Friday, April 29, 2011

Traveling over I-90 near Easton anytime soon? Better plan ahead to avoid delays

Photo of the overturned semi-truck that
caused delays on I-90 on April 22.
by guest blogger Meagan McFadden

 WOW what a difference a weekend can make. An overturned semi-truck carrying onions may have had drivers in tears due to a closure of westbound I -90 near the summit of Snoqualmie Pass for hours last Friday, April 22. Drivers traveling eastbound were also caught up in delays associated with a traffic shift due to construction on a project to replace broken and deteriorating concrete between Cle Elum and Easton.

Hopefully, this weekend onions won’t be flying and blocking I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass. However, the traffic shifts near the I-90 Lake Easton to Big Creek project between Cle Elum and Easton will still be in place. What does this mean for you the driver or passenger? Plan ahead. We see a significant increase in traffic traveling eastbound over I-90 on Fridays. It must be all of you trying to get out of the rain and into the sun. To try and lessen the impact to traffic, we are going to keep two lanes eastbound and one lane westbound open on Fridays. We will be doing the same on Sunday, but in reverse. We will have two lanes westbound and one lane eastbound open. You will need to plan for at least an hour of added travel time, maybe more. It all depends on if there are any incidents, like flying onions that will cause additional back-ups and delays. This traffic shift will be in place until Memorial Day. Then we will make sure the lane shifts are done at night to reduce delays for your summer travel plans.

Also be aware, that crews will continue to chip away at the rock slopes near the snowshed east of Snoqualmie Pass with rock blasting. These controlled blasting operations will resume in May and will make room for us to widen I-90 from four to six lanes. You will need to plan for hour-long closures until late October. Crews will perform blasting operations Monday through Thursday an hour before sunset. Drivers should check our What’s Happening on I-90 website for specific blasting dates and times or follow us on Twitter.

Summer is here, which means the orange of construction is all over. The more you know and plan ahead before you head out the door the better off you will be!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Recycling bridges the gap between cost and environment

By guest blogger Noel Brady

You recycle those paper cups, bottles and old documents to keep them out of the landfill. Curious to find out how much landfill space a 300-foot-long, four-lane bridge would take?

Neither was our I-405 project team. That’s why we recycled 100 percent of the NE 12th Street bridge in downtown Bellevue after crews demolished it in March to make way for a longer, wider bridge to connect new ramps to I-405 and SR 520.

After bringing down the bridge, crews hauled away nearly 4,000 tons of concrete, 225 tons of rebar and truck loads of wood to recyclers. In addition to cutting carbon emissions from production, recycling construction materials saves money.

Crunching the NE 12th St. Bridge over I-405

“In the old days it would’ve been taken to a landfill”, said Seema Javeri, WSDOT Project engineer. “Now we’re recycling road and bridge materials and even going back and restoring DOT property that was used for dumping 25 years ago.”

The state does not require recycling in bridge demolition, but it is becoming the norm as the market for recycled materials grows. Today we routinely write construction specifications that make it easier to recycle materials. Plans often require concrete be laid in panels for efficient removal and recycling, and they allow a higher percentage of recycled materials in cement than was the standard in the past.

“It’s one thing to recycle material,” said Steve Mader, an environmental manager for I-405 Corridor Design-Builders, “but it’s better to upcycle” or preserve materials during demolition to keep them in good condition for reuse. His firm routinely crumbles concrete on site for use as base rock. And his crews take care not to twist and mangle used rebar, which can increase its market value as much as five times.

Starting back in the 2002 with its Record of Decision, the I-405 program has followed a guiding principle to leave the environment better then it was found, Javeri said. That means building better drainage and filtration systems, planting more vegetation and recycling more materials.

Visit the Sustainable Transportation Web page to learn how we support the environment, economy and communities in our mission to keep Washington moving.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Good To Go! Passes – One Size Doesn’t Fit All

by guest blogger Janet Matkin

Update Feb. 5, 2015: For information about the I-405 express toll lanes, visit our Flashing lights signal I-405 express toll lane equipment install blog.

Drivers seem to love choices and that’s exactly what we’re offering toll payers who set up Good To Go! accounts. With a prepaid account, tolls are electronically deducted without stopping or slowing down. Once you have an account, it’s good on any tolled facility in the state.
For those planning to set up an account or order new passes, it’s important to take a few minutes to consider your options. With five different Good To Go! Pass choices and the ability to mix-and-match if you have several vehicles, drivers can order just the right passes to meet their driving needs:
  • Movable pass: is easily moved between vehicles or put away if you are a carpool using SR 167 HOT lanes
  • Switchable pass: Well-suited for SR 167 HOT carpoolers as it can be turned on or off depending on the number of people in the car.
  • Sticker pass: this permanent sticker cannot be moved between vehicles and cannot be turned on or off. 
  • Motorcycle pass: Adheres to motorcycle headlamp light or visor.
  • License plate pass: Mounts on the front license plate.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you select your Good To Go! pass:

Do you frequently carpool in the SR 167 HOT Lanes in this vehicle?
Then you should choose the $12 switchable pass that can easily be turned off and on. Switch it off if you’re carpooling in the HOT lanes and switch it back on when driving by yourself or using one of the tolled bridges.

Are you looking for the cheapest option?
The $5 sticker pass is the best value and has proved to be the most popular option among drivers. It’s about the size of a small band aid and sticks to your windshield behind the rearview mirror. But, once it’s installed, you can’t move it to another vehicle. And, if you carpool in the SR 167 HOT lanes, you can’t switch it off.

