Monday, November 21, 2016

North Cascades Highway waiting game is over

By Andrea E. Petrich

Twice a year we play a waiting game involving - arguably - the most beautiful stretch of highway in Washington. That waiting game is over for 2016. The State Route 20 North Cascades Highway is closed for the winter.

After temporarily closing the highway on Friday, Nov. 18 due to increased avalanche risk, we reevaluated the conditions on Monday morning and, combined with a forecast of increasingly rough weather later this week, decided to call it a season. The pass opened on April 22 after about a month of work by our crews clearing the roadway. This year's closing is almost a week later than in 2015, when we closed it on Nov. 16.
The SR 20 North Cascades Highway closed for the winter on Monday, Nov. 21.

The SR 20 North Cascades Highway through North Cascade National Park connecting the Skagit River Valley and the Methow Valley offers travelers beautiful blue-green lakes, hairpin turns and jagged peaks during the summer months but some of those beautiful summer features turn dangerous in the winter.
Avalanche chutes more than 2,000 feet long stretch along miles of this highway making it too dangerous to provide a safe highway all year. During the winter we close the highway and let the snow fall and avalanches slide down these steep chutes near Whistler Mountain, Washington Pass and Cutthroat Ridge. As soon as crews safely can, they'll start plowing this stretch of road in the spring. While it isn't safe to keep it open all year (always dependent on weather), we work to keep it open as long as we can and get it open again as early as we can so visitors and travelers can enjoy the National Park and the businesses that operate on both sides of the mountains.

That said, the pass isn't closed to everyone. While licensed motor vehicles can no longer get through, back country skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers and others can use the area year-round. But If you are out for winter adventuring while the highway is covered in snow, please be prepared and know conditions before you go.
While the North Cascades Highway is closed to licensed motor vehicles, skiiers, snowshoers
and others can still use it, but should be cautious heading to the pass.

Want to be in the know during this waiting game? Sign up for our email list – Click on Traffic and Travel Updates -> Mountain Pass Conditions -> North Cascades Highway SR 20 -> and you'll get emails about clearing progress next spring and/or follow us on Twitter for photo updates as well.
So for those who do love it, think snow!

We'll be back with you in a few months as the waiting game begins again, this time for the opening date of this beautiful stretch of National Scenic Highway.

Plan ahead to ensure you enjoy all of your holiday traditions

By Barbara LaBoe

The Thanksgiving holiday is a time for fun and relaxation, but holiday feasts can also present some tricky "high stakes" choices.
  • Homemade or canned cranberry sauce?
  • Rolls, biscuits or cornbread?
  • Turkey or Tofurkey?
  • And don't forget Apple Cup the next day: Cougars or Huskies?
The day before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year, especially on I-5 between Tacoma and Olympia. Thanksgiving weekend is a very busy travel day and significant congestion can be expected on most major routes throughout the state.

A quick poll of co-workers and friends found some pretty strong – and unbending – feelings about each of these choices. And that's how it should be – it's what makes holiday traditions so special.
Anyone driving over mountain passes for the
holiday should be prepared for winter conditions.

You also have choices to make when it comes to Thanksgiving travel. Stay close to home or head out of town? Leave early Wednesday or put it off until Thursday? And when should you head home to beat the worst of the traffic? We want to make sure you don't miss out on your favorite holiday tradition because you made the wrong travel choice, so here are some tips and tools to make sure no one starts eating without you.
  • Know before you go. Our holiday travel charts help drivers plan trips around the most heavily congested travel times.
  • Online tools further help plotting your trip and our mobile app, 5-1-1 travel alerts and social media such as Twitter and Facebook help you stay informed on the road. (Have a passenger check these once on the road, distracted driving is a sure way to ruin a holiday).
  • Make sure both your vehicle and your passengers are prepared for winter travel.
  • Carry chains, especially if traveling over passes.
  • If traveling by ferry, leave extra time for holiday lines at the docks, consider purchasing tickets online  and make reservations if traveling on the San Juan or Port Townsend/Coupeville routes. Some ferries run on Saturday schedules on holidays, check your route schedule before heading out.
  • Check out the two extra trains WSDOT has added to its Amtrak Cascades routes for the holiday on Wednesday, Nov. 23 and Sunday, Nov. 27. Trains sell out quickly during holidays, so make reservations at or 800-USA-RAIL as soon as you can.
  • Know your tolls. The State Route 520 bridge will have weekend rates on Thanksgiving, returning to normal rates on Black Friday.  On the Interstate 405 Express Toll Lanes, everyone travels for free on the holiday, returning to normal and HOV requirements on Friday. Weekends are always free in the I-405 lanes.
  • Slow down: many pass and road closures are caused by vehicles spinning out or crashing, not the actual snow levels. Don't be the one driver who snarls traffic for everyone.

