Friday, October 23, 2020

New Thorne Lane high bridge open, low bridge not far behind

By Cara Mitchell

Despite fall's typical rainy weather, we are planning for some big things on the project that improves mobility and safety at the I-5/Thorne Lane interchange in Lakewood. The weather creates some challenges for paving and striping work on construction projects. As a result, schedules change. Never fear though, the work will get done.

Here's the good news: the new Thorne Lane "high" bridge has opened. This also means design-build contractor Atkinson Construction is quickly moving towards opening the Thorne Lane "low" bridge.
The new Thorne Lane "high" bridge opened to traffic on Friday, Oct. 23.

We're not going to sugar coat this next phase of work – it will require some partial closures of selected ramps over a weekend. Once the new Thorne Lane "low" bridge is open, it will be in a temporary configuration for at least six months. Our goal is to keep travelers moving while minimizing closures and associated detours as much as possible.

Setting the scene and what to expect
As a refresher, here's a look at what travelers on I-5 near Thorne Lane and Murray Road currently drive through – three bridges – two new ones and one old one.

Opening Thorne Lane "high" bridge
Shortly after noon on Friday, Oct. 23, we opened the new 344-foot long Thorne Lane "high" bridge that spans both I-5 and the railroad. It connects local streets using new roundabouts at Murray Road and Union Avenue.

For the next week, southbound I-5 travelers exiting to Thorne Lane will continue to use the old overpass to turn right onto Thorne Lane or left onto Murray Road.

Travelers headed to Tillicum can either continue to follow the existing detour on Thorne Lane to Union Avenue or use the roundabout at Murray Road and cross the new "high" bridge to Union Avenue. This temporary traffic pattern will remain in place until the last weekend of October.

Weekend partial closure of Thorne Lane interchange
If the weather cooperates, from Friday, Oct. 30 to Monday, Nov. 2, several I-5 ramps at Thorne Lane will close so crews can finish building the connections that will allow the Thorne Lane "low" bridge to open. This weekend closure will officially close the old overpass.

The weekend closures will occur on the following ramps:
  • Around-the-clock closure of Thorne Lane on-ramp to northbound I-5
  • Overnight closure of southbound I-5 exit 123 to Thorne Lane. The ramp will be open during daytime hours.
  • Overnight closure of Thorne Lane on-ramp to southbound I-5. The ramp will be open during daytime hours.
Northbound I-5 exit 123 to Thorne Lane and the new "high" bridge will remain open. Here's an overview of what travelers will see during the weekend partial closure:

Once the new Thorne Lane "low" bridge opens on Monday, Nov. 2, a temporary detour will be in place for several months.

Here is what travelers need to know:
  • Access to southbound I-5 from Thorne Lane will only be available from the Tillicum neighborhood via Thorne Lane. Travelers coming from Murray Road, JBLM Logistics Gate or the Woodbrook neighborhood will detour on northbound I-5 to Gravelly Lake Drive to southbound I-5.
  • Southbound I-5 travelers exiting to Thorne Lane will turn left and cross the new low bridge to reach the Murray Road roundabout. There, they can choose which direction they want to go – across the high bridge to the Tillicum neighborhood or to Woodbrook neighborhood.
This temporary detour will be in place until late spring or early summer 2021, when a new shared exit for southbound I-5 travelers headed to Thorne Lane and Berkeley Street opens. This video shows how the new interchange will operate once all the I-5 widening is finished.
Removing the old Thorne Lane overpass
Last but not least, one week after the Thorne Lane low bridge opens, construction crews will demolish and remove the old Thorne Lane overpass. This allows crews to finish widening I-5 and build the southbound I-5 collector/distributor lane that ties into the new shared exit the video describes.

The old overpass will be demolished and removed over two consecutive nights. For safety reasons, this work cannot take place over live traffic. Just like the removal of the old Berkeley Street overpass, crews will again reduce I-5 down to one lane in each direction. That one lane of traffic will be detoured up and over the ramp connections at Thorne Lane.

The lane closures occur at night when traffic volumes are at their lowest. That said, it is very possible travelers will see miles-long overnight backups during this work. There is no convenient alternate route around this work zone. We need travelers to go early or avoid the area during the demolition work. We will share details on the closure hours as we get closer to this work.

Don't lose sight of the goal posts
With the on-going and never-ending nightly ramp and lane closures, it's very easy to forget why this work is taking place: we are adding capacity with auxiliary lanes and ultimately HOV lanes to improve traffic flow and move as many people as possible through the JBLM corridor. The old interchanges had to go so we could widen I-5. The new interchange design removed conflicts and delays that travelers have historically faced with the existing railroad.  

It takes a lot of coordination and careful planning to complete a project like this, while keeping travelers moving. We will work through this next phase of construction as efficiently and quickly as possible, and keep you informed on what to expect.

Thank you for your continued patience and support while crews finish this work.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Guardrail safety improvements: The Sequel

Contractor crews expand safety improvement project to include more than 80 guardrails

By Frances Fedoriska

Round two of a multi-county highway safety improvement project kicks off in November. Contractor crews will replace dozens more guardrail ends on 13 state highways in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish and King counties.

If that sounds like a lot, that's because it is. Just like the first phase of this safety improvement project, which wrapped up in early 2020, most of the work requires overnight lane or ramp closures. Signs warning travelers of those overnight closures will be placed at the ramps at least five days in advance. When ramps are closed, detour signs will route traffic.

What needs replacing

Many of the big, curvy end pieces (known as terminals) on our highway guardrails need an upgrade.
Curved guardrail terminals like this on I-5 are outdated
and need to be replaced to meet current standards.

The new terminals have larger reflective ends, and are better suited to absorb more energy in a collision. They also have lower anchors and other refined safety features.

You can stay looped in to where work is happening by checking our travel alerts page or following @wsdot_traffic on Twitter. 

Why now?

The curved endpiece design has been in use for decades. Just like car safety technology evolves to keep people safer in a collision, so does guardrail technology. We're working to replace these outdated end terminals so they align with new technology and meet federal safety criteria.
This non-flared guardrail terminal was one of dozens
installed during the first phase of this project last year.

