Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Coming to Lacey: Take a virtual drive through Washington’s first diverging diamond interchange

By Doug Adamson

We're in the final stages before crews make major modifications to the I-5/Marvin Road overpass in Lacey. During fall 2018, workers will begin construction on a project that will benefit all users of the overpass. This is not just about cars and trucks. Bicyclists and pedestrians also will benefit.

The existing overpass will be converted into what's called a diverging diamond interchange. This type of interchange, while new to Washington, has proven effective in other states across the country. This upgrade is also a cost effective improvement for the growing community. 

One of the key benefits to improve traffic flow is a free left turn onto I-5. Because drivers are directed to the left side of the road, there is no need to wait at a traffic signal before turning onto the highway on-ramp.

How to bicyclists and pedestrians use it?
This new interchange accommodates both pedestrians and cyclists.  In addition, cyclists also get a choice. They can use bicycle lanes going in both directions or they can follow the pedestrian route that uses a series of crosswalks. There also will be a protected divider in the middle of the overpass where both bicyclists and pedestrians can travel. 
How do I drive across this new interchange?
This interchange is designed to be intuitive. Drivers will do what they already do: Follow the signs and lines. There will be clear lane markings and traffic lights that will guide drivers through the new interchange.

Let's take a look through these virtual drive throughs.
We also have a video that illustrates how the interchange will be transformed to help serve the growing community.

We plan to keep traffic moving by doing a majority of the work at night where possible. There also will be extended periods of time when the overpass will have narrowed, reduced, and shifted lanes. Drivers can also expect short-term and long-term ramp closures. Closures will be announced as they are scheduled.

We will announce these via a distribution list to provide advance notification of construction. We encourage all users of this interchange to self-subscribe. The work is expected to be complete in about two years.

Prepare now for three weekends of closures on US 2

"Magic" summer weather is the key to getting this paving work done before fall

The final two closures of westbound US 2, postponed due to colder weather in September 2018, are now scheduled for the following weekends:

  • 7 p.m. Friday, June 28 to 4 a.m. Monday, July 1
  • 7 p.m. Friday, July 12 to 4 a.m. Monday, July 15

In the event weather postpones the work, we have identified the following potential backup closure weekends.

  • 7 p.m. Friday, July 19 to 4 a.m. Monday, July 22
  • 7 p.m. Friday, August 2 to 4 a.m. Monday, August 5.
Get more details on why we must complete this project, and what we need from travelers.

By Ally Barrera

If you're a fan of "Schoolhouse Rock" – and really, who isn't? – then you know three is a magic number.

We hope some of that magic rubs off on our US 2 paving project in Snohomish County, because this weekend – Aug. 4-5 – marks the first of three consecutive weekend closures of this major corridor between the Lake Stevens area and Everett.

That means three straight weekends where travelers will need to adjust their plans and expect some major delays.

Why three consecutive weekends?
The thought of navigating around three closures might seem daunting to folks hoping to get around these last few weekends of summer, but this schedule gives us our best chance to finish the project this year.

We need these closures to rehabilitate and preserve the westbound trestle and keep it in a state of good repair for years to come – and each closure needs warm, dry weather. August is when we see some of our warmest and driest weather.
Crews from the July 21-22 weekend closure laid down a layer of asphalt on top of a waterproof
membrane that keeps rainwater from seeping into the bridge deck.

Remember when we had four weekend closures postponed because of rain (and yes, it really did rain during all those weekends)? We don't want that to happen again. This is where some of that magic I mentioned earlier will come in handy.

But last weekend's weather was great!
Yeah, you're right. The weather during the weekend of July 28-29 was perfect for this project. However, just like with all our projects, we coordinate with the surrounding communities and try not to schedule closures during major local events.

Last weekend was Lake Stevens' Aquafest, a two-and-a-half day festival that brings 30,000 people to this peaceful lakeside city. Shutting down one of the main routes out of Lake Stevens during its biggest event of the year would have resulted in disastrous travel conditions throughout the area.

It's the same reason why we didn't have a US 2 closure during Marysville's Strawberry Festival back in May, and why we're not closing the highway during the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe.

The detours, they are a-changing!
As of now, the closures of westbound US 2 are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Monday on the following dates, as long as it stays completely dry:
  • Aug. 3 – 6 COMPLETED
  • Aug. 10 – 13 POSTPONED due to rain
  • Aug. 17 – 20 COMPLETED
During the first weekend, westbound traffic will detour onto 20th Street Southeast (pdf 811 kb) as crews continue working on the Hewitt Avenue trestle – just like it did during the previous closures.

The last two closures are when things get a little interesting. During Aug. 10-13 and Aug. 17-20 (including Friday night and early Monday morning), crews will begin working on the west end of the trestle, between Homeacres Road and the Interstate 5 interchange.

