.

There is no coordination on Warren south of 11th, he said, as it has been decided that coordinating the signals along Sixth and 11th streets, which are perpendicular to Warren, is more important.

As the Road Warrior column about Highway 305 mentioned, a primer on why coordination doesn’t always produce a smooth flow of non-stop traffic can be found online at www.wsdot.wa.gov. Fill in Signal Coordination in the search box.

Readers weigh in on new Silverdale interchange

The in basket: The storm over the new Silverdale interchange where highways 3 and 303 meet doesn’t seem to have abated. Mostly, it’s discussed on the Opinion Page and I try to stay out of it. South Kitsapers like myself are among the main beneficiaries of the changes. And I have yet to drive there on a rainy night, which is when the critics say it is the worst.
I did pass along to Brenden Clarke, the project engineer, an e-mail from Dave Waller testifying to something that seems to justify one of the most common fears. It is that the left turn signals to turn north onto Highway 3 are so positioned that a confused or impaired driver might turn down the oncoming off-ramp and drive into oncoming freeway traffic.
“I was traveling south on my motorcycle at about 11:15 p.m.
coming from the Bangor Main Gate,” Dave said on March 21.
He was approaching the off-ramp to Silverdale Way/Waaga Way.
“I had just passed a car and moved back into the slow lane when a car passed by me. He was traveling north in the southbound fast lane!
“I was very surprised! So were co-workers of mine who had to dodge the northbound intruder.
“Once the car in error had some breathing room, it turned around, to head south. I can only surmise that the car made the wrong turn on the overpass.”
A number of letter writers have claimed to be so fearful of the new interchange that they travel the county roads between Poulsbo and Silverdale to avoid it.
Others say they pass up the two-lane left turn from westbound Highway 303 to southbound Highway 3 and proceed past Clear Creek Road and make the gradual right onto another on-ramp to southbound 3 there.
Vince Mattson, a retired engineer living on Bainbridge Island, sent me a copy of a letter he’d sent the state back in 2004, predicting some of the problems the proposed new interchange would create if built. He then advised against the two-way turn onto the ramp to Highway 3.
He now suggests that that ramp be closed and all westbound Highway 303 traffic wanting to go south on Highway 3 be required to use the right turn ramp many say they are using already.
I asked if there have been many accidents on the new interchange, if traffic on those county roads is up, and whether closing the two-way turn lane onto the ramp to southbound 3 is a good idea.
The out basket: Steve Bennett of the state’s Olympic Region engineers says “Since the opening of the new interchange in mid-November of last year through mid-February of this year, there have been four collisions
within the interchange area. Two were non-injury collisions and two were possible injury collisions.” Figures for the two months since weren’t gathered yet.
From Jan. 1, 2001 through Dec. 31, 2005, there was a collision within the interchange area about 3.5 times per month, he said.
“While it looks promising, with only three
months worth of ‘after’ data, it is still too early to draw any
substantial collision comparisons between the new and
old interchanges,” he said.
The county’s traffic counts on Silverdale Way and Viking Way, the most likely route between Silverdale and Poulsbo other than the freeway, show an increase in use during construction of the new interchange but that traffic counts are back to what they used to be before the project started.
Finally, Brenden says the two-lane turn onto the southbound ramp to Highway 3 will become more important next year. That’s when the county hopes to complete a new road between Clear Creek and Old Frontier roads, providing a new way to and from the interchange for traffic on Anderson Hill, Provost and Old Frontier roads.
It will increase traffic on Clear Creek at the new light, he said, requiring longer waits for those on Highway 303. That will make continuing on to the right-turn on-ramp less attractive.
It probably will be another irritation for North Kitsapers, as well. The project already has eliminated their direct access from Kitsap Mall Boulevard to Highway 3 northbound, requiring that they pass through the Clear Creek light.