Thursday, March 28, 2019

New pavement, sidewalks and culverts, oh my!

By Frances Fedoriska

Forget yellow bricks! This spring, travelers on Mt. Baker Highway (State Route 542) in Whatcom County will follow the freshly-paved road as contractor crews begin working on two  projects to rehabilitate almost 20 miles of highway.

Resurfacing doesn't take a wizard
We didn't have to visit a wizard to make this work happen, we just had to turn to contractor crews! In May, workers from Doolittle Construction will begin resurfacing SR 542 from Britton Road on the east side of Bellingham to Markel Road in Kendall. This 18-mile section is part of a larger multi-county project preserving more than 35 miles on four different highways.
We'll get you...pretty! Resurfacing SR 542 takes multiple phases: repairing the pavement, filling cracks, putting down asphalt, putting down a new thin layer of rock surface, fog seal and finally stripe.

Contractor crews will work at night for the first few phases of the project. Then in July or August, they'll lay down the new oily surface and crushed rock and use the heat of our hot summer days to help it stick to the roadway.

No flying monkeys, but still some delays
Flying monkeys and apple-throwing trees delayed the trip to Oz and while there won't be anything quite as treacherous this summer, some disruption should be expected. During the July/August daytime work, expect delays of up to 45 minutes. As crews work, a pilot car will alternate traffic through a single open lane.

As always, pay attention and slow down near work zones to keep everyone safe.

We'll fix you my highway, and your little culvert too!
The second SR 542 project starts June 3. Contractor crews with Granite Construction will remove and replace the asphalt on all lanes of SR 542 (East Sunset Drive) between I-5 and Britton Road. Rehabbing the highway helps avoid costly repairs later.

They will also remove and improve a culvert near Dewey Road, upgrade pedestrian curb ramps and, in partnership with the city of Bellingham, add a sidewalk next to Applebee's south side.
Left: This failing culvert in Bellingham will be upsized to improve drainage capacity. Right: No yellow bricks here. Contractor crews will use concrete, yellow detectable warning surfaces and other items to improve some
pedestrian crossings along East Sunset Drive.

We'd like to welcome you to be prepared
During this construction, people who travel on SR 542 between I-5 and Britton Road will experience:
  • Nighttime lane closures, lane shifts and I-5 ramp closures.
  • Nighttime flagger-controlled intersections.
  • Sections of rough, ground-down road during daytime travel.
  • Detours for non-motorized users such as pedestrians and bicyclists.
These two projects may not happen as quickly as tapping your heels together three times, but they are both scheduled to wrap up this fall.

If I only had a heads up
Updated schedules will be posted weekly on the construction update page. Progress reports will be sent out Thursdays through the Whatcom County construction listserv.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Spokane’s first ramp meters to be activated April 9

By Ryan Overton

Ramp meters are coming to Spokane.

Long used to regulate traffic flow in the Seattle and Tacoma areas, the Spokane area’s first ramp meter will become operational on April 9th. The meter is designed to alleviate backups and collisions on US 195 at the onramp of eastbound I-90.

Currently, drivers traveling north on US 195 are able to merge onto I-90 eastbound which creates backups on both US 195 and eastbound I-90. The ramp meter will regulate the flow of traffic entering I-90 and decrease congestion in the right lane of eastbound I-90 as drivers try to merge from US 195.

Spokane’s first highway ramp meter will be activated on the morning of April 9th.
 How will it work?

So how will it work? Drivers will see the ramp meter go live at 6:30 a.m. on April 9th. Metering will continue through the morning peak traffic window, ending at about 9 a.m. During the afternoon commute, the ramp meter will be activated at 2:00 p.m. and continue through 6 p.m.

Drivers will see a sign flashing “Ramp Metered Ahead When Flashing.” When flashing, drivers will form two lanes leading up to the ramp meter. Drivers pull forward to the white line or stop bar to trigger the ramp meter. If the light is red for your lane, stop at the white line. When it turns green, accelerate and merge onto I-90. The ramp meter will only allow one vehicle per green light.
The new ramp meter in Spokane is designed to alleviate backups and collisions on US 195 at the onramp of eastbound I-90.


