Wednesday, December 1, 2021

What’s the status of SR 112 in Clallam County?

Update: Dec. 6, 2021

Crews completed repairs to a temporary bypass route at Eagle Crest Way on Friday, Dec. 3. Crews will maintain and operate the bypass while repairs to SR 112 are underway. Unfortunately, the Clallam Bay slide (milepost 15.8) is still moving. Additional debris fell Sunday, Nov. 28, extending the slide area another 200 feet across the roadway.

Engineering geologists are evaluating the Clallam Bay site to encompass new debris that includes drainage solutions prior to excavation work. While design work remains underway for both Clallam Bay and Jim Creek sites, project engineers hope to have a contract available for competitive bids in early 2022. Our team is working with local property owners to obtain temporary right-of-way permits to allow crews access to areas where repairs will be necessary. We will continue to update this blog as we know more information.


By Stefanie Randolph

It was a rough November for Clallam County, as you may have heard. A strong storm closed every state highway in the county on Nov. 15, keeping road crews busy trying to assess and clear debris and keeping travelers either stuck or finding long alternate routes.

While our crews worked around the clock to reopen as many roadways as possible – pulling crews from Aberdeen and Port Orchard to help – State Route 112 remains closed, and because it will require some extensive repairs, it could be a while before it fully reopens.

Why? Some of these pictures tell the story. An initial slide near Clallam Bay was 275 feet wide and covered 325 feet of the highway. And it's still moving – more debris fell this past Sunday, Nov. 28, extending the slide area another 200 feet across the roadway. In short, it's a really big slide, and still active and potentially dangerous area.

Left: The initial slide covering SR 112 near Clallam Bay was 275 feet wide and covered 325 feet of highway.
Right: Since the first slide, more debris has fallen onto the roadway at SR 112 near Clallam Bay,
preventing crews from safely moving into the area.

Our geologists are regularly monitoring the site but until the hillside is stable, we can't safely go in and clear debris or begin repairs. With Gov. Inslee's emergency declaration, we are able to expedite the process – including finding an emergency contractor – but there are still several steps that have to be taken, including designing a safe repair plan. We don't have a timeline yet for all of this as it's dependent on the site stabilizing enough for crews to move in.

Temporary help

The good news is we have restored some local travel. Earlier this week, we secured permits to establish a temporary bypass route around the slide area to accommodate local traffic including school buses and commercial vehicles. The route uses a private two-lane road with one-way alternating in one spot. On Wednesday, Dec. 1 and Thursday, Dec. 2 there will be some delays while we do some maintenance in that area. We'll maintain and repair this road until SR 112 is reopened. There will be signs to help travelers get through the area.

Left: Another 200 more feet of SR 112 have been covered by slide debris after the initial slide covered 325 feet of roadway. Right: Near Jim Creek, SR 112 has dropped about 2 feet and will need extensive repairs to fix.

What about Jim Creek?

The Clallam Bay site isn't the only spot that remains closed. SR 112 at milepost 32 near Jim Creek is also closed after the storm resulted in standing water, roadway settlement and a debris slide. Once our crews were able to safely respond to that area, they found that the road had dropped more than 2 feet and will also require an emergency contract to reopen.

This is the same area where we recently finished repairs after a storm in Dec. 2020 dropped the highway almost 13 feet.

Progress

After November's initial storm, SR 112 was also closed between mileposts 0-11 near Neah Bay. Our crews were able to clear that stretch. Flooding of the Hoko River prevented crews from evaluating damage west of milepost 12 until late Tuesday, November 16. Once they were able to get safely through, maintenance crews cleared 14 sites within the 11-mile section and reopened it on November 17. They removed debris from small slides and cleared drainage culverts to prevent flowing of further debris and damage to the roadway.

Real-time travel information is available on our updated travel center map and travelers can sign up for project email alerts. Once we know more, we will share that info but in the meantime, please do not go beyond road closure signs and stay alert for road workers.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Maintenance crew goes above and beyond to help rescue missing traveler

By Mike Allende

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks, and we couldn't be more thankful for the incredible caring actions of our Blewett Pass maintenance crew workers recently.

Lynell McFarland, a 68-year-old woman from Spokane Valley, went missing on Thursday, Nov. 18 after leaving a friend's house in Ellensburg. A Silver Alert was issued and the Kittitas County Sheriff's office launched a search.

Meanwhile, Aaron Byrd, our Maintenance Lead Tech for Blewett Pass, was off duty when he noticed a social media post about the missing person, which included a picture of where her cellphone had last pinged from. He recognized the location and alerted the night maintenance crew, letting them know where to look.

The car of a missing driver who went over an embankment on Blewett Pass was tracked down by our maintenance workers after one of them recognized the location of the last place the cell phone of the driver pinged.

