Thursday, September 27, 2018

Engineer with young family emphasizes the importance of reading signs in work zones

By Victoria Miller

When you work in construction, it does not take long to realize how easily someone can get hurt if something does not go according to plan.

Sergiy Ovsyychuk is a young engineer on the Interstate 405/State Route 167 Interchange Direct Connector Project in Renton. He moved to Seattle from Sacramento to continue his civil engineering studies at the University of Washington. After moving up to the Pacific Northwest, he met his wife, Roxi, and went on to have two sons, Eli, 4, and Ezra, 1. Ovsyychuk graduated from UW in 2016 and began working for Guy F. Atkinson, the contractor on the Direct Connector project.
Sergiy says it's vital that drivers pay attention to signs near work zones, for everyone's safety.

Having only worked in the field for two years, Ovsyychuk has gained some good experience regarding construction projects. With the Direct Connector being the first project he has worked on after graduating college, he says it offers a variety of work. The Direct Connector Project has included work such as relocating the Talbot Hill noise wall and building a new Talbot Bridge, in addition to building the flyover ramp that will connect the HOT lanes on SR 167 to the carpool lanes on I-405. Ovsyychuk says this project is a good learning experience, which is what he enjoys most about it.

A good learning experience is not without its downsides, though. In just two years, he has already experienced several work zone incidents that have shown him just how dangerous some situations can become, and how careful crews and drivers must be at all times.

One incident that stands out was during a night of paving southbound SR 167 in summer 2017.

"One vehicle pulled into the work zone behind the paving truck and other vehicles began to follow because the drivers thought that was where traffic was going," he said. "That was my first experience with an incident. No one got hurt, but someone easily could have been."

A similar situation happened during a closure of the Talbot Bridge in Renton. The crew adjusted their traffic control plans accordingly after each incident by putting flickering and rotating lights on barrels to better delineate the work zone from the traffic, and tightening the spacing of the traffic safety barrels to deter people from driving into the work zone mistakenly.

Ovsyychuk emphasizes the importance of reading signs and message boards in work zone areas.
Sergiy is looking forward to teaching his two young sons how to ski.

"I hear from the traffic control supervisor all the time that nobody reads the signs. They're just driving and doing whatever they want," he said. "Pay attention to the signs. We set them up to warn the public so they know what to expect rather than have them just follow traffic wherever it goes."

When he isn't working on the Direct Connector Project, Ovsyychuk enjoys spending time with his family, taking his sons to play basketball and soccer at Lake Wilderness Park in Maple Valley, and hitting the slopes at Snoqualmie Pass.
"We took a trip to Whistler and I'm trying to teach the boys how to ski," he said. "Ezra was a little too young last year so maybe this year."

Next time you are driving through an area that is under construction, read the signs – and remember that there are people with families behind the traffic barrels, people like Sergiy, who still need to teach their sons how to ski.

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

Unlucky US 2 paving project shelved until next spring

The final closure of westbound US 2, postponed due to colder weather in September 2018, is now scheduled for:
  • 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2 to 4 a.m. Monday, Aug. 5
In the event weather postpones the work, we have identified the following potential backup closure weekends.
  • 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16 to 4 a.m. Monday, Aug. 19
  • 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9 to 4 a.m. Monday, Aug. 12
Get more details on why we must complete this project, and what we need from travelers.

By Ally Barrera

It's not the outcome anyone wanted.

This week, contractor crews working on our US 2 paving project in Snohomish County decided to postpone the two remaining weekend closures until next spring.

The reason behind this decision? Weather.

The bummer of it all is crews only had a relatively small portion of the westbound Hewitt Avenue Trestle left to repave - a half-mile stretch from the Snohomish River to I-5. The one consolation is this remaining section of the trestle has the smoothest portion of the old asphalt.

But for now, trestle travelers will need to wait until next year before they can enjoy a continuous smooth ride from Lake Stevens to Everett.

But why postpone?
Here's a breakdown of why the contractors chose to postpone:
  • Colder temperatures - Just like a sticky price tag is easier to remove when it's warm, the same goes for old asphalt. But when the mercury goes down, it takes longer for crews to scrape off the existing asphalt and still leave themselves enough time to complete the rest of their work.
  • Reduced daylight hours - This goes hand in hand with the temperatures. Less daylight = more time in the cold = the longer it takes to remove the old asphalt.
  • Fog/dew - Fog is defined as a thick cloud of tiny water droplets suspended near the earth's surface. It looks cool in a picture, but it's detrimental to this paving project. Like we've explained in blogs past, moisture wreaks havoc on the installation of the waterproof matting that keeps rain from seeping into the trestle's structure.

