Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Perfect Recipe for Weekend Traffic

by Ally Barrera

Did you know that weekend traffic is a lot like baking? You need to plan things out in advance, have a lot of patience and be prepared for some setbacks.

But just like that first bite of that fresh-out-of-the-oven cookie, cupcake, or brownie, reaching your final destination is oh, so, sweet.

This weekend, construction and major events are creating the perfect recipe for packed highways and travel delays. To get you ready, check out our latest video on what could slow you down on the roads. Warning: you may want to eat a cupcake afterward.


In the Seattle area:

  • Seahawks vs. Vikings, 7 p.m. Friday, CenturyLink Field
  • Hempfest, all day Friday to Sunday, Myrtle Edwards Park
  • Tom Petty, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Safeco Field
  • Sounders vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m. Sunday, CenturyLink Field
  • #ReviveI5, 8 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, northbound I-5 between SR 516 and Southcenter
  • Montlake Bridge full closure, 10 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday
On the Eastside:
  • I-90 Bellevue Way ramp closures, 5:30 a.m. Saturday to 9 p.m. Sunday
  • Incubus concert, 6:45 p.m. Saturday, White River Amphitheatre
  • Woodinville Festival, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
  • I-405 overnight lane and ramp closures, all weekend, Totem Lake and Renton
Snoqualmie Pass:
  • Zac Brown Band concert, 7 p.m. Saturday, Gorge
  • WSU Move-in Weekend, all weekend, Pullman
  • Gigantic Bicycle Festival, Friday to Sunday, Snoqualmie
Up North:
  • SR 532 Church Creek full closure
  1. Mix ingredients until just combined for packed roadways and slower travel times.
  2. Bake in 75 degree mostly sunny weather.
  3. While baking, prepare yourself by checking the WSDOT Mobile App, the WSDOT traffic twitter accounts, or our website.
  4. Once baked, give yourself extra travel time before enjoying your destinations.
There is still plenty of other things happening this weekend that could impact your weekend travel. Below we have the latest edition of our popular Microsoft Paint maps, along with a list of other notable events.

  • Seattle Storm vs. San Antonio Stars, 7 p.m., KeyArena
  • Bryson Tiller concert, 8 p.m., WaMu Theater
  • BIG3 basketball tournament, 2 p.m., KeyArena
  • Skagit Powersports Monkey Butt 300 motorcycle ride, all day, Skagit County

Last minute Eclipse Tips

By Barbara LaBoe

With just a few days until the Great American Solar Eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, are you ready?

Whether you're traveling to Oregon to see the total solar eclipse, checking out the partial eclipse here in Washington or just going about your normal errands you'll likely notice different traffic patterns this weekend and on Monday. Central Oregon was already seeing traffic backups and fuel shortages Wednesday evening at the start of an eclipse festival. With up to 1 million people expected to travel to Oregon, we expect increased traffic throughout our state as people make their way there and back.

If any significant congestion or closures happen, we'll post details here.
This NASA map shows the Path of Totality through Oregon during Monday's eclipse. Expect heavy traffic this
weekend through Tuesday as people in Washington make their way to and from the viewing sites.

So, how bad will traffic be? What's the best route? And when is the best time to leave? Unfortunately, we don't have a crystal ball. This isn't an event where people buy tickets or register travel plans. Based on hotel and campground registrations and anecdotal information about people's plans, though, we do expect traffic to be heavier than normal throughout the weekend as well as Monday and Tuesday as people return.
Follow these tips from our friends at the Illinois Department of Transportation
to help stay safe during Monday's solar eclipse.

Whether you're traveling to the eclipse or just through your hometown, please remember:
  • Do not stop in roadways or on the shoulder to view the eclipse. This is illegal and unsafe and could delay emergency vehicles from doing their job.
  • Give yourself extra travel time or alter travel times if possible.
  • If traveling to the eclipse, bring extra water, food and other necessary supplies. You may be in your vehicle longer than normal and you need to be prepared.
  • Have a plan. Trying to attend the eclipse last minute is not a good idea and likely will be unsuccessful given expected heavy traffic.
  • Stay informed. Use our tools such as the WSDOT app, travel alerts page, Twitter accounts and this blog to stay in the know.
There's certainly a lot of excitement about the eclipse, but please prepare and stay safe so that everyone can enjoy the experience.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sinkhole success story

By Andrea E. Petrich

A couple of different sinkholes have closed down our roads this summer. One of the most recent, on Monday, July 31, 2017, was on State Route 534, which runs for about five miles through Skagit County near Lake McMurray and Camp Korey. While small, this road is very important to those who live and work in the area. It is a busy truck route and connects neighbors in the Lake McMurray area and along SR 9 with I-5.

This sinkhole started as what might be described as a dimple in the road. A little sunken area that most of us probably wouldn't have noticed. Luckily our maintenance teams did, though! Lead technician Doug Knott, and his team were heading to a project on SR 534 when they noticed that the area just didn't look right. They stopped to investigate and quickly realized that this little void wasn't quite so little.

The crew closed the road and coordinated with our communications staff to get the word out to the public about this closure. It was important that we let travelers know quickly that the detour during the repair was expected to last most of the day.

Then Doug and his team got to work. They opened up the dimple, revealing the sinkhole, and then kept digging.

They determined that the issue was a leaking culvert right under the highway that was washing away the roadbed, leaving nothing for the asphalt to sit on.

The crew dug up all the damaged area and prepared for a temporary repair. They moved in gravel to fill the area and then added asphalt back to the road.