Heading out to the spot near the Blewett Pass summit in snowplows at about 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22, maintenance techs Koby Todd and Gunnar Lantz checked over an embankment and spotted a vehicle about 40 feet down that matched the description of the car. As you can see in these pictures, it's remarkable they spotted it given that it was dark, the vehicle is black and it was surrounded by trees and debris. Knowing precisely where to look and taking the extra time to do so was vital.

Emergency responders rescue a woman who went over an embankment on Blewett Pass and was stuck in her car for several days until our maintenance team tracked down the car.

Our crew alerted emergency responders who roped down over the embankment. Thankfully, Lynell was still conscious in her vehicle!

She was transported to Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee with minor injuries.

A Silver Alert was issued for Lynell McFarland after she went missing after leaving her friend’s house in Ellensburg. Our maintenance team was able to find her over an embankment near the Blewett Pass summit.

Our road workers look at these type of situations as nothing out of the ordinary – just something they do as part of their job. But we know differently.

Yes, helping the public is something they do every day. But acts like this go above and beyond their normal work, and we couldn't be more proud of them. It was truly extraordinary actions they took to help the stranded woman and we are so grateful to have outstanding people like them working on our roads to help keep the public safe.

We are thankful for them today, and every day. And we're also very thankful that Lynell was rescued and is spending Thanksgiving getting the care she needs.

Friday, November 12, 2021

First major stage of SR 509 Completion project starting soon

By Lizzy Buechel

As usual this fall, we are seeing shorter days and leaves changing colors. If you drive in south King County or live or work near I-5 in Des Moines, Kent, or SeaTac you may also notice another change: the beginning of construction on the SR 509/I-5 to 24th Avenue South Expressway project. This four-year project starts sometime in November, depending on weather.

Through the SR 509/I-5 to 24th Avenue South Expressway project, we will provide a new connection to Sea-Tac International Airport, reduce truck travel on local roads, and improve access and safety for those who walk, roll, and use transit in the area. This work is part of the SR 509 Completion Project, which will extend SR 509 from where it currently ends at South 188th Street, to I-5.

This blog is the first in a series that will inform you about construction and what you can expect each step of the way. We start with a detailed look at where we are beginning construction – the I-5/SR 516 Interchange and the South 216th Street Bridge.

Want more information? Check out the SR 509/1-5 to 24th Avenue S. – Expressway Project Online Open House to find more details around SR 509 construction including primary work zones and schedules. The online open house is open through December 13.

I-5/SR 516 Interchange
The biggest change to the I-5/SR 516 interchange will be the construction of a new Veterans Drive undercrossing of I-5. The new undercrossing and Veterans Drive extension will provide a relief valve for drivers going to and from the Kent Valley, as it includes new access to both directions of I-5 and the new SR 509 Expressway. Combined with new and reconstructed ramps at the existing interchange, drivers will have a smoother trip through the area and new options for getting to where they want to go.

The first thing drivers may notice this fall is a slight shift of southbound I-5, which will move towards the median so that crews can widen the I-5 bridge over Kent-Des Moines Road. Crews will also be shifting lanes on Kent-Des Moines Road under I-5.

If you walk, roll, or use transit in this area you can expect the access you have today until 2024, when one of the two eastbound bus bays will temporarily close. The new eastbound SR 516 bus stop will open later in 2024.

If you live or work in the area you can expect typical construction impacts including heavy equipment, noise, and nighttime work on I-5.

A reconfigured SR 516 interchange, new ramps that provide connections between SR 509 and I-5, and non-motorized improvements will make it easier for people who drive, walk, bike and use transit to travel through the area.

South 216th Street Bridge
To build the new ramps to the SR 509 Expressway, we need to demolish and replace the existing South 216th bridge. Unlike the existing bridge, the new bridge will include sidewalks, bike lanes and a turn lane, to make it easier and safer for all people to get across I-5 in this location. Those who walk and roll will have access across the bridge throughout construction.

The new bridge will have one lane in each direction, a center turn lane, 5-foot-wide bike lanes and 6-foot-wide sidewalks.

Crews will construct the eastbound lanes of the new bridge next to the existing bridge, between early 2022 and early 2023. During this stage, the bridge will be open to both directions of traffic, but there will be changes on I-5 where we will reduce lane widths and shift lanes on I-5 between SR 516 and South 200th Street. This will allow crews to build the new bridge and ramps connecting I-5 to the new SR 509.

From mid-2023 to late 2023, we will demolish the existing South 216th Street bridge, and construction on the westbound lanes of the new bridge will begin. During this second stage, the bridge will close to eastbound traffic for approximately six months. A signed detour route will direct drivers across I-5 at South 200th Street.

