Thursday, April 19, 2018

Another near miss for employees in our work zone

By Celeste Dimichina

Maintenance technicians Eustacio Valencia and Clay Scoggins were spending their Sunday workday, April 15, removing graffiti from several signs along northbound I-5 in Vancouver. This is no easy task, as it requires our crews to be working near traffic and sometimes they have to get into some difficult places to reach.

Unfortunately, their job was made even more difficult and dangerous on that day.
Clay Scoggins (left) and Eustacio Valencia were doing a graffiti cleanup job on I-5 in Vancouver when a semi entered their work zone and collided with a work truck. Fortunately neither were injured.

After setting up two message boards warning of the work happening up ahead, Eustacio and Clay closed the two right lanes of the highway to set up a work zone. We also had a mobile barrier truck in place to protect the crew, but while Eustacio was in the vehicle, a semi entered the work zone and sideswiped the truck, knocking off the side mirror. The semi did not stop.

Fortunately, neither of our workers were injured. The State Patrol is still trying to identify the semi.
One of our workers was in this truck during a graffiti cleanup job when a semi truck entered
the work zone and sideswiped it, knocking off a side mirror.

Whether it's cleaning graffiti, repairing potholes or helping stranded drivers, our road crews put themselves on the line every day to try to keep our highways safe. It is dangerous work, and they can all recount near misses. And those are the lucky ones. Many others are injured on the job, and since 1950, we've had 60 workers killed while working.

It's also easy to forget that all of those workers have family and friends who want them to get home safely. We often simply see signs, trucks, vests and hard hats but fail to remember that those are real people doing work in often high-stress situations.
Graffiti cleanup can sometimes put our crews in challenging spots and situations.

But everyone can help keep them safe. Always focus near work zones. Slow down, move over and give them space. No one likes being stuck in traffic because of roadwork, but stay calm and work together to keep everyone safe. And, be kind. The workers are trying to do important work to benefit everyone. Help them help you.

We're glad that Eustacio and Clay weren't hurt, but we hate hearing about any of these close calls. So let's all do our part to send all of our road workers home safely.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

US 12 gears up for paving, culvert work

By Tina Werner

As DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince told us way back in 1991, summertime is a great time to sit back and unwind (did I just date myself?). Unless, of course, you are one of our construction crews.

When the hot and dry weather gets here and most of us are enjoying evening fireworks and disappearing plates of watermelon, crews will be gearing up for a busy season. While sparklers and bonfires won't be allowed at these events, warmer weather is required as contractor crews begin two construction projects between Aberdeen and Montesano, including a seven-mile overnight paving job on US 12 from Sargent Boulevard to the Wynoochee River Bridge in Aberdeen followed by a fish barrier correction project west of Montesano.

Work could begin in May
As early as May, crews will begin an asphalt paving project to renew a portion of US 12 from Aberdeen through Central Park, with most of the work taking place overnight to reduce traffic impacts. They will also make repairs to the driving surface of the Wynochee River Bridge. Work on the bridge will require nighttime, one-way alternating traffic.
The Wynoochee River Bridge just west of N. Montesano Rd

Meanwhile, after the Fourth
Shortly after the Fourth of July holiday, we will begin removing and replacing a small culvert that runs under US 12 just west of Montesano. This project will reduce US 12 to one lane in each direction around-the-clock through early fall. Drivers can expect reduced speeds of 25 mph through the work zone.
The existing culvert under US 12. This culvert is a barrier to fish passage

We are required to improve creeks and streams in the region by rebuilding fish barriers in addition to restoring and relocating the creeks and streams so the fish in those waterways can swim more freely.

No good time for this work
US 12 is the major east-west highway in Grays Harbor County. This section serves about 20,000 vehicles per day. In addition to local commuters, freight and transit, tourists visiting our beaches during the summer cause traffic volumes to soar.
Unfortunately, summer is also the primary time we can get most of our paving work done. Much of this work needs dry, warmer weather for asphalt to set and harden and lane striping to adhere to the pavement.

There really is no "good" time to close lanes and do this kind of work. State highways are an important link for our economy and our crews will work to keep traffic moving as well as possible through the back-to-back construction projects by doing a majority of the paving work at night.

Advanced notification of construction-related closures is posted on the Olympic Region Weekly Construction and Traffic Updates web page. Travelers are encouraged to sign up for Grays Harbor County community alerts.

We know this is going to be a challenge for travelers in the area and we appreciate your patience as we get this important work done.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Construction projects ramping up as summer approaches

By Ally Barrera

Summer is fast approaching, which means construction projects around the state are ramping up.

While this construction work will help preserve and revitalize our highways, travelers will notice increased congestion and more time spent on the roads.
But, we can all get through it together by being prepared.

Here is the major road work happening over the next few months that could affect your summer travel plans:



Snohomish County

Skagit County

South Sound

  • I-5 Tacoma: Traffic shifts and configuration changes
  • I-5 Lacey: Lane closures for Diverging Diamond construction

Lewis County

  • US 12 White Pass: Daytime and weekend lane closures and alternating traffic for repaving

Eastern Washington

Special events can also affect traffic, and we have our share of big events going on this summer like Mariners and Sounders games, concerts, marathons, Blue Angels, you name it.
Bottom line is there’s a lot going on the next few months, and traffic will be affected. Stay one step ahead of the congestion with these great resources.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Swift thinking and good luck has kept paving foreman alive

By Tina Werner

Amy Laveway has had one too many close calls on the roadway and recalls veering off to avoid being hit by objects thrown from vehicles, motorists themselves, or worse. "I have been lucky," she said. But not everyone in her line of work can say the same.