Thanks to Doug and his crew for their sharp eyes and hard and quick work. They were able to reopen the road in less than five hours and while we know some folks were forced to take that long detour, the quick work by the team meant that afternoon commuters didn't need to alter their routes.

There is still a dip in the road where the temporary repair is so you may see signs warning drivers to slow down and be ready for it.

Now plans are being made for a permanent repair which we don't have work hours scheduled yet, but I'll let you know when we do.

Digging into a different way to move dirt

By Victoria Miller

If you drive on Interstate 405 near downtown Renton, you may have noticed a lot of activity happening on the hillside to the south of the freeway.

You may have even asked yourself, "What is that funny looking machine hanging over I-405?" Well, we have been hard at work this spring and summer constructing the I-405/SR 167 Interchange Direct Connector Project. We've already completed some early milestones, such as relocating a noise wall to protect our neighbors from construction noise and shifting traffic to create safe work zones.
In early July, we began mass excavation of the hillside near the Talbot Hill neighborhood. We have been moving dirt in this area to prepare once again to shift lanes of northbound I-405 to the south and create space for the future flyover ramp.
But this isn't your average dirt-moving project. Originally, the mass excavation was scheduled to take approximately three months. Trucks would have been hauling 80,000 cubic yards of dirt 24 hours a day, seven days a week through city and neighborhood streets. That is equal to 2,500 truckloads or eight Goodyear blimps of dirt!
An innovative way of moving dirt on our I-405/SR 167 project is saving time, money and fuel.

Instead, the contractor came up with a creative alternative. The team cut out a hole in an existing retaining wall and installed a conveyor belt, that funny looking machine that was hanging over I-405, which loaded dump trucks with dirt and allowed them to exit on Smithers Avenue South via northbound I-405, avoiding driving the whole route through city and neighborhood streets.

We realize that construction can be an inconvenience for drivers and nearby residents, which is why we're always looking for ways to minimize effects that people experience from our projects. By carrying out this innovative plan, our contractor saved approximately a week and a half of time, minimized construction noise and traffic issues on neighborhood streets, and conserved fuel.

The next construction activity you will see is crews repaving roughly six miles of southbound SR 167. Then we will move on to setting girders for a new I-405 bridge over Talbot Hill and the first stages of work to help improve fish passage in this area, which are scheduled to begin sometime next spring.

For the latest construction closure information, please visit our I-405 Construction Updates page and our King County Construction Updates page.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Support for the I-405 express toll lanes is growing

By Ethan Bergerson

When the I-405 express toll lanes opened nearly two years ago, it stirred up a lot of strong feelings. But we had learned from feedback about the SR 167 HOT lanes that public support would improve with time. Though some drivers continue to express frustration, over time we’ve heard more and more positive comments about the express toll lanes as well.

I-405 drivers tell us what they really think
We wanted to hear directly from customers, so we visited the Bellevue Good To Go! customer service center to talk to I-405 drivers and ask what they thought about the express toll lanes.
We heard a mix of opinions. Some customers said the express toll lanes worked great and they liked having the option, and others said they didn’t see the benefit and only used them when they really needed to get somewhere on time.

Surveys show growing support for express toll lanes
We also conducted a survey in June 2017 to help us find out what people are thinking about the express toll lanes. The survey represented drivers who have used any part of I-405 in the past year and who lived throughout Snohomish and east King county. About half of respondents said they had used the express toll lanes, and half had not. It used a diverse online panel and had a ±4.8% margin of error.

Sixty percent of people told us that they like having the option to use the express toll lanes for a faster trip. This represents a complete flip in opinion compared to the surveys we did when the express toll lanes were brand new. When we asked people what they thought of the express toll lanes in January 2016, three months after they opened, 87 percent of people told us they did not support the project.

Today, two-thirds of those surveyed agree that the express toll lanes help reduce congestion in the regular lanes, a complete change from January 2016 when 77 percent of people we surveyed thought the opposite.

The answers to these questions were consistently positive among people of all incomes, ages, and genders.

People who dislike the express toll lanes still feel as strongly as ever
Despite the growth in popularity, there are still people who feel as strongly as ever that the express toll lanes are a bad idea.

Not everyone who liked having the option to use express toll lanes loved every aspect of them.  For example, only a third of people agreed that tolls are an effective way to reduce congestion, which shows that a lot of people still have mixed feelings about these lanes.

Please continue to let us know how you feel about the express toll lanes. Your feedback – positive and negative – is important to us and helps us make improvements to the system.

Friday, August 11, 2017

SR 9/SR 204 Intersection Improvements project hosts third public open house

by Diana Barreto

Big changes are in store for one of the busiest and most congested intersections in the city of Lake Stevens. Next week, our  SR 9/SR 204 Intersection Improvements project team will host an open house to share the recommended design to address the congestion at the intersection.

Open house information
The open house will take place from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 16 at Hillcrest Elementary School in Lake Stevens. A presentation will begin at 6:15 p.m. We’ll have staff available to chat about the design and next steps.
The busy intersection of SR 9 and SR 204 in Lake Stevens will be undergoing some big changes in the next few years.

Throughout the past year, we have worked closely with the SR 9/SR 204 Intersection Improvements project Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG), reached out to business owners and the Lake Stevens community to develop and assess design options that will create better connections for all roadway users of this intersection, including pedestrians, transit riders, bicyclists and drivers.

The advisory group is comprised of business owners and representatives, elected officials, transit and multi-modal agency representatives and residents who met seven times throughout the past year, starting in summer 2016. We worked closely with stakeholders to define a project needs statement; develop, analyze and review potential practical solutions and reach consensus on a preferred alternative design for the intersection.
An open house to discuss changes to the SR 9/SR 204 intersection in Lake Stevens will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 16.