While the ramp meter should reduce congestion on eastbound I-90 and limit collisions at the merge point, ramp metering can produce delays. We tested several drive times from the intersection of 16th Avenue and Thorpe Road on US 195 to 3rd and Walnut and without the ramp meter during peak traffic, travel times were approximately the same using alternate routes like 16th Avenue to Sunset Boulevard and Inland Empire Way, or US 195. With the ramp meter, we estimate that using US 195 to I-90 will take an additional 2 minutes of travel time.
Crews installing Spokane’s first ramp meter, which will be activated on April 9th. 


Like anything new, we expect that the ramp meter will take some getting used to. But ramp meters are proven to reduce collisions and reduce backups on the mainline highway. So please familiarize yourself with how it operates, because after this one goes live, five more are set to be installed and operational in 2020.

A tricky balancing act: Roadside litter and highway maintenance needs

We need everyone’s help in keeping our roadways clean – by securing loads, sharing the news or adopting a highway for cleanup

By Tina Werner

As the days become longer, spring is slowly beginning to show its telltale signs across the Pacific Northwest. And while we may be biased, it’s clear that Washington, with majestic mountains, rushing rivers, city lights and Pacific Ocean beaches, is one of the nation’s most gorgeous states.

Unfortunately, even with such stunning landscapes, people still choose to throw their leftover meals or abandoned mattresses on the side of our highways. Many of you have expressed concerns about the litter you are seeing along our highways, especially around this time of year. It saddens us as well, and we agree that litter greatly diminishes the natural beauty of our Evergreen State.

We spend more than $4 million annually to help clean our roadways but, sadly, even with such a large expenditure we’ve seen roadside trash increase for the past several years. In early spring it’s particularly noticeable because our recent work has focused on snow and ice removal and emergency repairs.

That’s why we need everyone’s help to keep our roadways clean.
Adopt-A-Highway volunteers pick up roadside litter alongside I-5 in the Seattle area.

Litter is a statewide problem

We get complaints about some state highways more than others, but roadside litter is a statewide problem.

In Seattle and Bellevue, I-5 is often where the most trash accumulates and where we get the most complaints. The high traffic amounts contribute to this, as do the growing homeless encampments in the area.

Further south, we see a lot of complaints about SR 410 in Bonney Lake. State Route 16 on both sides of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is another hotspot along with sections of I-5 near the Tacoma Mall.

We try to respond to litter complaints promptly, but other maintenance needs – such as guardrail or pothole repair, emergency bridge or road repairs or preventative maintenance – are higher priorities.

Simply put, limited state funds and a long maintenance “to do” list, means litter clean up often falls to the bottom of the list.

Partnerships are key to addressing roadside litter

So, where does our litter money go? In fiscal year 2018 our agency spent $4.4 million on litter and roadway clearing including:

  • Pick up and disposal of litter bags collected by groups or volunteers
  • Pick up and disposal of large debris, such as furniture, tires and dead animals
  • Payments to Department of Corrections work crews for litter pick up
  • Administration of the Adopt-A-Highway program

Our maintenance crews pick up litter as time and resources allow. Our crews also pick up bags that other groups – Adopt-A-Highway, Ecology Youth Corps, etc. – gather and leave on the side of a highway.

We know litter is a far-reaching concern. That is why we must work with our partners – local government, businesses, law enforcement and the public -- to help get the job done together.

This includes sharing clean up responsibilities and working to raise awareness to prevent litter from happening in the first place.

One easy way to do this is by properly covering and tying down your loads before you hit the road – even on “just short trips” through town. It not only helps prevent litter, it’s also the law. Please also spread the word to friends, family and neighbors. Preventing trash from reaching roadways is the best and simplest way to reduce roadside trash.

