Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Crunchers SMASH in Salmon Creek

by guest blogger Heidi Sause

I met a man today who operates a concrete cruncher.

I know what you’re thinking, and I agree – that sounds like the coolest job ever!  Concrete crunchers (technically, concrete processors) are built for maximum-strength, precision demolition work. Look at the jaws on this baby!

Cruncher jaws!
There are currently three crunchers parked in the I-205 median in Salmon Creek. During the day, they look like sleeping dinosaurs. At night, they’re burning the midnight oil to bite, tear, bend, twist and yes, – crunch – an old northbound I-5 on-ramp to smithereens. After two nights of work, the demolition crew has already removed half the bridge deck.

Half a bridge
I guess I should pause to explain why we’re tearing a ramp to bits.

The demolition work is part of a congestion-relief project in Salmon Creek. We’ve enlisted the crunchers because we need to remove an old on-ramp to make room for the new NE 139th Street interchange that’s being built over the I-5/I-205 junction. Also, The Hulk was busy.

In this photo, you can see the construction of the new interchange peeking out beneath the partially demolished ramp.

Old and New
Clark County drivers are patiently navigating a series of nighttime closures while the crunchers work to safely and efficiently remove the ramp. Crews have already removed half the bridge deck, and will spend the next four nights removing the spans over the roadway and the columns next to the interstate. Be sure to check the project website for the closure schedule and detour maps if you’re heading this way.

Fun fact: 100% of the concrete, steel and wood bits removed from the bridge are being shipped to plants to be recycled in future projects. See, Dr. Banner? You’re not the only one who gets to smash and be green! *Rimshot*

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What does WSDOT see when it looks in the mirror?

By guest blogger Joe Irwin

Our performance publication. Think of it as our quarterly look in a full-body mirror.
Sometimes everything goes great and we look like we just completed a 90-day routine with a Hollywood trainer. Other times, well, it’s not always that pretty, because in the end everything’s out there. Everything shows. And if our abs are fab but our arms have flab, well that shows too. We work hard so it doesn’t, but unfortunately, it happens. When it does, we know we have to work even harder to get our programs and the delivery of our projects back in shape.

We can also determine what’s working and use these lessons learned to help move the agency toward what the taxpayers really expect of us: absolute perfection.

Lofty? Yes. Unattainable? Maybe. But something we shoot for nonetheless.

Our quarterly performance publication goes beyond that of a typical report. It’s meant to be used as a tool of sorts – a map to help show where we’ve been, how we got there and the best path to get to our destinations.

In order to do this well, the tool has to be refashioned from time to time.
In the 50th edition, we slimmed down considerably to 54 pages (from about 90 or so), making it more approachable than say a report the size of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

We provided performance information on subjects at the beginning of articles through “Notable Results” and results-focused introductions. We also used analogies to better inform readers why the information might be important to them. We expanded the use of infographics and added performance highlights to give vital information in the briefest format possible to folks who want to know, but are on the go.

Our publication sets extremely high standards for transportation performance reports, but we’re raising the bar even higher as we continue our efforts to improve. Find out more about WSDOT’s accountability efforts and performance reporting at

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Innovation loops drivers around I-405 construction zone

By guest blogger Anne Broache

If you’ve ever struggled to navigate the congested area where northbound Interstate 405 meets State Route 522 in the Bothell area, rest assured that improvements are on the way. As part of the I-405 NE 6th Street to I-5 Widening and Express Toll Lanes Project, our project crew will add a new set of ramps—called “braided ramps”—that separate traffic going from Northeast 160th Street to northbound I-405 from I-405 traffic heading to SR 522.

But before we can make this upgrade, we had to innovate to keep ramp traffic—some 13,000 vehicles daily—moving through the braided ramp construction area. To avoid repeated shutdowns of this critical on-ramp, our contractor worked this summer to build a temporary loop ramp to northbound I-405 at NE 160th Street. We’ll be able to route traffic around the construction rather than through it.

We’ll soon be ready to open that new ramp and shut down the current one.

New I-405 on-ramp at NE 160th Street opens September 8
Starting as soon as Sunday, September 8, drivers will access the on-ramp to northbound I-405 from the south side of NE 160th Street, just east of I-405 and adjacent to the northbound off-ramp from I-405.

The new entrance will be located directly across NE 160th Street from the existing on-ramp entrance, as shown in the map below.

New temporary on-ramp to I-405
The on-ramp you’re accustomed to using will remain closed until the new braided ramps open in 2015.

This temporary on-ramp has clear advantages:
  • It creates a dedicated work zone for our crews. By shifting traffic off the existing on-ramp, we can give crews full access to work on the new ramps in a space without public access.
  • It prevents major traffic interruptions. The temporary on-ramp will allow us to provide consistent northbound I-405 access instead of making multiple changes to the existing on-ramp as construction reaches different phases.
  • It’s the neighborly thing to do. Maintaining access to I-405 around the work zone allows more construction activities to happen during daytime hours, reducing nighttime noise for neighbors.
Allow extra travel time when the new ramp opens
As with any new roadway configuration, drivers should allow extra time to navigate and approach the new on-ramp—especially in the first few weeks while drivers get used to the new arrangement. Opening the new temporary ramp depends on good weather, and we’ll be sure to update drivers if the schedule changes.  

Want more information?
Visit the project Web page:
Sign up online to receive e-mail alerts about closures and construction activities: