Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Grace period for suspension of late fees, civil penalties for unpaid tolls ends March 1

Tips on how to avoid a higher bill

By Chris Foster

Starting March 1, 2023, we will begin charging late fees and penalties for unpaid toll bills. We want to help customers resolve unpaid bills and lower their existing bill before that date gets here, though. Our goal is to help customers avoid fees and penalties by getting their toll paid.

This blog provides tips on how to avoid a higher bill and what customers can expect after March 1.

Pay By Mail customers with unpaid tolls dating back to June 2021 will soon be charged late fees

We stopped charging late fees and civil penalties in June 2021, which means some unpaid tolls more than a year old could soon be charged a $5 fee or $40 civil penalty. The most important thing to note is even if the trip in the toll lane happened several months ago, these tolls are accurate and valid.

If you have unpaid tolls, the timeline for when you will receive a $5 late fee and/or a $40 civil penalty depends on the due date for the unpaid toll:

  • If you have an unpaid toll and the due date listed on your bill is before March 1, you will be charged a $5 late fee if the bill remains unpaid.
  • If you have an unpaid toll that was already charged a $5 late fee, your tolls will soon be assessed a $40 civil penalty for each unpaid toll.

Please note we mail bills to whoever is registered as the vehicle’s owner with the Department of Licensing (DOL). If you drove on a toll road and never received a bill, make sure the address on your vehicle’s registration is up to date.

If you’ve been waiting to pay your toll bill, now’s the time! Late fees return March 1.

Tips for Pay By Mail customers to avoid paying more

After more than a year of not charging late fees and civil penalties, we know that there’s a greater potential for some higher toll bills if people have been traveling frequently on tolled roads and not paying their bills. However, it’s not too late to save on unpaid bills:

  • Lower your unpaid bill at no cost: We strongly advise you to make a payment as soon as possible. You can save $1.75 for each unpaid toll by opening a Good To Go! account at no cost. To open an account and save money on your tolls, enter your toll bill/statement information on this page (https://mygoodtogo.com/EN/bill-payments/toll-bills/landing) and click “Go”.
  • Waive fees or penalties: While we do have a one-time penalty forgiveness program, which you can use to waive fees and penalties if you pay the original tolls, it’s best to resolve any unpaid tolls as soon as possible to avoid further fees and penalties.
  • Can’t find your toll bill? If you think you may have unpaid tolls but never received a bill, please contact the Good To Go! customer service center. You’ll need to provide the name and address on your vehicle’s registration, along with the vehicle’s license plate number.

Good To Go! accounts with unpaid tolls

The new system includes some changes for those with a Good To Go! account that has a negative balance and unpaid tolls. If you have a Good To Go! account, log in to your account to make sure everything looks OK and that your account is up to date with your current email address, mailing address, vehicle(s) and pass(es). We send out monthly notifications to account holders with unpaid tolls and suggest you check your account on a regular basis.

Unpaid tolls reapplied with $2 higher rate

If tolls charged to your account remain unpaid for 30 days, you’ll see those unpaid tolls credited back to your account, followed by a new transaction where the toll is reapplied at the higher Pay By Mail rate ($2 more per toll). We will also send you a bill in the mail.

An example of how tolls will be displayed on your Good to Go! account dashboard
if your balance remains negative

After March 1 you have until your next statement date to make a payment before your unpaid tolls are re-applied to your account at the higher Pay By Mail toll rate and you’re charged a $5 late fee (you can find your statement date online by logging in to your account and navigating to the “Statements & Activity” menu). That said, it’s best to take care of any unpaid tolls now to avoid paying an extra $2 for each unpaid toll and a $5 late fee per bill.

Please be patient

Once we begin charging late fees and civil penalties, we know it will be busy at the call center. Thankfully, our new system offers several ways to manage your account online without needing to talk to us.

If you do need to speak to a customer service representative, please be patient. We’re expecting high call volumes which will mean long wait times.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

With a little luck, we finished Everett I-5 pavement work in January

By Kurt Batdorf

There’s never a good time to close lanes to do road work.

Any day, and any time of any day, we pick to close lanes will inconvenience and annoy a lot of people because there’s just a lot of traffic these days. Weekends tend to be less busy than weekdays and people are typically more able to adjust their plans on weekends than during the work week.

This is why so much of our major work, like this past weekend when we reduced Interstate 5 through Everett to one lane around the clock to replace concrete pavement panels, happens on weekends. We need several days in a row to do the work and allow the concrete to harden, and that is better accomplished on weekends than weekdays when most people need to get to work at specific times.