Do you have more than one vehicle that uses tolled roads? You have a couple of options:
  • You might want to have a permanent sticker pass for each of your vehicles. You can register up to six vehicles on a personal Good To Go! account, each with its own pass, drawing from the same pot of money.
  • You also might consider an $8 movable pass that can be shared among vehicles. It sticks to the inside windshield with Velcro and can be transferred from car to car, as needed. You also can hide it in a special metallic bag if you’re carpooling on the SR 167 HOT lanes, although it’s not as convenient as the switchable pass for that purpose. 
Are motorcycles your thing? We have a great new sticker pass that goes on the motorcycle’s headlamp. It’s clear, so it virtually disappears once you install it.

Would you rather not have a pass on your windshield? You have two options:
  • You might choose the $12 external pass that screws into the frame of your front license plate. It’s in a hard black plastic case that can withstand the elements.
  • You can also opt for no pass at all and just register your license plate number(s) on your account and get charged an additional 25 cents per trip for the extra processing costs.
The beauty of choices is that you can pick just the right Good To Go! pass options to meet your needs. Want to know more?  Check out our great “How To” video that describes each of the passes and shows how they’re installed. Or, take our quick quiz to help you narrow down your pass choices.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Webcam offers bird’s-eye view of the SR 520 Pontoon Construction progress

by guest blogger Joe Irwin

Snapshot of the work at the SR 520 Pontoon Construction site

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in Aberdeen goes around the world.

Working with our contractor Kiewit-General this week, we installed a webcam at the SR 520 Pontoon Construction site, providing people everywhere a peek at one of the state's mega projects.

The camera takes photos every 10 minutes at the site, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can watch the work happen as it happens – which will include everything from excavation of a casting basin large enough to hold an aircraft carrier to construction of floating bridge pontoons the length of football fields.

The website will store all these photos, so you can also turn back the clock to view previous work on the job – hours, months or years after it occurred. You can also use the time lapse function, which takes a photo each day, to watch months and even years of construction whiz by in just a few minutes. A photo calendar provides an additional tool, giving a way to scan the project a month at a time and key in on certain dates of interest.
Work started at the 55-acre site on Grays Harbor in February, and since then we, along with K-G, have been busy clearing, dewatering and driving 900 steel piles 135 feet into the ground to construct the foundation for the pontoon casting basin.

Excavation of the 4-acre basin starts the week of April 18, and requires crews to remove upward of 260,000 cubic yards of material. As sections of foundation piles are driven and dirt is excavated, workers will begin placing concrete for the basin.

We are on track to start constructing 33 pontoons this July that will be used to form the backbone of a new SR 520 floating bridge. The pontoons will be built in six cycles with the final cycle being completed in May 2014.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The little ferry that could

By guest blogger Steve Pierce

Wahkiakum County officials have our thanks for quickly stepping up and adding extra runs on the Lower Columbia River’s last remaining ferry, the Wahkiakum. This helps meet the unusual demand as people find ways to deal with the closure of State Route 4 about 5 miles west of Longview on the Washington side of the Columbia River.

A mudslide Tuesday morning covered SR 4 near Stella. In the process of cleanup, geotechnical experts discovered that the hillside above is unstable. Unfortunately, this means the road will remain closed until early next week while a contractor excavates the unstable slope and removes dangerous trees.

People who need to get past the closed roadway now must travel on US 30 on the Oregon side of the river, then cross to the Washington side via Wahkiakum County’s unique, open-air, 12-vehicle ferry. (The ferry takes you from Westport, Ore., to Puget Island, which is connected to the Washington mainland by the Julia Butler Hansen Bridge.)

Because of the increased demand, Wahkiakum County has essentially doubled the frequency of the ferry service and extended operation to 24 hours a day, instead of the usual 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. schedule.

If you have never ridden this unusual little ferry, put it on your list of things to do – perhaps not now, however, because the wait time can be as long as three hours because of the SR 4 closure. The county has operated the vessel since 1962, with financial support from the state of Washington since 1969 since it is considered an extension of SR 409. The Wahkiakum operates 365 days a year with a minimum of 18 runs a day – basically on the hour from the Cathlamet side. The ferry and its predecessor vessels have an interesting history that goes back to 1925 (pdf 12 KB).

While you’re at it, consider exploring the historic town of Cathlamet, first established as a trading post in 1846 and the home for many years of the late U.S. Rep. Julia Butler Hansen.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

See orange, pay attention. See orange, slow down.

Is orange your color? This week, yes.

Many of us just can’t pull off orange. And that’s the point, really. Orange is something you notice – something that gets your attention. So it’s time again to get drivers attention.

This week is National Work Zone Awareness Week, the week where transportation and safety groups remind drivers why they should slow down and pay attention when driving through work zones. It’s the week to remind you that the men and women working out there on the roadway just want to go home at the end of their shift to family and friends.

Tragically, some don’t. WSDOT honors the memory of those lost, and looks toward a future when every employee makes it home safely each day.

See orange, pay attention. See orange, slow down.

If you don’t want to do it for the worker, do it for yourself and those you love.

Why? Four out of five victims in a work-zone crash are a motorist.

We would like to thank all those going orange for work zone safety. Many of our partner agencies helped spread the word this year.

And a special thanks to those whose orange attire may have required a step outside the comfort zone.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Great April Fools joke about orange ferries...

The Kitsap Sun today put out a fun April Fool's joke about how we would be painting our ferries orange for work zone safety week next week.  Read more... 

While we will be turning our website and social media accounts orange, I can assure you, you won't see orange ferries on the water.