Tag Archives: tunnel

Why is Bertha so hard to reach?

The in basket: I see that Bertha, the moribund tunneling machine in Seattle, continues to make news on the TV stations, this time regarding the danger of digging the pit to reach it for repairs.

I felt a little dumb about asking the following question, which I had never heard addressed in all the coverage of the machine’s problems, but I asked anyway. Why can’t they just back it out of the tunnel it dug to get to the damaged boring surface, rather than digging a huge hole. That’s what I do when a drill bit gets stuck.

The out basket: Laura Newborn, media relations manager for the Alaska Way Viaduct replacement project, replied, “The answer to your question is straightforward: The machine can’t move backward because it is building a tunnel as goes. It’s how bored tunnels are dug. So the hole is actually smaller on the back end. She referred me to the Web site https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guWkPRReUaE, an animated representation of what went on behind Bertha as it moved forward.

No signal change expected soon at Burwell and Warren

The in basket: Dennis Halstead is the latest reader to question why the traffic signal on Burwell Street at Warren Avenue in Bremerton isn’t friendlier to drivers heading toward downtown. They have to wait for a red light to change until long after westbound Burwell drivers get a green light.

“Why is (it), whether it’s east- or westbound on Burwell … that both directions don’t have the light synchronized to either go or stop?” he asked. “This does not make any sense to me that one lane is allowed to proceed when the other lane is stopped burning fuel.”
The out basket: The state had temporary jurisdiction over the signals at that intersection in the weeks after the downtown ferry tunnel was finished to make sure traffic flowed easily through the tunnel.

A state official explained at the time that the eastbound light stayed red to allow any westbound driver who wanted to turn left into the small parking lot on the south side of Burwell to make the turn. There’s no turn pocket there, so a westbound driver waiting for oncoming traffic to clear would cause traffic exiting the ferry to back up behind him.

The state now defers to the city on control of that signal, as it normally does on signals on state highways inside a city. But no change is imminent.

“No decision has been made at this point,” says Jeff Collins head of the city’s signal shop. “We are aware of the complaint but until we have money and or staff to make modifications we will leave it as is.

“It would require reprogramming of the signal controller, addition of a no-left-turn sign, and removal of the traffic head with left-turn arrow and replaced with standard three-section head,” he said.

Why can’t cars leaving ferry use ramp to Washington Avenue?

The in basket: Tim Trembley, a 20-year commuter on the Bremerton ferry, says, “I have a question about the exit ramp from the ferry terminal to Washington Avenue.  

“Back when the state was surveying people about the tunnel project, we were told that drivers would still be able to exit to Washington Avenue after the tunnel was built.  Then, after the tunnel was built, we were told that in order to kept cars and pedestrians separate on Washington Avenue that all traffic exiting the ferry would have to use the tunnel.  

“Then they re-routed the ferry drop-off traffic down Washington Avenue. So what is the ‘official’ reason offloading traffic can’t use Washington Avenue? Is this the state’s ramp to nowhere?”

The out basket: I don’t know if many people take advantage of the fact they can continue past Second Street, the designated ferry drop-off point, and curve onto First Street to get closer to the ferry terminal to drop off or pick up ferry passengers. It’s not intended that they do.

But Brenden Clarke, project engineer for the tunnel, explains the rationale for allowing so little use of the ramp:

“The driving force behind the decision to route all vehicle traffic through the tunnel is overall safety – for pedestrians and motorists,” he said.

“Pedestrian traffic downtown continues to increase as a result of recent development in Bremerton, new parks, a marina, condominiums and local businesses.

“The primary issue that concerns engineers is the three streams of traffic that conflict at the Washington Avenue/First Street intersection during peak-commute times: buses exiting the transit station; pedestrian traffic (ferry riders, shipyard workers, business patrons); and vehicles offloading from the ferry.

Additional considerations, he said, are:

– There are line-of-sight concerns for buses and off-loading vehicle traffic at the Washington Avenue/First Street intersection due to grade separation and a retaining wall between the ferry terminal and the transit deck.

– Off-loading vehicles have only a short distance to get into the appropriate lane approaching the tunnel. This creates potential for weaving conflicts (a recognized accident cause) or vehicles stopping and blocking off-loading traffic while waiting for a gap to enter the proper lane.

