Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Dual highway closures will cause region-wide weekend congestion

UPDATES
Thursday, May 31

This weekend's westbound closure of the US 2 trestle has been postponed due to weather and will be rescheduled for the weekend of June 22-25.
Northbound I-5 through Seattle, westbound US 2 between Snohomish and Everett close late Friday, June 1 and reopen early Monday, June 4

By Frances Fedoriska

Drivers need to double down and study their weekend routes before a pair of closures bring congestion across the region. Not planning ahead is a gamble that could have travelers spending a lot of time in gridlock in King and Snohomish counties between the night of Friday, June 1 and early Monday, June 4.

Why are you closing two directions of two highways at the same time?
Both the northbound Revive I-5 and westbound US 2 projects need multiple weekend closures during warm, dry weather. In the Pacific Northwest, those requirements immediately limit our crews’ window of opportunity to a handful of months. To accommodate as many projects as possible in our short construction season, we look for opportunities to combine closures when appropriate. A northbound I-5 closure in Seattle combined with a westbound US 2 closure in Snohomish County is workable because travelers trying to go north on I-5 will not encounter the westbound closure of US 2.

Why weekend closures?
The short answer is, our crews can get a lot more work done during a full weekend closure than during a quick, overnight closure. We did a deeper dive into those details in this Revive I-5 blog and this entry about US 2. These weekend closures help shorten these major preservation projects, getting commuters and commerce back on Washington’s freeways in a shorter amount of time.

King County congestion
At 8 p.m. on Friday, June 1 we will begin to completely close northbound I-5 at the West Seattle Bridge for the first of two full weekend closures (the second is scheduled for the weekend of July 13 – 14). The lanes are scheduled to reopen by 5 a.m. Monday, June 4. Full freeway closures allow crews to complete the same amount of work that would otherwise require several additional weekend-long partial closures and lane reductions of northbound I-5.
View larger I-5 closure map (pdf 963 kb)

US 2 westbound closure
The westbound US 2 Hewitt Avenue trestle in Snohomish County will close at 7 p.m. Friday, June 1 between the SR 204 interchange to approximately the on-ramp from Homeacres Road.

All lanes are scheduled to reopen by 4 a.m. Monday, June 4. During this first partial trestle closure we will remove old, damaged pavement, inspect the trestle, make any needed repairs and put down a new layer of asphalt on the far east end of the Hewitt Avenue trestle.

This work is weather dependent. We need a total of six weekends to completely rehabilitate the westbound trestle. The five other closures are tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Monday on the following weekends:

  • June 22 – June 25
  • June 29 – July 2
  • July 13 – July 16
  • July 20 – July 23 
  • August 3 – August 6

The US 2 Detour
On an average June weekend, roughly 2,600 westbound travelers use this stretch of US 2 every hour. The two-lane highway can handle the traffic. The one-lane 20th Street Southeast detour we will use this weekend doesn't have the capacity to efficiently move every westbound traveler displaced during this US 2 closure.
During the weekend closures of westbound US 2, we will reverse 20th Street Southeast to be westbound only. It will carry drivers up the ramp to the far western end of the US 2 Hewitt Avenue trestle, just before the I-5 interchange.

View larger US 2 closure map (pdf 811 kb)

Across the region, we need help keeping traffic moving
Travelers who want to go west toward Everett, or north through Seattle between June 1 and June 4 need to consider these options:

  • Plan for congestion throughout the region. Keeping drivers off northbound I-5 and westbound US 2 will create a region-wide ripple effect of backups and delays.
    • In Seattle/King County prepare for long waits on state routes 99, 509, 599, 18, 167, 520, I-405 and I-90. City streets also see significant congestion as folks try to sneak around the backups.
    • In Snohomish County brace for congestion on state routes 9, 96 and 528 as those roads become crammed with travelers avoiding US 2 and the 20th Street detour.
  • Carpool
  • Transit. Buses reduce the number of cars on alternate routes, light rail avoids the roads altogether.
  • Move discretionary travel to a non-construction weekend.
  • Travel during non-peak hours. For both closures this is before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Be a helper. Share this information with anyone you know who may be thinking about traveling north through Seattle or west through Snohomish County.
  • Be prepared. Check ahead before you get behind the wheel. 
    • Our website will have closure and lane reduction updates.
    • Get weekly email updates on King and Snohomish County projects.
    • Our Twitter account will have info about traffic.
    • Download our mobile app for traffic maps and other news and updates.

Thanks in advance
We know there’s no good time to close a highway in any direction, and that these closures will present significant challenges to travelers. Doing this extensive preservation work will reduce the need for future emergency repairs that add time to already long commutes in King and Snohomish counties. We appreciate any adjustments you make to help us complete this important preservation work on I-5 and US 2.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Full closure of northbound I-5 at the West Seattle Bridge June 1-4

By Lisa Van Cise

As you're making plans for your holiday road trip this Memorial Day weekend, we also want you to think ahead to next weekend, June 1-4, because road construction to Revive I-5 in Seattle will be back in a big way.

This work includes two weekends of a full closure of northbound I-5 at the West Seattle Bridge. The full closures of the freeway allow crews to complete work equal to several partial closures in just one weekend.

Completely closing northbound I-5 will also allow the contractor access to 14 of the 37 expansion joints located in a very tight space, with limited shoulder widths and large machinery. Unlike previous weekends with partial lane closures, there's simply not enough room in this section of I-5 to replace the old expansion joints while keeping lanes open for travelers.

Northbound I-5 will begin narrowing to two lanes at 8 p.m. Friday, June 1, near Southcenter as we also repair expansion joints at the Duwamish River in order to combine work and reduce the number of weekends of lane closures on this major north-south route. The second weekend closure is tentatively scheduled for Friday night, July 13 to Monday morning, July 16. The weekend work is weather dependent which means rain could postpone the closures.
Photo that shows contractor crews tearing up old concrete from above
View from above: contractor crews tear up old concrete on northbound I-5
in Seattle during the May 19-20 weekend closure.

Regional traffic backups 8 p.m. Friday, June 1 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 4
If your quest for fun involves a trip on northbound I-5 through Seattle (or really anywhere in the greater Puget Sound region), you're going to need to plan for major region-wide travel delays. We know this is a inconvenience and will create a challenge to get around. Here's some suggestions on how to prepare:
  • Know what you're getting yourself into before you leave. This is a major closure that will affect people who use northbound I-5 and beyond. Let's think about the ripple effect: Some will decide to wade through the backups, but others will use alternate routes. Enter state routes 18, 99, 167, 509, 599, 520 and I-405 and I-90. During our May 18-21 partial closure of northbound I-5, we saw backups of 7 miles or more on both I-5 and I-405. City streets also see significant congestion as folks try to sneak around the backups.
  • Be a helper. The more people who carpool, use transit or delay discretionary trips, the more manageable the backups and delays will be. We recognize it's not possible for everyone to use transit or delay trips, but everyone who can helps those who can't.
  • Be prepared. Check ahead before you get behind the wheel. Bookmark our Seattle area traffic page, download our app and follow us on Twitter for the very latest travel conditions. 
There's no way around it, things are going to be a big challenge. But planning ahead should help take some of the sting out of it. Thank you, as always, for your patience as we complete this critical work on I-5.