Department of Corrections crews

We have collaborated with the Department of Corrections for several years to assist with roadside litter and other cleanup efforts on state rights of way. Their work crews are an invaluable addition to our overall efforts. In addition to DOC crews, in some locations, local county jail crews are also used for site cleanups. While they are an important resource, it’s important to note that the work crews cannot solve our litter problem single-handedly.

Adopt-A-Highway

We’re always looking for more people to join our Adopt-A-Highway program where volunteers or corporations help clean a set section of roadway.

We know the work is not glamorous, but it is invaluable and participants know they’re doing something tangible in their own backyard to help their community. (We provide supplies and safety training to interested groups).

In 2016, we had nearly 1,400 volunteers and 300 sponsored contractors assist in removing litter on state highways. This equates to more than 20,000 bags of litter picked up and disposed of by our maintenance crews with approximately 4,341 miles of highway adopted.
Pictured: Forks Elks Lodge #2524 and Forks Emblem Club #488 pick up litter
on their Adopt-A-Highway route along US 101 in Clallam County.

Volunteers from left to right: Glen King, Elbert Hampton, Gary Slyter and Bill Plumley.

Even with such valiant efforts, the litter remains. Currently, only one-third of our roads are adopted. You can learn more about our Adopt-A-Highway program and sign up to adopt a particular roadway online.

Applications for summer Ecology Youth Corps also are being accepted by our partners, with details available on the Ecology website.

We know our residents take our state’s beauty seriously – as they should. We hope that by working together, we can all make a difference and keep litter off our roads.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Construction activity springs into high gear on I-5 in Pierce County

By Cara Mitchell

Just as yard work and home improvement projects begin to kick into high gear in your neighborhood, so too is highway construction on Interstate 5 in Pierce County. We have three construction sites on the busy highway between Lakewood and Tacoma that are getting ready to reach some big milestones that will affect traffic. We want you to know about these milestones in advance so you can plan ahead for your daily commute to work, school, or to wherever your honey-do list takes you.

Girders are going up on new Berkeley Street overpass in Lakewood/JBLM
In April, contractor Guy F. Atkinson Construction will close lanes on northbound and southbound I-5 during overnight hours to set 44 girders on a brand new Berkeley Street overpass as part of the I-5 – Steilacoom-DuPont Road to Thorne Lane Corridor Improvements project.

During these closures, northbound and southbound I-5 will be reduced to a single lane in each direction, and that one lane will be redirected through the Berkeley Street interchange. The Berkeley Street on-ramp to southbound I-5 will also close overnight.

Once the new overpass is complete, it will span all lanes of I-5 and the adjacent rail line, elevating that traffic over the trains.

The girder installations are tentatively scheduled to occur over three consecutive nights starting April 12. We will share the exact details once they become available from the contractor.
New Berkeley Street overpass being built across Interstate 5 in Lakewood.

I-5 and State Route 16 interchange in Tacoma
Design-build contractor Skanska is getting ready to rebuild the southbound collector/distributor lanes that run between eastbound State Route 16 and southbound I-5. Just as with our other HOV projects in Tacoma, the connecting ramps have to be rebuilt to meet new highway contours and elevations. It is not work that can take place overnight. This work will involve a traffic shift and both a week-long and month-long closure of two ramps in Tacoma. If the weather cooperates, the traffic shift is scheduled to occur April 5.

South Sprague Avenue ramp to southbound I-5 closed early April until end of May
South Sprague Avenue in Tacoma has two ramps that lead to I-5. One ramp leads to northbound I-5, while the other leads to southbound I-5 via the collector/distributor lanes. Because the collector/distributor lanes are being rebuilt, the Sprague ramp to southbound I-5 will close as early as April 5 through the end of May. Drivers will detour to westbound SR 16, South Union Avenue and back to eastbound SR 16 to continue onto southbound I-5.