Because of this, travelers must detour onto SR 9 with options to go northbound to SR 528 (pdf 928 kb) in Marysville or southbound to SR 96 (pdf 992 kb) in Mill Creek. There will be no local detour.
The official northbound detour during the Aug. 10-13 and Aug. 17-20 closures
The official southbound detour during the Aug. 10-13 and Aug. 17-20 closures

I repeat: THOSE TRAVELING ON WESTBOUND US 2 MUST EXIT AT SR 9. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

Getting around won't be easy
We're expecting a lot of congestion on Snohomish County highways from Marysville to Mill Creek during these next three closures. So, to keep backups and the travel times from skyrocketing, we need travelers to:
  • Carpool
  • Take transit 
  • Move discretionary travel to a non-construction weekend
  • Travel before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m. to avoid peak congestion
  • Check traffic conditions before you get behind the wheel with these tools
Thanks in advance
We appreciate any adjustments can you make to help us complete this important rehabilitation work. Doing this extensive preservation work now will reduce the need for future emergency repairs that add time to already long commutes in Snohomish County – and don't come with advanced warnings.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Preventing bridge strikes

Know your vehicle dimensions, map your route, and abide by signs

By Beth Bousley

We know how important bridges are to motorists in Washington state. Not only are they integral to our trips to work and school, they are also part of our state's landscape and connect us to incredible destinations.

Our older bridges and overpasses may be beautiful – even nostalgic – but they were built to accommodate shorter vehicles: since the 1950s, the standard clearance level has grown two feet higher. As trucks and their cargos grow bigger and heavier, the risk of damage to older bridges and structures increases which could lead to major delays to commutes and critical freight deliveries. That's why we are diligent about inspecting and maintaining our bridges and overpasses.

It's also why we want to help over-height truck drivers avoid bridge strikes like the one earlier this month that damaged the Danekas Road bridge over eastbound Interstate 90 near Ritzville. A semitruck transporting an excavator struck the bridge, knocking loose concrete and damaging several girders.
Left: A semitruck transporting an excavator on I-90 struck the Danekas Road bridge earlier this month, causing an estimated $800,000 in damage. Right: Crews inspect the bridge after it was struck by an over height load
earlier this month that will require replacing a portion of the bridge

Thankfully, no one was injured, but damage is so extensive that a portion of the bridge must be replaced, with the total cost estimated at $740,000. We're seeking to recover damages from the vehicle operator for the repair work, but we'd rather avoid this type of damage altogether.

Bridge strikes like this one are dangerous and disruptive – commuters in the area now have only a single lane of alternating traffic to cross I-90 and heavy farm equipment has to detour around the bridge due to weight restrictions put in after the damage. Inspection, repair and emergency declaration work also take time away from ongoing maintenance duties.

Since 2015, we've documented 135 over-height vehicle bridge strikes in Washington state. Thirteen of those incidents were serious enough to close or restrict the bridge, including the Danekas Road bridge strike.

By law, vehicle operators are responsible for knowing their vehicle height as well as bridge heights along their route. Our online Bridge Vertical Clearance Trip Planner helps drivers map out their routes and highlights state highway bridges with clearances that are low or that might require a specific lane for safe clearance.
WSDOT's Bridge Vertical Clearance Trip Planner identifies bridges truck drivers should avoid based on their vehicle height.

Some oversized loads are "self-permitted" meaning they exceed legal loads but can pay for and operate under their own permit. There may be temporary restrictions, so truckers with self-permitted loads should visit this site before each trip to understand any temporary restrictions: www.wsdot.wa.gov/commercialVehicle/Restrictions/

We also have signs posted on all bridges 15 feet 3 inches tall and lower, and publish clear permit regulations. The span of the Danekas Road bridge that was damaged is 15 feet 6 inches high.
So, what are the key responsibilities to prevent a bridge strike?
Thank you for your efforts to help keep our bridges intact, travelers safe, and traffic flowing throughout the state.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A tale of two species (and two closures)

Start preparing now for weekend closures near the I-405/SR 167 interchange in August

Thursday, Aug. 23

The Aug. 25-26 weekend closure of southbound SR 167, along with all associated I-405 and SR 167 ramps, is canceled.

By Victoria Miller

It's the best of times in Seattle right now – sunny weather with more summer to come. However, it's also the season of abundant construction and weekend-long roadway closures.

In case you haven't noticed, construction on the Interstate 405/State Route 167 Interchange Direct Connector Project is ramping up. Crews have been hard at work and are ahead of schedule, but in order to keep things on track, they need to conduct some major weekend roadway closures in mid and late August.
Before those closures can take place, though, we had a lot of prep work to undertake, including building a new ramp and looking after our project's aquatic neighbors.
Crews poured concrete at two locations as part of ongoing construction
of the I-405/SR 167 Interchange Direct Connector ramp.

