Wednesday, December 13, 2017

How your express toll lane dollars are spent

By Ethan Bergerson
New financial numbers for the I-405 express toll lanes show that they have raised $44.5 million dollars in their first two years. As directed by the Legislature, money raised on I-405 is used for only two purposes: to cover operating expenses and, most importantly, to invest in improvements to I-405. Of the total, $28.8 million is being used to relieve congestion and improve travel for the people who use I-405 each day.

Let’s take a look at how that money is being spent and what investments we’re planning for the future. And if you’re interested, you can see the full financial reports here.

Most of the toll money goes to improve I-405
When you pay a toll, you’re probably thinking about how much time you’ll save, not how much money tolls are raising for future highway improvements. Two-thirds of the money from every toll is going to help improve performance on I-405.

In April, we invested $11.5 million to build the new peak-use shoulder lane from Canyon Park to Lynnwood. Toll revenue also paid for other improvements, such as a new merge lane in Bothell, which gave drivers space to merge in and out of the express toll lanes without slowing traffic behind them.

Together, these recent improvements have had a positive effect on the northbound afternoon commute. Traffic is flowing more smoothly across all lanes and toll rates went down. Now more people can get home faster whether or not they choose to pay a toll.

What comes next for I-405?
The remaining money is being kept in a dedicated fund specifically for more I-405 improvements, and the Legislature has asked us to study two future projects.

At the Legislature’s direction, we’ve begun working on some early design concepts to reduce congestion between Bothell and Lynnwood by rebuilding the SR 522 interchange. We are also analyzing construction of a new express toll lane in each direction up to SR 527. Ultimately, the Legislature will decide whether toll money should be used to build this project.

Breaking down the operating costs of the lanes
While two-thirds of the revenue generated by the express toll lanes will be invested back into I-405 improvements, the remaining third covers operating costs. Here is a breakdown of the expenses:
  • Seven percent went to customer service
    Our customer service centers, phone line, and online support are based in Puget Sound and help an average of 15,000 people a day. This work is done by Electronic Transaction Consultants, a private vendor based in Texas which employs 120 people in Puget Sound for Good To Go!
  • Four percent for the toll equipment
    This is the cost to operate and maintain the toll equipment. That includes dozens of high-speed infrared spectrum cameras, laser scanners, and radio frequency identification antennas to recognize vehicles. This work was done by Kapsch, an intelligent transportation system design firm which specializes in tolling.
  • 10 percent paid for administrative costs
    About 50 people work in our offices around King County to oversee statewide tolling operations. We manage toll finances, calibrate the traffic management computer system, plan system improvements, communicate with the public, and manage the customer service and toll equipment vendors. This cost is shared between all toll roads, including I-405.
  • Seven percent helped enforce the rules of the road
    About four percent helped pay for Washington State Patrol’s troopers enforcement of the rules of the express toll lanes. Three percent went to the Office of Administrative Hearings which hears disputes from drivers contesting unpaid tolls.
  • Seven percent covered things like credit card fees, postage, and Good To Go! passes
    These costs are only associated with certain transactions, like buying a new pass or a Pay By Mail fee paid by drivers without a Good to Go! account.

How we measure I-405 express toll lanes results

By Ethan Bergerson

A lot has changed in the Puget Sound region since the I-405 express toll lanes opened in 2015. With a new driver moving to the area every six minutes, the population boom poses a huge challenge to all of our roads. Before the express toll lanes opened, there was no way out of traffic on I-405 but now people have a choice for a faster trip when they need it. While I-405 still experiences daily congestion, the express toll lanes are providing a more dependable option than the old HOV lanes could and even people in the regular lanes are moving faster in most areas than they were two years ago, despite there being more vehicles on the road than ever before.
I-405 is moving more people than ever before
The population boom means more vehicles are using every major Puget Sound highway, and none has seen as rapid a growth as I-405 between Bellevue and Bothell. Traffic volumes in this area have increased twice as fast as on I-5 through Seattle, and this section of I-405 is carrying 10 percent more vehicles a day than it did two years ago.

But even with more people, this portion of I-405 is now moving as fast or faster across all lanes than it was two years ago.

How's this possible? We've made dozens of improvements to I-405 since 2015, and we're getting extra mileage out of them because express toll lanes are more efficient than regular lanes when traffic is at its worst. At the height of the peak commute, each express toll lane is carrying 20-30 percent more vehicles than a regular lane in some places, which helps the entire highway flow more smoothly. And when drivers choose to leave the regular lanes to use the express toll lanes instead, they free up space for the other drivers around them. That all means that we're getting a lot more benefit from the new lanes we built in 2015 than if that space had been used for regular lanes instead.

Express toll lanes are working well in many ways
For most parts of I-405, there is no question that the express toll lanes are working a lot better than the old HOV lanes which came before them.

Every day, more than 60,000 drivers choose to use the express toll lanes for a faster trip. About two-thirds of those people are choosing to pay a toll, and a third are riding in the lanes for free in a carpool, motorcycle, or bus.
Support for express toll lanes has also increased. When we surveyed I-405 drivers this summer, about two-thirds of people agreed that they liked the option to use the express toll lanes and believed they reduce congestion for some trips in the regular lanes.

During peak commute times, the average toll is about $3, which typically saves drivers 10-15 minutes (or more when tolls are higher). On average, the express toll lanes move 19 mph faster than the regular lanes going southbound in the mornings, and 23 mph faster than the regular lanes heading northbound in the evenings.

How do we measure success?
One way that we measure success is to look at the percentage of time during peak periods when the express toll lanes are able to move at 45 mph or faster. That's roughly the speed when the system is flowing most smoothly and carrying the greatest number of vehicles at a time. When the express toll lanes opened, the state legislature set a goal that they would move at this speed 90 percent of the time.
By that measurement, the express toll lanes are flowing at least 45 mph about 95 percent of the time in most places. That's a success in most locations, however the area between Bothell and Lynnwood is a bit more complicated. This section of highway has fewer lanes, and when the express toll lanes first opened, they struggled to keep up with population growth in this area. Today, drivers are experiencing a much smoother commute northbound heading home in the afternoons since we made several changes to give drivers more space to merge, improve access points, and build a new peak-use shoulder lane.

But the southbound morning commute from Lynnwood to Bothell is still a big challenge. This area only moves at 45 mph about 63 percent of the time. Moreover, this challenging section brings the overall average for the entire system down to 85 percent, just short of the 90 percent goal. The old HOV lanes only met this standard 56 percent of the time in 2015, so this is a still an improvement compared to two years ago despite all the new cars on the road.

