Q: Why isn’t there a sign on East Portland Avenue letting drivers know it goes from two lanes southbound down to one just past East 72nd Street? – Dave C., Tacoma
A: Good news, Dave! Soon there will be.
But before we tell you that story, dear readers, we probably ought to tell you Dave’s.
He wrote this recently to Traffic Q&A headquarters:
“The two lanes go past the entrance to Kmart, then one ends without warning. I travel that road every day, and several times a week I see cars off in the gravel or cutting a car off to merge left. It’s worse since the time change makes it dark earlier in the afternoon.”
We took a trip out there a few days back to see for ourselves.
Dave wasn’t lying.
There is no warning sign, and we saw three near collisions in a half-hour span as unsuspecting drivers in the right lane had to cut hard to the left as their lane disappeared.
To make matters worse, there are UPS and U.S. Postal Service drop boxes curbside right where the two lanes become one, and we watched as several people parked in front of those boxes to deposit letters.
It turned a dangerous situation downright scary, in our view.
Seems that at the very least a sign warning of the disappearing lane should be in order, and we think we could make an argument that a “no parking” sign in front of those mailboxes would be a good idea as well.
We are happy to report that a warning sign, at least, is on the way.
Brennan Kidd, a traffic engineer for the city of Tacoma, reviewed the case after we sent Dave’s concerns to City Hall.
Kidd told us that while the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices does not require a warning sign at such locations, he thought it might be a good idea down at Portland and 72nd.
“… based on a virtual review of the location and the existing lane configuration/striping, a “lane ends” warning sign would be a prudent traffic control enhancement,” Kidd wrote in an email.
“In accordance with the MUTCD, the sign will be placed upstream of the location where the lane line striping ends, which allows for about 300 feet of traffic-merging area prior to the start of roadway narrowing.”
Wait, there’s more!
“Since the sign location would not be seen by traffic turning onto Portland Avenue from the two driveways to the south, optional lane-reduction arrow markings (per the MUTCD) will also be an element of the implementation,” Kidd wrote.
That’s right, they’ll paint arrows on the pavement warning drivers to get over.
Kidd told us he expected to put the work order in last week and that installation would “be completed as field crew availability, resources, and roadway/weather conditions (for the arrow markings) permit.”
Hats off to Dave for the question and to Kidd for being so responsive.
Moto tow follow
You might recall that last week we wrote about the legality of one motorcycle towing another using a strap or chain.
That column prompted several calls to Traffic Q&A headquarters from motorcyclists who have employed the tactic.
Our favorite story came from Mike H., who recalled the time he and a buddy were out riding their motorcycles when the electrical system on his bike went kaput.
His friend, Mike said, motored home and returned with a “green garden hose,” which they used as a tow strap.
They were limping through Fircrest, one cycle towing the other, when they were pulled over by a local officer of the law who wanted to know what the heck they were doing.
“After we explained, he gave us a police escort to my buddy’s apartment,” Mike said.
Sometimes, it’s a wonderful world.