– Line of sight is less than ideal for off-loading vehicles because the lanes wind around the piers supporting the transit deck.

The ramp was constructed to full standards, he said, in case an accident or something else closed the tunnel and all traffic had to use the ramp to Washington. Otherwise, only bicyclists can use it.

Again with the Burwell-Warren traffic light


The in basket: The Burwell Street-Warren Avenue intersection and its traffic signal in Bremerton continue to draw suggestions from readers. The latest comes from Ralph Gribbin, who says, “Nothing dumps so many vehicles onto Burwell in such a short time as the ferries. Yet when Burwell was redone a few years ago, the big dump was only given one lane to use, yet the eastbound traffic that straggles through got two lanes. Doesn’t make sense to me.  

“Now with the tunnel finished,” he said, “the intersection with Warren Avenue gets two lanes eastbound straight through and the left turn onto Warren only gets one lane. Most of the eastbound Burwell traffic turns left from (the) one lane.

During the tunnel the construction, he continued, “two lanes turned left without any problems. Make that a two-lane turn and ease the lines that are waiting, and just maybe the time for that signal could be reduced and still not cause backups,” he said.

The out basket: As I recall, making Burwell two lanes inbound and one outbound years ago resulted from having only enough right of way for three lanes. I imagine making it easier to get out of town than into town bore some psychological message in a struggling city, so they did the opposite.

As for allowing left turns from both eastbound lanes of Burwell at Warren, it worked fine when the tunnel project closed both lanes for going straight. 

Now, says tunnel project engineer Brenden Clarke, eastbound drivers can see two lanes available on the other side of the intersection. Even with the left-most green signal a left-only arrow,  he said, “this would violate driver expectancy and could result in eastbound Burwell traffic in the left lane continuing forward (because they can see an open lane in front of them) and could result in a collision with motorists in the right lane turning left.”

Long wait for a green light on Burwell at Warren

The in basket: Robert Campbell says, “I travel by bus and sometimes by car to and from PSNS.  I have noticed that the new lights after the tunnel project was completed at Burwell and Warren are slowing commuter traffic eastbound. 

“For some reason,” he said, “the engineers felt that westbound traffic on Burwell needed a left-turn signal to enter a Diamond parking lot at the south end of Warren. Not only does this seem odd, the left hand light is very long. Eastbound drivers going to the ferry terminal stack up at the light in the mornings and during peak ferry loading times, while no one ever turns left. 

“I have not timed this light, but few people turn left into the parking lot.  And the time it delays eastbound traffic towards the terminal seems unwarranted.

 “I would submit that this light is totally unnecessary,” Robert said. “And certainly it should stay green for a very short time.  It is a back route into an alley that could access the back of the new police station, but the police station has a much shorter access just west of it.”

Also Bill Throm of South Kitsap told me many months ago he got the impression the light stayed green way too long for cars EXITING that parking lot.

The out basket: Brenden Clarke, project engineer on the tunnel, who also holds sway over the changes made to accommodate the tunnel, says the problem is kind of collateral damage from serving the main traffic flows.

“Due to the through and left movement on Burwell heading eastbound, the east and westbound directions of Burwell must have separate phases,” he said.  “As a result, when westbound comes up green the eastbound direction must receive a red so that the eastbound lefts are not in conflict.  

As long as they have to be stopping eastbound Burwell traffic while the westbound is flowing, they might as well leave the turn arrow into the parking lot on green even if traffic rarely demands it, he said. No other movement would be permissible during that time.

They tried splitting the left turns onto northbound Warren from the through eastbound traffic, giving the latter a green light while the inside lane from which turns must now be made stayed red. 

“Despite pavement markings and the signal displays, motorists who have been used to turning left only for two years did not take well to the new configuration,” he said. “People were turning left on red, or turning left from the right lane when left lane motorists were going through.” 

“The signal is currently set up as efficiently and safely as possible considering the constraints,” he said. “(The state)  and the city of Bremerton worked together to come up with the signal timing that is currently being used.  Without major (and costly) modifications to the signal, we feel that it is operating as well as it can be.” 

As for traffic leaving the parking lot, I can’t say what the case may have been back when Bill mentioned it, but it’s green only long enough to serve waiting cars now.





Keep buses out of ferry terminal scramble?


