Officers out in force on U.S. Highway 101
Port Townsend Police Officer Luke Bogues uses a radar gun to check traffic speed along U.S. Highway 101 in Quilcene. -- Photo by Erik Hidle/Peninsula Daily News
From the PDN:
By Erik Hidle
Peninsula Daily News
QUILCENE -- Police are visible, ticketing is up and wrecks are down.
"We always expect to see more accidents with an increased amount of traffic," said Trooper Krista Hedstrom, State Patrol spokeswoman.
"Any time you get more cars out on the road, you get more collisions."
But since the May 1 temporary closing of the Hood Canal Bridge, the U.S. Highway 101 route through Jefferson County has been bucking that trend.
Hedstrom said troopers have been called to two collisions on state highways in Jefferson County since the beginning of the month.
"Yeah, it's surprising because it's much less than we thought," she said.
Another collision occurred on Center Road, said Linda Pfafman, traffic safety coordinator for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.
"All three of those were single vehicles," she said.
"So far, we've been very lucky."
The Hood Canal Bridge was closed for an estimated six weeks for replacement of its eastern half.
During that time, many motorists are taking the long way around the canal, which means driving Highway 101.
The State Patrol announced last week that, during the first week after the bridge closed, traffic on 101 Highway around the Hood Canal increased from some 3,000 vehicles per day to about 5,310 daily.
The State Patrol, sheriff's office and Port Townsend police have all increased their presence along Highway 101 near Brinnon and Quilcene, on Center Road between highways 101 and 104 and all of Highway 104.
State Traffic Safety Commission funds are paying for officer overtime and expenses for the three agencies to patrol the areas during the bridge closure.
While Port Townsend officers don't typically patrol outside the city limit, the department agreed to allow officers to work state-paid overtime during the closure. The police also receive compensation for the use of their vehicles and gasoline.
Pfafman said she hoped increased presence of law enforcement in the area would result in fewer accidents.
"We've been holding our breath so far," she said, "But we've been fortunate, and I think the visible enforcement has helped."
Pfafman said the upcoming festivals and the continued closure of the Hood Canal passenger ferry due to high winds may change the current trend, but that she remains hopeful.
State Patrol Lt. Clint Casebolt said his agency is using the extra patrols to be more visible in school zones affected by the increased traffic.
"My guys have issued a lot of speeding tickets in the school zones," Casebolt said.
"We're working those areas, like the Quilcene school zone, really hard."
Quilcene School is leaving on its blinking school zone lights, which cut the speed limit to 20 mph for a quarter-mile stretch of Highway 101 in front of the school, until 8 p.m. each night.
During release periods for students, teachers line up orange cones and flag students across the crosswalks.
"I'm glad I pulled the kids from doing the flagging," said Principal Jim Betteley.
"It's been very busy, but the safety has been good.
"Some of the trucks aren't doing a very good job of slowing down, but I've seen [law enforcement] writing a lot of tickets."
Casebolt said he was unsure how many tickets the State Patrol had issued along Highway 101.
"However, I have been keeping track of what the extra patrols have been doing," he said.
"I would say, right now, it's around 110 extra citations we've issued from the extra patrols alone.
"That doesn't include our normal patrols, just what we have done with the additional units in the area."
Casebolt said the tickets have been mostly for speeding and lack of proper seat belt use.
Pfafman said she had numbers only for the extra patrols through May 7 for Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.
"Through that time we have given out 48 tickets," she said.
Pfafman said the top three offenses have been speeding, driving without insurance and driving with a suspended license.
Port Townsend Police Sgt. Ed Green said his department has issued 36 infractions from extra patrols in the area through Wednesday.
Reporter Erik Hidle can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.
Last modified: May 13. 2009 9:42PM