What does this mean for future travel on I-405?
When the express toll lanes were authorized, the Legislature provided two metrics by which to measure the lanes' success during the first two years of operation: that the lanes pay for themselves, and that traffic moves at 45 mph 90 percent of the time during peak travel times. The lanes are meeting the first measure easily, and are coming close to the second. Now that the lanes have been operating for two full years, we're working with legislators to determine the next steps for the express toll lanes.

Changes ahead as new Amtrak Cascades service, Tacoma Dome Station and the Point Defiance Bypass launch on Monday

By Barbara LaBoe

After years of work planning and constructing almost $800 million in passenger train improvements, we're excited to be just days away from saying “All Aboard!” to our new, expanded Amtrak Cascades service.

Starting Monday, Dec. 18, we'll have additional trains running each day and travelers will use our new Amtrak Cascades Tacoma Dome Station in Freighthouse Square for the first time. If you can't wait to see the station, you can watch a video of the station construction online. Our work didn't just take place in Tacoma, though: it involved 20 projects that stretched from Blaine at the northern border of the state all the way down to the Port of Vancouver on the southern border. Tracks and signals were upgraded, stations improved or built, eight new Siemens Charger locomotives purchased and landslide catchment walls added to keep debris from reaching tracks and stopping train service.
Crews install the large, historical interpretive display about Tacoma's train history that is featured in the walkway of our new station. It was developed in conjunction with the Citizens Advisory Committee, which helped develop
the design of the station featuring large windows, wooden beams and terrazzo flooring.

New service = More travel options
The improvements are all geared toward making passenger train travel in Washington more convenient and attractive, including allowing us to add two more daily round trips between Seattle and Portland. This makes it easier to plan day trips on Amtrak Cascades -- whether for business or fun. The improvements also cut travel time between Seattle and Portland and help improve on-time reliability. We, along with the Oregon Department of Transportation, fund and oversee the Amtrak Cascades service, contracting with Amtrak to run the trains on a day-to-day basis. You can learn more about the new times and schedules online, as well book your next trip. You can also book by phone at 1-800-USA-RAIL.
This map of the Point Defiance Bypass -- in orange -- shows the route passenger trains will take in and out of Tacoma starting Dec. 18, including areas that will parallel I-5. It's one of many improvements along the Amtrak Cascades corridor in Washington.

Be alert for changing views
Part of the new service is made possible by trains taking a new route in and out of Tacoma – one that eliminates sharp corners and a single-track tunnel along Point Defiance. The new Point Defiance Bypass route starts in Nisqually and continues into South Tacoma, paralleling Interstate 5 in several areas near DuPont, Lakewood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Tacoma.

Drivers will see the trains along the west side of I-5, so be prepared for the changing views and any other drivers who may be distracted by the passing trains. If you use intersections near I-5 like the Thorne Lane, Berkeley, 41st Division/JBLM Main Gate or Steilacoom-DuPont Road, you'll also want to be alert for signals and crossing arms when trains come through, and you may want to leave a little extra travel time while everyone adjusts to the change.
New Charger locomotives, like this one seen at Seattle's King Street Station, will power the enhanced Amtrak Cascades service. They will run the entire Amtrak Cascades corridor, from Vancouver, British Columbia to Eugene, Oregon.

Stay back from the tracks
As always, please be safe and extra alert around any train tracks. Trains often run in both directions and today's newer engines can't always be heard as they approach. We need motorists and pedestrians to stay off tracks for everyone's safety. Here are some general tips:
  • Do not walk on or near tracks.
  • Do not stop your vehicle on railroad tracks while waiting for traffic.
  • Obey all signals at all times – for both pedestrians and drivers.
  • Wait for crossing arms to go up and/or lights to stop flashing before entering a crossing; trains travel in both directions on the tracks and one may be coming from the opposite direction of another that just passed by.
Need more tips for staying safe near tracks? Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks has you covered – take a look at the train safety video he partnered with us to create as well as a train safety adventure video. Our Stay Back from the Tracks webpage has even more safety information.

Please follow these tips to keep yourself and everyone else safe near train tracks. And starting on Dec. 18, enjoy our expanded service and new station!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Ferries crew recognized for water rescue

Jason Rossi and Wayne Reed shuttle an overturned kayaker to safety in Edmonds on Oct. 20
by Mike Allende

Jason Rossi and Wayne Reed say it was no big deal. Just what they train for and part of their job. OK, that may be true. But, still, it is a big deal.

On Oct. 20, Rossi, Reed and the rest of the crew of the ferry Spokane had just arrived at the Edmonds terminal when the emergency alarm sounded. The alarm alerts crew that a rescue is needed. And indeed, a kayaker had overturned and was in trouble.

The crew sprang into action and Rossi and Reed took their places in the rescue boat. Other crew members helped get the boat lowered into the water. Rossi and Reed then motored to the kayaker, getting him into the rescue boat and taking him to waiting aid crews on shore. The kayaker was treated for hypothermia but was otherwise OK. The entire rescue took about seven minutes.

For their efforts, Reed and Rossi were awarded a Life Ring Award during a ceremony aboard the Spokane on Dec. 7.

"It’s what we train for," Rossi said. "We had great teamwork. You’re always glad when you can help someone in need."

Wayne Reed (left) and Jason Rossi prepare for a water rescue training drill aboard the ferry Spokane.
"We were just doing our job," Reed added. "The rescue we did, it was like second nature because we train for it all the time."

Every ferry crew in our fleet trains every week for a variety of emergency scenarios, including water rescues, fires and medical emergencies. New employees go through a variety of training before they ever begin a shift, everything from first aid to firefighting certification. This year, our ferry crews have responded to 81 rescue/medical emergencies.

"Safety is job No. 1 for us, both for the public and our crews," Assistant Secretary for Ferries Amy Scarton said. "(Secretary of Transportation) Roger Millar and I both went through the training so we saw first hand what our workers go through."

Our ferries crew do a great job of getting the 25 million people who ride every year to their destinations safely, and we’re especially proud of them when they step up and put their safety training into action by helping someone in need. Great job Jason, Wayne and the rest of the Spokane crew!
Assistant Secretary for Ferries Amy Scarton congratulates Jason Rossi (right) and Wayne Reed on receiving Life Ring awards for their effort in rescuing an overturned kayaker in October

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A look back at a busy construction year

By Barbara LaBoe

We’ve completed another year of busy maintenance and construction work. It’s a challenge to schedule all of these projects and also keep traffic moving as well as possible, and we want to once again thank all travelers for their patience and understanding while the work was done.

