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 TacomaTraffic.com 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. RideshareOnline.com 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 mygoodtogo.com. 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

FINAL UPDATE
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 missingaircraft@wsdot.wa.gov 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 missingaircraft@wsdot.wa.gov 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 missingaircraft@wsdot.wa.gov 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 missingaircraft@wsdot.wa.gov 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 missingaircraft@wsdot.wa.gov 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 missingaircraft@wsdot.wa.gov 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 missingaircraft@wsdot.wa.gov 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 missingaircraft@wsdot.wa.gov 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 missingaircraft@wsdot.wa.gov 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 missingaircraft@wsdot.wa.gov 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: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmJnSKCq. 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: missingaircraft@wsdot.wa.gov 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.

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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.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Why we need to reduce lanes on SR 520 for a few years

By Steve Peer

With population and job growth booming across the Seattle metropolitan area, drivers want to know why we're reducing the number of lanes on State Route 520 between Seattle and the Eastside. Some folks say the state should add lanes on SR 520, not take them away!

The fact is...we're doing both.

Keeping traffic moving during construction
We've long planned SR 520's six-lanes-to-four constriction between Seattle and the new floating bridge. It's part of the highway's ongoing reconstruction from I-405 to I-5. A key element of this megaproject is the replacement of the highway's aging, structurally vulnerable bridges.

To keep traffic moving along this critical urban freeway, we're doing the work in stages. First, we replaced the old four-lane floating bridge with a six-lane bridge across most of Lake Washington. A year later, in 2017, we finished a three-lane bridge that connects the westbound lanes from the floating bridge across Union Bay to Montlake.
And now, changing directions, we're preparing to remove and replace the original, 1960s-era SR 520 bridge over Union Bay. (We restriped this older bridge two years ago to temporarily carry three lanes of eastbound-only traffic).
Looking west across Union Bay toward Seattle in this August 2019 photo, SR 520 traffic moves westbound on the newer, taller bridge, while eastbound traffic travels on the existing, 1960s-era eastbound bridge.

Why the lane reduction?
That old bridge between Montlake and the new floating bridge was built as a single structure, with two lanes in each direction. Supported by hollow, concrete columns, it could fail in a severe earthquake. The replacement for this 1.2-mile-long span will be two side-by-side, three-lane bridges on stronger columns.
Conceptual illustration of a new, eastbound SR 520 bridge across Lake Washington's Union Bay

We're removing and replacing the old bridge with a newer, eastbound span within the same general footprint. But to do that, we have to shift all eastbound SR 520 traffic during the interim onto the existing westbound bridge, which we're restriping to carry two lanes in each direction. Weather permitting, we'll do that work during this weekend's eastbound closure of the highway, and complete the lane shift by Monday morning, Nov. 11.

Afterward, there will be two-way, two-lane traffic over Union Bay for the next three to four years as we build a seismically stronger, three-lane bridge for eastbound-only traffic. This graphic shows how the lane shift and interim highway realignment will work.

View larger image (pdf 552 kb)

Come Monday morning, Nov. 11, drivers crossing Lake Washington on SR 520 basically will encounter the same highway configuration they saw three years ago: three lanes in both directions from I-405 to the west end of the floating bridge, and then two lanes in each direction from the floating bridge to I-5.

Expect longer commutes during construction
Understand that this traffic shift will cause some travel delays. With the HOV lanes temporarily gone between Montlake and the floating bridge, peak-period commutes will be a bit longer. And because the reduced lanes move through a construction zone, we've lowered the speed limit to 40 mph. We encourage people to follow the new limit – for their own safety and that of our construction crews.

One way to avoid the heaviest congestion is to alter your schedule, if possible. Leave home a bit earlier or a bit later than normal, and do the same for the return home. Try to miss the traditional peak commuting times – roughly 7:30 to 9 a.m., and 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Another option is to ride the bus or a three-person-plus carpool. The HOV lanes remain open on the floating bridge, and they'll save a little time if westbound traffic is backed up coming into Seattle.

And don't forget. There's a 14-foot-wide bike and pedestrian path that crosses the lake. It's virtually congestion-free – and there's no toll.

