Friday, May 31, 2019

A different approach for an I-90 facelift near Ritzville

By Ryan Overton

While many construction projects around the state are just getting underway, crews are close to wrapping up work on I-90 between SR 21 and Ritzville. And on this project, we tried something a little different.

Stone Matrix Asphalt. No, it doesn't involve Keanu Reeves – though that would be amazing – but it's still pretty cool. But more on that in just a bit.
Trucks line up on I-90 near Ritzville as part of a paving project nearing completion. This stretch of I-90
near Ritzville hasn't had a significant paving job in more than 15 years.

The last time this stretch of I-90 – covering about 10½ miles – had a full pavement grind and inlay of asphalt was 2002. There was some minor reconstruction work in 2008 but overall the highway has remained relatively unchanged for more than 15 years. You may have noticed more wear on the road in the past couple years, with some significant rutting and cracks causing the roadway to look aged.
Typically the pavement cycle for resurfacing is about every 10 to 15 years, so 17 years is longer than normal. To extend the life of this next pavement cycle, we're using Stone Matrix Asphalt, or SMA, for the driving lane.
A look at the difference between Hot Mix Asphalt and Stone Matrix Asphalt

Generally a standard asphalt mix is called Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) or dense graded asphalt. The roadway is ground down and paved over. The HMA, made up of a mix of sand, oil and aggregate stone between 3/8- to ½-inch in size, is poured on the road. It gets heated, pressed down and rolled into that smooth surface we all know and love.

SMA is similar with its use of ½-inch rock. The different and more challenging part is packing the rock down with the use of less oil or sand. If you can pack the rock down, over time you'll be driving on rock rather than a higher concentration of sand and oil. That means with SMA, it's the rock – rather than the sand and oil – which will take the brunt of the wear, allowing for a much slower breakdown of the roadway over time. This means less rutting and cracking of the pavement and a longer life of the roadway.
This 10½-mile stretch of I-90 will soon have a new layer of asphalt.

We've used SMA a few other times on projects around the state with some success and given the level of traffic on this stretch of highway, this seemed like a good opportunity. The goal with an SMA roadway is to get 15 to 20 years of life out of it and have it last longer than with HMA pavement.

There's still a couple of weeks left on the project but once it's done, fresh asphalt that should last longer will be in place to give drivers a smoother trip on I-90.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Spring for safety: Small improvements to help all users of SR 525 in Freeland

By Ally Barrera

As the weather heats up, city dwellers like myself enjoy escaping to Whidbey Island for some weekend fun and relaxation. Starting Monday, June 3, Island residents and weekend warriors alike will notice some changes coming to State Route 525, one of Whidbey’s main highways.

For three weeks, contractor crews will make a series of improvements along a one-mile stretch through Freeland that will make the highway safer for the thousands of people who drive, walk, bike and use public transportation in the area.
Crews will make improvements to three intersections on SR 525
 in the Whidbey Island community of Freeland.

The upcoming work will focus on three key intersections on SR 525 in Freeland: South Woodard Avenue, Main Street/Fish Road and Scott Road.

South Woodard Avenue
Soon it will be a lot safer for folks trying to get to and from local businesses on the north side of SR 525 and the Freeland Trail or nearby park and ride on the south side.
Crews will install a new crosswalk to safely connect people to destinations on both sides of the highway.

Through this project, crews will build an upgraded crosswalk, featuring new overhead lighting and pedestrian-activated flashing beacons to alert approaching motorists that someone is crossing the road.

Main Street/Fish Road
Drivers turning left from SR 525 to either Main Street or Fish Road will no longer have to wait for a green arrow. We will replace the existing turn signal – which only has solid red, yellow and green arrows – with one that includes a flashing yellow arrow.
Crews will adjust the traffic signals at the intersection of SR 525 and Main Street/Fish Road to keep traffic moving.

Flashing yellow arrows allow for left-hand turns after yielding to oncoming traffic. They keep travelers safer during heavy traffic and reduce delays and queuing when traffic is light.

Scott Road
In the years we spent gathering community feedback about this project, many expressed concern over rear-end crashes near this intersection due to slowing traffic for left turns.
A new advanced warning sign will alert motorists to left turns at the intersection of SR 525 and Scott Road.

