Thursday, May 28, 2009

What would you like to hear more about?

We have covered a lot of topics during the past few the years on this blog, from snow storms to wildlife on bridges to the making of a Bailey bridge. We have even created other project-specific blogs for the Hood Canal Bridge project and the SR 539 Guide Meridian project. However, we have never taken the time to ask you what you want to hear about.

We would like to leave the next blog topics up to you. What would you like to hear more of or more about? What have you always wondered about but have been afraid to ask?

Let us know in the comments below!


The Geezer said...

Jeremy, just because I give you guys H-E-double hockey sticks all the time does not mean that you haven't been spot on with the breadth of comments you make here.

I think you and your peeps do a fine job of being timely, dispensing information, and being a great target for a gub'mint critic (The Geez).

Keep up the good work, and I think doublehockeysticks should get by your censor.

The Geezer

The Geezer said...

Oh, and may the Lord not smite me for saying something nice about WSDOT. Forgot that part.

The Geezer said...

Ok, ok. Some of your colleagues inquired as to if I was feeling ok, because of the nice words.

I re-read the first paragraph, and the is one thing I could use LESS of. That being news of the animal bridges for Buddy the Squirrel on I-90.

That one gets the Geezer going a bit, as with all the needs for highway construction I see on my daily commute, I am reminded that I am a dernsite more interested in my comfort and ease of travel, than I am of Buddy the Squirrel's.

I mean, the highway was there first, right?

Geezer rests.

Tim said...

I would like to know why projects take so long and cost so much.

Ok, I look at your project page for the 405/167 stage 2 project. You show me a timeline with your environmental assessment, your published work, and finally construction. So why exactly does it take two years to construct this project? Why do projects take so much longer than they did 30 years ago?

Along with that thought, sometimes, it looks like a lane on a roadway are all finished, and cones simply need to be removed. Yet, it may take a month to remove them. What is going on during this time?

My last question is, why do road projects cost so much more than they did 30 years ago (yes, I understand inflation)?


SteffieAnn said...

I'd like to thank whoever had the idea for planting wildflowers alongside I-5 through the Everett area, they're lovely and a nice little de-stresser.

Peter Ellis said...

I have to extend Tim's comment - often, it seems like WSDOT lacks the capacity for long-term planning. Highway 522 is a perfect example, as it is always in a state of perpetual construction. It seems like the organization fails to realize that, well, traffic volumes inevitably go up, and add two lanes only to realize that they need another two because the ones they just added were planned six years ago and were no longer adequate.

Dawn of the Read said...

I'm curious as to why Olive Way is slated to be closed for a whole year.

And I'd also like to thank WSDOT for the lovely purple lupins and orange poppies between Lynnwood and Everett. They look AMAZING today and really made my commute wonderful. I'm looking forward to seeing them on the way home :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the nice comments regarding our wildflower mix. We're happy you're enjoying the spring colors! Crews spray the hydro seed solution as part of the project landscaping and include native plants such as red clover and lupine.

Patty, WSDOT Communications

Anonymous said...

Only the Olive Way off-ramp from I-5 is scheduled to be closed, and yes that closure will be up to a year. This is needed because in early 2011, crews working for Sound Transit will use a tunnel boring machine to dig the light rail tunnels between Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle. They will use the machine to start digging south from Capitol Hill. This work requires temporary closures of the Olive Way off-ramp because construction crews are excavating two 40X60 foot pits in the Olive Way off-ramp area. Once crews excavate the pits they will do some reinforcing and ground preparation to the space so the tunnel boring machine can pass through. This work may take up to a year.

SRTC Staff said...

I'd like to see more topics that address transportation and projects on the EAST side of the state. Hey folks, there's a WSDOT office over here too, it's called the Eastern Region office and they've been pretty busy with freeway and other projects. Thanks :)

Jamie Holter said...

Let me answer one question at a time.
Why do projects take so long to complete? There are so many pieces to the construction puzzle.

• First, the land. If WSDOT doesn’t own it, we have to buy it. AND we have to let people know what we are doing and give them time to comment on it.
• Second, the environment. State laws are put in place to protect the water we drink, the air we breathe, the salmon we eat, and the trees that cover our landscape. We have to create a plan to protect all these things before we start hauling in concrete and cutting down trees.
• Then, we have to build it. To prevent causing or contributing to daytime congestion, most of our construction occurs at night or on weekends when there is less traffic. It takes a lot longer to build something if you only work nights and weekends.
• Yes, it is a longer process than it was 30 years ago when we didn’t worry as much about the environment, causing congestion or what any of the neighbors thought.

