Friday, November 22, 2013

We need your help preventing sign theft

by guest blogger Alice Fiman

Not all of us can be crime fighters, but we can all report crime. Today, we are asking for those driving on State Route 7 near Eatonville to keep an eye out for criminals stealing or damaging a vital safety sign.

As you travel south on SR 7, just north of Ohop Valley, there is a sharp curve in the vicinity of milepost 31.5. You may notice the arrow signs light up, letting you know you are traveling too fast approaching the curve. These signs, part of a research project, are funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Washington is one of five states where FHWA is testing “blinker signs.”

The project team believes these signs can reduce single-vehicle run-off-the road crashes at curves, where nationally, 25 percent of all highway fatalities occur. Someone is damaging and stealing the solar panels that power the signs. Without power, the sign can’t perform its vital safety function.

If you see someone out there and it just doesn’t look right, call 9-1-1 and report the suspicious activity. Make this call when it’s safe for you.

Be the hero.  Don’t let them get away and hurt someone you care about. Make the call to 9-1-1 or take note and fill out an online form later. 

Thank you. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Keeping Drivers Safe: Innovative state partnership wins national safety award

By guest blogger Alice Fiman

AIRS system displays the results of each vehicle's scan.
As one of the most trade-dependent states in the nation, Washington has many big trucks traveling its highways.

In early November, the Roadway Safety Foundation and the Federal Highway Administration honored our agency along with the Washington State Patrol for our joint project developing a new way to get big trucks with unsafe brakes off the road.

It was close to three years ago when our Commercial Vehicle Services and Statewide Transportation and Collision Data Office joined forces with WSP to develop the automated infrared roadside screening (AIRS).

AIRS was first deployed at the northbound Interstate 5 DuPont weigh station.  Based on this success, we are scheduled to install the system at all 11 of Washington’s interstate weigh stations and ports of entry. 

WSDOT project team: Left to right: Ken Lakey STCDO,
Vic Bagnell CVS, Rich Rackleff STCDO,
and Nghia  Chau, STCDO
AIRS starts when an infrared camera, buried in the center of the off-ramp lane, scans and analyzes the undercarriage of a vehicle entering a weigh station. A WSP Commercial Vehicle Officer can then see a display of each vehicle’s scan. Hot or warm brakes show up a reddish color, with colder brakes in blue. Good working brakes show signs of heat so, in this case, red is good. WSP’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement staff use the information to determine if the vehicle needs closer inspection.

During software testing, WSP took a total of 12 trucks out of service over a two-day period. One of those trucks was leaking brake fluid, another had brake drums that were full of rust, one had a flat tire and still another had a brake air can coming off. 

Why an emphasis on the big trucks? Well, first, because these trucks can be pretty big, there can be more damage and longer traffic delays during a collision. Plus, we have a joint operating agreement with WSP and we often work together in many ways. It’s all about keeping drivers safe and traffic moving.

Specifically in the area of weigh stations, WSP operates all Washington’s weigh stations and ports of entry, while we provide the technical support, such as the computer systems AIRS.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

SR 6 Willapa River Bridge: Past and Present

Crews are building a brand-new, wider SR 6 Willapa
River Bridge next to the existing, 84-year-old bridge.
By guest blogger Abbi Russell

1929 was a heavy year. It was the year Herbert Hoover was inaugurated as President, the year that saw a catastrophic stock market crash and the first inklings of the Great Depression. It was the first year of the Academy Awards. 7-Up was invented that year, as well as the first car radio.

We can thank 1929 for bringing us Anne Frank, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Grace Kelly, Bob Newhart, Audrey Hepburn and Arnold Palmer (the golfer, not the confused beverage).

One other less glamorous but interesting fact about 1929: It was the year we opened a brand-new bridge carrying State Route 6 over the Willapa River.

The steel truss bridge, located near Menlo in Pacific County, was built using the most advanced engineering and materials of the day. But now, 84 years later, it’s time to say goodbye to early twentieth century construction and hello to the future.

We are replacing the Willapa River Bridge with a wider, more modern structure designed for today’s traffic and structural standards.  Next week, our contractor hits a major milestone as crews set 12 girders to span 275 feet across the Willapa River. Once the girders are set, crews will start deck construction with the aim of finishing and opening the new bridge to traffic in fall 2014.

The new bridge won’t have a graceful superstructure arching overhead; it will be a relatively plain structure with two 12-foot lanes of smooth, grey concrete. But it will carry two log trucks side-by-side, something the narrow 1929 structure struggles with. It will be built to survive earthquakes and floods, something we can’t guarantee with the 84-year-old bridge. And, with good care, it will last at least 50 years.

That’s where the old bridge is an overachiever – it has served drivers for 84 years, even though it wasn’t intended to. The new structure could last that long, and who knows? In another 84 years, maybe another young writer will marvel at the passage of time and the strength of those old and faithful structures.