But isn’t January too cold, too wet, too unpredictable for construction?

Almost always, yes. In this case, we got lucky with contractor availability and weather.

Warm enough...barely

We covered why this work needed to happen in a previous blog but in short, we needed the contractor to replace the panels sooner than this spring – which was the original plan – to avoid another emergency closure like we recently had.

Our engineers and contractor Acme’s project manager mulled options. The weather forecast for Jan. 21 and 22 looked like it’d be just warm enough and not too wet. Acme could work that weekend, but they’d need to work around the clock, night and day, to pour concrete that spread across all lanes of the freeway. That meant we could only keep a single lane open to create space for a safe work zone. The plan firmed up on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Acme Concrete Paving finish up work on three new concrete panels on I-5 in Everett

The weather forecast was a big motivator and a bigger variable. The type of cement we specified for this project can be poured when it’s raining, which is good, because it rained on Saturday while the work was happening. The challenge is it won’t cure properly if it’s near freezing, and we were awfully close to those temperatures Friday and Saturday nights, but luckily, it stayed warm enough.

Fortunately, Acme anticipated the weather. Crews used heated water in the quick-set concrete mix to speed up the cure time. They then covered each new slab with plastic and fabric to protect the concrete as it hardened, eventually getting strong enough to support full vehicle weight. Under ideal circumstances this takes two to three hours, but Acme wasn’t working under ideal circumstances. While it stayed warm enough to get this done, it was cold enough that it took the concrete longer to set than it would on a warm summer day. This is why it may look like no work is happening when you drive by construction sites: There just isn’t much to see when concrete sets.

The good news is Acme finished the work and had all lanes reopened by 7:15 p.m. Sunday, almost 10 hours ahead of schedule. Acme also refreshed the temporary lane striping to make it more visible for drivers. They’ll install permanent striping after they replace bridge expansion joints in the spring, which will require more lane shifting.

Acme crews smooth new concrete under a covering to keep it dry from the rain on I-5 in Everett

So why not do this on other projects?

So, if we were able to pour concrete and get this done in January, why not do it for other projects rather than waiting until summer?

It’s a fair question.

Construction lead Cody Filley said it’s unusual for us to have temperatures favorable enough over several days this time of year to be able to do a project like this. And while we can do things like using burlap covers, plastic sheets and water heaters to battle the elements, we can only do that to a certain point, and it makes the project more expensive because of the extra materials, time and labor. When it gets too cold, concrete just doesn’t cure fast enough or properly enough to be able to reliably reopen lanes to traffic.

It also helps that, while the scope of this project was big, it wasn’t nearly as large as the work we do in the summer. The largest hole Acme filled was 12 by 47 feet, but most were only 12 by 16 feet. The quick-set concrete can be poured in the rain even when it’s close to freezing. That’s not the case for the polyester-reinforced concrete we use on Revive I-5 bridge decks in Seattle and expansion joint projects, which while a stronger, better option for those bridge decks, we can pour only when the surface is bone dry, it’s well above freezing and there’s no chance of rain.

Acme crews worked night and day over the weekend to get the
concrete replacement work on I-5 in Everett done.

Could we repeat this on a larger scale, say, over several hundred or several thousand continuous feet of new concrete and work through the winter? It sounds appealing, sure, and we would love to. We just can’t count on the weather to be as cooperative as it was this past weekend.

That said, we know it was challenging for many of you. While we did a full-court press in terms of getting the word out through our various communications channels, it’s impossible to reach everyone and we know some of you were surprised. We appreciate your patience while we got this work done and we’re happy there is fresh new concrete and lane striping for drivers through this busy section of Everett.

Monday, January 23, 2023

A new approach to winter guardrail repair

By April Leigh

When it comes to winter maintenance needs on state highways, the words “weather dependent” take on a whole new meaning. Starting in November, when road crews split into day and night shifts, they balance their time between responding to severe weather events and tackling maintenance needs.

Even for the most skilled professionals, it’s a race to get all the work done. Especially when it comes to the repair and replacement of guardrail on state highways.

Guardrail is a critical safety component of the state highway system. It’s used in areas where leaving the road presents a significant hazard to travelers. For example, you will often see it placed in areas with steep slopes. It’s also used as a barrier to protect things near the road from getting hit. It’s very good at doing its job but unfortunately repairs are needed regularly because of crashes.

Crews removing nuts and bolts from damaged guardrail before
replacing it on SR 161 at Edgewood Hill

“We prioritize the most important repairs and complete as much as possible during the winter. But with split shifts and weather, it can get very tough to manage,” said Michael Gauger, one of our maintenance superintendents.

