Thursday, December 26, 2019

How we work to prevent and respond to unstable slopes and landslides

By WSDOT staff

A lot of people think of pavement when they hear our name, but we're often just as focused on the land around – and above and below – our roadways. Given Washington's abundant rain and topography there are hundreds of slopes statewide that affect our roadways and travelers – and that's where our local and specialized crews come in.

We work hard to prevent slides when we can and to quickly clear roadways if debris does close a highway. We also need the public's help whenever they encounter a slide area or road closure.

Do not get out and attempt to clear a slide, leave the area and call 911 to notify authorities. Please, never drive around a closure sign – they're there for your protection and we need everyone's help to ensure the road can be cleared as quickly as possible.
A massive slide in January 2016 blocked US 2 in Pine Canyon near Waterville and
took more than two weeks to fully clear the roadway.

Before a slide

We're often able to start monitoring and planning a response to an area in danger of sliding before large amounts of a slope slide. Often one of our crews, residents or one of our partner agencies notice something amiss above or below a roadway.

That's what happened in early October 2017 when a slow-moving landslide east of Yakima on Rattlesnake Ridge threatened residents and travelers on Interstate 82. Several agencies worked together to research and monitor the risk while also planning for a worst-case catastrophic slide – including placing barriers near the roadway and installing monitoring equipment to track and better understand the land movement.
During the initial Rattlesnake Ridge slide monitoring, large freight containers were placed along
Thorp Road block any rockfall debris from reaching I-82.

The Rattlesnake Ridge movement has slowed since it was initially discovered and, based on on-going monitoring data, it now appears it will continue to move slowly to the south and fall into a quarry pit until it stabilizes.

Slide response and reopening roads

Mother Nature is often the ultimate determining factor of when and where a slope gives way. When that happens, our crews work to clear the road as soon as it's safe to do so – which sometimes requires assessment by our specialized Geo Tech crews to determine if the slope has stopped moving.

In July on US 97, the forecast had crews out on the roadway looking for trouble areas, making them first on the scene when mudflow topped the roadway and spilled on to adjacent train tracks. The slide was still moving as night drew near, so we closed the road overnight between Wenatchee and Chelan rather than put crews in a dangerous situation. We know these closures are disruptive, but our first priority is the safety of our crews and travelers.

More than mud, our maintenance crews chase rock, particularly in cold weather. When there's been a stretch of below-freezing temperatures and a Chinook blows in (unseasonably warm weather up to 45 degrees), that sets the stage for rocks to fall. Sometimes it's just little spatters of gravel and pebbles, sometimes rocks as large as basketballs.

Sometimes the situation calls for an emergency contract to scale the slope – remove loose or potentially unstable material – before a road can reopen. A few years ago, a large rockfall in Pine Canyon closed US 2 for several weeks in late winter, leading to a large scaling project in which crews removed loose rock and debris to prevent further slides.

Different conditions closed SR 20 near Loup Loup this spring, where thousands of yards of material fell on the downslope of the roadway, undermining the pavement nearly to the centerline. Cleaning that up and rebuilding the roadway required constructing an access road to the bottom of the drainage and lasted more than a month.
Crews begin clearing rocks that fell on the roadway along US 97 near Knapps Tunnel in the Chelan area.

Many of the routes where slides are common are rural highways through mountain passes, canyons and along rivers with few options for detour – which makes closures particularly disruptive. We know access is vital and an expedited reopening of the highway is always the goal, but safety remains our top priority when determining when and how to reopen the road to the public.

Long-term slide repair

Slides, particularly repeat events, often require work beyond cleanup to proactively stabilize the slope against future landslides. Because each slope is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all approach and often a number of factors come into play when prioritizing work in our slope stabilization program. We create a plan for work each year, but severe weather also plays a factor or alters our schedules.

In winter 2015, for example, after several days of heavy rain, the slope above northbound I-5 near Woodland gave way, closing the roadway with dirt, debris and rocks across all three lanes. The road was closed for two days while it was cleared and one lane remained closed for two months while crews worked around the clock to stabilize the slope with a series of rock anchors.
After a 2015 slide along I-5 near Woodland, crews drilled holes and placed and grouted steel rods
50 feet into the hillside to stabilize the slope.

In late December 2017, heavy rain caused the slope above SR 4 near Stella to give way, closing all lanes. In that case, crews determined there was an ongoing threat of additional slides and placed shipping containers to block debris from getting onto the roadway short term until a more permanent fix could be made. Then, in the summer, the slopes were excavated and stabilized and a damaged portion of debris flow fence was repaired.

While the repairs and timing may be different – and timing may not always be as quick as we'd hope – the end goal of all slope stabilization work is the same. We're working to keep the roads clear and people and goods moving.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Spokane message boards get "lit" for the holiday season

By Ryan Overton

The holiday season is upon us. Kids are on winter break. Travelers are heading over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house. It is a very busy time of year. One that involves celebration, family and friends. And as always, we want you to be safe on the roads.

If you have driven through Spokane recently, you may have noticed more messages on the reader boards that sit over Interstate 90, US 2, US 395 and US 195. We're trying a pilot program to do more safety messages to get drivers attention and remind them of safe driving habits. Previously we used these types of messages for several years on a system of portable message boards on State Route 26 and US 195 near Pullman.

How it started

There had been several serious or fatal collisions on the routes we're testing messages on. About 17 percent were related to distracted driving, 7 percent being right-of-way or unsafe passing, another 7 percent were sleeping behind the wheel. The rest were related to animal strikes. In 2016 we collaborated with Washington State University and the Washington State Patrol on the #BeSafeCougs campaign to help highway safety messages reach WSU students/staff/families.

Our part of the campaign involves safety messages on the portable message boards when students begin school in August then again around Thanksgiving and Apple Cup, winter break, spring break and the end of the school year. These dates were chosen as times of high volume of traffic coming to and leaving the university.

At first messages were simple – "Don't text and drive" or "Tired? Take a break". Since then messages have evolved to become relatable and personable to students such as "Santa is watching, put down the phone" or "Who you going to call? No one you're driving!" The most popular message this year has been "Ralphie put down phone, you'll txt your eye out!"

By using more creative and relatable messaging we are reaching a larger audience and able to cut through the white noise of typical messaging and get people talking about it. We also try to keep the number of days they are up limited to keep them fresh and noticeable.

Moving from portable signs to permanent

With about 127,000 vehicles moving through Spokane daily, there is opportunity to reach a large audience. In years past the message boards have been reserved for Amber Alerts, blocking collisions and the occasional emphasis patrol. We saw an opportunity to use them to promote safe driving habits, especially around the holidays.

The first message ran on November 26 ahead of Thanksgiving reading "Feast your eyes on the road, not your phone".

For the past week the messages are part of a DUI emphasis patrol that Washington State Patrol is doing. The messages have included "You're not Rudolph, don't drive lit!" and "Don't drive Blitzen, use a sober driver!" Both messages encourage people not to drink and drive this holiday season. We will continue to put up new messages through January 2.

Starting January 9, students heading back to WSU will also get a fresh set of messages displayed.

Who creates the messages?

We have a team that comes up with the messages that includes people from our traffic office, maintenance, communications and staff from the Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center. We generally meet once a month or two weeks prior to any of the higher-volume traffic events that would involve WSU. We brainstorm ideas and talk about each one, picking usually between 6-8 messages to put on the portable boards. In these meetings we also discuss when, where and how long to place messages around the Spokane region on the permanent message boards.

Can we expect more fun messages?

Absolutely! In the coming months there will be more messages that will go up on the permanent message boards. We also have a partnership with weather forecasters to bring warnings about heavy forecasted snow. There will also be other emphasis patrols by Washington State Patrol that will offer more opportunity to be creative in our messaging. Finally, we will use other holidays to promote safe driving behavior.

While these messages can be fun, at the end of the day they have a purpose and an action for drivers to take so we can all get home to our friends and family safely.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Snohomish County highways ready to ring in 2020

What we accomplished in 2019

By Frances Fedoriska

With less than two weeks left before 2020, most of our Snohomish County construction work for the year is complete. We want to end the year with a big “Thank you!” to travelers who took the time to stay engaged, planned ahead during closures and made adjustments to help us make safety improvements and complete preservation work. These projects reduce the risk of costly emergency repairs that add time to already long commutes.