Don't forget the football
This year's Apple Cup in Pullman on the Friday after Thanksgiving also presents several choices, especially with likely playoff and bowl invitations on the line. The 12:30 p.m. start doesn't leave much travel time between Thanksgiving meals and kickoff, making travel choices even more important.
The Apple Cup the day after Thanksgiving will add even more traffic to I-90 and roads into Pullman.

Will fans travel the night before or get up early the day of? Will true diehards try to have their Thanksgiving meal in the car this year?

Whatever your decision, follow these tips to help ensure you get there with time to spare:
  • Plan your route and give yourself extra travel time. No matter which way you're heading, there are only a couple of ways into Pullman. Drivers should expect congestion on US 195 and SR 27 between Spokane and Pullman, plus SR 26 between Vantage and Colfax, both before and after the game.
  • Be prepared for snow or ice on the passes – and check pass reports before heading out the door. A forecast calls for a series of strong fronts moving into the area on Thanksgiving and lasting through the weekend with snow levels falling which could lead to significant snow accumulation on the passes. High winds are also expected.
  • Slow down. No game, not even the Apple Cup, is worth crashing or risking injury.

Here's to a safe and stress-free holiday weekend and an exciting, hard-fought Apple Cup.

Friday, November 18, 2016

In the market for a historic bridge? We have a deal for you!

By Tamara Greenwell

Update for Aug. 2, 2017: Good news! We may have found a new owner for the SR 508 Newaukum River Bridge. We received interest from several folks and organizations and ended up with one person who understands what it’ll take to own the structure. We’re now working together on agreements and how the bridge will be used to preserve its historic nature. The individual plans to keep the bridge in the Evergreen State.

Nov. 18, 2016
Looking for a memorable gift for that special someone who's hard to shop for? How about the State Route 508 South Fork Newaukum River Bridge? Located near Onalaska in Lewis County, it would make the perfect present for someone who has always wanted their own bridge, but didn’t know quite where to start.

SR 508 South Fork Newaukum River Bridge

Sure, at a rusty 86 years old, the bridge is past its prime, but we like to think it’s full of character and charm. Also, because it is eligible for historic listing, the National Historic Preservation Act requires we market the bridge to find it a new home. So, what do you think? Does this sound like the right fit for you?

The historic bridge plaque will be archived at the Lewis County Historical Museum

Why recycle the bridge?
During the first half of the 20th century, pony truss bridges like the Newaukum River Bridge were often used to span short distances. As concrete girder bridges gained in popularity, pony trusses have become relatively rare. The Newaukum River Bridge is one of only 13 pony truss bridges over 50 years old remaining on public roadways or recreation trails in Washington.

Severe corrosion on the 86 -year-old steel bridge
Rust has eaten through portions of the bridge.
But time has finally caught up to the aging structure. Rust has completely eaten through portions of the bridge. Following a January 2015 safety inspection, we closed the bridge because it could no-longer support heavy loads.
WSDOT maintenance crews built a temporary single-lane Bailey bridge across the aging Newaukum River Bridge.
About a week later, we assembled and installed a temporary Bailey bridge over the existing structure and reopened the road to serve the 1,400 drivers that use the route each day. Without the temporary bridge, drivers would be forced to take a detour, adding time to their travel.
SR 508 South Fork Newaukum River Bridge, built in 1930.
So, since the old bridge can no longer hold the weight of modern day traffic, what might be a good fit for it? We’re hoping someone can repurpose it at a golf course, on a hiking trail or even see its beauty as garden art. If you are looking for a unique way to preserve Washington’s history, relocating and restoring this historic bridge is for you!