Start your game plan early for getting to Sunday’s MLS Cup - With 70K fans expected, know your options for traveling to the stadium

By Mike Allende

It’s not every day that a major sports championship is played in Seattle. But that’s what’s happening this Sunday, Nov. 10, when our Seattle Sounders will play host to Toronto FC at noon at CenturyLink Field. And while these two teams meeting for the title is nothing new – this is the third time they’ve played for the trophy in the past four years – this is the first time it will be in Seattle.
Our partners Sound Transit has plenty of Link Light Rail connections
that will drop Sounders fans off near CenturyLink Field.

With 70,000 fans expected to fill the stadium – many from out of town – traffic will be a big story. We’ve partnered with our friends from the local transit agencies and law enforcement to provide a one-stop shop for tips and tools to help everyone get to the stadium safely and in time for kickoff.

Transit. Did we mention transit? Transit.

The streets around CenturyLink Field are going to be packed. Parking is going to be TOUGH. Anything you can do to avoid adding to that congestion is going to be a plus. And that means transit. In addition to regular Link light rail service that runs from the University of Washington to Angle Lake, Sound Transit is running special Sounder commuter rail service to the game serving several stations between Everett to the north and Lakewood to the south that drop riders within walking distance of the stadium – this is how I’m getting down there Sunday. King County Metro and Community Transit also all run routes that drop you close to the field, and Pierce Transit is an option from the south. You could even try the Monorail from the Seattle Center to Westlake Center and take Link light rail or walk 1.2 miles to the stadium.
Sound Transit will be running special Sounder train service to this Sunday’s MLS Cup at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Sounder isn’t the only train that can get you to the stadium, though. Amtrak Cascades serves 18 cities between Vancouver, British Columbia and Eugene, Oregon, dropping fans at King Street Station in Seattle at 11:30 a.m. from the north and 11:50 a.m. from the south. There are group rates and this is a popular service, so be sure to make reservations for trains to and from the match.
Be aware, transit is going to be busy, busy, busy. Trains and buses will be crowded, so get to park and ride lots early and be prepared to get cozy with your fellow fans. Have your ORCA card ready before match day, or download the Transit Go Ticket app to pay for fare on Metro Bus, Sound Transit Link Light Rail, Sounder Train and Express bus service, Monorail, and Seattle Streetcar, which will have extra cars running this weekend.
King County Metro will be on regular Sunday service with routes ready
to take fans to watch the Seattle Sounders win MLS Cup.

What are my other options?

Again, driving – especially by yourself – is the last thing you want to do. If you have to drive, try to carpool. With 70,000 fans coming to the game, it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone you know – or don’t mind getting to know – to share a ride with. Car services are also an option, but consider getting dropped off away from the stadium and walk several blocks, if you can.

Riding your bike is also a great option. There is plenty of bike parking at the stadium. Maybe combine it with a transit trip. Don’t have a bike available? No problem, you have several options to take advantage of a bike share.

If you absolutely must drive, here’s a list of parking lots in Seattle.
The MLS Cup arrived aboard one of our ferries earlier this week, and we expect plenty of fans
to arrive to Sunday’s championship game aboard our boats as well.

With all of these options please remember that scores of your fellow fans likely will be doing the same thing, so plan ahead to arrive early and enjoy some of the pre-match celebration, grab a meal or just take in the waterfront views. You don’t want to wait until the last minute only to discover everything is taken or already booked.

Taking the ferry
Riding a ferry is a quintessential part of living or visiting the Puget Sound area, and there’s never a shortage of Sounders fans who ride our boats. In particular, walking onto the ferry from Bremerton or Bainbridge can be a great option, as it’s only about a half-mile walk from Colman Dock to the stadium. We encourage walk-on passengers to purchase their tickets ahead of time to make boarding after the match easier. Also, construction at Colman Dock means that space is a little tight for those walking on, so please be prepared for that.

Tolls
If you’re visiting from out of town or don’t travel through this part of the state often, be aware that the SR 520 bridge across Lake Washington (for those of you coming from the east side) and the new SR 99 tunnel (starting Nov. 9) are both toll roads. There are several ways for people to pay the toll. If you are from out of town, or are not a frequent user of either of those roads, here’s a guide about tolling and your options.
CenturyLink Field has plenty of bicycle parking so riding a bike – maybe even combined with a transit trip
– would be a great way to avoid the MLS Cup traffic rush.