The colder temperatures make it more difficult for crews to remove the existing asphalt from the trestle.

Because of these factors, the contractors want to wait for more favorable weather conditions to complete the remaining paving work.

Project accomplishments
Despite the fact rain delayed eight - yeah, eight - weekends of scheduled work, crews still accomplished quite a lot during the four weekends they did work, like:
  • Repaving 2.5 miles of westbound US 2 from Bickford Avenue to I-5.
  • Repaving one mile of eastbound US 2 from State Route 204 to Bickford Avenue.
  • Installed enough waterproof matting to cover nearly seven football fields.
  • Made repairs to the trestle structure to cut down the need for future emergency repairs.
All these things help give travelers a more reliable commute and keep the trestle in a state of good repair for years to come.
This video provides an up-close look of what our crews accomplished during each weekend closure.
Still work to be done
In the coming weeks, crews will perform overnight lane reductions on westbound US 2 to finish smoothing out the expansion joints and place permanent striping on the newly paved portions of the highway. Travelers can check the Snohomish County Construction page or sign up for email updates to find out when those lane reductions are scheduled.

Thank you
This project was originally slated to last two years, but our contractor crews worked really hard to finish everything this summer and keep the disruptions to the public to a minimum. We even optimistically scheduled closures to take place in May and June so we could wrap up before the bulk of the summer traveling season.

But the weather had other ideas.

I've been told that the only predictable thing about construction in the Pacific Northwest is its unpredictability. Through the ups and down, those affected by the roadwork rolled with the punches and we are grateful for that. Now we need you to roll that patience into next spring.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

It’s national Rail Safety Week: Please help keep yourself and those around you safe near railroad tracks

By Barbara LaBoe

Train tracks are so common that it’s easy to take some of the dangers for granted. Some people drive past or cross tracks every day. But whether it’s part of a normal commute or a first-time visit, everyone needs to be alert and cautious near train crossings and tracks.

It’s illegal to walk on or close to train tracks except at designated crossings, both because tracks are private property and because it’s extremely dangerous. Trains can’t swerve to avoid a crash and they also can’t stop as quickly as a truck or car. And no meeting or appointment is worth risking lives trying to outrun an approaching train or taking a shortcut across tracks.
Always obey lights and safety gates at railroad crossings –
they’re there to keep travelers safe as trains travel through the area.

This week our partners at Operation Lifesaver are hosting the second national Rail Safety Week to remind people of how to stay safe near train tracks. Our own Stay Back from the Tracks safety campaign also shares tips for anyone who is crossing or walking near tracks. Today, Tuesday, Sept. 25, law enforcement in several areas, including Seattle, Kent, Auburn, Sumner, Olympia and Sultan, will conduct enforcement/education events at railroad crossings known to have a high number of vehicle or trespasser incidents. Nationwide, about every three hours a person or vehicle is struck by a train.
Operation Lifesaver’s second national Rail Safety
 Week hopes to raise public awareness about how
 to stay safe near train tracks. An at-grade crossing
 is one where a roadway crosses train tracks.

Here are some safety tips to follow anytime you’re crossing or near train tracks:

Always expect a train
Trains can travel at any time. Passenger and regularly scheduled freight trains sometimes run early or late. Freight trains carry goods day and night on sporadic, as-needed runs. If you see tracks, always assume a train is nearby.

Never try to outrun a train
It takes more than a mile for most trains to stop – that’s 18 football fields. That means that by the time a train engineer sees you on the tracks it’s usually too late to stop the train -- even with the brakes fully engaged. If the red lights are flashing and the gates are down, a train is usually less than a minute away – never take the risk that you can “beat” or outrun that oncoming train.

Obey all crossing and warning signs – even if you’ve seen a train pass
Trains can come from either direction. After the first train has passed, a second one may be coming from the opposite direction. It’s important to wait until the signals have stopped flashing and/or the arms have gone up before crossing the tracks. Assuming the train you see is the only one approaching can be a deadly mistake.