This spring, crews will imbed vehicle detection loops into the highway. This component of our Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) will trip an advanced warning sign that will flash when there is a turning vehicle or slowed traffic ahead. This early notice will help prevent rear-end collisions.

What travelers can expect
Night owls, this one’s for you! Crews will do most of their work overnight, Sunday through Friday, and reduce SR 525 to a single lane. People should prepare for 5-10 minute delays as flaggers alternate traffic.

All lanes will stay open during the day, but don’t be surprised if you see crews working along the shoulder as you drive by. Keep them – and yourself – safe by slowing down and giving them room to do their jobs.

Travelers should also be aware of the Washington State Ferries Passenger and ADA Improvement work happening at the Clinton Terminal through July.

As always, you can find up-to-date project information by:

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Bicycling can be for everybody and every body

By Justin Resnick and Barb Chamberlain

Every year around Bike to Work Day, you read stories about dedicated cyclists who ride every day, suit up for even the nastiest weather, and say "it's easy; you could do it too!" "Sure," you think. "I'll get right on that."

And some of us do, which is awesome. Some people dust off an old bike or go to their local bike shop to pick up a fun and reliable new ride. And they fall in love with riding, sign up for an event, buy all the gear, ride the STP, and yadda yadda – you've heard this before...

Well this is not that story. This is not about another MAMIL (Middle Aged Man in Lycra ::cough cough::) conquering his challenge. Because I could point you to any number of traditional conqueror stories about bikes, but that's not what inspires a welcoming community for everyone. Riding a bike doesn't have to be a challenge or a goal – it can just be normal.
Left: May is National Bike Month, a great time for everyone to give it a try. Right: Having well maintained
bike infrastructure - a goal of our agency - can help encourage everyone to ride.

This post is about amazing people and organizations helping to make riding a bike normal for people who you don't always see in stories about bicycling – women/trans/femme/non-binary individuals; people from low income backgrounds; and people who don't look like typical models for active lifestyle magazines. No need for expensive bikes, fancy equipment, or a proverbial mountain to summit. Just people out for a spin and some fresh air with friends.

The mainstream world of bicycling is often a male dominated environment. Ask any female identifying person who rides a bike and she'll tell you a story of being mansplained to about a host of topics. And often times the man explaining really is just trying to impart some helpful knowledge (guilty as charged) without recognizing he's assuming his audience knows less than he does about the topic—maybe because of who they are.

The importance of being around other people like you can't be understated, especially for activities where you seem like the minority. Luckily, there are groups like Moxie Monday, She Bikes Cascade, and WTF nights at The Bikery. These are welcoming places where you can have fun on a bike, ride with other womxn, and learn to do your own repairs from a volunteer mechanic you can relate to.
Riding a bike doesn’t mean you need fancy gear, but having a good helmet for safety is always a good idea.

If you've ever been to a charity ride, bike race, or other large bicycle event, you probably noticed that everything looked expensive. And that can be intimidating for a new rider, particularly for lower income families. Enter organizations like Bike Works and the Major Taylor Project. Bike Works teaches maintenance classes where youth can learn to build and care for a donated bicycle that they can earn as their own one day. Students develop leadership and working skills with many participating in multi-day bike camping trips to push themselves and bond. The Major Taylor Project provides after school riding opportunities for youth in low-income and diverse neighborhoods to explore their community, learn bicycle safety and maintenance, and advocate for change where they live.

Finally, there's the all too common view of riding a bicycle as a form of sport or exercise in the pursuit of fitness. And while that may serve as motivation for some people to swing a leg over their bike, for others the view of bikes as exercise only excludes individuals who don't look like the traditional image of an "athlete." The with these thighs movement celebrates people of all shapes and sizes who like to go out for a ride whether it's for the sunshine, part of your everyday life, or because you really want to hit that ice cream shop across town.
Whether you’re wearing lycra shorts or blue jeans, bike riding is something anyone can enjoy.

