Alas, even the coolest technology has its limitations...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

We, like many of you, had a lot of fun following the device across I-90 yesterday morning on its journey from Spokane to Tacoma, and were just as frustrated to find out that it was unable to communicate around 4:30 yesterday afternoon.

The device bases its location on satellite and cellular network coverage which we knew would be spotty across I-90 but we had our fingers crossed that the updates would be continuous enough to allow people to watch this historic occasion as the pieces travel to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge project that is nearing its completion.

Although quite fun to follow, this was really created as a management tool to help people make informed decisions to avoid the rig that unavoidably takes up two lanes.

Now we wait and see and hope the communication with the device will start up again while the truck is still traveling during the day. Once the truck reaches North Bend it will only travel at night, which won't be as fun to watch but will certainly make it much easier for those who need to get to where they need to without a big truck in the way.

In the meantime, we are going to the backup plan to manually update the site every 15 minutes to keep you up to date on where the truck is.

Update: Thursday, 12:30pm
The device started communicating again around 12:20 or so. Turns out some faulty wiring was causing the connection issues. We had just finished the manual update page and had it ready to go...funny how that works out sometimes.

Update: Friday, 12:15 pm
Device had trouble communicating again last night. Since it's in Federal Way today we had a local expert from Olympia drive up and examine the device and he discovered that bent copper clips on the power poles were the sole source of our troubles. A local Radio Shack provided a new connector for the fix and we are crossing our fingers that we won't have any problems with the device when the second truck comes into town.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are there plans to use a similar GPS system with the second expansion joint?

Anonymous said...

we hope you will continue with the GPS system including the transportation of the second expansion joint!!!

Jeremy Bertrand said...

Yes, now that we have the mapping pages all set up it should be very easy to track the second expansion joint into Tacoma. Any other information you would be interested in hearing about when the second one comes into town?

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to actually be able to see the load in relationship to the highway it's traveling on. If there was some way you could stop it in front of one of the DOT cameras and/or have someone take a picture of it on I-90 and post it somewhere.

As an aside, how tight were the clearences at the snowshed?

Jeremy Bertrand said...

We just got some great photos in of the truck on I-90 and are working on posting them now. The load is 16.2 feet wide and each lane is 12 feet wide so it made it through the snowshed (24 ft plus shoulders) with room to spare.

Sam said...

I love your GPS tracking of the expansion joint. But what gear did you use to make it happen?

Could you explain the GPS tracker, the satellite/cellular connection and the software you used to create real-time maps?

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

If you do use a GPS on the second expansion joint, it would be fun to track it from the manufacturer back east to Tacoma.
I must be anonymous #4 :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting the tracking system into place. I am from Spokane and took an interest in the bridge piece when it was stuck here. Thank you for all the great photos. I have been having alot of fun tracking the truck to tacoma. It's been fun for my son as well.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate all the information on the web site. I have been planning on driving "over the hill" from eastern Washington for my mother's 86th birthday and am glad to know I will be able to make the trek on Friday without a big slow-up.

My only suggestion might be to have more photos along the way with labels for where they were taken. I'm looking forward to following then next bridge segment.

Nancy from Cheney

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know about the back truck that is apparently attached to the trailer with a steel pole?

What about the concrete blocks on the backs of both trucks??

Wild_Bill_51 said...

Being an extrucker i'd like to know more info about the trucks that are doing the hauling . Such as engine sizes horsepower ratings and such .

Lisa said...

I've had alot of fun following the truck from Spokane and I've also been an avid reader on the bridge building and construction. Keep the information coming - - it's been fun and exciting. I think it's great that someone from right here in the area is able to bring the joint to its final destination.

Jeremy Bertrand said...

Sam,

The device we are using is from a company called Vehicle Path (www.vehiclepath.com). They have a great graphic displaying how the device works.

We tapped into the Google Maps API, which is a fancy way of saying they allow for the ability for others to use a google map in almost any site. As long as we have lat and long data, which vehicle path provides for us, we can plot just about anything on the on the map, very similar to what we do with traffic cameras.
Of course, this is still based on whether or not we can communicate with the GPS device.

Jeremy Bertrand said...

more photos along the way...

We really like the idea of posting more photos with the map along the way. One idea we had was to have user submitted photos plotted along the route. We are researching how best to do that without degrading from the timeliness of updates. Because the device had two separate outages, we have even thought about having you who are out there and so interested letting us know where you saw it, maybe a Human Powered System, HPS instead of GPS.

Jeff said...

Quote "HPS instead of GPS"....
Wouldn't that be GPH :)

Great info and page. Thanks for your efforts.

Anonymous said...

I noticed that the trip from Easton to Snoqualmie pass had indicated speeds of over 60mph. I assume this is not correct and has to do with temporary GPS or cell outages. In any case, for the next one, it would be nice if the Snoq Pass traffic cams can be refreshed at 1 minute intervals for the 2nd load, instead of the usual 5 - 11 minutes, so the 2nd truck can pass by on camera.
Also, why didn't they consider barging this from somewhere on the Snake or Columbia instead of trucking it? It couldn't have been any more expensive and would have taken the same amount of time and fewer permits.