Staying safe on the SR 20 North Cascades Highway

By Mike Allende

It's shaping up to be a warm and sunny Memorial Day weekend and it just might be the perfect time to take your motorcycle out on the highway.

One of our most popular routes for motorcycles is the beautiful SR 20 North Cascades Highway, which opened after its yearly winter closure earlier in May. But, while undeniably scenic, the road can also be one of the most hazardous – especially for those on motorcycles.
The SR 20 North Cascades Highway is one of our most popular routes for people to ride their motorcycles across.

Each year, on average, 14 motorcycles are involved in collisions on the North Cascades Highway. Of these crashes, 95 percent result in injury to the rider. Unfortunately, we've already seen one fatal motorcycle crash on the highway this year.

The vast majority – 75 percent – of motorcycle-involved crashes on the North Cascades Highway happen on curves during the daytime and on dry roads.
The North Cascades Highway is twisty and drivers must pay attention to their speed on the winding roads.

We teamed with the Federal Highway Administration on a study to help make the highway safer for everyone. Among the safety improvements we're making are:
  • Adding advanced curve warning and speed advisory signs
  • Adding arrow boards along curves
  • Adding intersection warning and road name signs
In addition, we've created a safety brochure that we're distributing to businesses throughout the corridor with tips about keeping everyone safe. Some of those are highlighted below.
Left: We're distributing these safety brochures all along the SR 20 North Cascades Highway corridor to encourage motorcycle safety. Right: We're adding several new signs like this to indicate curves on the North Cascades Highway.

Our maintenance crews work to remove debris like fallen rocks from the roadway, as well as repair damaged pavement and maintain pavement markings and signs. But we need drivers' help as well.
  • Always be alert when operating a vehicle. No distracted driving.
  • Never operate a vehicle – whether it has two wheels, four or even more – when impaired.
  • Please watch your speed – this is a twisty, winding highway.
  • If you're operating a motorcycle or bicycle, make yourself as visible as possible. And remember, it's the law to wear a helmet.
  • Use our scenic turnouts when they're fatigued or want to safely get good views of the area. There are dozens of scenic turnouts along the highway.
  • When pulling out of a turn or side street, look twice for motorcycles.
  • If you're following a motorcycle, give them space as motorcycles can decelerate far quicker than other vehicles.
  • Be on the lookout for wildlife crossing the highway.
Everyone plays a role in keeping everyone else safe on the highways. Be alert, watch your speed and following distance and work together to have a safe holiday weekend.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Adventure is out there - join us on May 20 to celebrate the SR 520 Trail!

By Emily Durante

May is one of our favorite months here on the SR 520 Project. The warmer weather signals that at last our long winter is behind us and summer is on the way. This change in season is a great time to explore local and regional pedestrian and bicycle trails, and coincides nicely with May, Bike Everywhere Month. May also plays host to our favorite day of the year – "520 Day" – also known as May 20!

This 520 Day, we're celebrating the SR 520 Trail with an informal ribbon-cutting event. Last December, hundreds of community members gathered to help us open the trail across Lake Washington and take the inaugural trip across the lake. Now that it's warming up outside, we want to officially cut the ribbon to celebrate the trail's "opening" and kick off the summer adventure season.
Some of the inaugural SR 520 Trail users enjoyed a beautiful, if chilly ride on Dec. 20, 2017.

The trail is designed for users of all abilities and types of travel, including by foot, bicycle, wheelchair, skateboard or stroller. Since the trail opened in December 2017, it's quickly become a vital part of our region's bicycle and pedestrian network. Bicyclists and pedestrians have taken more than 110,000 trips on the trail since December. Every day hundreds of people use the trail to commute, exercise or take advantage of outstanding views of Lake Washington and Union Bay.
We hope you're able to join us this Sunday, May 20. We'll have a short ceremony at 11 a.m. to cut a ribbon and "open" the SR 520 Trail. We'll be joined by a few of our community partners, including Cascade Bicycle Club, which has worked with us for more than 20 years to make this trail a reality. After the ceremony, you'll have a chance to cut your very own ribbon and get an SR 520 Trail sticker! As you hang out and enjoy the trail, representatives from our community partners, including the Seattle Running Club, will be on hand to share more about the great work they do. Additionally, SR 520 Program staff will be available to answer questions about the Trail and our ongoing reconstruction project.
The segment of the new SR 520 Trail on the floating bridge opened as an out-and-back excursion in July 2016.

What's next?
In the years to come we'll be extending the SR 520 Trail across Portage Bay and building a new, non-motorized crossing over I-5. We'll improve the connection to the Bill Dawson Trail, and build a new bicycle and pedestrian land bridge over SR 520 that connects the Washington Park Arboretum (and its recently completed Arboretum Loop Trail) to East Montlake Park. Most importantly, we'll continually work to make sure this trail serves the growing number of people choosing non-motorized forms of transportation for generations to come.

#ReviveI5, US 2 closure to hit Seattle and Snohomish County traffic hard this weekend, May 19-20

UPDATES
Friday, May 18

The scheduled closure of the westbound US 2 trestle in Snohomish County has been postponed due to forecasted rainy weather. It will be rescheduled for early June.
By Ally Barrera

The combination of popular spring events and major roadwork mean people planning to head to either Seattle or around Snohomish County this weekend should prepare for substantial traffic delays.

Travelers should plan extra time to get around, as well as:
  • Take public transportation (including the train or light rail).
  • Carpool
  • Travel early or late
  • Avoid discretionary trips if possible.
One glance at this week's Weekend Paint Map, and you'll see why we are urging folks to plan ahead.
Travelers in the Seattle and Snohomish County areas could see delays of up to an hour
due to major roadwork and special events

Westbound US 2 full closure
The westbound US 2 Hewitt Avenue trestle between Lake Stevens and Everett will be closed starting 7 p.m. Friday until 4 a.m. Monday. A detour will be in place via 20th Street Southeast, but travelers should prepare for long backups on all area roads, including State Route 9.

