Monday, August 31, 2009

Washington Jobs Now - ARRA: Restoring jobs, self-worth

WSDOT worker Erik Buholm
When work dried up, life went on. A wife battled cancer, a child was conceived, an aging relative required care – and strong men did their best to hold things together, despite being jobless and, at times, hopeless.

“You shouldn’t feel like less of a man, but you do,” said Erik Buholm, (above) a 35-year-old Lacey man with a wife, a 3-year-old daughter and a baby on the way. Buholm has been out of work for nearly a year. That is, until now.

Read the full article.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Photo Friday: Bridge Fires and Beauty Queens

Lightning sparked a brush fire that consumed the old timber bridge that crosses Dry Creek on State Route 241 in Yakima County. Don't worry! It's out. More photos from this set can be found here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I-405 closure in Renton: Prepare yourself

Tomorrow night at around 9 p.m. we will be closing the carpool lane on southbound I-405, which will have the potential to wreak havoc on traffic over the weekend. I would just stay home, but that's not necessarily feasible for a lot of people - plus, there are Mariners and Sounders games to go to! We are really trying to get the word out and let people know that the HOV lane closures this weekend have the potential to affect not only I-405, but SR 167 and SR 181 as well.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Repaving AND recycling... at the same time

You’ve probably heard of recycled paper, recycled glass or recycled plastic, but we’re wiling to bet that you’ve never heard (or thought) about recycled asphalt.

Photo Friday: Amazing WSDOT Images of the Week

Here is a sampling of some the best photos uploaded this week to flickr.

Workers moving 200lb blocks of Geofoam into place as fill material for the east and west approaches of the Royal Brougham Way Bridge. Check out more photos and information on the project. Geofoam is pretty cool stuff. We'll talk about it a little bit more next week.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Five bucks for a ski cabin?

by guest blogger Mike Murphy

On Wednesday we held an auction for more than two dozen cabins on property we recently purchased for a bridge project near Mount Baker. Some of the cabins went for as little as five or 10 dollars. But here’s the catch: the buyers must move the cabins from the state-owned land by the end of September. One house mover told me that could cost between $5000 and $7000 for the smaller cabins. The buyers also had to pay a refundable bond of at least $5000 to ensure they actually followed through.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A second Amtrak Cascades train starts today.

Portland and Vancouver, B.C. are now directly connected by the addition of a second Amtrak Cascades train. We have been working for over a year to get this new train on the rails. Amtrak typically needs 90 days to start up service, so getting the second round trip train to Vancouver, B.C. going within 45 days is a major accomplishment and incredibly exciting.

Previously, riders going up to Vancouver, B.C. had to deal with both a layover in Seattle and a train change. Not only is this new train is going to be a lot more schedule friendly for travelers along the corridor, it will be a fantastic transportation alternative for the 2010 Olympics. Not having to hassle with parking is going to be glorious (getting tickets to events, however, is another problem).

Bicyclists take note: bike racks are back! The Talgo trains with bike racks are back in service after having their interiors refurbished. Starting last summer we were substituting the Talgo trains with Amtrak Superliners. These trains did not have bike racks, which made bringing a bike along a complete hassle. So: bike racks, new interiors and a direct route to Vancouver - I see a weekend get away coming. Don't forget to double-check the items you will need for crossing the border.

Do you take the train? What was your experience like?
 Will this new service change how you think about traveling? Let me know!

Monday, August 10, 2009

New simulations showcase proposed Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement

Trying to convey the changes that will result from a large transportation project is a challenge. For smaller projects – repaving a road, adding a roundabout – it’s easy for people to picture what the end result will be. For a project like the SR 99 bored tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, it’s a little more complicated.

Not only does the proposed replacement include an almost two-mile-long bored tunnel beneath downtown, we also plan to rebuild the surface street along the waterfront. People ask – What will the tunnel look like? How will I be able to access it? How will the new waterfront street be different than what exists today? Well, we now have some new tools to help provide answers.

The program team has posted two simulations to YouTube. The first video shows the current design concept for the proposed SR 99 bored tunnel. The drive-through starts at the tunnel’s south portal, which is near the stadium district and the Port of Seattle’s terminals, and takes you to the exit in the north, onto Aurora Avenue N. Along the way, you can see the ramps at either end of the tunnel that will allow drivers to access the downtown street grid from SR 99, as well as the new street connections that will be built over the tunnel’s portals.

Once the tunnel is built and the viaduct is removed from the waterfront, what will go in its place? The answer is in the second video. We plan to build a new Alaskan Way boulevard in the footprint of the current viaduct. The new road will connect to Elliott and Western avenues, which is important for those traveling to the northwest section of the city, and will provide access to downtown and SR 99. Removal of the viaduct will allow creation of new public open space on the waterfront.

You can visit the Alaskan Way Viaduct program Web site at to learn more about these and other improvements that are part of the viaduct’s replacement.

Bored Tunnel


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What's that noise?

When John from the Ravenna neighborhood e-mails me at 2 a.m. saying pavement grinding work on I-5 in Seattle sounds like “airplanes landing in [his] neighbor’s backyard,” I decide to check out the noise myself. I don’t see any crash-landing Boeing jets, but it sure does sound like it.

To get a good idea of how loud it is, listen to this video with your headphones on. I shot this video at midnight 200 feet from I-5 near John’s house at NE 72nd Street.

Pavement grinding is that loud.

No question about it, grinding down 40 years worth of battered, rutted concrete is noisy. However every night our grinders are out there making noise, our highway is getting safer for drivers. The stacked, circular, diamond blades create a textured, corduroy pattern that improves traction for drivers and helps keep standing water off the road, preventing collisions.

During the past few months folks like John have put up with a lot of construction noise on I-5.

The noise started back in February with screeching concrete saws ripping out crumbling concrete panels in the snow (photo, right).

In the springtime residents endured pavement grinders grinding out rutted concrete 24 hours a day all weekend long.

Neighbors enjoyed a reprieve in early summer while crews working for WSDOT shifted their schedule to finish another WSDOT pavement grinding job in the eastern part of the state.

From the sound of things, the crews are back in town. We are grinding down portions of I-5 in both directions from just south of the Ship Canal Bridge to NE 145th Street in Shoreline. We're running at least three grinding machines at the same time to complete the project as fast as possible. Depending on where you live we will finish up the grinding by the fall, a month or so later than we had earlier thought.

Most of the folks I’ve chatted with about the project understand the work needs to get done. They want to know when we will be working near their home and what they can do to block out the loud noise robbing them of sleep at night.

I-5 neighbors can check the site to see where grinders will be working that week. It takes one of our grinders about 10 minutes to grind 60 feet of concrete four feet wide*. The average property lot along I-5 is between 50 and 60 feet wide. This means that if the grinders are working directly near your home, you will hear the noise ramp up and then ease off over a period of about an hour as the grinders move down the highway and away from your area.

I empathize with neighbors and will personally mail free earplugs to anyone who requests them. These earplugs are the same type of ear protection our pavement grinding crews use so there is a good chance they will block out more noise than average earplugs you may find at the corner store.

Finally, I want to thank all those living along the freeway for your patience and understanding while we smooth out nearly 20 miles of wheel ruts, cracks and uneven pavement.

When the work is finished everyone who drives this stretch of road will breathe a sigh of relief from a smoother ride, improved traction and a safer highway.

*Each lane is 12 feet wide, we will grind across all lanes of I-5. The 12-foot lanes require crews to make several passes in order to grind the whole width of each lane. The process is similar to mowing a lawn row after row, only this “lawn” is 72 feet wide and six miles long – in both directions.