Jeremy Bertrand said...

truck setup...

The weights you see on the back of the trucks are called "ecology blocks", at approximately 10,000 lbs each they are used as counterweights for traction.

The truck in front ("prime mover" in truck speak) is specialized and used exclusively for oversize loads but the truck in the rear is used for many other duties. The rear truck is very important in up and downhill situations pushing and assisting with braking. The two drivers must keep in constant communication with each other to make sure they are in the same gear.

From Spokane to North Bend a truck bigger than the front one followed the load just in case the front one had any problems, luckily they didn't have to use it and the spare left once the load reached North Bend.

The steel bar you see on both front and back is basically the hitch connecting the truck to the load that is used to both pull and push the load as it chugs along.

Anonymous said...

I tried watching the video of the joint leaving Spokane, but it is blocked by WSDOT. Is there a fix?

Laura Merritt said...

We've placed a copy of the video on an internal server for WSDOT employees. You can access it by the link at the bottom of the Intranet story. (WSDOT employees have restricted internet access and cannot view YouTube. Prior to placing a copy of the video internally, employees were not able to access the video).

Laura Merritt said...

We sent Jim from the Web Team out in the field this morning to recover the GPS Unit and see if anything could be done to stabilize the unit's ability to receive power. He took the unit to Home Depot and added new connectors for the power supply. The GPS unit will go back in the truck before it starts moving tonight at 11:30 p.m.

Anonymous said...

My sister in Missoula Montana who lives along I-90 wants to know why this state requires the large trailer, are the roads in Washington inferior to the Montana roads.

Washington State Department of Transportation said...

The Montana roads question is a good one. No, no one has inferior roads. Washington has bridges and lots of them. Many of those bridges are more than 30 years old. Some are more than 40 or 50 years old.

Replacing aging structures is costly. Our best use of public resources is the preservation and protection of our existing bridges. So, Washington has a very specific requirement for oversize and overweight loads that is directed at making sure our facilities are protected.

Arin from Seattle said...

Great website, I have to say that WSDOT has done a great job documenting the TNB online thru the whole project.

On a side note, with all the trouble with the GPS, couldn't the new hauler just get a truck with OnStar installed? (Joke :)).

Anonymous said...

About when will the second joint be moved on Hyy 90?

Marv GH

Anonymous said...

I live in Moses Lake but used to live in Gig Harbor and I was very excited to see the truck as it passed through this area. I mistakenly thought the truck was stopped for the night near Ritzville. Is it possible to put GPS on all three vehicles so maybe if one failed, the others would work? I'm really looking forward to seeing the second one go through. I would happily take pictures for your HPS or GPH :)

Anonymous said...

I live in Gig Harbor and have been very interested in all aspects of the bridge building since it started. I was very disappointed when the GPS went down. Couldn't it be put in one of the pace cars for the next one so it wouldn't take such a "beating" on the road? I also would like to see the next one tracked from the starting point.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested to know about the term Prime Mover, as I thought Americans called it a Tractor, as part of a Tractor Trailer setup.

I'm sorry I didn't see this earlier. It would have been interesting to see the progress of this rather large load.

And do we know yet, if the truck engines are Cat C16's or Detroit Series 60's or Cummins ISX? 600 odd horsepower with 18 speeds? And are the trucks Kenworth W900's?

Rocket from Melbourne, Australia

Anonymous said...

Failing another GPS problem with the second Load... Is it possible to pre-post a est of key points/cities along the way and espically a est for it's final destination which I assume will be the East side of the Tacoma Narrows bridge (or will it end where the first load went on the West side)?

Marv. G.H.

Anonymous said...

Correction... Right now you have the Truck/Bridge joints about 100 feet East of the old bridge span off shore in the water. Last I checked... they were on the West side of the Bridge sitting on the New Span approach about 200 feet inland.

Marv GH.

Laura Merritt said...

The second expansion joint is in Billings, Montana. It's projected to reach Washington on Thursday night or Friday morning.

Jim is rewiring the GPS unit to ensure the unit receives steady power this trip.

The Geezer said...

Employees can't see you tube?

Do you not hire competent adults, who can regulate their personal behavior when instructed? How insulting to your employees. They do get breaks and lunch don't they, or does the nanny state not let them take a whiz without raising their hand?

And don't gimme that bee ess about bandwidth, because it is cheaper than MacDuck's pension.

How can your employees give the sheeples excellent service and value, if you don't believe they can control their behavior, if you tell them NO YOU TUBE unless on break or lunch.

Oh, I forgot, it IS the nanny state.

Shame on you.

The Geezer
www.thespinmeister.blogspot.com
www.hatemalepost.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

When is the ETA for the second joint to start moving from Spokane?
About when will it pass Ellingsburg?

Marv.

 

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