Here’s a look at a few of the accomplishments on state highways in Snohomish County that happened in 2019.

US 2/I-5 to Bickford
  • We rehabilitated the westbound Hewitt Avenue trestle with fewer weekend closures than the contract required (5 instead of 6). Over the project’s two season’s, weather postponed weekend work more than a dozen times.
  • Repaired aging expansion joints
  • Fun fact: The 2½-mile westbound trestle required roughly 5,500 tons of new asphalt and enough waterproof membrane to cover almost 7½ football fields.

The final weekend closure of the westbound US 2 trestle between Lake Stevens and Everett ended Monday, Aug. 6.

US 2/Bickford to Gold Bar
  • Repaved both directions of US 2 between Bickford Avenue near Snohomish and the east end of Monroe
  • Installed rumble strips between eastbound and westbound traffic to alert drivers when they drift from their lane
  • Built 6-foot medians between Bickford Avenue and the Pilchuck River bridge. In 2020, contractors will install median barriers to further separate the eastbound and westbound lanes.
  • Also in 2020, we’ll have a weekend of lane reductions to complete Pilchuck River bridge rehab and will pave US 2 between 88th Street near Snohomish and the west side of Monroe.
New 6-foot-wide medians were added to separate eastbound and westbound lanes on US 2
from Bickford Avenue to the Pilchuck River bridge.

SR 9/108th Street Northeast – Intersection Improvements
  • Ground down a hill on the west side of the intersection during a weekend closure to improve site distance
  • Relocated utilities ahead of the installation of a new roundabout coming in 2020

Looking west at the new eastbound entrance at SR 9 and 108th Street.

BST – US 2 Resurfacing
  • Resurfacing project, spanning 35 miles on four highways in Snohomish, King and Whatcom counties
  • Work included two segments of US 2 near Index and Skykomish

SR 525/526 – Boeing Access Road
  • Repaved these sections of two highways near Paine Field
  • Repurposed a westbound downhill lane on 84th Street/SR 526 to add bike lanes in each direction in support of Mukilteo’s “By the Way” plan (pdf 14 mb)
  • Coming in 2020: Contractor crews will complete asphalt repairs close to the Boeing Future of Flight Museum.

SR 9/SR 204 – Intersection Improvements
  • Constructed an additional southbound lane between Marketplace and SE 4th Street
  • Completed the first of a three-phase project that will culminate in the installation of intersection improvements at SR 9 & SR 204 at Frontier Village

Phase Two of the SR 9/SR 204 intersection improvements will add a northbound lane ahead of the intersection reconfiguration, currently scheduled to begin construction in 2022.

We’re not done!

Starting in spring 2020, we will spend more than $2 million rehabilitating 19 bridge decks between Index and Skykomish. The asphalt on many of these bridges have exceeded their lifespan of 15 years. Further west on US 2, a $3.1 million safety improvement project will add physical barriers between the eastbound and westbound lanes between Bickford Avenue and the SR 9 interchange.

We will continue to deliver projects that keep Washingtonians moving, and hope you remain resolved to staying informed, engaged and committed to sharing important project information with friends, family and co-workers when it comes to critical work happening our highways.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Uncovering past relics on the road to building our highways

By Thomas Charlson

When I was a kid, my first introduction to archaeology was with Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was fascinated by the action, the mystery and the artifacts Dr. Jones would find on his adventures around the world. The one idea that stuck with me from the movie series is that historical artifacts belong in a museum!

After I joined WSDOT, I was intrigued by the work our cultural resources department does to uncover archaeological artifacts and preserve them for future generations. While we’re not traveling to exotic locations to look for the Ark of the Covenant, we do undertake an environmental review in accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act to address how our construction projects may affect historical properties. The goal is to maintain these historical properties and protect the cultural artifacts we find during the process.

Check out some of the artifacts we found on our projects and the stories they tell!

Finding a waterfront community on the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program
As part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program, our archaeologists uncovered the remnants of a small waterfront neighborhood just west of Seattle’s Pioneer Square. The neighborhood was abandoned around 1905 and likely occupied by Seattle’s early waterfront labor force, which included longshoreman, saloon-keepers, transient workers and entrepreneurs. While the men and women who lived in the neighborhood are now silent, the jumble of pier foundations and household materials found at the site tell their story.
Archaeologists uncover the foundations of a neighborhood that stood along Seattle’s waterfront
during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

We examined the layers of soil and collected the materials people used, including tableware, glass fragments and pharmaceutical bottles. We also found animal bones, which were used to determine what the small waterfront community ate on a daily basis. Although we weren’t able to solve all the mysteries of this community, we did gain some insights into Seattle’s working class through the artifacts we recovered.
Old pharmaceutical bottles and glassware found during a May 2010 excavation.

Remnants of an old mining railroad discovered through a fish passage project
The historic remains of an abandoned railroad trestle, found on the SR 92 Little Pilchuck Creek Fish Passage Project, played a role in Washington’s past mining industry. In 1892, the Everett and Monte Cristo Railway Company began building a railroad to access the mines near Monte Cristo. The company built a 147-foot-long bridge on top of piles crossing Little Pilchuck Creek. We discovered a few of the old piles from this railroad during the construction of our fish passage project.
The bottom of one of the piles used to support the railroad trestle crossing Little Pilchuck Creek.

Fossilized creepy crawlers reveal Washington’s geological history
Not all of the stuff we find in the ground is cultural. During the construction of the SR 9 Gribble Creek Fish Passage Project in Skagit County, we found a natural deposit of saltwater clam shells and fossilized tubeworms.

A close-up look at one of the fossilized tubeworms recovered at Gribble Creek.

The geological history of the area indicated the shell materials were likely deposited from glacial seawater inundating the Skagit River watershed. With the retreat of the glaciers, the marine invertebrates were left in the fine grain silts, sands and clay material for our archaeologists to find thousands of years later.
Mixed in the sand and clay soils are shell material deposited by the retreating glaciers.

These artifacts are only small pieces of history we’ve uncovered through our construction projects. By recording and preserving some of these artifacts, we’re fulfilling our commitment to maintain and protect the cultural resources found in our region. You may not find all of these artifacts and materials in a museum, but they lend an important voice to telling the stories of past eras in Washington state history.

If you’re interested in learning more about our cultural resources program, check out our history page to find videos, project webpages and other publicly available resources describing the history of Washington’s transportation system.

Monday, December 16, 2019

There’s never a dull moment for our IRT team

By Angie Millar

Josh Stuckey has seen a lot and done a lot. That will happen when your workday involves driving up and down the I-5 corridor from downtown Seattle to Shoreline. Josh, a member of our Incident Response Team, might be helping a stranded driver change a tire one minute, then may race to the scene of a major collision the next.

It's a normal day-in-the-life for our highway super heroes.

Josh, a former Skagit County firefighter, joined our agency as a maintenance worker before shifting to IRT about eight years ago, saying being a first responder was always his main interest. And that's just what he does with IRT.

Our response team is typically among the first people on scene of a highway incident. That could be as simple as helping a driver who is out of gas, or it could be coordinating with Washington State Patrol and other aid groups to safely handle a large crash. It's not a job for the timid as our team regularly works near live traffic.

"Once you're out of your car on the freeway, it's a very hostile environment," he said. "We're the first on scene for a lot of incidents. We're in the thick of it."
Left: IRT driver Josh Stuckey regularly patrols the I-5 corridor between Seattle and Shoreline helping stranded drivers. Right: Josh Stuckey and the rest of our IRT team stay in regular contact with our dispatchers as well as
Washington State Patrol as they work to help keep drivers safe on state highways.

During a recent ride along, I watched Josh help clear a disabled vehicle from the I-5 express lanes during rush hour. To get to the incident quickly, he had to go in the opposite direction on the I-5 express lanes. After coordinating with the State Patrol to stop traffic, he flipped on his Chevy truck's sirens and once on scene used the truck's rubber bumper to push the car off to the shoulder.

