Thursday, May 24, 2018

Full closure of northbound I-5 at the West Seattle Bridge June 1-4

By Lisa Van Cise

As you're making plans for your holiday road trip this Memorial Day weekend, we also want you to think ahead to next weekend, June 1-4, because road construction to Revive I-5 in Seattle will be back in a big way.

This work includes two weekends of a full closure of northbound I-5 at the West Seattle Bridge. The full closures of the freeway allow crews to complete work equal to six partial closures in just one weekend. Putting on my math hat, that's 12 weekends of work crammed into two.

Completely closing northbound I-5 will also allow the contractor access to 14 of the 37 expansion joints located in a very tight space, with limited shoulder widths and large machinery. Unlike previous weekends with partial lane closures, there's simply not enough room in this section of I-5 to replace the old expansion joints while keeping lanes open for travelers.

Northbound I-5 will begin narrowing to two lanes at 8 p.m. Friday, June 1, near Southcenter as we also repair expansion joints at the Duwamish River in order to combine work and reduce the number of weekends of lane closures on this major north-south route. The second weekend closure is tentatively scheduled for Friday night, July 13 to Monday morning, July 16. The weekend work is weather dependent which means rain could postpone the closures.
Photo that shows contractor crews tearing up old concrete from above
View from above: contractor crews tear up old concrete on northbound I-5
in Seattle during the May 19-20 weekend closure.

Regional traffic backups 8 p.m. Friday, June 1 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 4
If your quest for fun involves a trip on northbound I-5 through Seattle (or really anywhere in the greater Puget Sound region), you're going to need to plan for major region-wide travel delays. We know this is a inconvenience and will create a challenge to get around. Here's some suggestions on how to prepare:
  • Know what you're getting yourself into before you leave. This is a major closure that will affect people who use northbound I-5 and beyond. Let's think about the ripple effect: Some will decide to wade through the backups, but others will use alternate routes. Enter state routes 18, 99, 167, 509, 599, 520 and I-405 and I-90. During our May 18-21 partial closure of northbound I-5, we saw backups of 7 miles or more on both I-5 and I-405. City streets also see significant congestion as folks try to sneak around the backups.
  • Be a helper. The more people who carpool, use transit or delay discretionary trips, the more manageable the backups and delays will be. We recognize it's not possible for everyone to use transit or delay trips, but everyone who can helps those who can't.
  • Be prepared. Check ahead before you get behind the wheel. Bookmark our Seattle area traffic page, download our app and follow us on Twitter for the very latest travel conditions. 
There's no way around it, things are going to be a big challenge. But planning ahead should help take some of the sting out of it. Thank you, as always, for your patience as we complete this critical work on I-5.

Staying safe on the SR 20 North Cascades Highway

By Mike Allende

It's shaping up to be a warm and sunny Memorial Day weekend and it just might be the perfect time to take your motorcycle out on the highway.

One of our most popular routes for motorcycles is the beautiful SR 20 North Cascades Highway, which opened after its yearly winter closure earlier in May. But, while undeniably scenic, the road can also be one of the most hazardous – especially for those on motorcycles.
The SR 20 North Cascades Highway is one of our most popular routes for people to ride their motorcycles across.

Each year, on average, 14 motorcycles are involved in collisions on the North Cascades Highway. Of these crashes, 95 percent result in injury to the rider. Unfortunately, we've already seen one fatal motorcycle crash on the highway this year.

The vast majority – 75 percent – of motorcycle-involved crashes on the North Cascades Highway happen on curves during the daytime and on dry roads.
The North Cascades Highway is twisty and drivers must pay attention to their speed on the winding roads.

We teamed with the Federal Highway Administration on a study to help make the highway safer for everyone. Among the safety improvements we're making are:
  • Adding advanced curve warning and speed advisory signs
  • Adding arrow boards along curves
  • Adding intersection warning and road name signs
In addition, we've created a safety brochure that we're distributing to businesses throughout the corridor with tips about keeping everyone safe. Some of those are highlighted below.
Left: We're distributing these safety brochures all along the SR 20 North Cascades Highway corridor to encourage motorcycle safety. Right: We're adding several new signs like this to indicate curves on the North Cascades Highway.

Our maintenance crews work to remove debris like fallen rocks from the roadway, as well as repair damaged pavement and maintain pavement markings and signs. But we need drivers' help as well.
  • Always be alert when operating a vehicle. No distracted driving.
  • Never operate a vehicle – whether it has two wheels, four or even more – when impaired.
  • Please watch your speed – this is a twisty, winding highway.
  • If you're operating a motorcycle or bicycle, make yourself as visible as possible. And remember, it's the law to wear a helmet.
  • Use our scenic turnouts when they're fatigued or want to safely get good views of the area. There are dozens of scenic turnouts along the highway.
  • When pulling out of a turn or side street, look twice for motorcycles.
  • If you're following a motorcycle, give them space as motorcycles can decelerate far quicker than other vehicles.
  • Be on the lookout for wildlife crossing the highway.
Everyone plays a role in keeping everyone else safe on the highways. Be alert, watch your speed and following distance and work together to have a safe holiday weekend.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Adventure is out there - join us on May 20 to celebrate the SR 520 Trail!