The Sprague ramp to northbound I-5 will remain open.
Overhead view of lanes of SR 16 and South Sprague Avenue ramps to northbound and southbound I-5

Traffic shift: Eastbound SR 16 to southbound I-5 to use NEW SR 16 HOV lanes

Rebuilding the collector/distributor lanes between eastbound SR 16 and southbound I-5 means that all eastbound SR 16 drivers headed to southbound I-5 will be temporarily shifted onto newly-built SR 16 HOV lanes. Instead of exiting to the right to head onto southbound I-5, those drivers will need to be in the left lanes before reaching the eastbound exit to Sprague Avenue.
Eastbound SR 16 drivers going to southbound I-5 will need to merge into the left lanes to reach southbound I-5.
Eastbound SR 16 drivers going to northbound I-5 will stay in the same lanes.

The traffic shift is scheduled to begin during overnight hours of April 5. All detours and the traffic shifts for eastbound SR 16 travelers will remain in place until work on the collector/distributor is complete.

7-day closure: Southbound I-5 ramp to eastbound South 38th Street
Currently this ramp allows drivers from SR 16 and southbound I-5 to take eastbound South 38th Street to places east and south of I-5 such as Reed Elementary School, South Alaska Street and Lincoln High School. When the ramp is closed on April 5, the contractor will modify the ramp terminus with a new signal that will improve traffic flow in future construction phases. During the week-long closure, southbound I-5 and eastbound SR 16 travelers will be detoured onto I-5, through the South 56th Street interchange, back to northbound I-5, and then to exit 132. Drivers on both highways may want to consider using exits to SR 7 as an alternative way to reach South 38th Street.

During this same week-long closure, southbound I-5 exit 132A to the Tacoma Mall and westbound South 38th Street will remain open, however it will temporarily become an exit only and will not reconnect to southbound I-5. It is important to note that once the eastbound South 38th Street ramp reopens to all traffic after 7 days, the westbound ramp will close for construction.
Traffic configuration during 7-day closure of the eastbound South 38th Street.

The good news is that by modifying the signal at the top of the eastbound South 38th Street ramp, all drivers will be able to make both right- and left- turns onto South 38th. Skanska will also build a temporary ramp to allow eastbound SR 16 drivers going to southbound I-5 to access the South 38th Street ramp. This configuration will be in place until the end of May.
Traffic configuration after the 7-day closure of eastbound South 38th Street ramp.
This will be in place through the end of May.

Removal of the L Street overpass in Tacoma
While one new I-5 overpass is going up near JBLM, another I-5 overpass in Tacoma is coming down. Atkinson construction crews are getting ready to close, demolish and rebuild the East L Street overpass to accommodate a widened Interstate 5 and new HOV lanes.

Crews will close the 56-year-old bridge to all pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular traffic starting at 12:01 a.m., Monday, March 25. During the closure, vehicles and bicyclists will detour using East 28th Street, East Portland Avenue to East 27th Street and Wiley Avenue, to East McKinley Way and East 34th Street. Once the bridge is closed, crews will begin dismantling the overpass. Some of this work will involve overnight ramp closures and full closures of I-5 with detours for extended overnight hours during a weekend in mid-April.

Demolition of the L Street overpass over the Portland Avenue on-ramp to southbound I-5 is tentatively scheduled to begin the week of April 8. During this work, the ramp will be closed during overnight hours. Then on the night of Friday, April 12, southbound I-5 will be reduced to a single lane and detoured at exit 135 to Portland Avenue, SR 509 to I-705 and back to southbound I-5. The following night, all lanes of northbound I-5 will be detoured through exit 133 to I-705 to SR 509 to Port of Tacoma Road to northbound I-5. To ensure the safety of motorists, these detours are necessary during active demolition. We will provide closure times and updates to the demolition schedule once they become available from the contractor.