On average, our IRTs are able to clear an incident within 13 minutes of first being notified of the situation.

New IRT members train with experienced teammates for 2-4 months, learning first aid, traffic control, HAZMAT response and other skills. They spread out over many of our most-traveled state highways patrolling for incidents and staying in regular contact with our dispatch as well as State Patrol communications.

Josh has had his share of scary situations, including a standoff with an armed suspect on the SR 520 bridge. He has to compartmentalize to focus on helping people and clearing the roads and said that he doesn't let himself think about work at home, which helps manage any dangerous situations he's been in.

"We've got guys out here involved in deep stuff," he said. "We're immersed in this world that no one sees. I love this program so much."

While a lot of what our IRT members learn comes from being on the job, there are some things we look for. So if you're interested in joining that team, it will help if you:
  • Have a commercial vehicle driver's license
  • Familiarize yourself with our maintenance work and processes to help you assess condition of our infrastructure after crashes and know what has to be fixed
  • Are super safety focused, for yourself, other responders and the public
  • Experience operating a tow truck
  • Calm in high pressure situations
  • Comfortable communicating with the public as you are often the first person from our agency they will be dealing with, often in stressful situations.
We're always thankful to Josh and all of our IRT and maintenance group for the fantastic work they do helping everyone stay safe on the highways. Be sure to help them out by staying alert and focused behind the wheel, follow their directions if they're trying to help you out and slow down and give them space if you see them on the highways assisting other drivers.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Cause for celebration and commitment: Washington still leads as #1 Bike Friendly State

By Barb Chamberlain

Washington state is again ranked as No. 1 “Most Bicycle Friendly State in America” – the only state in the nation to be consistently named by the League of American Bicyclists as a leader for the past decade. It’s great news but it comes with a note of caution. While Washington has addressed important policy actions, the number of people killed on our roads while bicycling has more than doubled since 2014.

This echoes a national trend where the rate of traffic fatalities for vehicle drivers and their passengers is trending down, but drivers strike and seriously injure or kill an increasing number of people walking or rolling. In the past year alone, serious injuries to people walking increased 12 percent and serious injuries to people bicycling increased 32 percent in Washington.
Cyclists enjoy the Tommy Thompson Trail in Anacortes.

That’s somber news and it means we have more work to do. We’re working with our partners in traffic safety at every jurisdictional level to address questions of roadway design, operations and maintenance, especially on higher-speed roads, such as state highways where 27 percent of serious injury and fatal crashes occur.

In the Bicycle Friendly State Report Card (pdf 1.4 mb), the League credited Washington for enacting a Safe Passing Law in the 2019 session and beginning our update to the state plan. Our State Active Transportation Plan is especially critical for developing a 21st-century transportation system. We hope you’ll visit our online open house, review how we’re evaluating state routes to help us identify future needs, and take our questionnaire that asks about your transportation habits, challenges and priorities. We have an online information session on the plan coming up Wednesday, Dec. 11, that you can register for to participate from your kitchen table or desktop via webinar.
Infrastructure like the SR 520 bike/pedestrian path have helped Washington consistently rank
as the top bicycling state in the country.

Everyone uses active transportation at some point in their trip. You might walk or roll all the way to your destination. You may get to the nearest transit stop, ferry landing or rail station. You might drive downtown, park, and get out to walk around for shopping and entertainment. At some point in each of these journeys you are a vulnerable road user.

Your opinion on how state, regional, tribal and local governments can improve your comfort, safety and mobility matters. While you take a moment to celebrate our #1 Bicycle Friendly State status, take 10 minutes to answer our questionnaire and help shape the future of active transportation in Washington state.

Monday, December 9, 2019

What’s happened to traffic since SR 99 tunnel tolling started

By WSDOT, SDOT, King County Metro, Sound Transit

One month after tolling began in the State Route 99 tunnel, we're getting our first few weeks of traffic data. While it's still early, SR 99 tunnel usage remains high and exceeds forecasts. Traffic volumes were within normal ranges on I-5 and ridership on King County Metro Transit remained consistent.

Initial information from Seattle-area transportation partner agencies reflects weekday data between Nov. 12 and Nov. 22. (Thanksgiving week was excluded as it is an unusual travel week). Traffic patterns vary and we expect they will continue to change as drivers look for best routes to reach their destinations.

By the numbers
Prior to the start of tolling on Nov. 9, 2019, about 77,000 vehicles used the tunnel on average weekdays. Since tolling started, roughly 20,000 fewer vehicles are using the tunnel – about 26% less. This drop is less than the 35% to 50% predicted. However, the story is more nuanced. Peak travel volumes in the tunnel remain high. Mid-day volumes are lower, likely due to less crowding on city streets.

Where is traffic going?
The traffic story is evolving. As expected, week one looked different than week two. Volumes have increased on city streets near the tunnel, but to date, travel times and reliability are not greatly impacted.

For example, traffic volumes on Alaskan Way increased by about 20% in the first two weeks of tolling, the equivalent of about 5,000 more cars, but travel times increased just 3% to 4%. Traffic volumes on First Avenue also increased in both directions, yet travel times slightly improved.

In week one, we observed increased volumes on Alaskan Way in both directions during the morning and afternoon peaks, as mentioned prior, and along Elliott Avenue West northbound during the morning peak varying from 25% to 30%.

In week two, we observed the same volume increases along the waterfront, plus higher northbound volumes in the evening through SODO on Airport Way, East Marginal Way, and Fourth Avenue South, from between 20% and 25%.

It's common for traffic volumes on Seattle streets to fluctuate up to 20% on any given day. Therefore, depending on the street and time of day, some drivers may or may not notice more cars.

Fluctuations are typical on urban freeways. The number of vehicles using I-5 during the first two weeks of tolling on SR 99 were within the normal ranges for this time of year. There were some days when people experienced longer travel times during the morning and afternoon peak periods. This can be attributed to a number of factors including weather – people tend to drive slower in wet conditions – blocking incidents such as collisions or stalled vehicles, and even special events.

We continue to urge commuters to check the roads before you leave by using WSDOT's travel tools, SDOT's travel tools or other traffic apps.

During the past year, Metro ridership has generally increased on the 41 routes affected by the SR 99 tunnel project. Transit ridership has remained stable during the first two weeks of tolling.

Looking at the past year, Metro's ridership changes on affected trips varied somewhat by route. Route 40 average weekday ridership climbed from an estimated 12,440 in November 2018 to 14,330 in November 2019. Meanwhile, Rapid Ride C Line dipped slightly during the same time period ­– 12,050 to 11,710. (Not all buses have passenger counters, and ridership estimates are based on extrapolations of available samples.)

Additionally, the RapidRide C Line and 11 other former viaduct routes have experienced disruptions and changes in pathways in the past year. Since the viaduct closed in January 2019, average peak hour travel times are longer than they were in 2018, and fluctuate daily based on peak traffic congestion.

Between October and November 2019, average transit trip times increase slightly during the morning and afternoon peak hours:
  • Morning inbound travel times on average were unchanged for Route 120, 1.5 minutes longer for Rapid Ride E Line, 2 minutes longer for routes 40, and 3 minutes longer on Route 131.
  • Afternoon outbound travel times on average were less than 2 minutes longer for Route 120, nearly 4 minutes longer for Route 131, and 5.7 minutes longer for Route 62, and 2 minutes longer for Route 40.
Factors other than tolling might partially explain these travel time increases. Fewer hours of daylight, increasing ridership, weather conditions, and other factors also affect bus speeds.

No information is available for Link or Sounder usage.

Water Taxi usage and bike usage
Since 2018, King County Water Taxi has been steadily increasing ridership, and comparing November 2018 to November 2019, there were about 400 more weekly riders each on the Vashon Island route and the West Seattle route. Water Taxi ridership before and after tolling is stable.

Dry weather and improved bike infrastructure made biking a good travel option during November. As captured by four counters on paths in and out of the Center City – which encompasses South Lake Union south to SODO and east to Capitol Hill – bike ridership was 25% higher than the previous year. In 2019, we only experienced on 1.72 inches of rain compared to 5.42 inches in 2018. And Seattle's network of protected bike lanes though the Center City grew.

