Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New US 2 west Stevens Pass traffic camera on line

By Guest Blogger Jeff Adamson

The newest addition to the traffic camera images available on our website offers you another eye on Stevens Pass traffic conditions.

The new camera is on top of the Variable Speed Limit sign that we installed last year, about 2-1/2 miles below the summit on the west side of the pass. That’s about a half mile below the Old Faithful Avalanche zone (that’s where we have the two M-60 tanks pointed - where most of the winter avalanche control is necessary). That’s also the steepest (5-6%) grade on the pass. It is where most trucks and cars get stuck. Typically that is due to one of two reasons:
  1. Those who stop to pick up hitchhiking snowboarders who slid down the avalanche chutes (DANGEROUS) and want to get back to the ski area, so they can do it again, or
  2. Those who figured out they shouldn’t have ignored the signs and stop in the middle of the lane to put on their chains (and cause a chain reaction of cars that had to stop and can’t get started again).

It makes it pretty obvious why we wanted a camera there – it gives us and the State Patrol a new tool so we can respond more quickly and with the right equipment and crew members to deal with whatever is happening (an avalanche, slick pavement, a collision, stuck cars or a sideways semi). Besides the new camera, the original Stevens Pass camera that’s been on the web for a dozen years, moved last Friday, and so did the view it provides.

You may recall that we’re building a pedestrian bridge over the highway at the summit. It’s almost done and the old location of the camera and weather station on the shoulder of the highway at the west end of the ski area parking lot is now under several tons of concrete and steel – the north bridge support and ramp.

The weather station building with the tower on top where the camera is located got moved several hundred yards to the east end of the ski area parking lot, next to the highway shoulder. As a result, the camera is now facing the opposite direction from where it used to. It points back (west) toward the summit showing the pavement, the parking lot and the new bridge. For our maintenance staff, those are the things they need to monitor, but it can be a little confusing since the west view camera that we added a couple years ago is (obviously) also pointed west. (It’s located under the eave on the west side of the Stevens Pass Ski Lodge and shows the pavement and the ski area parking lot on the southwest side of the highway.) It also now shows the new right turn lane into that parking lot that we also built this summer. That has been a problematic (read “get stuck here”) access for years so our plow drivers, Incident Response Team members, State Troopers and ski area parking crew members are all looking forward to a winter without the spinouts and stoppages, there.
Back to the cameras – they update every minute and here are the links:
The new $6,500 camera installation was paid for with WSDOT “low cost enhancement” funds (from our gas taxes). It brings the number of traffic cameras in the WSDOT’s North Central Region to 30 (If you go to the North Central Region camera page, there are 32 images, but two of those aren’t WSDOT cameras - Downtown Leavenworth and Waterville). Eleven years ago, the region installed its first traffic camera at the summit of Stevens Pass. Statewide, WSDOT offers 400+ traffic cameras to help motorists “Know before you go”.

Check out the new camera and bookmark it if you’re Stevens Pass skier, since the slopes should be ready for you by Thanksgiving.


Aaron said...

Firstly, Tunnel Creek is not a crime (though hitchhiking in Stevens Pass is)! Secondly, schussing in the avalanche zones above the highway is only dangerous when there's a potential of triggering an avalanche (generally when the NWAC rates the current danger as Considerable or higher). The last time I checked that zone is owned by the United States Forest Service and is therefore public land which the general public pays to maintain and therefore has the right to access and utilize however they please.

Does WSDOT perform avalanche control on the zone without immediate warning? Yep. Is there the risk of releasing a slide which may reach the highway below? Yep. Are backcountry snow enthusiasts informed of these dangers? You betcha. Should that stop them from accessing public land they have all right to? No, but they should use good judgement when doing so. The way I see it, if WSDOT owns the land, they can control it however they please. Otherwise, let it be and place all responsibility and liability upon those who own and use it.

Anonymous said...

Why is the EAST Bound cameria Looking back West but east of the overpass. YOU NEED A EAST BOUND VIEW FROM THE OVERPASS!!!
Henry C. Parker 1-360-794-1615

Anonymous said...

As a backcountry Stevens rider, I'd like to find out if there is any kind of broadcast done on any publicly accessible radio frequency prior to blasting. Considering I'm already equipped for possible slides, I would certainly take advantage of this if possible.

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