Monday, August 31, 2015

Three things you need to know about the new I-405 braided ramps in Bothell

By Caitlin Morris

Today is a new day and a new way in Bothell.

Early this morning, crews unveiled the new braided ramp system that carries traffic from NE 160th Street to Northbound Interstate-405 and State Route 522. This morning’s commuters will be the first to use the new congestion-reducing on- and off-ramps at one of I-405’s busiest interchanges or as we call it the Bothell Braids.

Here's what you need to know...

1. Back to the future: Since 2013, drivers have been using a temporary loop ramp south of NE 160th Street to enter northbound I-405. Now drivers will use the new ramp north of NE 160th to get to I-405. This may be familiar to some drivers as it is very similar to the old configuration.

2. Choose your own adventure: Drivers on NE 160th Street can go straight to SR 522 or head to Northbound I-405. Divers are encouraged to select their destination early and stay in their lane.

3. Move it or lose it: Northbound I-405 drivers headed to SR 522 will need to exit about a mile earlier than before. So if you’re planning on driving to Woodinville or Monroe, you’ll want to start merging over to the right-hand lane earlier than before. Look for overhead signs for your cue that the exit is coming up.

How do the Bothell Braids work? Check out our previous blog story to see how the braided ramps ease congestion on Northbound I-405 by separating the 42,000 vehicles jockeying to exit I-405.

Popular calendar with statewide traffic impacts back for the month of September

By Harmony Weinberg

All you planners out there have spoken and we listened! We received a lot of positive feedback about our August calendar with significant traffic impacts for state highways so we’ve decided to put another one together for the month of September.

Be sure to take a look and check this calendar frequently as work plans and event times can change. Happy planning!

View the calendar below in Adobe .pdf format for more details.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Getting ready for I-405 express toll lanes

By Ethan Bergerson

What do a man in a bathtub, a teenage drummer, and a couple on their first date have in common?

Answer: They’re all helping to raise awareness about the new express toll lanes.

Confused? It will all make sense when you view the new TV commercial for the express toll lanes, which will begin airing on local stations this week.

Helping drivers get ready for September 27

The I-405 express toll lanes will open on September 27.  People take nearly 500,000 trips in the north end of I-405 each day, and we are working hard to get the word out to each of these travelers letting them know what to expect and how to get ready for the big changes coming to I-405.

In order to reach as many people as possible, we got creative in order to get your attention. So we’re hitting the airwaves and pounding the pavement in order to make sure drivers know that changes are coming to I-405.

That’s why we’re putting up billboards around town like this one:

Billboards make sure nearly 500,000 daily commuters know
to get ready for I-405 express toll lanes

Broadening our reach

The I-405 express toll lanes mean a lot changes for drivers and it is essential that we do everything we can to keep people informed and help people get ready. Over the past six months we’ve reached nearly 10,000 people through over 100 public briefings and outreach at fairs and festivals. We’ve also released an animated video showing how the express toll lanes will work, but to really spread the word we needed to create something a little more… eye catching.

We’re launching an educational campaign to get people’s attention and tell them where to find information – at TV commercials and radio ads are great tools to build awareness and encourage people to look for us in order to learn more. After we grab people’s attention, we hope that drivers will visit our web page to find out how the lanes work, explore an interactive map, and request their free Good To Go! pass.

Transit wraps will help educate drivers and transit riders about the options
for a faster, more reliable trip on I-405.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Bothell Braids Untangled: Understanding the new I-405/160th interchange

 By Caitlin Morris

A new day, a new way

The braided ramp system in Bothell is nearing completion.
On the morning of August 31, Bothell drivers who haven’t had their first cup of coffee could find themselves headed for a surprise as they attempt to enter northbound Interstate 405 from Northeast 160th Street. Currently, drivers are using a temporary ramp located on the south side of Northeast160th Street. But Monday morning, drivers will notice the temporary ramp has been replaced by the new braided ramp system on the north side of the road.

What’s going on here? Currently, on an average weekday, the 30,000 drivers who take northbound I-405 to State Route 522 must weave between 12,000 drivers entering northbound I-405 from Northeast160th Street. Throughout the day, those 42,000 cars vying for room cause unnecessary traffic and delays. The new braided ramp system will separate drivers heading to SR 522 from those heading to northbound I-405, eliminating the need to weave and ensuring a safer, more efficient trip.

Weekend closures ahead

With the new braided ramp system, drivers
entering State Route 522 from northbound
I-405 can bypass drivers entering
I-405 from NE 160th Street.
To open the new braided ramp system, crews will close a series of I-405 ramps and lanes between Northeast 124th and SR 522 the weekend of August 28-31. To prepare for the closure, we suggest drivers plan ahead and take alternate routes (pdf 2 mb).

After Monday, drivers may also want to allow extra time to adjust to the new on- and off-ramp arrangement. Folks on northbound I-405 will have to exit a little earlier to take SR 522, because the new ramp will begin just under the NE 160th Street overpass.