#ReviveI5 lane reductions
Northbound Interstate 5 will be down to two lanes between the West Seattle Bridge and SR 520 beginning at 8 p.m. Friday and lasting to 5 a.m. Monday. The following ramps will also close during this time:
  • Dearborn Street on-ramp to northbound I-5
  • Northbound I-5 off-ramp to Seneca Street
  • University Street on-ramp to northbound I-5
  • Mercer Street on-ramp to northbound I-5
We saw large backups on northbound I-5 last weekend, and it took drivers at least a half hour to get through the closure area. We hope that if enough people stay away from northbound I-5 – either by taking alternate routes or limiting discretionary travel – we can keep the backups to a minimum.

I-5 Ship Canal Bridge maintenance work
Our bridge maintenance crews will close the two left lanes of northbound I-5 between SR 520 and Northeast 45th/50th Street on Saturday and Sunday mornings for some much needed deck repair work.
Bridge crews will spend the weekend repairing areas of the Ship Canal Bridge deck, like the one above

The far left lane will close from 3 a.m. Saturday to 11 a.m. Sunday. The second left lane will close from 3 a.m. to noon on Saturday, and from 3 to 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Express lanes open northbound
The I-5 express lanes will be open in the northbound direction from 11:15 a.m. Friday to 4:30 a.m. Monday. Because of this, travelers who use southbound I-5 between Lynnwood and Seattle should also expect big backups and slow speeds.

Beat the Bridge Run/Walk
Folks trying to get around the Montlake and University District neighborhoods should expect several road closures between the University Village shopping mall and just south of SR 520 from 7:30 to 10 a.m. Sunday.

The following roads and ramps will be closed during that time:
  • Both directions of Montlake Boulevard Northeast between Northeast 44th Street and Husky Stadium
  • Both directions of the Montlake Bridge
  • The westbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard Northeast
  • The left turn lane on the eastbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard Northeast
Special Events
Friday, May 18:
  • Mariners vs. Detroit Tigers, 7:10 p.m., Safeco Field
  • Paul Simon concert, 7:30 p.m., KeyArena
Saturday, May 19:
  • University District Street Fair, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., U-District
  • Mariners vs. Detroit Tigers, 6:10 p.m., Safeco Field
  • Stars on Ice, 7:30 p.m., KeyArena
  • Chris Young concert, 7:30 p.m., Tacoma Dome
Sunday, May 20:
  • University District Street Fair, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., U-District
  • Mariners vs. Detroit Tigers, 1:10 p.m., Safeco Field
We appreciate everyone's patience heading into this busy weekend. We also appreciate your help in spreading the word. If you know someone hitting the road in the Puget Sound area this weekend, make sure they know about the delays ahead of them!

Our #KnowBeforeYouGo resources
Following @WSDOT_Traffic on Twitter for real-time info.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Understanding all modes of transportation key in building system that works for everyone

By Roger Millar

Last week, Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar sent this message in honor of Bike Month to all staff members. The message has since then made its way outside our agency and has been well received. We'd like to share it with you:

You're probably familiar with the phrase "walk a mile in someone else's shoes." We tend to use it metaphorically but trying it for real can yield a whole new appreciation for the importance of a transportation system designed with every mode in mind, not just one. After all, even if you rely on a personal vehicle to get from one place to another you'll still be a pedestrian after you park the car.

The same is true for "rolling a mile on someone else's bike." You may not use a bike for transportation but if you were to try riding from a neighborhood to the grocery store, your job site, or just the nearest transit stop, you'd experience how it feels to travel on a street or road that doesn't include provision for your mode.

This understanding matters for our work on behalf of all Washington residents (including our future selves – when someday we're not able to drive ourselves where we want to go). Better biking and walking connections serve not just people who choose those modes, but also people using those modes out of necessity.

The opening of the SR 520 trail provided a key link for bicyclists and pedestrians across Lake Washington.


That's more people than you might think. Over 22 percent – more than one in five – of people in Washington don't hold a driver's license. They may be too young, too old, have a disability that doesn't permit them to drive, choose not to drive, or face a legal barrier. Whatever the reason, they don't drive – and they're still using the transportation system.

One of the fastest-growing reasons people don't drive? They can't afford to own and operate a car. We have a deepening opportunity gap in our state, particularly in the Puget Sound but growing everywhere. We must provide safety and mobility for the people who need it most to gain access to jobs, education, food, health care, and other essential goods and services.

A bike can be the key that unlocks the door to opportunity but lack of comfortable, complete connections can keep that door from opening. These are the people biking to home from a late shift or on their way to an early one. The people carrying a bag on the handlebar to get their groceries home the only way they can, because a rack and bike bag aren't in the budget. The people whose headlights are dead because batteries cost money. The mom taking her kids to school by bike because the family has one car and it's in use. The senior citizen pedaling slowly to the doctor's office because their reflexes aren't up to the speed of driving decisions any more.

When we design and build better connections for biking, or make it easier to cross state right-of-way to access the quieter, calmer local streets, we're working for them. For several years now Washington has led the nation in policies, infrastructure, education and funding to support people who use bicycles to get around – but there's more work to be done.

As we celebrate Bike Month (pdf 644 kb) in May, let's consider what we can do differently to help all people get around, regardless of the mode they use. Imagine riding that mile "on another's bike" – while designing and building projects, and when approaching, passing or turning near a person on a bike. Let's make it safe and convenient for everyone to get where they want to be.

Thank you for your service.


Roger

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The sweet tradition continues

By Andrea E. Petrich

For the first time in decades, the opening of SR 20's North Cascades Highway seasonal gate will be without Tootsie Clark.
Tootsie at the SR 20 North Cascades Highway gate opening in 1994. Photo courtesy the Clark family

Known to many as the cinnamon roll lady, she passed away last fall, leaving a cinnamon roll legacy that stretches farther than the Marblemont resident likely ever imagined.

"She just loved the highway," her granddaughter Jurene Brooks said. "And she loved the crews."
Our crews enjoying Tootsie's cinnamon rolls in 2010. Photo courtesy the Clark family

More than a decade ago, the former proprietor of Clark's Skagit River Cabins and Eatery started bringing cinnamon rolls to the gate to share with crews.

"It was a way to show her appreciation," Jurene said. "She knew that once those gates were open, people would come from both sides of the mountains and business would flourish."
Tootsie pushing the SR 20 gate open in 2007. Photo courtesy the Clark family

Jurene plans to help carry on the legacy and honor her late grandmother at the 2018 opening. She has spent the week preparing more than 100 cinnamon rolls to hand out to those at the western gate in Diablo on opening morning. She tells me that her mom, dad and uncle will also be there just to honor her grandmother and the tradition she built.