Determining replacement locations 

When selecting which terminals to replace, our engineers look at many factors:
  • Crash history on a given stretch of highway
  • Traffic speeds
  • Road elevation 
  • Abrupt surrounding roadside ditches
  • Road angle and curve
  • Immovable objects (overpass foundations, large sign posts and trees)
  • Installation and maintenance costs
We need your help

Don't let your phone, the radio, passengers or other things distract you from operating your vehicle. Drivers always need to focus on the road. When you see a work zone, slow down and move over if there's room to do so. While these guardrails are designed to help keep travelers safe, we would prefer nobody ever put them to the test.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Repairs mean closures, lane reductions on SR 99 Duwamish River Bridge

By Tom Pearce

If you follow the work that our crews and contractors do, you will notice that most of it is preservation – repaving highways, maintaining facilities, repairing structures, etc. This work protects the investments the people of Washington have made to build our highway system.

That's what's happening right now on the southbound State Route 99 Duwamish River Bridge – also known as the First Avenue South bridge – in Seattle. We started this preservation work after our crews noticed wear on the bearings of two piers during a regular inspection of the bridge. These bearings are critical as they allow the bridge deck to move up and down a little when traffic goes over the pier.
A worn bearing under a support beam for the SR 99 southbound Duwamish River Bridge
has created a gap, as the pen inserted in the opening shows.

Our bridge maintenance crews began implementing a temporary fix for these bridge bearings this past Wednesday, Oct. 7. We're now developing a project for a permanent repair.

Bridges 101
When you build a bridge, it needs to be strong to support the weight of whatever will cross it, but it also has to be flexible. Heavy loads add stress to the bridge. Hot or cold weather causes a bridge to expand or contract. We're not talking large movements, only fractions of an inch, but being able to move a little as conditions change means less stress than a rigid structure may endure.

Bridge bearings are the support for the bridge deck and floor system. The bearings sit on top of the bridge piers. Some bearings are fixed or pinned; others tilt or slide. Whatever the bearing, it allows the bridge to move while maintaining support.
In this case, the bridge bearings have worn to the point that the bridge settles a little when heavy loads go over it. The video above starts with a heavy maintenance vehicle parked over the bearing. As the truck moves off the bearing, you can see the deck rise slightly. In immediate terms, this isn't too big a deal, but it should be fixed as soon as possible. Left as it is, eventually it will become a big deal.

What's happening now
We have coordinated with the Seattle Department of Transportation on brief daytime closures of the bridge that began Wednesday, Oct. 7. These closures, which occur several times during the day, are about the same length as an opening for marine traffic. They allow crews to repair these bearings. During each closure, crews jack up the deck a little, put in shims – in this case a piece of metal to close the gap – to counter the settlement, then lower the deck onto the shims.

This sort of repair is good for several months, but it's not a permanent answer. Remember, the bridge moves. That could eventually cause the shims to move, which means we'd need to go back every so often to replace them. The bridge remains safe for travel, and we'll continue to monitor the temporary repairs until we are ready for the permanent fix.

A permanent repair in 2021
In early 2021, we'll have a contractor crew replace the worn bearings atop the piers. We're still designing how this work will take place, so we don't have all the details yet. Right now we're looking at a project that will require us to reduce the bridge to two lanes for about four weeks to replace cement and grout. This will eliminate the settlement on that side of the bridge. When one side is finished, it will take another roughly two weeks to do the same thing on the other side. This could change as plans are finalized.
Drivers have several alternatives if they want to avoid the brief closures
on the southbound Duwamish River Bridge.

The SR 99 southbound Duwamish River Bridge carries about 50,000 cars a day. Reducing its capacity by half is going to mean heavier traffic. Drivers can help by using alternate routes like Interstate 5, Tukwila International Boulevard, East Marginal Way and the South Park Bridge.

We understand that reducing highway capacity temporarily is a challenge for the people who rely on these roads. But regular maintenance and repairs help keep our highways in good condition, reducing the need for costly major projects later. We appreciate your patience!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Join our team to help keep roads open and everyone moving this winter

By Mike Allende

Every winter we hire multiple non-permanent maintenance workers to help keep our highways open for travelers across the state. These positions are vital to our ability to keep state roads clear and to help freight and travelers make their way around as safely as possible.

And as the calendar flips to October, it's that time of year again. We're looking to fill many positions on our maintenance team all over the state. We need people comfortable working outdoors and with the public who are dedicated to keeping roads open and travelers moving as we move into the wet, cold months of winter.
Being prepared to respond to winter weather events 24/7 is a big part of our winter maintenance operations. 

So what kind of jobs will these positions handle? Great question:

  • Operating a variety of heavy equipment including snow plows and applying anti-icing materials to the roadway
  • Maintaining and repairing roadways, catch basins, culverts, guardrails and other infrastructure
  • Removing debris from highways and reporting possible issues with a highway such as potholes and cracks
  • Providing traffic control at work sites and collision scenes
  • Conducting minor maintenance and repairs on equipment
  • Conducting grounds keeping and upkeep at maintenance facilities
  • Being prepared to respond to emergencies 24/7
  • Providing excellent customer service when interacting with the public

Maintenance workers need a CDL as they're asked to operate a variety of large vehicles.

Now you know what you'd do in this job. But are you qualified? Here's what we're looking for:

  • Someone able to respond quickly and calmly to fast-changing situations
  • Someone able to stand and sit for long periods of time
  • Have a Commercial Driver's License Class A or Class B without restrictions, and a current medical card
  • Minimum of one year experience doing highway maintenance, roadway construction or related experience like landscaping, farming, forestry or heavy equipment operation
  • Comfortable operating large equipment in winter conditions on any type of roadway and around traffic
  • Able to communicate well with diverse groups, including verbally, written and electronically
  • High school diploma, GED or equivalent
  • Basic computer/table skills
  • Can lift and transport equipment up to 50 pounds
  • Ability to climb ladders and work at varying height levels

Making basic repairs to equipment is part of the
job for our winter maintenance crew.

Those are the minimum requirements. But we'd love it if you had a Commercial Driver's License Class A with N (cargo/tanker) endorsement without airbrake restrictions. If you have flagger and/or first aid certification, that will definitely get our attention, as would having at least two years of highway maintenance or construction experience.
In winter our maintenance crews are also responsible for clearing debris and other hazards from highways.

These positions typically last about 3-6 months to cover the winter maintenance season. Some might be part-time or on-call. But they're all vitally important to our ability to keep the public and freight community moving throughout the winter. So if it sounds like something you're up for, please check out our wsdotjobs.com page. You'll find multiple listings for winter maintenance positions. Throw your hat in the ring and help us make this a safe winter for everyone.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Stuffed to the grates: filling complete in Seattle’s Battery Street Tunnel

By Laura Newborn

Contractor crews working on Battery Street in Seattle completed a major milestone in the rebuilding of SR 99 through Seattle. And it's possible nobody walking or driving nearby even noticed. In late September, crews completed the filling of the Battery Street Tunnel.