We need to do much of our work in the summer when our weather is most predictable. Unfortunately that is also a busy travel time and roadwork delays or detours can be frustrating. We do our best to schedule around peak travel times and events, but with so much to do during the dry season, it’s often hard to avoid at least some delays.

The amount of work accomplished each spring and summer is massive and varied – including work improving fish passage through our waterways as well as building roundabouts and making preventative repairs before major problems develop. Here’s a list of some of the most noteworthy work we accomplished this year:

I-5 corridor
I-90 corridor
Ferries
Alaskan Way Viaduct
Passenger Rail
SR 520 Program
Emergency Response
Pavement Preservation
Fish Passage Improvements
Other notable projects

Interstate 5 corridor
  • Near Marysville, we paved seven miles of northbound I-5 and a couple of miles of southbound to improve roadway quality and preserve the highway. Work continues in the southbound lanes in 2018.
  • Our #ReviveI5 pavement rehab project repaved 20 lane miles (five miles of four-lane highway) and replaced 400 concrete panels as well as expansion joints on overpasses and bridges near Tukwila to improve and preserve roadway surface. Work continues next summer.
  • In Tacoma, progress continued on the HOV lanes and several related projects. Crews:
    • Opened three new bridges on northbound I-5, including the new Puyallup River Bridge, and spans over the eastbound SR 16 ramp, I-705 and SR 7.
    • Began construction of the I-5/SR 16 Realignment and Connections project, with work now one-third complete.
    • Realigned and rebuilt ramps to and from SR 7, I-705 and 26th Street.
    • Reopened the A Street ramp to I-705.
    • Opened a new ramp to SR 167 in April.
    • Activated four new ramp meters on southbound I-5 in Tacoma and Fife.
The newly constructed northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge opened this summer, one of three completed as part of the Tacoma/Pierce County HOV project. The SR 167 bridge is in the background.

  • Near Joint Base Lewis-McChord we extended an auxiliary lane on I-5 between Mounts Road and Center Drive near DuPont, which opened to traffic just before Thanksgiving.
  • In Olympia, crews removed and replaced the Pacific Avenue bridge approach slabs and expansion joints.
  • In Chehalis, work to replace the damaged Chamber Way overpass above I-5 began, with construction of a bypass bridge next to the existing structure. The new wider and taller overpass is scheduled to be complete next fall. The bridge was damaged by a semi truck hauling excavators in 2016.
  • Crews replaced expansion joints, installed new waterproof membrane, applied new lane striping and resurfaced bridge decks on the southbound lanes of the North Fork Lewis River Bridge near Woodland and the I-5 railroad bridge south of Kalama.
Interstate 90 corridor
In Spokane, crews replaced expansion joints and concrete approach slabs on I-90.
  • As part of the project to improve a 15-mile section of Interstate 90 from Hyak to Easton over Snoqualmie Pass, crews finished the second of two avalanche bridges in early November, allowing both directions of traffic on the bridges this winter. These elevated bridges should reduce the number of times the road is closed for avalanche prevention work this winter.
  • The second of two arches of the wildlife overcrossing across I-90 near Price Creek also was completed.
  • Near Cle Elum, we replaced 3 miles of 45-year-old concrete in the westbound I-90 lanes.
  • Crews removed approximately 15,000 square feet of material as part of the project to repair three bridge decks in the westbound lanes between the summit of Snoqualmie Pass and North Bend. This project also included replacing deteriorating concrete panels in the eastbound lanes between North Bend and the summit. Crews milled and smoothed more than 87,000 square feet of concrete. 
  • In Spokane, we replaced bridge expansion joints at the Third Avenue Bridge near Liberty Park and the downtown viaduct near Division Street. We also repaired the Third Avenue Bridge deck and approaches.
  • Crews also resurfaced pavement from the Adams County line to the Spokane County line.
Crews removed and replaced approximately 15,000 square feet of material on I-90
bridge decks between North Bend and the summit of Snoqualmie Pass this summer.
Ferries
Crews began building a temporary home for the King County Water Taxi and Kitsap Transit Fast Ferry as part of the overall Coleman Dock Project on the Seattle Waterfront. This work was needed to demolish and rebuild the passenger-only ferry terminal on the south side of the dock.
  • Construction of our fourth Olympic Class ferry, Suquamish, is now about 75 percent complete and passed a significant milestone this fall when it left drydock for the first time. We’ll take delivery of the ferry in July 2018; it’s scheduled to enter service next October.
  • In June, construction began on the first phase of the Seattle Multimodal Terminal at Colman Dock Project to rebuild our aging and seismically vulnerable flagship ferry terminal. Crews began work to replace the 79-year-old wooden dock with a sturdier and safer steel and concrete trestle. The project will be complete in 2023.
  • We also started to prepare the site of the new Mukilteo ferry terminal in September, with crews removing decades-old concrete walls and installing in-water piles for the new trestle. In early 2018, crews will begin installing stormwater utility lines. The new terminal is scheduled to open in 2019.
Alaskan Way Viaduct
Tunneling machine Bertha broke through into the receiving pit in April 2017, a major milestone in the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement project. With Bertha’s work completed, Seattle Tunnel Partners spent the summer dismantling the machine piece-by-piece and hauling away more than 16 million pounds of machinery from the disassembly pit at the tunnel’s north portal. STP also continued building the interior structures inside the tunnel.

Passenger Rail
Work wrapped up on the nearly $800 million federally funded improvement program for our Amtrak Cascades passenger rail service this fall. The multi-year program stretched from Blaine to the Washington/Oregon border and included track and signal upgrades, station improvements, a new route in and out of Tacoma – including a new station -- and new locomotives. The result is two more daily roundtrips between Seattle and Portland starting Dec. 18, as well as shorter travel time between the cites and improved on-time performance.

SR 520 Program

After nearly 3 years of construction, the SR 520 Program delivered a new westbound bridge over Union Bay that links the new floating bridge to Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood.


