Thursday, November 15, 2018

An early gift for Tacoma Mall holiday shoppers from Skanska

By Cara Mitchell

Just in time for the holidays, a temporary lane configuration that sends eastbound State Route 16 drivers on a 2-mile detour to reach the west side of I-5 in Tacoma will be removed as early as Friday morning, Nov. 16, weather permitting.

Design-build contractor Skanska recently finished building a temporary ramp that will allow I-705, SR 7 and Pacific Avenue drivers to merge on to southbound I-5 without having to use exit 132A/South 38th Street ramp.

Once the new temporary ramp opens to traffic, Skanska can remove temporary traffic control and allow SR 16 drivers to go west on South 38th Street.

Why have SR 16 drivers not been able to use the South 38th Street west ramp?
In May when southbound I-5 moved into a temporary configuration, I-705, SR 7 and Pacific Avenue drivers had to take the 132A/South 38th Street exit to rejoin southbound I-5 near South 48th Street. This temporary configuration increased traffic volumes on the ramp.

Drivers coming from downtown Tacoma were also merging with those coming from eastbound SR 16 to southbound I-5. While it is true that this merge has always been in place, the distance to make this merge shortened. To reduce the potential for collisions, traffic control was installed preventing eastbound SR 16 drivers from merging across two lanes of traffic to exit South 38th Street west. For their safety, drivers were detoured to the South 56th Street exit, back on to northbound I-5, and to exit 132. While this wasn’t popular with drivers, it was necessary due to the amount of traffic on both ramps.

Once the temporary ramp is open, traffic volumes on exit 132A/South 38th Street exit will be reduced.

Safety first while driving through work zones
We’ve all experienced first-hand the increased traffic congestion near a mall or shopping center during the holidays. This change in ramp configurations will help traffic get to shopping areas more easily during the holidays. Still, be sure to pay attention to your driving, especially through work zones, and give yourself plenty of travel time to enjoy your shopping adventures.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Like some oil changes, I-90 ramp project in Spokane gets a bit more complicated

By Beth Bousley

Have you ever dropped off your car for an oil change and had it turn into a lengthier and more expensive car repair? Once in a while, our construction projects go the way of that oil change.

Take the westbound I-90 Hamilton on-ramp repair project in Spokane. When our contracted crews removed the overlay of the on-ramp, which was built in the early 1970s, they found that the bridge deck needed more repairs than originally anticipated. That meant the on-ramp could have been closed through the winter. Instead, we’re expediting the work to open one lane hopefully before the snow flies.

Why now?
Most bridges will last 75 years until they need to be replaced but since bridge decks get worn down from traffic and weather, they usually need rehabilitation after about 30-40 years to keep them strong and safe. That, along with the fact that it’s about ten times less expensive than replacing the entire structure, is why we are resurfacing the Hamilton on-ramp now.

No easy task
There’s lots involved in repairing an onramp and the Hamilton Avenue/I-90 project is no exception, with its own added complexities and time constraints:
Workers clean up a segment of roadway after hyro-demolition.
A close look at the damaged rebar
that needs to be chipped out
by hand to have appropriate
overlap with new rebar.

  • Like many structures, the Hamilton on-ramp needs to be repaired and resurfaced section by section to maintain its strength – and that involves time.
  • Deteriorated concrete in the overlay of an on-ramp can be removed using hydro-demolition or high-pressure water. This is a cost-effective way to remove old concrete, but it doesn’t work well when the temperatures drop below freezing. What we can’t get done now has to wait until the spring, because there’s no skating allowed on on-ramps!
  • After the overlay of an on-ramp is removed, new reinforcing steel – or rebar – is added to the old rebar to strengthen the structure. In the case of the Hamilton on-ramp, we found that the old rebar was more worn than anticipated, which meant more time was needed to strengthen the structure with additional new rebar.
  • Remaining concrete is chipped out by hand before the concrete is poured; a time intensive process. 
  • To get one lane open to traffic, we will be applying hot mix asphalt (HMA) as temporary pavement. HMA is hard to work with when temperatures drop since the colder the ground, the faster the asphalt loses its heat, making it almost impossible for it to stabilize. So we’re racing the clock (and the snow) to get the one lane paved and open.