If you’re entering the system from Northeast 160th Street, you will have to choose ahead of time whether you want to continue to northbound I-405 or drive directly to SR 522.

What’s a braided ramp?

 While the word braid is associated with knots, this ramp configuration is given its name because of its resemblance to braided hair from an aerial view. Braided ramps actually eliminate lines on entrance ramps by decreasing traffic weaving. Braided ramp systems also improve safety for drivers. Studies on a San Antonio highway showed that separating drivers reduced crash frequencies by 71 percent.

We now interrupt this blog post to bring you information on the I-405 express toll lanes…coming this September

We need to set aside the braided ramps for a moment to tell you about another key component of the Bellevue to Lynwood Widening and Express Toll Lane project. You guessed it, express toll lanes. They are coming in September. Are you Good To Go? Do you have a Flex Pass or even know what a Flex Pass is? We’ll break it all down for you at and tell you how to prepare.

And now back to your braided ramps messaging…

Don’t’ forget, it’s “a new day, a new way” Monday morning on August 31!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Wildfire Closures

FINAL 10:05 a.m. Sept. 8: Only one state highway is closed due to wildfire activity at this time. We're no longer updating this blog with details, but find real-time closure information on our travel alerts page.

UPDATE 3:45 p.m. Sept. 4: We've deactivated the zoomable wildfire closure map. For the latest highway closure alerts, visit our travel alerts page
  • SR 21 is closed in both directions from Bridge Creek Road (milepost 127) to Scatter Creek Road (milepost 154).
SR 155 and SR 20 are open.

Most resources:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

US 12 closed in Lewis County for the Gore Road Fire

UPDATE 5:30 p.m.: Both directions of US 12 are now open.

Previous entry:

For the safety of the traveling public, both directions of US 12 are closed between the Jackson Highway and the town of Salkum due to the Gore Road Wildfire near Onalaska.

Detour information

  • Eastbound US 12 traffic is detoured north on Jackson Highway to SR 508
  • Westbound US 12 traffic is detoured to SR 122 to Cinebar Road to SR 508

We will update this blog as details become available. Real-time highway closure updates are available on the Travel Alerts page and on the WSDOT mobile app.

Monday, August 17, 2015

New zigzag pavement markings

By Mike Allende

WSDOT maintenance crews worked over the
weekend of Aug. 15-16 to install new zigzag
pavement markings in Stanwood.
Folks on State Route 9 in Arlington may think a new type of pavement marking approaching the pedestrian/bike crossing near Stanwood-Bryant Road is a prank or perhaps a lane striping crew got a little too creative.

But no, the new zigzags in the road? We meant to do that.

That’s right; over the weekend our maintenance crews painted new zigzag pavement markings to warn people as they approach the Centennial Trail pedestrian/bike crossing. Later this month crews will add the same zigzag pavement markings to the areas approaching crosswalks on SR 20 near Superior Avenue and E Street. The markings run for about 200 to 250 feet down the middle of the roadway in each direction.

The zigzag markings are a test – the first of their kind in Washington state – to see if they might help improve driver’s compliance with slowing down approaching a crosswalk. While we haven’t had any specific safety problems in these areas, this is a low-cost way for us to try something that we believe will increase the level of compliance at crosswalks.

A few states, including Virginia and Hawaii, have implemented similar pavement markings near crosswalks and have seen positive results. These markings are also used extensively in Europe – they are even at the iconic Abbey Road crossing in London.

When you get in some of these rural locations, drivers can start to tune out and all of a sudden you come upon these particular crossings. A recent study of the SR 9 crossing showed that 18 percent of vehicles did not slow down or stop for a pedestrian at the crosswalk, which currently also has a flashing beacon that can be activated by pedestrians and cyclists. The new zigzag crosswalks will help give a visual indication that you’re approaching a crosswalk and you should slow down and be aware.

New zigzag pavement markings are being tested on State Route 9 in Arlington
as a way to catch the attention of motorists approaching the
Centennial Trail pedestrian/bike crossing.

The cost of installing the new pavement markings in the three locations is expected to be $5,000-$6,000. The paint is the same as is currently used in crosswalks and railroad crossings so vehicles – including motorcycles – should have no issues traveling over them. If the test program at these sites is successful, we may evaluate other areas that could benefit from the unique pavement markings as a low-cost alternative to electronic crosswalk indicators.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Stay safe and fire smart during our long, hot summer

By Barbara LaBoe

This year’s hot weather and drought conditions have dramatically increased wildfire and roadside brush fires across our state. Several were burning just on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

Our Northwest and Olympic region staff has seen roughly double the amount of roadside brush fires this year compared to last – more than 100 since April 1 – and we still have most of August and September yet to come. It’s the same story across the state.

A wildfire near Roosevelt, Wash. closed State Route 14 beginning Tuesday, Aug.4.
Because of the increased risk, we’ve introduced intermittent “High Fire Danger” messages on our electronic roadside Variable Message Signs after working with the Department of Natural Resources and the Washington Fire Chiefs Association. We’ve started in the eastern part of the state, where fire danger remains extra high, but also plan to add the messages to the western side of the state. In normal years the western side of the state doesn’t have as high a fire risk – but this year is far from normal.