After nearly three years of construction, the SR 520 Program delivered a new westbound bridge over Union Bay that links the new floating bridge to Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood. The new, 1.2-mile-long West Approach Bridge North meets modern earthquake standards and is built for 75 years of use. We opened the new bridge in stages:
  • In July, we opened a new exit lane and new off-ramps to Lake Washington Boulevard and Montlake Boulevard.
  • In August, the bridge’s mainline opened, which includes two general-purpose lanes, a transit/HOV lane and a full shoulder for disabled vehicles.
  • On Dec. 20, we’ll open the bridge’s bicycle and pedestrian path, extending the new SR 520 regional shared-use path across Lake Washington from the Eastside to Seattle.
Emergency response
In addition to planned construction and maintenance, crews also responded to emergencies such as landslides or road washouts, working on both temporary and permanent repairs.
  • A failed culvert and catastrophic washout on US 395 in Stevens County led to emergency repairs on a 500- by 100-foot deep section of destroyed roadway. The failed culvert also was replaced with a larger, fish-friendly structure.
  • A temporary Bailey bridge was placed over the flood-damaged SR 21 North Fork Sanpoil River Bridge in Eastern Washington.
  • Crews in Seattle and Issaquah responded to landslides near Spokane Street east of I-5 and a debris flow onto I-90. They also responded to a potential slide area on SR 530 near Montague Creek that required a closure until geotechs determined it was safe to reopen. Both SR 11 and SR 410 also had rockfalls that required work to clean up and remove loose rock.
  • Near Newport, a corroded arch support on the SR 25 Columbia River Bridge required emergency repairs and road restrictions for several months.
  • Emergency repairs were also needed on SR 20 Loup Loup Pass after a series of slides, washouts and flooding damaged several sections of roadway. Many hillsides in the area were scarred from previous years’ fires, exacerbating the damage caused by heavy rain.
Pavement preservation work
Besides large projects, we also complete on-going pavement replacement and preservation work each summer, improving road surfaces and extending the life of our roadways.

I-5 bridge resurfacing work near Woodland and Kalama was one of the many pavement and bridge improvement projects our crews completed this summer.

  • We paved, replaced expansion joints and improved road surfaces across the northwest corner of our state, including work in or near Whidbey Island, Sedro-Woolley, Marysville, Renton, Enumclaw and Everett to name just a few. In total for the six-county – Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King, San Juan and Island – area  we paved 247 miles of roadway (including areas where several lanes of one stretch were paved).
  • Further south we repaved 62 miles worth of pavement in Grays Harbor, Kitsap, Pierce and Thurston counties and chip sealed another 146 miles worth of roadway in Clallam, Grays Harbor and Mason counties.
  • In the southwest section of our state we repaved, chip sealed or replaced concrete panels on 495 miles of roadway, as well as other related improvements. This included work on SR 7 between Morton and Elbe and paving work on Padden Parkway (SR 500) in Vancouver.
Crews replaced four culverts under SR 7 near Morton using a “pipe bursting” technique that avoided excavation by breaking and relining, which saved time and money and was better for long-term maintenance.
  • In south central Washington crews also paved approximately 187 lane miles and chip-sealed 214 lane miles in Kittitas, Yakima, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla, Clarkston and Asotin counties.
  • Crews also chip sealed 210 miles on eight highways in Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties in the north central part of the state. That work also included building a two-mile long passing lane on SR 28 at Spanish Orchards, and strengthened the road bed under the new surface of SR 283.
  • On the eastern side of the state we repaved or repaired more than 29 miles of roadway on projects including US 2, SR 270, SR 290, US 395 and SR 904. Work also included turn-lane improvements on US 2 from SR 206 to Day-Mt. Spokane Road.

Crews pave a section of I-5 as part of the #ReviveI5 pavement rehab project between Kent and Tukwila this summer.
Fish passage improvements
We continued to make progress on replacing culverts with larger structures to allow fish to move more freely. More information and a map of all project sites is available on our fish passage website. This year’s work took place at:
  • SR 8 at Wildcat Creek near McCleary
  • US 101 at Matriotti Creek near Sequim
  • SR 112 at Nordstrom Creek in Clallam County
  • I-5 at Fisher Creek in Skagit County
  • SR 202 over Little Bear Creek near Woodinville
  • I-90 at the North Fork Issaquah Creek
  • SR 531 at Edgecomb Creek near Arlington
  • SR 532 at Church Creek near Stanwood.
  • SR 542 at Hedrick Creek In Whatcom County
  • SR 900 at Green Creek near Renton.
Other notable projects
  • In Spokane, work began constructing two US 395 freeway bridges over Freya Street north of Francis Avenue, part of a multi-year improvement project for the North Spokane Corridor in that area. Work will continue into 2019.
  • Several improvements were made to US 12 this summer:
    • From Randall to White Pass we resurfaced 24 miles to extend the life of the highway. A portion completed the chip seal project begun last year, while an area between Packwood and White Pass was repaved a season sooner than planned due to extensive winter pavement damage.
    • Between Packwood and Rimrock we repaired culverts and drainage, repaved 14 miles and removed 1,400 tons of loose rock and material above US 12 near the Rimrock Tunnel.
  • Two projects on US 2 improved and resurfaced the roadway:
    • Eight miles of roadway were repaved starting just west of Fern Bluff Road in Sultan and ending near Tenth Street in Gold Bar.
    • Three segments of roadway – nearly 17 miles total – were resurfaced between Gold Bar and Skykomish.
  • On US 195 from Colfax to Spangle we added a passing lane in each direction near Steptoe.
  • We added roundabouts at the SR 150 and No See-Um Road intersection near Chelan as well as the SR 28 and Fifth Street intersection in East Wenatchee to improve traffic flow and reduce collisions.
  • Crews on the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge adjusted and aligned guide rollers used to operate the drawspan for marine traffic. Workers also will replace worn gearboxes and hydraulic hoses as part of this important preservation work.
  • The two Sol Doc River Bridges north of Forks on US 101 were cleaned and got fresh coats of evergreen paint, protecting the bridges from the elements.
  • We constructed a stabilizing rock buttress wall and resurfaced two damaged sections of roadway located at the far west end of SR 112 near Sekiu.
The majority of our work is done for the year, but we’re already planning for next year’s construction and preservation work. We’ll once again be out and about preserving or improving many areas and we ask you to remember to slow down and stay alert anytime you’re in a work zone. We want to keep you and our workers safe – and to focus on the work that makes traveling safer and more efficient for everyone.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Construction brings sailing schedule adjustments on Seattle-based routes

By Broch Bender

Although we haven't done this since Hammer pants were hip and Amazon only sold books, starting January 7, 2018, the sailing schedule on our Seattle/Bainbridge and Seattle/Bremerton routes will change. Due to construction on Colman Dock, several sailings to and from of our flagship ferry terminal in Seattle will depart 5-15 minutes earlier or later than they currently do.
With nearly a quarter of the 500 steel piles needed to support the state's busiest ferry terminal
firmly in the ground, we're making good headway building your new Colman Dock.

