Thursday, August 25, 2016

Extended hours for back-to-school season

By Andrea E. Petrich

The eastbound US 2 trestle is ready for back-to-school season.

After feedback from commuters earlier this summer, we’ve extended peak shoulder use along the eastbound trestle that runs between Everett and Lake Stevens/Snohomish. Commuters can now use that additional shoulder lane starting at 2 p.m. instead of the previous 3 p.m. Peak shoulder use in that stretch lasts until 7 p.m.

The shoulder along the US 2 trestle will be open to traffic one extra hour during peak travel times.
This request wasn’t granted overnight. Our engineers did a traffic study to make sure the volumes between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. warranted this change. We also checked with our maintenance teams and Washington State Patrol to ensure proper emergency response would be available during that hour.

So, for those of you who drive US 2 eastbound from Interstate 5 – let us know how the change is working.

Why doesn’t WSDOT allow shoulder driving in more areas?

Opening a shoulder to traffic means less time for crews to use the shoulder for maintenance and emergencies.

For example, on SR 522 west of SR 524 this sign has flashing beacons to warn drivers about the upcoming stoplight. Right now, if our signals team needs to replace one of the lights or make another quick repair, they can drop a “Shoulder Work Ahead” sign, have a safety-vehicle in place and pull up a large bucket truck to the sign, fixing the issue in no time. If this shoulder was being used by traffic, they’d need to close a lane to safely fix it.

Shoulder accessibility is important for maintenance and emergencies.

And all those great times when our Incident Response Team quickly gets a stall pushed to the shoulder? That wouldn’t be as easy if there wasn’t a shoulder to clear to.

There are also plenty of engineering considerations when it comes to peak shoulder use. We wouldn’t consider implementing it in stretches where highway segments lack the capacity to safely accommodate the increase farther down the road.  Our engineers make sure there is a logical, sound and strong engineering basis for choosing which stretches peak shoulder use is appropriate for.

Where else is peak shoulder use allowed?

As you might’ve read earlier this month, peak shoulder use will begin on northbound I-405 between SR 527 and I-5/Alderwood next summer.

There are also future plans for peak shoulder use on I-90 between Bellevue and Issaquah and I-5 between Everett and Marysville.

Until those kick in, those of you in Snohomish County, enjoy your extra hour of peak shoulder use on eastbound US 2 this back-to-school season. We appreciate your comments, feedback and suggestions on ways to keep all Washingtonians moving safely and efficiently.