Map of Center City Protected Bike Lanes

Good To Go!
One final observation: Roughly 80% of vehicles in the tunnel are using either a Good To Go! pass or Pay By Plate. Drivers with a Good To Go! pass will always pay the lowest toll rate in the tunnel and all other toll roads in Washington. Even if you used the tunnel without an account and received a bill in the mail, it's not too late to save money on your bill by creating an account and having the reduced rate applied retroactively.

The SR 99 tunnel is a two-mile long, double-decked road tunnel that carries SR 99 underneath downtown Seattle. It replaced the seismically vulnerable Alaskan Way Viaduct, which used to carry SR 99 above Seattle's waterfront. State law required WSDOT to use toll revenues to pay back $200 million in construction bonds, as well as pay the costs of operating and maintaining a safe tunnel.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

It’s a wrap on Snoqualmie Pass, almost

By Meagan Lott

As the cooler weather sets in, construction projects across I-90 between North Bend and Vantage are wrapping up for the season -- and one in particular is wrapping up for good.

We are checking the new 7-mile stretch of highway between Hyak and Stampede Pass off of our list, which means we are now at the halfway point of the 15-mile project that improves I-90 all the way to Easton. Over the past nine construction seasons, contractor crews have removed more than 2 million cubic yards of dirt and rock and poured 153,000 cubic yards of concrete as part of this massive undertaking.
When we started there were two lanes in each direction but now a third lane has been added both east and west. In addition, due to a realignment, all six of the lanes here were built from scratch and are brand new roadways and surfaces for travelers. This work also built 17 new bridges, including two new avalanche bridges and a wildlife overcrossing that is already being put to good use by local wildlife.

All of this hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Recently, this project received the regional Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials award for best use of technology and innovation. Also Brian White, assistant regional administrator, recently received the Jim Ellis Spirit Award from the Mountains to Sound Greenway, for his role in project management and his ability to foster collaborative partnerships, to create a solution for both wildlife and people.
Our work on the I-90 in recent years included two new avalanche bridges which allow snow and debris from avalanches to flow under the bridges and reduce the amount of avalanche-related closures in the winter.

The other projects wrapping up for the season include the improvements we have been working on for the past couple of summers between North Bend and the summit of Snoqualmie Pass. To date, contractor crews have removed 2,278 concrete panels that were in rough shape and poured more than 9,100 cubic yards of new concrete to replace them. Crews also repaired four bridge decks. This project starts back up next spring and is scheduled to be complete in fall 2020.

Near Cle Elum, crews placed more than 5,700 tons of new asphalt and started work to repaint the two bridges over the Cle Elum River. Crews will be back next summer to finish the new paint job as well as repair both bridge decks. Speaking of bridges, crews are also repairing the decks on the bridges over the Yakima River in Cle Elum and Ellensburg. So far they’ve placed more than 2,700 tons of asphalt and will finish things up next summer.

Finally, paving between Ellensburg and Vantage is now complete. Crews placed more than 41,600 tons of new asphalt during this summer of work, giving travelers a new smooth surface to drive on.

What’s next in this area? Work on the second half of the 15-mile I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project was scheduled to kick off in summer 2020, but that has been put on hold for a bit as part of Gov. Jay Inslee’s direction after the passage of Initiative 976. Postponing projects like this one, which hadn’t yet gone to bid, gives the governor and Legislature time and flexibility to determine how to implement the initiative as they work toward an amended budget during the 2020 session.

We want to thank all of you who traveled across I-90 this summer and fall and for your patience and understanding. We know construction zones can be frustrating during travel, but the short-term pain pays off in the long run when travelers have improved and expanded roadways for their trips for many years to come.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

New westbound I-90 auxiliary ramp in Snoqualmie scheduled to open on Thursday, Dec. 5

Final paving, striping to occur in spring 2020

By Nicole Daniels

After about a month of work, the new temporary State Route 18/Snoqualmie Parkway auxiliary on-ramp to westbound Interstate 90 opened to traffic on Thursday afternoon, Dec. 5. These modifications are expected to provide some short-term congestion relief and help improve traffic flow on Snoqualmie Parkway and nearby local intersections before the new I-90/SR 18 interchange project is complete in 2023.

Completed improvements
In partnership with the city of Snoqualmie, our contractor crews from Road Construction Northwest, Inc. used the old westbound I-90 weigh station property to create a second on-ramp lane for highway users. The traffic signal on SR 18 was also retimed, and ramp meters were added to evenly distribute vehicles merging onto westbound I-90.
Graphic outlining the changes to the Snoqualmie Parkway/SR 18 on-ramp to westbound I-90

Southbound Snoqualmie Parkway travelers going to westbound I-90 will notice:
  • A right turn only lane on southbound Snoqualmie Parkway.
  • No traffic signal as you enter the ramp.
  • A dedicated westbound I-90 on-ramp lane.
  • A meter at the end of the on-ramp.
Eastbound SR 18 travelers going to westbound I-90 will notice:
  • A retimed traffic signal on SR 18 - providing a longer green light for those turning on to westbound I-90.
  • A dedicated westbound I-90 on-ramp lane.
  • A meter at the end of the on-ramp.
Why meter the on-ramp?
The ramp meters will operate during peak commute times - activating automatically based on westbound I-90 traffic flow. Metering the two-lane on-ramp will reduce congestion on westbound I-90 by providing consistent gaps between vehicles, rather than allowing multiple vehicles to flood the highway at once.

Final work resumes in spring 2020
The final paving and striping will occur in spring 2020, when warmer, drier weather returns. Crews will complete this weather-dependent work during daytime lane closures. Travelers should check the King County construction page or sign up for weekly email updates for current closure information.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Some late-night kindness on I-5 in Mt. Vernon

By Andrea E. Petrich

It was 1 a.m. on a chilly night earlier this November when Casey O'Keefe's tire blew on northbound I-5 south of Mount Vernon. That's a pretty scary experience, especially in the middle of the night.

Casey safely made it to the side of the highway and called roadside assistance. With help on its way, and his mobile phone nearly dead, Casey knew if assistance was delayed, couldn't find him or he needed to call for more help, he'd be in real trouble.

Thankfully, Juan Medina was nearby.
Casey O'Keefe returns an inverter loaned to him during a roadside emergency.

Juan, an employee of the Belarde Company working on our I-5 Stillaguamish River Bridge to Hill Ditch Bridge paving project, noticed Casey's vehicle. He pulled over to be sure things were okay.

Casey told Juan about his cell phone and without a second thought, Juan handed over his power inverter to give Casey's phone a charge. Needing to get back to work, Juan let Casey know he'd circle back around to get the charger back. When they failed to reconnect that night, Casey knew he had to return the favor.

The next day, he called our Burlington office to get some information, then grabbed the inverter and drove down from Bellingham. He didn't know the name of the person who loaned him the device, or the company he worked for, only that there was a "B" on the work truck. A little digging on our part identified the project and the company so we reached out to them to find the owner.

That led us – and the inverter – to Juan, who was really grateful to Casey for his diligence in returning the device. He assumed he'd seen the last of it.

Casey was just as thankful for the help Juan gave him.

"It's nice to come across great humans when you need them," he said.

We agree.

This month – and especially this week – is a time to remember all the things we're thankful for. That's why this story resonated so much with us. We employ fantastic staff and contractors who not only do a great job taking care of our highways but also work to be sure the people who use our roads are taken care of, too.

So thanks to Juan and Casey for sharing their story of mutual kindness. It was the perfect time to remind us what this time of year is all about.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

A star is born on our mountain passes

By Mike Allende

When Mazama signed on to be a part of our avalanche control team, she knew she'd work hard, have great teammates and see some amazing sights.

But the fame, well, that came as a surprise.
Mazama opened up about her life and work in a rare interview on the North Cascades Highway.

Bursting onto the scene last winter season, Mazama the Avalanche Rescue Goat has become the furry face of our northern snow and ice program. She may pop up on SR 20 North Cascades Highway helping assess conditions at Washington Pass, or could appear on US 2 Stevens Pass keeping an eye on avalanche danger for crews clearing the highway. And wherever she shows up, fans follow.
Mazama, looking good in her safety gear, says
one of her favorite parts of her job are
the amazing views like this on SR 20's
Washington Pass overlook.