The Battery Street Tunnel once carried SR 99 between Aurora Avenue North and the Alaskan Way Viaduct. After the SR 99 tunnel opened in February 2019, crews began methodically removing the old tunnel's mechanical and electrical systems, installing new utilities, and filling the structure. Much of the Battery Street Tunnel was filled with recycled concrete from the demolished Alaskan Way Viaduct. The final seven feet was filled with lightweight concrete pumped through ventilation grates along Battery Street. You can see photos of this process on our Flickr page.

Through the rest of the year, contractor crews will continue their work along Battery Street, building ADA ramps at each intersection, removing and paving over the tunnel's ventilation grates and fan boxes, and installing new lighting. The Battery Street Tunnel's south portal will be also be turned into a slope and seeded with grass, then handed over to the City of Seattle.

Seventh Avenue North work also wrapping up
At the north end of the old Battery Street Tunnel, construction work is almost complete. The trench of highway lanes into and out of the tunnel that once prevented east-west travel between Denny Way and Mercer Street is now Seventh Avenue North. This new, three-block-long roadway offers bus lanes to help transit travel times, new signalized intersections for safe east-west crossings, and will support future bicycle and pedestrian corridor improvements along Thomas Street. The work has reconnected the South Lake Union and Uptown neighborhoods, as you can see in this video.
https://youtu.be/7EnnuU5hFRg

Although the project is nearly done, construction barrels will remain visible along Seventh Avenue North into early next year when a signal pole for the Denny Way intersection is expected to be installed and turned on.

What remains for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program
The program to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct has involved 30 separate projects. When the North Surface Streets and Battery Street Tunnel work concludes, that previously long checklist will be down to just two: rebuilding Alaskan Way (the project overseen and managed by City of Seattle's Office of the Waterfront), and the South Access Surface Streets Connections project near Seattle's stadiums.

The South Access project will complete roadway work between South Atlantic Street and South Dearborn Street in SODO. Sections of street and sidewalk that have been paved temporarily by asphalt will get longer-lasting concrete pavement. We will build a section of a new pedestrian plaza that will link Occidental Avenue to the new pedestrian amenities along Alaskan Way, connecting the waterfront to the stadiums. The project will also build a section of bicycle and pedestrian trail. Work on that project is scheduled to begin in spring 2021.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Renton to Bellevue construction on I-405 continues to ramp up this fall

By Victoria Miller

This has been a year of change for most of us, and that includes Interstate 405. The I-405, Renton to Bellevue Widening and Express Toll Lanes Project construction is underway!

The Renton to Bellevue project is part of our Master Plan, which is a set of long-term improvements to help give people choices and get more people moving through the corridor. We have partnered with Sound Transit and King County Parks to make Renton to Bellevue a multimodal project. The project will include a direct access ramp and inline transit station at the Northeast 44th Street interchange that will help support Sound Transit's Bus Rapid Transit line, as well as two sections of the new King County Eastrail along Lake Washington and in Bellevue north of I-90. This project also addresses several fish culverts as part of our commitment to correct fish barriers by 2030.

Drivers on the south end of I-405 have probably noticed lane and ramp closures beginning in Renton and south Bellevue as part of the project. The project will build a dual express toll lane system between State Route 167 in Renton and Northeast Sixth Street in Bellevue, giving travelers a choice for a more reliable trip. This project will also add two southbound auxiliary lanes, one between I-90 and 112th Avenue Southeast/Lake Washington Boulevard Southeast (Exit 9), and another between Northeast 44th Street and Northeast 30th Street.

We awarded this design-build project during summer 2019 and construction has been ramping up as the design is being completed. So far, our project team has been hard at work with the final design for the project, and construction crews have made good progress on the Eastrail. Now the construction has arrived near the I-405/Northeast 44th Street interchange in Renton, which is where the bulk of the work will be taking place for most of the life of the project. Once the project is complete in 2024, this interchange will look very different to both drivers and pedestrians in the area.

Traffic shifts make way for corridor work

Crews recently completed the project's first traffic shift on northbound I-405 between North 30th Street and Northeast 44th Street, also known as the Kennydale Hill in Renton. The traffic shift was necessary to provide crews enough space to create a new construction work zone. The same number of lanes remain in place as part of the shift, which moved the northbound lanes of traffic farther to the left side of the roadway.
A look at the first traffic shift on northbound I-405.

The traffic shifts for this project will be necessary for crews to safely complete the work behind barriers throughout the project area. Drivers should prepare to see a lot more construction over the next few years, until 2024 when the project is anticipated to open to traffic.
This first mainline traffic shift occurred between North 30th Street and Northeast 44th Street.

As construction continues to become more visible to travelers in the area, please make sure to keep up with the project's progress and weekly closures on the project webpage and the I-405 construction updates webpage.

Given the current circumstances regarding COVID-19, our crews continue to work closely with guidance from Gov. Inslee's "Safe Start" reopening plan to ensure all fieldwork complies with current construction requirements. The weekly closures are performed under COVID-19 safety plans and are monitored by both contractor safety staff and our inspectors to protect the health of crews and the public.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Opening the new Thorne Lane interchange – Part 1

Update: September 29, 2020
The contractor has updated their schedule for the opening of the new Thorne Lane "high" bridge. The new schedule shows the bridge will open the week of Oct. 14. WSDOT will provide more information once it is available.

By Cara Mitchell

It's going to take several weeks. You'll need to take some detours. But there's light at the end of the tunnel. The I-5/Thorne Lane interchange in Lakewood is oh so close to opening!

We'll do what we can to minimize closures and detours as much as we can and we ask for just a bit more patience as we reach this big milestone.

Setting the scene and what to expect

Travelers who use I-5 near Thorne Lane and Murray Road currently drive under three bridges – two new ones and an old one. You can take a look at this overhead photo below to familiarize yourself with each new part of this interchange.
An overhead look of what to expect at the new Thorne Lane interchange.