The two species: fish and bugs
The new ramp to help commuters get through this area is just one of our efforts, we are also committed to helping another species travel through the area: fish.

Throughout many of our projects, the roads we are improving often cross creeks and streams where fish, including endangered and threatened species, live. In order to keep these streams flowing, we have installed large pipes called culverts under the roadways. We built most of the culverts before we fully understood fish habitat needs. At the time, we met all the culvert requirements, but in some areas, it's now challenging for fish to pass through the structures, and that's where our fish passage work comes in. We are now working across the state to address fish barriers by building and inserting new, larger culverts that are passable for fish.

For the Direct Connector project, crews have been installing a new, fish-friendly culvert in three phases south of the existing culvert in Rolling Hills Creek. The work began in fall 2017, and the first two phases occurred on land and in the wetlands next to the stream. The third and final stage of construction will happen in the stream when crews install the remaining pieces of the culvert underneath the roadway and realign the stream channel to flow into the new culvert.

Before the final culvert work can take place, crews need to move the fish away from this area so that they are not affected by the construction. This is what we call "fish exclusion."

In recent weeks, our project team has been relocating approximately 26,000 three-spined stickleback fish from a wetland adjacent to Rolling Hills Creek, to waters farther away from the construction site. The relocated fish still have a connection to their natural habitat and they will be able to move more freely once the project is complete.

Crews also found a surprise in the water --  giant water bugs, scientifically called Lethocerus americanus and more commonly referred to as "toe biters" due to the painful bite they deliver if disturbed. The bugs are being relocated to the same waters as the fish.
Giant water bugs – also called "toe biters" – were also relocated before in-water construction began. (Photo courtesy of Frank Vassen/Wikipedia)

The two closures: Aug. 17-20 and Aug. 24-27
Speaking of bugs, we know that construction can really bug drivers and nearby communities, which is why we are letting you know a few weeks in advance that there will be two major weekend closures in August near the I-405/SR 167 interchange.

These closures are necessary for crews to complete the fish passage work we just described, as well as pavement reconstruction. Paving during an around-the-clock 54-hour weekend closure helps to ensure high quality outcomes when compared to work performed in the short work windows available during nightly closures adjacent to live traffic.
  • Friday evening, Aug. 17, to the morning of Monday, Aug. 20 – Two lanes on northbound I-405 will be closed between SR 167 and Talbot Road South from 11 p.m. Friday until 4:30 a.m. Monday. Two lanes will remain open.
  • Friday evening, Aug. 24, to the morning of Monday, Aug. 27 – All lanes of southbound SR 167 will be FULLY CLOSED between I-405 and South 180th Street from 8:30 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday. A signed detour will be in place.
For the latest construction closure information for these weekends, please visit the I-405 Construction Updates webpage and the King County Construction Updates webpage leading up to each weekend.

As with any major weekend closures, we encourage drivers to avoid the area and use alternate routes. Don't forget to also bookmark our Seattle area traffic page, download the WSDOT app, and follow us on Twitter for the very latest travel conditions. Remember these closures are still a month away and weather-dependent.

So if you're traveling to a Mariners game, a concert at White River Amphitheater or a weekend event in downtown Seattle, make sure to "know before you go" so you can still have the best of times and not the worst of times.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Here fishy fishy fishy!

How we keep fish and other aquatic life safe when replacing culverts

By Andrea E. Petrich

For most people the thrill of fishing is bragging about the size of the catch they're bringing home, but when our environmental team hits the waters, they're on a different mission. Rather than length of fish, they're keeping track of quantity, returning everything they catch to water downstream.

That's exactly what happened the week of July 16, when biologist, environmentalists, interns and Interwest Construction, Inc. crews worked to catch salmon, newts, mussels, crawdads and more in Gribble Creek under SR 9 in Skagit County.

The crew was doing what we call "fish exclusion" – relocating aquatic life to a different part of the creek before construction starts. It's not nearly as relaxing as a day on the river fishing, but it's essential to the overall project.
Kendall, a civil engineering student at Arizona State University and intern with our Bellingham Project Office this summer, was part of the fish relocation work and didn’t hesitate to do the confined space work inside each culvert.

Our overriding goal with this work is to keep all of the aquatic life alive and healthy as we move them downstream. Crews work in small areas at a time, starting with seine netting to capture fish as they swim through the water. Next, they draw down the water levels and then use dip nets – including the same hand-held nets you use with a personal fish tank – to gather up all the remaining creatures from the future work zone. Throughout the work a confined space safety plan helps keep our workers safe, including a spotter who keeps watch over anyone entering the tight, enclosed culvert.

Whenever we do fish exclusion, we bring in a big team to get it done as quickly as possible. Other members of the environmental team join our biologists and we pull in interns from local offices and areas around the state to help, in addition to support from the project contractor.

