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Originally published August 13, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 13, 2007 at 2:04 AM

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Q&A | Mobile radar speed-watch trailer | Tacoma bridge towers

Q: Northwest 85th Street in Ballard is one of those busy streets where speeding is a recurring problem, particularly between 15th Avenue...

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Q: Northwest 85th Street in Ballard is one of those busy streets where speeding is a recurring problem, particularly between 15th Avenue Northwest and 32nd Avenue Northwest, says Seattle resident Beverly Molloy. So she'd like to know the best way to get one of those big speed monitors that boldly and publicly displays the speed drivers are actually traveling, in hopes of slowing traffic down.

A: Seattle's Transportation Department says the first step would be to call 206-684-ROAD, the department's general-information line. You will be connected to someone in the department's neighborhood-traffic-operations section to steer you in the right direction.

The Transportation Department has a mobile radar speed-watch trailer that it rotates throughout the city to monitor traffic speeds. But there's only one, and there's a short waiting list. Typically, the trailer is set up at a location from 24 to 48 hours.

Those signs detect and display the speed of an approaching vehicle. The driver, and anybody else watching, can see what a vehicle's actual speed is. But those signs don't issue speeding tickets.

The department also has radar speed guns that can be loaned out to residents to monitor speeds. Those usually can be signed out for two to three days. Mike Hendrix, who heads the neighborhood-traffic-operations section, says concerned residents can record vehicle speeds and then return that information to the neighborhood speed-watch program to help the department work on a solution.

Then, too, there are permanent radar speed signs, such as the one on Fauntleroy Way Southwest just north of the Fauntleroy ferry terminal in West Seattle that has been there almost two years, and two others recently installed along Rainier Avenue South. Those are for areas with chronic speed problems. But it's a little harder to get a permanent sign.

Still, there's good news to report, Beverly. Wayne Wentz, the Transportation Department's traffic-management director, says Northwest 85th Street just west of 15th Avenue Northwest has already been added to the request list for the mobile trailer. It should be set up there within weeks, quite likely sometime this month, he said.

Q: Why are the 510-foot-tall towers on the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge so different in design from those of the original bridge right next to it? Howard Downey, of Anacortes, can't help noticing the difference.

"It seems to me," says he, "that an effort to replicate or duplicate the original design would have been much more pleasing to the eye." And shouldn't that also apply to the use of two different paint colors?

A: There are a couple of reasons for the new look of the new bridge towers, says state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Claudia Cornish. One is cost efficiency. The new towers are made of steel-reinforced concrete, and that, says Cornish, makes them more economical to build and maintain than the old towers.

Cost-efficient maintenance is important, she said, "because we expect the new bridge to last at least 150 years." The old towers, which are all steel, require constant maintenance from a crew of up to five people.

Another reason: "When we designed the new bridge, the historical community asked us not to replicate the look of the old bridge, so the new bridge wouldn't detract from the historical significance of the 1950 bridge."

The only architectural nod to the 1950 bridge is the X's imprinted in the horizontal concrete structures that join the tower legs on the new bridge.

Q: Everett Weller, of Auburn, finds it distressing that there's no left-turn signal for northbound traffic on 14th Avenue South at South Cloverdale Street in Seattle's South Park neighborhood. But there is a left-turn signal there for traffic on Cloverdale.

Because he works in the South Park area and drives a 45-foot motor coach, he's found the intersection difficult and dangerous. "You can wait several light cycles before you can make your turn from northbound 14th Avenue South to go west on South Cloverdale," he pointed out. "It can be a very dangerous situation, and quite often two and sometimes three cars will make that turn after the light has turned red."

He avoids that intersection as much as possible. Couldn't some changes be made?

A: Wentz, of the city's Transportation Department, says the city is designing a modest repaving project for 14th Avenue South and would like very much to add a left-turn pocket there.

The department is presently evaluating the possibility of reconfiguring the layout of travel lanes. One challenge, though, is balancing that with the need for parking.

If department planners are successful in adding a left-turn pocket, a left-turn green arrow will be installed there, he said.

Bumper notes

Local law-enforcement agencies say August is one of the deadliest months of the year for traffic fatalities, and the Labor Day weekend (the first weekend in September) is one of this state's deadliest holidays, averaging more than eight deaths each year.

That's why a number of local agencies have decided to target Wednesday through Sept. 3 (Labor Day) for a crackdown on people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Officers will be assigned to work overtime patrols.

The "Drive Hammered, Get Nailed" campaign is a joint effort of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, the King County Traffic Safety Task Force and law-enforcement agencies statewide.

For the past five years, more than 200 people each year have died in this state as a result of accidents involving a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs, said the Traffic Safety Commission. Last year, it was 252; the year before, 268.

With a change in the state law, which became effective July 1, some drivers arrested for a DUI (driving under the influence) could face felony charges if they have four previous DUI arrests within a 10-year period.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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