Following the upcoming open house on Aug. 16, we will brief the Lake Stevens city council on the recommended design and continue to move the project forward. We’ll also continue to work with stakeholders to address any ongoing or new concerns moving forward.

The $69.5 million project is funded by the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation package. Construction is scheduled to begin by 2019.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Busy weekend ahead for fun and roadwork

By Ally Barrera

Get ready for what could be one of the busiest travel weekends we ve seen all summer! Not only will there be a ton of construction work happening around the Puget Sound area, but there is also a bunch of fun events going on. Translation: prepare for packed roads.

One of those fun events is the Mariners Edgar Martinez Weekend, and we thought, who better to help us spread the word about the expected traffic ahead than the beloved Mariner Moose. He may not say much in this video, but he sure knows how to get the point across.
The Moose only scratched the surface of what s happening this weekend. As you can see in the map below, we barely had enough room to cram in all of the road work and big events.

Bottom line: give yourself plenty of time to get where you need to go and expect to experience some delays along the way. I m going to Friday s Mariners game, so you better believe I ll be leaving early to get there. Don t want to miss out on getting an Edgar bobblehead! It s a light bat!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

I will survive the Great American Solar Eclipse!

By Bart Treece

I've never seen a solar eclipse, but I hear from those who have that there are no words to accurately describe just how cool it really is. Imagine if you will, a sunny day turning dark; the streetlights kick on and it seems like nighttime for at least a couple minutes! Now the last time this happened in the northwest, "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor was approaching the top of the music charts in 1979. Indeed this solar eclipse is back from outer space, and we've pulled together a guide to help you survive a potential cosmic traffic jam, avoid crying and hold your head up high. Say it with me: "I will survive, hey, hey!"
This Associated Press map from the Feb. 14, 1979 San Bernardino County Sun shows the path
of totality the last time a solar eclipse was visible in our part of the country.

What we know
As with any large-scale event, planning ahead is key. The eclipse is expected to happen on Monday, Aug. 21 but emergency services and transportation agencies are anticipating an influx of people Aug. 18 – 22. The state of Oregon is expecting roughly a million people to travel to the path of totality. These are places where the entire sun is blocked from view by the moon for about two minutes. The unknown variables are: Where are those folks coming from, where are they going, and when are they leaving? The answer is, we really don't know. Some are expected from within the Beaver State, while others are presumably coming from Washington, Idaho, California and even British Columbia. It's tough to tell with certainty, and the timing of this is hard to pin down.
This map from NASA shows where the path of totality is expected to be when the solar eclipse happens on Aug. 21 of this year.

More than a one-day deal
Sure, the eclipse will last a little over two minutes on Monday, Aug. 21, but people hitting the road will likely create additional congestion leading up to the event, and potentially even afterward as they try to go home. Morning traffic on southbound I-5 between Vancouver, Washington into Portland is typically slow-going and regularly backs up for miles. Now imagine thousands more added into the mix resulting in even bigger backups and longer delays – this could get really gnarly. Other portions of I-5 could see unusual congestion, as well as other routes in the state such as:
  • I-82 – Benton County
  • US 97 – Klickitat County
  • SR 14 – Columbia River Gorge
  • US 197 – Dallesport
  • I-205 – Clark County to Portland
  • SR 433 – The Lewis and Clark Bridge in Longview
  • SR 4 – Longview to Naselle
  • SR 401 – Naselle to Dismal Nitch
  • US 101 – Ilwaco to Astoria
Of course, this all depends on what people decide to do. Waking up early to leave the Seattle area to head south the morning of the eclipse is not a good idea. The word from our friends at the Oregon Department of Transportation for folks making the trip is to "Arrive Early, Stay Put and Leave Late."

Here are some other thing to keep in mind
  • Safety first: Unless it's an emergency, do not pull over to the shoulder of the highway. And no, viewing the solar eclipse does not constitute an emergency. However, you can inadvertently create one: hot vehicle undercarriage + dry grass = potential brush fire. Let's avoid that, K?
  • Plan ahead: Make sure you're prepared for several days, and your vehicle is in good working condition to avoid a potential breakdown.
  • Know before you go: Before you hit the road, check our mobile app, travel alerts and traffic cameras to see how things are moving. When you're behind the wheel, have a passenger with fast thumbs do the work.
We can still see a partial eclipse in Washington, so if you decide to stay put, please find somewhere safe and remember to wear those funky eclipse glasses to protect your eyes – but not while you're behind the wheel! Because remember, you still have your life to live. You will survive!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Pack a little more travel time into your Camano Island camping plans

By Andrea E. Petrich

August is a beautiful time to camp – or glamp - here in Washington. The weather is hot and dry and water has actually warmed up enough that chickens - like myself – will spend more than a few minutes enjoying the cool down.

If you’re hitting a Camano Island state park, other campground, rental property or your own home to enjoy some time on the beach, plan ahead for a State Route 532 closure beginning 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11 and lasting for approximately two weeks.
Church Creek, where the SR 532 closure will happen, is just east of the Stanwood Haggen.

Our contractor crews from Strider Construction will close the highway to install a new, larger culvert under the highway just east of the Stanwood Haggen.
Crews will replace the current culvert with a larger one to improve stream flows for salmon, trout and other aquatic species.

The work is part of a $6 million fish passage project to help restore the creek bed to a natural state and improve fish passage for salmon, trout and other aquatic species. The crew has already built a temporary bypass road that will help detour traffic during this work.

Tent camper?

