Traffic operation nets 30 citations

Downtown drivers making illegal left turn targeted




Vancouver police cracked down Wednesday morning on an oft-ignored sign posted adjacent the traffic signal on westbound Sixth Street at Washington Street.

Members of the department’s traffic unit handed out 30 citations to drivers making left turns prohibited from 7 to 9 a.m. weekdays to ensure safety for Smith Tower residents crossing the street during heavy morning traffic.

A police spokeswoman said the three motorcycle officers who enforced the illegal turn could have easily doled out more $124 tickets. “While they were writing citations, drivers continued to make that turn,” Kim Kapp said. If not reduced, those tickets would yield $3,720.

The traffic unit executed the sting after noticing drivers, increasingly of late, have taken to avoiding delays on southbound Interstate 5 by driving through town and re-entering the freeway in downtown.

A sign barring left turns onto southbound Washington Street from 7 to 9 a.m. is just right of the traffic light. Some ticketed drivers complained about the sign’s location, an excuse that didn’t carry much weight with Sgt. Patrick Johns.

It’s right next to “the very signal they have to rely on to tell them when to proceed,” Johns, who took part in the crackdown, noted in an e-mail.

Residents of Smith Tower thanked the officers for their active enforcement on a snowy, cold Wednesday morning, according to an e-mail from Johns that Kapp passed on to The Columbian.

“How do these people drive?” one resident asked Johns, according to the e-mail, “They are more blind than I am.”

Johns wrote that commuters into Portland looking to “jump ahead in line” tend to the use intersection.This time last year, drivers started to “get it” by the end of a three-day effort aimed at shutting down illegal turns, Johns said.

Alas, the passing of time has resulted in drivers reverting back to bad habits.

The sign was installed a little more than a year ago, according to Brooke Porter, a Vancouver public works spokeswoman. She e-mailed that the turn was made illegal during the morning commute following discussions on safety issues between police, area neighborhood associations and the city’s traffic and engineering division.

“The Vancouver Police Department conducted an education outreach effort last year, which seemed effective, so that motorists could become familiar with the new signage,” Porter wrote. “Unfortunately, in recent months, drivers have been ignoring the sign and making illegal left turns.”

Be forewarned: The traffic unit will be patrolling the area today.