Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sinkhole success story

By Andrea E. Petrich

A couple of different sinkholes have closed down our roads this summer. One of the most recent, on Monday, July 31, 2017, was on State Route 534, which runs for about five miles through Skagit County near Lake McMurray and Camp Korey. While small, this road is very important to those who live and work in the area. It is a busy truck route and connects neighbors in the Lake McMurray area and along SR 9 with I-5.

This sinkhole started as what might be described as a dimple in the road. A little sunken area that most of us probably wouldn't have noticed. Luckily our maintenance teams did, though! Lead technician Doug Knott, and his team were heading to a project on SR 534 when they noticed that the area just didn't look right. They stopped to investigate and quickly realized that this little void wasn't quite so little.

The crew closed the road and coordinated with our communications staff to get the word out to the public about this closure. It was important that we let travelers know quickly that the detour during the repair was expected to last most of the day.

Then Doug and his team got to work. They opened up the dimple, revealing the sinkhole, and then kept digging.

They determined that the issue was a leaking culvert right under the highway that was washing away the roadbed, leaving nothing for the asphalt to sit on.

The crew dug up all the damaged area and prepared for a temporary repair. They moved in gravel to fill the area and then added asphalt back to the road.

Thanks to Doug and his crew for their sharp eyes and hard and quick work. They were able to reopen the road in less than five hours and while we know some folks were forced to take that long detour, the quick work by the team meant that afternoon commuters didn't need to alter their routes.

There is still a dip in the road where the temporary repair is so you may see signs warning drivers to slow down and be ready for it.

Now plans are being made for a permanent repair which we don't have work hours scheduled yet, but I'll let you know when we do.

Digging into a different way to move dirt

By Victoria Miller

If you drive on Interstate 405 near downtown Renton, you may have noticed a lot of activity happening on the hillside to the south of the freeway.

You may have even asked yourself, "What is that funny looking machine hanging over I-405?" Well, we have been hard at work this spring and summer constructing the I-405/SR 167 Interchange Direct Connector Project. We've already completed some early milestones, such as relocating a noise wall to protect our neighbors from construction noise and shifting traffic to create safe work zones.
In early July, we began mass excavation of the hillside near the Talbot Hill neighborhood. We have been moving dirt in this area to prepare once again to shift lanes of northbound I-405 to the south and create space for the future flyover ramp.
But this isn't your average dirt-moving project. Originally, the mass excavation was scheduled to take approximately three months. Trucks would have been hauling 80,000 cubic yards of dirt 24 hours a day, seven days a week through city and neighborhood streets. That is equal to 2,500 truckloads or eight Goodyear blimps of dirt!
An innovative way of moving dirt on our I-405/SR 167 project is saving time, money and fuel.

Instead, the contractor came up with a creative alternative. The team cut out a hole in an existing retaining wall and installed a conveyor belt, that funny looking machine that was hanging over I-405, which loaded dump trucks with dirt and allowed them to exit on Smithers Avenue South via northbound I-405, avoiding driving the whole route through city and neighborhood streets.

We realize that construction can be an inconvenience for drivers and nearby residents, which is why we're always looking for ways to minimize effects that people experience from our projects. By carrying out this innovative plan, our contractor saved approximately a week and a half of time, minimized construction noise and traffic issues on neighborhood streets, and conserved fuel.

The next construction activity you will see is crews repaving roughly six miles of southbound SR 167. Then we will move on to setting girders for a new I-405 bridge over Talbot Hill and the first stages of work to help improve fish passage in this area, which are scheduled to begin sometime next spring.

For the latest construction closure information, please visit our I-405 Construction Updates page and our King County Construction Updates page.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Support for the I-405 express toll lanes is growing

By Ethan Bergerson

When the I-405 express toll lanes opened nearly two years ago, it stirred up a lot of strong feelings. But we had learned from feedback about the SR 167 HOT lanes that public support would improve with time. Though some drivers continue to express frustration, over time we’ve heard more and more positive comments about the express toll lanes as well.

