Thursday, April 19, 2018

Another near miss for employees in our work zone

By Celeste Dimichina

Maintenance technicians Eustacio Valencia and Clay Scoggins were spending their Sunday workday, April 15, removing graffiti from several signs along northbound I-5 in Vancouver. This is no easy task, as it requires our crews to be working near traffic and sometimes they have to get into some difficult places to reach.

Unfortunately, their job was made even more difficult and dangerous on that day.
Clay Scoggins (left) and Eustacio Valencia were doing a graffiti cleanup job on I-5 in Vancouver when a semi entered their work zone and collided with a work truck. Fortunately neither were injured.

After setting up two message boards warning of the work happening up ahead, Eustacio and Clay closed the two right lanes of the highway to set up a work zone. We also had a mobile barrier truck in place to protect the crew, but while Eustacio was in the vehicle, a semi entered the work zone and sideswiped the truck, knocking off the side mirror. The semi did not stop.

Fortunately, neither of our workers were injured. The State Patrol is still trying to identify the semi.
One of our workers was in this truck during a graffiti cleanup job when a semi truck entered
the work zone and sideswiped it, knocking off a side mirror.

Whether it's cleaning graffiti, repairing potholes or helping stranded drivers, our road crews put themselves on the line every day to try to keep our highways safe. It is dangerous work, and they can all recount near misses. And those are the lucky ones. Many others are injured on the job, and since 1950, we've had 60 workers killed while working.

It's also easy to forget that all of those workers have family and friends who want them to get home safely. We often simply see signs, trucks, vests and hard hats but fail to remember that those are real people doing work in often high-stress situations.
Graffiti cleanup can sometimes put our crews in challenging spots and situations.

But everyone can help keep them safe. Always focus near work zones. Slow down, move over and give them space. No one likes being stuck in traffic because of roadwork, but stay calm and work together to keep everyone safe. And, be kind. The workers are trying to do important work to benefit everyone. Help them help you.

We're glad that Eustacio and Clay weren't hurt, but we hate hearing about any of these close calls. So let's all do our part to send all of our road workers home safely.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

US 12 gears up for paving, culvert work

By Tina Werner

As DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince told us way back in 1991, summertime is a great time to sit back and unwind (did I just date myself?). Unless, of course, you are one of our construction crews.

When the hot and dry weather gets here and most of us are enjoying evening fireworks and disappearing plates of watermelon, crews will be gearing up for a busy season. While sparklers and bonfires won't be allowed at these events, warmer weather is required as contractor crews begin two construction projects between Aberdeen and Montesano, including a seven-mile overnight paving job on US 12 from Sargent Boulevard to the Wynoochee River Bridge in Aberdeen followed by a fish barrier correction project west of Montesano.

Work could begin in May
As early as May, crews will begin an asphalt paving project to renew a portion of US 12 from Aberdeen through Central Park, with most of the work taking place overnight to reduce traffic impacts. They will also make repairs to the driving surface of the Wynochee River Bridge. Work on the bridge will require nighttime, one-way alternating traffic.
The Wynoochee River Bridge just west of N. Montesano Rd

Meanwhile, after the Fourth
Shortly after the Fourth of July holiday, we will begin removing and replacing a small culvert that runs under US 12 just west of Montesano. This project will reduce US 12 to one lane in each direction around-the-clock through early fall. Drivers can expect reduced speeds of 25 mph through the work zone.
The existing culvert under US 12. This culvert is a barrier to fish passage

We are required to improve creeks and streams in the region by rebuilding fish barriers in addition to restoring and relocating the creeks and streams so the fish in those waterways can swim more freely.

No good time for this work
US 12 is the major east-west highway in Grays Harbor County. This section serves about 20,000 vehicles per day. In addition to local commuters, freight and transit, tourists visiting our beaches during the summer cause traffic volumes to soar.
Unfortunately, summer is also the primary time we can get most of our paving work done. Much of this work needs dry, warmer weather for asphalt to set and harden and lane striping to adhere to the pavement.

There really is no "good" time to close lanes and do this kind of work. State highways are an important link for our economy and our crews will work to keep traffic moving as well as possible through the back-to-back construction projects by doing a majority of the paving work at night.

Advanced notification of construction-related closures is posted on the Olympic Region Weekly Construction and Traffic Updates web page. Travelers are encouraged to sign up for Grays Harbor County community alerts.

We know this is going to be a challenge for travelers in the area and we appreciate your patience as we get this important work done.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Construction projects ramping up as summer approaches

By Ally Barrera

Summer is fast approaching, which means construction projects around the state are ramping up.

While this construction work will help preserve and revitalize our highways, travelers will notice increased congestion and more time spent on the roads.
But, we can all get through it together by being prepared.

Here is the major road work happening over the next few months that could affect your summer travel plans:

Seattle


I-90


Snohomish County


Skagit County


South Sound

  • I-5 Tacoma: Traffic shifts and configuration changes
  • I-5 Lacey: Lane closures for Diverging Diamond construction

Lewis County

  • US 12 White Pass: Daytime and weekend lane closures and alternating traffic for repaving

Eastern Washington


Special events can also affect traffic, and we have our share of big events going on this summer like Mariners and Sounders games, concerts, marathons, Blue Angels, you name it.
Bottom line is there’s a lot going on the next few months, and traffic will be affected. Stay one step ahead of the congestion with these great resources.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Swift thinking and good luck has kept paving foreman alive

By Tina Werner

Amy Laveway has had one too many close calls on the roadway and recalls veering off to avoid being hit by objects thrown from vehicles, motorists themselves, or worse. "I have been lucky," she said. But not everyone in her line of work can say the same.

Laveway is a 13-year truck driver foreman with Lakeside Industries, one of our local asphalt contractors. Construction runs in her family, as her dad and grandfather were both in the business. Newly married, the thought of never coming home to her loved ones after a shift on the highway is a real nightmare.
Amy Laveway says she has "been lucky" to not lose her life working in a construction zone by distracted drivers.

While a vehicle in a construction zone has not hit her, Laveway says several of her coworkers have suffered serious injuries. A fellow foreman at Lakeside Industries was injured in a work zone by a distracted driver and lost his leg. The employee is still unable to return to work.

"If I was hurt it would create a huge financial hardship for my family," she said.

In the past 10 years, the number of distracted or inattentive driver citations in work zones in our state has increased by 66 percent. Last year alone, that number reached 659. Like Laveway's coworker, many have lasting injuries that change their lives forever.
Vehicles speeding by Amy Laveway's truck during a construction operation.