What you get
You’ll get two as-is riveted-steel 90-foot Warren pony trusses with verticals. They’re comprised of fabricated steel shapes, including channels, angles and plates. Sorry, the bridge deck and substructure aren’t included.

What’s the catch?
Recycling this historic gem is no easy task. Moving and repurposing old bridges is expensive. Costs related to removing and relocating the trusses are up to you.
  • You’ll need to have a structural engineer assess the trusses to make sure they’ll work for your project
  • Safely move the trusses 
  • Protect the environment during the move 
  • Reuse the trusses in a way that preserves historic character
  • Assume all future legal and financial responsibility for the structure

If no one wants the old bridge, it’ll be demolished, but we don’t want that! We know there’s a home out there just waiting to welcome the structure into their family.

Either way, the old bridge will be replaced with a new permanent structure made with concrete girders that’ll hold up better to the weight of heavy traffic, flooding and earthquakes. The new bridge is scheduled to open in 2018.

So are you sold? Great! Contact us for more information.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

#405ETL provides choice as more drivers move to the region

By Ethan Bergerson

In the last year, we’ve seen big changes not only on I-405 with express toll lanes, but also the Puget Sound region as whole with more people living and working in the communities surrounding the I-405 corridor.

The Puget Sound region is experiencing tremendous growth and a booming economy, in the last year the region experienced the biggest population gain this century and the highest growth rate in the past 20 years, and job growth is accelerating as well. Since 2000, when planning for the I-405 corridor was underway, population has increased a total of 23 percent and employment by 15 percent in King and Snohomish counties.

As more people live and work here, more drivers are on the roads. While the express toll lanes have shown to be an effective tool to provide a more reliable trip, the tremendous growth in the region doesn’t change the fact that there is still limited capacity on our already congested highways.

In September we provided a brief update based on trends over nine months. Now that we’ve got a full year data crunched, let’s take a deep dive into what the numbers are showing us.

Give drivers a choice
People are really showing us just how much they value the choice for a faster trip when they need it. Over the first year, people chose to pay a toll 10.1 million times plus another 4.4 million free trips in the express toll lanes for carpoolers and motorcycles. As new people move to the region, we continue to see new commuters in the express toll lanes each month. Even after one year, 50,000 new vehicles used the express toll lanes for the first time in September.

Provide a faster and more predictable trip
Not only are drivers in the express toll lanes saving an average of 13 minutes over the general purpose lanes, we’re also seeing benefits for general purpose lane drivers in most sections of the I-405 corridor including shorter travel times.

The exception is trips on northbound I-405, which travel between SR 522 and I-5, where capacity is limited as five lanes convert to three creating a bottleneck. We’re already moving forward with the first major improvement funded by tolling revenue, a new northbound peak-use lane from SR 527 to I-5 that will help reduce congestion in this area.

Curious on the specifics of how your commute has changed? We looked at a lot of different trips, over different time periods, to see how travel times have been affected.

Commuters traveling southbound in the morning:
Commuters traveling northbound in the evening:
In addition to faster speeds, we’re moving more vehicles through the corridor in the peak period. We’re moving 300-700 more vehicles per hour, per lane in the two express toll lanes compared to the previous HOV lane. Depending on the location, we’re moving up to 200-300 more vehicles per hour in the single express toll lane where no capacity was added compared to the previous HOV lane.

We’ve also improved reliability for the express toll lane. When looking at the full corridor trip, the previous HOV lanes moved vehicles at 45 mph or faster 60 percent of the time. When averaged across both directions for the last six months, express toll lanes have improved the percentage of time speeds are meeting 45 mph by 25 percent compared to the HOV lane in 2015.

