Friday, June 26, 2015

Five consecutive nights of Deception Pass bridges closures start July 12

by Tom Pearce

We’ve been telling you for several months that we’ll have five nightly closures to repave the Deception Pass and Canoe Pass bridges as part of our SR 20 Frostad Road to Sharpes Corner paving project. We finally have a starting time and date – 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 12.

Our contractor needs to do this work on five consecutive nights, starting on a Sunday. The schedule is extremely weather dependent. Rain or cool temperatures could delay the start of work a week or more.

Bridge closures
We need overnight full bridge closures because the roadway on the bridge deck is just 22 feet wide. That’s too narrow to allow paving equipment and traffic on the bridge at the same time. The closures will be:
  • Sunday night, July 12, to Friday morning, July 17.
  • Closed nightly from 7:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.
  • Extra ferry sailings are planned on the Mukilteo/Clinton route, leaving Clinton at 9 p.m., 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 a.m. and leaving Mukilteo at 9:30 p.m., 2, 3 and 4 a.m.
  • If there is a delay, we’ll post it on the project website, our Facebook page and on the WSDOT traffic Twitter feed  as soon as we hear about it.

Rehabilitating the bridge
This is critical work to maintain these 80-year-old bridges and keep them open for drivers. It’s been about 20 years since we last rehabilitated these bridges, and the decks are worn out. They have cracks and ruts and minor damage below the surface. If we don’t repair them before there is further damage, the pavement will continue to deteriorate. That could create a safety hazard for drivers or require unscheduled emergency closures with little or no notice to drivers.

During the nightly10-hour closures our contractor will:
  • Grind off the old asphalt
  • Repair the deck
  • Repair the bridge joints
  • Repair drainage
  • Repave the deck
When the bridges are open
The bridges will be open to all traffic daily from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in between the nightly closures. When the bridges are open, the roadway will be very rough and drivers should expect bumps at the expansion joints. Be ready for slower traffic.

Thanks for your patience as we complete this important work. We know it’s inconvenient for some people who rely on the bridge during the overnight hours, and it will be rough for those who will use the roadway in between our contractor’s work shifts. But when we’re finished, the five nights of work will provide years and years of smooth roadway.

A gentler trip for our Hylebos friends

Michael Allende

The small, 90-year-old culvert in the West Fork Hylebos Creek
will be replaced with a larger one that will present fewer
obstacles for migrating fish.
While it would be amazing to see a fish take on a Tough Mudder course, they’ve got enough to worry about so we’re going to help them out. A project starting June 29 will make the lives of Chinook, coho, chum salmon and their friends in the West Fork Hylebos Creek easier.

The creek, which runs under State Route 99 in Federal Way, has a small, 90-year-old box culvert that needs to be replaced. While we’re at it, we’re going to realign the creek to change it from a fast-moving straight-shot for the fish to a gentler, meandering trip. Think of it as changing a water slide from one of those crazy, vertical fright-fests to an enjoyable, calm lazy-river ride.

Revamping West Fork Hylebos Creek will slow the
water flow, giving wildlife a gentler trip through
the waterway.
Reshaping a creek isn’t easy, and it’s going to require a full weekend closure of SR 99 between Southwest 356th Street and South 373rd Street. About 100 feet of roadway has to be removed to install the new culvert. So during the closure, drivers will be detoured to I-5. It’s about 6-mile detour that will add about 10 minutes of travel time. A shuttle will also be available to take pedestrians and cyclists around the roadblock.

Part of our responsibility in building and maintaining roads is being sure that the environment around those roads is also being cared for. In this case, the culvert is just 6 feet by 6 feet, making it difficult for fish to maneuver through as debris regularly creates obstacles. We’ll be replacing that culvert with a 10 feet-by-20 feet one that will give fish more space to swim through and cut down on the cost of maintenance from having to clear out debris.
Frogs, fish and other wildlife are clearly eager to try out the
re-aligned West Fork Hylebos Creek.

At the same time, we’re going to slow down the water flowing through the stream by realigning and re-grading the creek. Water rushing through has scoured some of the creek bed, creating significant drops that make it impossible for fish to migrate through. This work will create a gentler slope and will open up access to five additional miles of stream, allowing fish to eventually make their way into the West Hylebos Wetland Park.

Finally, we’ll be doing a bit of gardening. We’re going to remove the non-native trees and shrubs in the area and replace them with native species like Oregon ash, Sitka spruce, western red cedar, black twinberry, Indian plum, red osier dogwood and salmonberry.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

We’re testing portable rumble strips to reduce distracted driving

View Video: WSDOT tests portable rumble strips
on US 12, west of Yakima.
By Summer Derrey

Work zone crashes occur every 14 minutes across the nation. Each year, about 600 people are killed in roadway work zones. Washington state averages 950 work zone injures every year. The culprit?  It’s mostly distracted driving and speeding.