I-405 drivers tell us what they really think
We wanted to hear directly from customers, so we visited the Bellevue Good To Go! customer service center to talk to I-405 drivers and ask what they thought about the express toll lanes.
We heard a mix of opinions. Some customers said the express toll lanes worked great and they liked having the option, and others said they didn’t see the benefit and only used them when they really needed to get somewhere on time.

Surveys show growing support for express toll lanes
We also conducted a survey in June 2017 to help us find out what people are thinking about the express toll lanes. The survey represented drivers who have used any part of I-405 in the past year and who lived throughout Snohomish and east King county. About half of respondents said they had used the express toll lanes, and half had not. It used a diverse online panel and had a ±4.8% margin of error.

Sixty percent of people told us that they like having the option to use the express toll lanes for a faster trip. This represents a complete flip in opinion compared to the surveys we did when the express toll lanes were brand new. When we asked people what they thought of the express toll lanes in January 2016, three months after they opened, 87 percent of people told us they did not support the project.

Today, two-thirds of those surveyed agree that the express toll lanes help reduce congestion in the regular lanes, a complete change from January 2016 when 77 percent of people we surveyed thought the opposite.

The answers to these questions were consistently positive among people of all incomes, ages, and genders.

People who dislike the express toll lanes still feel as strongly as ever
Despite the growth in popularity, there are still people who feel as strongly as ever that the express toll lanes are a bad idea.

Not everyone who liked having the option to use express toll lanes loved every aspect of them.  For example, only a third of people agreed that tolls are an effective way to reduce congestion, which shows that a lot of people still have mixed feelings about these lanes.

Please continue to let us know how you feel about the express toll lanes. Your feedback – positive and negative – is important to us and helps us make improvements to the system.

Friday, August 11, 2017

SR 9/SR 204 Intersection Improvements project hosts third public open house

by Diana Barreto

Big changes are in store for one of the busiest and most congested intersections in the city of Lake Stevens. Next week, our  SR 9/SR 204 Intersection Improvements project team will host an open house to share the recommended design to address the congestion at the intersection.

Open house information
The open house will take place from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 16 at Hillcrest Elementary School in Lake Stevens. A presentation will begin at 6:15 p.m. We’ll have staff available to chat about the design and next steps.
The busy intersection of SR 9 and SR 204 in Lake Stevens will be undergoing some big changes in the next few years.

Throughout the past year, we have worked closely with the SR 9/SR 204 Intersection Improvements project Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG), reached out to business owners and the Lake Stevens community to develop and assess design options that will create better connections for all roadway users of this intersection, including pedestrians, transit riders, bicyclists and drivers.

The advisory group is comprised of business owners and representatives, elected officials, transit and multi-modal agency representatives and residents who met seven times throughout the past year, starting in summer 2016. We worked closely with stakeholders to define a project needs statement; develop, analyze and review potential practical solutions and reach consensus on a preferred alternative design for the intersection.
An open house to discuss changes to the SR 9/SR 204 intersection in Lake Stevens will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 16.

Following the upcoming open house on Aug. 16, we will brief the Lake Stevens city council on the recommended design and continue to move the project forward. We’ll also continue to work with stakeholders to address any ongoing or new concerns moving forward.

The $69.5 million project is funded by the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation package. Construction is scheduled to begin by 2019.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Busy weekend ahead for fun and roadwork

By Ally Barrera

Get ready for what could be one of the busiest travel weekends we ve seen all summer! Not only will there be a ton of construction work happening around the Puget Sound area, but there is also a bunch of fun events going on. Translation: prepare for packed roads.

One of those fun events is the Mariners Edgar Martinez Weekend, and we thought, who better to help us spread the word about the expected traffic ahead than the beloved Mariner Moose. He may not say much in this video, but he sure knows how to get the point across.
The Moose only scratched the surface of what s happening this weekend. As you can see in the map below, we barely had enough room to cram in all of the road work and big events.

Bottom line: give yourself plenty of time to get where you need to go and expect to experience some delays along the way. I m going to Friday s Mariners game, so you better believe I ll be leaving early to get there. Don t want to miss out on getting an Edgar bobblehead! It s a light bat!