A driver turns right at a stop sign in Port Townsend. City crews removed signage from signs that allowed drivers to turn right at stop signs without stopping. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

A driver turns right at a stop sign in Port Townsend. City crews removed signage from signs that allowed drivers to turn right at stop signs without stopping. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Signs of change: Stop now means stop in Port Townsend

PORT TOWNSEND — Drivers in Port Townsend now have to stop at all stop signs — which hasn’t been the case for about a decade.

Until recently there were two stop signs in the city in which drivers could turn right without stopping, which was confusing for many drivers who aren’t from Port Townsend, including the city’s new Public Works Director, Greg Lanning.

“It’s kind of counter-intuitive,” said Lanning, who moved to Port Townsend from Colorado about three months ago. “I’ve never seen one of those before.”

Under the familiar bright red signs bearing the word “stop” in all caps were very unfamiliar signs that read “right turn permitted without stopping.”

When he first encountered the sign at the corner of Monroe and Water streets, it left him scratching his head, he said.

There was another such sign at the intersection of Benedict and Washington streets.

Lanning had city crews remove the signs recently partly because of the confusion they could cause and because such signage is not mentioned anywhere in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a book that sets federal standards for traffic signage.

“Any sign, quite frankly, that isn’t of that national standard is probably a concern,” he said.

To Lanning, it didn’t make sense to have signs that essentially said “maybe stop.”

He said it was mostly an issue with people from outside the area who are unfamiliar with the signs. Locals generally had it figured out, he said.

“It’s about the people that aren’t used to it where it becomes dangerous,” he said.

He said the signs were installed when the area was reconstructed about 10 years about the time the Northwest Maritime Center was being constructed.

Its construction started 2008 and it was finished in 2009.

For now, locals need to get used to stopping, but that could change.

Lanning said there still may be a need to look at the signage used at Monroe Road and Water Street, but he’s glad the “maybe stop signs” across town have been taken down.

“We may continue to look at that particular intersection and see if there is better signage,” he said.

He said a yield sign may be appropriate in that spot.

Port Townsend Mayor Deborah Stinson said there have been several requests from community members who were concerned about the signage and the confusion it could cause. Residents raised their concerns through email and at meetings, citing possible safety risks.

Removing the signage was done administratively and didn’t take a City Council vote, but it’s a decision Stinson said she stands behind.

“It’s been confusing for people, especially people from out of the area,” she said. “People can stop and turn.”

Stinson said she has always stopped at the stop signs anyway — but not because she had to.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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