Tootsie's family won't be the only ones celebrating the woman who brought so many people together. Regulars at the gate opening over the years became known as "Tootsie's Gang" and many of them will be there too.
Tootsie and her gang at the gate opening in 2015. Photo courtesy the Clark family

Jess Brown lives in Anacortes and since 2003 he's been driving – or if it's warm enough, riding his motorcycle across the Cascades on opening day.

"My boss knows that whenever that opening day is, I'll be taking the day off," Jess said.

That is still the case this year. Jess is loading up his dogs and taking the RV up to the gate where he plans to roll out a biscuits and gravy feast to help carry on the tradition left by his friend, Tootsie.
Longtime opening day friend, Jess Brown, with Tootsie Clark in 2014. Photo courtesy Jess Brown

"She brought people together with her food," Jess said. "We all love the day the highway opens for the season and this is my way of celebrating her, at the event that brought us all together every year."
Tootsie Clark with one of her famous cinnamon rolls. Photo courtesy the Clark family

Tootsie's family has moved out of the area but her cinnamon roll legacy lives on. Not only through her granddaughter, other family and close North Cascades Highway friends but also through the business she once marketed with them.

It's now called Glacier Peak Resort and Winery and Tootsie's cinnamon roll recipe lives on there. The owners will also bring those cinnamon rolls to the 2018 opening.

"A lot of the staff there is the same," said Jurene. "They know how to make gramma's recipe and they'll do a great job."

The first SR 20 North Cascades Highway opening without Tootsie won't be the same, but all the food, all the friends and all the love for this highway is something she helped build and her sweet tradition lives on.

Westbound US 2 trestle closed June 2-3

UPDATED May 24

By Frances Fedoriska

The westbound US 2 Hewitt Avenue trestle in Snohomish County will be closed the weekend of June 2-3 – assuming we get good weather – and to avoid extensive backups and delays, we need drivers to try something new. No, we don't mean whipping up a new dinner recipe or checking out a new museum exhibit. We mean trying a new route, a new carpool, a new start time, even make new weekend plans (if feasible) to avoid heading west during this closure.

Again, if your plans included the westbound US 2 trestle between 7 p.m. Friday, June 1 and 4 a.m. Monday, June 4, start working on an alternate plan.
The westbound US 2 trestle connecting Lake Stevens and Snohomish with Everett
will have six full weekend closures as part of a major repaving project.

But why?
We're repaving three miles of westbound US 2 from Bickford Ave. to I-5. This section hasn't been repaved since 2002 and will require six full weekend closures of the westbound trestle.

Weekend traffic by the numbers
On the average non-holiday weekend in the spring and summer, roughly 2,600 westbound drivers take US 2 between the SR 204 interchange and Everett every hour. The delays are usually minimal on these weekends because the two-lane highway can handle the traffic.

But that's a lot of traffic that will be using other routes during the closure on roads not designed for that many vehicles. There will be a detour using 20th Street SE, but at one lane, it doesn't have the capacity to efficiently move every traveler displaced during this US 2 closure.
During the weekend closure of westbound US 2, we will reverse 20th Street Southeast to be westbound only. It will carry drivers up the ramp to the far western end of the US 2 Hewitt Avenue trestle, just before the I-5 interchange.

We need help to keep traffic moving
If you need to travel westbound to Everett during that weekend, consider your options:
  • Carpool
  • Move discretionary travel to a non-construction weekend.
  • Travel westbound between Lake Stevens and Everett during non-peak hours (before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.).
  • Stay longer at your destination to avoid traveling during peak hours.
  • Research alternative routes before the 20th Street SE detour. Get creative!
Thanks in advance
We know that anytime we close roadways it presents a significant challenge to drivers and we appreciate your efforts during these weekend closures. Doing this extensive preservation work will reduce the need for future emergency repairs that add time to already long commutes in Snohomish County. We could also use your help in spreading the word. If you know someone who makes this trip, please let them know!

How to get more information
  • Our website will have closure and lane reduction updates.
  • Get weekly email updates on Snohomish County projects.
  • Our Twitter account will have info about traffic.
  • Download our mobile app for traffic maps and other news and updates.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Rest at 'em, don't trash 'em

By Andrea E. Petrich

I love that safety rest areas exist. I don't love how some of my fellow travelers treat them.

While I use them for everything from rest room breaks, to stretching my legs, to grabbing a quick nap, others litter, damage facilities and take advantage of resources.

We have 47 rest areas across the state cared for by our maintenance crews. Most of us who use these facilities also help with the upkeep by respecting the area and following the rules. Lately, however, there have been people taking advantage of these public facilities.

Crews have seen everything from a man with a baseball bat smashing sinks and toilets, to a woman bringing her personal trash down a few times a week to dispose of it instead of paying to do it elsewhere, to people staying much longer than the eight-hour maximum.

While there are many abuses of these taxpayer-funded spaces that run up costs, most recently it has been trash causing the biggest problems.
This garbage - including the mail box - shouldn't be left at rest areas. Animals often break into bags
and scatter garbage, making it even more time-consuming for crews to clean up.

Across the state we spend $3.2 million a year on janitorial and garbage costs at our rest areas – including $615,000 just for the eight rest areas in King, Snohomish and Whatcom counties. Any additional cost due to abuse of our facilities means that's money and worker time that can't be used for other maintenance projects. While we expect and encourage people to throw away personal items and small amounts of trash that accumulate in your car during road trips, we do not allow:
  • Leftover construction materials
  • Personal trash brought down from your home
  • Large items you don't want to pay to take away from home or work
  • Other items outside of diapers, properly wrapped pet waste, feminine hygiene products, small amounts of vehicle trash, picnic trash
Left: Rest area trash cans aren't the best place to leave household trash or boxes. They should be recycled and taken to proper transfer stations. Right: This large bag of trash was left behind at our Custer Rest Area.
Things like this shouldn't be flushed, obviously.
To help keep budgets in place while still providing trash facilities for the traveling public you may notice some changes if you're a rest area regular at Smokey Point or other northwestern Washington stops. In some areas we've:
  • Removed larger dumpsters
  • Moved some larger receptacles to higher volume/well lighted areas
  • Added smaller trash cans to each restroom to assist with personal trash disposal
Our maintenance crews will keep working to keep these areas clean and available for your needs while traveling. We partner with Washington State Patrol, which enforces laws at rest areas. To report a facility issue, including trash, you can contact us at HQCustomerService@wsdot.wa.gov. If you're ever concerned with safety or have an emergency issue at a rest area, please call 9-1-1.

Together we can help keep these facilities in good shape for those of us who need to use them to safely travel our Washington highways.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Safety Flock: Plastic flamingos and bird kites help keep our North Cascades Pass clearing crews safe – and entertained

Popular North Cascades Highway reopens on Friday, May 11

By Barbara LaBoe

When you see a plastic flamingo yard ornament or a kite decorated like an eagle, you likely don't think safety. But, for our avalanche and maintenance crews clearing State Route 20, these mascots can be the reason they return home at the end of their shift.