The pink paint shows where workers hand-tie wire to secure old and new rebar.

Workers use hand tools to chip out the damaged rebar, marked by orange paint. Lots of orange paint equals lots of time.

Just like cars, it’s important to maintain our highways, bridges, and on-ramps to keep them in good repair for years to come.
Preparing to pour concrete on the new road deck.


Know before you go
We work hard to deliver high quality projects on time and budget and when projects change and delays happen, we still try to get travelers back on the road as quickly and safely as possible. The best advice is to know your alternate routes and check the construction scheduled to make sure you know the best way to go - and arrive safe.

Move Over or Slow Down for flashing lights on the side of the road

Please help keep traffic responders safe this week and every week

By Barbara LaBoe

We all know to pull over when we see a fire truck or ambulance with lights and sirens in traffic – it's almost automatic. But did you also know about the Move Over, Slow Down law for response vehicles on the side of a roadway?

If you're approaching emergency and other response vehicles with flashing lights on the shoulder, state law requires you to move over into the next lane – if possible to do so safely – or slow down as you pass. This helps keep the response workers safe. It also allows them to finish their work more quickly, which benefits everyone on the road. This summer the law was expanded to include highway construction/maintenance vehicles, utility vehicles and other vehicles providing roadside assistance – when they have lights flashing.

Remembering the Move Over, Slow Down law is important every day. This week, however, we're making a special point of highlighting it as we recognize National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week. The week honors traffic responders' vital work and raises awareness about the dangers they face every day while clearing crashes and other incidents.
Please remember to Move Over or Slow Down when passing emergency responders
on roadways or shoulders – we need everyone's help to keep them safe.

According to national Traffic Incident Management statistics:
  • Traffic incidents are the leading cause of death for EMS/EMT responders.
  • 39,000 incident responders are potentially placed in harm's way every day.
  • 20,000 first responders are injured each year while responding to traffic incidents.
We want to keep all responders – and travelers – safe, but Traffic Incident Management is also about getting traffic moving again. It includes police and fire officers as well as transportation workers, tow truck drivers, utility workers and anyone else helping to clear an incident on or on the side of a roadway. By working and training together, responders can clear crashes more efficiently, saving everyone time and money.
Clearing major crashes takes a team of responders, including law enforcement, fire, transportation workers and others. Traffic Incident Management training allows the different groups to work together efficiently.

And it doesn't just affect the vehicles involved in a crash. Effective Traffic Incident Management benefits anyone on the roadway.

According to the Federal Highway Administration:
  • Traffic incidents account for up to one fourth of all congestion on roadways, due to rubbernecking and blocked lanes, and are the largest cause of unexpected traffic jams.
  • The average motorist loses almost a full workweek (36 hours) sitting in traffic due to traffic incidents.
  • Americans burn more than 2.8 billion gallons of gas every year stuck in incident-related traffic — that's almost 24 gallons of gas per driver.
  • Clearing crashes quickly reduces idling and emissions, which leads to cleaner air.
In Washington, our Incident Response Teams provided an estimated annual $87.8 million in economic benefits to travelers and businesses statewide, according to the 2017 Corridor Capacity Report. The benefits come from clearing scenes quickly to reduce the amount of time and fuel spent sitting in crash-related congestion and also by prevent secondary crashes and delays by quickly clearing initial incidents.
Our Incident Response Team crews respond to a number of calls to help keep traffic moving,
from flat tires to directing traffic around crash scenes.

So the next time you're passing responders working on the shoulder, please remember to Move Over or Slow Down. It's not only the law, it helps everyone get back on their way as quickly as possible.

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.