In the last six months the express toll lanes have maintained speeds of 45 mph 85 percent of the time during peak periods, below the goal of 90 percent. This is due to two factors:
  1. Limited capacity. Capacity was not changed between Bothell and Lynnwood on I-405. The slower speeds in the single express toll lane have influenced whether the express toll lanes meet the 45 mph metric. 
  2. Increasing demand. Significant regional growth has led to more drivers choosing to use the express toll lanes, therefore putting more strain on the single lane section. Drivers also made 6,000 more weekday peak period trips in the express toll lanes in September 2016 compared to October 2015.
To improve performance, WSDOT is looking at a variety of operational improvements to address the capacity constraints on I-405 between Bothell and Lynnwood, including the northbound peak use shoulder.

Funding future improvements
So, it’s hard to talk about the benefits of the express toll lanes this year without mentioning the revenue. We try to publish financial statements for all toll roads and bridges every three months to help you understand exactly where your toll dollar goes. If you want a refresher on how to read the financial statements, check out Dollars and sense: Breaking down the first I-405 express toll lanes financial report.

Here are the top takeaways from the first year of operations from September 2015 to September 2016:
  • $21.6 million in gross revenue: That’s how much money was raised from people making a choice to pay a toll for a faster trip in the express toll lanes. Of the total revenue, $17.5 million was from toll revenue and the rest from other revenues such as Good To Go! Pass sales. People have gained more control over their commute, and this revenue is an added bonus because once expenses are covered, the money will be reinvested back into the corridor. 
Following the money: How your toll dollars are being spent.
Most of your toll money is being invested right back into improvements for I-405 drivers, but where does the rest of it go? You might have heard the myths and rumors that 70 percent goes to a company in Texas, but this is undeniably inaccurate. Here’s the breakdown of our recent operating costs:

Over the past six months, 40 percent of the money raised on I-405 went towards toll collection. You might notice that the chart above is just for the last six months, not for the full year. This is what we expect operations costs to continue to look like in the future because our operations and maintenance costs were lower when the express toll lanes first opened.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown:
  • The roadway toll system operations and maintenance team received 5 percent of this revenue. This service is provided by a vendor from Rockville, Maryland. They have a core staff of six in Puget Sound. Their compensation is also not affected by traffic or toll rate levels.  
  • State operations costs amounted to 11 percent of the revenue. This includes our staff costs, consulting support, and staff related costs such as rent, phones and computers, data collection tools, reporting on performance, software and office supplies.  
  • Customer service and billing operations received 9 percent of the revenue in these statements. Both services are provided by a vendor from Richardson, Texas. They employ more than 120 people right here in the Puget Sound region.  This vendor gets the same amount per transaction no matter what the toll rate is or how much congestion there is.
  • 15 percent of this revenue went to miscellaneous operating costs including enforcement by Washington State Patrol, Good To Go! pass equipment and distribution, toll bill printing, postage, and civil penalty adjudication costs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A great time to give thanks to IRT

By Mike Allende

You’ve likely seen them pushing a disabled vehicle to the shoulder, or cleaning up after a collision, or picking up debris in the middle of a highway. Being a member of our Incident Response Team is a challenging, dangerous job but one that is vitally important to keeping traffic moving safely.

In 2014, IRT cleared more than 48,000 incidents in an average of just over 12 minutes.
Recognizing the importance of everyone who responds to issues on the highway, the Federal Highway Administration declared that Nov. 14-18 is the first ever national Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week.

Having done several ride-alongs with our IRT group, I’ve seen first-hand what it’s like for them on the highways, and it isn’t for the faint of heart. While they take every precaution they can to be safe, there’s no getting around the fact that their work often involves being outside of the relative safety of their vehicle while traffic zips by. Every one of our team members can recount dozens of close calls, including a very scary one on the I-90 bridge in September.

Every minute a lane is blocked can result in up to 10 minutes of congestion,
so IRT’s response time is critical in keeping traffic moving.