Far too many of our workers and contractor crews have had narrow escapes with death by motorists flying by or encroaching too close to the boundary. Since 1950, we have had 60 workers – husbands, children, coworkers, and mothers – killed in work zone-related incidents. They leave behind real families with real wounds that will never be the same. We treat safety as our top priority, whether it's our own employees or contractor crews working for us.

Rob McNelly, Lakeside Industries Superintendent, said a speeding driver killed his cousin in a work zone near Mayfield Lake in Lewis County in 2000.

"It was like yesterday," McNelly said. "He left behind four kids that I go visit regularly because they lost their dad."

Laveway has had garbage and bottles thrown at her while working, along with bearing the brunt of hand gestures and colorful language.

We work hard to keep our workers safe with equipment and training but need the traveling public's help.

We ask all drivers in work zones to:
  • Slow Down – Drive the posted speeds, they're there for your safety.
  • Be Kind – Our workers are helping to keep you safe and improve the roadways.
  • Pay Attention – both to workers directing you and surrounding traffic
  • Stay Calm – Expect delays, leave early or take an alternate route if possible; no meeting or appointment is worth risking someone's life.
The next time you are driving, keep in mind workers like Laveway who work hard to keep drivers safe and improve our roadways.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Aging I-5 in Seattle to receive a historic facelift during spring and summer of 2018

By Frances Fedoriska

Decades of patchwork fixes, Band-Aid repairs and emergency maintenance can't be ignored any longer.

Interstate 5 through the heart of Seattle needs major work done. Badly.

Much has changed since the roadway opened in the 1960's. Back then, the new surface was smooth as butter. If you drive the interstate today, you know that is no longer the case. Yes, we do regular inspections and preventative maintenance all along I-5, but a full-blown rehabilitation has never happened… until now.
While we've done what we can to preserve the pavement on northbound I-5 through Seattle,
it hasn't had a major facelift since it was built in the 1960s.

This spring and summer, northbound I-5 from MLK Way (State Route 900) to Northeast Ravenna is getting 13 miles of new concrete and asphalt and 37 new expansion joints as part of a $51.2 million facelift.

It's a tremendous undertaking that will require at least six weekends of lane reductions on northbound I-5 near Spokane Street. Two of the six weekends will require full closures of northbound I-5.

What to expect and when
With so many events in Seattle over the spring and summer months, there is never a good time to close lanes on I-5. We've been working closely with the SoDo stadiums, event managers and downtown associations to pinpoint the weekends with the fewest conflicts in an incredibly vibrant city. Over the six weekends of work, crews will start the closures late Friday night and wrap up by the Monday morning commute.
As part of our #ReviveI5 work in Seattle, we'll be replacing 37 expansion joints.
  • April 20-23: Weekend lane reductions
  • April 27-30: Weekend lane reductions
  • May 11-14: Weekend lane reductions
  • May 18-21: Full northbound closure
  • June 1-4: Full northbound closure
  • July 13-16: Weekend lane reductions
Much of this work can only be done during dry weather so the schedule can change. If that happens, we will send out email alerts regarding changes to the above itinerary. You can also bookmark the King County Construction page to easily reference all closures.

What drivers can do
To avoid miles of backups and hours-long delays during the work, especially the two full weekend closures, we need every driver to adjust their plans or try something different when possible:
  • Use public transportation
  • Use light rail
  • Use Amtrak Cascades
  • Carpool or vanpool
  • Bike
  • Walk
  • Use state routes 99, 509, 518 and I-405 instead.
  • Travel before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m.
  • Move any discretionary travel to another weekend.
  • Plan on spending the night in Seattle to avoid traveling during the closure.
Major work to rehab I-5 began last year on the southbound highway between Tukwila and Kent.

#ReviveI5
Every year, we get money from the legislature to do preservation work on the worst sections of I-5. It is more cost effective for taxpayers to protect the roads we already have versus building new ones. Last year we started a $27 million rehabilitation of roughly 13 miles of southbound I-5 between the Duwamish River Bridge in Tukwila and South 320th Street in Federal Way. That project, and this year's work on northbound I-5, is all part of the years-long #ReviveI5 preservation project ensuring safe and reliable trips along 38-miles of Washington's busiest highway for decades to come.

Thank you!
We know this construction will create a rough commute through downtown, but this historic preservation project will reduce the need for future emergency repairs that add time to already long commutes. We thank you in advance for the adjustments you'll make to your plans during this project as we work to restore a smoother, safer ride on I-5 for generations to come.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Bikeways aren't just for bicyclists

Learning to create more connections to build better communities for everyone

By Barb Chamberlain

People on bikes are bicyclists, people on the sidewalk are pedestrians, right? But wait — what am I if I get off my bike and walk around the corner?

A mode of transportation isn't permanently affixed to my forehead or coded in my DNA. A bicyclist who puts a bike on the rack and gets into an SUV becomes a motorist. A driver who gets out of a car instantly becomes a pedestrian. A pedestrian who gets on a bus becomes a transit rider. Underneath the labels, they're all people just trying to get somewhere.

That's really the point of our work for an integrated, multimodal transportation system: Make it possible for people to get where they're going and make sure they have the freedom to use the modes that work for them.
Building streets that are safe for pedestrians and bike riders improves the safety for everyone.

The bonus for travelers and taxpayers as jurisdictions redesign to create streets for all is that a street that discourages speeding and makes it possible to ride a bike or cross the street is safer for everyone, including people in cars. Even if you think that particular crosswalk at the next corner doesn't matter to you personally, we're not just talking about a few people benefiting; around 30 percent of all Washingtonians either can't or don't drive for reasons of age, disability, income, preference, or other factors.

It's going to take time to get these more livable streets as we move beyond outdated assumptions about transportation. For our engineers this means learning new approaches, particularly for those places where the state highway functions as the main street, a bike tourism route, or the only available connection between two segments of a growing trail network.

Until just a couple of years ago, our highway design manual only allowed for bicycling on highway shoulders and conventional bike lanes, and we had never put green paint in a bike lane on state right-of-way. A lot of new solutions have emerged in the past few years: protected bike lanes, protected intersections, bike boxes, "floating" transit stops that provide a buffer for bicycling connections and the sidewalk, leading pedestrian intervals in signal timing, and more.
We're excited to help sponsor the upcoming Washington Bike Summit in Spokane later this month.

Our partners in cities and towns are working to create low-stress networks and more walkable communities because this supports transportation and health equity, more active environments and more economic growth. Whether it's Safe Routes to School or becoming an Age-Friendly Community – they're thinking about all ages and abilities. They want us at the table with them looking for practical solutions for connectivity, safety and mobility.