Those with precise packing skills who are able to fit family and stuff in a passenger vehicle will have a short detour around this closure.
  • Westbound travelers will go right on 36th Avenue Northwest, left on 268th Street Northwest and connect back to SR 532 before the Haggen/Stanwood Camano Village shopping center through the temporary bypass road.
  • Eastbound travelers will curve left to the temporary bypass road from SR 532 east of 72nd, continue on 268th Street Northwest, go right on 64th Avenue Northwest and turn left onto SR 532.

Travelers will want to remember that this detour takes you along county roads with lower speed limits and rural family homes so please, slow down and be aware of people leaving driveways, plus children and pets that might be in the area.

Going for the glamping weekend away?

If you drive an RV or long 5th wheel with a wide turning radius, you’re going to want to take the truck detour during this closure.
  • Trucks, RVs and other big vehicles will use I-5 to exit 221, travel west on SR 534 toward Conway, through the roundabout and south on Pioneer Highway.
  • This detour will add about 10 miles to most trips.

Trucks, RVs, glampers and others with vehicles that require a wide turning radius should use the detour through Conway.

Leaving all your motorized vehicles at home?

Cyclists heading to or from Stanwood or Camano Island can use the detours mentioned above, but should be prepared for higher traffic volumes on narrow roads.

We don’t know the exact date the closure will end due to uncertainty over a pipe location and how the groundwater might affect the excavation, but we’ll keep travelers updated on the work through our social media accounts and through Island County emails. We’ve worked closely with the community to balance this closure between allowable environmental dates and big events in the area.

What everyone should know, no matter what your camping style:
  • Plan for delays in or out of Stanwood or Camano Island by allotting extra time into trips.
  • Follow the posted speed limits. Most passenger vehicle detours are 35 mph and the temporary bypass is a 25 mph road.
  • Know that the detour routes will be busy and drivers could be sharing the road with cyclists.
  • Share this closure information with friends and neighbors.
  • Check for updates throughout the closure on the WSDOT north Twitter account.
We know not everyone trying to hustle up the kids and dig up the camping gear - that may have been tucked away since last summer – is focused on road closures. If you know someone heading this way, please spread the word. While the detours will get everyone where they need to go, it might take a little bit longer. We don’t want you to be late for the start of that annual horseshoe tourney you and your friends throw every year!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Plenty of work on cross-state routes Aug. 14-18

By Mike Allende

Our busy – and hot – summer construction season continues as crews work to get as much done before the wetter months of the year get here.

This is especially true of our cross-state highways and people using SR 20, US 2, I-90 and US 12 will want to plan for extra travel time across the mountain passes. Construction and maintenance work will cause delays for those heading east and west.

Among the projects are resurfacing work on SR 20 between Sedro-Woolley and Concrete, paving work on US 2 in Sultan and Leavenworth, traffic shifts and detours on I-90 from North Bend to Cle Elum for a variety of bridge deck repair and paving, and roadwork on US 12 White Pass.

The length of delay varies depending on traffic and if there are any collisions or stalls so be sure to plan plenty of extra time and be sure you and your vehicle are prepared for any potential lengthy delays.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Smart approach: Combining projects to deliver them sooner

By Iris Picat

We're always looking for ways to save taxpayer money. During the planning phase of a project, we focus on an important question: Can we deliver this work more efficiently?

The answer, as planning ramped up for demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, was yes. And so we shifted gears by combining three previously separate projects into something much bigger – a super-sized effort that will demolish the viaduct, permanently close the Battery Street Tunnel and restore street connections across Aurora Avenue North, near the new SR 99 tunnel's future north portal.
Workers carefully demolish the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s southern mile in 2011.

While we know many of the key parameters for this work, we'll know more details next year, after the contractor that will perform the work has been selected and develops a plan. You can read about and comment on the guidelines for the demolition by visiting our online open house, which runs through Aug. 14. We're also hosting an in-person open house on Aug. 10.
The Battery Street tunnel will be decommissioned and sealed as part of the new SR 99 tunnel project.

Here are the basic elements of the largest remaining contract in the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program:
  1. Alaskan Way Viaduct Demolition
    The name says it all: This is the project that will carefully bring down the remaining section of the viaduct. The viaduct was built in the 1950s to carry roughly half the number of vehicles it carries today. After the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake, we repaired and strengthened the viaduct, but the structure is showing its age. While it remains safe for daily use and is inspected twice a year, it remains susceptible to damage or collapse in a future earthquake. Demolishing the structure could take up to nine months. Crews will perform the demolition in sections to minimize disruptions.
  2. Battery Street Tunnel decommissioning
    We will decommission and permanently close the Battery Street Tunnel as part of this project. This is necessary because the Battery Street Tunnel was built in the 1950s and, like the viaduct, is beyond its useful life and is seismically vulnerable. Its electrical and mechanical systems are difficult to maintain and do not meet modern safety requirements. Decommissioning work includes disconnecting, removing or relocating tunnel systems, and cleaning soot and vehicle exhaust residue as needed. The tunnel will then be filled in and permanently sealed.
  3. North surface streets
    Finally, the contractor for this project will be responsible for reconnecting the local street grid across Aurora Avenue North, near the SR 99 tunnel's north portal. Harrison Street will open across SR 99 when the tunnel opens to traffic; the other two intersections will open as work is completed under this contract. These improvements will provide greater connectivity between neighborhoods and alternative options for travelers.
This rendering shows the streets reconnected across Aurora Avenue North.
Why use a single contract?
There are several benefits associated with packaging these three projects into one design-build contract. Combining the work reduces the risk of having three contractors sharing the same construction zone. Reducing the number of contractors also lowers administrative costs associated with managing the work. As an added bonus, by using the design-build contracting method rather than a more traditional design-bid-build contract, we enable the contractor to design the project as construction progresses, rather than having a complete design prior to construction.

