Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pre-flight check: Can we find you?

On July 23, we got that dreaded call: someone wasn’t where they were supposed to be. A pilot, flying his home-built airplane, didn’t show up. Family members notified authorities and WSDOT Aviation launched an air search.

Working out of the Wenatchee airport, searchers flew grid patterns (based on the route he most likely took), scoured mountainous terrain and chased leads. Sadly - after six and a half days of searching, dried-up leads and exhausted resources – we had to suspend the search.

When a plane goes missing, it’s a race against the clock to try to get as much information as possible. When hours turn into days, the chances of a favorable outcome decrease drastically.

So now we have a sobering reminder to pilots and anyone who cares about someone who flies. No one wants to think they might one day be the subject of a search. However, the old adage –“expect the best and prepare for the worst” might just be the key to saving a pilot’s (and any passengers’) life.

Our goal is no plane ever goes missing. But if the worst happens, here are some things that will make it easier for emergency crews to find the plane faster:

File a flight plan  – a flight plan will tell searchers where you were heading and your intended route. This information can be critical during a search.

Use flight following – talking to air traffic control (ATC) during your flight can pay dividends if you go missing. ATC would have radar information and details about when they last spoke to you, where you were heading, and if you had reported any in-flight troubles.

Make sure you have an operational emergency locator transmitter – the key word here is “operational.” Check it out every so often to make sure it’s working. ELTs  transmit distress signals in emergencies and help search crews find your location. ELTs are required in most U.S. registered civil aircraft.

Consider investing in a new 406 ELT – several years ago, a more advanced model of the ELT (406 mhz) was developed. This version will cost around $550 per unit, but has an 80 percent chance of activating upon impact. And it will tell searchers your tail number and exact location. This could mean the difference between hours and minutes when it comes to searches.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fish-friendly culvert to open after SR 167 closes next weekend

by guest blogger Steve Peer

Crews install a section of culvert during
another fish-friendly project. 
Our culvert is similar…but twice as large!
Throughout the Puget Sound region, many culverts and drainage systems inhibit fish access to area waterways. Over the years, we have been working to replace the antiquated systems with new fish-friendly ones.  Panther Creek, which flows under SR 167 in Renton, is next to undergo an upgrade. To accomplish the work, we’ll completely close down a section of freeway for an entire weekend.  Crews will dig a 65-foot wide and 35-foot deep trench for the new culvert. Crews will then install a 19-foot wide pipe that will make passing through the culvert easier for fish and other aquatic wildlife. In addition to providing fish access, the project will lay the groundwork for future SR 167 improvements and help reduce seasonal flooding to properties west of SR 167.
Although there never a good time to close a busy highway, we chose this weekend in August to make the most of the dry, warm weather, and light summer traffic.
Closure Details
For 58 hours, spanning from 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 10 to 5 a.m. on Monday, August 13, we’ll close SR 167 between I-405 and the S. 180th Street/SW 43rd Street exit to the IKEA district.

What should you do?
  • Know Before You Go: check our website, call 511 for real-time travel information and plan for delays and added travel time.
  • Delay discretionary trips, especially during high traffic periods, such as between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. 
  • Anticipate heavy congestion on alternate routes such as I-405, I-5 and SR 181. 
  • Expect increased congestion on local streets, especially on Lind Avenue, South 180th Street, South Grady Way, Rainier Avenue South, Talbot Road, and SR 181/West Valley Highway.  
  • Carpool and use transit. Here are some links to help you plan your trip: 

The SR 167 closure isn’t the only large project shutting down a highway during the weekend.  Crews in Bellevue will also install a fish-friendly culvert resulting in a 55 hour weekend closure of SR 520.  For the latest on the regional closures, please check out our What’s Happening Now page.

Friday, August 3, 2012

SR 14 project moves one (exciting) step closer to completion

By guest blogger
Abbi Russell

Sometimes it’s not an activity itself that’s exciting, but the resulting ripple effect that brings a sense of anticipation and purpose.

Night time girder setting advances SR 14 project,
keeps traffic impacts in Washougal to a minimum.
Take, for instance, this week’s girder setting on State Route 14 in Washougal. Crews placed nine girders over Second Street Monday and Tuesday nights, essentially putting into place the backbone of a new bridge that will carry the highway up and over the cross street. Exciting, eh? Eh?

If you’re a transportation geek like me (and any number of people around here), this is great news. If you’re a driver passing by every day, it means things look a little different. Now there are some grey concrete bars connecting two grey concrete walls. Yay.

Girder setting may seem like a mundane milestone, but it’s an exciting one for us because it shows that things are moving forward. It shows that a project we and the community have been planning and laboring on for at least 10 years is actually coming to fruition.

Pretty soon, those grey concrete bars will support a bridge deck. And not long after that, the deck will support cars. Eventually, SR 14 will be a smooth-sailing, four-lane highway from I-5 to Washougal, bringing safer, faster trips to local drivers, tourists, and commerce. That’s a vision that’s been a long time coming – decades, in fact.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Crews still have a ton of work to do before we can open a wider SR 14 and two new interchanges to traffic. We plan to be finished late this year or early next year, and until then, we’ll keep celebrating each step that gets us there.

Round-the-clock closures on US 2 this weekend to replace “Swiss cheese” culverts

 By guest blogger
Erica Taylor

After 40 years of service, the culverts that run under US 2 near Snohomish are so corroded, maintenance crews say they look like Swiss cheese. It’s time to replace the old steel culverts with thick, durable, rubberized plastic pipes that will reduce long-term maintenance needs and costs. Though they’re invisible from the roadway, the culverts are a very important part of the highway drainage system – leaky culverts can lead to potholes, bumps, cracks and potentially sinkholes.

Crew perform prep work for culvert removal
and installation underneath US 2.
So, what do Swiss cheese culverts mean for your travels? If you’re planning to take eastbound US 2 in Snohomish this weekend, allow some time for detours.

Crews will cut open the highway and dig underneath to remove the old culverts and install the new ones (see video below). That means a weekend-long closure of eastbound US 2, from 20th Street SE to Bickford Avenue. Lanes will close at 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3, and won’t reopen until 5 a.m. Monday, Aug. 6. This weekend is just the first of six directional closures on US 2 between now and October. During closures, we’ll post a detour along SR 9 and 20th Street SE. The detour will add 10 to 15 minutes to most trips, but if you’re traveling Saturday or Sunday afternoon, plan to add at least 20 minutes extra travel time.

Visit our project Web page for up-to-date information and closure schedules. Keep up with construction in Snohomish County by signing up for email updates and bookmarking the construction update page.