Can a goat really have fans? Oh yes, Mazama's debut last year was nothing short of a fan frenzy. "Mazama is the hero we all need," one person said on social media, where she regularly racks up among our most likes, comments and questions of any of our content.

"All the attention I've gotten, it's humbling," Mazama said during a recent exclusive interview. "It's nice that I can bring attention to the great work our avalanche teams do, because they're the true stars. The fans, I love them, but it's not something I ever expected."

It's been a long road to our agency for Mazama. Born in the deserts of Patagonia, her wanderlust led her to Mount Hood in Oregon, where a chance meeting with a ski area worker brought her to WSDOT. That worker was the son of Mike Stanford, our North Central Region Avalanche Forecast and Control Supervisor. Knowing we're always on the lookout for great employees, Stanford recruited Mazama on the spot and she made her way to our neck of the woods.

"And the rest is history," she said. "It was really meant to be."

Stanford, who leads avalanche control work on some of our busiest mountain passes, including US 2 and SR 20, said Mazama hit the ground – with all four legs – running.

"She's really a perfect employee," he said. "She follows directions, she never complains and she does what we need her to do. Plus, she's got a pretty good sense of humor."

But just what does an Avalanche Rescue Goat do? While she jokes that she does "whatever I want," there's more to it. Her primary job is to assist our crews in relaying safety information. She helps keep the public up to date as the team watches forecasts, checks snow depth, helps set equipment up and clears snow and debris off the road. (Mazama always tags along with her team members when making her reports, so there are no goat-specific trips involved in her work.)
The snow was falling hard on the SR 20 North Cascades Highway when
Mazama was up checking conditions in late November.

How about setting off explosives to trigger controlled avalanches to clear out avalanche chutes?

"It's a little loud for me, and I've got pretty amazing hearing," she said. "So I keep my distance in those situations."

Fortunately, she's never had to actually make a rescue. We have safety precautions and policies in place to try to keep everyone – the public and our crews – safe in potential avalanche situations. But she does train for it, and carries a whistle and avalanche beacon just in case. Being prepared is key for any team member, human or goat, and that goes for travelers as well.

"You really have to take safety seriously," Mazama said. "Yes, I know I look good in my gear – really good – but it's first and foremost about safety. We train hard so that we're ready, but the goal is never to have to use our training."
Wearing her trusty whistle and avalanche beacon are important parts of Mazama's
safety preparation as she assists crews in measuring snow depth.

Off of work, Mazama is like any other goat. She likes to eat, spend time with Stanford and her adopted family and, not surprising given her locale, enjoys winter sports.

"I've tried skiing but I'm more into snowshoeing," she said. "I find they fit better on my hooves. I just throw some dark chocolate in my pouch and head out to enjoy the winter fun."

She lives with Stanford and his wife, along with her twin sister Maya, who is not involved in our avalanche program.

"Oh, she's the wild one," Mazama said. "Like any family, we are total opposites. I love Maya, but she's a little unpredictable and really not a good fit for our team. But she's hilarious, I'll give her that."

After taking some of the warmer months off after a busy first season with our team, Mazama is back hard at work. Soon she'll be helping close the SR 20 North Cascades Highway for the winter, while turning her attention to keeping highways like Stevens Pass safe and open over the long winter. It's no easy task but she wouldn't have it any other way.
A key part of Mazama's work is helping with the winter closure of the SR 20 North Cascades Highway
and then, come spring, helping get the road reopened.

"I just love being a part of this, it's really fun," Mazama said. "It's hard work, but very rewarding keeping people informed and letting them know what all goes into keeping roads open and travelers safe."

In fact, you could say the job is tailor-made for Mazama.

"I get to do what most goats couldn't even dream of," she said, gazing up at the mountains that have become her second home. "I get to be a part of a great team, see beautiful scenery and help share some great messages. And play in the snow. I'm one happy goat."

Thursday, November 21, 2019

HOV connections open at I-5 and SR 16 in Tacoma

By Cara Mitchell

UPDATE: Saturday, Nov. 23

All of the HOV connected lanes at Interstate 5 and State Route 16 in Tacoma are now open.
It's time. We're thrilled to announce that design-builder Skanska has started opening the new high-occupancy-vehicle lanes at the Interstate 5 and State Route 16 interchange in Tacoma.

This morning, Thursday, Nov. 21, the contractor opened the southbound I-5 HOV lane to westbound SR 16 HOV. Over the next few days, the contractor will finish striping and installing barrier on the remaining HOV connections. Based on their schedule and weather permitting, we anticipate opening the remaining HOV connections on Saturday, Nov. 23:
  • Eastbound SR 16 HOV to northbound and southbound I-5 HOV
  • Northbound I-5 HOV to westbound SR 16 HOV
If weather delays the opening of the remaining HOV connections on Nov. 23, the next target date is Dec. 6.
This photo shows where the lane of eastbound SR 16 HOV splits to either northbound I-5 HOV
(to the left) or to southbound I-5 (to the right).

Once these HOV ramp connections are open, vanpools, busses and carpool users can merge into the southbound or northbound I-5 HOV lane on the left side of the interstate, and use the dedicated HOV ramps to westbound SR 16.

Keep in mind, there is no access to South Sprague Avenue or Union Avenue from the SR 16 HOV lanes. Carpoolers traveling on I-5 to SR 16 to South Sprague or Union Avenue will need to use the same exit to SR 16 that they always have. If you're in a carpool traveling on I-5 headed to Fircrest, Point Defiance or Gig Harbor, you can take the westbound SR 16 HOV exits.

As always this time of year, weather may impact the timeline. We will provide updates on if the schedules change drastically. This will also be where to found all closure and detour info for Pierce County projects.

In case you missed it, make sure to see our video that shows drivers how the HOV connections work, and what to remember when you're using them.
As a reminder, when the HOV connections open at the I-5 and SR 16 interchange, travelers who use the northbound I-5 HOV lane will temporarily merge into mainline traffic near the Yakima Avenue overpass. This temporary configuration will remain in place until the southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge project is complete, in late 2021. At that time, the entire HOV system will be open, with HOV lanes extending from Gig Harbor on SR 16, onto I-5 through Tacoma and Fife and continuing through King County.

If it fits your commute, now might be a good time to consider forming a new vanpool or carpool. has all the help you need to take advantage of the new HOV connections in Tacoma.

With 11 years and three construction projects in the rear-view mirror, we along with you are grateful that on-going construction at this massive interchange, our Nalley Valley viaduct, is nearing completion. To the 200,000 travelers that use this interchange every day, your patience through all of this has been greatly appreciated.

As we near the end of this construction, we continue to ask travelers to watch speeds in work zones and give construction crews the room they need to finish this important project.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The first toll bills for the SR 99 tunnel are in the mail

By Chris Foster

If you drove through Seattle's SR 99 tunnel without a Good To Go! account on Saturday, November 9, your toll bill is on the way. Remember, drivers who choose Pay By Mail are charged an additional $2 per trip, which covers the cost of processing and mailing a bill, so any trips taken on Saturday would cost $3 each (as opposed to the Good To Go! rate of $1).

You can still save money on your bill

It's not too late to lower your bill, even after you receive it in the mail. To do this, call our customer service center at 1-866-936-8246 to set up a Good To Go! account and ask to have the toll reduced to the Good To Go! toll rate. You'll save $1.75 per toll on all unpaid toll charges, and pay the lowest toll rates going forward. All you have to do is call and ask.

I just want to pay my bill. What do I do?

The easiest way to pay a toll bill is online at You'll just need the notice number listed on your bill (it begins with a "TB,") and your license plate number. You can find both of these on the first page of your toll bill:

Other ways to pay your bill include:
  • Over the phone by calling 1-866-936-8246
  • Through the mail by sending a check to Good To Go!, P.O. Box 300326, Seattle, WA 98103
  • In-person at our customer service centers in Seattle and Bellevue
Cash is accepted at our customer service centers. However, we cannot accept cash payments through the mail.

What happens if I don't pay?