Your second question:
Why is a lane closed when it looks like it’s ready to open?

There are so many reasons why we don’t open a lane. It could be that the concrete needs to cure. It could be that there is no guardrail yet and drivers might just drive right off the road. A dangerous slope may be on the other side. Our workers may be working in the same area just 100 feet away and we can’t open one section of lane yet because that second section isn’t ready. We may be working on a noise wall next to the road.
Feel free to send me a note next time you see a specific road closed and I can tell you why that particular section of road is not ready to traffic.

You third question:
Why do projects cost so much more these days?
At this precise moment (January 2009 – May 2009) bids from contractors are actually coming in lower than our engineers’ estimates. That is due to the recession and a drop in the number of available jobs for all contractors. But this is a recent development.

In the past several years, WSDOT (and, for that matter all construction agencies) have faced national and worldwide competition with each other and other growing countries like China for basic commodities like steel, concrete, iron, oil, and asphalt. It’s the old, basic economics of supply and demand. If we (WSDOT and all the others) all want the same thing at the same time, the price goes up. If we (WSDOT) are unwilling to pay that high price, then that new bridge doesn’t get built. What would you choose? Pay the price or go without? It’s a tough choice especially when your population grows every year.

These are great questions. I’m glad you asked them. It helps taxpayers understand what we do, why we do it and how we spend the taxpayer dollars you send to us every time you fill your gas tank.

Jamie Holter said...

I understand your frustration with SR 522. When I first started with the agency five years ago, I couldn’t understand it either. Here is what I have learned about SR 522.

SR 522 is a long corridor. It would take millions of dollars and many years to widen the entire highway from one end to the other from two to six lanes. There are dozens of growing traffic corridors just like SR 522 all around the state (US 2 and US 12 just to cite two examples). We look at all of these projects with the goal of fixing the worst first. There are choke points on SR 522. We know if we fix these chokepoints, we can get the most bang for the buck and help traffic move more smoothly and reduce the number of collisions.

We can’t spend money we don’t have. State law prevents that. If we can spend $10 million now to widen one section from two to four lanes and then come back later when we have more money and widen it further we do that. In fact, when we design these projects, if we can, we create an environment that will allow us to return one day to do more work.

We usually use the house analogy. If you only had $20,000 and you had a leaky roof, a dying refrigerator, a old dryer, and a hole in the floor, would you spend the 20K on a brand new roof and hope nothing else failed or would you patch the roof, go on Craigs list and buy a less old fridge, dryer and a new carpet to cover the hole? ;-)


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I had a couple of things to add about highway 522. WSDOT people please correct me if I am wrong. I believe this highway was designed to eventually be widened to four lanes between Woodinville and Monroe when it was first built (it opened to traffic in 1964). Thus far, there has only been enough money made available to widen it as far as Paradise Lake Road. And also to build a two lane overpass at Echo Lake Road.

I know there is a project funded from the nickel gas tax increase to widen it to four lanes between the Snohomish River and Monroe, including building another (eastbound)bridge acress the Snohomish River but I'm not sure when this is going to start.

Problem is that the legislature has not appropiated any money for the middle part, between Paradise Lake Road and the Snohomish River, or the interchange planned to replace the traffic signals at Paradise Lake Road.

Oh, and could the maintenance people please find the time to take out some of the Scotch Broom that is growing in the median south of the King County line, and covering the landscaping at the 522 / I-405 interchange. That interchange used to look nice, but after two years of neglect it looks like --- well yuck. I know money is limited. And I appreciate the purple Lupins and orange Poppies that I noticed on I-5 between 526 and Everett.

SteffieAnn said...

Can you point me to information about the "9 to 5 Safety Project"? Have seen the signs on Hwy. 9 (like the design) but haven't been able to find any info about the project.

Mark Neumann said...

Anon on 522 time line. My favorite is a 1965 map that shows "US-2 bypass" north of Monroe. I think it'll be another 40 years before anyone revisits that idea.

And other Anon, I resent any poster using only capital letters. But generally speaking you strike me as one of the many who DEMAND services but are not really interested in paying for them.

Jamie Holter said...

Anonymous re: SR 522
We are moving forward on pieces of the SR 522 work. We will soon start a small ramp project from NB SR 522 to eastbound US 2. (You won't have to stop at that light in Monroe.)

Another piece of that puzzle was on the RTID list which voters did not approve.

The Snohomish River Bridge piece is next and it is scheduled to start some time in the coming years.

And I will talk to the maintenance folks about the scotch broom. Not sure how much we can do about it right now. But maintenance and landscape might be able to put it on their task list.


Jamie Holter said...