Soon after the New Year, construction to make Colman Dock safer in a major earthquake will shift from pile driving work to demolishing a portion of the Seattle terminal building. The terminal will remain open during the work, with no cuts to service, but the building will be much smaller and will not have enough space to accommodate passengers leaving for more than one destination at a time.

The new sailing schedule in and out of Colman Dock staggers trips so that only one ferry arrives and departs at a time. This way, there's plenty of room to hold a boat's worth of travelers inside the smaller terminal building.
Find out if your sailing departure time is changing in January 2018

Learn more online, or join us at one of our sailing schedule drop-in events this month.
Pick up a copy of the 2018 Winter Sailing schedule at the terminal or on the ferry

Holiday travel and more Winter 2018 route changes

Before you make merry, check the time of your ferry.

Some ferry routes operate on a holiday schedule on Christmas (Dec. 25) and New Year's Day (Jan. 1). Since New Year's Eve falls on a Sunday this year, your sailing may also be on a Sunday or weekend timetable as well.

Last, but not least: It's not just the Seattle routes that change on Jan. 7. As tourist season goes into brief hibernation for the winter, there will be fewer sailings on our Anacortes/San Juan Islands route and ferry service to Sidney, BC will be suspended until spring.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Start planning your route: SR 520 bicycle and pedestrian trail to open across Lake Washington Dec. 20

By Ben Lennon

This is it!

In less than three weeks, the SR 520 Trail for bikes and pedestrians will extend across Lake Washington! Crews are completing the final touches on the path’s newest section over Union Bay in Seattle and at 3 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 20, the trail will open to the public. So grab your walking shoes and bike helmets (and maybe rain jackets too) and get ready to enjoy the new connection between the Eastside and Seattle.

A long time coming
A trail across Lake Washington has long been contemplated on SR 520. When discussions about reconstructing SR 520 began in the late 1990s, the idea to include a bicycle/pedestrian path quickly gained traction. Feedback from the community during the planning stages made clear a bike and pedestrian facility should be an important part of the project.

Everyone’s welcome
The trail is designed for users of all abilities, from the casual or serious rider, to pedal-powered commuters, to walkers out to savor the sunset or gaze at Mount Baker and Mount Rainier. Along the 2.7-mile trail above the lake, you’ll find 11 viewpoints, perfect places to take a break and enjoy the scenery surrounding Lake Washington. The trail is 14 feet wide, which allows for a comfortable mix of bicyclists and pedestrians. A concrete barrier provides safe separation between trail users and the bridge’s vehicle traffic.
The view from one of the SR 520 Trail’s viewpoints

We’ve heard from a few bike riders that the cover plates on the new floating bridge’s expansion joints cause a “bump” when crossed. These half-inch-thick plates are needed to support the weight of fire trucks and aid vehicles in case of emergencies. The plates also must support the load of our large, specialized trucks that use the path for under-bridge inspections.

WSDOT’s specialized sweeper, Broom Hilda, will be utilized to keep the trail clean.


Please use caution when riding over the cover plates. We’re placing yellow paint at each expansion joint to alert path users of the plates. And for everyone’s safety, keep your speed under 15 mph.

#WhereWillYouGo?
With the trail opening in just a few weeks, it’s time to start planning your routes! To help your planning, we put together a few maps of suggested routes. All along each route, you’ll find beautiful views, open green spaces, lively neighborhoods and fantastic regional trail connections.

Maybe you’ll enjoy both of the floating bridge paths along SR 520 and I-90, and ride approximately 20 miles to finally complete the box!



Or perhaps you want to check out the north end of Lake Washington with this route, which is about 27 miles. (If you rotate it counter-clockwise and squint, it kind of looks like a shoe – okay, that might be a stretch.)



If you’re feeling really daring, might we suggest our favorite? The “520,” made up of three different routes that total about 84 miles:


Heads up – these routes are for inspirational purposes only and may not follow well-established routes. Follow at your own risk (and compass)!

No matter which way you go, we hope you enjoy this new community asset. This trail has been a long time in the making and we can’t wait to see you out crossing the lake!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Skagit River power: Rebuilding a section of road following November flooding

By Andrea E. Petrich

Many people in Skagit and Whatcom counties spent their holiday weekends dealing with flooding, flooding and more flooding as rising temperatures melted snow and the rain just kept falling. Homeowners weren't the only ones affected. Our crews were out throughout the weekend to help clear water from roadways, remove fallen trees and to make sure the highways were safe for travelers.
SR 20 at milepost 101 on Thanksgiving as flood waters from the Skagit River crested over the highway and concrete barrier.

The hardest hit area for us was on SR 20 east of Rockport. The high and rushing water in the Skagit River scoured out riprap along the bank, pulling material from under the road, collapsing part of the highway and sending traffic barriers into the water. We dispatched maintenance, construction and environmental crews to the site and they closed down the right (eastbound) lane, assessed safety concerns and worked to determine a fix.

What's happening now?
  • A temporary signal is alternating traffic through this area in the westbound lane.
  • Our maintenance crews are on scene 24/7.
  • Our Mount Vernon project office is working to get a contractor mobilized to the scene.
A 20 foot section of SR 20 was severely damaged during Nov. 2017 Skagit River scouring. The river also
moved nearly 100 yards of additional bank material that will need to be built back up.
This area was rebuilt about 20 years ago to protect the highway.

What's next?
  • The contractor is expected to take over the site from our maintenance team Tuesday night.
  • On Wednesday they will start work to replace washed-out riprap and repair the road.
  • Crews will work daylight hours, 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, Dec. 3 this week.
  • Crews hope to wrap up this work before Christmas.
Looking west down SR 20 from milepost 101 and downstream of the scoured area. In 2014 WSDOT contractor crews
did a project to protect the road in a critical area just downstream. The area damaged in 2017
wasn't included in that 2014 project because it was stable at that time.