The flamingos and other feathered friends help us during our work to clear popular destinations like the North Cascades Highway, which will reopen Friday, May 11.

It's tough work clearing up to 11 feet of snow from roadways closed for the season – especially given the historic avalanche chutes that make the roads unsafe during the winter months. These known areas of avalanche activity are particularly dangerous and unpredictable and we don't want our crews stopping or parking underneath them.
Floyd (right in hard hat) and his safety flamingo flock help mark dangerous areas for our avalanche and
maintenance crews reopening the North Cascade Highway. The birds' bright pink coloring
standing out against the snow and warn crews about hazardous areas.

The dangers are included in daily safety briefings and training and are marked with traditional signs, but several years back, our avalanche crew wanted another way to reinforce the message. Complacency is a serious risk factor in repetitive, dangerous work so they wanted a new way to catch workers' attention.

"That's how accidents happen," explains Mike Stanford, our North Central Region Avalanche Supervisor. "You've done the same thing a million times before and then one day you don't pay attention."

Enter Floyd the flamingo.

Stanford spied Floyd – in all of his pink, plastic glory – in a store one day and knew this was the answer. Not only does the pink color stand out against the snow, a flamingo suddenly appearing on a mountain pass, covered with snow, certainly gets attention.

Inexpensive and easy to relocate, Floyd also was a low-cost solution to a serious safety hazard. "We try to do the best and safest thing we can at the lowest cost.," Stanford said. The plastic birds are also easy to replace if they were ever buried in an avalanche. (There have been a couple of close calls but, so far, no flamingo has been lost in the line of duty.)

Once crews and the public saw the first flamingo, the questions began. He soon had a name and an entire backstory, including a home base in Louisiana.  At first, Floyd flew solo, but soon members of his extended family also joined the safety crew. A whole flock of pink flamingos – some wearing miniature hard hats and Mardi Gras beads - have been seen during clearing.
Left: This spring an eagle kite was used in place of flamingos, with the coloring and movement a reminder to crews to not stop near it. After the kite string broke, however, it's likely stationary flamingos will return to the job next year. Right: Floyd the flamingo – wearing a mini hard hat – stands at attention near "the annex", a particularly dangerous area near Washington Pass where crews need to avoid stopping or parking.

Floyd's antics were added to the weekly updates on the North Cascades Highway clearing progress and his fame soon reached far beyond Washington state. A couple of the flamingo flock have even been "liberated" by die-hard fans.

This year, however, Floyd took a break. The tale up on SR 20 goes that Floyd had some legal issues back in Louisiana and sent his "distant cousin" an eagle kite in his place. The eagle was also very visible to crews, but he "abandoned" his post in late April when the kite's string broke in strong winds – luckily, after the avalanche chute area was cleared. Given the eagle's dependability issues, crews say to expect the flamingos back on the job in 2019.

In all seriousness, while flamingos and kites are fun, they do serve a serious purpose. We want to reopen roads as soon as possible each spring, but we also need to keep our crews safe in the process. Closely following our safety policy lets us achieve both goals. And, if some of our tools also make the crews smile during a long, dangerous job, that doesn't hurt either.

Right place at the right time helps Spokane crew avoid tragedy

By Al Gilson and Mike Allende

Jeremy Scott and his crew were setting up a lane closure to get some road work done at the I-90 ramp at Division Street in Spokane one mid-August morning when the situation changed in a hurry.

While one truck was setting out signs, Jeremy trailed in a TMA (truck mounted attenuator) to provide those workers with some extra protection. Because while signage was already out letting drivers know the left lane was closed, and a large arrow board mounted on Jeremy's truck indicated the lane was closed, you never know. And in this case, it's a good thing Jeremy and the TMA were there.
Jeremy Scott, a maintenance technician in our Spokane area, was shaken up and had minor injuries when a pickup truck ran into the back of his work vehicle while his crew was setting up lane closed signage.

The workers were outside of the lead vehicle setting up a sign when a pickup truck zipped out of the center lane into the left to pass. Realizing the lane was closed, the truck attempted to move back to the center but lost control and slammed into the back of Jeremy's truck at about 60 mph.

Jeremy reported some neck and back pain and was definitely shaken up.

"It's scary to think of what might have happened to the crew setting the sign if I wasn't there," said Jeremy, a Maintenance Lead Technician who has worked for WSDOT for 10 years. "They had little protection except for my vehicle."
Jeremy Scott was in a truck mounted attenuator similar to this - providing an extra level of protection to
other road workers – when a pickup truck slammed into the back of it.

The State Patrol cited the driver of the pickup and Jeremy ended up on modified duty for a week while recovering. The TMA also suffered $3,000 in damage.
Maintenance technician Jeremy Scott reads with his daughter. He helped keep his crewmates safe when a pickup truck ran into the back of his work vehicle in Spokane.

When we talk about work zones it's important to remember that we don't just mean major construction areas. Sometimes we may be on the side of the road doing vegetation management. Sometimes we're inspecting underneath a bridge. Some, like in Jeremy and his team's case, are mobile. That's why it's always important to stay alert and focused on the highways. We put out advanced warning signage to alert drivers of upcoming work and closures and we need people to pay attention to those warnings.

Just as important, once you encounter a work zone, slow down and whenever possible, move over. Not only does it help keep workers safe, it's the law.

We're thankful that Jeremy, his crew and the pickup truck driver didn't suffer serious injuries – things could've been a lot worse – but simply paying attention and slowing down may have prevented the incident altogether. So please help keep Jeremy, his teammates and all road workers safe by following the simple steps of being alert, moving over and slowing down.

Monday, May 7, 2018

SR 520 construction: Recapping our Montlake Phase open house

By Steve Peer

We recently held an open house to preview State Route 520's upcoming Montlake Phase of construction in Seattle, and judging by the great turnout, our project is generating a lot of interest among local residents and commuters. For those who couldn't make it to the meeting, we captured some questions and concerns people shared with us that evening and boiled down our responses.

When does the Montlake Phase start?
We expect to announce the contractor this fall and begin construction toward the end of 2018. We anticipate this $400 million project to be completed in four to five years.
This graphic depicts SR 520 corridor elements at completion of the Montlake Phase.
Major project elements are labeled above.