No photos on train tracks
Photo shoots or selfies on tracks are extremely dangerous – and viewing them can encourage others to take unnecessary risks. Trains can’t stop quickly and it’s sometimes hard to hear them or correctly judge how quickly they’re approaching. Never assume tracks are “safe” or abandoned, even if you don’t see much use.

Stay back – and alert – whenever near tracks
If you’re not at a designated train crossing, it’s especially important to stay alert and cautious, as there won’t be lights or horns warning about approaching trains. Trains overhang the tracks, so always stay at least 25 feet back. And never wear headphones or anything else that blocks hearing or distracts you when near tracks.

Prepare for new route this spring
Residents near Lakewood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and DuPont should also remember that passenger trains will start using the Point Defiance Bypass tracks this spring. It’s important to be safe around all tracks, but residents of this area only see occasional train traffic right now; starting in the spring regular passenger train service will bring more trains through the area and through several train crossings.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Got some ferry good photos? Enter our photo contest for a shot on the cover of our winter schedule

By Justin Fujioka

There's just something magical about our ferries – and I know many of you would agree based on the amount of photos I see people taking of the vessels or on board one of them.

Well, it's time to look in your albums or snap a fresh image because our popular #FerryFotoContest on Twitter is back! We want a fantastic picture to be on the cover of our printed Winter 2019 Sailing Schedule. It's your chance for thousands of people to see your best ferry shot!

How to submit a photo
All you have to do is follow @wsferries on Twitter, then Tweet your picture between noon Monday, Oct. 1, and noon Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. Be sure to include the hashtag #FerryFotoContest. All members of the public, except WSDOT employees and contractors, are eligible and invited to participate. No fare purchase is required.

Photo requirements and contest rules
We're not looking for just any old image of a ferry. We want something unique, striking and interesting. You may want to include a city skyline, mountains, passengers, or if you're lucky, wildlife. In addition to the submission qualifications listed above, each entrant must follow these requirements and rules:
  • Your photo:
    • Must include at least one vessel in the Washington State Ferries system (in full or partial).
    • Will be printed in black and white, so consider how that will look.
    • Must have been taken yourself and you have the rights to submit it to this contest.
    • May have been taken at any time.
  • Do not break any laws or do anything unsafe in order to snap a shot. If you are on a ferry please steer clear of restricted areas, and if driving, please no photographing or Tweeting.
  • Do not Tweet a link to an image that has been uploaded to another site.
  • Do not send your photo via direct message on Twitter.
  • You may submit up to three pictures. If you Tweet more than three, we will only consider the first three shared.
  • You will retain rights to your photograph, however our five finalists must agree to grant us rights to use their snapshots for marketing and communication purposes, which will include photo credit. We will never sell your picture.

This picture won our photo contest last year and was printed on our winter sailing schedule.

Selecting a winner
A panel of judges will select six finalists based on originality, technicality, composition, artistic merit and overall impact. The decision of the panel is subjective, final and cannot be appealed.

The finalists' pictures will be posted on the @wsferries Twitter page at noon Monday, Oct. 15. The image with the most “likes” at noon Friday, Oct. 19, will be named the winner and their photo will be featured on our 2019 winter schedules!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What’s happening with the SR 162 Spiketon Creek Bridge in Buckley?

The inside scoop on future bridge plans, local detours and public safety

By Tina Werner 

In case you haven’t heard, the 82-year-old State Route 162 Spiketon Creek Bridge – also called the Pioneer Way Bridge – in Buckley is now permanently closed.
Pond forming on the bridge deck as a result of pier settlement. 

The closure was put into place on Aug. 16, 2018, prompted by pier settlement discovered by crews surveying the bridge in preparation for a month-long deck repair project. Our goal with the deck repairs was to keep the bridge operational until 2022, when it was scheduled for replacement.  Unfortunately, the discovery of the pier settlement changed that timeline. Out of concern for public safety, the bridge was closed and a detour for the 5,600 daily motorists who had been crossing the bridge was implemented immediately using Mundy Loss Road, SR 410 and SR 165.
A look at the detour during the Spiketon Creek Bridge closure.

If you went to the bridge today, you would not see much activity. That is because we cancelled the deck repairs and our teams have instead focused on design alternatives, permitting, funding options and timelines to find the best solution for the community. Jersey barrier blocks the bridge to motorists due to concerns over the stability of the structure.