The bottom line is that we expect to deliver all three projects approximately one year earlier than we could have if they were delivered as separate contracts. That means the viaduct comes down sooner, the City of Seattle can begin its long-awaited transformation of the downtown waterfront, and we save taxpayers money be getting our work done sooner.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Major weekend work and events: Aug. 3-6

By Ally Barrera

The Blue Angels are in town this weekend, Aug. 3-6. In order to keep the pilots and public safe, the I-90 floating bridge will be closed while the Blue Angels practice and perform at the Seafair Air Show. Check out our video for details. For more information, you can also visit our Seafair webpage.

Besides the Seafair Air Show, many other events and construction projects are also taking place. Check out our weekend events map below for a rundown of the festivities.

Weekend lane reductions on I-5 are worth the pain

By Tom Pearce

I built a deck for my house a few years ago. With a project like that you can take your time, buy your materials piecemeal and get several deliveries, upping the cost. Maybe take a month or two to complete the work, so your yard's a mess for a while. Or maybe you're like me – buy everything at once, get one big delivery to save money and attack it with 10- to 12-hour days.

Whether you're building a deck or refurbishing the region's major interstate, the principles are the same. You can take your time and increase the cost, or you can plan ahead, power through and save money.

We are using an aggressive schedule on our #reviveI5 project on northbound I-5 between South 260th Street in Kent and the Duwamish River in Tukwila. That means working weekends with lane closures. We've paved several layers of asphalt on four miles between SR 516 in SeaTac and South 170th Street in Tukwila during five weekends since the start of June. We have one more weekend for paving scheduled for Aug. 11-14, weather permitting.

Big savings
We know it creates backups when we reduce northbound I-5 to two lanes from 8 p.m. Friday night to 5 a.m. Monday morning. But consider this:
  • One weekend-long lane reduction for paving equals 30 nights of lane closures.
  • We have six weekends for paving – that's 180 nights of work – six months.

Paving a long section during a weekend saves money – and lots of time.

And remember, we can't pave any old night. We need dry conditions and temperatures above 45 degrees to pave. That could mean two to three years to finish paving if we didn't use weekend closures. That would tie up crews and equipment and run up costs. Instead, we'll finish paving in a couple of months this summer.

Expansion joints need weekends too
In addition to paving, we need four weekends to replace eight expansion joints: four at the Interurban Avenue overpass and four at the Duwamish River Bridge. We'll replace the Duwamish River joints the weekends of Aug. 18-21 and 25-28. We're still working to schedule when we will replace the expansion joints at Interurban Avenue.
Replacing expansion joints during a long weekend lane closure is much more cost-efficient.

Like paving, we could replace these large expansion joints using only overnight closures. People can do just about anything if they put their minds to it – and are willing to dedicate enough time and spend enough money. However, doing expansion joints that way would create weeks or even months of traffic disruptions, the finished product would not be as strong and the cost could be ghastly.

The end result
When I was out there sweating away those long days building that deck, I'd sometimes think, "Ugh, why am I doing this?" A few days after I finished and was eating dinner with my family on my new deck, I thought about the money I'd saved and realized I could still be in the middle of construction.

The short-term pain of finishing in a quick, cost-efficient manner is definitely worth it.

If you’ve always wanted a bridge, we’ve got a deal for you!

By Shari King

Are you in the market for a bridge? You are? Great! How about the 1925 State Route 167 Puyallup River Bridge? We're looking for a new home for this 92-year-old charmer, and yours might just be a match.

After more than eight decades of service, we decommissioned the bridge in 2015. While in use, the historic bridge sported the longest (371 foot) riveted steel Warren-type through-truss span built prior to 1940 on our highway system. While unique, it is similar to the “Turner Truss” patented in the 1920s. Unlike the standard Warren truss, this bridge has parabolic top chords (allowing for a longer span), alternating diagonal truss members, longitudinal braces between diagonals in alternating panels and vertical struts adjacent to the portals. Its subdivided panels and the addition of longitudinal members at mid-panel heights in five truss panels allow the bridge to achieve both strength and economy of steel.
Our old SR 167 Puyallup River Bridge needs a new home and you might be the perfect fit!

Sound like exactly what you've been looking for?

The Puyallup River Bridge would be great addition to a city, county or state road, or even to a large facility looking for something historically significant and…well…long enough carry 20 cars end to end.

Now, there are a few boxes we'd need to check off if you're interested in taking this bridge home. You will be responsible for:
  • Maintaining the bridge and the features that give it its historical significance and continued eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Assuming all future legal and financial responsibility for the structure.
This offer to take ownership and relocate this bridge from our storage location is available until June 2019. Sorry, the bridge deck and substructure aren't included.

So act now to get your hands on this historic, well-behaved bridge that would get along fantastically with the rest of your bridges.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Make sure you and your vehicle are ready for the heat wave

By Barbara LaBoe

Western Washington is expecting a historic heat wave this week and we want you – and your vehicle – to be prepared.
With super-high temperatures forecast, everyone is encouraged to stay hydrated and make sure
their vehicles are in good condition (Image from National Weather Service).

Temperatures are supposed to reach 100-plus by Thursday, with highs in the 90s for several days before and after. Unpleasant? Yes. Unusual? You bet. Downright sweltering? Absolutely. These temps are also tough on you, your vehicle and your commute. And nothing makes a hot, uncomfortable drive worse than sitting on the side of a sizzling roadway waiting for a tow.