Before starting work, we prep temporary storage containers using local creek water plus ice packs and aerators in buckets to help keep critters as comfortable as possible. Then crews make frequent trips downstream of the construction zone to release the fish and creatures back into the water. During the entire process we're also tracking which species are relocated, the types of relocation methods and the size of fish and other aquatic creatures.
No fish tales here, the relocation work in this area was a huge success. In just two days crews moved more than 500 Coho salmon, more than 100 Cutthroat trout, more than a dozen frogs, salamanders and newts plus more than 1,000 additional creatures like mussels, crawdads and lampreys.

Now to the next stage of work – installing a new culvert and rebuilding the creek bed to improve habitat for these and other aquatic species that call Gribble Creek home. At 7 a.m. on Monday, July 30, crews from Interwest Construction Inc. will close SR 9 at milepost 48 through 7 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 4 to dig out the road, excavate the creek, install a larger culvert and then rebuild the road over the top. Once that work is done and the road reopens, crews will rebuild the creek bed and move the water they've been diverting back into the creek.

Want to know more about this fishy tale? You can follow the process through photos and videos in our Flickr album or read more about the project on our website.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

"You just feel helpless." Paving crew member’s injury led to new safety precautions, but work zone crews still face dangers every day

By Celeste Dimichina

Tyler Miller, a paving crew member for Lakeside Industries in Vancouver, was in his second week on the job when he was involved with a work zone incident that he'll never completely get over.

Riding on the back of a paving machine on Apiary Road near Rainier, Oregon, Tyler was on the right side of the street, closest to traffic, as he and his crew laid down new asphalt pavement. That's when the incident happened. A pickup truck sped out of the line being led by a pilot car and drove right into the left side of the paving truck, pinning Tyler's co-worker.

"I can still feel the impact and I can still recall seeing my coworker struck," Tyler said. "That feeling doesn't ever go away. You just feel helpless."
Routine paving work like this can turn tragic in an instant, with workers just inches from danger.

Bad cell reception hampered calls for help, so Tyler and his co-workers did all they could to provide emergency medical aid. When help arrived, the injured worker was air-lifted to an area hospital. He sustained life-altering injuries.

The crash happened almost two years ago. Lakeside Industries, which also contracts work on our state highways, has always taken safety seriously, Tyler said, but this incident led to some changes. The company began providing crews with satellite phones for areas too remote for cell service. Crews were provided with field trauma kits and expanded training on Stop the Bleed, a national first-aid protocol. They've also increased assistance from state patrol troopers and local police who help provide visibility to their work zones.

"We notice a big difference when drivers see red and blue flashing lights in our work zones, versus yellow flashing lights," he said. "When they see yellow flashing lights, they don't even slow down anymore."

Last year Tyler was promoted to Paving Foreman and transferred to the Vancouver Division. He is sharing his story in hopes that it reminds drivers to slow down in work zones.   

What Tyler would like you to know:
  • Slow down. "I've had people drive so fast through our work zones that my hard hat literally flew off my head. It's scary!"
  • Move over.
  • Put yourself in the road crews' shoes. "Think about how dangerous it is to stand in the middle of the street while cars are driving by you at top speeds. We aren't in a building, or working from home, the road is our office."
  • Pay attention.
Tyler is a father who enjoys spending time outdoors with his 6-year-old daughter. Paving requires warm weather, so Tyler takes advantage of his off-season work schedule and enjoys snowboarding at Mount Bachelor and Mount Hood Meadows with his little girl.
Moments like this with his young daughter are why Tyler Miller asks everyone to slow down and pay attention in work zones. All road workers have someone they want to return home to at the end of their shift.

He and all road workers need your help so that they can go home safely to their family every day.

"If drivers took a few extra moments to slow down, pay attention and focus on their surroundings, it would help ensure that everyone makes it home at the end of the day, even the drivers," he said.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Heads up WSU travelers: Repairs on SR 26 this fall mean detours and possible delays during heavy traffic times

Wednesday, Aug. 8

Working with BNSF, we've been able to delay the start of this project until after the WSU move-in weekend. While no schedule is set, work won't begin before Aug. 20.
By Barbara LaBoe

As a proud WSU alum, I’ve logged my fair share of time sitting in traffic heading to campus or returning for a game, reunion or other event. While it’s always fun heading “back home” to Pullman, getting there can be a challenge – especially during high traffic days.

We’re well aware that August and September – when students return to campus, fans return for football games and traffic volumes double – may well be the worst time to close a section of State Route 26 east of Othello. This fall, though, we have no choice.

The bridge where the roadway is elevated over railroad tracks needs repairs and we have to close the road to do that work. We had scheduled the repairs for spring 2019, specifically to avoid major WSU events as well as the harvest season. (Our work adding passing lanes and repairing bridge decks on US 195 was timed for summer for just that reason).
A portion of State Route 26 runs above railroad tracks east of Othello and
that bridge deck needs to be replaced after years of patching.