Can we repair the bridge?

Initial estimates to reinforce the bridge structure to offset the settlement exceeded $2 million and over a year’s work for the repair to be installed. We felt that level of investment in a bridge that is already more than three-quarters of a century old did not make a lot of sense. We are still analyzing if other temporary options are feasible, including whether temporary Bailey or Acrow spans over the failing pier are feasible.

Will we replace the bridge?

Something that people by now have learned is that we had already programmed a replacement of this bridge, with design scheduled to begin in 2019 and construction scheduled in 2022. Our discussions are now focused on what kind of crossing we think should be built and if we have the option of moving that schedule forward. A crossing could be a bridge or embankment support of the roadway. Either strategy has both short- and long-term ramifications for the area’s transportation system.

Can you declare an emergency to get funding sooner?

You may wonder why the money isn’t available now.  Based on legislative direction, we schedule projects by biennial funding cycles, and that’s when the resources become available. Some of your neighbors have asked if we can declare an emergency and expedite the funding process. Unfortunately, the bridge closure does not qualify as an emergency since there was no natural disaster, and we already had the replacement bridge scheduled in our program. We know that’s a bureaucratic answer to the question. We also know how inconvenient the bridge closure is, and we are working hard to figure out alternatives.

We are as eager as you to resolve this issue, but it’s not as straightforward as one might think.  Complicating matters is that two fish barrier culverts identified in the 2013 U.S. District Court injunction, one under SR 162 and one under SR 165, are within close proximity of the bridge. The fish barrier removal will likely require relocating the stream into the ravine, something that could potentially increase the environmental timeline and the start of construction.

Our goal is to keep the community informed as we more clearly define a path forward. Community feedback is important to us, and we appreciate hearing from you.

To that end, we invite you to subscribe to an email distribution list for information as we move forward with the future of the SR 162 Spiketon Creek Bridge.

2013 U.S. District Court injunction

Friday, September 14, 2018

Drone technology: Saving time and highlighting safety following SR 11 rockslide

By Andrea E. Petrich

Technology. It can create some dangerous situations, like when people are paying attention to their phone rather than the road when driving. It can also help with safety, like it did this week on SR 11/Chuckanut Drive in Skagit County.

A rockslide has the highway blocked between Chuckanut Ridge and Pacific Rim Drives south of Bellingham. The slide also left the highway at risk due to more potential falling debris from the ridge above.
A rockslide on SR 11 at milepost 12 has closed the  scenic highway between Chuckanut Ridge Drive and Pacific Rim Drive.

Evaluating the condition and risk used to mean roping up the ridge, anchoring into a spot and evaluating, then coming down and repeating over and over. Not only is this incredibly time consuming, it can also potentially put the evaluator at risk.

Enter the drone. By deploying an unmanned aerial vehicle, our crews are instead able to get a clear, close-up view of areas that otherwise would be difficult and risky to reach and make evaluations and decisions much more quickly and safely than in the past.
Maintenance lead, Joe Wyman, a Skagit County native, measures some of the rocks that fell. Once the area is safe for equipment, his team will come in, breakup these large pieces, some are 5-7 feet long, and haul them out of the area.

Closing the road
Heavy rain on Wednesday, Sept. 12 led to the rockslide on SR 11 between Burlington and Bellingham. Our maintenance team arrived on scene and shut down the road at milepost 12 just north of Taylor Shellfish Farms. Supervisor Joe Wyman, a native of the Skagit Valley and someone who knows the terrain as well as anyone, saw that there was likely still some risky areas above the highway and called in our geotechnical team to take a look.

Upon arriving, geotech Mike Mulhern saw some overhang areas with cracks and others penetrated by scotch broom and other roots that could be at risk of falling onto the road, especially if more wet weather arrived. Keeping the highway closed overnight would allow our crews to get a better look at the condition before deciding next steps.
Mike Mulhern, a WSDOT engineer with our geology team, measures distances in the slope along SR 11 just south of milepost 12.

