Tuesday, November 13, 2018

New Mukilteo ferry terminal building comes into view

By Diane Rhodes

Almost 7 million pounds of concrete — roughly the equivalent of seven Boeing 747s loaded for takeoff – went into the foundation of the future passenger building of the Mukilteo Multimodal Terminal Project. Crews wrapped up the foundation’s construction in September, one year after it began. The foundation will support the building, trestle, and support system that holds the moveable bridge connecting the ferry to land.
The foundation is laid for the new Mukilteo ferry terminal building.

On the heels of this, crews finished boring the final 487-foot-long underground tunnel that holds the stormwater utility pipes. This bore was the riskiest and longest of the project, 75 percent of the total 650 feet of pipe. We used an underground boring method rather than digging an open trench to uphold our commitments to local tribes and to minimize ground disturbance, lowering the risk of soil settlement for nearby Sound Transit and BNSF structures. Next, crews installed manhole access to the stormwater system in October, completing this phase of the project.

The utility work and the building foundation set the stage for the second phase of construction – the terminal building, vehicle holding lanes, toll booths, and other components – expected to begin in early 2019.

Stormwater utility pipes that were installed underground.
The Mukilteo/Clinton ferry route is part of State Route 525, the major transportation corridor connecting Whidbey Island to the Seattle-Everett metropolitan area. It is one of the busiest routes in the state, with more than 4 million total riders every year. The terminal has not had significant improvements since the 1980s and components of it do not meet current seismic standards. The new Mukilteo ferry terminal, one-third of a mile east of the current one, will provide passengers with improved transit connections, safer and more efficient loading facilities, and improve access to the Mukilteo waterfront.

This project has come a long way from the first public scoping meeting in October 2011. Feedback gathered at 11 public meetings and 24 briefings with local elected officials, businesses, and community groups helped shape the design of the new Mukilteo ferry terminal to make it a unique part of our ferry system and a centerpiece of the Mukilteo waterfront.

You can find more photos of the project on our Flickr account.

Friday, November 9, 2018

New roots to honor veterans

By Andrea E. Petrich

As fall rain saturates our state, five new elm trees are soaking it all in, working to establish roots that will honor area veterans for years to come. But this story isn’t just about new trees, it’s about the long history of a symbolic tree-lined highway in Skagit County.

The beginning
In the 1930s, more than 150 elm trees were brought into Skagit County by train and planted along SR 536 – also known as Memorial Highway – in Mount Vernon to honor veterans who died in World War I.

As the population grew and land development expanded in the 1950s, many trees didn’t have proper room to grow. They became sick and hazardous, forcing crews to cut them down before they fell on their own and hurt someone.

The remaining elms
In early 2018, two of the original elms were still standing along SR 536 in front of the Net Drive-In, but like the others, they were dying due to development around them.
 In 2018, two original elms remained along SR 536 near The Net Drive-In

They had to come down. So one Sunday morning in March, our crews met up with arborists from Washington State Parks to safely cut these rotting trees and keep drivers and people in the area safe.
A Washington State Parks arborist
 finishes cutting down a dying
 elm tree along SR 536

But that’s not the end of the trees or our story.

Two large chunks of wood from each of these trees are now in the hands of a local veterans group who plan to use them in new ways – possibly as benches – to continue to honor area veterans.

Replanting to renew honor
When trees on our property need to be cut down, we look for new areas to plant replacements. An opportunity to regenerate the symbolism came to us thanks to a local veterans group and area Master Gardeners. They were finishing a campaign to replant 50 memorial trees – one for each of the Skagit County veterans who died in WWI – by the 100th anniversary of the end of the war, which happens to be this year.
Skagit County veteran Richard Sundance, who helped spearhead replanting efforts, watches as crews remove a dying elm along SR 536.

In late October some of my colleagues picked up five young elm trees from a local nursery and drove them over to what would become their new home in Edgewater Park off of SR 536. There, my teammates worked with Mount Vernon Parks and Recreation to plant these new trees, part of the group of 50 new trees honoring Skagit veterans who died during WWI.
Our crews help plant new elm trees near SR 536 in Skagit County.