During the last inspection of the SR 26 bridge, however, we learned we just couldn’t wait any longer. In one spot, for example, an 8-foot by 4-foot hole went all the way through the bridge deck. That hole has been patched, but another harsh winter may be just too much for the worn roadway to take. Already, we’ve had to make numerous short-term patches over cracks and holes on the surface, and those are particular vulnerable to the freeze and thaw cycle of winter. If we wait too long, we could be faced with emergency closures and replacement rather than repairs.

The bridge was built in 1959 and the deck was rehabilitated with a concrete overlay n 1992. The age and damage is so extensive at this point, though, that the bridge deck needs to be completely replaced, taken down to the girders and then a new deck and pavement put down. That's why the full closure is needed and why the work will take several weeks.
Views from underneath the SR 26 bridge show cracks and wear, as well as previous short-term patches.

As much as we’d like to avoid added congestion during the fall, we also have to ensure the road is safe and passable to all the travelers who use it year round. We’d be neglecting our duty to keep roadways in good condition if we tried to delay the work any further, so we ask for everyone’s understanding as these critical repairs are made.
Crews have patched holes and worn pavement on the SR 26 bridge over railroad tracks,
but conditions now require that the bridge deck be replaced before the winter.

We hope to start the work in mid-August but we’re waiting for final access permits before we can set an exact date. We’ll share that as soon as we have it to help everyone plan their trips. Once started, the work should take about six weeks. We’ve been working closely with WSU and the Washington State Patrol about the closure and will keep them and you informed as the project progresses.

Here are some traveler tips during the closure:

  • Plan ahead. We've identified an official detour onto roads with the same number of lanes and similar speed limits to minimize delays, but travelers from various directions may have other alternate routes that can get them around the work. The 32-mile detour adds about 14 miles and 15 additional minutes to the trip to Pullman compared to driving the closed portion of SR 26.
  • Stay alert. This is good advice whenever behind the wheel, but especially in work zones or congested traffic where it’s easy for a moment’s distraction to lead to fender bender that further clogs traffic.
  • Allow for extra travel time. Yes, there will be delays and it may be frustrating But, by preparing for them now you’ll ensure you’re in Martin Stadium well before kickoff. (If you get to campus a little early that’s just a good excuse to swing by Ferdinand’s.) 
  • Be patient. Staying calm and following all work zone signs will keep you and everyone else moving as smoothly as possible.

Again, we wish we could have waited until the spring to repair the bridge deck as we’d planned, but we need to ensure the bridge remains safe for travel. Thank you for your patience during this work. (And, Go Cougs!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Maintenance crews act fast to repair burnt roadway on westbound SR 526 in Everett

By Joseph Calabro

If you encountered some unexpected slowdowns on State Route 526 in Everett earlier this month, you weren’t alone.

A crane truck traveling on westbound SR 526 between I-5 and Evergreen Way caught fire just after 9 a.m. on Monday, July 9, causing closures and long delays for travelers.
The crane truck that caught fire on Monday, July 9.

Our Incident Response Team immediately responded to the scene and assisted the Washington State Patrol and Everett Police Department in closing all lanes of the highway, and the ramps from I-5, to protect the traveling public and give the Everett Fire Department room to safely extinguish the fire.

Two of the three lanes and the I-5 ramps reopened by noon. However, completely clearing the incident was more extensive as 200 gallons of hydraulic oil and diesel fuel had spilled onto the roadway. That, combined with the fire itself, made for a lengthy cleanup.

The Everett Fire Department quickly put out the fire.

The fire melted the tires on the crane truck, making it extremely difficult to move. The spilled fluids also caught on fire, causing an even bigger issue. Generally, vehicle fires won’t significantly damage the roadway. But this fire was so hot that it literally burnt the roadway surface.

Due to the extensive damage caused by this incident, a 40-by-16 foot patch of the roadway became extremely slick and unsafe for travelers. Our maintenance crews had to act quickly and begin repairs so we could get the lane back open as soon as possible.
The burning crane truck leaked fluids that caused severe road damage.

In order to complete the work, we had to keep the right lane of westbound SR 526 closed overnight. This gave us room to grind down the damaged concrete before repaving the roadway on Tuesday morning. Then, of course, the rain came....