Laveway is a 13-year truck driver foreman with Lakeside Industries, one of our local asphalt contractors. Construction runs in her family, as her dad and grandfather were both in the business. Newly married, the thought of never coming home to her loved ones after a shift on the highway is a real nightmare.
Amy Laveway says she has "been lucky" to not lose her life working in a construction zone by distracted drivers.

While a vehicle in a construction zone has not hit her, Laveway says several of her coworkers have suffered serious injuries. A fellow foreman at Lakeside Industries was injured in a work zone by a distracted driver and lost his leg. The employee is still unable to return to work.

"If I was hurt it would create a huge financial hardship for my family," she said.

In the past 10 years, the number of distracted or inattentive driver citations in work zones in our state has increased by 66 percent. Last year alone, that number reached 659. Like Laveway's coworker, many have lasting injuries that change their lives forever.
Vehicles speeding by Amy Laveway's truck during a construction operation.

Far too many of our workers and contractor crews have had narrow escapes with death by motorists flying by or encroaching too close to the boundary. Since 1950, we have had 60 workers – husbands, children, coworkers, and mothers – killed in work zone-related incidents. They leave behind real families with real wounds that will never be the same. We treat safety as our top priority, whether it's our own employees or contractor crews working for us.

Rob McNelly, Lakeside Industries Superintendent, said a speeding driver killed his cousin in a work zone near Mayfield Lake in Lewis County in 2000.

"It was like yesterday," McNelly said. "He left behind four kids that I go visit regularly because they lost their dad."

Laveway has had garbage and bottles thrown at her while working, along with bearing the brunt of hand gestures and colorful language.

We work hard to keep our workers safe with equipment and training but need the traveling public's help.

We ask all drivers in work zones to:
  • Slow Down – Drive the posted speeds, they're there for your safety.
  • 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 – Expect delays, leave early or take an alternate route if possible; no meeting or appointment is worth risking someone's life.
The next time you are driving, keep in mind workers like Laveway who work hard to keep drivers safe and improve our roadways.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Aging I-5 in Seattle to receive a historic facelift during spring and summer of 2018

By Frances Fedoriska

Decades of patchwork fixes, Band-Aid repairs and emergency maintenance can't be ignored any longer.

Interstate 5 through the heart of Seattle needs major work done. Badly.

Much has changed since the roadway opened in the 1960's. Back then, the new surface was smooth as butter. If you drive the interstate today, you know that is no longer the case. Yes, we do regular inspections and preventative maintenance all along I-5, but a full-blown rehabilitation has never happened… until now.
While we've done what we can to preserve the pavement on northbound I-5 through Seattle,
it hasn't had a major facelift since it was built in the 1960s.

This spring and summer, northbound I-5 from MLK Way (State Route 900) to Northeast Ravenna is getting 13 miles of new concrete and asphalt and 37 new expansion joints as part of a $51.2 million facelift.

It's a tremendous undertaking that will require at least six weekends of lane reductions on northbound I-5 near Spokane Street. Two of the six weekends will require full closures of northbound I-5.

What to expect and when
With so many events in Seattle over the spring and summer months, there is never a good time to close lanes on I-5. We've been working closely with the SoDo stadiums, event managers and downtown associations to pinpoint the weekends with the fewest conflicts in an incredibly vibrant city. Over the six weekends of work, crews will start the closures late Friday night and wrap up by the Monday morning commute.
As part of our #ReviveI5 work in Seattle, we'll be replacing 37 expansion joints.
  • April 20-23: Weekend lane reductions
  • April 27-30: Weekend lane reductions
  • May 11-14: Weekend lane reductions
  • May 18-21: Full northbound closure
  • June 1-4: Full northbound closure
  • July 13-16: Weekend lane reductions
Much of this work can only be done during dry weather so the schedule can change. If that happens, we will send out email alerts regarding changes to the above itinerary. You can also bookmark the King County Construction page to easily reference all closures.

What drivers can do
To avoid miles of backups and hours-long delays during the work, especially the two full weekend closures, we need every driver to adjust their plans or try something different when possible:
  • Use public transportation
  • Use light rail
  • Use Amtrak Cascades
  • Carpool or vanpool
  • Bike
  • Walk
  • Use state routes 99, 509, 518 and I-405 instead.
  • Travel before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m.
  • Move any discretionary travel to another weekend.
  • Plan on spending the night in Seattle to avoid traveling during the closure.
Major work to rehab I-5 began last year on the southbound highway between Tukwila and Kent.

Every year, we get money from the legislature to do preservation work on the worst sections of I-5. It is more cost effective for taxpayers to protect the roads we already have versus building new ones. Last year we started a $27 million rehabilitation of roughly 13 miles of southbound I-5 between the Duwamish River Bridge in Tukwila and South 320th Street in Federal Way. That project, and this year's work on northbound I-5, is all part of the years-long #ReviveI5 preservation project ensuring safe and reliable trips along 38-miles of Washington's busiest highway for decades to come.

Thank you!
We know this construction will create a rough commute through downtown, but this historic preservation project will reduce the need for future emergency repairs that add time to already long commutes. We thank you in advance for the adjustments you'll make to your plans during this project as we work to restore a smoother, safer ride on I-5 for generations to come.