Are you going to remove the Montlake Market and 76 gas station?
We need to acquire the property where these businesses lie for a variety of purposes, including the construction of a Montlake lid and a new interchange, and to construct utility and street upgrades. At this time, it appears unlikely we can construct these improvements without affecting the market building. However, we're reviewing all construction requirements in this area, and we'll work with the selected design-build contractor later this year to see if it's possible to construct the Montlake Phase elements without removing the market building. We recognize the market's importance to many neighboring residents, but at the same time, we must serve the needs of the traveling public and replace aging, structurally vulnerable highway infrastructure within a highly constrained urban area.

You said you needed the Montlake Market property for staging construction equipment and materials. Can't you do that somewhere else?
As we noted above, we need the market property for numerous reasons, including:
  • Construction of the adjacent Montlake lid
  • Replacement of a large water main that runs under SR 520
  • Reconstruction of Montlake Boulevard
  • Temporary traffic shifts when rebuilding Montlake Boulevard
  • Building wider sidewalks and trail connections in the immediate vicinity
We plan to stage equipment and materials at the market property and elsewhere on our property – including on the WSDOT Peninsula near the Arboretum and at the former Museum of History and Industry site.

Why are you removing the eastbound SR 520 on-ramp through the Arboretum?
The main reason is the community's desire to enhance the Washington Park Arboretum by removing this structure. The ramp-removal decision followed years of public engagement, community and legislative meetings, and environmental study. Support for removing all highway ramps in the Arboretum came from local residents, community organizations, and Seattle's mayor and City Council. Ultimately, the Legislature and Federal Highway Administration approved the SR 520 plan that calls for the ramps' removal.

Will removal of the on-ramp in the Arboretum cause traffic congestion in the Montlake neighborhood?
Before the Arboretum ramp is removed, we'll make a number of improvements, such as:
  • Adding an additional general-purpose lane to the existing eastbound "loop" on-ramp at Montlake Boulevard
  • Creating a second left-turn lane from northbound Montlake Boulevard onto the eastbound loop on-ramp
  • Adding a westbound lane of car-queuing capacity to East Lake Washington Boulevard, near the Montlake interchange, that feeds directly into the improved loop on-ramp.
These capacity improvements will accommodate the traffic that shifts from the old Arboretum ramp to the Montlake Boulevard ramp.

Are you going to prohibit nighttime work so people living closest to the highway aren't disturbed by construction noise?
Because Montlake Boulevard is the third-busiest arterial in Seattle, our contractor crews need to perform some work at night to limit disruptions to weekday traffic. Also, both for workers and for the traveling public, some work is safer to do at night with limited or no traffic. Our nighttime work during the upcoming Montlake Phase will be regulated under a noise variance granted by the City of Seattle on April 26, 2018.

What does the city's noise variance do?
The variance sets specific limits – measured in decibels – on the level of noise crews can make between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays, and 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. on weekends and holidays. In general, noise limits for nighttime work are significantly lower than daytime construction noise. For example, the city's variance prohibits especially loud construction activities at night, such as pile driving, jack hammering, and backup beepers on construction vehicles.

How will you enforce the variance and its noise limits?
We will install digital noise meters around the project area at specific neighborhood locations to record noise levels, in decibels, around the clock, 365 days per year. We'll provide the noise readings to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections as part of the city's monitoring efforts. Also, we will hire an independent noise specialist to be on site during all nighttime work. The specialist will report any violations or neighborhood complaints to the city. Residents can report noise complaints to our 24-hour hotline. In addition, our design-build contractor will produce a Noise Management and Mitigation Plan that spells out the procedures crews will follow to comply with the city's noise variance.

Will the SR 520 Montlake flyer stops be closed during construction?
For the safety of transit riders, the contractor will need to close the freeway-level flyer stops during construction. We estimate they'll close in spring 2019. Bus stops on Montlake Boulevard and at the Montlake Triangle, near Husky Stadium, will remain open, as will the U-Link light rail station. We're working with the transit agencies to identify opportunities to assist affected riders during construction. Once construction is complete, new regional bus stops will open at street level on the Montlake lid. Stay tuned for updates.

Will the Montlake Phase improvements change the corridor's transit service?
When the Montlake Phase is completed, there will be several transit improvements that support safer and more reliable bus service along the SR 520 corridor. Some of the key enhancements include:
  • Transit/HOV lanes from Redmond to the Montlake area
  • Direct-access ramps on and off the highway at the new Montlake lid with direct connections to regional and local bus stops
  • Improved bus waiting and transfer areas on the new Montlake lid
  • Better path connections to buses and light rail for pedestrians and bicyclists

Artist rendering of a new Montlake lid's transit plaza.

Will the shared-use path on the 24th Avenue East overpass close again for bicyclists and pedestrians?
For the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians, we anticipate that the contractor likely will need to close the overpass in order to rebuild 24th Avenue East and incorporate it into the new Montlake lid. The contractor will determine the timing and duration of this closure.

How does the Montlake Phase work tie in with the "Rest of the West"?
The Montlake Phase is part the remaining SR 520 projects known as the Rest of the West. The work involves total replacement of the existing four-lane highway with a six-lane roadway containing transit/HOV lanes in both directions, highway lids in Seattle's Montlake and Roanoke neighborhoods, the south half of a new west approach bridge, a new Portage Bay Bridge, and a second drawbridge over the Montlake Cut.

Rest of the West project overview

How long is all this work going to last?
With complicated work from the new floating bridge to I-5, including long over-water bridges while keeping traffic moving, we anticipate that the Rest of the West will take about 10 years to complete. The 2015 Connecting Washington transportation package funds projects throughout the state, including $1.6 billion for the SR 520 project. The SR 520 funds are spread out through the 2027-2029 biennium.

Where do I get more information?
We've posted the open house display boards on the SR 520 website. If you have additional questions about the Montlake Phase or any other facet of SR 520 construction can send us an email at sr520bridge@wsdot.wa.gov.

Congestion relief coming to SR 9 in south Snohomish this spring

By Marqise Allen

More people means more cars. And more cars means more congestion.

Look no further than State Route 9 in Snohomish County. The corridor is critical to the county’s commuter and commercial traffic, but has been bogged down with congestion with all the recent growth.

Interim improvement project set to begin
However, some relief is coming in the form of a $1.6 million interim project that will widen and restripe a portion of SR 9 in the Clearview area from 136th Street Southeast to SR 96 and create a second northbound lane. Work on the project begins on Monday, May 7.
Traffic routinely stacks up on SR 9 near SR 96 in the Clearview area during rush hour. We’ll widen the highway from 136th Street to SR 96 this spring, adding a second northbound lane to increase capacity and help with traffic flow.

Extending the existing four-lane intersection another 1,500 feet will help increase capacity in the area and decrease delays during peak travel times.