Another aspect of stereotypes around what it takes to ride a bike is that many assume people who have disabilities aren't also people who bicycle. In fact, a disabled person might find a bike to be the perfect vehicle for getting around town if they can't drive, and adaptive bicycles put bicycling within reach for those who need particular types of equipment. The outdoor recreation accessibility organization Outdoors for All is one resource to get people rolling.

So no matter who you are, how you identify, where you come from, or what you look like, know that there is a place within your community of everyday people on bicycles where you belong. Ride to feel like a hero if you want, but you can also just ride to feel free. Or different, or special, or among friends. For connection, experience, or ice cream. Whoever you are and whatever you do most days of the week, there is a place for you on the streets, paths, or beautiful trails of the Evergreen State. So enjoy your Bike Month 2019 and share what inspires you to ride in the comments.

Note: while the author's experience draws primarily from the Seattle metro area, we'd love to hear about the amazing people, programs, and organizations in your area! Tell us who inspires you to ride!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Long-term closure of Wellesley Avenue coming as North Spokane Corridor progresses

By Ryan Overton

Change is good, and it's continuing for the North Spokane Corridor as construction ramps up with the second phase of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BSNF) railway realignment project.
Here's the site of the second realignment of BNSF railroad tracks in Spokane.

The biggest change will be the closure of east-west roadways that are in line with the future US 395. Several closures will be permanent, including Bridgeport, Fairview, Cleveland, Grace, Marietta and Jackson avenues. This means the only options for drivers in the area to cross east and west will be Francis, Euclid, Carlisle and Upriver Drive.

Another big change is the three-year closure of Wellesley Avenue from Market to Freya. This happens to be the only central crossing between Francis and Euclid for the Hil­lyard and Morgan Acres neighborhoods. When Wellesley closes later this year, residents will drive approximately a mile north or south from Wellesley to find a suitable crossing to travel east or west.

Wellesley is slated for completion in late 2022, with the goal of opening a new stretch of the NSC between Freya and Wellesley, adding approximately 1½ miles of new freeway.

Construction takes time, and in Spokane the winter months from late October through March make it very difficult to work year-round. Battling snow and frozen ground puts us into a winter shutdown each year, which leaves a short window to be pouring concrete and moving the earth.

On top of that, one piece of the puzzle still has to fall into place.

That puzzle is to realign the BSNF railway to make way for the NSC. This project is expected to begin construction in late summer to early fall. Crews will then work to move the tracks away from the NSC corridor and construct the new alignment and overpass over Wellesley Ave.

A 3D rendering of the completed Wellesley interchange reconstruction project.

While the realignment continues on the BNSF track, 2020 will bring several new projects including the paving from Columbia Street to the Spokane River and beginning of construction on the raised roadway over the Spokane Community College parking lot. This is a huge milestone, as it will be very visible to the public, and the first project to start on the south side of the Spokane River.

Once the BNSF track has been moved, construction will begin on the Wellesley interchange, overpass, and connecting ramps. The current design includes two roundabouts for both on and off ramps.
East-west travel will have some adjustments during the next phase of the North Spokane Corridor project.

It will take roughly two years from start of construction to complete the Wellesley Avenue interchange, and it will be well worth it. The added roundabouts and wider roadway will make travel through the area much smoother and easier for drivers.

If you would like to learn more about the upcoming closure of Wellesley Avenue, the North Spokane Corridor or the Children of the Sun Trail, please join us for an open house Thursday, May 30, from 6-8 p.m. at the Northeast Community Center, 4001 N Cook St, Spokane, WA 99207.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Weekend-long lane reductions coming to Aurora Bridge

By Tom Pearce
Traffic will reduce to one lane in each direction
while a portion of the Aurora Bridge is repaved
May 31-June 3. The rest of the bridge will be
paved during other weekends.

Ah, another summer, another round of weekend-long lane reductions in Seattle for repaving. This year the closures will take place on the State Route 99 George Washington Bridge, aka the Aurora Bridge. It’s part of a larger preservation project that includes painting the bridge.