Paving is weather-dependent work, so this drizzle forced us to halt the process until the rain subsided. Thankfully, the weather cleared up, and we were able to repave the roadway and open the lane just before 11 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Lane closures are never ideal, but sometimes they’re necessary to ensure safety. This incident was a good example of the coordination between several agencies to safely handle the incident as well as its aftermath, and we send out a big thanks to all the responders, from the fire department to the police and of course, our maintenance crews. As always, we appreciate your patience as we worked quickly to repair the road.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Too close for comfort: Quick reaction prevents tragedy in veteran employee's career

By Emily Durante

If not for the quick reaction of a fellow road worker, Greg Wornell's 35-year WSDOT career – and life – might have ended long ago.
Greg Wornell, an environmental compliance lead on the SR 520 Program, nearly had his
career cut short when a driver drove through his work zone back in 1986.

Assigned to inspect State Route 16 construction in Tacoma, Greg stood on the highway's shoulder with colleague John Anderson. With his back turned away from oncoming traffic, Greg heard tires skidding. The next thing he knew, John grabbed him by his shirt and hauled him over the guardrail, just out of the path of a vehicle zooming through their work zone.

The driver failed to notice them until it was almost too late, but fortune smiled that day in 1986; John and Greg walked away without injury. John's heads-up reaction was the difference between our two employees going home that night or going to the hospital – or worse. Shaken, Greg and John returned to their work, but not before moving their work truck between them and oncoming traffic as an extra precaution, and making sure to not turn their backs to traffic.
Greg has seen a lot of changes in his 35-year career with WSDOT. "These days traffic is so much heavier and there's so much more that can distract drivers. Everyone needs to take a more serious approach to work zone safety."

Thirty-two years later, Greg looks back on the near-miss with perspective. He still remembers it vividly.

"Highway workers are just like you," Greg said, reflecting on what travelers can do to reduce work-zone collisions and fatalities. "We are all doing our jobs and looking to come home safe each day."

That's why we're asking you to do your part in keeping our workers safe.
Greg enjoying a backpacking trip
in the Olympic Mountains

When in roadway work zones:
  • 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 to 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.
Today, Greg's environmental work on the SR 520 reconstruction project mostly keeps him out of highway work zones. But like everyone, he's noticed the region's uptick in traffic. That, combined with more distractions for drivers, increases the danger for roadway workers. We are working to reduce work-zone incidents through safer traffic control plans and increased public notification of construction. But we can't do it alone.

That's where Greg's veteran perspective comes into play.

"When entering a work zone, take your foot off the gas just a bit, and pay just a bit more attention to your driving," he urges drivers. "An accident in a work zone will not only ruin the day and maybe the life of the worker, but will also ruin your day. There is nothing more important than taking just a bit of time and care. Our lives depend on it."

Friday, July 6, 2018

Summertime highway construction heralds final phases of work for three I-5 projects in Tacoma

By Cara Mitchell

Longer days and warm nights are perfect for construction crews to advance work on three of four funded high occupancy vehicle (HOV) projects in Tacoma. Much to the delight of commuters, two projects are anticipated to wrap up later this year, with a third project expected to finish in mid 2019. The fourth project that builds a new southbound I-5 bridge over the Puyallup River is still on the horizon.

Here is a look at what crews are building and what drivers can expect over the summer.

Future HOV lanes and new overpass taking shape down the center of I-5
Contractor crews on the I-5 M Street to Portland Avenue HOV project are converting the old lanes of northbound I-5 near Pacific Avenue to future northbound and southbound HOV lanes. This work involves replacing the original roadway surface, installing new drainage and installing barrier. Much of this work is taking place at night, when traffic volumes are lower. Drivers will see single and double lane closures at night for this work, allowing large trucks to make their way in and out of the work zone.
This summer, crews are converting the old lanes of northbound I-5 near Pacific Avenue
to future northbound and southbound HOV lanes.

Crews are also advancing work on the McKinley Way/East D Street overpass that spans I-5 next to the Tacoma Dome. Barring any weather delays, the new overpass is expected to open to traffic in fall 2018. Keep in mind that when this project is complete, the new HOV lanes won’t open to traffic. We need to complete other work through the corridor before the HOV lanes have connecting roadways in place.

Northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge
Now that the new northbound I-5 bridge across the Puyallup River is open to all traffic, contractor crews are finishing the following items:
  • Storm water ponds
  • Interchange connections at East 28th Street
  • Reconstructing a portion of northbound SR 167 near the Emerald Queen Casino
In July, contractor crews finished setting girders for the new McKinley Way/East D Street overpass that spans I-5 in Tacoma.

Crews are also building the new alignment of the future HOV lanes near the Puyallup River using GeoFoam blocks – which provide a lightweight but durable support for the roadway – instead of dirt. These large, white blocks are visible to drivers while they are being stored on both the old and new northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge. This project is also expected to finish in fall 2018.

Mountains of dirt and new overpasses at SR 16 and I-5
At the interchange of SR 16 and I-5, design-builder Skanska has crews building several new bridges and ramps, including a new overpass across South Tacoma Way for SR 16 HOV lanes. This work involves moving approximately 300,000 cubic yards of dirt and building three new soil nail walls to support new roadway alignments.
Geofoam blocks are being temporarily stored on the old northbound I-5 bridge while crews finish
building the new alignment of the future HOV lanes near the Puyallup River.