So, how can you help beat the heat? We worked with our partners at the Washington State Patrol and developed the following tips for hot weather travel:
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Carry extra water – both for yourself and in case your vehicle overheats. If you're bicycling, you definitely need to hydrate and avoid over-exertion. Also, be on the watch for signs your car is overheating.
  • Make sure your vehicle is in good working order. Excessive heat can stress an already struggling vehicle, which can turn a tough commute much, much worse.
  • Keep your vehicle fueled up. Air conditioning reduces gas efficiency so cranking the cold air (understandable given this heat) will mean you use more gas. Turning off the AC when you can also helps.
  • If your vehicle is a bicycle, check your bike's tire pressure and keep tires properly inflated. Don't overinflate – as temperatures rise so will the air pressure inside the tires.

If you're riding a bike during the heat wave, make sure the tires are inflated correctly.

  • Need a break? Or, need to check on an overheating vehicle? Pull into one of the safety rest areas along state roadways. Traveling a long distance? Make note of the rest areas you'll be passing.
  • Keep kids and pets safe. NEVER leave children or pets in vehicles during heat waves – not even for "just a few minutes." Temperatures rise to life-threatening levels in just minutes and can quickly lead to tragedy.
  • Consider traveling earlier in the day or later in the evening, when temperatures drop – at least a little – and roadways are less crowded.
  • Be on the lookout for more two-wheeled travelers. Sunny, warm weather means more motorcycles and bicycles on the road, so be extra alert as you travel. Leave more distance between you and a motorcycle or bicycle—3 or 4 seconds' worth. Motorcycles are much lighter than other vehicles and can stop in much shorter distances. Bicyclists may be dealing with road debris and other hazards you can't see – give them room to ride safely.
  • Motorcyclists also should be extra alert – and remember that lane splitting remains illegal in Washington state. Our friends at the Washington State Patrol are conducting motorcycle emphasis patrols this summer to remind two-wheel drivers about the state's safety laws and hopefully reduce the number of motorcycle crashes, injuries and deaths we see each summer.

With hot temperatures and dry conditions, roadside brush fires are a significant concern.

  • Stay fire safe. The heat and dry weather only increases our wildfire danger. Please remember to never throw lit cigarettes or other items out of a vehicle. Also, don't pull into a grassy field or road shoulder – the heat from your car's engine can spark a fire.
  • Whether on the road or not, keep an eye on yourself and family members for heatstroke and other heat illness warning signs. Check with your local county or city about cooling centers if you need to seek relieve. King County lists several on its summer heat blog. 
Finally, remember to breathe. Yes, this hot weather will be unpleasant, but getting worked up about it while behind the wheel doesn't help anyone. Prepare for the worst of it and please try to keep your cool despite the scorching weather so that we can all get home safely.

Construction starting on Colman Dock

By Broch Bender

The wait to replace the most vulnerable parts of the state's largest and busiest ferry terminal is almost over.
More than 9 million people use Colman Dock every year

More than 9 million people, including over 5.5 million foot passengers, travel through Seattle's Colman Dock every year to ride our ferries. Parts of the dock are supported by timber piles – some dating back to 1938 – that are deteriorating and would not sustain a powerful earthquake.

Also, the layout of the facility creates safety concerns and schedule delays due to conflicts between vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.
Left: timber pile removed and replaced due to deterioration.
Right: This project reduces conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians.

All of that adds up to a need for a serious refurbishment of this important part of our transportation infrastructure.

But don't worry. Throughout our five-year project to build a new, seismically sound ferry terminal, Colman Dock will remain open and operational, with the same number of sailings in and out each day.
Conceptual design of the new Seattle Multi-Modal Terminal at Colman Dock. The design of the entry building and elevated pedestrian connection will be further reviewed and updated given recent cost increases.

Passenger-only facility moving
The bulk of demolition and restoration gets rolling in September, but before that happens we need to temporarily move the passenger-only ferry facility from the south side of the dock to the north side. We expect the temporary facility to be in place until fall 2018.
The passenger-only ferry facility will temporarily move during construction.

Moving the passenger-only ferry facility, currently used by the King County Water Taxi and Kitsap Transit's Fast Ferry, removes conflict with foot-ferries and gives crews room to swing barges around to the south side of the dock.

For the next year-and-a-half we will team with King County to build a brand new, weather-protected passenger-only ferry terminal at the foot of Yesler Way.
Conceptual images of the new passenger-only ferry facility. The new facility is expected to open in fall 2018

What ferries customers can expect August 1-14
Travelers waiting for the ferry may see cranes, feel vibrations and hear loud hammering noises as we drive piles and build the temporary passenger-only dock along the north side of the terminal near the fire station.
  • Work hours are 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • There will be no change in service or current vehicle holding space during this phase of construction.
What to expect for passenger-only ferry service
The existing passenger-only ferry terminal on the south side of Colman Dock, near Yesler Way, will close for up to one week starting Aug. 7.

The first in-water pile to support the temporary passenger-only ferry installed on Aug. 1 on the north side of Colman Dock.

Why are we doing this noisy work now?
We know summertime is hopping on the waterfront, and we are working closely with our contractor to minimize construction effects on ferry travelers and the public.

The reality is we are only able to complete in-water construction activities during a federally designated window, Aug. 1 to Feb. 15, to protect salmon and other marine wildlife. For this reason, it is critical that crews start their work in August to stay on schedule.

