Tag Archives: Thru Traffic Keep Left

Those perplexing Thru Traffic Keep Left signs

The in basket: Floyd Routh asked for clarification some time back of the Thru Traffic Keep Left signs on Highway 3 northbound in Gorst and southbound just past the Kitsap Way interchange.
He had been pulled over by a Bremerton police officer for driving in the left lane northbound out of Gorst without passing another car. He didn’t get a ticket.
“When I found out why I was pulled over, I was more argumentative than he deserved,” Floyd said, then he asked, “Could someone clarify the ‘THRU TRAFFIC KEEP LEFT’ signs that are on Highway 3?  RCW 46.61.100 states to keep right except when passing.  Which takes precedence?
 “The signs are white with black lettering,” he noted. “These are regulatory signs and must be followed until superseded by a subsequent/follow-up sign or are no longer applicable.”
The closest follow-up sign is after Austin Drive  and says ‘SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT’.  “Technically, drivers heading from Port Orchard to Bangor should stay in the left lane from Gorst until Chico,” Floyd argued. “This is what I was doing when I got pulled over.
“Apparently the signs are to an old color scheme and were meant for ‘information only’,” Floyd said. “Are drivers expected to know which black and white signs are real and which are to be ignored?”

The out basket: Trooper Russ Winger of the State Patrol here, said, “The merge to left signs on southbound SR-3 at SR-304, whether regulatory or non-regulatory in nature, take precedence over the “keep right except to pass” rule, posted or not. As for the ‘Thru Traffic Keep Left’ signs on northbound SR-3 in Gorst,  they are intended to allow for the smooth merging of traffic from the northbound SR-3 on ramp, just south of the train trestle in Gorst.

“Motorists should, after a reasonable distance north of the on-ramp northbound SR-3, move back into the right lane of travel and remain there if traveling slower than surrounding traffic or not actively passing traffic in the right lane.

Common sense should guide here as to ‘reasonable distance’ past the merge on-ramp, meaning that point on the highway where traffic is no longer actively merging from the ramp.

 “The RCW  46.61.100 rule for keeping right except to pass or “
‘Slower Traffic Keep Right’ on a two-lane divided highway is always in effect unless otherwise signed. The fact that there may be no sign stating ”Keep Right Except to Pass’ does not mean a motorist should stay in the left lane until they see this sign.
“Motorists will see this sign at various points along long stretches of roadway on limited access highways. These signs are a reminder to motorists of the lane travel law.

“I think your reader is incorrect in saying that ‘technically’ a motorist driving from Port Orchard to Bangor should stay in the left lane from Gorst until Chico. The highway is multi-lane and the rules of the road supersede unless otherwise posted.

 The signs are black and white. It is my opinion that they should be to warn motorists to keep left (they do not say ‘left lane only thru traffic’) at the interchange with SR-304. You are still ‘staying left’ even if you are in the right lane when coming to the merge at SR-304.
“It is somewhat confusing and perhaps caution type signs should be used  – or no signs at all,” Russ said..
“I have spoken to at least seven of my fellow troopers and not one said they have written a ticket for ‘going through’ while not keeping left. I have not issued such a citation in my 23-year career here in Kitsap County, nor can I remember even stopping a vehicle for this.”
Though I (the Road Warrior) have many times raised the question of why the black and white signs are not mandatory, as black and white signs are supposed to be, I have never gotten an answer.

False alarm about sign at dreaded Bremerton merge

The in basket: Cpl. Bob Millard of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office made a wholly unexpected comment at a coffee group a while back when the conversation turned to the much-discussed rush-hour backup on southbound Highway 3 approaching Highway 304 at the west end of Bremerton. 
He said all the discussion of what’s legal or polite in moving over to the left lane early or staying in the right lane until a merge is physically necessary is theoretically settled long before a driver even reaches the backup. 
It’s way back nearly to the Kitsap Way overpass, he said, where a sign says “Thru Traffic Kept Left.” It’s a white sign with black lettering, which makes it a regulatory sign as opposed to an advisory sign. Advisory signs usually are yellow. 
He’d never stopped anyone for staying in the right lane and never expects to, Bob said, but it would be theoretically possible.
I was dumbfounded. Bob’s analysis seemed sound, but if true it would make illegal any use of the right lane beyond the Loxie Eagans off-ramp, the last chance to do anything EXCEPT go straight.
The same sign is posted in the curve in Gorst as one heads to Bremerton, but it’s past the point where anything but proceeding straight is possible. 
I asked the intent and significance of those signs.
The out basket: I wasn’t alone in my surprise. State Trooper Krista Hedstrom, my source for WSP information, admitted she’d never even noticed the sign until I asked. She said Bob Millard appeared to be correct, based on the color of the sign, but that she couldn’t find anyone in the local detachment who had ever enforced it.
But it turns out not to be a regulatory sign despite its color. There is no state law that makes ignoring it a violation, said Lisa Murdock of the state Department of Transportation.
Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the state’s Olympic Region elaborated. He said, “At one time black/white was also used for informational signing, but that use is being phased out.”
An example is the recent conversion of the black/white Speed Zone Ahead signs, the very essence of an advisory sign, to have a prominent yellow component. The old signs are to be replaced between now and 2018, and many already are.
The Keep Left sign in Gorst is intended to create gaps in the outside lane traffic for cars needing to merge as they enter on the on-ramp from Belfair, he said.
Generally, he said, drivers can used the following color coding to evaluate the need to observe a highway sign:
Black/White – regulatory (enforceable)
Blue – Service Guidance (food, gas, lodging) and tourist info
Brown – Recreational (mainly state parks)
Orange – Temporary traffic control  (work zones)
Yellow – Warning (advisory)
Red – Stop or Prohibition.
As for the merge of highways 3 and 304, things are as they always have been, with each driver free to choose whether to get over early or stay in the right lane to reach the actual merge point.