The in basket: John Holbrook wrote last January about the congestion around the Bremerton ferry terminal on weekday afternoons and suggested that transit buses let automobile traffic clear before adding themselves to it.

“Around 5:30 p.m.,  the possibly fullest boat of the day arrives in Bremerton,” John said.

“Two bumper-to-bumper lines of cars pour onto Washington Avenue intent on getting home. Often traffic backs up from  the traffic light at Burwell clear onto the boat itself!  

“Into this mess come charging six-plus Kitsap Transit

buses from the terminal equally intent on getting to where they are going.

“Throw in hordes of pedestrians crossing without even looking at Second Street or jaywalking in front of the hotel(and it’s) a recipe for a dangerous situation at

best.  Add in darkness and rain and it really gets bad!

“In the last few weeks my car has been nearly hit several times,” John said..

“All but a couple of the buses move to the left as soon as they come out of

the terminal ramp!  These drivers do not hesitate to use the bulk of their

vehicles to force their way into the lane they want!”

“Seems to me if (the buses’) departure was delayed

just 10 minutes most of the traffic would have time to get out of their way.”

The out basket: I didn’t expect Kitsap Transit to be very receptive to the idea, as among its missions is to make using the bus more attractive than driving one’s car, to encourage ridership and reduce traffic on the roadways. 

Transit CEO Dick Hayes didn’t surprise me when he replied, “Without disputing the letter writer’s assertions about the congestion problems at the Bremerton Transportation Center as boats unload in Bremerton in the afternoon, Kitsap Transit very much disagrees with his stated priorities for access and merging.

“Our position is that because the buses carry a number of people, buses deserve equal if not better access to the roadway, however congested it may be. 

Dick continued, “It will remain our position that the buses not only have every right to be there, but also, under state law, that buses have a right to merge that supersedes the merging of individual autos.”

Those triangular Yield signs you see on the backs of buses are backed up by state law that would make a merging accident the car driver’s fault if he or she didn’t yield to a bus and they collided. 

“With the completion of the tunnel next year,” Dick continued, “a significant portion of car traffic exiting the ferry will be re-routed (away from Washington Avenue) and merging issues will become much more manageable.  The issues for pedestrians will, of course, remain basically the same, but buses and pedestrians are generally a safe mix, so we are hopeful that the overall situation will improve substantially, and that our long-term goal for a downtown bus and pedestrian priority zone will be realized. 

“I appreciate that this will not help the letter writer merge more quickly, but clearly, philosophically, he and the transit system are miles apart,” Dick concluded.


Why must city share in tunnel maintenance costs?

The in basket: Ernie Moreno of Bremerton read a report in this paper in September that described the city of Bremerton’s share of annual maintenance costs on the downtown ferry egress tunnel that is nearing completion. 

“We had a ballot whether we wanted that or not,” Ernie said, “and we voted no. Then Norm Dicks got it done. Why should we have to share maintenance cost on a state highway?”

The city will pick up $17,000 of the tunnel’s estimated $58,000 in maintenance each year, mostly in labor costs to maintain the appearance of the tunnel, the storm drain systems, fire alarm systems and two emergency phones. The state will pay the rest.

The out basket: I didn’t recall there having been such a vote, and Lynn Price, city project manager for the tunnel, says there was none. 

“As part of the project’s environmental assessment , citizen input was obtained at several open houses and a public hearing, but no votes were taken,” he said. Opponents of the tunnel asked for one, an advisory vote, but the city council said no, as reader Bob Meadows points out in a comment below.  

“The tunnel is part of (Highway) 304” Lynn said, “and as such the allocation of

maintenance responsibilities between and the city and the state is generally covered under RCW 47.24.020.  Since a tunnel is not specifically mentioned in (that law), it was necessary to for the city and

the state to come to an agreement on the non-standard elements that are

part of a tunnel.” 

That law has 16 clauses, one of which says a city will provide street lighting, street cleaning and snow removal and maintain storm drains on state highways passing through it. 

“The agreement was developed,” Lynn said, ‘”with the understanding that the city is

receiving benefits from the project including reducing vehicular traffic

on the downtown surface streets and thereby reducing pedestrians-vehicle

conflicts. The city will be maintaining those items that are within our normal area

of responsibility for state routes within the city.”