The main message to drivers is to continue to expect change as we work to improve the state's highway infrastructure.  Watch for detour signs, stay informed, and give yourself extra time to reach your destinations. Anticipate overnight lane and ramp closures, and please give construction crews the room they need to finish these important projects. Updated ramp closure information is available for all Pierce County maintenance and construction project online at www.TacomaTraffic.com.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Ready for takeoff – pilots preparing for Fly Washington Passport Program kickoff April 1

By Christina Carmen Crea

After months of preparation and collaboration with airports around the state, the Fly Washington Passport Program launches on April 1! So pilots, be sure to have your Fly Washington Passport so you can start collecting points for prizes while exploring our state beginning this spring.

Wait, the what? Let us explain.
One of the goals of our aviation department is encouraging pilots to use our many local airports and in doing so, helping support area business and tourism. As part of that goal, we partnered with the Washington Pilots Association, Washington Airport Management Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association along with the City of Auburn and Auburn Municipal Airport on the Fly Washington Passport Program. The program encourages pilots and aviation enthusiasts to explore Washington's public-use airports and the local communities and in so doing supports general aviation airports, area businesses, tourism, safety, and educational opportunities.

Participants using a Fly Washington Passport Program booklet can collect "passport stamps" at participating public-use airports. The program is open to any licensed pilot from any state, as well as their passengers. By getting stamps, they will earn levels of recognition and prizes as they explore the airports.

More than 100 airports are participating, and we're hoping to add even more.

How it works
When arriving at a participating airport, locate the stamp box - remember, each airport may have their stamp locations and containers in different places. You'll find a stamp waiting so mark your passport and then start exploring the community! When you head to the next airport, just repeat!

The more airports you visit, the more swag you earn! For example, by visiting all of the airports in a particular region you can earn a regional patch. By visiting all of the participating seaplane bases, you'll get a Fly Washington Passport Program pin. Once you've visited 90 percent of the participating airports, you earn a flight jacket and when you visit every participating airport, you'll get your gold pin! Each time you complete a particular goal, simply report it to the Fly Washington Passport Program via the website to become eligible for the rewards.

WSDOT is involved in aviation?
Yes! Our aviation division has general supervision over aeronautics within the state to encourage, foster and assist in the development of air travel and encourage the establishment of airports. We work to maintain and adapt airport infrastructure and help lead emerging technology and education such as drones and electric aircraft. We also support and lead in aviation emergency services through partnerships, outreach, studies and training.

Where can I get one?
We handed out many passports at the annual Northwest Aviation Tradeshow in late February in Puyallup. If you weren't able to grab a passport then, you still have plenty of options.

They can be picked up at our aviation office at 7702 Terminal Street in Tumwater or at Auburn Municipal Airport, Spokane Felts Field, Southwest Washington Regional Airport in Kelso, or Richland Airport.

A list of participating airports and information is at the official website at www.flywashington.org. Pilots can also follow the official Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/flywapassport.

Questions? Send them to WSDOT Aviation Planner Max Platts at plattst@wsdot.wa.gov, or Auburn Airport Manager Tim Mensonides at tmensonides@auburnwa.gov.

Friday, March 8, 2019

New options for SR 9/SR 204 intersection coming as spring approaches

By Samantha DeMars-Hanson 

Who else is fed up with all this snow? While we’re still seeing flakes fall in some areas, the recent sunshine and blue skies makes us eager for spring and the renewed sense of opportunity that comes with colorful flowers and fewer layers. For the Lake Stevens community, spring brings new opportunities to provide input on a new SR 9/SR 204 intersection design. You may be thinking: didn’t we already finalize the intersection design? And the answer is, yes – but we had some budget challenges to address.
An upcoming open house will be a great chance to hear about
 the future of the SR 9/SR 204 intersection in Lake Stevens.

Sowing seeds
In summer 2017, the SR 9/SR 204 Intersection Improvements project Stakeholder Advisory Group and the Lake Stevens community reached consensus on a grade-separated intersection design. This design required digging 30 feet into the ground to allow free flow of SR 9 traffic, with no stoplights, below SR 204.