Lane closures
Crews will need nighttime single-lane closures to complete the work. People who travel through the area should expect most lane closures to be from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., Sunday through Thursday. Check our website for details.
We’re kicking off an interim congestion relief project on SR 9 in Clearview starting Monday, May 7. The project is a precursor to a much larger project that will widen the highway between 176th Street to SR 96. 

Snohomish County still growing
The county’s population jumped from about 713,000 to almost 758,000 between 2010 to 2015, according to state data. Projections estimate the population could reach more than 900,000 by 2025.

To accommodate the boom, we’ve already widened the highway to four lanes near Woodinville to the south and Marsh Road in the north. However, there’s still a 3-mile section in the middle between 176th Street Southeast and SR 96 that needs to be widened. There are plans to widen that stretch, but there’s no funding for construction at the moment.

This interim project is far from a permanent solution, but it will improve congestion.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Montesano students learn about STEM, fish passage

By Tina Werner

Most grade school classrooms are a bustling place with active, young minds as they learn language arts, math and social studies. But Ms. Olsen and Ms. Niel’s fourth grade classes at Simpson Elementary School in Montesano had a special visitor last week for a portion of their morning: John Romero. John, one of our project engineers out of our Aberdeen office, talked to the kids about the importance of fish passage and how they pertain to state highway projects.
Project engineer John Romero speaks to Simpson Elementary
School students in Montesano about the importance of
 fish passage as they pertain to state highway projects.

Simpson Elementary, located in a rural area of western Washington along US 12 heading towards Aberdeen and the Pacific Ocean, has seen a decent amount of construction along their major east-west highway this year, most noticeably a $17.2 million fish barrier removal project in McCleary.

Crews are replacing outdated culverts under State Route 8 to improve fish passage for Middle and East Forks Wildcat Creek and replacing them with four new bridges, slowing down the streams at the culvert sites and making it easier for fish to traverse. Romero told the classes about the work that has occurred, what is still to come and why it’s important.

“It’s imperative that our work today shares a story with the next generation of drivers, future engineers, construction workers and community leaders,” John said.

John also talked about the importance of a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. He encouraged the classrooms of about 20 students each to consider pursuing STEM fields, as he did in preparing to join our agency 24 years ago. Showing the students examples of STEM at work – like on fish passage projects – gives them clear examples of those skills at work.
The new 160-foot-long bridge over the East Fork of Wildcat Creek in McCleary.

In particular, John encouraged the girls in the class to think about careers in fields that traditionally have been male-dominated, such as engineering and construction. We have women in some of the highest roles in our agency, something we’re particularly proud of.

John told the classes that his team has more female professional licensed engineers than males, sparking many of the girls in the class to ask questions.
Crews place bridge girders last month, marking a major milestone in the project. Each girder took approximately 15 minutes to place from cranes stationed in live traffic lanes of SR 8.

“In this day and age, I think it’s equally important to celebrate the roles of women in the workplace while serving the diverse populations we represent,” John said.

Swift rescue: Teamwork and technology combine to quickly rescue downed pilot

By Barbara LaBoe

Time is vitally important during aviation search and rescues and can often be the difference between life and death. That's why we were pleased with the successful – and quick – mission our Aviation Emergency Services Program ran on Wednesday, May 2.

A small plane crashed near Mount Angeles in the Olympic National Park shortly before 8 a.m. The plane's emergency beacon sent out an alert and the State Emergency Operations Center notified us within minutes. (By state statute, we run the search for all downed or missing planes in the state. Aviation Emergency Services is run out of our Office of Emergency Management, assisted with funding from our Aviation Division).

Tom Peterson, our aviation emergency services program manager, coordinates the search missions and several partner agencies assist with the physical searches. Wednesday, the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station launched a helicopter crew while park rangers started a ground search. The pilot had minor injuries after bumping his head in the crash, but he hiked to the top of the mountain where he found cell service and confirmed he needed rescue and was the only one onboard.
Orange markers show the location of the plane and survivor located Wednesday, May 2, in the Olympic National Park. Given this terrain the emergency beacon and its precise coordinates greatly aided in this rescue mission.

The Navy helicopter crew launched at 8:45 a.m. and 20 minutes later located the crash scene and began hoisting the pilot into their aircraft. They credited the plane's digital 406-megahertz beacon with providing "spot on" information. The digital beacons provide precise location details as well as aircraft and owner information and contact numbers, which all greatly aid in searches. The 406 beacons (also used for maritime searches by the U.S. Coast Guard) are much more accurate than initial beacons introduced in the 1960s and 1970s. While not required for aircraft, this type of emergency locator transmitter is invaluable during search and rescue missions.

Given the terrain and heavy snow, locating the plane visually would have been much more difficult and time-consuming. If the pilot had been seriously injured or unconscious, precise location details are even more vital.

With all the agencies working together, the pilot was at the Port Angeles hospital at 9:35 a.m. – just one and a half hours from crash to medical care. Thank you to everyone who helped with this rescue.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Improvements ahead for Lake Stevens and Snohomish County

By Diana Barreto

Spring has sprung! As 2018 continues to unfold, so too does the SR 9/SR 204 intersection improvements project. After three public open houses and continued input from the community and interested parties, the preferred intersection design option is moving forward.

The project team is excited to host an open house in two weeks to share the progress and a newly created animated video illustrating the improved functionality of the completed intersection.
The project itself is scheduled to start in 2019.
Plans are moving forward for improvements to the SR 9/SR 204 intersection in Lake Stevens.

Open house information
The open house will take place from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16 at Hillcrest Elementary School in Lake Stevens. Come for the video, stay for the conversation with our staff and the local community. The video will play on a loop throughout the duration of the open house.

Background
Funded by the 2015 Connecting Washington funding package, we sought out best solutions to improve congestion at the SR 9/SR 204 intersection. Since 2016, we listened to the SR 9/SR 204 intersection improvements project Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG). Business owners and the Lake Stevens community came together to provide input and guidance on design options aimed at creating 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 eight times since summer 2016. We worked closely with stakeholders to define a project need statement; develop, analyze, and review potential solutions and reach consensus on a preferred design for the intersection.

Visit the SR 9/SR 204 intersection improvements project web page for updates and more information.

Opening day of boating season, sports and roadwork to affect Seattle area traffic this weekend

By Ally Barrera

Around here, the start of boating season is considered an unofficial start of summer, and this year, the season kicks off this Saturday, May 5. Combine that with the potential of weekend sun, big home stands for the Mariners and Sounders, and some necessary roadwork, and folks heading into Seattle will need to budget extra time into their travels.

