Rules of the Road: Must a city put up stop signs when a traffic signal isn't working?

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 15, 2013 

Questions: 1. When all the signals at an intersection are dead for whatever reason, is the city required to put up temporary stop signs or are drivers just supposed to treat the intersection as they would any uncontrolled intersection? 2. By state law how long does the city have to repair a stolen or badly damaged stop sign?

Answers: 1. The city does not have to put up temporary stop signs. Drivers should treat a dead signal as they would if the intersection had stop signs.

The applicable law is RCW 46.61.183 Nonfunctioning signal lights. "Except when directed to proceed by a flagger, police officer, or firefighter, the driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection controlled by a traffic control signal that is temporarily without power on all approaches or is not displaying any green, red, or yellow indication to the approach the vehicle is on, shall consider the intersection to be an all-way stop."

2. I haven't found the law that puts a time for the replacement of a stop sign. I know that Bellingham Public Works will try to get it replaced as soon as they are made aware that it is damaged/missing.

Q: According to RCW 46.19.050 (3), it's a parking infraction with a $250 fine for a person to park in, block or otherwise make inaccessible the access aisle next to a parking space reserved for the disabled. Is it true this law would also apply to abandoning a shopping cart in the access aisle?

A: That would be an interesting interpretation of the RCW, but I do not think it would apply. I believe that the RCW is actually addressing vehicles (cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, trailers) that are parked in or blocking access to that aisle.

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David Wright is a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.

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