The Federal Highway Administration has been bringing out fantastic resources at such a pace it's hard to keep current and we'll see new bike and pedestrian guides coming out from American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials as well. We've been providing multimodal design training in our regional offices and have a new multimodal technical group working on the next round of updates to our design manual.

To help everyone get up to speed, we're sponsors of the upcoming Washington Bike Summit, April 29-30, in Spokane, making national-caliber training available in-state for our staff, our partners, and community advocates and leaders. Registration is open until April 15 — it's not too late to sign up and student scholarships are offered, so we're hoping some of our future workforce will be in attendance. With sessions on everything from measuring multimodal connectivity to collecting data to doing community-based safety assessments, it's one more step on the path in our learning and our evolution as an agency.

Infant at Work program helps improve work-life balance

By Celeste Dimichina

For many, the idea of becoming a parent in and of itself is daunting. The questions and stresses – everything from what diapers and car seats to get to what doctor to choose – seems never ending.

Before my first daughter was born, I spent a great deal of time weighing the pros and cons of being a stay-at-home mom or returning to work and trusting a stranger to care for our newest and most precious family member. The thought of leaving my new baby in the care of a stranger terrified me more than the thought of sleepless nights or endless diaper changes.

I made the most of the 12-week maternity leave my then-employer allowed, spending my time forming a bond with my child.
Left: Southwest Region Communications Manager Kimberly Pincheira and son Zander support WSU and our communications team. Right: Planning specialist Chelsey Martin and son Hendric hard at work in our Vancouver office.

But sooner than I would've liked I returned to work, leaving our baby with her new daycare provider, who was great. But for many parents, it's a cruel game of "would you rather." Would you rather spend time with your new baby, at home, un-paid? Or would you rather spend the day at work because you have bills to pay and a baby to provide for?

That's why our agency's year-old "Infant at Work" program is such a fantastic perk.

What is the "Infant at Work" program?
The Infant at Work program allows some employees to bring their babies to work when they're six weeks old until the infant turns six months old, or they become mobile. The baby has to be in an office-type setting. Our Incident Response Team, for example, can't bring the baby along while they patrol the highways. The type of work, location and safety has to be taken into account when determining eligibility.

What's the point?
The program is designed to provide a modern, flexible work environment and allows employees the chance to continue working rather than taking an extended leave, or leaving their baby with family or daycare. It promotes a positive work/life balance, allowing the parent to continue bonding with their child while also allowing them to get important work done.

So what's in it for WSDOT?
This isn't a one-sided deal. The Infant at Work program allows the employee to return to work sooner, increases employee retention and lowers turnover costs while improving employee loyalty and morale. Giving the baby consistent access to breastfeeding has also shown to have health benefits, lowering health care costs.
Left: Emily Glad keeps working as our Toll Division Communications Manager while son Anders supervises. Right: Ferries worker Tim Wiess is able to get work done while daughter Grace naps.

What happens if the baby cries, or if the baby is sick?
Babies get sick. Babies cry. There's no getting around that. Maintaining a healthy and productive work environment was a primary consideration in developing this program.

If the infant becomes sick, is disruptive for a prolonged period of time, causes a distraction in the work place, or prevents the parent from accomplishing work, the parent must take the infant home or to a backup daycare provider. While having a baby at work can be great, it can't be at the detriment of co-workers.

We've reconfigured already existing areas of our offices into safe, quiet spaces for parents to take their baby for them to calm down. These offices are equipped with a computer to allow the parent to continue working without interrupting co-workers.

Having worked around some parents who brought their babies to work, I can vouch for the fact that the program works. My coworkers who have brought their child to work are clearly happier, and the babies are happy. I haven't found it to be distracting and it allows the employees to be productive while feeling valued and appreciated. It's a program I wish I could've taken advantage of when my children were that age and I'm happy for my colleagues and their babies who will have this opportunity to form those important bonds while also remaining producting employees.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Weekend testing of Mercer Street ramp meters to I-5 prove beneficial to freeway traffic

Flow can still benefit with help of drivers

By Harmony Weinberg

With four weekends of ramp metering from Mercer Street to Interstate 5 in the books, we have seen the system prove itself as an effective tool to help manage freeway traffic. Our goal is to keep the area moving as safely and efficiently as possible. Initial testing also shows drivers are still adjusting to the changes and are not fully utilizing all lanes approaching the ramp meters. In order to give drivers more time to get comfortable with the new meters and for us to install additional signage, we are pushing back our original launch date of weekday ramp metering by a week to Tuesday, April 17.

The Mercer Street ramp meters lit up for the first time on Saturday, March 10. We spent the past four weekends monitoring the new meters and refining the operation to best fit travel patterns.

New signs on the way
To help make the addition of ramp meters to the area more visible to drivers, we will add new temporary signs to both the north and southbound ramps to I-5 before we turn the meters on during the week. We observed on Saturdays and Sundays that drivers heading northbound onto I-5 were hesitant to use the left lane. When the meters are on, a sign flashes to advise folks to use both lanes. We expect that additional signs will grab drivers’ attention even more. Within the next few weeks we will also be installing an electronic sign on the northbound ramp to further alert drivers that they can use either lane approaching the ramp meter.
Drivers hesitate to use the left lane when the northbound ramp meters are activated.

When the meters activate on the southbound on-ramp, drivers can spread out into three lanes thanks to the use of the shoulder. While we saw some folks use the left shoulder, we expect drivers to take full advantage of this option as they continue to get used to the new meters.
Drivers are encouraged to use the left shoulder lane when the southbound ramp meters are activated southbound.
When and why did the ramp meters turn on?
Remember, the ramp meters don’t just turn on at a specific time each day. Instead, they turn on when the system detects traffic slowing down on I-5. When it comes to a typical weekend, we likely won’t see the ramp meters turning on as much as they will when more vehicles are on the road during the week.  This has proven out so far on weekends, where the meters have automatically activated at different times of day depending on how I-5 was operating and how much Mercer Street traffic was entering I-5.

Effectiveness of ramp meters following crashes
Ramp meters really show their effectiveness when it comes to managing traffic following a crash. We saw three crashes over the first weekend where the ramp meters did their job. They allowed for one vehicle at a time to merge onto the interstate where traffic was backing up due to a crash ahead.

What about Mercer Street traffic?
We know many of you had concerns that the ramp meters would make traffic worse on Mercer Street. We worked closely with our friends at the Seattle DOT to monitor city street traffic and saw no impacts from the new meters. It’s important to understand that the meters are allowing the same number of vehicles onto the freeway as before; they just break up the pile of cars trying to merge and organize them in a manner that has less impact to the flow of traffic on I-5.

Recap: why we meter
The largest benefit of the Mercer Street ramp meters will be at the beginning and end of the peak commute times. The meters prevent big groups of cars from piling onto the freeway at once, which will keep I-5 flowing smoother during those times.