As these five new elms – and their 45 fellow trees near Memorial Highway – spread their roots, we want to spread our thanks to the local groups who partnered with us on this project, and most importantly a giant thanks to the veterans and their families for their sacrifice and service.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Green Machine: New plug-in hybrid work truck helps reduce our carbon footprint

Truck is the first purchased by a Washington state agency

By Barbara LaBoe

Look out charging stations, we have a new truck that may be coming your way. In September we became the first state agency in Washington to purchase a plug-in hybrid work truck, a major step in our continuing efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.

Until now, most electric vehicles have been smaller, passenger cars. Electric trucks have been slower to be developed and come to market, meaning agencies with significant construction or maintenance work – and equipment – weren't able to easily switch out to the greener technology. Hybrid trucks like this are an important step for our managers and crews.
This F-150 was recently added out to our fleet, making us the first agency
in the state to purchase a hybrid plug-in work truck.

The new Ford XL F-150 light-duty truck will be used in all areas around the state including maintenance, construction and project engineering. We expect to get 21 miles per gallon with the new truck – a 50 percent increase in mpg compared to a traditional work truck – with no additional maintenance requirements. And because it's a hybrid, the truck can be dispatched anywhere in the state with no range concerns, and then be plugged in to charge at its work location. The battery pack assists acceleration for the first 90 miles of travel and then switches to battery regeneration for the rest of the route.

A company called XL Fleet builds the plug-in hybrid system that is added to a standard Ford F-150 light duty truck. It includes a 15-kwh liquid-cooled lithium ion battery pack housed in the truck bed as well as two cooling radiators and electric traction motor added to the rear driveshaft. The truck has a 3.3-liter V-6 and six-speed transmission with auto stop-start and regenerative braking. It can be charged using a standard J1772 charging port for Level 1 or Level 2 charging.
The charge port was place on the rear of the truck near the license plate because
many work trucks are typically backed in to parking spaces.

The battery pack does take up some of the truck bed, but a slide out drawer for tools has been added in front of the battery to make the best use of space. A canopy also will be added, providing storage for items that can sit on top of the battery cover. The battery pack weighs 700 pounds, allowing the truck to still carry 1,200 pounds of payload.

A standard light-duty truck costs $29,912; the additional cost for the hybrid features is $23,000. Based on the 50 percent improvement in fuel efficiency, we estimate the payback period for the hybrid option is eight years. The typical agency lifespan for this type of truck is 12 years.

This is another step in our continuing efforts to replace the agency's conventional vehicles with electric, plug-in hybrids or hybrid vehicles to meet both agency and state goals of a green, environmentally friendly fleet. Switching to these types of vehicle helps reduce our carbon footprint and emissions while still allowing our crews to carry out vital work.

The battery is housed under a steel plate which also includes a pull out tool drawer to maximize storage.
A canopy also will be included to allow for more storage.

In addition to the hybrid truck our agency has:
  • 45 Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (Chevrolet Volts) (PHEVs)
  • 20 all electric vehicles (Chevrolet Bolts) (EVs)
  • 100 hybrids
Light-duty trucks like this make up a significant percentage of our gas-burning fleet, so we're excited to test this new technology and add more of these to our fleet if they function as expected.

Issaquah family shares story to raise awareness about the dangers of driving while fatigued

By Barbara LaBoe

Bill Shaw's family knows the dangers of drowsy driving all too well.

Getting behind the wheel when tired or struggling to stay awake is deadly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates it kills 1,550 people each year. In Washington, we average 13 fatalities a year from drowsy driving crashes, including 7 in 2017 and 15 in 2016. In the past decade, drowsy driving was a factor in 754 crashes in the state, according to the Washington State Patrol. And, because there is no test for fatigue, such as Breathalyzers for drunk driving, the National Sleep Foundation warns the actual numbers are likely much higher.
In 2006, Bill's daughter Mora almost became one of those fatality statistics. Mora, then 17, was riding with a friend who fell asleep at the wheel while crossing Blewett Pass. The driver had been up for almost 24 hours before the trip, though Mora didn't know that when accepting the ride.
The damage to the passenger side of the vehicle Mora Haggerty Shaw was traveling in when the driver fell asleep is shown in this photo. It took emergency crews more than half an hour to extricate her from the vehicle.