We’d also like to share some basic wildfire safety tips.

Our partners at the Washington State Patrol urge all drivers to be extra alert aware and use common sense this summer, especially if you’re driving in an area near an active fire.
  • Obey all detour and road closure signs and never re-enter a fire area without permission.
  • If you see a brush fire with no emergency crews around, be sure to alert authorities. Don’t assume someone else has called it in.
  • NEVER throw a cigarettes or any other flammable material out of vehicle windows. With such dry conditions, one cigarette is all it takes to spark a major fire. (It can also land you a $1,025 ticket).
  • Do your part for prevention. As we noted in a July blog, the top causes of brush fires along roads are drivers throwing lit items out windows, blown tires or malfunctions that cause sparks or driving a vehicle onto dry grass or vegetation (the heat from a car’s engine can start a fire).
  • And, as always, you can check for road conditions and closure notices by using WSDOT’s mobile app, online tools, social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook, or by calling 5-1-1.
If you live in an area threatened by wildfires, the state’s Emergency Management Division and the state Department of Health recommend these tips:
  • Remain calm and listen to news and emergency reports for details of any evacuations.
  • If told to evacuate, do so calmly but quickly.
  • If you feel threatened, leave even without an evacuation order.
  • Establish an out-of-area contact for friends and family so they’ll be able to check in if you are forced to leave. (This is a good idea year-round, not just during fire season).
  • Pre-load your vehicle with emergency supplies, vital records and other valuables. Park your vehicle so it’s facing out toward the evacuation route.
  • Keep pets confined nearby so you can quickly get them into your car.
  • Post a note on your home telling emergency crews you have left and where you’re headed.
Remember, with this year’s dry conditions every part of the state is at risk for a wildfire. The state Department of Natural Resources’ wildfire preparedness website lists every county in the state as either high or very high/extreme for wildfire risk at this point. That means everyone should be extra vigilant and pay attention to news and emergency reports.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, every county
in Washington is either at high or very high/extreme fire danger.
 We want everyone to stay safe and fire smart this summer.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wildfire closes SR 14 in the Columbia River Gorge

FINAL 3 p.m. Aug. 5: SR 14 is open.


UPDATE 11:25 a.m. Aug. 5: Here's a look at smoke from the wildfire along SR 14. This photo was taken about an hour ago facing east from milepost 137 east of Roosevelt. Most of the fire is burning along the river to the south of the highway. SR 14 remains closed westbound at SR 221 and eastbound at US 97.


UPDATE 10:20 a.m. Aug. 5: No ETA for the reopening of SR 14 at this time. The National Weather Service reports a Red Flag Warning is in effect for the Lower Columbia Basin until 9 p.m. due to dry and gusty conditions.


UPDATE 7:55 a.m. Aug. 5: SR 14 remains closed in both directions due to the Roosevelt fire. Westbound SR 14 is closed at SR 221 near Paterson, and eastbound is closed at US 97 near Maryhill. We'll post updates about the closure as soon as we have more information.


State Route 14 is closed due to a wildfire near the town of Roosevelt.

SR 14 at milepost 134, outside of Roosevelt
Westbound SR 14 is closed at SR 221 near Paterson, and eastbound is closed at US 97 near Maryhill. 

For the safety of the traveling public, our maintenance crews are staffing the roadblocks around the clock. At this time, there is no estimate for reopening the roadway.

Earlier, a grass fire near Wishram prompted the closure of SR 14 between US 197 and US 97.

Smoke along SR 14 near Wishram
We will update the blog as information becomes available.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Washington State Ferries is having a Twitter photo contest!

By Broch Bender

We know you have the best ferry photos out there, now it’s time to share them with everyone in the state! You could even win a behind-the-scenes tour of one of these incredible vessels. Simply follow @WSFerries and tweet your scenic shots with the hashtag #WSFcontest from Aug. 10 through 17.

All or part, it’s all good
All photos must include a state ferry whether in part or whole. Any bit will do as long as we can see a part of the vessel.

Classic or current is cool
The photo does not have to be taken the week of the contest; it can be a throwback to a beautiful sunset in 2013, or even a Polaroid from 1957. However, you must have taken the photo yourself and by entering the contest you grant rights to WSF to share and repost your photo.

Don’t forget…
Photo must be shared via Twitter before noon Monday, Aug. 17, to be eligible. Follow us @WSFerries and remember to use the hashtag #WSFcontest.

The fineprint
No purchase of a ferry (or ferry ticket) is required.

Winning photographs will be judged by Jeanette Mills, director of Visual Services for the University of Washington School of Art + Art History + Design. The top five entries will be contacted via Twitter by Aug. 20 and invited on a behind-the-scenes tour of a state ferry.

For more information read through the contest rules (pdf 373 kb).

We can’t wait to see your best ferry photos!