Over the next four weeks, a series of changes will occur as crews open up different sections of the intersection. Note that dates can change due to weather.
  • Week of Sept. 28 
    • Open new Thorne Lane "high" bridge that connects Tillicum and Woodbrook neighborhoods
  • Oct. 9-12 
    • Weekend full closure of Thorne Lane overpass and I-5 ramps
  • Oct. 12
    • Thorne Lane "low" bridge connecting southbound I-5 to Murray Road opens
  • Oct. 16 & 17
    • Demolish and remove old Thorne Lane overpass
To start, we're going to focus on the first phase of work – opening the Thorne Lane "high" bridge.

Opening Thorne Lane "high" bridge

As early as Tuesday, Sept. 29, crews will open the new 344-foot-long bridge that spans both I-5 and the railroad tracks. To keep things simple, we are calling this new bridge the Thorne Lane "high" bridge. It will connect local streets using new roundabouts at Murray Road and Union Avenue.
Here's what travelers can expect when the Thorne Lane high bridge opens late this month.

When the new "high" bridge opens, southbound I-5 travelers exiting to Thorne Lane will continue to use the old overpass to turn right to Thorne Lane, or left to Murray Road. Travelers headed to Tillicum can either continue to follow the existing detour on Thorne Lane to Union Avenue, or use the roundabout at Murray Road and cross the new "high" bridge to Union Avenue. This temporary traffic pattern will remain in place until the weekend of Oct. 9, when crews begin work to open the Thorne Lane "low" bridge. That will be covered in a future blog.

Why roundabouts?

There is a good reason why we used roundabouts on the Thorne Lane high bridge – they move traffic through an intersection faster than a traffic signal. Traffic signals on the existing interchange were a necessary component to coordinate the movements of travelers going to and from I-5, railroad activity, and pedestrian/bicyclist traffic. The complexity of the network of streets with the railroad required signal timing that created substantial delays and backups. 

The new interchange design helps relieve congestion by separating where and how traffic flows. The new high bridge is designed to keep bikes, pedestrians and vehicles moving without the need for traffic signals between Lakewood's Tillicum and Woodbrook neighborhoods. This helps reduce congestion.

Is this part of the SR 704 Cross Base Highway project?

We receive this question a lot. The answer is, No. The SR 704 Cross Base Highway project is on indefinite hold. There is no current funding for the project and because so much time has passed since the first phase was constructed, in 2008, a lengthy environmental review process would need to play out again. 

Moving into fall

Here is a list of work coming up in October both at Thorne Lane and on southbound I-5: 
  • The new Thorne Lane "low" bridge will open, bringing with it several detours.
  • The old Thorne Lane overpass will be demolished, and that will require overnight closures of I-5. 
  • Last but not least, a second traffic switch for southbound I-5 lanes will occur near Berkeley Street as part of raising the elevation of the highway 14 feet. 
Putting hard dates to all this while scheduling around weather is at times like herding cats. We will do our best to provide updates as work progresses on what to expect for travelers in the coming weeks. 

As always, we ask you help keep our crews safe by driving the posted speed limit and be mindful of work zones.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

One more SR 202 closure for culvert replacement coming up

By Tom Pearce

One down, one to go.

Just west of Fall City, a second closure of State Route 202 between Southeast 31st Street and West River Road is scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 12-13. In late August we closed the highway closer to Sammamish to replace a culvert that carries Patterson Creek under the highway.

This next closure allows us to replace a couple of culverts keeping salmon and other fish from continuing upstream. From 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11 to 5 a.m. Monday, Sept. 14, the road will be closed and all traffic will follow a signed detour. The route is fairly narrow, so truck traffic will need to use I-90, I-405 and SR 520 to get around the closure.
The culverts being replaced under SR 202 carry unnamed tributaries to Patterson Creek. They are narrow and water often moves too fast through them for fish to continue upstream.

Why a full closure?

The stretch of SR 202 near these culverts is relatively narrow at this location, which makes it impossible to keep a lane open during culvert replacement. 

During the full highway closure, our contractor crews will dig up both culverts and replace them with larger box culverts. These will be able to carry natural creek beds, which will make it easy for fish and other marine life to move up and downstream. It's all part of our effort to improve fish passage under state highways, which will help increase fish populations in Puget Sound.

Patterson Creek culvert complete

During the last weekend of August, it took us about 55 hours to replace the culvert for Patterson Creek just east of Sammamish. Similar to what we will be doing during the Sept. 12-13 closure, we had to dig up the old culvert from about 10 feet beneath the roadway. Then we put in a new, larger structure and paved a new roadway back on top.

Replacing these culverts will open up about 11½ miles of additional habitat for salmon and resident fish. That's more area to spawn and for young fish to grow.
Crews lift a section of concrete culvert into place at Patterson Creek.

Improving salmon habitat

Opening up culverts and improving waterways means more species will be able to make the journey to spawning grounds and expanded rearing habitat for young fish. 

By the year 2030, we plan to replace hundreds more fish barriers under our highways. In some cases the narrow passages need to be widened. In other locations, creek levels have dropped, creating too large of a jump for migratory fish to make. 

We appreciate your patience not just with the culvert removals happening this month under SR 202, but with all our future fish passage projects in the years to come.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

COVID-19 presents unique challenges for summer intern

By Taylor Lenderman

This summer I was fortunate enough to land an internship at the Bellingham project engineering office as a transportation engineering intern. I am starting my senior year at Gonzaga University and working towards my bachelor's degree in civil engineering. I was thankful to be in my hometown, Bellingham, and spend summer in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
Taylor Lenderman, an engineering intern in our Bellingham office,
learns to form a concrete cylinder.

My experience as an intern was likely unique compared to the typical intern experience. COVID-19 disrupted the work environment quite significantly. As employees were required to telework from home, being a new face presented some challenges. I was worried that it would be difficult to get help and support from staff, and that learning opportunities would be limited. Luckily, everybody I had the chance to work with was more than willing to help me, and I could not be more thankful! I was able to develop relationships with employees whether I was in the field or teleworking from home. Even though I may not have met everyone in person, I still had the ability to meet virtually and made a connection with just about every employee in our office.
Intern Taylor Lenderman surveys a creek bed near SR 548 in Whatcom County.

So what did I do?

The internship offered several opportunities to get my feet wet. I assisted an inspector on two construction projects, learned how to test materials, observed the work of survey crews, and visited some cool projects outside of the Mt. Baker region.

