We get great questions from time to time that are worth having a bigger conversation about. Dr. David Parks recently asked, "Why are you doing "rolling slowdowns" on I-90 Snoqualmie Pass even on weekends? This last Saturday, the roads were totally clear (no ice, no snow, no avalanches, no construction), and I encountered a 20 minute "delay" behind your wonderful DOT trucks traveling 20 mph down the road?"
Our Assistant Maintenance Superintendent for the North Bend to Vantage area, Harry Nelson, took the time to answer his question:
We generally experience high traffic volumes on the I-90 corridor, ( 15,000 to 40,000 vehicles daily ), and sometimes during peak travel times more. They also average 75 plus mph on any given day unless weather will not allow, even then some still attempt this speed. With these high volumes, and fast pace, emergent work, (potholes, debris, disabled vehicles, etc.), can become quite a challenge for our crews.
Rolling Slow Downs are a safe way for us to accomplish our emergent work with little impact. It appears that our vehicles are just holding you up for no reason. I assure you that is not the case at all. What you did not see is the emergent work ahead of our trucks being done on the roadway. This could have been a pothole, or any other incident that would cause damage to a vehicle, cause an accident, or be a safety issue to the traveling public. As you stated “they hold you back at 20 mph,” when the work you do not see ahead of you is complete, they get out of your way and let you go and you may never see the workers ahead of you that were doing the emergent activity. These slowdowns average 5 to 8 minutes. These slowdowns are designed for short duration work, so not to delay the public and keep our crews and the public safe. While you are traveling 20 mph behind our vehicles, our crew is doing this work without anyone driving through their work zone.
Safety is our #1 priority.
If we were to close a lane to do this short duration work, the traffic delays would be significantly longer, maybe even 1 to 2 hours longer added to your travel time in peak traffic situations. Instead we prefer the 5 to 8 minute delay, as you can understand why, less inconvenience to you, and safer for our crews. I hope this helps you understand that what looks like wasted time, may prevent an accident, unnecessary damage to a vehicle, or bodily injury either to the public or our workers.
Again our main concern is SAFETY to all, and not to inconvenience anyone.
So if you see one of our trucks or crews out there on the road, be sure to take the time and give them a brake.