The new South 216th Street bridge will be open during stage three of construction, with periodic lane closures. The new bridge will fully open by the end of 2023/early 2024.

The new bridge will be built in stages to minimize affects to the traveling public.

Drivers can expect nighttime lane closures on I-5 in 2022 and 2023 when crews demolish the old bridge and set girders for the new bridge. When these lane closures happen, all but one lane of either northbound or southbound I-5 will close overnight, typically between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Drivers can also expect periodic single and double lane closures at night throughout construction.

Need a quick refresher?
The SR 509 Completion Project is part of the Puget Sound Gateway Program, which also includes the SR 167 Completion Project. Together these projects will help truck traffic move more efficiently and ease congestion throughout the Puget Sound region. These improvements will enhance the state's economic competitiveness, both nationally and globally, connecting the state's largest ports to key distribution centers in King and Pierce counties.

When finished, SR 509 will provide new access to the airport, allow drivers to bypass I-5, SR 518, and help get freight off local streets. That means, among other things, less truck idling and related CO2 emissions in the area due to heavy traffic. In addition to SR 99 tunnel improvements, this project will also create a critical north-south alternative to I-5 through Seattle and King County.

The project will improve access through the area with interchange improvements, new ramps that connect I-5 to SR 509, and the first mile of the SR 509 expressway.

The SR 509/I-5 to 24th Avenue South Expressway Project is the first major stage of the greater SR 509 Completion Project. This first major stage of construction will begin in late 2021 and will end in 2025. We will complete the SR 509 Completion Project with Stage 2 between 2024 and 2028.

If you still have questions, you can call the construction information line at (206) 225-0674 or email the project email at sr509construction@wsdot.wa.gov.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Crash Responder Safety Week: This week, and every week, our crews need you help protecting roadside workers

By Celeste Dimichina

A split-second glance in the mirror – and the safety training behind it – likely saved Frank Stewart's life.

As a member of our Incident Response Team, Frank responds to all kinds of situations in a single shift. He can go from helping someone who has run out of gas to changing a spare tire to helping control traffic around a multi-vehicle crash scene – all while working next to active traffic.

So when he was called to a crash scene on State Route 14 in east Vancouver last December, Frank was already thinking how to keep himself and others safe. He parked his truck at an angle, for example, knowing it would help shield emergency workers up ahead from the passing traffic.

Despite orange flashing lights on his truck, Frank also knew to take the extra step of checking his mirrors one last time before stepping out of his vehicle. And that's when he saw a truck approaching at full speed and switching lanes. An instant later the driver struck Frank's truck and landed in a ditch. Neither Frank nor the driver were seriously injured but if Frank hadn't done one last mirror check this event could easily have ended in tragedy.

The damage to the front of our IRT truck was bad enough but if this was a worker instead of a
 vehicle this could have ended as a tragedy.

This is Crash Responder Safety Week but close calls like Frank's show why this safety message is important every day and every week of the year. As this year's Governor's proclamation reads, "the safety of all, including the traveling public and response personnel at incident scenes is of paramount concern." And that's why we need the public to stay alert any time you see flashing lights on the side of a road.

This is the second year Gov. Jay Inslee has issued a proclamation reminding all drivers about the importance of keeping all roadside responders – including transportation agency crews – safe.

Move over/Slow down whenever you see roadside flashing lights
In Washington, the Move over/Slow down law requires motorists to move over a lane or slow down as they pass emergency vehicles and other vehicles with flashing lights. While you may not think of them as emergency responders, that includes our highway maintenance crews making repairs as well IRT trucks like Frank drives. It also applies to tow trucks and utility trucks if their lights are activated.

If there is room, drivers should move over a lane as they approach these vehicles. If that's not possible then they must slow to 10 miles below the posted speed limit.

In addition to moving over to give roadside crews enough room to safely work, whenever you see flashing roadside lights please remember to:

  • Slow Down – drive the posted speeds (and 10 mph below them if unable to move over one lane)
  • Be kind – our workers are helping to keep you safe and improve the roadways
  • Pay Attention – both to workers directing you and surrounding traffic
  • Stay Calm – no meeting or appointment is worth risking someone's life

Help us keep our crews – and everyone on the road – safe
Frank has been with our agency for 27 years – 22 years in our maintenance department and five years in IRT. When he isn't working, Frank enjoys finding, collecting and refurbishing old Coleman lanterns. The lanterns are just another way he stays prepared for any sort of emergency.

Frank Stewart places traffic cones out along the roadway as one of several safety precautions to
 protect our maintenance crews doing road repairs.

We ask everyone to please remember folks like Frank and the dangers they face every day as they work along our roads and highways.

Doing your part to be as safe as possible when you enter a work zone or emergency response scene ensures everyone -- you, your passengers, surrounding travelers and our crews – make it back home safe every day.