One of the first projects I helped inspect was at the Bow Hill weigh station. I saw how asphalt is milled and replaced with fresh new asphalt, how concrete panels are poured, and learn the basics of inspection. This project was a learning opportunity for myself and several young engineers in our office. Struggling and learning together as a team throughout this project prepared ourselves for a much bigger fish passage project that was scheduled at the end of July.
Taylor Lenderman stretches his arms wide to show the size of a new 12-foot culvert.

One of the most memorable experiences I had was shadowing an inspector on a salmon fish passage project at Hoag's Creek on SR 11. This project involved replacing an old concrete culvert with a much bigger culvert, allowing salmon to spawn upstream. During the road closure that lasted roughly two weeks, I saw some major progress as contractor Tiger Construction worked around the clock to excavate the old culvert and replace it with the new one. It was amazing how much was accomplished during those two weeks! It was fascinating to watch how the jobsite completely changed from the beginning of the project to end. I was impressed with how much progress was made with the large equipment, countless loads of material delivered from dump trucks, and the construction crew which brought a tremendous amount of effort to the job each day. I must tip my inspector's hard hat to the contractor for all the hard work they accomplished!
Taylor Lenderman is flanked by engineers Vivianne Tabuena (left)
and Laura Brown at the Bow Hill weigh station.

Looking back, I gained some valuable experience in the field and developed connections throughout the agency. As an intern and having no prior training, it was difficult to do tasks on my own because I often had to rely on other employees for their guidance. I tried to provide an outside perspective, ask good questions, and soak in every learning opportunity like a sponge. Luckily, I was a part of a welcoming and supportive team that was always more than willing to help me when needed. I would like to thank the entire Bellingham office for letting me tag along as an inspector to jobsites, answering every question I had, and most importantly, welcoming me and making me feel like a part of their team. I have learned so much over these past few months that I can apply and expand on as I progress in my final year of school and engineering career. Thank you for an awesome summer!

Monday, August 24, 2020

Your road map to navigating the upcoming I-5 overnight closures

By Nick VinZant

A five-mile stretch of our busiest highway is closing for two consecutive nights this coming weekend – Aug. 28 and 29 – and we want everyone to be as prepared as possible. During the work, crews will close both directions of I-5 so they can safely install supersized bridge girders for a new bridge in Fife. The highway will close overnight on both Friday and Saturday between Fife and Federal Way. Backups could be significant. How significant? The answer depends on what drivers do. Our best advice is to avoid I-5 between Seattle and Olympia before, during and after the closure hours, if possible. If that's not an option, the information below will help you navigate your trip.
Crews will transport and install massive girders for a new bridge over I-5 in Fife
during upcoming overnight weekend closures.

First, the basics

Both directions of I-5 close from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. between 54th Avenue East in Fife and SR 18 in Federal Way on Friday, Aug. 28 and Saturday, Aug. 29. Lots of heavy equipment must move on and off the highway for the bridge work, so crews will start closing lanes around 8 p.m. both nights. After the roadway reopens by 8 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday, there will be lane closures in place until about noon. Ramps to and from I-5 will also be closed during the work.

Avoid backups

There's never a good time to close I-5. But by scheduling the heavy lifting overnight, we are trying to minimize delays as much as possible. Still, it's best to avoid I-5 between Seattle and Olympia during the work hours, if possible. If you must travel, consider using the SR 167/SR 512 detour. It's longer, but it might save time as these roads can handle more traffic than the SR 99 detour. The SR 99 detour is designed for those traveling to Tacoma or SR 16. However, if everyone uses the SR 99 detour, the risks of long backups increase.
I-5 in Fife will be fully closed overnight on Aug. 28 and 29 as part of a new bridge project.

On-ramps and off-ramps

There will be ramp closures associated with the highway closure, including ramps that must be used to transport the 220-foot-long girders from Concrete Technology Corp. in Tacoma where they were made, to the new 70th Avenue Bridge site in Fife.
Several on and off ramps will close as part of the overnight I-5 closures in Fife Aug. 28 and 29.

The bottom line

Location
  • A five-mile stretch of I-5 will close between the I-5 / 54th Avenue East interchange in Fife and the I-5 / SR 18 interchange in Federal Way
Closure times
  • Friday, Aug. 28 and Saturday, Aug. 29
    • Lanes begin closing at 8 p.m.
    • 11 p.m. – 8 a.m.- full closure
    • Lanes begin opening at 8 a.m.
    • I-5 fully open by noon
Ramp Closures

Southbound I-5 to Port of Tacoma Road off-ramp
  • Aug. 28
    • 9 p.m. – 5 a.m.
  • Aug. 29
    • 10 p.m. – 6 a.m.
54th Avenue East to northbound I-5 on-ramp
  • Aug. 28
    • 7 p.m. – 9 a.m.
  • Aug. 29
    • 8 p.m. – 10.a.m.
Eastbound SR 18 to southbound I-5 on-ramp
  • Aug. 28
    • 10 p.m. – 8 a.m.
  • Aug. 29
    • 11 p.m. – 9.a.m.
Westbound SR 18 to Southbound I-5 on-ramp
  • Aug. 28
    • 10 p.m. – 8 a.m.
  • Aug. 29
    • 11 p.m. – 9.a.m.
Additional lane closures after bridge installation
  • Aug. 31 – Sept. 3
    • Once the girders are installed, we will need to close lanes of I-5 to prepare the bridge for the next step in the construction process.
    • Two lanes in each direction will be closed immediately north and south of the new 70th Avenue Bridge in Fife
      • I-5 northbound: 7 p.m. – 4 a.m.
      • I-5 southbound: 9:30 p.m. – 6 a.m.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Quick actions help prevent a work zone tragedy

By Mike Allende

Having the right equipment in place is important, but without the right people, that equipment can only go so far. And this past Sunday, Aug. 16, we had the right person in the right place at the right time.

Our bridge maintenance crew was at the south end of Seattle's I-5 Ship Canal bridge doing work Sunday morning. Traffic control was set up and a truck mounted attenuator (TMA) was in place protecting the crews. That's when our worker in the TMA noticed a vehicle going around our traffic cones, entering the work zone in an apparent attempt to exit at the closed Roanoke ramp.
When a truck entered a work zone and headed to road workers, our driver in his work truck was able
to pin it against a barrier to avoid tragedy.

Seeing the truck headed for our workers, the driver in the TMA quickly maneuvered his vehicle to force the encroaching truck over to the right, pinning it between the attenuator and the barrier. His quick actions prevented a potential tragedy and we are so thankful for that.