By Emily Durante

May is one of our favorite months here on the SR 520 Project. The warmer weather signals that at last our long winter is behind us and summer is on the way. This change in season is a great time to explore local and regional pedestrian and bicycle trails, and coincides nicely with May, Bike Everywhere Month. May also plays host to our favorite day of the year – "520 Day" – also known as May 20!

This 520 Day, we're celebrating the SR 520 Trail with an informal ribbon-cutting event. Last December, hundreds of community members gathered to help us open the trail across Lake Washington and take the inaugural trip across the lake. Now that it's warming up outside, we want to officially cut the ribbon to celebrate the trail's "opening" and kick off the summer adventure season.
Some of the inaugural SR 520 Trail users enjoyed a beautiful, if chilly ride on Dec. 20, 2017.

The trail is designed for users of all abilities and types of travel, including by foot, bicycle, wheelchair, skateboard or stroller. Since the trail opened in December 2017, it's quickly become a vital part of our region's bicycle and pedestrian network. Bicyclists and pedestrians have taken more than 110,000 trips on the trail since December. Every day hundreds of people use the trail to commute, exercise or take advantage of outstanding views of Lake Washington and Union Bay.
We hope you're able to join us this Sunday, May 20. We'll have a short ceremony at 11 a.m. to cut a ribbon and "open" the SR 520 Trail. We'll be joined by a few of our community partners, including Cascade Bicycle Club, which has worked with us for more than 20 years to make this trail a reality. After the ceremony, you'll have a chance to cut your very own ribbon and get an SR 520 Trail sticker! As you hang out and enjoy the trail, representatives from our community partners, including the Seattle Running Club, will be on hand to share more about the great work they do. Additionally, SR 520 Program staff will be available to answer questions about the Trail and our ongoing reconstruction project.
The segment of the new SR 520 Trail on the floating bridge opened as an out-and-back excursion in July 2016.

What's next?
In the years to come we'll be extending the SR 520 Trail across Portage Bay and building a new, non-motorized crossing over I-5. We'll improve the connection to the Bill Dawson Trail, and build a new bicycle and pedestrian land bridge over SR 520 that connects the Washington Park Arboretum (and its recently completed Arboretum Loop Trail) to East Montlake Park. Most importantly, we'll continually work to make sure this trail serves the growing number of people choosing non-motorized forms of transportation for generations to come.

#ReviveI5, US 2 closure to hit Seattle and Snohomish County traffic hard this weekend, May 19-20

Friday, May 18

The scheduled closure of the westbound US 2 trestle in Snohomish County has been postponed due to forecasted rainy weather. It will be rescheduled for early June.
By Ally Barrera

The combination of popular spring events and major roadwork mean people planning to head to either Seattle or around Snohomish County this weekend should prepare for substantial traffic delays.

Travelers should plan extra time to get around, as well as:
  • Take public transportation (including the train or light rail).
  • Carpool
  • Travel early or late
  • Avoid discretionary trips if possible.
One glance at this week's Weekend Paint Map, and you'll see why we are urging folks to plan ahead.
Travelers in the Seattle and Snohomish County areas could see delays of up to an hour
due to major roadwork and special events

Westbound US 2 full closure
The westbound US 2 Hewitt Avenue trestle between Lake Stevens and Everett will be closed starting 7 p.m. Friday until 4 a.m. Monday. A detour will be in place via 20th Street Southeast, but travelers should prepare for long backups on all area roads, including State Route 9.

#ReviveI5 lane reductions
Northbound Interstate 5 will be down to two lanes between the West Seattle Bridge and SR 520 beginning at 8 p.m. Friday and lasting to 5 a.m. Monday. The following ramps will also close during this time:
  • Dearborn Street on-ramp to northbound I-5
  • Northbound I-5 off-ramp to Seneca Street
  • University Street on-ramp to northbound I-5
  • Mercer Street on-ramp to northbound I-5
We saw large backups on northbound I-5 last weekend, and it took drivers at least a half hour to get through the closure area. We hope that if enough people stay away from northbound I-5 – either by taking alternate routes or limiting discretionary travel – we can keep the backups to a minimum.