Enter the Drone
Rather than have our geotechs rope up onto the ridge to evaluate, our IT drone operators were dispatched to the scene from Olympia. Drone operator Peter Burkhead was able to fly the UAV along the hillside. The video from the drone streamed down live onto a screen in our mobile operations video, allowing our geotechs and maintenance crews a clear look at the conditions, giving them all the information they needed to make an assessment.
This saved a tremendous amount of time and also kept our workers safely away of potential hazards.
Members of our SR 11 maintenance team view drone footage live from the back of the mobile command vehicle.

What's Next
The road will stay closed at least through this weekend and won’t reopen before Monday, Sept. 17. We’re bringing in an emergency contractor trained to safely remove the debris threatening the highway. Once the threat above the road has been removed, our maintenance group will use a loader with a rock-breaker to bust up the larger rocks – some measure 5 to 7 feet across – and haul them out of the area. At that point we’ll be able to reopen the road, but we don’t yet know when that will be and some of it depends on the amount of rain we continue to get. The latest updates can be had by following us on Twitter. Until then, people who typically drive on SR 11 should stick to I-5, and those who bicycle on the highway may consider using county roads. It may not have the same view, but like our use of drones, it will keep everyone safer.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Trees next to SR 520 will become a sanctuary for wildlife

By Steve Peer

Commuters may have noticed numerous cottonwood trees north of SR 520 in Redmond that have reached the end of their life. Because they're so close to the highway, they pose a safety risk to drivers. Although it rarely happens, a strong wind from the north could knock the old 80- to 100-foot-tall trees into traffic and that's not a risk we want to take.

A generation ago, we would have cut the trees down to the stump and simply removed them from the area. We've learned that leaving a portion of the trees standing in place (essentially “topping" the trees) can be helpful to the environment – especially to wildlife habitat. According to biologists, leaving most of the dead or dying trees, known as snags, in place helps breathe life into the surrounding area in a few ways. Snags provide wildlife a place to nest, find food, and court mates. Over time, snags decompose and provide valuable nutrients to nourish nearby plants and streams.
Several dead and dying trees shown here next to SR 520 near Redmond will be topped during an upcoming project.

Up next
Starting the week of September 17, we'll begin to remove the treetops. Our maintenance crews will close a westbound SR 520 lane to do the work and Washington State Parks crews will work 10-hour days for up to four days to perform the work. They plan to be strategic about what part of the dead trees they will remove. Left standing will be 30- to 50-foot-tall tree snags.
Wildlife foraging on snag pulling off the bark to get to the insects underneath. Photo Credit: Patricia Thompson

And we likely won't haul away all of the tree tops cut from the dead trees – much of the material will be placed on the ground to naturally fortify the area. The snags will be far enough away from SR 520 to not pose a risk for drivers but close enough to help enrich Redmond's adjacent Bear Creek habitat area.

A brief history of the area: In 2015, as part of the Bear Creek Restoration Project the City of Redmond enhanced Bear Creek by adding curves, bends, and wood to the stream, and planting thousands of trees and shrubs along the banks. The restoration project improves habitat for fish in Bear Creek as well as wildlife along the stream banks, and the snags will expand opportunities for wildlife to flourish.

Our partners
We're not doing this alone. We're working closely with the City of Redmond, Washington State Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Parks, and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe to make this tree loss a silver lining for the environment.
Closure Details
  • Monday. Sept. 17 – Thursday, Sept. 20: Crews will close the right lane of westbound SR 520 from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily between Redmond Way and West Lake Sammamish Parkway SE for the work

We made a lot of progress and there are only a few dead trees remaining that need to be topped. To do the work, we’ll return to the area Friday, Oct. 5, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. During this time, the right lane of westbound SR 520 will be closed between Redmond Way and West Lake Sammamish Parkway Northeast.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Back-to-back full weekend closures will result in safer intersections on SR 524 in south Snohomish County

Crews will use closures to build new roundabouts at Locust and Larch ways in Lynnwood

By Ally Barrera

Depending on your age, the phrase “it takes two” could either make a dream come true or make a thing go right. For those who use SR 524/Filbert Road in south Snohomish County, they hope it takes two roundabouts to make a safer commute between Bothell and Lynnwood.

In order to make that happen, contractor crews with A-1 Landscaping and Construction, Inc. need to close SR 524 for two whole weekends while they build brand new roundabouts at Larch and Locust ways.
The new roundabouts will be located on SR 524 on each side of I-405. This illustration shows what the Locust Way and Larch Way intersections would look like with roundabouts.