Getting to the Seattle Ferry Terminal
Earlier this summer we changed the way drivers get to the ferry. The main entrance to Colman Dock shifted from Yesler Way to Madison Street. This change allows us to use the lanes in front of the ferry terminal building for both ferry access and extra space for vehicle queuing as more and more space on the dock is sectioned off for construction. Bicycles and pedestrians can access the terminal via Yesler Way or Madison Street.

This is a big and exciting project and we appreciate your patience while we get this done. Be sure to follow us on Twitter for all the latest Colman Dock Project news.

Monday, July 24, 2017

On-site recycling maximizes resources on the I-5/SR 16 HOV Connectors project

By Cara Mitchell

There's a lot of highway preservation work taking place this summer on Interstate 5 through Tacoma. Much of that work is building new structures and roadways, but a big part of the work is also rehabilitating existing lanes on I-5. The original 1960's concrete has served commuters well, but it is time for it to be replaced. In an effort to reduce truck trips to and from the construction site and make the most out of the materials at hand, the contractor building the I-5 – SR 16 Connectors Realignment project, Skanska, came up with a creative solution.

In June, contractor crews completed pavement demolition along northbound I-5 between South 38th Street and State Route 16 to make way for new HOV lanes and newly aligned I-5 lanes. This resulted in approximately 52,569 square yards of cement concrete pavement removed from the work zone. Instead of hauling this material off of the construction site, Skanska decided to recycle the concrete on-site and reincorporate it into the project.
Our rock crushing operation can be seen in the center of this photo of the I-5-SR 16 Realignment project.

Crews used giant rock crushers to crush the old concrete surface of I-5 and recycle it into a product called "crushed surfacing base course," or CSBC. This material was used to create the base layer placed under the surface layer of the new northbound I-5 roadway near SR 16. This layer is now covered in asphalt and crews are now pouring new cement concrete pavement on top of the asphalt. The cement concrete is the actual roadway that drivers will use this fall when the lanes re-open.

Why recycle?
Recycling the old concrete not only saves materials from heading to the landfill and reduces consumption of new materials, it also reduces the number of truck trips from the site by approximately 940 loads. By keeping trucks off the roads, are we reducing potential conflicts with motorists traveling through the work zone and reducing emissions and pollutants into the air. It's a win/win for everyone.
Left: rock crushing equipment on our I-5-SR 16 Realignment project breaking down the original I-5
concrete and recycling it as a base layer in the new roadway.
Right: new asphalt on the new northbound I-5 alignment. The recycled base layer is under the asphalt.

Do we encourage recycling on all of our projects?
The Washington State Legislature created legislation in 2015 that requires us to develop and establish objectives and strategies to reuse and recycle construction aggregate and recycled concrete materials. While those efforts are now in place, even prior to the legislation we encouraged contractors to find ways to integrate recycled products into projects. This particular project was under way before the legislation passed so the contractor wasn't required to comply, but they also realized the environmental, cost-effective and green benefits to recycling and incorporated the practice voluntarily into the project.

Environmental stewardship has been a part of our strategic plan for several years. We remain committed to promoting sustainable practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect natural habitat and water quality for years to come.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Expect big I-5 traffic delays over last two weekends of July in Olympia

By Doug Adamson

If you drive on northbound I-5 through Olympia, most of the time you likely zip along at freeway speeds. You may not even notice the little "bump...bump" as you drive over the small northbound I-5 bridge at Pacific Avenue. Despite that small cue, the bridge needs a big repair.  That repair will take place over two weekends at the end of July, and it will help preserve the highway and avoid more costly repairs down the road.

Over the weekends of July 21 and July 28, northbound I-5 will be reduced to two narrowed lanes around the clock, from Friday night to each Monday morning. During the daytime significant backups are expected.

What are crews doing?
Contractor crews will repair two key elements of the bridge's infrastructure. Workers need to rebuild what is called a bridge approach slab. The slab is a piece of concrete that connects the northbound lanes with the bridge over Pacific Avenue. This approach slab continues to bow as material under the highway surface settles. In this project, the existing slab will be demolished and removed. Crews will then shore up the material under the highway and replace the roadway surface.

The second effort will be to replace a bridge expansion joint. The joint allows the bridge to move and flex with changing traffic and weather conditions.

Here is the bridge expansion joint that needs regular repairs. Workers will replace half of the joint and approach slab during the first weekend. Crews will finish the second half during the second weekend.

Why can't you do this work at night and during the fall/winter?
In western Washington, Mother Nature dictates when this and other types of highway construction can occur. We need mostly dry and warm weather in order for the concrete to set well. We are very likely to get poor weather during fall, winter and even early spring.

As for why this work can't be done during overnight hours, once crews start they must continue until it's complete. There will be times when there is no roadway to use. This kind of work also requires concrete curing time. The new roadway surface needs to harden before vehicles can drive on it, which means there may be times when drivers see closed lanes with no crews on site.  It means working through the entire weekend.

Keep traffic moving
We are concerned this work will create miles-long backups and we need your help.  We're asking all northbound I-5 drivers through Olympia to plan ahead.
  • Plan on traveling before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m. to avoid lengthy backups
  • Make sure your gas tank is full before heading out.
  • Please drive carefully. Collisions within the backups would exacerbate the situation.
We will have additional Incident Response Teams pre-positioned in the work zone to clear any collisions that might occur. The Washington State Patrol will also be on scene to keep an eye on things.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Mountain passes: stop and go, stop and go, what gives?

By Lisa Van Cise

As construction projects freckle Puget Sound roadways in the lowlands, travelers headed across the mountain passes have roadwork to navigate through as well.