The Washington State Patrol found the driver of the other vehicle was not impaired but was charged with negligent driving.
By staying alert, our colleague in his attenuator truck cut a vehicle off as it entered a closed work zone, protecting our road crew. (Photo courtesy Washington State Patrol)

What's even more remarkable about the story is this was our worker's second incident in his attenuator this year. In late February his TMA was struck by a vehicle racing around slower traffic before the lane closed for a work zone. Our colleague had just returned to work in July after recovering from injuries sustained in that crash.

While we are thankful for our teammate's quick actions and that no one was seriously injured in the most recent incident, work zone collisions are an all-too-frequent part of our road crews' lives. The workers are someone's parent, child, spouse, sibling or friend. They are more than just a hard hat and work vest, and they want to go home safely at the end of the day.
Our truck mounted attenuator is designed to protect work crews and that’s what it did, when our TMA driver stopped a truck that entered a work zone and headed for our crew. (Photo courtesy Washington State Patrol)

Please do your part to help make that happen. Always stay alert for signs indicating an upcoming work zone. Slow down, and give crews as much room as possible. And never – NEVER – enter a road or lane that is closed. It is there for a reason, and that reason is almost always for everyone's safety. Our crews work hard to keep our highways as safe as possible. Please help them out by keeping them safe as well.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Keeping construction going – and crews safe – during a pandemic

By Beth Bousley

Summer is usually one of our busiest seasons – between maintenance and construction projects, it's typically full speed ahead. Crews are working on road repair, paving, chip seal, and other improvement projects – helping to keep people and goods moving throughout Washington state.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, though, all of that came to a screeching halt. As part of the statewide Stay Home, Stay Healthy orders, most of our construction and maintenance projects were put on hold until we could ensure the safety of our employees and travelers under new safety guidelines.

What do you do when faced with a shutdown caused by something as unprecedented as a pandemic? You get busy. Over the next month, our representatives worked with the Governor's Office, state departments of Health and Labor and Industries and our partners in labor, trades and contractors to help develop the safety guidelines that would be needed for the phased Safe Start return-to-work. We – including our contractor partners – also worked hard to ensure every crew and project would meet the new guidelines. No jobsite was allowed to operate until a contractor could meet and maintain all requirements. Contractors prepared detailed site-specific safety plans and worked hard to gather the required materials, equipment and update schedules. Contractors and our own construction and maintenance crew members also needed to complete mandatory COVID-19 training and show how they would comply with the 30 new safety protocols.

Everyone took these safety rules seriously and were ready to go a month later when Phase 1 construction was allowed to restart on projects that could be done while keeping workers 6 feet apart and later in Phase 2 construction when close proximity work could occur with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE for short). As a result, today, we have 142 active construction projects across the state and all are in full swing.
Working on the BNSF railroad realignment on the North Spokane Corridor.

A different look

If you drive past any of our jobsites today, things look different. Workers are leaving more space between themselves and others, and those who cannot physically distance while completing their tasks are wearing more PPE including eye protection, masks and gloves. Sites are also more sanitary with hand and tool wash stations and cleaning and disinfecting are a priority.
I-5 Southbound HOV construction workers in Tacoma had visual reminders about
how to stay 6 feet apart.

We're very pleased to see that strict adherence to safety guidelines by our staff and our contractor crews appear to be highly effective. The current rate of COVID-positive tests on our construction projects is approximately one-fifth, or 20%, of the statewide rate with seven confirmed COVID cases out of 5,000 people as of July 27. That's a testament to the dedication of our contractors and their crews as well as our own staff supervising and assisting with compliance.

Together with our contractors, we have taken steps to help us identify and isolate any workers testing positive for COVID-19 to keep the virus from spreading. We ensure a contractor-designated supervisor is at every job site to monitor the health of employees and enforce the COVID-19 job safety plan. Employees are trained on proper use of PPE and safety guidelines, and there is consistent reinforcement of expectations, temperature screening, mask use and handwashing.
Getting ready for on-site temperature screening.

Today, these new procedures have become part of our everyday work habits. Everyone wants to keep working now that we're back on the job, so we are glad that our field inspectors at construction sites and maintenance supervisors closely monitor work activities. They have the authority to shut down a job site or maintenance work if the safety protocols are not followed.
A washing station and posted guidelines have been added to portable toilets at construction
sites, including this one on the I-5 Berkeley Street overpass construction site.

Safety first, always

In Spokane, for example, we're in the midst of a complicated, time-sensitive project to replace the century-old Spokane River East Trent Bridge. The project requires work in and out of the water and has strict "in water work windows" to safeguard fish and habitat. Delay on any one part of the project has a cascading effect on all the others and jeopardizes the completion timeline. But, when a subcontractor crew showed up without masks a few weeks ago, safety took precedent over deadlines. Work was temporarily stopped until proper PPE was secured and only then once everyone had masks did work continue. It was critical that everyone work together to make sure guidelines were followed for work to continue. The relationships we have with the contractors we work with are important and all of us value the safety of our employees on the job.
Maintenance crew wearing full PPE on Trent Avenue Bridge in Spokane

Sometimes, however, we must postpone the work to ensure the safety of our employees. In eastern Washington, where the summers are glorious, but hot, maintenance crews working with hot asphalt and machinery are at risk of overheating. When they wear the bulkier forms of PPE – such as huge air filtration systems, and fully enclosed face coverings – that heat can seem even hotter. As a result, some maintenance projects are being delayed until cooler weather arrives in late summer or fall.
Complying with physical distancing and PPE guidelines on the North Spokane
Corridor BNSF railroad realignment project.

We will continue to overcome challenges and learn lessons along the way, but one message is clear: work on our projects means following all safety guidelines. We take it seriously because our ability to demonstrate safety compliance is critical to ensuring this vital construction and maintenance work can continue. The work can't get done if all of our people aren't safe and healthy, and at the end of the day, we all "wear orange". By keeping workers safe, not only does the work keep going, but people stay employed and we help keep families and friends safe as we all navigate this public health crisis together.
US 12 crack sealing near Naches. Crews stay safe with a variety of PPE during the hot work.