A lot of work in very little time
The closures will happen from 8 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday on Sept. 21-24 and Oct. 12-15. Crews will work on the Larch Way intersection during the first weekend closure, then the Locust Way intersection during the second weekend closure.

During each 57-hour closure, crews will:

  • Demolish the existing roadway
  • Construct a roundabout, including the center island and apron for larger vehicles and trucks
  • Lay down fresh asphalt
  • Install new signage and temporary striping

Detours will be in place for local residents as well as cars, small trucks/buses and cyclists who use SR 524 on the weekends. There will also be a separate detour for larger commercial trucks. All detours will be signed, but travelers should prepare to add some extra time to their trips while the detours are in place.
This detour will be in place during both weekend
closures of SR 524. Local access detours
are also available.

In the name of safety
From 2011 through 2015, there were 81 collisions at these two intersections that injured 36 people.

  • 47 rear-end collisions
  • 16 turning collisions
  • 11 fixed object collisions
  • 6 opposite direction collisions
  • 1 overturned vehicle

This was a higher collision rate than the state average for highways of similar size and capacity. Many of these crashes happened while vehicles stopped on SR 524 to make left turns.

Roundabouts have a proven history of reducing collisions and their severity because they encourage lower travel speeds and keep traffic constantly flowing. This prevents travelers from speeding up and trying to “beat the light,” like they might at traditional intersections.

This is great news for the 16,000 people who use this stretch of SR 524 every day.

Why roundabouts?
Many of you may be wondering why we choose to build roundabouts at these intersections rather than installing left turn lanes or traffic signals. We considered six different options – including the ones I just mentioned – and most required a wider highway to implement them.
This is what SR 524 looks like before roundabout
construction. Vehicles wanting to turn left would stop in the
 highway, resulting in collisions and traffic backups.

Widening the highway would cost substantially more money than is currently available because crews would need to address two creeks, a wetland, a narrow bridge built in 1935, right of way, and the columns that hold up I-405.

On top of that, roundabouts are less expensive to maintain compared to traffic signals and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions due to the lack of acceleration in and out of the roundabout.

What we need from drivers
Be prepared for the drive between Lynnwood and Bothell to take longer than usual.

  • Our website will have closure updates.
  • Sign up for 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.

Thanks in advance
We know there’s no good time to close a highway, and we thank you in advance for any adjustments you make to help us complete this important safety project on SR 524.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Early environmental work key to successful construction project

By Andrea Petrich

Be on the lookout for Beth Toberer and her team and help keep them safe

When we talk about road workers, what often comes to mind are the people flagging traffic through a work zone, helping at a collision site, or repairing a guardrail or pothole. But those are just some of the people who work hard to keep our infrastructure safe. We have many other road workers who may not be as noticeable, but who are just as valuable.

People like Beth Toberer.

Toberer, a transportation planning specialist in our environmental group, works out of our Burlington office but in reality, our environmental team are involved in every highway project we build around the state. They go out early in the design process to scope the environmental effects a project might have. For instance, if she finds an occupied eagle’s nest near a project site, Toberer will make note of that and our design engineers will restrict allowable work hours in the project contract to avoid its nesting season.
Beth and a colleague work to temporarily remove fish from a habitat before construction.

Toberer’s work over the past 16 years has been crucial to our construction process as it allows us to protect sensitive areas, gather proper permits, restrict work hours during critical wildlife periods and minimize environmental impacts before a project even breaks ground.

Beth spends a week each month in the field looking for sensitive habitats and protected species during the design phase of highway projects.

When our environmental team is out early in the construction process, there is no big hoopla around their work. You won’t see excavators or giant orange barrels near where they are working. But they’re there.

“Work zones do not always have active construction,” Toberer said. “Often, I am one of two biologists studying wetlands in major project intersections, wearing my bright personal protective equipment. I work efficiently to reduce my time near traffic and stay aware of traffic at all times but please be aware that sometimes there are just a couple of us out on the road without any big construction equipment.”

Beth Toberer has worked on our environmental team for the last 16 years.
Each year, Beth helps train and teach interns and new employees about the environmental side of WSDOT, here she works with a team to safely remove fish from a waterway before construction.