Our contract with Liberty Maintenance allows for paving for up to 10 weekends. These weekends include around-the-clock lane reductions on the bridge. This leaves just one lane open in each direction. The first lane reduction begin at 7 p.m. Friday, May 31, and will last until 5 a.m. Monday, June 3. Other weekend lane reductions scheduled so far are:
  • June 14-17
  • June 28-July 1
  • July 12-15
  • Aug. 9-12, 16-19 and 23-26
Bridge vs. land

Paving a bridge is different than paving on land. When there’s solid ground underneath, we can grind off the old pavement and leave it ground for a few days, then repave it a few nights later.

Bridges have layers – the Aurora Bridge has steel beams and stringers supporting the structure, a concrete deck, a layer of waterproofing material and an asphalt driving surface. The waterproofing material is the thinnest part – just a fraction of an inch – but it’s critical. It protects the concrete deck from water, something that isn’t necessary on land. So when we remove the material, we want to replace it and repave as soon as possible, hence weekend-long lane reductions. Sounds simple, right?

Well, not exactly. The surface has to be totally dry 24 hours before we install the waterproofing or it won’t bond properly with the asphalt and concrete. We have a cool short video from our westbound US 2 project that shows what happens when the material is put down when the surface is wet. It’s not good. That means the work is weather-dependent – if there’s a good chance of rain in the forecast, our contractor will have to postpone the work.
The bridge needs repaving to eliminate cracks and ruts, and to protect the bridge deck.

Repaving Aurora in Seattle

The bridge paving is just one of two projects that will repave SR 99 between Roy Street in downtown Seattle and North 145th Street at the Seattle/Shoreline city limits. While one team works on the bridge, another will tackle the rest of the highway on land.

Crews already have finished paving the southbound section of SR 99 between the Aurora Bridge and Roy Street and are working northbound in that same area now. They’ll continue working north of the bridge throughout the summer.
Crews already have finished paving the southbound section of SR 99
between the Aurora Bridge and Roy Street and are working northbound
in that same area now. They’ll continue working north of the bridge
throughout the summer.

All of this work helps preserve the highway and provide a safer experience for travelers. When we repave, the new asphalt protects the ground that supports the road. Repaving also eliminates potholes, cracks and ruts where water can collect, which could reduce traction. Finally, repaving helps reduce maintenance costs or the need for emergency repairs which can be a big hassle for people who travel.

We understand it can be harder for people to get around when we have a major project like this. But for a season’s disruptions, these projects provide years of better travel conditions. Sounds like a pretty good trade.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Swift action from bridge crews inspecting the I-5 Nisqually River Bridge saves more than taxpayer dollars

By Tina Werner

A routine inspection of the northbound Nisqually River Bridge on Saturday, May 4 became anything but normal when our crews noticed a new crack under the 82-year-old bridge. Thankfully, their keen eyes and quick response helped avoid major delays for the 121,000 vehicles that travel that section of I-5 between Olympia and DuPont each day.

We regularly inspect all state bridges to ensure public safety, manage our facilities and properly plan for the future. These inspections allow us to monitor structure condition and address problems or damage early on before they become bigger and more expensive.
This crack beneath the bridge deck was identified during a routine inspection of the
northbound I-5 Nisqually River Bridge in early May.

This particular bridge – which was built in 1937 to carry both northbound and southbound traffic on US 99 (I-5 was still a couple decades away) – was last inspected in 2017.

This time, though, crews discovered a floor beam beneath the right lane on the northbound bridge deck – called a stringer – that had cracked from top to bottom, raising serious concerns. The damage was not there in the previous inspection. Concern about the safety of the bridge was enough to require a lane to remain closed until a full repair could be made. We have crews available 24/7 for critical work like this, helping minimize repair and lane closure times, and they swung into action.

Engineers from our Bridge Preservation Office collaborated with our bridge maintenance crews to design a repair. At the same time, bridge maintenance workers got ready on-scene so they could start the moment the repair plan was approved.
A routine inspection discovered a crack from top to bottom of this floor beam – called a stringer –
below the I-5 Nisqually River Bridge, leading to emergency repairs.

Meanwhile, because the lane closure would last longer than initially announced from our earlier inspection, our communications team went to work informing the public through our various outreach channels.

The repair was estimated to take eight hours to complete but instead, the entire fix took just under seven hours. That’s a remarkable turnaround time given the complexity of bridge repairs and the need to work next to moving traffic –  and it wouldn’t have happened without many people working together to make it possible.