The damage on Mora's side of the vehicle was severe – pictures of the mangled car are hard to look at -- and only the quick thinking of a passing nurse got Mora to the hospital alive. (The others involved had minor injuries). At the hospital, with Mora in a coma, the Shaws were told to start planning for their daughter's funeral. Bill recently recalled mentally preparing himself to lay flowers on his daughter's grave.

Thankfully, Mora repeatedly beat the odds through years of surgeries, physical therapy and pain. And this summer, instead of a gravesite, the flowers were in her wedding bouquet as she walked down the aisle.
After years of recovery the Shaw family celebrated Mora's wedding this summer. Pictured (from left to right): Liam Shaw, Robert Winstanley (groom), Mora Haggerty Shaw Winstanley, William Shaw, Mary Beth Haggerty-Shaw.

It was an especially happy day after all the Issaquah-based family had been through, but the Shaws also point out that Mora still struggles with daily pain and early-onset arthritis. She will need several additional surgeries throughout her life. All of that pain could have been prevented, the family points out, if people better understood just how dangerous it is to drive while tired. They share their story throughout the year but especially during the governor-proclaimed state Drowsy Driving Awareness and Prevention Week taking place this week.

The American Automobile Association estimates that one out of every six (16.5 percent) deadly traffic collisions and one out of eight (12.5 percent) crashes requiring hospitalization of car drivers or passengers is due to drowsy driving.

According to studies in Australia, staying up 18 or 24 hours can leave you as impaired as driving drunk. And even a few hours of missed sleep can dull reactions behind the wheel. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that people who sleep six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in a crash as those sleeping 8 hours or more. People sleeping less than five hours increased their crash risk four to five times.

That's what the Shaws want others to know: That getting behind the wheel without enough sleep puts everyone at risk. If they save even one person's life by sharing their story, Bill said, their efforts will have been worth it.

Here are some tips to avoid and recognize drowsy driving.

When planning a trip:

  • Get adequate sleep — most adults need 7-9 hours to maintain proper alertness during the day.
  • Schedule proper breaks — about every 100 miles or 2 hours during long trips.
  • Travel with a buddy — someone to talk with and share the driving.
  • Avoid alcohol and sedating medications — check your labels or ask your doctor.

If driving, here are some warning signs to pull over and rest:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
  • Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
  • Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
  • Trouble keeping your head up
  • Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
  • Feeling restless and irritable

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Slowing down and paying attention vital to work zone safety

By Cara Mitchell

We’ve seen a trend over the past few weeks, and it’s not one anyone likes. On three separate occasions during overnight hours in Tacoma, all lanes of Interstate 5 near the State Route 16 interchange were blocked by collisions. According to the Washington State Patrol, high speeds, inattentive driving, and not driving for conditions were contributing factors.
Drivers should pay attention to and follow
all signage near work zones.

The collisions occurred within the boundaries of our I-5/SR 16 Realignment – HOV Structure and Connections project, where both directions of I-5 temporarily have narrowed lanes and shoulders. The highway has been in this temporary configuration since May while design-build contractor Skanska rebuilds southbound I-5 in a new alignment near SR 16 to accommodate future HOV lanes.

Having a work zone with narrowed shoulders and lanes is common, and it requires drivers to pay extra attention to the road. When there is less room for error, glancing at your phone, changing radio stations or allowing other distractions that take your eyes off the road is not a good idea. Speeding, following too closely or aggressive driving behavior is also not advisable.

We’ve enjoyed five months of gloriously dry weather, and as the fall rains begin we could all use a reminder that driving on wet pavement is different than driving on dry pavement. Please slow down, especially when driving through work zones, and pay attention to your surroundings. The extra couple of minutes spent getting to your destination may end up being the most important minutes of your life.
Speed and inattention have led to three recent collisions in the same area
 of I-5 in Tacoma.

We are taking steps to help drivers better navigate through our work zone. Skanska recently repainted the lane lines and installed new reflective pavement markers on both directions of I-5 through the project. They have also added reflective markers to the median barrier, and motorists will soon see signs that encourage drivers to pay attention and slow down.
Nothing is more important than focusing and being alert while driving, for everyone’s safety (Photo courtesy Oregon DOT).

I-5 will be in this temporary configuration at SR 16 for another few months, and during this holiday season we all want to go home safely to our families and friends. We also want to thank you for your patience as we work to wrap up this major construction project.