Toberer has a BS in Biological Science and a minor in Botany and she enjoys passing on her knowledge and experience, especially to our summer interns or young engineers, including how to do fish exclusion (basically herding fish to get them out of the way) before a fish passage project.

Beth and her daughter, Luna, enjoy hiking the Anacortes Community Forest Lands...

...and skiing at Mount Baker.

When she isn’t working to protect marbled murrelets, juvenile salmon and wetlands, explaining techniques to our communications team, or helping to pass on knowledge to others, she enjoys hiking near her home in Anacortes or skiing at Mount Baker, activities that always include her daughter, Luna.

So please remember, just because there isn’t giant equipment and a ton of activity doesn’t mean there isn’t an active work zone. Stay aware for signage and workers in their orange vests and hard hats. Be alert, slow down near work zones and move over to give them room whenever possible. And remember, under that safety equipment are people with hobbies, plans and, most importantly, family and friends who want to see them walk safely through their front door at the end of every work shift.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

One more weekend of lane reductions for Revive I-5 – this year

Work postponed due to weather. It will be rescheduled.

By Tom Pearce

I know weekend-long lane closures are a pain for drivers, and we’ve already had five this spring and summer as part of our Revive I-5 program between Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Northeast Ravenna Boulevard in Seattle. We have one more scheduled, Sept 15-16, which we hope is the last one we need this year on the I-5 mainline.

We have accomplished a lot during these weekends:
  • Replaced more than a mile of concrete across all lanes.
  • Replaced part or all of more than 30 expansion joints (pdf 937 kb).
  • Replaced sections of the interstate near several bridges.
On the last scheduled weekend, we’ll replace more concrete, complete nine expansion joints and finish a couple of bridge approaches.
Removing and replacing expansion joints takes about two full days – and nights.

Weekend-long closures allow us to complete work on expansion joints that takes too long to do during overnight work during the week. At the same time, we can complete huge amounts of concrete replacement, which would take months to do during weeknight shifts. The paving we completed during weekends would take years to finish if we only did it during overnight shifts. This would greatly increase the cost and limit our ability to work on other important projects.

While this is the last weekend for mainline I-5 lane closures, we still need another weekend to finish work on the northbound I-5 off-ramp to the West Seattle Bridge/Columbian Way/Spokane Street as well as the Seneca Street off-ramp. These will have a big effect on people heading to Beacon Hill, West Seattle and downtown, but there are alternatives available. We’ll let you know as soon as we schedule the weekend work.
During a weekend-long lane reduction, crews can tear up and repave more than 3,000 feet of worn concrete.

While weekend-long lane closures are necessary for some work, there are things we can do during shorter overnight hours, like grinding pavement to eliminate ruts and safety barrier work. We have about a year more of this type of work for this portion of Revive I-5. It will be disruptive for overnight travelers, but it won’t affect weekday or weekend travelers.

This project is one of several planned for the next decade to rehabilitate I-5. We have more than 25 additional pavement, expansion joint, seismic safety and other projects on tap. But that’s a topic for another day. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

It’s never too late to get SMART

By Ann Briggs

As we head into fall, students are heading back to school and it’s a perfect time for everyone to get SMART when using the roadways. SMART is an acronym to help you remember to walk, ride and drive safely, especially around school zones. Understand that kids cannot accurately judge vehicle distances and speeds and may make unpredictable movements. Many are also shorter than the bumper height of an average SUV or pickup truck.
It’s that time of year when kids are headed back to school, so always be alert for children biking, walking or using the bus.

These same skills will serve you well, whether you’re walking or operating two wheels or four:

Stay alert. Watch for other people walking, biking, driving, or getting on/off transit. Don’t ever text or look at your phone when operating a vehicle. If you’re walking or bicycling, stay aware of your surroundings for personal security as well as navigation.
Always lower your speed and expect
children to be present when in an area
 kids tend to use.

  • Walking: Drivers need to see you to avoid you. Walk and stand where you can be visible; make eye contact with others when crossing busy streets if you’re able to; if you will be walking near traffic at night, carrying a flashlight helps make you more visible. 
  • On the bike: Pay attention to the road surface and potential hazards. 
  • Drivers: As the operator of the larger, heavier, faster vehicle you make decisions that have the biggest effect on the outcome for everyone, and the second or two it takes for you to be sure it’s safe to pass or turn can make all the difference. When you’re around places you can expect children — schools, parks, and ice cream trucks, for example — expect them. Always slow down for kids on bikes; they may not be able to ride as predictably. Don’t assume someone walking can see or hear you — they may have a vision or hearing disability.