Due dates are clearly listed on each bill. In general, if you don't pay your toll bill within 15 days, you should receive a second toll bill with a $5 late fee. If you don't pay your toll within 80 days, you'll receive a notice of civil penalty in the amount of $40 for each unpaid toll.

If you haven't heard, customers can have their penalties and fees waived if they pay outstanding tolls.

I never received a toll bill. What do I do?

Depending on how often you use toll roads, bills can take up to a month to arrive in the mail, so don't panic if you still haven't received one. Toll bills are mailed to the address listed on the vehicle's registration with Department of Licensing, so remember to keep your information up to date if you choose to Pay By Mail.

I have an account but I received a toll bill. What do I do?

If you have a Good To Go! account, you should see transactions in your Account History within one to three days. However, if you receive a toll bill, don't ignore it! This could mean there's a problem with your account. Toll bills are not connected to your account, so adding more funds to your account will not resolve this bill. Call customer service at 1-866-936-8246 immediately so we can fix the root cause of the problem.

You could have received a toll bill if:
  • You purchased a Good To Go! pass at a retail store or received a free sticker pass through our SR 99 incentive program, and did not activate it by opening a Good To Go! account or adding it to an existing account.
  • Credit card information on your Good To Go! account is not up to date and your account does not have enough money in it to pay your tolls.
  • If you purchase a new vehicle, or you license plate number changes, and you do not add the updated information to your account.

If you have any questions or concerns about your bill please let us know.

Friday, November 15, 2019

String of work zone collisions highlights dangers highway workers face

By Barbara LaBoe

Our roadside maintenance workers face risks every day, but we've had a particularly troubling couple of weeks – so we're again asking all travelers to help us keep everyone on the roadway safe.

A recent string of crashes and injuries started a few hours before Halloween and now numbers four crashes and several injuries. The numbers are especially poignant this week during National Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, designed to raise awareness about the dangers roadway responders face and the need to keep them safe.
Left: An accordion-like attenuator on the back of our TMA normally looks like this, as it’s designed to absorb the impact from a crash and protect crews up ahead. Right: A crash along I-5 on Oct. 30 smashed this attenuator flat.

The string of recent frightening incidents started just before Halloween on the night of Wednesday, Oct. 30, when a vehicle struck one of our parked Truck Mounted Attenuator (TMA) vehicles that was protecting crews along I-5 in Lacey as they were clearing a blocked drain. The large, accordion-like attenuator was smashed flat by the impact and our worker driving the TMA was taken to the hospital with neck pain and was off work afterwards to recover.

A few hours later at 2 a.m. on Halloween morning, a semi truck clipped the bumper of a TMA in a work zone on SR 512 near the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup, giving the TMA driver whiplash. The next morning, Friday, Nov. 1, a driver crashed their vehicle into one our dump trucks that was shielding a sweeper crew near the I-5/SR 512 interchange in Tacoma. After bouncing off our truck, the driver's vehicle was still going fast enough to move two large, heavy concrete barriers along the roadway. In this case our workers weren't hurt, but they were still shaken up and definitely put at risk.

The next week, on Thursday, Nov. 7, a pickup driven by a man under investigation for impaired driving, struck two of our workers while they were trimming trees alongside SR 104 near Port Gamble. The impact sent both workers to the hospital with injuries including a laceration that required staples and a fracture.
Left: A semi truck clipping a TMA along SR 512 damaged the attenuator and sent the TMA driver to the hospital.
Right: A car struck one of our dump trucks hard enough to move two large Jersey
barriers near the I-5/SR 512 interchange after bouncing off our truck.

Thankfully, none of these events caused life-threatening injuries, but all were certainly serious and concerning to the workers' families and coworkers. Imagine how you'd feel getting a call that a loved one had suffered these types of injuries or just barely escaped harm while at work. The difference between hospitalization or even death is often a matter of just inches or split-second reactions. Everyone working along the roadway – whether one of our crews, a contractor or first responder – is there to help keep travelers safe and keep traffic moving. And they all deserve to return home at the end of their shift.

That's why we need everyone's help to keep workers and travelers safe on our roadways. Please follow the state's Move Over or Slow Down law, which applies to several types of responders on the side of roadways including highway workers with flashing lights. Move over a lane as you approach crews on the roadside, and if you can't move over, slow down to 10 miles below the posted speed limit. While the bulk of construction has wrapped up for fall, we still have crews out on the road responding to maintenance needs and we'll also soon have snow and ice crews out in full force. Please do your part by paying attention whenever you're near a work zone or roadside crews.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Expressing your creativity on highways comes at a big cost

By Thomas Charlson

There are a number of ways you can express your inner artist. For me, I enjoy painting happy little orange cones (and trees) on our busy traffic weekend paint maps. Taking a can of spray paint and tagging walls or signs along a highway just isn’t the way to do it. Graffiti on our roads can prevent drivers from reading signs, creates a lot of unnecessary work for our maintenance crews and takes money from our maintenance budget that could go to filling potholes, fixing guardrails and other needed tasks.

Last month, I joined our maintenance crews as they covered and cleaned graffiti along I-5 from the King-Pierce County line to Everett.

Over the course of five weeks, we managed to cover more than 208,800 square feet of graffiti using 749 gallons of paint. That’s the equivalent of nearly four football fields!
We also cleaned graffiti on signs using lacquer thinners and painted the backs of signs to cover graffiti. We installed graffiti guards – 4-by-8-foot pieces of sheet metal – used to sandwich the support structures on the overhead signs and prevent people from climbing onto the structure and tagging it.

In the city of Seattle alone, we spent $150,000 in the past month to clean graffiti. Again, this comes from the same funds that we use to repair potholes, clean rest areas, pick up roadside litter, repair guardrails and other maintenance work. It also often means we have to close a lane or two to provide safe working environments for our crews.

Similar to roadside litter, we need everyone’s help to cut down on the cost and time spent cleaning graffiti. Please keep artwork off the highway.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

WSDOT searching in Colville area for missing plane

By Barbara LaBoe

Saturday, Nov. 16, noon

Search for missing Colville pilot concluded with discovery of body Saturday morning

COLVILLE - The search for a missing Colville pilot and his plane has been concluded after a local resident discovered the body of the pilot in Sullivan Lake on Saturday, Nov. 16.

Terry Coleman, 67, flew out of the Colville Municipal Airport around noon Monday, Nov. 11, intending to return in about an hour. Family notified authorities when he did not return and the search began Monday evening.

Search crews, coordinated by the Washington State Department of Transportation, focused on the area around Sullivan Lake and the town of Ione based on the length of time Mr. Coleman was expected to fly, a ping of his cellphone recorded on a tower in nearby Metaline Falls and radar that showed a plane in that general area at the time he would have been flying. (The radar could not identify whose plane it picked up, just that a plane or planes had been in the area).

Crews from several local agencies and Search and Rescue groups searched the area both by air and on the ground. Low visibility, rain and snow prevented planes and helicopters from flying on several days of the search, but they were used whenever it was deemed safe to send them out. Ground crews worked throughout the area, including in tough, steep terrain.

This is not the resolution anyone hoped for and our thoughts are with the Coleman family and loved ones, some of whom worked with searchers in the week-long effort to find Mr. Coleman and his Cessna 182 Skylane. The local communities have been incredibly supportive both of the family and the search crews during the trying days of the search.

WSDOT also is very thankful for all those who gave of their time or expertise during this search mission. Agencies who assisted in the search include: The Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Office and Search and Rescue (SAR); the Stevens County Sheriff's Office and SAR: the Spokane County Sheriff's Office and SAR; the Civil Air Patrol; the Washington Air Search and Rescue; the U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; WSDOT personnel and the Colville Municipal Airport.

This concludes WSDOT's involvement in the mission. Further information will be released by the Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Office. The contact there is Sheriff Glenn Blakeslee at 509-671-3469 or Undersheriff Geoff Rusho at 509-447-1902. Media questions about any investigation of cause can be directed to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Friday, Nov. 15, 6 p.m.

Search suspended for the evening; crews will resume looking for missing pilot and plane Saturday

The search for a missing Colville pilot and plane have been suspended for the evening of Friday, Nov. 15, due to darkness.