While not many people travel this stretch this time of year, we know it's an important route for those who live or work in Marblemount as well as a favorite stretch used by many in the summer and other adventurers year-round. We've been getting plenty of questions since the incident began so here's some answers to the most popular:
  • Why is it going to take so long?
    We don't have a precise measurement of how deep or wide the scoured area is so the amount of material needed is still unknown. It will take time to place each rock where it's needed in the scour hole. The weather is also not on our side and this is work that needs to be done in the daylight, which there isn't a lot of this time of year. This is also a remote location and getting the needed material here will take time.
  • Didn't you just do a project here?
    We did a project in 2014 downstream from this area. The river was threatening the road so we received emergency federal funds to protect the highway.
  • Well, why didn't you just protect this area then?
    This neighboring area was stable during the 2014 project. We received emergency federal funds for that project and couldn't spend money on an area that wasn't directly impacted at that time.
  • How many drivers does this affect?
    Our traffic counts for this stretch of road are determined during the peak season (when the North Cascades Highway is open across the mountains). During that time, 2,200 vehicles used this stretch each day.
  • What sort of delays should I expect if I live in the area?
    Crews will be using the washed-out lane as a work zone, leaving one lane to be shared by both eastbound and westbound travelers. Those who need to travel through this section should expect up to 30 minutes of delay daily between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Flaggers will be on scene alternating traffic through the area and, for everyone's safety, will hold traffic on both sides during certain work. Delays outside of those times should be less, depending on traffic volumes, as you'll just need to wait for the traffic light to cycle through.
  • How are crews planning to fix it?
    Crews will replace the riprap the river washed away. They will start by placing 6-foot diameter rocks in the water until the underwater area/bank is built back up. Once they've got those placed, they will add smaller rocks behind and atop that - and so on - until all the riprap that was there is replaced. They will then rebuild the road over that washed out stretch, put asphalt down and redo striping – work that is weather dependent.
  • How long will that fix last?
    That depends on the river. Geologists believe the event that scoured this section was part of a 5-year-flood. This section was last repaired in a similar manner about 20 years ago, which gives some indication of how long this repair should last. We will be looking at ways, and funding, to keep this area from being scoured in the future. That said, Mother Nature and this river is more powerful and doesn't always do what is expected.
  • How are you paying for this?
    We are in the process of requesting federal emergency funding for this repair. Costs right now are being paid through state dollars.
View more photos of Thanksgiving flooding on the Flickr album.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Making Thanksgiving travel as easy as (pumpkin) pie

Ally Barrera

The countdown is on to Thanksgiving! Hopefully you’re not like me and still have to do your grocery shopping for Thursday’s feast. It’s safe to say, I’m a little stressed.

Thankfully, my Thanksgiving travels won’t be adding to my stress. That’s because I’ve been preparing for what is sure to be a busy holiday weekend on the roads.

Be like me, and plan ahead with these helpful tools for smooth holiday travel:
The Apple Cup is also this weekend, which means a lot of fans will be trekking across the mountain passes. If you are, or know someone who is, one of those fans, check out the video below that explains what to expect when you hit the road for the big game.


For more information and tips for a stress-free weekend, check out our Thanksgiving travel news release. We are thankful for your support and hope you have a happy holiday season!

Monday, November 20, 2017

They’re here! New Amtrak Cascades locomotives now riding the rails

By Barbara LaBoe

All aboard! Starting this week our new state-of-the-art Amtrak Cascades locomotives are rolling on the tracks from Vancouver, British Columbia to Eugene, Oregon.

The eight Siemens Charger locomotives are significant upgrades from our existing machines. They meet the strictest Environmental Protection Agency emission standards and are lighter and quieter. They also provide greater rates of acceleration and top speeds even though they’ll only be travelling up to 79 mph on our route. In addition, the locomotives include computerized on-board positive train control safety equipment, which will automatically stop the train when there are dangerous situations on the rails, once the system is activated corridor-wide next year. The locomotives, which boast 16-cylinder, 4,400 horsepower Cummins engines, also will be more reliable than the existing aging fleet and will be used on all routes.
Our new locomotives, seen here at King Street Station earlier this year, started running this week.
The Charger locomotives feature the traditional Amtrak Cascades colors along with WSDOT
and ODOT logos, for the two states that support the service.

The public got a peek at the new locomotives during a May unveiling at Seattle’s King Street Station. Since then they’ve been undergoing field modifications and acceptance testing to ensure everything operates safely on our corridor. They’re now ready for their official debut in revenue service and will be phased in to all Amtrak Cascade routes during the next few weeks.

The American-made locomotives feature the traditional evergreen, cappuccino and cream Amtrak Cascades colors, along with logos from Washington and Oregon -- the two states that jointly own and manage the Amtrak Cascades service. The paint colors, inspired by the Pacific Northwest, coordinate with the exterior paint on the existing Amtrak Cascades trainsets (passenger and baggage cars) used throughout the Amtrak Cascades system.
This interior shot of one of our eight new locomotives shows the locomotive control panel during initial testing.

All the Amtrak Cascades trains operate in a push-pull configuration that allows them to make a roundtrip without turning the train around. Initially, the trains will run with a new locomotive at one end and an older locomotive on the other end. This is part of the final process to break in the locomotives. Therefore, sometimes you’ll see the new locomotives pulling the train from the front and, at other times, they’ll be pushing the train from the back. The existing Amtrak F-59 locomotives will be phased out of service on this corridor over the next year.

The locomotives are just one part of a nearly $800 million investment in passenger train service in Washington state. We oversaw 20 federally funded projects throughout Washington, ranging from new tracks in Blaine, near the international border, that let passenger trains move more quickly around freight customs inspections to a new train trench at the Port of Vancouver that separates passenger trains from freight trains. In between are numerous projects and improvements to tracks, signals and even catchment walls to help prevent landslides from reaching the tracks and stopping train service. The work also includes the new Point Defiance Bypass route and station in Tacoma opening on Dec. 18. Together these projects will allow Amtrak Cascades to:
  • Add two daily roundtrips between Seattle and Portland
  • Reduce travel time between Seattle and Portland
  • Improve on-time reliability
The new locomotives were unveiled to the public in May at Seattle’s King Street Station
and are now moving into service along the Amtrak Cascades corridor.
The additional trips – one in the morning and another in evening each direction – mean heading to Portland for a quick business meeting or Seattle for a fun day trip will be easier and all travelers will now have more options.

So, the next time you catch a train, or just see one passing by, take an extra moment to check out the new face of Amtrak Cascades.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Help us design the official state airport kiosk

By Christina Crea

There’s something exciting about airports. Whether you’re about to fly to your destination or have just landed, a new adventure is about to begin. It’s also a great place to gather your thoughts and make plans for your next step, or flight…

However, in order to plan your next adventure, it helps if there’s easily-accessed information available at the airport.

Wait a minute, what does WSDOT have to do with aviation? Glad you asked! We actually have an aviation division that manages 16 of the 136 public-use airports in the state, including Bandera State Airport in the North Bend area, Ranger Creek State Airport near Enumclaw and Skykomish State Airport.