While IRT’s response is meaningful to each person they help, it also helps the entire highway system in a big way. According to our most recent corridor capacity report (pdf 9 mb), our IRT group responded to 48,691 incidents in 2014, and cleared them in an average time of 12 minutes, 12 seconds from the time they were first notified of the situation. Given that every minute that a lane is blocked results in up to 10 minutes of traffic congestion, that response time goes a long way in keeping traffic moving. The team’s assistance resulted in about $74.1 million in estimated savings to travelers and businesses by reducing idling time, late deliveries and helping to prevent secondary incidents.

IRT may help by clearing a stall or providing gas, or they may be tasked with providing traffic control
 or clearing the roadway after major collisions.

But we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: They need your help.

Please slow down and give work crews as much room to work as possible. The safer they feel, the quicker they can help. If you can clear your vehicle to a shoulder or off the highway, please do. It’s typically safer and will make it easier for our crews to help you out. If you do need help getting off the highway, listen to IRT’s instructions and cooperate and they can get you to safety.

IRT’s priority is to make sure you can get where you’re going as safely and quickly as possible. They take helping the traveling public seriously, and they do a great job. So we’re excited to have this week to raise awareness to their work, and offer them a big “Thanks” for all they do.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The new SR 520: An award-winning corridor with integrated, multimodal design

By Roger Millar

As Henry Ford's groundbreaking Model T began rolling off a Detroit assembly line more than a century ago, the fledgling Washington State Highways Department set about transforming dirt wagon trails into our state's first network of modern roadways. Fast-forward to the 21st century, and the construction and maintenance of highways remains a core responsibility for the renamed Washington State Department of Transportation. But just as our communities have grown and diversified over the years, so too has our mission.
The world’s longest floating bridge opened to traffic in April 2016.

We are no longer just a "highways department." Today, we work to create and maintain a sustainable, integrated transportation system that supports multiple modes of travel, whether for driving solo, sharing a carpool, hauling freight, commuting by bus, taking a ferry, riding heavy or light rail, bicycling, or simply walking to your destination.

A prime example of our multimodal pursuit is the new State Route 520 floating bridge on Lake Washington and its connecting SR 520 corridors on both sides of the lake, between I-405 and I-5. The rebuilt highway – still a work in progress – demonstrates how interwoven strategies for moving people and goods can create more livable communities while supporting regional growth and economic vitality.
A bicyclist pedals on the new floating bridge’s 14-foot-wide shared-use path, which in 2017 will extend from Seattle to the Eastside.

We are pleased to see the highway's improvements drawing positive reviews both regionally and nationally.

Last month, the Puget Sound Regional Council gave us a Vision 2040 Award for completion of the new floating bridge, citing the structure's role in helping to "ensure a sustainable future as the region grows." And in early November, the bridge project earned the national 2016 Excellence in Design (Engineering) Award from the Design-Build Institute of America. Meanwhile, the highway's completed Eastside segment, from Medina to I-405, won a 2016 Quality of Life / Community Development Award from the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials. We'll find out in mid-November if our Eastside project is the association's national Grand Prize winner for state highway projects.
Design consultant KPFF and WSDOT won the Excellence in
Design (Engineering) Award from the Design-Build Institute
of America this year for work on the SR 520 bridge.

Unlike the old highway corridor we're replacing, the new SR 520 is a multidimensional transportation system, with forward-looking features drawn from more than a decade of public outreach and engagement. Some of the noteworthy enhancements include:
  • Bigger, stronger pontoons, anchors and anchor cables for the new floating bridge – it opened last spring – that enable the bridge to withstand much stronger winds and waves.
  • Replacement of the highway's structurally vulnerable, hollow-column approach bridges with new, solid-column bridges built to modern seismic standards.
  • The addition of bus/carpool lanes in both directions to improve transit safety and trip reliability.
  • Five landscaped, community-connecting lids over the highway, three with direct-access transit stops and better, safer transit connections for bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • A regional, cross-lake bicycle and pedestrian path from Seattle to Redmond, with numerous connections to local shared-use trails.
  • Full shoulders so disabled vehicles will no longer block the SR 520 mainline and snarl traffic.
  • An engineered floating-bridge design that will accommodate a retrofit for light rail should the region's voters someday choose that option.
Improving traffic mobility was, of course, one priority for a reconstructed SR 520. Traffic studies predict that when the highway is fully built out to I-5, HOV travel time from Seattle to Bellevue will be 25 minutes shorter during peak periods, and 31 minutes shorter in the general-purpose lanes.
A bus enters the HOV lane on the new SR 520 floating bridge.