Crews will resume their efforts Saturday morning on foot and with search planes if the weather clears to allow planes to fly. We do not plan any further updates this evening.

Photos of the plane Terry Coleman was flying and the difficult terrain searchers are working in have been posted to the WSDOT Flickr site. Anyone who sees the plane or a possible crash site should call 911 immediately. Non-urgent tips can be sent to or the search tip line: 206-250-2533.

Friday, Nov. 15, 1 p.m.

Search for missing Colville pilot and plane continues on the ground

Ground crews continue their search for a missing Colville pilot and plane this afternoon, though snow and poor visibility have keep search planes from flying.

It is snowing on the ground at the Colville airport as well as the higher elevations of the greater search area. Search planes have not been able to fly and while ground crews continue their work, the cold, wet weather is an additional challenge.

Photos of the plane pilot Terry Coleman was flying and the difficult terrain searchers are working in have been posted to the WSDOT Flickr site. Anyone who sees the plane or a possible crash site should call 911 immediately. Non-urgent tips can be sent to or the search tip line: 206-250-2533.

Friday, Nov. 15, 8:30 a.m.

Search for missing Colville pilot and plane continues

Crews have resumed the search for a missing Colville pilot and his plane this (Friday) morning with ground crews already out in the field and coordinators hoping to send planes up to search as well if the weather holds.

Conditions Friday morning were foggy with rain expected later in the morning. Planes and helicopters were both able to fly Thursday. Decisions on flying search planes Friday will be made based on conditions and crew safety.

Crews are searching an area around the greater Sullivan Lake area in Pend Oreille County for Terry Coleman, 67, who left the Colville airport around noon on Monday, Nov. 11, and was expected to return to Colville about an hour later.

The search for Coleman is being coordinated by WSDOT with assistance of several partner agencies and volunteer Search and Rescue groups who are working in steep, heavily forested terrain with snow in higher elevations. Ground crews are searching on foot and using binoculars to scan areas up to 6,000 feet elevation. Air crews conduct visual searches from the sky look for signs of the plane or any signs of disturbance or possible crash scene.

Photos of the plane Mr. Coleman was flying and the difficult terrain searchers are working in have been posted to the WSDOT Flickr site. Anyone who sees the plane or a possible crash site should call 911 immediately. Non-urgent tips can be sent to or the search tip line: 206-250-2533.

Thursday, Nov. 14, 6 p.m.

Search for missing Colville pilot and plane suspended for evening; crews begin again Friday morning

The search for a missing Colville pilot and plane have been suspended for the evening of Thursday, Nov. 14, due to darkness. Crews will resume their efforts Friday morning. We do not plan any further updates this evening.

A break in the clouds allowed two planes and two helicopters to fly as part of the search mission Thursday and ground crews also worked in the greater Sullivan Lake area of Pend Oreille County. Search coordinators hope to search by air again Friday, but with a forecast of rain and clouds overnight it's unclear if that will be possible. All decisions about flying search planes are made based on conditions and crew safety.

Pilot Terry Coleman left the Colville airport around noon Monday, Nov. 11, intending to return in about an hour. Crews have been searching since Monday evening, by air when conditions have allowed, and also on the ground.

WSDOT is coordinating the search and we are thankful for all of the partner agencies and volunteer Search and Rescue groups who have assisted in the search mission – as well as the support the surrounding community has shown for the family and search crews during this difficult time.

Photos of the plane Mr. Coleman was flying and the difficult terrain searchers are working in have been posted to the WSDOT Flickr site. Anyone who sees the plane or a possible crash site should call 911 immediately. Non-urgent tips can be sent to or the search tip line: 206-250-2533 – please note this is a new number to be consistent with fliers posted in the local area; calls to the previous one also will be received.

Thursday, Nov. 14, 4 p.m.

Planes, helicopters able to join search for missing Colville pilot and plane

A break in the clouds Thursday afternoon allowed for crews in both planes and helicopters to join the ongoing search for a missing Colville pilot and his plane.

Two Civil Air Patrol crews are flying over the search area as are helicopter search crews from both the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. Weather and poor visibility had restricted the use of aircraft at times in the search, which started on Monday, Nov. 11, so search coordinators were pleased to be able to again include search from the air.

Crews also are searching from the ground, working in tough, steep terrain in parts of Pend Oreille County including the Colville National Forest. There is snow in the higher elevations – some areas are up to 6,000 feet – and temperatures have ranged in the 30s and 20s. Search and Rescue crews routinely respond to tough conditions but it does add extra challenges to their efforts. Likewise, both the heavy forest and snow can add to the challenge of spotting a plane or evidence of a crash for crews searching from the air. A photo of the terrain crews are working in is posted on the WSDOT Flickr site (and included below).

This photo taken from a Civil Air Patrol plane Thursday shows some of the terrain in Pend Oreille County where crews are searching for a pilot and plane missing out of Colville since Monday, Nov. 11. Search efforts also include ground crews working in the heavily forested areas with elevations up to 6,000 feet.

We also have released a photo of the missing plane that pilot Terry Coleman was flying and ask anyone in the area, including hunters, to keep an eye out. Anyone who sees the plane should call 911 immediately. Non-urgent tips can be sent to or the search tip line: 206-250-2533 – please note this is a new number to be consistent with fliers posted in the local area; calls to the previous number also will be received.

Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, noon

Search for missing pilot and plane continues, including air crews

The search for missing pilot and plane out of Colville continues Thursday, including from the air as clouds have begun to break up in the area.

We plan to have two Civil Air Patrol planes flying over the area searching for pilot Terry Coleman and his plane, as well as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection search helicopter. Weather and safety concerns had limited the search to ground crews for a few days as part of this effort.

Ground search and rescue crews also continue their efforts, working in steep terrain in the greater Sullivan Lake area of Pend Oreille County. The search area includes the Colville National Forest and some steep and heavily forested terrain, including elevations above 6,000 feet with snow present and more snow predicted in the coming days. Temperatures have ranged in the 30s and 20s. Search and Rescue crews are used to working in rugged terrain, but it does add challenges to the ground search efforts.

Barring new developments, we expect to send our next search update in late afternoon.

Thursday, Nov. 14, 8 a.m.

Colville area search resumes for missing pilot and plane

Searchers have resumed efforts to locate Colville pilot Terry Coleman and his plane in the Colville/Ione/Sullivan Lake area and are hoping to use both ground and air crews in today's (Thursday, Nov. 14) search.

The search area was determined based on several factors, including that Mr. Coleman was making a local-area flight Monday afternoon and was expected to return to the Colville airport in about an hour. In addition, officials recorded one ping of his cell phone in the general area of Metaline Falls in Pend Oreille County – meaning the phone's system connected to a tower, not that he was placing a call. Radar in the area also recorded a plane in the Sullivan Lake area at around the time he would have been flying, but it does not indicate if it was his plane. Mr. Coleman's plane had an emergency locator beacon but no signals have been detected.

Civil Air Patrol may fly in the area as part of the search today, but it is dependent on weather and visibility, which has been a challenge during the search. All decisions on flying are based on conditions and crew safety.

WSDOT is coordinating the search. Ground crews from Pend Oreille County Sherriff's Office, the Border Patrol, US Forest Service and DOT personnel also are searching the area, though it has some very steep terrain with snow in the higher elevations. More perception, including snow, is predicted in the coming days.

Barring new developments, we hope to have another update on the search around lunchtime.

We have released a photo of the missing plane that Terry Coleman was flying and ask anyone in the area, including hunters, to keep an eye out. Anyone who sees the plane should call 911 immediately. Non-urgent tips can be sent to or the search tip line: 360-410-0461.
This is a photo of the missing Cessna 182 Skylane plane near Colville provided by the family. (We do not have an ID for the man in back of the photo). Anyone who sees it or evidence of a crash should call 911. Non-urgent tips can be
emailed to or the search tip line: 360-410-0461.

Wednesday, Nov. 13, 6 p.m.

Colville missing plane search suspended for the evening; search begins again Thursday morning

Crews have suspended the search for the Colville missing pilot and plane for the evening due to safety concerns for crews in the dark. Crews will resume searching Thursday morning and no further updates are planned for this evening.