Just as with our roads and ferries, it’s important that we help the aviation community have as much information as possible. Having standardized kiosks in our public-use airports – that is, airports open to the general public without required prior approval from the airport owner or operator – that  have information about our state attractions, services and amenities has long been a goal of our aviation community.



We’ve listened – and now we’re excited to announce that our aviation division is partnering with the Washington State Aviation Alliance (WSAA) for a statewide airport kiosk design competition. That’s where you come in.

We need your help in getting the word out to talented people or groups who can create innovative kiosk designs. Show us your creativity and your concept could be greeting the tens of thousands of travelers who pass through 136 public-use airports each year.

The goal is to have an attractive outdoor kiosk to showcase information in as many public-use airports as possible. The information would include local attractions, landmarks, restaurants, lodging and other points of interest. There will also be information about services and amenities available at the airport.

This is a great opportunity for community, aviation or scout groups, school classes, college students or just a creative individual to show us their creativity and see their idea become the official Washington state airport kiosk!

Bandera State Airport near North Bend is one of 16 airports that our aviation division manages.

Contest Rules

Who is eligible?
All Washington state residents are eligible (proof of residency needed if you’re selected as one of the winners to create a prototype). Designs can be submitted as individuals or groups.
Examples of groups include, but aren’t limited to: Aviation groups (WPA/EAA/RAF/WASAR and similar local aviation groups); school groups; community groups; youth and scouting organizations; community service groups; airport employees.

What we’re looking for:
No, you don’t have to send us an actual kiosk. Instead, submit drawings, pictures and material lists on 8 ½” x 11” paper. Be as detailed as possible, including colors. All designs must be submitted by Dec. 31, 2017.

Submit your entries to:
Email: plattst@wsdot.wa.gov
Mail:
WSDOT Aviation Division
7702 Terminal Street
Tumwater, WA 98501

Design elements to consider:
  • Kiosks will be stained or painted so show us what colors you have in mind.
  • It rains here, so design a way to keep informational materials out of the weather.
  • It should provide limited shelter from the weather for the viewer.
  • Incorporate a box to keep a sign-in notebook and other materials out of the weather.
  • Contain WSDOT logo and colors (email creac@wsdot.wa.gov to get a copy of the logo and color palette).
Construction requirements:
  • Must be as easy as possible to fabricate.
  • Can be constructed with commonly available power and hand tools.
  • Materials must be commonly available from local hardware and lumber stores.
  • Materials must be weather resistant/proof.
  • Design should incorporate informational text panel ideas.
  • Minimum dimensions: 15-square-foot display area.
  • Cost of construction: Relatively low cost in the range of $1,000 - $2,000 is preferred.
How will we pick?
The top three designs as chosen by the general public in an online poll running from Jan. 2-14, 2018, will be funded to fabricate a kiosk prototype for display and voting. To stay updated and vote online visit www.wsaa.aero/kioskcompetition.

The three prototypes will be displayed and eligible for voting at the Northwest Aviation Conference and Tradeshow in Puyallup Feb. 24-25, 2018. The winner will be announced at the end of February with construction beginning on the kiosks in May.

Remember, the deadline to submit your designs is Dec. 31. Be detailed, be creative and have fun. More information can be found at www.wsaa.aero/kioskcompetition or send questions to plattsm@wsdot.wa.gov.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Don’t get caught in the snow: Know your priority routes

By Tamara Greenwell

Are you ready for winter weather? Our maintenance crews have been preparing for several months, long before the first snowflake hits the pavement, and are ready to go. We’ve readied our equipment, trained new members of our crews and filled our salt and deicer stockpiles.
Our maintenance crews have been working for months to prepare for the winter.

But responding to snow and ice situations on the highways is more than just being ready to roll. It's a balancing act between the forces of nature, available crews and keeping equipment running. While we work 24/7 during snow and ice events, we can’t be everywhere at once.

A lot of ground to cover
  • Statewide we have approximately 500 plow and dump trucks.
  • These trucks need to cover more than 20,000 lanes miles.
  • To efficiently treat roadway surfaces during snow and ice events, our trucks travel about 25-35 miles per hour.
Snowplows typically move 25-35 mph to safely remove snow off highways, like SR 504 in Toutle in this picture.

During many storms, snow continues to fall for hours and sometimes days, so a single pass with a plow isn’t enough to keep snow and ice from building up on the highway. We use advanced weather forecasting to predict where snow and ice will accumulate, and use the information to pre-treat high traffic corridors. The anti-icing chemicals we apply help prevent frost and ice from bonding to the pavement.
Once snow has started falling and accumulating, we switch to a salt pre-wet with a corrosion-inhibited liquid deicer that helps snow and ice to melt, making it easier to remove with snowplows – but it takes time to work.

Priorities
Just as no two snowflakes are the same, no two winter storms are alike. As a guide to strategically deploy our resources, equipment and supplies during inclement weather, priority levels are assigned to all of the highways we maintain. The determination is based on the following factors:
  • The number of vehicles that use the highway each day
  • Steep hills, sharp curves, intersections or ramps
  • Access to emergency services, schools, businesses and freight routes

For a closer look at the priority snow and ice routes near you, check out these maps.

What do the colors mean?

Purple
Our highest-priority routes as our primary focus is to keep interstate corridors open. Interstate 5 is the busiest roadway on the west coast and is vital for moving people and goods to support the economy. From the onset of an event, our goal is to keep at least a single lane open in each direction and work towards bare and wet pavement across all lanes.

Blue
These are important intercity and local routes, which carry between 20,000 and 80,000 vehicles per day. These stretches of highway include many of the east/west routes like sections of US 2, US 12 and SR 14.

Green
These routes generally carry fewer than 20,000 vehicles a day. The priority levels of some of the green highways change, as the number of people using the highway and geography changes, like US 101 near Discovery Bay.

Orange
Winter climates differ greatly on either side of the Cascades. You’ll likely notice more orange routes in Eastern Washington, like SR 21. That’s because snowfall and freezing temps often occur throughout the winter on the east side of the Cascades. Our priority is to keep traffic moving under normal expected winter conditions for the 5,000 to 10,000 vehicles that use these roadways daily.

Red
Less than 5,000 vehicles use these routes per day. Some of these roads, like the upper reaches of SR 504 on Mount St. Helens, are often closed during the winter months.

Black
We partner with agencies around the state to manage sections of highways which pass through many cities and counties.