Our traffic engineers are coming up with solutions to help drivers pay attention.

We are currently testing portable rumble strips on Yakima area highways to determine if they are effective in combating driver inattention. We hope it increases safety for the drivers and the workers.

View Video: A WSP car drives over
the rumble strips at a higher speed
with no issues.
The strips are placed before construction zones making a loud ka-thud, ka-thud sound as motorists drive over them. It doesn’t rock your car too much – just wakes you up a bit.

Portable rumble strips have been proven in other states to increase driver awareness and are safe for motorcycles, automobiles and semi-trucks. California, Texas, Utah and Florida are required to use them when blocking lanes for work on state highways.

And this is just one idea to increase highway safety. What are your ideas?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Adding some friction to Bellevue, Everett ramps

By Michael Allende

As Morning Guy on our @wsdot_traffic Twitter account, I regularly advise drivers to watch their speed, especially on ramps and overpasses which can become slick in inclement weather. Still, every time it rains I watch our traffic cameras and I see vehicles spin out going down a ramp, which isn’t good for the driver or for traffic.

This summer, we’re revamping two ramps in Puget Sound with some of the highest percentages of wet weather related collisions. We will be using a process called high friction surface treatment, which is basically a robust sand-like substance that will be applied to the existing pavement with industrial strength glue to increase traction. The ramps getting the treatment are:
  • The 148th Avenue Southeast on-ramp to westbound I-90 in Eastgate interchange in Bellevue
  • The eastbound SR 526 on-ramp to southbound I-5 in Everett
Drivers on the 148th Ave SE Ramp to Westbound I-90
Drivers on the 148th Avenue SE ramp to westbound I-90 will
benefit from a high friction surface treatment on the ramp
that will help prevent spin-outs in inclement weather.
Both of these ramps have challenging S-curve designs and a downhill grade. And on a rainy day when some drivers overlook the posted advisory speed or just aren’t paying attention, we see crashes. By adding this treatment we expect to see a significant reduction in the number of collisions on these two ramps. The added traction improves both steering control and braking ability.

Drivers shouldn’t notice much difference in driving over the enhanced ramps. The asphalt will look basically the same, there won’t be any additional noise and it shouldn’t feel any different driving over for passenger vehicles or motorcycles.

High Friction Surface Treatment Appearance
WSDOT is adding a high friction surface treatment like
this to two ramps that have seen a high number
of spin-outs during wet weather.
Data shows that using this kind of roadway surface treatment reduces weather-related collisions by 60-85 percent and has been successful in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, South Carolina and California, among other states. We’ll monitor and test how it works on our two ramps and if results are as good as what we think they’ll be, we may implement it on other ramps in the area.

The ramp in Bellevue will also be closed from 10 p.m. Thursday, June 18, to 5 a.m. Friday, June 19. Drivers should expect a full weekend closure of the ramps starting Friday night, June 19, until 5 a.m. Monday, June 22. Crews plan to get both ramps finished in just one weekend. However, the work is weather dependent and could get pushed back.

The treatment won’t completely eliminate collisions on these ramps – it’s still up to drivers to recognize and adjust to roadway conditions – but it will go a long way in improving safety in those areas.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mason Transit Authority honored as 2015’s best rural transportation system in America

By Jef Lucero

It’s been a banner year for Mason Transit Authority – and the year’s not even half-over yet.

Less than two months after Gov. Inslee and a host of national and state legislators helped MTA celebrate the grand opening (pdf 825 kb) of the nation’s first rural transit-community center, the agency was named the 2015 Rural Community Transportation System of the Year by the Community Transportation Association of America. It’s the first time CTAA has honored a transit agency in Washington state with one of its national system-of-the-year awards. Gov. Inslee was quick to offer his congratulations.

MTA staff pose with their national award for
Rural Community Transportation System of the Year.
The opening of the transit-community center is a noteworthy milestone not just for the communities of the county it serves, but for Washington’s entire network of public transportation providers. Originally a National Guard armory in downtown Shelton, the building was redesigned in a responsible, cost-effective manner by leveraging local and state commitments into much broader federal support and funding. And by repurposing the armory into the transit-community center, MTA created a new landmark that honors both Shelton’s civic history and its commitment to environmental sustainability.

Gov. Inslee chats with some youthful friends at the
grand opening of MTA’s transit-community center in April.
Not only can Mason County residents catch the bus at their new transit-community center, they can take a class, attend a meeting, or receive help through the county’s social-and-human-service programs, some of which are now housed in the former armory. Folks can even shoot some hoops or play some pickleball in the gym if they’re so inclined.