What did we do?

The repair plan determined that a 3/8-inch steel plate was needed on each side of the bridge stringer with a new connection to the floor beam to reinforce the damaged girder. After searching in our maintenance yard, the steel plate was not available in house but our crews found and purchased the plate from a local steel vendor and set to work on the repairs.

First crews removed the rivets and cut the steel to size. Next they placed it over the defective area and drilled new holes to secure the plate. Finally, they tied the ends together and got the highway reopened. It may sound simple, but there are many moving, complex parts that come into play, and working from a mobile platform suspended over the water does not make it easy, especially while trying to keep our workers and drivers safe and traffic moving.
Teams from our Bridge Preservation Office as well as bridge maintenance crews collaborated on an emergency repair of the Nisqually River Bridge on I-5, fully reopening the highway just seven hours after the repair started.

Regular inspections prevent emergency closures

Most bridge inspections on our state highways happen every two years but some can happen more often depending on concern. For example, before it was permanently closed earlier this year, Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct was inspected every six months. These inspections are critical in catching small problems that can be fixed early before they become larger, emergency situations that would require our crews to shut down or restrict access to a bridge they don’t feel is safe. Besides the increased safety risk, the cost of replacing a bridge is much more expensive than repairing and maintaining it.

That said, we also understand lane closures needed for some of this work can be an inconvenience and we thank you for your patience while we got this critical work done. And of course, we extend a huge thanks to our bridge preservation engineers and our maintenance and IRT workers who pulled off this successful repair quickly and safely to get the highway fully reopened for weekend travelers. Great job!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

New signs on eastbound I-90 in Snoqualmie

By Nicole Daniels

If you regularly travel on eastbound Interstate 90 between Preston and Snoqualmie, you are probably aware of the frequent backups near the State Route 18 off-ramp during peak commute periods. Although construction to improve the I-90/SR 18 interchange is scheduled to start in 2021, we're continuing to implement low-cost improvements to manage congestion and improve safety in the interim.

Recently, contractor crews from Northeast Electric, LLC installed two new active warning signs on eastbound I-90 just west of the SR 18 off-ramp. The first sign is approximately two miles before the I-90/SR 18 interchange, and the second sign is about a mile before the interchange. These signs will be activated in summer 2019.
Location of the two new active warning signs on eastbound I-90.

The signs are wired to automatically turn on when traffic ahead is slowed or stopped, giving drivers more time to slow down in order to prevent rear-end collisions.
When activated, the signs will read "stopped traffic ahead," and will have two flashing beacons at the top.

Previous improvements
Like this sign, we've also implemented many other low-cost improvements to help keep travelers moving safely until an improved interchange is built. Here's what we've done so far:
  • Widened the eastbound I-90 off-ramp to SR 18
  • Changed the right lanes of eastbound and westbound I-90 to exit-only lanes
  • Partnered with the City of Snoqualmie to change the lane configuration on southbound Snoqualmie Parkway - making the right lane a right-turn-only lane to the westbound I-90 on-ramp
  • Adjusted the signal timing at the two intersections to operate the interchange as efficiently as possible
  • Installed "Thru traffic keep left" signs on both directions of I-90 prior to the SR 18 interchange to guide through-traffic to stay in the left two lanes and keep the right lanes clear for drivers exiting to SR 18 or Snoqualmie Parkway
  • Installed "No U-turn" signs on SR 18 at the interchange to prohibit U-turns that have caused congestion for the off-ramp traffic
In spring/summer 2019, we will also extend the "exit only" striping on eastbound I-90 approaching the SR 18 off-ramp.

Upcoming I-90/SR 18 interchange improvements
The I-90/SR 18 interchange improvement project is one of the bigger projects in the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation package. The Legislature designated $150 million to implement improvements. At this time, a Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) is the leading concept, as we believe this can provide improved traffic flow and congestion relief for all of the movements at the I-90/SR 18 interchange. However, we plan to conduct extensive community engagement, traffic and environmental analysis as an interchange design is developed and refined.