Winter weather response is our single most expensive maintenance activity, making up almost 20 percent of the entire maintenance budget. Our snow and ice plan is a holistic approach to shifting our limited resources to where the highest number of people and vehicles are located to keep traffic flowing.
Our highest priority in snow events is keeping I-5 running, which typically
means clearing at least one lane like this in Vancouver.

We need your help
Removing snow and ice off state highways takes time and our resources are limited. During periods of relentless snow and ice, we may not have enough crews or trucks to treat some of our lesser-traveled highways – even with crews working around the clock. Heavy traffic can delay snow and ice cleanup as plowing and deicing isn’t possible if vehicles are blocking the roadway.
Knowing the plowing priorities along your route can help you plan your trips, including knowing to expect winter conditions on certain roads or possibly delaying travel during particularly heavy storms.

Making the choice to travel during inclement weather is different for everyone. It only takes one crash or stalled vehicle to jam up the system for hours. Make the best decision for you, your family and all the other folks on the road by planning ahead.
  • Allow extra time to reach your destination
  • Be aware of changing weather conditions
  • Ensure your vehicle is in good working order and has appropriate tires for winter travel
  • Pack winter driving supplies in your vehicle
  • Check road conditions before traveling and carry chains
  • If you do decide to travel during a snow and ice event, drive for the conditions and to your capabilities
  • Remember to:
    • Slow down
    • Give road crews plenty of room to work
    • Leave extra space between you and the vehicle in front of you
    • Give yourself extra room to stop
Plowing highways helps but drivers also need to be prepared to slow down and be cautious in snow and ice.

Cities and counties throughout the state often post their priority routes on their web pages. Knowing which of the roads you travel get the highest level of service can help you develop a winter weather travel plan.

While Thursday, Dec. 21, marks the official start to winter, we’ve already seen snow and freezing temperatures effect our highways, cropping up seemingly out of nowhere with little warning. We’ve got our plans in place to respond, and establishing your own plan now will help you know before you go when it snows.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Help our IRT drivers help keep you safe on the roads

By Barbara LaBoe

Our Incident Response Team drivers have to be able to do a little bit of everything out on the road. These traffic superheroes have to be part mechanic, part problem solver and part guardian angel as they drive our state roadways day in and day out. Their mission? Help keep traffic moving while keeping everyone involved – themselves, passing motorists and owners of crashed or disabled vehicles – safe.
IRT driver Brian Farrar carries a variety of tools in his truck, including jumper cables to help disabled or damaged vehicles.


This is National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, so we thought we’d share a little of what our IRT drivers do. I recently spent a day following along several drivers and here’s a list of just some of their tasks:
  • Changing flat tires as traffic zooms by just inches away. Recently they’ve also been showing some pickup truck drivers the new way some spare tires are suspended with cables that require special keys or tools to release. (One driver was ready to take a hammer to his truck until our driver showed him the trick).
  • Providing free gas. (No, they will not fill up your tank; they give you enough to get to the next gas station).
  • Chopping up trees that have fallen into the roadway. (They carry chainsaws and axes among their gear).
  • Directing traffic around crash scenes to keep other emergency responders safe and prevent other crashes. (They use cones, flags, flares, signs and flashing display boards as needed.)
  • Responding to crime scenes on roadways. Our drivers have dodged bullets, responded to vehicles with active meth labs in the trunk and one even emerged from under a vehicle to find it surrounded by officers with guns drawn because the driver was wanted by police.
  • Scanning bridge expansion joints, guardrails and highway signs on a regular basis to report any problems they see starting to develop. This helps maintenance make repairs before something becomes an emergency.
  • Siphoning off diesel fuel from an overturned semi truck’s gas tanks to reduce the chance of a spill or explosion.
  • Pushing or pulling disabled or damaged vehicles out of traffic to the shoulder or nearest exit to help reopen roads quickly.
  • Moving debris and other material out of the roadway. (Once, crews even helped someone retrieve a pair of dentures that flew out a car window during a coughing fit).

No easy task
The IRT drivers patrol a given area throughout the day, concentrating on known of areas of congestion unless they’re called to an incident. They’re also dispatched to crashes or disabled vehicles by the Washington State Patrol.
IRT Supervisor Kathy Vatter’s truck was damaged earlier this year when a driver plowed into it at the scene of an earlier crash. Luckily Kathy jumped out of the way and wasn’t injured, but our truck was totaled.


It’s a tough job. And dangerous. Earlier this year one of our IRT supervisors, Kathy Vatter, had to jump over a guardrail to dodge a vehicle that slammed into her truck so hard it totaled the vehicle. Luckily, Kathy wasn’t hurt, but we have far too many of these close calls each year.

So why do they do it? Drivers said their job is active and never boring. It’s a challenge to figure the best way to clear a complicated crash scene. But, mostly, the drivers all said they like helping people and seeing them get on their way safely.
Brian Farrar of our IRT group checks an abandoned vehicle to make
sure no one needed help before notifying the State Patrol.


“I get to help people very day,” said Zach Forrest, who joined IRT about two years ago.

“And people are really appreciative,” added Brian Farrar.

Safety is at the root of both the IRT program and our overall Traffic Incident Management program, which works with many emergency response agencies to safely clear road crashes or hazards efficiently while also preventing secondary crashes.
IRT driver Brian Farrar keeps an eye out for emergencies while patrolling the Olympia-Tacoma region.


We need your help
Our IRT drivers help people every shift, but we also need help from the public to keep everyone safe and moving. Here are some of the top tips IRT drivers said they’d like to share with travelers:

  • Leave extra space between you and the vehicle in front of you – following too closely is a major factor in roadway crashes.
  • Slow down and move over to the next lane if possible whenever you see an IRT driver at work on the shoulder. Not only is that state law, it helps keep everyone safe and cuts down on secondary crashes.
  • Keep your fuel tank full and your vehicle in good working order – prevention is key in avoiding breakdowns
  • Call 911 if you break down on the roadway or are in a collision. Emergency dispatchers work with our IRT trucks as well as towing companies to get you help quickly and this is an appropriate use of 911. It’s safer for everyone to let the trained IRT staff change your tire than attempting it yourself.
  • Always obey emergency signs, including reduced speed limits. Remember, no missed meeting, flight or other event is worth risking your life or the life of others.

Battery-operated flares help our IRT crews mark off closures without having to worry about flares burning out.


Bottom line, our overall Traffic Incident Management program is about saving lives. The lives of someone broken down on the side of the road, the lives of passing motorists and the lives of our workers and all emergency responders. Please help us honor their work this week – and every week – by doing your part to help everyone make it home safely each night.