Friday, November 30, 2007

Travel Graphs: Followup

We took the time this last holiday weekend to make sure that the recommendations we provided on travel times on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass were accurate. We collected traffic data and placed it on top of our predictions, which were based on historic data. Turns out we were very close. With any traffic measurement outside influences must be considered. Fortunately we experienced very mild weather conditions across the state and few traffic incidents.

We also noticed that more drivers traveled on Friday and Saturday, rather than the traditional Sunday evening rush for home. That helps keep traffic moving for everyone and we greatly appreciated those drivers who altered their schedules.

The colored thick lines on the graphs represent the estimated traffic volumes, the black lines on the graphs represent actual traffic.

On a usage note, the travel graphs for I-90 were looked at over 1,000 times a day the 20th, 21st and 22nd of November.

Thanks again to those who adjusted their trips to avoid being in and creating congestion.

Anyone else find these useful and use them to plan your trip? We would love to hear your story.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Easton Bridge Repair continued...

Those clever folks working on the I-90 Easton bridge project have figured out how to add some temporary cameras to the bridge location so you can watch the progress of the project.
They were able to place the camera so you can actually see the bridge.

Media is fun isn't it. We also have photos of the girders being created, and a video (on YouTube) showing the challenges of setting the girders on the bridge. The snow you see in the background just showed up this weekend and luckily they had a break in the weather to be able to get this done.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Know before you go...

I always like to check the cameras and traffic conditions before I travel. It's nice to know if I need to delay my trip or plan to leave earlier. I put together some of my favorite places to use on our Web site to help you plan your trip.

For real time conditions:

Recently, some innovative transportation engineers added a few more cameras on I-90 so that you can get a better view of what traffic is like. They have this really cool trailer they call a "portable work zone" that has a computerized variable message sign and a camera on it that can send images to the Web site. For the holiday weekend, this portable work zone will be sitting near Cle Ellum, then moved to the Easton bridge Nov. 26th, once the work starts there. Check out the temporary cameras...

If you are traveling with your family over any of the passes, take the time to prepare and drive safely. It's worth it.

How about U.S. 2?
Another permanent camera also was added on U.S. 2 at Stevens Pass so now you can see both the east and west side of the pass .

Planning to travel to Canada?
For value, you can't beat the border traffic page. For the low cost of nothing you’ll find wait times, just underneath the map, letting you know how long it might take to cross the border. Now how much would you pay?

Want to plan ahead?
Knowing in advance the best time to leave is such a great way to have a less stressful trip. If you haven't seen them yet, I highly recommend checking out the travel graphs that were created for some key areas in the state:

I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass
US 2 over Stevens Pass
I-5 south of Olympia
I-5 near the U.S-Canada border

Our forward-thinking traffic engineers have already started doing some work to show how the current traffic patterns are matching up to what we predicted, and they are incredibly close -- almost an exact match.

If you have a cell phone, try calling 5-1-1. It’s a great way to get traffic conditions, weather and more. My second favorite thing to check is the mobile traffic site. You can get Seattle traffic, ferry schedule info, and mountain pass reports by pointing your mobile browser to

WSDOT crews will be on staff all weekend to make sure we can keep you informed of what might affect your travels during the holiday weekend.

As always, pack your patience, plan ahead, leave plenty of room for stopping, and drive safely out there.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Easton bridge repair and working at WSDOT

I never know what to expect when I  come into work each day.  The Easton bridge is a great example of how things can change very quickly at WSDOT and how fun and exciting it can be working here.  

If you didn't already know, an over-height load drove into a bridge over Interstate 90 in Easton recently.  The impact of the truck was like flipping a switch, mobilizing teams throughout WSDOT, including engineers, inspectors, communicators and contractors.

Just another day at the office.

WSDOT crews, dressed in reflective coats and pants, immediately closed the highway. They waved drivers to the off-ramp and set up orange barrels to block the two lanes (as you can see in the start of this video).

The overpass bridge, damaged by the oversized load, had to be closed with concrete barriers and orange cones. Keep in mind this started at 4 am. Bridge engineers were called out to inspect the damage and concluded that all six support girders were irreparably damaged. The bridge deck was no longer safe for vehicles to travel across it or underneath it. WSDOT had to tear down the bridge before traffic could flow freely on eastbound I-90.

Communications staff fired off news items and highway alerts and updated the Web site. Media inquiries followed, and communicators established a schedule to get reporters on scene and provide updates. A communications manager for the local area drove 75 miles to the scene to coordinate interviews.

Coordination happened quickly. It had to so drivers could keep moving. Surprisingly, the length of eastbound backups fluctuated between only one to three miles. Delays were only about eight to 10 minutes. Five TV reporters plus camera operators came to the scene in satellite trucks to do live interviews. Newspaper and radio reporters called in for updates. The Washington State Patrol trooper who fined the semi truck driver who struck the bridge returned to give statements.

Construction engineers found contractors who could do the work right away. Overnight, Rhine’s giant concrete cracker, which looks just like a giant nutcracker, worked carefully alongside the concrete hydraulic ram to chew apart the eastbound half of the bridge without damaging the rest of the bridge structure. Bridge engineers and inspectors were on site throughout the night as the girders were removed. Most of the engineers and inspectors put in a 20-hour day.

By 3:45 a.m. – less than 24 hours after the oversize load hit the bridge – the bridge was down, the mess swept up, the orange cones removed, and traffic was back on eastbound I-90 at Easton. We have some great before-and-after photos of what this looked like.

Coordination didn’t just happen in-house. The community needed to know what was going on, too. Maintenance supervisors went door to door to notify the community about what happened, what we were doing about it, and what local folks needed to do to access the highway.

The day following the initial bridge damage, WSDOT bridge engineers immediately began designing the bridge replacement girders. A public open house was planned for Nov. 15 at Easton Community School, outlining WSDOT's next steps in getting the bridge repaired and re-opened to traffic.

There was talk about waiting until spring to repair the bridge, but Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond encouraged construction and bridge engineers to get it fixed before Christmas so that the community of Easton could have access to the highway system as soon as possible.

Construction of the “Bulb-T” girders is currently under way in Tacoma at one of the closest manufacturing facilities for pre-stressed girders. Once the girders are built and the concrete cured, the company will ship them directly to the project site.

What is out of our control however, is the weather. We are still hoping for mild weather for the first couple of weeks of December to get the girders up there and get that bridge back open. The girders on a truck will be an oversize load and keep in mind that oversize loads can't travel if there are traction advisories, so the shipment  is weather dependent.

And this level of coordination doesn't stop. The Web site gets continual updates, the news releases continue to go out with the latest updates, the engineering work has to continue to get the bridge back open to the local community.

As you can see, coordination and cooperation happened from all angles across the state, involving communications, engineers and upper management. That level of teamwork and fast action is part of the deal here, and it’s what makes WSDOT a fascinating place to work.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Travel graphs in context...

Remember those travel graphs you recently took a poll on? We took your advice on how they should look and have them available for you to see in context.

We published information today about the best times to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday for a couple of highly traveled routes:

I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass
US 2 over Stevens Pass
I-5 south of Olympia
I-5 near the Canadian Border

Thanks again for your feedback, hope you find these useful.