Until the improved interchange is complete in 2023, we will continue to monitor traffic in the area and make low-cost improvements when feasible.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Travel reduced to one lane on SR 20 near Loup Loup Summit

Load restrictions and signal-controlled traffic are currently in place

By Lauren Loebsack

UPDATE - Friday, May 31
At 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4, SR 20 will reopen to one lane of signal-controlled traffic near Loup Loup Summit at the site of a washout in early May. The highway had been fully closed for about a week as repairs continued on the hillside. Repair work is ongoing for what is estimated to be a few more weeks so drivers should expect some delays through the work zone and be alert and safe around road workers.

UPDATE - May Thursday, May 23
The emergency repair happening on SR 20 east of Loup Loup Pass following a washout earlier this month will require a full closure of the highway. From 6 a.m. Tuesday, May 28 until 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, the highway will be fully closed at milepost 222.4. The contractor has reached a point in their work that will require them to excavate very soft fill material under the roadway, which could compromise the stability of the lane that is still open to traffic. For the safety of drivers, it will be necessary to restrict all travel through that area until that work is complete. Westbound traffic from Okanogan toward Twisp will be detoured south along US 97 and eastbound traffic from Twisp toward Okanogan will be detoured south along SR 153.

UPDATE - Monday, May 20
Work continues on the emergency repairs to SR 20 near the summit of Loup Loup between Twisp and Okanogan following a washout earlier this month. The contractor completed an access road from the roadside down to the bottom of the washout. Next they'll haul rip rap and fill down the road to rebuild the slope from the bottom up. One lane, signal-controlled traffic is still in place though it's possible some full closures may be necessary as the repair continues.

UPDATE - Tuesday, May 7
An emergency contractor has been named to rebuild the hillside under the eastbound lane of SR 20 between Loup Loup summit and Okanogan that washed out on Wednesday, May 1. Our geotechnical engineers have designed a repair plan and Hurst Construction of East Wenatchee will begin mobilizing and could begin staging equipment as soon as this weekend.

For now, as the hillside under the westbound lane remains stable and single-lane alternating traffic will continue, as will oversize load restrictions with no vehicles wider than 12 feet being permitted. As the repair work proceeds, some full closures and a detour are likely to be necessary. An estimated 15-20,000 cubic yards of rocks and mud slid toward Loup Loup Creek hundreds of feet below the highway. Our geotechnical engineers determined ground water saturated the soils and caused the washout below the road seven miles east of Loup Loup Pass at milepost 222.4.

There is no estimate for how long the repairs will take. The initial hurdle to overcome is locating and transporting 2,000 dump truck loads of boulders, rock and gravel to rebuild the hillside.

The current slide area is about a mile further east from where a series of slides closed 16 miles of SR 20 in April, 2017, requiring almost four months to repair.

Original Post
We've seen some beautiful weather lately and with that comes plenty of people out exploring our state. But if you're planning a trip on SR 20 between Twisp and Okanogan, be prepared for some delays. A mudslide earlier this week has left just one lane open about seven miles east of Loup Loup Pass at milepost 222.4. Our geotechnical crews have been on scene since the incident and have determined that ground water eroded the bank below the road. An emergency repair plan is being developed, but for now, we've installed a traffic signal as well as barriers and cones to help guide traffic through the one open lane. Additionally, no vehicles wider than 12 feet are permitted.

There is no estimate yet on when the roadway will be restored to normal.

The current slide area is less than a mile east of the location where a series of slides closed SR 20 in April 2017. At that time, nine distinct slide areas from milepost 207 to milepost 222 closed SR 20 and required almost four months of repair work.
A look at the location of the mudslide that has a lane closed on SR 20. (Picture courtesy of Okanogan County EMS).

A traffic signal will direct traffic through the open lane at the site of the SR 20 mudslide east of Loup Loup Pass summit.

Repairing the roadway will be no easy task. The height and slope of the roadway and hillside present very challenging conditions. It's not known yet if making repairs from below the roadway is feasible, and at best, the work will be very difficult. If it's not possible to make repairs from below, we'd need to work from above the washout. Repairs could require a full closure of the roadway.

If you must drive through the area, please be prepared for potential delays and be alert for road workers. Watch your speed and abide by the traffic signals. We will provide updates as a plan is developed.
A mudslide took down guardrail and some of the shoulder of SR 20 east of Loup Loup Pass summit earlier this week.