Clearing weather allowed a plane to fly overhead as part of the search Wednesday afternoon and we hope to use more on Thursday if conditions allow. All decisions on flying are based on weather, visibility and crew safety. Ground crews will also continue to search in the area between Colville and the town of Ione and the Sullivan Lake area. WSDOT is coordinating the search and is thankful for the all of the partner agencies working on the effort, as well as the support from the tight-knit community of Colville and the surrounding area.

We have released a photo of the missing plane that Terry Coleman was flying and ask anyone in the area, including hunters, to keep an eye out. Anyone who sees the plane should call 911 immediately. Non-urgent tips can be sent to or the search tip line: 360-410-0461. We do not have a photo of Mr. Coleman to release.

Wednesday, Nov. 13, 4:30 p.m.

Search for missing plane in Colville continues; aircraft able to join efforts

Crews continue to search Wednesday for a missing pilot and plane out of Colville this afternoon.

A single aircraft from the Washington Air Search and Rescue, a volunteer pilot search group, were able to fly over areas west of Colville. Visibility was clear at 5,000 feet, though still low visibility closer to the ground.

Due to poor visibility closer to the ground, other search aircraft are being staged at the Deer Park Airport, 50 miles south of Colville. All decisions about flying will be made based on conditions and crew safety.

Ground crews continued to focus their search efforts between Colville and the Ione/Sullivan Lake area. We are receiving aid from several agencies including Border Patrol, the Stevens County Sheriff's Office, Spokane County Sherriff's Office, Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Office and the Forest Service, in the search for Terry Coleman, 67, of Colville and his Cessna 182 Skylane Plane. WSDOT is coordinating the search.

Mr. Coleman did not file a formal flight plan, nor was he required to for his flight. Based on where he was believed to be flying, however, crews have narrowed the search to the northeast near the town of Ione and nearby Sullivan Lake. Coleman took off around noon on Monday, Nov. 11, and planned to return to Colville in about an hour. His plane had an emergency locator beacon onboard, but no signal has been detected.

We have released a photo of the missing plane and ask anyone in the area, including hunters, to keep an eye out. Anyone who sees the plane should call 911 immediately. Non-urgent tips can be sent to or a newly established tip line: 360-410-0461. We do not have a photo of Mr. Coleman to release.

Search efforts will be suspended for the day when it becomes dark. We expect to post the next update about the search later this evening.

Wednesday, Nov. 13, noon

Search for missing plane in Colville continues; new tip line number established

Crews continue to search Wednesday for a missing pilot and plane out of Colville, focusing their search between Colville and the Ione/Sullivan Lake area.

Ground search crews, including the Spokane County Search and Rescue, have been out all of this morning searching for Terry Coleman, 67, of Colville and his Cessna 182 Skylane plane. WSDOT is coordinating the search.

While aircraft were unable to fly Wednesday morning as part of the search – due to weather and poor visibility – we do hope to have some aircraft in air later this afternoon. All decisions about flying will be made based on conditions and crew safety.

Mr. Coleman did not file a formal flight plan, nor was he required to for his flight. Based on where he was believed to be flying, however, crews have narrowed the search to the northeast near the town of Ione and nearby Sullivan Lake. Coleman took off around noon on Monday, Nov. 11, and planned to return to Colville in about an hour. His plane had an emergency locator beacon onboard but no signal has been detected and search flights on Monday failed to locate the plane.

We have released a photo of the missing plane and ask anyone in the area, including hunters, to keep an eye out. Anyone who sees the plane should call 911 immediately. Non-urgent tips can be sent to or a newly established tip line: 360-410-0461. We do not have a photo of Mr. Coleman to release.

Barring any new developments, we expect to post the next update about the search in late afternoon.

Wednesday, Nov. 13, 8:30 a.m.

Crews continue searching for missing Colville pilot and plane – photo of plane released; tip line and email established

Rescue crews are continuing their search for a missing Colville pilot and his plane and are releasing details about both.

The missing pilot is Terry Coleman, 67, of Colville. He left the Colville airport around noon on Monday, Nov. 11, for what was expected to be a one-hour flight before returning to Colville. His family contacted authorities when he didn't return Monday afternoon. While his plane, a Cessna 182 Skylane, did have an emergency beacon, no beacon signals have been received. Two flights overnight Monday did not locate any sign of the plane.

We are releasing a photo of Coleman's plane in case anyone has seen it in the area. It is also available for download on the WSDOT Flickr site: The photo was provided by the family. We do not have an ID for the man shown in the background.

Searchers worked on the ground Tuesday due to poor weather and visibility concerns. A decision about flying search planes or helicopters today, Wednesday, is still being made and will depend on conditions and safety of crews.

WSDOT is coordinating the search and working with area law enforcement and search and rescue groups. Searchers are focusing on an area between Colville and the town of Ione and nearby Sullivan Lake, based on where they expected Coleman to fly. The town of Ione is about 40 miles northeast of Colville in neighboring Pend Oreille County. Colville is the county seat of Stevens County.

Anyone in the area, including hunters, is asked to keep an eye out for the plane or any evidence of a crash. However, we do not want residents to form their own search crews at this time as it may interfere with tracking of the official search and rescue crews in the area. We'll let the public know when and if we need more search crews and thank them for the offers and support they've already provided.

If anyone in the area does see a plane or evidence of a crash, please call 911 immediately. Anyone who has non-urgent tips can email them to: or call the Stevens County Sheriff's Office at 509 684-2555.

Tuesday, Nov. 12, 6:30 p.m. - final update of the evening

Colville missing plane search suspended for the night

The search for a missing pilot and plane near Colville has been suspended for the night of Tuesday, Nov. 12, due to darkness and concern for searchers' safety. It will resume in the morning and we will not be issuing updates overnight.

Tuesday's search was conducted on the ground due to weather and low visibility. A decision on flying search planes and helicopters Wednesday will be made in the morning based on conditions, forecast the safety of search crews.

Tuesday, Nov. 12, 4:30 p.m.

Missing plane search continues in Colville

The search for a missing plane and pilot continues in the Colville area with search crews working on the ground due to low visibility that is keeping planes and helicopters from flying.

Wednesday's forecast also calls for fog and low clouds and the decision about flying search planes will be made in the morning based on the safety of crews and conditions. We are working closely with law enforcement in the area to coordinate the search and ensure everyone's safety.

We will update the blog again this evening if the plane and pilot are located or when searchers stop for the night.

Tuesday, Nov. 12, 12:30 p.m.

Search continues for missing plane in Colville

Search efforts continue for the missing plane and pilot in the Colville area.

Due to weather and visibility concerns, this is will be a ground mission and we are coordinating with Search and Rescue teams out of Stevens and Spokane counties in those efforts.

Anyone who with information about the plane can call in tips to the Stevens County Sheriff's Office at: 509 684-2555.

Updates to the search will be shared here as well as an opt-in/opt-out Air Search and Rescue email alerts listserve.

Sign up for email alerts

The Washington State Department of Transportation is searching for a missing plane in the Colville/Stevens County area in Eastern Washington.

The pilot and sole occupant of the small, private plane left the Colville Municipal Airport around noon Monday, Nov. 11, planning to fly in the area for one hour before returning to Colville. The pilot's family reached out to authorities when the pilot did not return as scheduled.

No emergency beacon signals or other distress signals have been recorded in the area. Two search flights, including the Spokane County Sheriff's Office helicopter, searched the area overnight and were unable to locate any sign of the plane.

WSDOT Aviation Search and Rescue is leading the search effort and coordinating with area law enforcement. Colville is approximately 70 miles north of Spokane in the northeast corner of the state and is the county seat of Stevens County.

The pilot is a 67-year-old Colville man flying in his Cessna 182 Skylane. At this time no other details about the plane and pilot are being released. Updates on the search will be posted on this blog as they become available.

WSDOT, by statute (RCW 47.68.380), is charged with the coordination and management of all aerial search and rescue within the state. The agency works in conjunction with volunteer search and rescue groups, law enforcement and other agencies in carrying out such searches.