East-west trips across the state are proving to be slow this summer as our contractor crews take advantage of the warm and dry weather to repair more than one hundred miles of highway.

Why can’t WSDOT plan just one project at a time?
The paving window in the Pacific Northwest is about three months in the lowlands, but only two months for cooler locations like the mountain pass areas. The materials used to protect the pavement need summertime conditions to ensure the products used stick to the road. That means July and August are very popular months to pave.
Map of upcoming work.

The short weather window translates to an all hands on deck situation. Get in with as many crews as possible, and get out before the weather turns cool and wet again. For travelers, that might mean hitting several different sections of roadwork as you travel east or west across the state.

We have a lot of work to do on our mountain pass highways to keep them safe for travelers. We do our best to schedule the roadwork far in advance in order to coordinate and minimize the effect on travelers. However, our mountain pass highways are in need of some TLC due to the harsh winter weather they experience.

Why am I waiting so long?
To get the big picture on why you’re waiting so long, let’s map out the projects on our mountain passes.

Weekday drivers on US 2 between Gold Bar and Skykomish are experiencing delays of more than an hour as they travel through several sections of pavement preservation work.

Because US 2 is a two-lane highway, a pilot car guides alternating traffic through each work zone.

Weekday and weekend drivers on Interstate 90 between North Bend and Ellensburg know the meaning of delays as bridge deck and pavement repair work continues. Weekend delays over Snoqualmie Pass have been upwards of 90 minutes and will most likely continue until the end of summer.

More pass construction
Several sections of US 12 between Packwood and Rimrock Lake will be repaved, which will cause double-digit delays as people travel through multiple construction zones. State Route 20 up north is also under the knife with daytime lane closures. Weekday delays up to 30 minutes are expected on SR 410 between Chinook Pass (milepost 69) and Naches (milepost 116 beginning Monday, starting July 24.

A little good news
If you’re hitting the road this summer, try to set yourself up for success. Make sure your vehicle is in good shape and you have extra snacks, books and good tunes for people riding along. Once the leaves begin to fall this autumn, the smoother ride will be welcome change and hold up to the harsh winter weather for years to come.

Friday, July 14, 2017

When a boat breaks. By the numbers

By Marqise Allen
The Kittitas has been sailing around the Sound since 1980.

For Washington state’s active 22-ferry fleet, the average age of our boats is just shy of 30 years old. Thirteen ferries are over the age of 30. Of those, five are at least 50 years old.

Our maintenance crews do a masterful job of keeping all the vessels in shape to serve for up to six decades. However, just like a car, the older and more miles (the average ferry runs about 20 hours a day!), the more maintenance and sudden repairs it can require. Occasionally, a fix calls for a part that is no longer available and a replacement has to be custom built.

The Tacoma gets an engine inspection and maintenance. Vessels are pulled from service once a year for routine inspections, mandated by the United States Coast Guard, to help keep them safe.
Sometimes a ferry breakdown leaves a route with one less boat, which can cause wait times to inch past the three-hour mark as drivers wait their turn to board.

Cancelled trips make up a fraction of the approximate tens of thousands of trips made every year. Less than 1 percent! However, that doesn’t make it any less of an inconvenience when it’s your route that has canceled sailings due to a boat breakdown, a medical emergency or unforeseen events.
Twice in five years, we haul each vessel out of the water to check out the hull,
 propellers, rudders and underwater appendages.

Why not use a backup boat?

Many transit agencies have two backup vessels for every dozen in their fleet. Washington State Ferries fleet planners make one spare vessel available for relief use throughout the year, but unscheduled repairs can quickly consume this extra capacity. In fact, at the time of this blog post, our entire fleet is either in service or in the shop – there is no relief boat available to fill in.

It’d be akin to blowing out a tire on a car, replacing it with the lone donut and then blowing out another tire. In short, if another ferry breaks down this summer, we would be out of spares.
The “baby” Hiyu used to be WSF’s sole backup boat before it
 was replaced by the “younger” Hyak. The Hyak is 50 years old.

There are only so many ferries available, and it’s not as simple as moving Boat A to Boat B’s route. Some ferries can only sail certain routes due to their size and speed. The vehicle-carrying capacity of the ferry is also a factor. These constraints are weighed against the fact that it can take 12 to 24 hours to move a vessel off one route and onto another. Here’s why:

  • Due to safety rules that address the number of hours a crew can work, a new crew often must be brought in. 
  • Public notice: Notifications must be sent out to the route that’s losing a boat to let riders know that their route will have fewer sailings or less car capacity.
  • Boats can’t teleport: It can take a ferry three to six hours to sail from one route to another.

Why don’t you build more boats?
The Chimacum is the newest boat in the fleet and went into service on the Seattle/Bremerton route this year.

We are! It takes about four to six years to design and build a new ferry. Our newest boat cost $123 million. Buying used boats and throwing the iconic green and white paint on isn’t an option either. Our ferries are built to fit in our terminals and are designed to navigate in Puget Sound’s unique environment.

What can riders do?

Our crews work like mad to diagnose the issue and fix it as soon as possible. To stay in the know, ferry riders can plug in – follow our Twitter account and sign up for email updates to help make informed decisions. We suggest customers use our online tools such as Vessel Watch and Travel Alert Bulletins even if they take the ferry every day of the week, because things can and do change.

Last, but not least, the best way to avoid long lineups at the terminal – due to boat breakdowns or heavy traffic – is to leave the car at home and ride the bus, vanpool with friends or co-workers, take a bicycle out for a spin or walk on instead.

There’s rarely a wait for human-powered ferry riders!