The improved highway also reflects the public's desire for a more environmentally friendly transportation system. For the first time, SR 520 runoff and the pollutants it carries will be captured and filtered, either in on-land stormwater-detention sites in Seattle and the Eastside, or in innovative catch basins and stormwater lagoons constructed on the new floating bridge.

Project accolades from industry peers are nice, I'll admit. But much more rewarding for me and my colleagues is the personal conviction that, day by day, year by year, we're designing and building smartly integrated, sustainable public infrastructure – infrastructure that will benefit our neighbors and the communities we share for generations to come.

That is the road we're taking. And the journey continues.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Shine a light: Illuminating bike and pedestrian safety during dark days

By Bart Treece

It’s that time of year in the Pacific Northwest, when the rain is a frequent companion on the roads and the days are getting shorter. That means on my 45 – 50-minute bike commute, I could be riding to work and home in the dark, and arrive a little soaked. There’s only so much I can do on the streets to be seen and be safe. I have my reflective clothing, a bright headlight, a flashing red light behind, and I focus on riding defensively. All of these steps help add visibility, but it takes two to tango, which means all users of the road need to watch out for one another to avoid a potential injury or worse.

The reality of low-light conditions
I find myself riding slower in the dark. Seeing other people and other objects in low-light conditions is tough for anyone. For people behind the wheel, they need to be able to perceive what they are seeing and recognize the importance of a pedestrian or bike rider in order to take action. This could mean stopping for someone crossing the street or giving a rider at least three feet. According to the Washington State Strategic Highway Safety Plan 2016, 69 percent of pedestrian-related crashes happen during the nighttime hours or dusk. Nationwide, there is an increase in pedestrian fatalities in the fall and winter months. For cyclists, those numbers also track seasonally with a spike during nighttime hours in fall and winter.

Having good reflectors or lights can help keep bike riders and pedestrians safe in the dark.

See and be seen – No surprises
Visibility is key. For people pounding the pavement or those like me who use pedal-power, wearing bright and reflective clothing, and flashing red tail lights helps us stand out. It’s also important to be predictable and clear on your intent to other users of the road. If you’re on foot, make it clear to on-coming traffic that you’re about to step off the curb. When I’m on my bike, I use hand signals ahead of turns, stops and lane changes.

Intersections and crossings are a common vehicle/bicycle crash location, resulting in 72 percent of all serious reported cycling injuries. While I’m on a ride, if I see a vehicle about to turn right at an adjacent stop sign or at a light while I’m heading straight, I try to make eye contact with the driver, and even give a wave to make sure I’m seen. I usually get a smile and wave in return. Besides avoiding a collision, we help make the road a friendlier and safer place.

Know your route
If you’re walking or riding at night, it helps to know your route so you can focus on the other variables such as traffic, instead of trying to navigate on the fly. If you want to start walking or riding, make a couple trial runs during daylight hours on the weekend.

Check in with people who care about you
It also helps to let your family and coworkers know where and when you will be on the road walking or riding. I always let my wife know when I get to work, and when I start my trip home. It’s peace of mind for her, and she can pick me up if I get stuck.

Bart Treece rides to work most days and says a key is to know your route, let your intentions
be known to others and check in with friends/family to let them know your plan.

Put down the cellphone
When I see people behind the wheel on their phone, or with earbuds in while they are riding, I cringe. I don’t have a lot of confidence that those folks are focused on their safety or mine. Distractions such as electronic devices should be packed away until you’re out of traffic, period.

