Port of Port Angeles commissioners voted Monday to allow city police to enforce traffic laws on port property including North Cedar Street, a site of intermittent, heavy truck traffic. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Port of Port Angeles closes loophole to allow police to issue traffic citations on its streets

  • Tue Aug 16th, 2016 2:10pm
  • News

PORT ANGELES — If you thought you could speed on Port of Port Angeles roads and thumb your nose at police, forget it.

You’ve lost your chance as of today.

The Port of Port Angeles is indeed a publicly funded tax district, but until today, its property has not been treated as public in a manner allowing law enforcement officers to issue traffic-citations.

Under state law, ports cannot enact police regulations.

Port commissioners agreed Monday to close the loophole.

They voted to allow law enforcement agencies throughout Clallam County to issue speeding and other traffic citations when they occur on 730 acres of port property from Sequim to Sekiu.

The parcels include a broad swath along the Port Angeles waterfront — and at Airport Road at the port’s William R. Fairchild International Airport.

Port Finance Director John Nutter said plats reflecting the change will be filed first thing this morning with the Clallam County Auditor’s Office.

The application of authority to policing agencies is allowed under a state law under which port streets, alleys, access roads and parking areas can be “treated as public for purposes of motor vehicle or other police regulations,” according to the Revised Code of Washington.

“It shall be the duty of all state and local law enforcement officers to enforce such regulations accordingly.”

The “other police regulations” include, for example, those against aggressive panhandling, which is a Class 2 misdemeanor under which a citation can be issued.

Port Angeles Police Chief Brian Smith said the new authority granted the city will not strain his budget.

Law enforcement officers can already stop felonies in progress on port property, he added.

“We discovered there’s a big section of property in the city we don’t have jurisdiction on,” Smith noted, suggesting the added responsibility adds to the public’s confidence in its officers.

“This gives us lawful authority to take enforcement action in circumstances where people would expect us to,” Smith said.

The commissioners’ action came after the state Public Ports Association told ports statewide of the policing gap and following a plea from Platypus Marine Inc. President Judson Linnabary at the commissioners’ Aug. 1 work session.

His company’s production plant borders truck-heavy Marine Drive on one side and North Cedar Street on another.

North Cedar is a tiny, narrow thoroughfare that Linnabary said Monday is partially owned by the port and where logging trucks have created a hazard for hundreds of workers, contractors and vendors who crisscross from one side to the other.

Nutter said logging trucks typically deliver 1,200 loads a day during the five-day periods that it takes to fill a bulk cargo ship parked at Terminal 3.

“There are just a lot of things going on there,” Linnabary said.

Commissioners, he added, “did the right thing.”

After Linnabary’s work-session appearance two weeks ago, the port planted a portable guard shack on North Cedar just inside the Marine Drive-North Cedar intersection and a companion sign warning “Speed Limit 5 Cargo Operations Ahead.”

“It helped tremendously,” Linnabary added. “The trucks just needed to slow down.”

Linnabary cited a July 25 mishap as a case in point.

At about 11:15 that morning, a logging truck hit a 59-year-old man at the Marine Drive-North Cedar Street intersection as the vehicle came to a halt at a stop sign “at a very, very low speed,” city Fire Department Capt. James Mason said following the incident.

The man, who remained conscious and conversed with emergency personnel, was evaluated at Olympic Medical Center and not listed as a patient later that day.

“That basically spurred what I’ve been talking about,” Linnabary said Monday of the mishap. “It made it legit.”

Port commissioners said Monday they were concerned about how broadly that port property would become public under their action.

Nutter said it won’t affect port-owned buildings or tenants.

He compared it to the interlocal agreements the city has with the National Park Service to police parking lots at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center and the Richard B. Anderson Federal Building.

Port Commissioner Colleen McAleer said she was concerned about an “unintended consequence” of the action.

“If there is an unintended consequence, we can just file another plat removing it,” port Executive Director Karen Goschen said.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.