I-5 Ship Canal Bridge maintenance work
Our bridge maintenance crews will close the two left lanes of northbound I-5 between SR 520 and Northeast 45th/50th Street on Saturday and Sunday mornings for some much needed deck repair work.
Bridge crews will spend the weekend repairing areas of the Ship Canal Bridge deck, like the one above

The far left lane will close from 3 a.m. Saturday to 11 a.m. Sunday. The second left lane will close from 3 a.m. to noon on Saturday, and from 3 to 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Express lanes open northbound
The I-5 express lanes will be open in the northbound direction from 11:15 a.m. Friday to 4:30 a.m. Monday. Because of this, travelers who use southbound I-5 between Lynnwood and Seattle should also expect big backups and slow speeds.

Beat the Bridge Run/Walk
Folks trying to get around the Montlake and University District neighborhoods should expect several road closures between the University Village shopping mall and just south of SR 520 from 7:30 to 10 a.m. Sunday.

The following roads and ramps will be closed during that time:
  • Both directions of Montlake Boulevard Northeast between Northeast 44th Street and Husky Stadium
  • Both directions of the Montlake Bridge
  • The westbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard Northeast
  • The left turn lane on the eastbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard Northeast
Special Events
Friday, May 18:
  • Mariners vs. Detroit Tigers, 7:10 p.m., Safeco Field
  • Paul Simon concert, 7:30 p.m., KeyArena
Saturday, May 19:
  • University District Street Fair, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., U-District
  • Mariners vs. Detroit Tigers, 6:10 p.m., Safeco Field
  • Stars on Ice, 7:30 p.m., KeyArena
  • Chris Young concert, 7:30 p.m., Tacoma Dome
Sunday, May 20:
  • University District Street Fair, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., U-District
  • Mariners vs. Detroit Tigers, 1:10 p.m., Safeco Field
We appreciate everyone's patience heading into this busy weekend. We also appreciate your help in spreading the word. If you know someone hitting the road in the Puget Sound area this weekend, make sure they know about the delays ahead of them!

Our #KnowBeforeYouGo resources
Following @WSDOT_Traffic on Twitter for real-time info.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Understanding all modes of transportation key in building system that works for everyone

By Roger Millar

Last week, Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar sent this message in honor of Bike Month to all staff members. The message has since then made its way outside our agency and has been well received. We'd like to share it with you:

You're probably familiar with the phrase "walk a mile in someone else's shoes." We tend to use it metaphorically but trying it for real can yield a whole new appreciation for the importance of a transportation system designed with every mode in mind, not just one. After all, even if you rely on a personal vehicle to get from one place to another you'll still be a pedestrian after you park the car.

The same is true for "rolling a mile on someone else's bike." You may not use a bike for transportation but if you were to try riding from a neighborhood to the grocery store, your job site, or just the nearest transit stop, you'd experience how it feels to travel on a street or road that doesn't include provision for your mode.

This understanding matters for our work on behalf of all Washington residents (including our future selves – when someday we're not able to drive ourselves where we want to go). Better biking and walking connections serve not just people who choose those modes, but also people using those modes out of necessity.

The opening of the SR 520 trail provided a key link for bicyclists and pedestrians across Lake Washington.

That's more people than you might think. Over 22 percent – more than one in five – of people in Washington don't hold a driver's license. They may be too young, too old, have a disability that doesn't permit them to drive, choose not to drive, or face a legal barrier. Whatever the reason, they don't drive – and they're still using the transportation system.

One of the fastest-growing reasons people don't drive? They can't afford to own and operate a car. We have a deepening opportunity gap in our state, particularly in the Puget Sound but growing everywhere. We must provide safety and mobility for the people who need it most to gain access to jobs, education, food, health care, and other essential goods and services.

A bike can be the key that unlocks the door to opportunity but lack of comfortable, complete connections can keep that door from opening. These are the people biking to home from a late shift or on their way to an early one. The people carrying a bag on the handlebar to get their groceries home the only way they can, because a rack and bike bag aren't in the budget. The people whose headlights are dead because batteries cost money. The mom taking her kids to school by bike because the family has one car and it's in use. The senior citizen pedaling slowly to the doctor's office because their reflexes aren't up to the speed of driving decisions any more.

When we design and build better connections for biking, or make it easier to cross state right-of-way to access the quieter, calmer local streets, we're working for them. For several years now Washington has led the nation in policies, infrastructure, education and funding to support people who use bicycles to get around – but there's more work to be done.

As we celebrate Bike Month (pdf 644 kb) in May, let's consider what we can do differently to help all people get around, regardless of the mode they use. Imagine riding that mile "on another's bike" – while designing and building projects, and when approaching, passing or turning near a person on a bike. Let's make it safe and convenient for everyone to get where they want to be.

Thank you for your service.