This week's MS Paint Map features all the big events happening this weekend, including the closure of the Montlake Bridge for boating season opening day festivities, and the Saturday daytime HOV lane closure on northbound I-5 in Kent.
Planning to head east of the mountains? Both directions of I-90 between North Bend and Ellenburg will be reduced to a single lane in multiple places starting around 8 p.m. each night, so be prepared for potential slowdowns on this major east-west corridor.

Folks can tackle the increased congestion and traffic delays by planning ahead and knowing their alternate routes. Also, travelers should consider other ways of getting around, like transit or carpooling.

As always, don't forget about our popular resources that'll help you #KnowBeforeYouGo:
Following our different Twitter accounts for real-time info.

Work to finish repainting Aurora Bridge begins this spring

By Marqise Allen

About 15,000 gallons of paint.

That's how much paint will be used to finish repainting Seattle's Aurora Bridge. For perspective, it'd probably take about two gallons to repaint your living room. So imagine repainting your living room. … and then doing it 7,500 times.

However, painting an 87-year-old bridge is more complicated than running out to your local paint or hardware store to pick out a new hue for your living room.
Contractor crews will finish repainting Seattle's Aurora Bridge starting in May. It will take two years to clean and repaint the steel trusses and other sections.

Starting this month and through the next two years, crews from Liberty Maintenance will complete the second phase of repainting the bridge, touching up the steel trusses and everything else below the bridge deck that wasn't painted in Stage 1. The trusses make up much of the structure, and are the sections that extend from just below the concrete bridge deck down to the concrete bridge piers on the ground.

Because the bridge is massive, all of the work will be done in sections, starting and finishing one area before moving to the next. Crews will wrap each section of the bridge with a containment system that will protect the nearby environment from exposure to the cleaning, painting, debris removal and cleanup.
The general condition of the paint on the SR 99 Aurora Bridge isn't good. We clean and paint bridges to keep them in good working order and protect them from rust and corrosion.

Speaking of painting, crews can't just slap a new coat of paint on. The contractor will first clean each section of the bridge and remove the old paint by sandblasting it off, down to the bare metal. Then they'll add a few layers of primer before eventually spraying on that beautiful Bulkhead Machinery Gray coat.

Why repaint the Aurora Bridge?
Besides the fact that rust just looks tacky, repainting bridges is an essential part of maintenance. Bridges must be regularly cleaned and repainted to keep them in tip-top shape. Rusting and decaying steel, if left unchecked, can threaten the stability of a bridge and potentially cause it to collapse.

So the work is done more so for upkeep than aesthetics. Though having a clean-looking bridge is nice too!
The floor beams and stringers directly below the bridge were cleaned and repainted in 2016. During this stage, we'll repaint the steel trusses that extend from below the bridge deck down to the concrete piers on the ground.

Will there be road closures?
Some of the set up and painting work will require occasional nighttime lane reductions of Aurora Avenue over the bridge. There will also be nighttime lane reductions on nearby roads such as Dexter Avenue. Everyone knows how busy the bridge can be during the day. That's why these adjustments will happen at night when traffic volumes are significantly lower. You'll be able to find closures on our website.

Paving work too?
Fast forward to when the bridge has been repainted and is looking all shiny and new, crews will then repave the driving surface on the bridge. It has been a while since the bridge was last repaved. About 20 years to be exact. New pavement will give drivers a much smoother surface to drive on.

Combined, all of the work will ensure the Aurora Bridge remains a beautiful piece of Seattle's skyline.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Just exactly what happened on Wednesday morning in Tacoma?

By Cara Mitchell

Overnight Tuesday, May 1, contractor Skanska switched traffic on southbound I-5 that temporarily reduced southbound I-5 to a single lane. All lanes were intended to re-open by 5 a.m. Wednesday, May 2. As we all know, that did not happen.

The work was delayed and all lanes of southbound I-5 through Tacoma and from eastbound State Route 16 to southbound I-5 didn’t reopen until around 9 a.m. We know this affected many people’s commute and it wasn’t what we intended.

This traffic shift was very large in scope. It involved travel lanes on two of our biggest state highways in Tacoma. We also know there was a collision in the work zone overnight that delayed some of the work. We are meeting with the contractor to find out more as to what happened, and to see what adjustments need to be made moving forward.

Contractor crews building HOV lanes in Tacoma close ramps and lanes on I-5 and SR 16 almost every night. Ninety percent of the time, those closures have reopened on time, if not early.

Even though the lanes didn’t reopen when we’d planned today, this traffic switch still signals a major milestone in bringing HOV lanes to Pierce County and replacing the original surface of I-5.

Please know that we do sympathize with your frustration over what happened this morning. Our promise to you is that we will work to ensure that something like this does not happen again.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A different job, a different safety plan every day

By Andrea E. Petrich

When I dropped into our Mount Vernon maintenance yard to talk to Lee Haugstad, he and "Safety" Sue Tellesbo – one of our safety officers – were busy checking the condition and taking inventory of our fall equipment and gear that the teams use when they're on our road warrior.
Lee Haughstad and safety officer Sue Tellesbo check and inventory equipment prior to heading out to a job.

On our what?
The road warrior is a multi-use truck that lets our teams hook into gear and drop barrels more efficiently to create traffic control in our work zones. Once the barriers are set up, the road warrior is used as an additional level of protection for crews, with a rear end that folds down to create a crash pad in case a driver doesn't see the work zone.
A maintenance technician for more than 12 years, Lee Haughstad works with a variety of safety equipment,
including our road warrior.

A job like this is why Lee loves his work as a maintenance technician. It has variety and is different every day. If he's not checking gear he might be running an excavator to clear a slide along SR 9 or working to repair crash-damaged cable barrier along I-5.

Before Lee and his team head out to start work for the day they make sure they are prepared by completing pre-work safety plans and discussing possible scenarios they could encounter.

"Everybody knows their job before leaving the maintenance yard," he said. "Hazards of the job are always there, so we need to do what we can to prepare. Everybody wants to go home to our families at the end of each shift."

Pre-work safety plans are a great way to prepare for the work. Each member of the team knows what role they'll be playing, what equipment they need to bring and the possible risks and ways out of them.

Lee has worked for WSDOT for a dozen years and after a stint in Monroe, he's now part of our Mount Vernon team where the roads he helps keep safe are the roads he and his family have driven for years. He was raised in Arlington, went to Lakewood High School and still calls the city home.
Lee enjoys hiking with his family near their home in Arlington.

When Lee isn't keeping busy at work, you might find him cheering on his son, Charlie, during an ATV race all around Washington or hiking with his girlfriend, Tammy, at some of the many outdoor areas just outside his back door.
In his free time, Lee cheers on his son Charlie during ATV races.

Lee helps keep his colleagues safe during their shifts, and roads safe for you and me, so thanks for slowing down when you see orange barrels on the road – it might be Lee out there.