Challenges keeping up with guardrail work led Gauger to propose a new idea this year. Why not keep some of the seasonal staff hired to help keep up with summer work like paving, and teach them winter guardrail maintenance? It makes sense, given they’re already training in safety and traffic control and other procedures.

To the untrained eye, repairing and replacing guardrail may seem like a straightforward task. However, the work takes time and skill. Maintenance teams need to know how to fix and replace the rails, posts, connections to the posts, end terminals, and the anchors. It’s a lot to learn.

Crews pulling damaged guardrail posts anchored to the ground
alongside SR 161 at Edgewood Hill

This winter Gauger was given the go-ahead to carry over seven seasonal employees from the summer to focus on guardrail work in the Tacoma area. The team, trained by senior maintenance workers, have made a big difference in the amount of guardrail work getting done this season. Since November, the crew completed guardrail projects at more than 40 different locations, with more locations scheduled for work through April.

“We’ve been hearing from local folks, they are happy we’re fixing things and praising the crew for doing the work,” Gauger said.

Panels of new guardrail are installed at SR 161 at Edgewood Hill

We’ve also integrated the guardrail team into multi-crew work on roads with high traffic volumes, allowing crews to do several types of maintenance jobs in a single closure while limiting effects to travelers. For example, if there’s a guardrail repair job, we’ll also try to tackle things like vegetation management, clearing storm drains or fixing signs in the same area at the same time.

“Every job the crew is doing is one that probably would not have Agot done otherwise this winter,” Gauger said. “In the end, we’re all better for it.”

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Why we're closing I-5 lanes in Everett again

By Kurt Batdorf

No one who drives Interstate 5 through Everett wants to repeat Jan. 12, when we had to reduce the northbound freeway to one lane to make a weekday emergency pavement repair near Marine View Drive.

When a concrete panel pops up and creates a 3-inch-high ledge that suddenly covers half of the center lane, as was the case that day, we can’t wait. We had to fix it immediately.

There’s never a good time to close lanes on the state’s busiest freeway, but we need to do more work to be sure this doesn’t happen again. So our contractor, Acme Concrete Paving, is returning this weekend to finish pavement repairs on I-5 near Marine View Drive. Northbound I-5 will be reduced to one lane from 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, through 5 a.m. Monday, Jan. 23.

So, here we are again. Kind of.

We know that a weekend-long reduction to a single lane will be challenging and is likely to create long backups on I-5, westbound US 2 and Everett city streets, so we’re asking drivers to plan ahead. Use our real-time traffic app before you hit the road. If you can use an alternate route like State Route 9 to bypass Everett, please do so. If you can’t, you’ll have to allow more time to get through Everett.

When this section of concrete on northbound I-5 near Marine View Drive popped loose earlier this month, an emergency repair required two lanes of the highway to be closed. Crews will return this weekend to continue work in this area.

What happened?

In 2022, Acme Concrete Paving crews replaced about 160 of 200 concrete panels on this stretch of I-5. The panel that popped up Jan. 12 is one of about 40 that Acme crews cut in December in anticipation of replacement. But they couldn’t finish replacing all the panels before the weather got too cold and wet to pour concrete.

As things unfolded Jan. 12, our engineers and Acme discussed options. No one could say if the other panels cut in advance of replacement would remain stable until spring when Acme was scheduled to return. The weather forecast for Jan. 20-23 looks good enough to pour concrete and we all want to get this job done before any more panels pop up. But it will take a full weekend with multiple lane closures to safely replace the 40 remaining panels.

The area of I-5 that was repaired earlier this month in Everett after an emergency closure. Contractors will be out this weekend to finish pavement work in this area.

We didn’t make this decision lightly. The emergency work created a backup on I-5 that stretched south of the I-405 interchange and clogged countless surrounding surface streets. We’re doing this work now to try to avoid further emergencies that snarl traffic with no advanced warning. None of us like how that turned out. We heard the traveling public loud and clear.

After this weekend, Acme will return to this stretch of I-5 this spring to replace expansion joints on four bridges that date to the construction of the freeway in the mid-1960s. We’ll provide more details about that schedule as soon as we have it. In the meantime, we thank you for your patience.

Oh yeah, about the lane striping

We’ve heard lots of grumbling about the temporary lane markers on this project. Good news! We’ve Asked Acme to fix the striping issues while the lanes are closed. Look for more coats of paint separating lanes (if it’s dry enough to paint) or reflective raised pavement markers (if it’s too wet to paint) come Monday morning.