When congestion reaches the peak, severely slowing freeway traffic, ramp meters are not as effective. However, we keep the ramp meters on in order for them to quickly adapt to changing traffic conditions and help the freeway recover quicker by pacing the merging vehicles onto the freeway.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Open house on April 11 looks at I-5 & Steilacoom-DuPont Road interchange

By Cara Mitchell

The area of I-5 and Steilacoom-DuPont road/Exit 119 is one of the busiest in Pierce County. We have been working very hard to improve congestion on I-5 during peak traffic periods, while maintaining access to DuPont, JBLM and neighboring communities. To accomplish this, we will be adding a lane in each direction to I-5 and redesigning the Steilacoom-DuPont Road interchange.

But first, we want to hear your opinion on the proposed design alternatives that will address the present day challenges and improve traffic flow in the future.
Many of you may already experience daily constrained traffic flow at this complicated area, in which  ramp intersections, JBLM's DuPont Gate, the railroad line, and the intersection of Wilmington Drive and Barksdale Avenue converge.

In addition, the bridge that now spans I-5 at Steilacoom-DuPont Road was built in 1957 and the locations of its piers do not accommodate more lanes on I-5. We are proposing to rebuild that overpass and improve it in the process not only by widening it but also by increasing its vertical height over I-5 to meet current standards. The new bridge would provide access to JBLM's DuPont Gate. The existing at-grade crossing of the railroad track would be removed.

Approximately 900 feet to the north of the existing overpass, we are also proposing to build a second elevated overpass that would serve travelers using Steilacoom-DuPont Road. This overpass would be built over the railroad.

Based on discussions with stakeholders, we are considering two alternatives. This is where we need your feedback. The options include either a couplet or ramp bypasses. Here's what they'd look like:

In the "Couplet" option, drivers would access both the JBLM DuPont Gate and access to Steilacoom DuPont Road on the same ramp.
In the "Bypass Ramps" option, drivers going to the JBLM DuPont Gate would be on a separate ramp. Drivers going to Steilacoom-DuPont Road would bypass this ramp.
Which option would you prefer and why? Please join us at our April 11 Open House at Pioneer Middle School at 1750 Bob's Hollow Lane in DuPont from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. and give us your feedback. My colleagues and I are looking forward to answering your questions and listening to your comments. If you can't attend, you can email us your feedback and questions.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Please help us keep everyone safe on our roadways

By Barbara LaBoe

Sixty-four ounces of Slushee and someone's terrible decision nearly cost Trent Galusha his life on the side of I-5 six years ago.

Galusha is one of our Incident Response Team drivers, workers who spend their days driving the highways helping stranded motorists and protecting first responders at crash sites. During the 2012 Memorial Day weekend he was helping someone who had run out of gas – a standard part of his day.

Then suddenly, a young man driving by – impaired and with a suspended license – thought it would be funny to chuck the frozen beverage at Galusha on the side of the road. The drink came flying out of a car going at least 60 mph, striking Galusha in the head with 300 pounds of force.
Doctors told IRT driver Trent Galusha he was lucky to be alive after a passing motorist threw a frozen beverage at him on the side of the road, striking him in the head.
Galusha doesn't remember the impact – all he knows is that he was walking back to his truck and the next thing he knew he saw white lights. He'd later learn that he had traumatic brain injury. He spent seven months off work, retraining his brain how to process again and struggling with pain and unpredictable rage. It took two years before he fully felt like himself again.

IRT driver Ken Buretta still has post-concussion headaches and sensitivity to light, noise and cold after being injured on the side of the road while helping a stranded motorist on Thanksgiving Day 2016.
"My family didn't sign up for that," he recalled last month. "It shook my world. It shook my family's world. I wouldn't wish this on anyone."

Doctors told Galusha he was lucky to be alive. If the cup had hit him in the temple – just two inches away from where it did strike him – he could have died instantly.

Unfortunately, Galusha is not alone. And that's why we'll be spending the next month sharing work zone safety messages with the public.

We're turning both our website and Seattle's SR 520 bridge sentinels orange this week. On Monday, April 9, for National Work Zone Awareness Week, we'll fill a lawn near the Capital in Olympia with 60 orange work zone barrels – one for every WSDOT worker killed on the job since 1950. We'll also share safety messages and employee stories.

Far too many of our workers have been hurt by drivers not paying attention or losing control of their vehicle. Other times, workers trying to keep everyone safe are sworn at or have things thrown at them by people upset by roadwork delays. (In Galusha's case the driver was caught and sent to prison).

Seconds count in work zones, because the work often takes place very close to active traffic.

"If you've ever been stranded on the side of the road you remember how your car shook every time another vehicle zoomed past at 60 or 70 mph," said IRT driver Ken Buretta, who suffered a concussion after being sideswiped as he was getting out of his truck to help someone on Thanksgiving Day 2016. "Imagine what it's like to work in that."

"We're not feet away from death, you're honestly less than 10 inches away," Galusha said. "And most people are great – I love being out there and helping people – but it's that three percent who don't slow down or aren't paying attention. … I bet you I see 30 plus people a day still texting and driving or watching videos while driving."

Nationally, there's a collision in a work zone every six minutes. Here in Washington we average 837 roadway work zone injuries each year – and had seven fatal work zone crashes in 2017. And it's not just workers at risk. In Washington, 96 percent of people hurt in state work zone crashes are drivers, their passengers or passing pedestrians.

Please, help us keep everyone safe in and near work zones. We need drivers to:
  • Slow Down – drive the posted speeds, they're there for your safety
  • Be Kind – our workers are out there helping to keep you safe and improve the roadways
  • Pay Attention – both to workers directing you and surrounding traffic; put your phone down when behind the wheel
  • Stay Calm – expect delays, leave early or take an alternate route if possible; no meeting or appointment is worth risking someone's life
The next time you're driving past a work zone, please remember the workers like Galusha and Beretta who are out there to keep drivers safe or improve roadways.

"Whenever you see any lights – red, yellow, blue or whatever – just move over and give us some space," Buretta said. "We all need to go home to our families."

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Hood Canal Bridge work begins again this April

By Tina Werner

UPDATE - Apr. 6 at 9:50 a.m.
The night closures and work scheduled Saturday, April 7 and Sunday, April 8 have been cancelled due to predictions of inclement weather. Weather permitting, work and closures will resume 10 p.m. Monday, April 9.