Increased congestion at SR 16 and I-5
We know the merge from SR 16 to northbound I-5 and from SR 16 to South 38th Street west is slow going during commute hours. The good news is the current ramp configurations are temporary for construction. Once work is complete later this year, we will revise both ramp configurations.

To help 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 the WSDOT YouTube video below.
Design-builder Skanska is building new bridge piers for future
overpasses for southbound I-5 and SR 16 HOV lanes.

When does the fourth and final funded HOV project start?
The final funded Tacoma/Pierce County HOV project will begin in early 2019. This project builds a new southbound I-5 bridge over the Puyallup River and takes approximately three years to complete. In addition to building a new bridge, this project will make the following improvements:
  • Replace the existing concrete pavement on I-5 from McKinley Way to Portland Avenue
  • Upgrade signs, lighting, and storm water ponds
  • Demolishes and replaces the L Street overpass that crosses I-5
  • Demolishes the old northbound and southbound bridges that span the Puyallup River
  • Opens HOV lanes in both directions of I-5 through downtown Tacoma, providing a complete HOV system that extends from SR 16 in Gig Harbor to I-5 north of Everett.
This is one of three new soil retention walls (soil nail walls) being built in conjunction with connecting
HOV lanes and ramps at the intersection of I-5 and SR 16.

Like you, we want these projects to cross the finish line sooner than later. To prepare for this work over the summer, our best advice is to know your alternate routes and check the construction schedule posted at www.TacomaTraffic.com. Expect reduced lanes on I-5 at night through Fife and Tacoma all summer, and give yourself extra travel time. Also, be sure to use the WSDOT app for current traffic conditions.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The First Question Is Always WHY?

Why are so many people hit, injured, and killed walking or bicycling on Washington's roads?

By Barb Chamberlain

When we hear about people dying, whether it's one person or a lot of people, the first question is always WHY?

We ask this partly to understand whether it might happen to us, and partly to understand what we need to change so this doesn't happen to us or to others in the future.

When it comes to injuries and deaths of people walking and biking we have a lot of possible “why” questions. Let's take a look at some of the numbers found in our active transportation safety report for 2017 (pdf 5.3 mb) and what you can do to make it more likely that everyone gets where they're headed no matter how they get around.

This post addresses one of the numbers we reported – we'll cover others in future posts.
Creating streets that are accessible for all modes of travel leads to safer trips for everyone.

Why are 62 percent of the serious injuries and deaths occurring on city streets? 
We don't have precise numbers on how many people walk or bike in any given city or town; we do know that of the roadway miles in the state just over 21 percent are city streets. We know people are more likely to use active transportation in more urban areas that offer destinations within a walkable or bikeable distance. In those same places, more people are driving by at any given time. Cities have more human interactions of every kind.

Washington looks like the rest of the U.S. in this regard. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently put out a report on pedestrian deaths noting the rise in frequency and severity of crashes, mostly in urban or suburban areas.

Different street designs can influence different assumptions and behaviors. A bigger, wider street encourages faster speeds, for example, regardless of the posted speed limit. Society collectively has spent decades developing streets that signal to people driving that their interests are the primary focus of the transportation system. Changes to address all modes are coming one street segment at a time. We work with local agencies, providing funding, technical assistance, training and best practice guidance, to address these issues.
It's vital that transportation systems create
opportunities for people to use whatever
mode of travel works for them.