The steepness of the slope and height of the road will make emergency repairs a significant challenge.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Know a child who loves the earth and art? We've got a contest for them.

By Barbara LaBoe

No one likes litter along the roadway. We don't like seeing it marring our highways and we know the public doesn't either.

Our crews, along with our invaluable Adopt-a-Highway volunteers, clear about 600 tons of trash off of more than 18,000 miles of state roadways every year. Despite that effort, roadside litter remains an ongoing problem and concern. And the easiest way to tackle the problem is to prevent the trash from getting to the roadways in the first place.

That's where our state's young artists come in.

We're creating new Adopt-a-Highway automobile litter bags. The bags help physically contain trash, of course, but we also want to help spread our litter prevention message on the outside. And we need some new artwork reminding everyone how preventing litter helps keep our state beautiful.

That includes:
  • Securing all loads, even "quick trips" in town - it's the law and it can prevent injuries as well as roadside litter
  • Never throwing trash or other items in the back of pickups where they can fly out and land on the roadways
  • Keeping track of trash inside your vehicle so that it doesn't fall out when you exit the vehicle
  • Never tossing litter out of a vehicle or along a roadway
The hope is not only will the contest raise awareness in the next generation of citizens, but that they'll also share the message with the adults in their lives right now. The bags will also remind people of Adopt-a-Highway volunteer opportunities, with more details available online.
Our Adopt-A-Highway art contest is open to any students in grades 1-6.

So, know an elementary school student who could design the perfect art for our new litter bags? Maybe someone with a zeal for keeping our state and planet beautiful? Read the details below and then send us their best work.

OK, what are the details?
All students (except children of WSDOT employees and contractors) in grades 1-6 are eligible and invited to participate in this contest. Drawings should depict the theme of "Keeping Washington Beautiful/Reducing Roadside Litter."

Submissions will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Friday, May 31. All mailed submissions must be postmarked by May 31.

Winning submissions will be featured on new Adopt-A-Highway automotive litter bags and will also be featured online, including on our Adopt-A-Highway website and our social media channels.

What are the submission requirements?
  • Dimensions:
    • Electronic: Submissions must be 300 dpi or higher, and portrait oriented.
    • By mail: Submissions must be on 8.5 x 11 paper, and portrait oriented.
  • Media: Submissions must be in black and white and hand-drawn (no electronic illustrations, please). Any of the following media may be used: paint (watercolor, tempera, poster, acrylic, etc.) and drawing materials (pencil, charcoal, chalk, pastels, markers, crayons, etc.). Artists are encouraged to use bold, strong lines in black and white only.
  • Original artwork: All work must include the theme of Keeping Washington Beautiful/Reducing Roadside Litter, (including how to prevent litter, why we should all keep the state clean, etc.).  No copyright images, text or other material will be accepted (for example, artwork depicting characters from television shows, video games or books is not allowed).
  • Ownership: Artist submissions shall be treated as being free of restrictions and limitations to their use. By submitting artwork, you give ownership to WSDOT and authorize us to post your entry on our website indefinitely, and grant us the right to use, print and publish your design.
Entries in our Adopt-A-Highway art contest should reflect the theme
"Keeping Washington Beautiful/Reducing Roadside Litter"
How to submit drawings
  • Electronic: Scan, attach, and email your drawing with the subject line "Adopt-a-Highway litter bag contest" to the body of the email include the student's name, age, school, and the best phone number and email to contact the winner. Also include parents' names and a note that they have approved the submission. Email deadline is 5 p.m. May 31.
  • By Mail: All submissions should include a note with the student's name, age, school, and the best phone number and email to contact the winner. Also include parents' names and a note that they have approved the submission.Must be postmarked May 31.All hard copy submissions should be sent to the following address:
WSDOT Maintenance and Operations Division
ATTN: Adopt-a-Highway litter bag contest
PO Box 47358
Olympia, WA  98504-7358

  • Please note: Each child may only submit one drawing.
Who will select the winning drawing?
A panel of judges from our Maintenance Division will review entries. Up to four winners will be selected. Entries will be judged on creativity, originality, clarity of theme and artistic merit.