It is that time of year of again: work on the Hood Canal Bridge is returning. Work began last year to rehabilitate the drawspan's mechanical components. This is no easy task, as it is the longest saltwater floating bridge in the world at 7,867 feet. Ongoing maintenance is necessary to keep the bridge operationally sound for travelers and marine vessels who rely on Hood Canal and the bridge as an economic, military, transportation and tourist lifeline.
Sunset over the Hood Canal Bridge

Bridge crews do preventative maintenance on the bridge weekly to maintain the operability of the bridge, which sits in harsh and corrosive salt water by way of floating pontoons. The water depth beneath those pontoons reaches almost 300 feet. In 2009 when the east half of the bridge was replaced, many of the mechanical parts were exchanged to provide reliable operations around the clock to both marine and vehicle traffic.

Due to the uniqueness of this bridge, work on it is never over, but we do our best to maintain traffic flow while bridge work is underway.
Fine-tuning the alignment of the guide rollers in summer 2017 resulted in better alignment of the drawspan of the bridge.

In 2017, we undertook the exacting process of realigning the Hood Canal Bridge's guide rollers. The guide rollers keep the drawspan in alignment as it opens to allow vessels to pass through. This decreases the power consumption in operating the bridge and decreases wear and tear on the drive gears and motors. We also replaced worn hydraulics hoses that circulate hydraulic fluid to mechanical equipment that operate the bridge. This minimizes the risk of hydraulic fluid leakage.

What work is happening this year?
From April through this fall, crews will perform "part two" of this project. First, we will verify the drawspan's alignment by making minor, final adjustments, and then we will replace the mechanical components that operate it. Crews will exchange the drawspan's lower gearboxes, rehabilitate the upper gearboxes and replace the hydraulic fluid on the west half of the bridge. Much of the work must occur during the night slack tides when there is little water movement and light winds. Whenever possible, we limit this work to overnight hours.

What closures are coming?
Work will be done in stages, including:
  • Wheel alignment verification, requiring five intermittent nighttime closures between Wednesday night April 4 and early Wednesday morning, April 11.
  • Next, hydraulic fluid will be replaced and the west end gearboxes will be removed. This is expected to take up to three weeks. Mariners should note that replacing the gearboxes will restrict drawspan openings from a full 600-foot span opening to a half 300-foot span opening.
  • This summer there will be up to three nighttime closures for testing of the components. Once that's done, we can begin replacing gear boxes on the east half of the bridge.
  • Final testing will be done in the fall once the final gear boxes are in place. This could require more intermittent overnight traffic closures.
What travelers can expect:
In early April travelers can expect up to five intermittent night closures. Crews will occasionally open the bridge to traffic to ease congestion as work allows. All closures will begin at 10 p.m. and last until 4 a.m. each weekday beginning Wednesday, April 4 through Tuesday, April 10. Night closures and work scheduled Saturday, April 8 and Sunday, April 8 have been cancelled due to predictions of inclement weather.

Emergency response vehicles will be allowed through as quickly as possible.

Other such night closures will be scheduled through the summer and will be announced as they approach.

What about additional marine closures?
 Federal law gives boats the right-of-way over vehicles when bridges block the path of marine traffic. The rule does not apply to commercial, U.S. Navy or other Department of Defense vessels.

How to stay informed:
There are a number of ways to stay up-to-date on this project:
To subscribe to Hood Canal Bridge openings text messages, send a text to the number 468311 with the words "wsdot hood." To unsubscribe, send a text message to the same number with the words "wsdot stop."

We will also use highway radio and signage to alert travelers of closures. We know it's always a challenge when we close highways and we appreciate your patience as we get this important work done.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Work zone injury collision in Seattle mangles vehicles and the early morning commute

By Lisa Van Cise

The Wednesday morning commute on northbound I-5 in downtown Seattle began with scenes of twisted metal and emergency vehicles responding to a collision in one of our work zones. This is yet another reminder of the risks our crews take on the job each day, and the responsibility we all have to stay focused and take the wheel without impairment.

Contractor construction crews were finishing concrete repair work on the freeway near Mercer Street when a driver entered the work zone and collided with a construction truck. The collision totaled both vehicles and trapped the driver.
The scene on northbound I-5 near Mercer Street in Seattle Wednesday morning after a vehicle rear-ended a construction vehicle in a closed work zone.

The collision left two construction workers who were in a construction truck with minor injuries while medics took the driver of the pickup to the hospital. The Washington State Patrol is investigating the collision as a possible DUI.

Three right lanes of northbound I-5 were blocked for several hours, causing a 3-mile backup during the early morning commute. All lanes were open by 5:10 a.m.
Two contract construction workers were injured with a vehicle ran into their truck inside a work zone Wednesday morning.

The people who work on the highway deserve to get home safely each day. That means that those behind the wheel need to slow down and pay attention.

The timing of this crash is particularly poignant, because we're just days away from April and our Work Zone Safety Awareness month. This is a time we will remember workers who lost their lives on the job in work zone-related activities and remind the community of how to keep everyone safe in and around our work zones. Please remember to slow down and be alert whenever traveling near a work zone – lives may depend on it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Springtime brings new construction phases in Tacoma

By Cara Mitchell

Springtime in the Pacific Northwest conjures up images of brilliant cherry blossoms, daffodils and tulips in bloom.  For construction crews building new bridges and replacing the original roadway on Interstate 5 in Tacoma, springtime is ushering in new highway alignments, fresh concrete, and the promise that two of four I-5 projects are in the homestretch.

Future alignment of northbound I-5 (in blue) towards the
 new northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge
It’s back for a bit: reduced lane for eastbound SR 16 drivers merging onto northbound I-5
Starting as early as the last week of March, the eastbound SR 16 ramp to northbound I-5 will be reduced to a single lane to accommodate a workzone for contractor crews finishing the I-5 M Street to Portland Avenue HOV project. This lane reduction has caused delays in the past, and fortunately, this will be the last time we have to implement this lane configuration on this project. To help eastbound SR 16 motorists bypass some of the backups getting onto northbound I-5, we encourage people to try an alternate route that uses SR 7. More information about this route is available on our YouTube video below.
Bye-bye to split southbound I-5
No April fooling on this - the temporary southbound I-5 collector/distributor (c/d) through downtown Tacoma is really going away. Weather permitting, in early April, crews will remove over a mile of barrier from southbound I-5, rejoining all the southbound lanes. Overnight drivers will encounter lane closures while crews remove and reposition the barrier. Once all lanes of southbound I-5 reopen, drivers will be on a brand new roadway surface, heralding a big milestone in this project and opening the door to one of the final phases of construction in this project - completing the new McKinley Way/D Street overpass.