What you can do
  • As a driver, expect people to be walking and biking, stay alert and drive accordingly.
  • Take a look at the safety tips in the post we wrote heading into Daylight Savings Time — the advice applies year-round.*
  • Whether you walk, bike, take transit, drive, or someone else drives you to your destination, report your concern or question. More and more cities are adopting an app, or have a reporting page or contact for this purpose, as noted on this list maintained by Cascade Bicycle Club.
    • Bear in mind that contacting them doesn't mean the agency responsible for that stretch of street or trail can fix or change it immediately. Working on it in the context of a future planned paving project, for example, makes good use of your tax dollars and lets them potentially address multiple questions in one pass rather than tearing up the same street more than once.
    • When you get in touch you can ask additional questions, for example:
      • when they have plans to work in that area;
      • whether they're applying for grants or seeking other funds to change the street;
      • their overall approach to reducing the likelihood of crashes occurring and providing street designs appropriate for all users;
      • whether they have a Complete Streets ordinance in place (which makes them eligible for Transportation Improvement Board grants, by the way);
      • whether the city or county has a safety plan (which our Local Programs Division requires if they want to apply for safety funds);
      • whether they have a Pedestrian/Bicyclist Advisory Committee (maybe they're looking to fill a seat on it and you're interested in serving);
      • what master plans they have for walking and bicycling and when those were last updated;
      • whether their freight route plans address interactions with people walking/biking;
      • whether they use camera enforcement for things like school zone speed limits and red lights;
      • whether they've adopted a Neighborhood Safe Streets ordinance to lower the speed limits on non-arterials to 20 mph; 
    • When you contact an agency you're letting them know someone uses that connection and it matters. If they're one of the cities that operates on a complaint-based prioritizing approach, you just added a point for that spot. (If you're reporting a problem with bicycle detection at traffic signals, state law specifically requires jurisdictions to track these and prioritize updates based on complaints.)
    • Bicyclists can submit a report to one of the crowd-sourced bike incident sites such as BikeMaps or Bikewise. Researchers and some jurisdictions use this information to better understand factors affecting bicycle transportation. 
    • On state highways:
      • Contact the town or city if it's a stretch within city limits; we work closely with our partner agencies on design and operations. 
      • Between towns, look at our list of programmed projects and contact the appropriate team if we already have something in the works.
      • For maintenance needs such as sweeping or vegetation, email us. We'll try to work it into our schedule as time and other priorities allow.
      • Otherwise contact the Region office that has responsibility for that highway
Safe and efficient travel for all modes of transportation is a top priority in street design.

The bottom line
While we report on statistics and will continue to do so, the reality is that in your everyday life, every statistic is 100 percent for the people it affects.

It's 100 percent for the driver who goes home knowing they changed – or ended – someone's life forever.
It's 100 percent for the person who gets hit.
It's 100 percent for every witness, every first responder, every family member or co-worker.
And it's 100 percent better for everyone, every day, if these collisions don't happen.

Traffic Safety Tips
*In case you didn't click over to that blog post on safe transportation habits, here's the short version:

People Driving
  • Stop for people in crosswalks — every intersection is a crosswalk.
  • Put the phone down.
  • Don't drive impaired.
  • Look and then look again before turning.
  • Watch for people walking or biking near senior centers, schools, community centers, and other destinations.
  • Pass at a safe distance.
  • Drive the posted speed limit, or slower if conditions make visibility difficult.
  • Use your lights.
People Walking or Bicycling
  • Walk and bike where you can be most visible and expected.
  • Take care when crossing roads and driveways.
  • Use eye contact and hand signals to communicate.
  • Use lights as required and take advantage of lighted crossings.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Changes at Colman Dock on Seattle’s waterfront

By Broch Bender 

The year is 1882. Scottish engineer James Colman builds a modest ferry dock at the foot of Columbia Street in Seattle, setting in motion what would become Washington state’s marine transportation mecca for tens of millions of people. …and their automobiles.

Today, we are in the process of rebuilding the facility from the waterline up. The Seattle Multimodal Terminal Project at Colman Dock helps preserve our state’s flagship ferry terminal as a regional multimodal transportation hub decades into the future.
Colman Dock is under construction until early 2023.
Keeping Colman Dock open during construction without cancelling sailings will require some adjustment for customers. The entrance for all vehicles, including vanpools and motorcycles, is now located at a neighboring pier, south of the toll plaza, at South Jackson Street.

People driving on to a ferry enter at South Jackson Street from northbound or southbound Alaskan Way South, drive north in a dedicated toll plaza access lane, and buy tickets at the existing toll plaza. There are no access changes for pedestrians; travelers riding bicycles will continue to use the Yesler Way bicycle entrance next to the toll plaza.
From 1882 until mid-1920s, Colman Dock, the largest of more than 100 whistle stops up and down Puget Sound, is used as a “Mosquito Fleet” passenger terminal only.  By the early 1920s, Puget Sound Navigation (Black Ball Line) retrofits a smattering of steamships and launches the first auto-ferry service on Seattle’s waterfront. Washington State Ferries takes over operations on June 1, 1951.

In addition, the passenger terminal is smaller while critical work continues to replace the seismically vulnerable flagship terminal. The load zones in front of the terminal will remain the same and there will be additional on-street parking between Yesler Way and Madison Street through the busy summer months.

View pro tips to prepare for (and avoid) long waits inside the passenger terminal and at the drive-on entrance this summer.

Colman Dock is the busiest ferry terminal in the country. In 2017 alone, more than 9 million people, including 5 million foot passengers, traveled through the facility. This critical safety and preservation project completely replaces the seismically vulnerable terminal building and sections of dock that are currently supported by 70-year-old wooden piles. In addition, your future ferry terminal is designed to eliminate conflict between pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles and includes a new passenger-only dock to serve the King County Water Taxi and Kitsap Transit Fast Ferry.

We know keeping the busiest ferry terminal in the nation open to the public during construction, with no reduction to service brings some big changes for people, and we appreciate your cooperation. The project is on track for completion in early 2023.