Maintain space. Remember, time is distance. When you leave room in front of you, you’re giving yourself time to avoid other people riding, driving, or walking as well as hazards in the road.

  • Walking: Cross at crosswalks or intersections, even if you have to walk a bit farther to get there. People walking are most often hit by drivers when they cross the road at places other than intersections.
  • On the bike: Ride outside the door zone, where a driver opening the door of a parked car can create an obstacle. Pass other riders with enough space in case they need to react to a hazard, and call out or ring your bell to let them know you’re overtaking.
  • Drivers: Remember that every intersection is a legal crosswalk whether or not it’s marked with paint or indicated with signals. The majority of driver collisions with people on bikes occur when overtaking the rider. Leave at least three feet of space between you and a person on a bicycle when passing — even more when passing at higher speeds, such as on a highway. They may need to avoid hazards in the street or road that you can’t see. 

Act predictably and safely. Don’t make abrupt movements, lane changes or turns without making sure it’s safe for everyone and you know what other traffic is on the road and where they’re heading.
While crossing at a marked and designated crosswalk is safest, drivers should always be alert for pedestrians – especially children – crossing the street.

  • Walking: Stop at the curb and look/listen left, right, and left again for other traffic. Stopping at the curb before moving into the street gives you time to evaluate traffic flow and lets others know that you intend to cross. Always obey traffic signals. 
  • On the bike: Position yourself to be visible — if there’s no bike lane this means riding in the vehicle travel lane, usually in the right-hand tire track. Ride in a straight line. Use bike lanes and trails when they are safe for your use. Have a working headlight and rear reflector or taillight.
  • Drivers: Don’t honk your horn. Use eye contact and courteous driving to communicate that you see the bicyclist or pedestrian. Use the “Dutch Reach” to open your door when getting out of a parked car on a street: Reach across your body with your right hand for the door handle. This causes you to rotate your body a bit, which serves as a reminder to look behind you and ensure the lane is clear of all traffic before opening (as required by state law).

Respect the rules of the road. Obey traffic laws, signs, signals and pavement markings. Signal lane changes, turns and stops. Drivers and bicyclists must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
Pedestrians should cross the street when it’s safest to do so – like when the signal indicates so – and drivers should always check to make sure a crosswalk is clear before moving.

  • Walking: Obey traffic signals. At intersections where traffic is controlled by signals or a traffic officer, pedestrians must obey the signal and not cross against the stop signal unless specifically directed to go by a traffic officer.
  • On the bike: Call out or ring a bell before passing someone walking or biking. Ride in the same direction as motor vehicles.
  • Drivers: Look and look again before turning. Don’t overtake a rider and then turn in front of them (a “right hook”), or fail to see them and hit them as you turn left (the “left cross”). When another driver is stopped at a crosswalk — whether marked or unmarked — to let a pedestrian or bicyclist cross the roadway, the law requires you to stop too. Don’t assume no one is crossing just because you don’t see them; bear in mind that you can’t see the full width of the roadway past the body of the other vehicle.

Think ahead. Scan ahead to give yourself time to see and adjust to a change in traffic flow or someone who’s making a turn or changing lanes.

  • Walking: Walk on sidewalks and when they are not available, walk on the left shoulder of the road, facing traffic so you can react if a driver is coming toward you. On shared-use paths, however, if no markings or signs tell you which side to use you should walk on the right-hand side in the same direction of travel as people on bicycles.
  • On the bike: Allow time to adjust your line of travel so you can ride around that pothole or broken glass. Cross railroad tracks at a right angle. Scan ahead for situations such as a bike lane ending so you can merge safely with automobile traffic or move to the sidewalk if you prefer (where you should ride at a walking pace and yield to people walking). When entering a more congested section of a shared-use path, expect heavier traffic and adjust your speed.
  • Drivers: When passing make sure you know what path the bicyclist is taking. Are they planning a turn? Before deciding to pass make sure there is no traffic coming in the opposite direction — including other bicyclists. Check your mirrors and look back before moving back into the lane just as you do when overtaking another motor vehicle; the bicyclist may be traveling faster than you realize.