Southbound I-5 lanes shift near SR 16
In a separate project a little further south, another traffic shift will occur this spring at the interchange of I-5 and SR 16.  Design-build contactor Skanska will move the three through-lanes of southbound I-5 to the left, creating a condition where both northbound and southbound I-5 will be closer to each other and separated by barrier. This traffic shift creates a new workzone so crews can begin demolishing and rebuilding southbound I-5. We will announce the dates of this traffic shift as soon as they become available.

All northbound lanes coming to new Puyallup River Bridge
All winter, crews have been rebuilding the roadway alignment on northbound I-5 between Portland Avenue and the Puyallup River so that it aligns up with the new northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge. If weather cooperates, in May crews hope to move all northbound I-5 traffic onto the new bridge.

When does the construction in Tacoma end?
We are building the final four Tacoma/Pierce County HOV projects. Completion of three of the four projects is finally within reach:

2018 Completion

2019 Completion
One last project on I-5 will begin in 2019 and end around 2021. In that project, crews will build a new, parallel southbound I-5 bridge over the Puyallup River next to the new northbound bridge and demolish the two old bridges.

For the latest on overnight lane and ramp closures, visit www.tacomatraffic.com.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Poet and want to show it? Enter our haiku contest

By Justin Fujioka

Does a scenic ferry ride get your brain waves going? Now is the time to take a sail on one of our vessels with a pen, paper, and a poetic mind. Get inspired for our ferry haiku cover contest on Twitter!

We’re looking for a traditional haiku about the Washington State Ferries experience. The winning poem will be featured on the cover of our Summer 2018 Sailing Schedule!
Washington State Ferries Haiku contest details

How to enter
All you have to do is follow @wsferries on Twitter, then tweet your haiku between noon Monday, March 5, and noon Friday, March 9, 2018. Be sure to include the hashtag #WSFHaiku. All members of the public, except WSDOT employees and contractors, are eligible and invited to participate. No fare purchase is required.

Haiku requirements and contest rules
In addition to the submission qualifications listed above, each entrant must follow these requirements and rules:

  • One haiku per tweet.
  • Poem must be a traditional haiku with five (5) syllables on the first line, seven (7) on the second and five (5) on the third.
  • Haiku must be about the Washington State Ferries experience.
  • Poem must be the sole, original work of the entrant.
  • An entry may be disqualified if it has been previously published or won awards or competitions.
  • Each contestant may submit up to three haikus. Any additional haikus received after the first three are not eligible.
  • By entering, all submitters grant us the right to use their poems for marketing and communication purposes.
  • Do not send your haiku via direct message on Twitter.

Selecting a winner
A panel of judges will select up to 25 entries based on relevance to the WSF experience. Those submissions will be sent to Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna, who will choose three finalists based on creativity, originality, content and writing. Decisions of the judges are subjective, final, and cannot be appealed.

The finalists’ poems will be posted on the @wsferries Twitter page at noon Monday, March 19. The haiku with the most likes at noon Friday, March 23, will be named the winner.

We will then work with the winner to find a photo to serve as a background for their haiku. The work of art will be featured on our 2018 summer schedules!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Freezing rain and power lines turn a routine job into a dangerous situation

By Andrea E. Petrich

A typical day for maintenance technician Don Maybury includes keeping our rest areas and maintenance buildings in northern Whatcom County running. And like most of our maintenance staff, he’s trained to use our snow and ice equipment to help out when winter weather hits.

But Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 was anything but a typical day for Don. In fact, he wasn’t even supposed to be at work. But instead of a Friday night with family, Don found himself stuck in a snowplow for about five hours on SR 539/Guide Meridian north of Lynden when freezing rain brought down almost a dozen power poles.

How did he find himself in this predicament?
An icy forecast
It didn’t take maintenance supervisor Bill Joyce long to see that the weather forecast meant he’d need some extra staff. With up to a half-inch of freezing rain predicted, he knew that it was going to lead to some really icy and hazardous conditions. One of his calls was to Don, who arrived at about 3 p.m. to prepare himself and his plow for what would surely be an interesting shift.

Before his team headed out, Bill reminded them to be careful and to be aware that an ice storm like this could start bringing branches, power lines and other hazards down. As it turns out, he was right.
Ice built up on power lines all over Whatcom County, making it difficult to remove
the downed lines tangled up in our maintenance vehicle. Courtesy Randy Small

After working north through Whatcom County, Don slowly made his way up The Guide, past Badger Road (SR 546), where he found a downed power pole blocking the highway north of Lynden. As he waited for traffic to clear, he began to maneuver the plow to turn around.

“I’ve got two trucks left to turn around and all of a sudden kaboom!,” Don said. “My truck starts shaking and rocking and I’m like ‘Woah!’”

Don was stuck.

The ice and pressure from the other fallen poles was too much and another came toppling down – leaving lines tangled up all over Don’s plow.

Don alerted his supervisors to the situation and Bill headed to the scene. The highway was covered with ice chunks the size of cobblestones. When the lines came down, they hit frozen ditches and sent icy chunks of water splashing all over the road. Assuming the lines were still live, Bill told Don to stay put.

Hurry up and wait
With utility crews racing all over the county responding to situations, it became a waiting game for Don and Bill. The State Patrol and fire crews checked in to make sure Don was OK and he was, staying calmer than most would in a similar situation.

Once the utility crews made it to Don, they found they had to actually chip inches of ice off the wires before pliers would even fit around them. They then had to cut lengths of the wire smaller than usual to be able to lift them off the plow and the road.
Five hours after that pole and lines crashed down, the lines were cleared and the area deemed safe. Bill and Don backed the plow off the road so it could head back to work, clearing roads for the public.
During Decembers ice storm in Whatcom County, power poles fell under the pressure of ice, including some
that trapped one of our maintenance workers in his truck for five hours. Courtesy Randy Small

Be prepared
Hopefully you never find yourself in a similar situation to Don, but if you do, Puget Sound Energy has some reminders of what to do if you encounter potentially live power lines:
  • Assume it's energized and stay as far away as you can.
    Energized lines can charge the ground near the point of contact and may electrocute you. If a person or pet comes into contact with a downed power line, remain clear. Do not touch them or the wire.
  • Call 911.
    Leave everything to utility professionals and emergency personnel.
  • Do not drive over downed power lines.
    Even if they're not energized, downed wires can get entangled with your vehicle and cause further damage.
  • Stay in your car.
    If a power line falls on your vehicle while you're driving, do not exit until you know for sure that the line is de-energized.
  • If you must evacuate, jump away and land with both feet together.
    Do not touch the vehicle while stepping on the ground, as this can create a path for electricity to run through you.
  • Shuffle away to safety.
    Keep your feet together and take small, shuffling steps until you're at least 35 feet away. Taking larger steps can also create a path for electricity to run through you.
Our crews are well trained on how to handle these situations, and you can be sure they’ll use this incident to reiterate just how important it is to follow these tips. It’s a great idea for you to also remember them, and share them with your friends and family. Being prepared is vital in staying safe during our Pacific Northwest storms.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Maintenance crews kept busy cleaning up I-90 vandalism

By Mike Allende

It’s been a frustrating week for some of our maintenance crews who work along I-90. No, we’re not talking about snow. There’s not much anyone can do about that.

