Judging from the steady stream of e-mails we receive, a great number of people have theories on how to relieve congestion.
Many of the suggestions make sense, but most aren't feasible for one reason or another. In a lot of cases, there simply isn't funding.
Other times, the ideas are a bit off the wall. WSDOT traffic engineer Steve Bennett remembers a call from a psychologist who pitched an idea to improve traffic flow on the 1950 Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
“He said we should paint the bridge orange, because orange is a color that puts people at ease,” Steve said.
Despite the psychologist’s analysis and urging, Steve held firm to his own theory that the bridge had too few lanes to support the growing traffic volume.
Traffic flow across the Narrows is much better now – ever since we added a second GREEN bridge in 2007.
But a few miles west of the Narrows on SR 16, at the SR 302 ramp to Purdy, backups develop during peak commutes that cause vehicles to weave and jockey for position as they enter and exit SR 16.
Sally McCannon of Belfair e-mailed us in July, wondering “when is something going to be done?” Sally’s e-mail came not only with a problem, but a suggested solution: “If you would have two lanes onto the Purdy exit for a little ways, it would help the backup. Seems like that would be an easy fix,” she wrote.
Our traffic engineers agreed (in fact, they were already considering the idea). In September, crews restriped the SR 302 off-ramp from westbound SR 16 to allow shoulder driving on weekdays between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
“We were well on our way” to adding the shoulder lane before receiving Sally’s e-mail, said Steve, offering a revelation that steals some of the fun from this blog post.
It took drivers a few days to get accustomed to using the shoulder, but as time goes by the extra afternoon lane seems to work better and better. It doesn’t solve congestion in the area. That will require millions of dollars. But with a little paint and few signs, the level of safety is improved.
“I think it has helped a lot,” Sally said when contacted by phone. “I can definitely tell it’s better. It was a good fix,” … and a good idea.
Thank you Sally and everyone who takes the time to offer their transportation suggestions. We always read them – and sometimes we even use them.