Around-the-clock work on I-5 may bring big backups to south Skagit County

Travelers should prepare for temporary reconfiguration of lanes and reduced speed limits

By Ally Barrera

Springtime is often associated with change, and a big change is on the horizon for folks who travel on northbound I-5 in south Skagit County.

Starting Sunday, May 5, contractor crews with our concrete rehabilitation project between Conway and Arlington will begin five straight days of lane closures and traffic reconfigurations. No need to panic,'s only temporary. And navigating your way through the construction zone will be easier than you think.

Hard five days of work
Since this project began last summer, crews mostly worked overnight to replace hundreds of damaged concrete panels and grind down thousands more. The goal: to preserve the highway and create a smoother driving surface for the 85,000 vehicles that use it every day.

Now, they will close two out of three lanes of northbound I-5 at Starbird Road from 7 p.m. Sunday, May 5 to noon on Friday, May 10. These five days of around-the-clock work will give crews the time and space to replace 200 of those cracked and rut-riddled concrete panels. That's almost enough to cover an entire football field.

Hundreds of concrete panels on I-5 between Conway and Arlington are riddled with cracks and ruts like these, and are in the process of being replaced.
Hundreds of concrete panels on I-5 between Conway and Arlington are riddled with cracks.
and ruts like these, and are in the process of being replaced.

The shift is on
To keep traffic moving, we devised a way to get two lanes of traffic past the work zone, rather than just one. On Sunday night, crews will temporarily restripe northbound I-5 so what is normally the middle lane will shift to the right, and what is normally the far right lane will shift vehicles to the Starbird Road exit. Motorists will then rejoin northbound I-5 using the Starbird Road on-ramp.

The arrows show how crews will keep two lanes of traffic moving during the two-lane closure.
The arrows show how crews will keep two lanes of traffic
moving during the two-lane closure

As you can see on the map above, vehicles shifted onto the Starbird Road exit will be able to rejoin northbound I-5 using the on-ramp. During the traffic shift, the speed limit on I-5 will reduce from 70 mph to 55 mph. Those choosing to use the Starbird Road exit must go 25 mph.

This shift will make getting around more complicated for locals. In order to keep the highway traffic continuously flowing, we will close the Starbird Road overpass to traffic. The maps below show some of the alternate ways people can get to I-5.

Folks living west of I-5 can still access southbound I-5 at Starbird Road, but will need to use a detour for northbound.

Even with this temporary striping and traffic shifts, we expect up to three-mile backups on northbound I-5 during peak travel periods, especially in the late afternoons. Travelers will likely encounter the biggest backups on Monday, May 6, as motorists adjust to this new configuration.

Why are we doing this?
Reducing I-5 by two lanes for five days is a big ask, but we have good reason to do it. Three good reasons in fact.

First, with this uninterrupted lane reduction, crews will condense 30 nights of work into five days. This will save us time and money because workers will only need to set up and take down traffic control once rather than 30 times. It also means fewer delays for late-night and early-morning travelers.

Second, the quality of work will be higher because the crews can focus on the concrete and not be preoccupied with reopening the highway in time for the morning commute. A higher quality product means the road will stay smoother for longer.

Third – and probably most important – we're doing this to keep our crews safe. Working this five-day stretch means crews will spend less time working alongside 70 mph traffic with just plastic barrels to protect them.

During their shifts, crews are just feet away from vehicles traveling at freeway speeds. This around-the-clock work will mean crews will spend less time in harm's way.
During their shifts, crews are just feet away from vehicles traveling at freeway speeds. This around-the-clock
work will mean crews will spend less time in harm's way.

Plan ahead
Alternate routes around this work zone are limited in this neck of the woods. If you're like me and need to use this stretch of I-5 between May 5-10, consider other options to help you avoid the backups:
  • Leave before or after peak travel periods (6-8 a.m. and 2-6 p.m.)
  • Carpool or vanpool
  • Ride Skagit Transit
  • Telework, if you can
Stay up-to-date with the project and the traffic backups by following our WSDOT North Twitter account and signing up for our weekly Skagit County construction emails.