We’re talking about vandalism.
The Indian John Rest Area was closed for several hours after vandals removed plumbing
from the restroom wall, causing the area to flood.

Both our Indian John and Ryegrass rest areas were hit with some significant vandalism this week. Not only does that pull our maintenance teams away from other work, it also pulls money from our maintenance budget that could go toward pothole repair or other important highway safety jobs.
Water sprays from the wall after
vandals removed plumbing from
 the Indian John Rest Area restroom.

At our Indian John Rest Area, crews found that someone had pulled the plumbing out of a restroom wall, causing flooding in and around the building. Cleanup and temporary repairs led to the rest stop, located east of Cle Elum, being closed for several hours. We’ll still need to return to do a permanent repair.

Meanwhile, at the westbound Ryegrass Rest Area, east of Ellensburg, someone decided to see how strong the touch screen monitor on our information kiosk was, smashing several divots in the screen with some kind of tool or instrument. These monitors provide travelers with information like road conditions and location of amenities. The damage likely means the monitor will fail and we’ll have to replace it sooner than expected.

Whether it’s graffiti, wire theft or situations like those we saw this week, there’s really no excuse for vandalism. In the past two years we spent $665,000 just on graffiti removal statewide, and this year we project that cost to be about $435,000. That’s not even counting the cost to make repairs to incidents like the ones we faced this week.

While we have many cameras throughout our highway system, we don’t have them everywhere, and we don’t record video on them. Most of the vandalism also seems to take place at night, making it even harder to catch. But you can help. If you see vandalism occurring on state property, whether it’s graffiti, theft or damage to signs or rest areas, please call 911 to report it.
Vandals punched several holes in an informational kiosk monitor at our Ryegrass Rest Area.
Our Ryegrass Rest Area informational kiosk, which provides useful info
to travelers, was damaged when vandals punched holes in the monitor.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

New wind and wave criteria changes threshold for potential closures of the westbound I-90 floating bridge

FINAL UPDATE 6:39 p.m. Sunday: All lanes of the I-90 floating bridge have reopened to traffic. Crews inspected the bridge after conditions died down.

UPDATE 2:18 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18: Crews have temporarily closed the westbound I-90 floating bridge to traffic due to high winds & waves. All westbound traffic must exit at Island Crest Way on Mercer Island. There’s currently no estimated time for reopening. Eastbound I-90 remains open.



By Annie Johnson and Harmony Weinberg

Changes to how we react to wind and wave heights on the I-90 Homer M. Hadley Floating Bridge could mean a temporary closure on Sunday. This bridge carries westbound I-90 traffic, the future Sound Transit light rail tracks and the I-90 Trail.

If we hit a new threshold of sustained winds from the north of at least 26 mph (that north detail is very important and does not happen often) for two minutes and observe waves of at least 2 feet, we will not allow traffic onto the westbound I-90 bridge between Mercer Island and Seattle. Emergency vehicles will have access to the bridge at all times.

Why the change?
Wind and wave analyses performed during Sound Transit's East Link design process showed the pontoons on the westbound I-90 bridge are susceptible to damage during strong north wind events.

It's important to note that there is no immediate safety risk to the public or the bridge. However, any damage caused by strong north winds can shorten the life of the bridge.

Our Bridge Preservation Office used the analysis from Sound Transit to determine the new criteria to preserve the life of the westbound I-90 floating bridge. The new criteria requires us to close the westbound I-90 bridge to traffic when we have the following items occur simultaneously: sustained winds of at least 26 mph from the north for two minutes AND the winds create waves that are at least 2 feet tall.

How common is the new wind and wave combination?
Looking back over the past 10 years, there were eight days where wind from the north exceeded 26 mph on Lake Washington. Of those eight days, there was only one day where the sustained winds were sufficient to create a 2 foot wave.

Since we must have both sustained winds AND waves of at least 2 feet to close the bridge, it's likely we would have closed the bridge once in the past 10 years had the criteria been in place. We expect a potential closure due to the new wind and criteria to happen once every five to 10 years. A rare event. However, we are preparing and planning for it.

What's the fix?
One of the more permanent ways to prevent any damage from strong north winds is to make the bridge stronger through a construction technique known as post-tensioning, which is currently happening as part of Sound Transit's East Link project.

Post-tensioning is a common technique to compress and strengthen concrete structures, especially bridges. Contractor crews thread large steel cables through the inside of the pontoons and then tighten the cable to create one large rigid structure. This work will extend the life of the bridge by strengthening the existing pontoons, which lessens the chances of damage. The post-tensioning work will allow the bridge to withstand stronger winds and higher waves and is expected to be complete in fall of 2018. When that work is complete the wind criteria will be reevaluated.

How much notice will travelers receive in the event of a westbound I-90 closure?
We would like to give as much notice as possible to drivers about potential closures, however, we will not close the road until all the criteria is met. Once that happens, we can close the roadway in about 15 minutes. We will use social media, our mobile app and overhead message signs to alert travelers.

As is the case with any emergency closure, whether it's due to multiple spin outs on Snoqualmie Pass or a major collision, we all need to be prepared for delays whenever we hit the road. We will continue to do our best to keep you informed of any and all closures that could affect you. In the Seattle and Mercer Island areas, you can get real-time traffic information on your phone with the WSDOT traffic app, track the WSDOT Traffic Twitter feed and check out our Facebook page.

The backstory
I'm sure you're wondering how we got here and why the bridge hasn't closed in the past when we've had high winds.

The westbound I-90 floating bridge was designed in the late 1970s and built in the 1980s and, like our hairstyles and clothes, many things have changed in the world of floating bridge engineering since then. If we were to build a brand new I-90 bridge today, it would likely look significantly different that the I-90 floating bridges you drive across today.

It's not that today's bridge is unsafe or needs to be replaced but we've learned a lot over the past 40 years. We now have much higher 100-year- storm criteria and know more about local storm and wind patterns.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Pass closures – be prepared this weekend and every winter weekend

By Barbara LaBoe

We get it. Nobody likes a pass closure. You’re headed to see family, or taking kids to a sporting event or just trying to hit the slopes -- and a delay is the last thing you need. But, winter weather can be unpredictable, so it’s always better to be prepared before you head out.