Building on community consensus, the project team moved into the design phase of the project. They conducted project area surveying that included looking underground at utilities and groundwater levels. The groundwater level turned out to be just nine feet below the surface. This meant that the cost, materials, and overall feasibility of the project needed review as well.

The project team reworked the new conditions into the project design and determined that the grade-separated alternative was too costly. Even though the project team included some cost risks into the initial plan process, the updated conditions exceeded those calculated risks. The project team went to work looking for new solutions that would better fit the budget constraints while also addressing the needs of the community.

Spring into action
Want to learn more about the updated plans? You are invited to our upcoming open house to provide feedback to the project team on the new design. The open house will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, at Hillcrest Elementary School in Lake Stevens. A short project presentation will take place at 6:15 p.m. and again at 7:15 p.m. Learn about the project’s progress, the new intersection design, and what to expect as we move forward.

Here comes the sun
Once we collect and review community feedback from this open house the project team will meet with the Stakeholder Advisory Group. The advisory group will review the feedback and provide additional guidance to us on the new design. Then the project team will begin final design work ahead of construction.

This spring, we’ll hope for many sunny days as we start construction to add a lane on southbound SR 9, south of Market Place Northeast. This construction is a small part of the overall project.

Background 
Funded by the 2015 Connecting Washington funding package, we sought practical solutions to improve congestion at the SR 9/SR 204 intersection. Since 2016, the SR 9/SR 204 Intersection Improvements project Stakeholder Advisory Group and the Lake Stevens community provided input and guidance on design options aimed at creating better connections for all roadway users of this intersection, including pedestrians, transit riders, bicyclists and drivers.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A 12-ton helping hand

Our "push truck" helps vehicles struggling or stopped on Snoqualmie Pass – which helps keep everyone moving

By Barbara LaBoe

Sometimes you just need a little extra nudge to get moving. It can be a parent rousting a child out of bed in the morning, or the friend who reminds you not to give up on an important long-term goal like going back to school or finding a new career.

Or, in the case of our push truck on I-90 Snoqualmie Pass, it can be a literal heavy-duty assist – as in a 12-ton vehicle pushing your vehicle to help you regain traction or get you out of the line of traffic.

We created the push truck in house to meet a need crews kept seeing on the pass – vehicles either disabled or unable to regain traction and thus blocking traffic and even forcing pass closures. The push truck, which debuted in November, is designed to help quickly clear roadways, either by pushing disabled vehicles off to the shoulder or giving a struggling vehicle the extra help it needs to regain traction and start moving again.
Watch our push truck in action from earlier this winter when it helped a semitruck up a steep incline
So why do we need a push truck? Our main goal is to get the roadway cleared and get traffic moving as soon as possible after a crash or spin out. We know no one likes having their plans disrupted, especially in winter conditions, so we wanted another option to help avoid lengthy closures.

Most of the closures our crews see on Snoqualmie Pass – roughly 80 percent – are due to unprepared motorists who either ignored posted speed limits, failed to chain up, drove on bald tires or tried to drive through conditions they're just not prepared to handle. The end results are spin outs and crashes or vehicles struggling to continue up the pass and slowing down or stalling others behind them. And they all need assistance, usually a tow truck.

The push truck, which is housed at our Hyak maintenance facility, doesn't replace commercial tow trucks, but it can move vehicles out of the way until a tow arrives. It also can help get a struggling vehicle moving up the hill again or assist a tow truck in clearing the scene. This lets other travelers get back on their way more quickly. The push truck also means we don't have to divert a grader from plowing to assist in moving heavy vehicles.
Left: We recycled a surplus plow for the push truck, adding an adjustable hydraulic bumper as well as tow cables and an onboard camera for the operator. Right: Our push truck can help move crashed vehicles off the roadway or, as in this picture, help a semitruck regain traction on a steep part of Snoqualmie Pass.