Hit the road with a clear head
Impairments such as alcohol and drugs have been a known factor for both bicycle and pedestrian fatalities. In Washington, 16 percent of fatal bike collisions were attributed to driver impairment; 21 percent were attributed to rider impairment. Need to get home after a night out? Snag a ride with someone else – there are plenty of options.

Regardless of how you roll, we all have places to go during the dark days of fall and winter. Wherever your final destination may be, usually there’s someone depending on you to arrive safely. Just remember that other folks are out there trying to do the same thing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Plan now for weekend closure of Whidbey Island ferry route

By Broch Bender

Do you regularly take the ferry between Whidbey Island and the Olympic Peninsula? It's a beautiful trip, but you may want to make other plans on Nov. 5 and 6. On those two days, the Coupeville ferry terminal will be temporarily closed for some earthquake retrofitting work.

The work will start after the last sailing on Friday, Nov. 4, and last until after the last sailing of the day on Sunday, Nov. 6.
With just one slip at the Coupeville terminal, it's impossible to maintain service during this weekend's work.
The Coupeville ferry terminal will be closed Nov. 5-6 for seismic retrofitting work.

In need of an upgrade
The Coupeville to Port Townsend route provides an essential link and an exceptional shortcut between the Olympic Peninsula and Whidbey Island; turning what would be, at best, a 4½-hour drive into a scenic one-hour ferry trip.

The 40-year-old existing structural towers that raise and lower the moveable bridge between the ferry and the Coupeville dock are made of wood and could be damaged during an earthquake. We need to try to fix that so we can keep the route safe for the 787,391 people who use it every year.
The 40-year-old structural towers much be upgraded for safety. The horizontal frame across
the two towers will be removed and then put back into place this weekend.

Why a full closure?
Unlike most of our ferry terminals, Coupeville only has only one slip - with only one moveable transfer span, our name for the bridge to get cars and people on and off the boat. Since last September we've been strengthening its old support columns with unshakable steel beams and piles with no loss of ferry service. However, this last phase of work requires us to temporarily dis-assemble the transfer span towers, making it impossible to support ferry service on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route.
Timber piles that are not seismically retrofitted remain vulnerable and could collapse during a major earthquake. This project, similar to the recent seismic retrofit work at Vashon terminal (above), helps maintain vehicle and pedestrian access between the ferryboat and the terminal in the event of an earthquake.

The tricky part is getting access to the horizontal connector frame connecting the two towers. This weekend, crews will work from a barge to remove the horizontal frame, add steel to the recently installed huge concrete caps on the tops of the towers and then re-strap the connector frame atop the sturdier concrete caps. This way when the ground starts shaking, the headframe and towers have a better chance at staying connected as one unit instead of splintering and crashing to pieces.
In late October, crews worked from a barge to install concrete support blocks
to the top of the vehicle transfer span towers at Coupeville terminal.

There's never a good time to suspend service on a ferry route, however closing the route around the clock for a weekend allows us to complete these necessary safety repairs outside of the work week, and in time for Veteran's Day travel.

Alternate routes and longer wait times
When the Port Townsend/Coupeville route is closed, customers are encouraged to use the Edmonds/Kingston, Mukilteo/Clinton  and Seattle/Bainbridge ferries as alternate routes. Customers traveling on those routes should expect longer wait times due to the extra traffic all routes will likely absorb during the Coupeville terminal closure. WSF will update Twitter and send ferry travel alerts with wait-time information throughout the weekend.

Vehicle reservations between Port Townsend and Coupeville
Because there will be no ferry service on Saturday, Nov. 5, and Sunday, Nov. 6, vehicle reservations have been suspended for travel out of an abundance of caution, reservations also are suspended for Monday, Nov. 7 in case severe weather or unplanned construction delays require work to extend past Sunday night.

We know this closure is going to present a challenge for many of you. It's a difficult task balancing work needs with the needs of travelers. We appreciate your patience and cooperation as we get these critical safety upgrades done.