So, why do passes close? The short answer is because we want to keep everyone – travelers, our crews and law enforcement – safe. It’s our top priority and at times, that means delays or closures.

The slightly longer answer is there are three main reasons for pass closures:
  • Vehicle collisions/spin outs – Many pass closures are caused by vehicles that spin out, crash or slide off the roadway – often because the vehicle wasn’t properly equipped or the driver was going too fast for conditions. Slow down, stay alert and leave extra space between vehicles during winter conditions.
  • Avalanche control - We monitor avalanche risk throughout the winter and at times shut down roadways to force an avalanche rather than risk unstable slopes giving way while drivers are on the roadway. We try to schedule these during non-peak hours, but Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate.
  • Road conditions/clearing – During heavy storms or extreme conditions, it may not be safe for our crews to be out clearing the roadway.
Chain up! It’s the law
Don’t be the person who shuts down the pass for everyone. Our crews work hard to pre-treat and clear roadways, but we need your help too.

Roughly half the Snoqualmie Pass closures are due to spin outs or crashes, when we must close the road to bring tow trucks and other response vehicles to get someone out of a ditch – holding up everyone else traveling. Often these vehicles don’t have proper equipment or drivers were going too fast for conditions.

To help ensure everyone is following the roadway safety restrictions this winter, we’ve partnered with the Washington State Patrol on chain emphasis patrols during storms. Troopers are out checking to ensure drivers have proper traction equipment when it’s required, including issuing tickets at times. Failing to chain up when required can lead to a $500 ticket, so in addition to safety, it makes good financial sense to obey road restrictions as well. (A reminder – studded tires do NOT satisfy chain requirements.)

Practice installing your chains at home, before you head out. This helps you be quicker and more prepared if you do need to install them on the side of a roadway. Don’t know how to install chains? Check out our online video.

If you don’t have the proper equipment to travel during pass restrictions, then delay your trip or find alternate transportation. We want everyone to get where they’re going safely – and no trip is worth risking your safety as well as others on the road.

Be Prepared
You need more than just traction tires and chains during winter weather.

While our crews work hard to keep roadways open, you need to be prepared for unexpected stops if roads need to be closed for clearing, avalanche work or unsafe conditions.

Please be sure you pack your winter vehicle kit (pdf) to ensure you have enough food, water, warm clothes and other supplies if you’re delayed or need to stop unexpectedly.

Stay Informed
We have a variety of tools to keep you informed both before and during your travels. Use them early and often to stay up-to-date on conditions and any closures or delays.
  • Check out online tools, including mobile apps, traffic cameras and email alerts*.
  • Visit our online traveler information about traffic, weather and ferry schedules. 
  • Follow WSDOT’s social media accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook
  • Pre-program 530 AM and 1610 AM to vehicle radios for highway advisory radio alerts.
  • Check current chain and traction requirements on the WSDOT passes website or by calling 5-1-1, and watch for highway advisory signs.
*Never use your phone or mobile device while driving – it’s dangerous and against the law. Have a passenger check road updates or pull over into a safe area, like a rest area, before checking on your own.

Again, we work hard to keep closures and delays to a minimum, but we still need travelers to be prepared and follow road restrictions when they’re posted. These two steps can help make everyone’s trips a little easier.

Crews work around the clock to clear snow and ice – and bring on extra staff during large storms. Please help us keep the passes open by driving for conditions and following traction restrictions.
Traction restrictions are put in place due to hazardous conditions – please obey all restrictions and drive prepared.
Slide offs and crashes are a regular cause of pass closures, as tow trucks need room to respond. 



Thursday, February 15, 2018

Fish window and Colman Dock construction

By Broch Bender

A fish window sounds like a great way to watch our gilled friends cruise through the water, but it's actually something a bit more important, and marks a significant milestone on our Colman Dock replacement project in Seattle.

You see, our crews can only do in-water construction work like pile-driving, from August to mid-February each year when migrating salmon are less likely to be around. Hence, the fish window. And that fish window closes on Feb. 15.
The fish window only allows in-water construction, such as driving steel piles to support the new dock, between August 1 and mid-February. We use a high power bubble machine in the water to minimize noise from pile driving.
That means that construction will still be happening on the project, but crews won't be driving support piles or doing any other work below the water line until August 1 when the window opens back up again.

The good news is, we've made great progress toward building a new terminal! During the last six months workers successfully installed 167 steel piles to support the future passenger-only dock and one-third of the trestle that will support a new ferry terminal building – all while protecting the environment.  A total of 500 steel piles are needed to make the busiest ferry terminal in the state safer in a major earthquake.
During the 2017-18 fish window, we installed steel piles to support the first part of the new main terminal
building, and the new King County Water Taxi and Kitsap Transit Fast Ferry location.

Keeping protected species safe
All in-water construction at Colman Dock temporarily stops when protected species, such as southern resident orcas or other marine mammals, are in sight. However, unlike our orca neighbors, migrating salmon can be tougher to detect beneath the surface of Elliott Bay. That's where the annual "fish window" comes in. Our biologists work with regulatory agencies to study salmon migration patterns and know when they are most likely to be in the area, and most likely not, and determine the window based on that information.

What's the big deal? What could happen to the salmon? Good question. The impact hammer used to drive in the last 10-15 feet of each steel pile creates underwater shockwaves that could cause them harm.

Though much quieter than pile driving, sediment capping is also done during the fish window, outside of the salmon migration period. Sediment capping carefully drops a layer of sand and gravel onto the bottom of the bay around the dock, to cap off hazardous materials that could threaten marine life. The impact of the sand and gravel hitting the bottom temporarily causes a hazy mix of sediment and saltwater, called turbidity, which could be difficult for fish to navigate. But once that settles down after a few minutes, fish and other species have a cleaner home.

We want to make sure everyone, from workers to wildlife, stay safe during the project.
The noise and vibration involved with installing steel support piles is disruptive
to marine mammals search for food and navigating through Puget Sound.

Upcoming construction at Colman Dock
Just because in-water work will pause doesn’t mean work will stop. Construction to rebuild the state’s largest ferry terminal is like a game of Tetris, fitting in work where it makes sense from the bottom up. Now that the fish window is closed, construction activity shifts to build the new terminal and passenger-only dock atop the steel pile foundation.

Starting in early March, crews will tear down sections of the  existing terminal building. Customers can expect full ferry service throughout construction, with no reduction in the number of sailings. However, there will be fewer amenities and public space while the terminal building is under construction through mid-2019.

Exterior demolition of the existing terminal building begins in late spring 2018, clearing the way to install new steel support piles on the north side of the dock once the next fish window opens this August.