This isn't the first time we've tried a push truck on Snoqualmie. A truck was donated several years ago, but it ended up not meeting our needs, especially for large semitrucks. Using an old plow for the new and improved push truck not only saved us money, it also ensured the vehicle had enough push power for steep inclines. By "recycling" a plow headed for surplus and using salvaged parts from other vehicles we were able to put the push truck into service for a little less than $15,000.

As part of its modifications, crews added a hydraulic, adjustable push bumper that the operator can move using an onboard camera to help line up with the vehicle in need. It also has tow cables if a vehicle needs to be pulled out of the way rather than pushed.

The result? The push truck on the west side of the pass worked so well this winter we're already making plans to add another so we have one on the east side of the pass as well. It has been deployed 11 times this winter (basically anytime severe weather is predicted) and assisted between 10 and 20 vehicles during each session. That's almost 200 vehicles helped directly and many more who weren't delayed. We're also sharing the results in case other pass crews want to consider it for their needs.

We direct a lot of time and resources to keeping Snoqualmie Pass open in the winter. The push truck is now another tool in that tool box, and that extra nudge helps improve safety for both our workers and all travelers.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Helping fish cross the road is the right thing to do for everyone

By Ann Briggs

For almost three decades, a major effort to improve transportation and the environment has taken place across Washington state, and this effort is growing. An important beneficiary of this work doesn’t drive, walk or ride – it swims.

Have you guessed it? We’re talking about removing barriers to fish so they can swim upstream to spawn and access habitat for their young. The results of this work will ultimately benefit all of us – by enhancing our natural resources; economically through commercial, recreational and sports fishing, as well as culturally. We collaborate with others to produce better results and increase the investments in barrier corrections to more fully open habitat.
The new and improved fish passage at Little Skookum Creek on SR 108 near McCleary.

A big job, but the right thing to do
Statewide, approximately 2,000 culverts under state highways are barriers to fish passage. Many of these culverts were installed decades ago before we understood the swimming and jumping capabilities of adult and juvenile fish. We’ve been correcting these barriers since the early 1990s, and as of July 2018, 330 projects have been completed, improving access to more than 1,000 miles of upstream habitat. It’s the right thing to do for salmon and steelhead recovery and to help sustain our environment.
In 2013, the U.S. District Court issued an injunction that requires the state to accelerate correction of about 992 barriers in the northwest part of the state. Since that time, we have corrected 55 injunction fish barriers, opening 215 miles of upstream habitat for fish. Approximately 415 more of these culverts must be corrected by 2030 in order to provide better access to 90 percent of the upstream habitat. The state will correct the remaining 500-plus injunction culverts when they reach the end of their useful life, or as part of a highway improvement project.
A fish makes its way through the improved fish passage in Edgecomb Creek near SR 531 in Arlington.

The new fish passage at Edgecomb Creek in Arlington has
made it easier for fish like this one to make its way upstream.

The governor’s current funding proposal to the legislature increases the number of fish-barrier-removal projects completed each year from an average of 11 annually to about 20 annually. That number eventually will ramp up to more than 50 per year. It’s a big undertaking and we’re working with the tribes and others to prioritize projects for the greatest habitat gain. We’re also considering ways to bundle projects to reduce the disruption to human travelers and create efficiencies in project contracting. At the same time, we’re seeking partnership opportunities in watersheds to leverage the most from our barrier removals. Our current estimate to correct all the barriers in the injunction area by 2030 is approximately $3.8 billion, which would require an additional $3.1 billion over current funding.
Seeing the results
Do these projects work? The above video highlights recent barrier removal projects – one near McCleary on State Route 8 at the East and Middle forks of Wildcat Creek, and the other near Arlington along SR 531 at Edgecomb Creek – where we observed fish upstream of the completed projects in fall 2018. We, along with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, routinely conduct field surveys of newly constructed fish passage projects to look for increased salmon and steelhead use. So far, we’ve observed fish spawning upstream at more than half of the projects constructed within the past two years.

That’s promising news for Washington’s aquatic travelers!