The innovative facility played a part in helping secure the award, to be sure, but it’s far from the lone reason MTA brought home the hardware. Before handing the award over to MTA General Manager Brad Patterson, CTAA executives lauded the agency for its after-school activities bus service, volunteer driver program for seniors, partnerships with local tribal governments and its vanpool service, which transports more than 150 workers daily to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyards in Bremerton.

The award is a special source of pride, both for MTA and the communities the agency serves, said Patterson. He’s also quick to point to MTA’s partnership with us,  saying the award has as much to do with the relationships they’ve built with their partners over the years as it does with anything else. According to Patterson, the people in our Public Transportation Division aren’t just helpful; they’re truly dedicated to MTA’s success.

An MTA bus makes a flag stop for two riders on its route along the Puget Sound.
While MTA’s award marks the first time one of our state’s transit agencies has been honored by CTAA, national awards aren’t unprecedented in Washington. Pierce Transit was named one the nation’s three most outstanding transit agencies by the American Public Transportation Association in 1984. Before the agency was rechristened King County Metro, Seattle Metro was honored with APTA’s Innovation Award in 1985, then claimed APTA’s Outstanding Public Transportation System award in 1991. Most recently, Intercity Transit won the same award (pdf 327 kb) in 2009.

We have been happy to partner with MTA on a number of projects over the past several years, and helps administer grant programs that sustain many of the services MTA provides to communities across Mason County.

Indeed, the first six months of 2015 have been good for the Mason Transit Authority. Here’s to six more!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Make way for wildlife: Building the I-90 wildlife overcrossing

By Meagan Lott

Bears, cougars and elks – oh my! We recently broke ground on the next 2 miles of the I-90 project east of Snoqualmie Pass, which includes the first wildlife crossing to be built over the roadway.

We get a lot of questions about why are we building an overcrossing for wildlife. The answer: it’s for safety. Have you ever hit a deer or an elk? It can be dangerous for the animal and the driver. We have spent years researching and studying migration patterns of wildlife living near I-90. We are building the overcrossing in an area where wildlife naturally migrates to Keechelus Lake and unfortunately, I-90 acts as a barrier. The overcrossing will allow bears, cougars, elk, deer and other wildlife to get to the lake without endangering themselves and you.  We will install large fencing along I-90 to help funnel the critters to and over the crossing. 

 The overcrossing is scheduled to be complete in 2019 and will stand about 35 feet tall, 60 feet wide and about 150 feet long when it’s finished. Although the overcrossing is getting a lot of attention, it’s not the only thing we are doing. We will also be widening I-90 from Keechelus Dam to the Stampede Pass interchange from four to six lanes and building a larger area for vehicles to chain-up in the winter. We will also be adding some bridges and culverts.

So, with all the construction that means you will need to make sure you know what kind of travel delays you will run into this summer when traveling east of Snoqualmie Pass. We have a wide variety of tools to help you plan your trip including What’s Happening on I-90, Snoqualmie Mountain Pass and Traffic Alerts Web pages. You can also follow us on Twitter @snoqualmiepass or sign up for email updates.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Eyes on the Road when using GPS

By Eliza Ramsey

This past weekend I was in the University District at a graduation party and then planning to visit friends in Redmond. For me, the most logical, direct route would be to cross Lake Washington on State Route 520 and head north on Interstate 405, yet when I plugged my destination into Apple Maps on my iPhone it would not send me across the floating bridge. Luckily, my phone knew all eastbound SR 520 lanes were closed over the weekend, but this is not always the case.

Google Maps, TomTom, Garmin and others GPS companies don’t necessarily update their services for every construction closure, even the long term ones. The GPS-guided directions can simplify the task of getting from Point A to Point B, but blindly trusting these programs can ensnare you in the kind of traffic headaches you set out to avoid, and even endanger your safety.

Out of date GPS information is especially problematic in devices that require a subscription for updates. It’s important to recognize when the information you are getting may be imperfect. When you are out driving around, pay attention to road signs that warn of closures and suggest alternate routes, and whatever you do don’t drive around barricades or through traffic barrels. There’s a reason they are there.

Blindly following GPS directions isn’t a new problem. In 2008 a charter-bus driver following their GPS crashed into a bridge in Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum. The driver didn’t see the flashing lights or signs indicating a low bridge down the road. In 2011, three visitors to the Seattle area followed their vehicle’s GPS and ended up in Bellevue’s Mercer Slough. More recently, on SR 3 near Shelton, crews had closed the road to replace a damaged 1930s-era culvert. Despite closure signs and barricades, several drivers per hour followed their GPS directions and drove into the closed area. Luckily our crews were able to stop them and turn them around, but if they had kept going they could have ended up in a dangerous situation for them and for our workers.