You've stumped me! I can't find anything! But I will keep looking. I'll let you know when I get some answers.


Jamie Holter said...

One of my colleagues found it. here is the link to the 9 to 5 program:

Jamie Holter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SteffieAnn said...

Jamie, my thanks to you and your colleague for the great detective work, much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

On Hwy 2 and Mt. Baker Hwy I see signs that say, "All vehicles must carry chains Nov thru March." I looked up the law, WAC 204-24-050, and it is only for vehicles over 10,000 lbs. Fix your signs to reflect the correct information in the law.

Jamie Holter said...

I double checked the WAC and you are correct. We have put in a work order to begin changing the signs.

My personal opinion... it's always a good idea to carry change when you are travelling through the passes during the winter. WSP can order all vehicles to chain up for safety at any time.

The Geezer said...

The lovely and talented Spinmeister Holter is correct, mostly.

As she contends, it is a good idea to carry CHANGE when you go over the passes, as you may want to stop for a candy bar or cuppa Joe.

However, I believe the question was about CHAINS, not change. Let Obami keep the change.

At least, now I know where the phrase "good enuf for gub'mint use" came from.


On this subject, the Geezer calls to mind his favorite license plate frame, seen on a DOT vehicle in another state, on a pass, "Chains required, Whips optional"

We should have such a sense of humor here, eh?

The Geezer

Jamie Holter said...

Thanks for pointing out my typo. You are correct, Geezer, CHAINS AND CHANGE are good things to carry over the passes.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of flowers on road sides, how 'bout removing more of the noxious plants along roads. Yes, I know scotch broom is so out of hand it is not longer even on the state noxious weed list, but wouldn't it be nice if the places where it has choked out Rhodies were cleaned up, the broom removed and the state flower - which is native, planted back. And I hope those lovely wildflower mixes you use don't have other noxious weed seeds in them - like oxeyed daisy, etc. Does the WSDOT have a road side plant plan? Such work would be a great inmate project, or if the funds were there (ha!) a great public works type project to create jobs. Would like to hear some discussion about this.

Jeremy Bertrand said...

Area maintenance crews use roadside vegetation management plans to determine the most appropriate tools, techniques and timing, for accomplishing prioritized roadside maintenance activities. These plans, once developed, become the basis of an ongoing process of refinement and crew training, using annually documented experience of each area’s proven success and lessons learned. This is an open process and WSDOT encourages input at any time from the general public, its neighbors, and/or any other statewide or local interests.

Read more about the plans and other WSDOT vegetation management.

Anonymous said...

How about project-specific blogs for each project?

The Geezer said...

Since the Geez appears to have no life, let me give you another shovel full.

You guys do a decent job of communicating, but when the Sheeples have a particular issue, you call and click around forever before you get someone who will admit responsibility for your concern.

Exhibit A is (I suspect) a prime example of Sound Transit wrongheadedness.

Southbound I-5 during the morning commute, the WSP has a car (empty car, BTW) parked at the Pike off ramp, which is closed save for transit. Now, I am sure the hired blue-gun-thug car is meant to intimidate the sheeples who may have the scofflaw gene in them, and may try to sneak down that exit ramp, even though it is busses only.

Result, of course, is that the rest of the sheeples SB who are going to rejoin the mainline slow to 40 miles an hour, and back up the express lane transition back to I-5, for no reason other than the libs have been successful in putting the fear of the gub'mint in the sheeples when they see said fuzzmobile.

Now, there is no need for caution, there is no cop outside the car and adjacent to the roadway, and in fact, they park the car so far off the road that you wouldn't even notice it being there other than the blazing lights from the Visi-bar®.

I know common sense is at a premium, but I would like to castigate and excoriate the wrong-headed person that made the call to have that car there, and who is peeing away my tax money to pay for it in an attempt to intimidate.

Why is there not a one-stop shop to take those questions, and get an answer?

The Geezer, having not yet taken my medicine this morning.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know more about Rubberized Asphalt or Asphalt Rubber, and why it appears to be failing on one project in Washington.

Please make public the "Field Notes" from the contractor from when it was applied on 520 to ensure that it was done properly (at the right application temperature & glue mix).

If it was not applied correctly, the results are inconclusive, and the test must be redone to determine whether AR will work in Washington.

It works in Arizona, and has held up over a long period of time under harsh conditions where snowplows & tire chains must be used. It is also effectively used in B.C., California and other parts of the world.

Anonymous said...

Hello everyone! I don't know where to start but hope this place will be useful for me.
Hope to receive any assistance from you if I will have any quesitons.
Thanks in advance and good luck! :)

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