Like you, we long for the day when we'll be able to get back to normal – to go to the store without a mask, to go on a walk without avoiding the people we meet (even eye contact – what's that about?), and to sit inside at a table with friends and family. We hope that day comes soon. In the meantime, we are glad to be back at work, and will do whatever we can to keep our staff and contractors going strong while continuing to serve the traveling public – safely.
Repairing the bridge deck of the I-5 North Fork Lewis River Bridge
with masks and distance between other workers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Rescue drills pay off again at Hood Canal Bridge

By Doug Adamson

They are more than the operators and caretakers of the State Route 104 Hood Canal Bridge. Our crews on occasion become rescuers of people who run into trouble while navigating the fast-moving icy waters of Hood Canal.
SR 104 crew members Grayson Pennell (left) and Tyler Neal – in a photo taken pre-COVID-19 safety regulations –
inspect the Hood Canal Bridge. They were recently part of a team that helped rescue
a scuba diver from the frigid water near the bridge.

Just before noon on Aug. 11, our crew was alerted by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office of a boater in distress. They sprang into action after spotting a drifting kayak in the water near the bridge. While one crew member kept an eagle-eye on the kayaker, others launched the bridge's inflatable zodiac boat. That's no small task since we need to use a portable crane to launch the vessel from the bridge.

After lowering into the water, our team soon reached the kayak, where one person was still onboard but a scuba diver was struggling to get out of the water and back onto the boat. The crew helped the diver out of their diving equipment, and the diver was able to safely climb back onto the kayak.

All of this happened within minutes of being alerted by the Sheriff's Office.
Our Hood Canal Bridge crews have assisted in several emergencies including this one in 2019
when a large boat began to sink after taking on water.

Training pays off

The crew had recently sharpened their skills for just such an incident in a rescue drill involving someone who had fallen into the water. Crews typically do this type of training and drill twice a year.

This is far from the first time the bridge crew has assisted someone in distress. Last summer they quickly deployed to help as a boat was sinking off the bridge. The well-trained staff again used the zodiac boat to help in a time of need. Another incident involved crews who came to the aid of two people and two dogs who went into the frigid waters after their canoe overturned. We're proud of the efforts our team makes in these emergencies.

We thank our fantastic crew members Tyler Neal, Daniel Berton, Grayson Pennell, Chris Middleton, and Mark Epstein for their efforts to help others when needed!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Progress being made on I-90 emergency repair

Travel challenges will remain until work is done by Friday

By Mike Allende

The bad news? Travel on eastbound I-90 at Stampede Pass on Monday, Aug. 17, was really rough, as expected. With the highway closed due to emergency pavement repairs – traffic is being detoured to the off- and on-ramps at exit 62 nine miles east of Snoqualmie Pass – we saw significant backups and delays. The project is scheduled to be complete by Friday morning, but until then we are likely to continue to see heavy congestion. At best it's frustrating to sit in that kind of traffic, we get it.

The good news? Crews are making good progress. When many of you passed by the closure area you didn't see work happening. The work zone is located in a spot that isn't very visible. But crews are working 10-plus hours a day and on Monday, contractors took out 42 concrete panels, removing about 300 cubic yards of material. That's more than 20 full dump truck loads.
Contractor crews work on emergency pavement repairs
on I-90 near Stampede Pass.

There's never a good time to do this kind of work, especially on such a major highway. If we could do it overnight, on a weekend, in the winter, or with just one lane closed, we would. And while we are making adjustments based on what we've seen, in order to get this emergency repair done as quickly as possible for everyone's safety, it has to be done within these parameters.

OK, but why can't you do it at night?

Why does this have to happen in the middle of the day? It's a fair question. Like building a house, road work progresses in stages. You can't put on the roof before the walls are done. In this case, panels have to be removed first, then the surface under the panels has to be repaired. Next, drainage gets installed, then shoulders have to be rebuilt before finally, the lanes can be repaved and restriped in order to open.

The materials that are needed to get a lot of this work done aren't available in the middle of the night. They're only available during the day. In large part the work schedule is dictated by when crews have access to what they need.
The first step of the I-90 Stampede Pass emergency repairs is removing the failing concrete panels.
On Monday crews removed 42 of them.

Fine, but what about weekends?

Again, there's no good time to do work on I-90. It's an incredibly busy highway. But this time of year, it's busier during the weekends than on weekdays. While people are still being asked to limit non-necessary travel due to COVID-19, we know that a lot of people are taking road trips, many of those road trips are across I-90, and many of them are on weekends. We are trying to affect the least amount of traffic as possible and traffic volumes are simply lower during the week.

How about opening up one lane?

The safety of work crews is always our primary concern. The area where this work is happening is too narrow to safely allow one lane to remain open; there wouldn't be enough room between traffic and workers to establish a safe work zone. Also, because we're replacing concrete in both lanes, we need to close the roadway in order to complete the work as fast as possible.
Crews doing emergency repairs to I-90 near Stampede Pass prep the subgrade with geogrid,
which is put down before new concrete is poured.

Remind me what's happening

For the past several weeks, we've been making emergency patch repairs to concrete panels under the Stampede Pass interchange. We were scheduled to repave this section in the fall but the panels deteriorated faster than expected and so we accelerated the project to make permanent repairs now. The concrete just wasn't safe to allow traffic to drive on it anymore and it couldn't wait.

This section of I-90 is scheduled to be replaced in 2026 as part of the project that is widening the highway from four to six lanes between Hyak and Easton. Doing this work now avoids continuing delays on this stretch while we make temporary repairs.

We hear you

Again, we know how big of a challenge this is for drivers. We read every comment and we know how frustrated you are. While this won't help you get through the backup faster, we hope this at least helps answer some of your questions and updates you on some of the progress. 

We've made some adjustments, including updating our messaging to encourage drivers to continue up and over the ramps without stopping, which was adding to the issue on Monday. We'll have a flagger stationed at the ramp to help move traffic through, and we'll continue to monitor and make adjustments where possible. We ask that drivers please do their best to be patient, give each other space, stay alert for road workers, and if you can delay your trips until very early or very late, do so. It's not going to be easy but let's work together to do all we can to safely help this emergency repair project get done.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Going the extra mile, reuniting families all in a day’s work for our IRT heroes

By Barbara LaBoe

We often call our Incident Response Team drivers "highway heroes" and on a recent Saturday on Interstate 5 we had another stellar example when one of our drivers' quick thinking helped reunite a missing senior citizen with her family.

Our driver, though, said it's all just part of his job helping stranded motorists along the highway.

Dave Jensen was driving on I-5 on Saturday, Aug. 8, when he noticed a vehicle on the shoulder near Everett. He stopped to offer assistance and found an older woman dozing in her car. She told him her car wouldn't start and mentioned she was heading to Oregon. The woman's car was out of gas, but what alarmed Dave was that she was in the northbound lanes of I-5 headed toward Canada – about 200 miles in the wrong direction.
Dave, one of our IRT drivers, said he was happy to help when he recently found an elderly
 woman lost on I-5 and helped reunite her with her family.