Construction
There is one major piece of construction that those headed to – or more accurately, from – the match should know. The eastbound SR 520 floating bridge will be closed all weekend. If you’re coming from the east side, you can take westbound SR 520 – remember, there is a toll for the bridge – but to return, you’ll need to use I-90 or head south on I-5 to I-405. Also be aware that there is ongoing construction on Seattle’s waterfront so be prepared for some possible disruption in that area.

Safety
It’s going to be a party around the stadium starting early on Sunday. There are going to be tons of pedestrians walking around Pioneer Square and SoDo and plenty of Seattle Police Department officers directing traffic. Please be alert for everyone, especially if you’re driving. Keep your eyes on the road, slow down, follow the directions of those directing traffic and be patient. If you do end up running late, please remain calm as you finish traveling. No match – not even this one – is worth risking injury or death. And, as always, if you will be drinking at the game, please don’t drive.

Stay engaged
These days there are tools galore to help you plan your trip and stay in the loop. We’ve linked to several of them in this blog already but there are other ways to stay updated.

On Twitter, follow:

Apps

Monday, November 4, 2019

The gain was worth the pain on 35 miles of fresh highways

Four highways in three counties resurfaced safely before busy holiday travel season

By Frances Fedoriska

First things first. Thank you. Thank you to drivers on SR 542/Mt Baker Highway, SR 547, 548 and US 2 who planned ahead, took alternate routes, slowed down or waited out lengthy delays as contractor crews resurfaced those highways on some of the hottest days of the year. It's never fun to reduce a highway to one lane, let alone in the summer heat. But we needed that heat to get this down. More on that later.

But, I'm here to tell you our Bituminous Surface Treatment (BST) – or resurfacing work – on those highways is done.

Join me on this trip in the way-back machine for a look at what was accomplished between June and October.

What got done
Spot repair, crack sealing and a new surface was put down on roughly 35 miles of the following portions of these highways:

Snohomish County
  • US 2 between Mount Index Road near Index and Eagle Falls west of Halford
King County
  • US 2 between NE 182nd St/east of Baring and NE Old Cascade Highway/Money Creek campground
Whatcom County
  • SR 542/Mount Baker Highway between Britton Road in Bellingham and St. Peter's Catholic Church/Markel Road west of Kendall
  • SR 547/Kendall Road between Peaceful Valley Drive and Saar Creek/Hillview Road
  • SR 548/Grandview Road between North Starr Road and the Blaine Road roundabout
This work prevents the need for future costly and untimely emergency repairs.
The crack sealing that happened in June is a quick and cost-effective way to keep fall and winter rain from
seeping into the road, freezing, and damaging the surface.

Contractor crews didn't just make repairs to the road surface. They also repaired old expansion joints and resurfaced a handful of bridges.
Bridge rehabilitation didn't just happen on Mount Baker Highway. This is the waterproofing material we put down on a smaller bridge on US 2 just east of Baring. The material protects the bridge structure from water damage.

Why were some delays in August upward of 45 minutes?
As I explained in this blog post in July, the final stage of resurfacing required putting down the new surface that is a mix of oil, sand and gravel. The mix had to be put down during the hottest days of the year because the heat of the roadway helped the material bond and cure.
Crews were constantly moving down the highway during this stage, so a long stretch of road was blocked off
in advance so they could quickly get the surface down without stopping.

To keep the area safe while keeping traffic moving, a pilot car alternated traffic through the work zones. Speed limits were temporarily reduced to 35 miles per hour because loose gravel may have been present on the highway and higher speeds increase the risk of kicking up the loose gravel. A safe following distance was – and always is – recommended.
To help reduce the amount of loose gravel, the help of "Superior Broom" was enlisted to sweep the highway.

Preserving our infrastructure
While we wish we could repave every stretch that starts to pothole or crack, we don't have the budget to do that. With 5,000 miles of highway from the King-Pierce county line to the Canadian border, there is a huge amount of pavement for us to manage. Projects like this one keep lower-use highways preserved until larger improvements are funded.

Thank you for staying engaged
At times, weather conditions postponed work on this project in one area but not another. So again, thank you for staying engaged. Even though this project is done, there is still a wealth of information about current and upcoming construction on our construction update page and the WSDOT North Twitter account.