All of these incidents are a good reminder that you can’t always trust what the GPS is telling you. If you’re unsure or unfamiliar with the area take a little bit of extra caution. If your exit, highway or street is closed, don’t panic. The beauty of GPS is that if you miss that turn or take a different street it will recalculate your route and still get you to your destination.

Before you set out on a summer road trip, check several sources for information on directions and road closures. Check our traffic website, call 511 or follow @wsdot on Twitter. And when you’re out on the road, pay attention to visual clues on the road like signs and barricades. Remember that if your exit, highway or street is closed, it’s for a reason.

Michael and Dwight said it best:
Michael drives into a lake - fixed audio from Aaron Crabtree on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What is so rare as a day in June? A weekend without a major event or SR 520 construction closure or both

By Ethan Bergerson

To paraphrase James Russell Lowell, it will be a rare day in June that won’t have a graduation, festival, construction closure, concert or sporting event. Wherever you look, wherever you listen, traffic will be bustling as folks get to their destinations. We encourage everyone to stay engaged and plan ahead to get around all the busy weekends.

There’s never a good time for road closures. And with so many events happening over the summer, scheduling any closure is especially tough. We do our best to work around big events, but that’s not always possible. So what do we do? We work with you to make sure you have time to plan your trips around the closure and know your alternate routes.

June 5-8: Eastbound SR 520 Bridge Closure

All eastbound lanes of the State Route 520 bridge will be closed between Montlake Boulevard and 92nd Avenue Northeast from 11 p.m. Friday, June 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 8. Please refer to the closure graphic to view which lanes and ramps will be open. Fans headed east after seeing Mariners vs. Rays, Storm vs. Sparks, or Shania Twain over the weekend of June 5 - 8 should plan to use Interstate 90 or another route around Lake Washington.

When the bridge reopens, drivers will see new toll equipment and rate signs on SR 520 near 84th Avenue Northeast. Although drivers will see flashing lights and sign displays before it goes live later this year, it’s only in test mode for now. The equipment will not charge any tolls; drivers won’t be tolled twice.

The toll collection point needs to be moved to an interim location to make room for construction activities as crews go into the next phase of work to prepare for opening the new floating bridge in 2016. We won’t use this new location to charge SR 520 tolls until we turn off equipment at the bridge’s trestle later this year, but we need to begin testing now so that we can make sure it’s ready to use later this year. Once the SR 520 bridge construction is complete, the toll equipment will move a final time its permanent location closer to the water.

June 12-15: Graduates, marathoners, soccer fans and a SR 520 ramp closure

A single lane of eastbound SR 520 and the 84th Avenue Northeast off-ramp will be closed intermittently from 11 p.m. Friday, June 12 through 5 a.m. Monday, June 15.

The future is bright the weekend of June 12-15 as the University of Washington, Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University all celebrate graduations; the Sounders face off against Dallas; and the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon courses through Seattle. Grads, families, fans, and everyone else will need to make a plan to navigate traffic. Public transit may be a good option for you to get where you need to go with less hassle.

The eastbound 84th Avenue Northeast off-ramp and the adjacent general purpose lane will be closed during the nighttime hours and during parts of the day this weekend, but crews installing the new toll equipment will open all eastbound lanes in the afternoons to help everyone get home a little sooner. All eastbound lanes will be open from 1:30 10 p.m. on Saturday and from 1:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, while the eastbound 84th Ave Northeast off-ramp will remain closed all weekend.

June 26- 29: Full SR 520 Bridge Closure During Pride Weekend

The last weekend in June brings a full closure of SR 520 where crews will complete critical work to connect the new temporary westbound off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard from the existing westbound lanes and install new toll equipment near 84th Avenue Northeast. Crews will close the existing lanes to protect the travelling public, ensure the safety of our crews, and create a work zone where we can pour new concrete so that the concrete can be set and cured with minimal disturbance.

Starting at 11 p.m. Friday, June 26, until 5 a.m. Monday, June 29 crews will close the eastbound lanes between I-5 in Seattle and 92nd Avenue Northeast on the Eastside; westbound lanes will be closed between 92nd Avenue Northeast and Montlake Boulevard. Please refer to the closure graphic for an illustration of which ramps will be open during this closure.

Due to a full calendar of events this summer, there are a limited number of weekend when crews are permitted to close all lanes of traffic in order to safely complete a large amount of critical construction work. We understand Seattle Pride events are scheduled for the June 27 and 28 weekend. We’re working with the Seattle Pride weekend event organizers to coordinate our communication and outreach efforts prior to the events so participants can plan their travel accordingly. We encourage travelers to plan ahead during this busy weekend and use alternative options like I-90, transit and carpools.