On a hunch, he asked if she had a cellphone or money for the rest of her trip and she told him no. She also said she'd been following signs to Oregon, which he knew wouldn't have been posted along the roads she'd been traveling. So Dave offered to call someone for her on his phone.

"She seemed to want to talk and it just sort of clicked that she needed help," he said.

When Dave reached her daughter, he learned that the woman was from eastern Washington and hadn't arrived at her Oregon destination as planned, and that family hadn't heard from her since Thursday. They also feared she hadn't taken needed medication.
Dave, in a photo taken before his shift started so without a mask, spends his days helping stranded travelers. He says it's all in a day's work but we are very thankful we have co-workers like him out there helping others.

Dave assured the daughter he'd look out for her mom and called the Washington State Patrol for a trooper to respond, something he's had to do a couple of times during his 10 years as an IRT driver. The trooper took the woman to a hospital and put staff in touch with the daughter so she could stay up to date on her mom as she made the four-hour trip over to Everett.

"He could have simply given the elderly lady gas, that is all she needed (to get back on the road), and she would have been on her way," the trooper wrote WSDOT. "We are very lucky to have people like Dave out here working with us keeping people safe … he made a huge positive difference in many people's lives. This sad situation turned into a positive one."

We couldn't agree more. Our IRT drivers spend their days lending a hand to travelers when they need a tire changed, some gas or other assistance. They often do this inches from active traffic so we always ask motorists to move over if possible and give our crews extra room to work safely.

Dave, though, said he was just doing his job.

"It's just another day on the job," he said, adding he loves being able to help travelers as well as the adrenaline and constantly changing situations of the IRT job.

We're so thankful the woman and her family were reunited and extremely proud that Dave – one of our IRT heroes – helped make that happen. Thank you Dave and all of our IRT staff across the state for all that you do.

Take a look around – All the way around

By Laura Newborn

We’re trying something new in this virtual world so many of us are living in now. Our Puget Sound Gateway Program is rolling out 360-degree interactive views of construction in progress on the 70th Avenue East Bridge project in Fife. This technology lets you be the driver inside a construction zone.

Click the photo below and you’ll see an aerial overview of the project. From there, pick the place you want to see more of. You can spin around the site and zoom in and out with ease.
360° interactive views

For now, we are updating the pictures monthly, so photos are not in real time. If you want an up-to-the-minute view, our real-time construction cameras are the way to go.

Showing you all angles of construction is a great way to let everyone watch this important project take shape. The new four-lane bridge will replace a nearby two-lane bridge and improve freight mobility, reduce congestion and offer new bike and walking options. It is scheduled to open in Summer 2021.

The work is part of Puget Sound Gateway’s SR 167 Completion Project, which will extend SR 167 from Puyallup to I-5 and I-5 to the Port of Tacoma.

Important reminder!

Interstate 5 will close in both directions for two consecutive overnights Friday, Aug. 28, and Saturday, Aug. 29, so crews can install the record-sized pre-cast girders that will support the new 70 Avenue East Bridge. I-5 between Federal Way and Fife will be closed from 11 p.m. until 8 a.m. the next morning with additional lane closures before and after. Additional information is available online in our previous blog on this project.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Plan ahead – SR 548 closure north of Ferndale adds detours, extra time to trips

By Tom Pearce

We're working to improve how fish travel through California Creek near Ferndale, but to do that we need to send highway travelers on a bit of a side trip.

With a lot of projects, reducing I-5 from two lanes to one would be the project's biggest effect on drivers. That's not the case with our I-5 and SR 548 California Creek fish passage project. The most noticeable part of this work will be that from Aug. 24-29, people will follow a noticeably lengthy detour around the SR 548/Grandview Road and Portal Way construction site. This detour affects travelers wanting to head west on SR 548 from I-5 as well as anyone traveling north or south on Portal Way from the I-5 interchange. Through traffic on I-5 will not be detoured.

No room for a bypass lane

Earlier in this project, our contractor built a bypass lane between the northbound and southbound lanes of I-5 so traffic could skirt the construction but keep moving along the usual corridor. However, the SR 548 culvert we're replacing is between Portal Way and BNSF railroad tracks. There is no room for a bypass. This means we need to temporarily close the SR 548/Portal Way intersection and detour travelers around the area.
This bypass lane works on I-5 to route traffic around construction,
but we don't have the space to build one on SR 548.
Safety first

Closing the area will provide a safe space for the men and women working on this project. It will also ensure safe passage for people traveling through the area.

Plan ahead

Signed detours will route traffic off I-5 at Portal Way from the south or Birch Bay-Lynden Road to the north. The Portal Way detour – for passenger vehicles only – will add a few minutes to the trip. The detour via Birch Bay-Lynden Road – which semi-trucks will need to take – adds about 7 miles and 15 minutes for travelers. For people on foot, bicycle or wheelchair that want to go north or south on Portal Way, our contractor, Kiewit, will provide an escort past the work zone. We'll also be sure people can still get to the Petro Food Mart at the corner of Portal Way and SR 548, just west of I-5.
Detour around the Aug. 24-29 SR 548 and Portal Way intersection closure.

Improving fish passage

Before we started this project, four small culvert pipes limited the flow of California Creek under SR 548, I-5 and Zell Road just east of I-5. During times when salmon are migrating, the water was forced too quickly through the pipes for fish to continue upstream. We've replaced the culverts under I-5 and Zell Road with larger box culverts that allow for natural creek beds. This opens up about three miles of additional habitat for salmon and other aquatic life in the creek. 
This larger culvert will have a natural creek bed, allowing fish in California Creek
to continue farther upstream to additional spawning grounds.

Replacing the pipe under SR 548 with a box culvert will open an additional 3.5 miles of habitat. It's one of the final steps of the project, though some smaller single-lane closures with traffic directed by flaggers may take place as work is wrapping up.

This work is better for the fish and other wildlife in the creek and also helps fulfill part of our obligations under a federal court injunction.

Thank you

With these changes, we know it is going to take longer to get to many businesses and destinations. We appreciate the adjustments people have made, and will continue to make during construction. This is one of our biggest fish passage projects yet and we thank everyone in advance for helping us continue this progress.