Friday, February 28, 2020

Ferries' haiku contest returns for a third year

By Justin Fujioka

Third time's a charm!

That's the hope if you're looking to dethrone what's become a poetry powerhouse on San Juan Island as our ferries haiku contest champion.

In the contest's first two go-arounds, both winners hailed from Friday Harbor. The first year, a faculty member at the town's high school won. Last year, a student from the same school was crowned champ.

So if you're looking to participate in a little friendly competition, hop on board one of our ferries and get your creative juices flowing because our popular haiku cover contest on Twitter is back!

We're looking for a traditional haiku about the Washington State Ferries experience. The winning poem will be featured on the cover of our Summer 2020 Sailing Schedule!

How to enter
All you have to do is follow @wsferries on Twitter, then tweet your haiku between noon Monday, March 9, and noon Friday, March 13, 2020. Be sure to include the hashtag #WSFHaiku. All members of the public, except WSDOT employees and contractors, are eligible and invited to participate. No fare purchase is required.

Haiku requirements and contest rules
In addition to the submission qualifications listed above, each entrant must follow these requirements and rules:
  • One haiku per tweet
  • Poem must be a traditional haiku with five (5) syllables on the first line, seven (7) on the second and five (5) on the third.
  • Haiku must be about the Washington State Ferries experience.
  • Poem must be the sole, original work of the entrant.
  • An entry may be disqualified if it has been previously published or won awards or competitions.
  • Each contestant may submit up to three haiku. Any additional haiku received after the first three are not eligible.
  • By entering, all submitters grant us the right to use their poems for marketing and communication purposes.
  • Do not send your haiku via direct message on Twitter.
Selecting a winner
A panel of judges from WSF will select up to 25 entries based on relevance to the WSF experience. Those submissions will be sent to Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna and local haiku poet Michael Dylan Welch, who will each choose two finalists based on creativity, originality, content and writing. Decisions of the judges are subjective, final, and cannot be appealed.

For those who want to sharpen their haiku skills, contest judge Michael Dylan Welch recommends reading his "Becoming a Haiku Poet" webpage.

The four finalists' poems will be posted on the @wsferries Twitter page at noon Monday, March 23. The haiku with the most likes at noon Friday, March 27, will be named the winner.

We will then work with the winner to find a photo to serve as a background for their haiku. The work of art will be featured on our 2020 summer schedules!

Monday, February 10, 2020

SR 706 road to Paradise a muddy, debris-covered mess after heavy rains


8:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 24
We have good news about the work on State Route 706.

Both lanes of State Route 706 east of Ashford have reopened to all travelers this morning.

Favorable weather allowed our emergency contractor, Granite Construction, to repair and reopen the highway well in advance of the original mid-March estimate. Crews will finish paving and striping as weather allows. Until crews can complete the work, you can expect daytime one-way alternating traffic.

Throughout the closure, several agencies worked together to maintain access for people who live in the slide area. WSDOT worked closely with Pierce County Emergency Management, Eatonville School District, the U.S. Forest Service and Mount Rainier National Park in coordinating caravans for residents in and out of the slide area.

Thank you again for your patience during this work.

10:15 a.m. Friday, Feb. 21
Emergency contractor crews continue work 7-days a week on State Route 706. While the highway remains closed to most travelers until further notice at the Kernahan Road (milepost 10.18), this stretch of good weather has certainly helped bolster recovery efforts. Crews so far have removed hundreds of dump truck loads of mud, dirt and rocks. A major part of the work included installation of a new culvert to carry water under the highway.
Crews in this photo are building the new channel to divert the water away from the highway.

4:45 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18
Since arriving at the scene on Thursday, Feb. 13, the emergency contractor has made substantial progress at the slide site. Over the past six days, over 2,250 cubic yards of slide debris has been removed. The contractor is building new ditches next to the highway so that stream runoff from the hillside above has a place to go - instead of over the highway.

Moving forward, this week’s work includes continued debris removal, embankment construction and utility relocation. Once those items are taken care of, the next big item on the list is getting the culvert installed. Once installed, crews will be able to make pavement repairs and install highway markers. This work is weather sensitive and could get delayed.

SR 706 remains closed at milepost 10.18, blocking access to Mount Rainier National Park’s Nisqually entrance. There is no detour available. We strongly encourages travelers to not venture beyond the closure location, which is an active work zone.

We are hopeful that SR 706 can re-open with two-way traffic by mid-March. Weather conditions may alter this timeline. We will provide updates as they become available.

12:40 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14
On Thursday, Feb. 13, Granite Construction crews began bringing in large equipment to clear the slide debris covering SR 706 east of Ashford.

Today, crews began separating the rock from the wood debris, so the rock can be incorporated into the project. Crews are also hauling debris out of the work zone. The contractor estimates that it will take approximately one week to remove the slide debris, inspect for damage and identify repairs. The contractor will be working seven days a week during daylight hours.

We are hopeful that SR 706 can re-open with two-way traffic by mid-March. Due to the conditions of the slide and weather conditions, the timeline may change. We will provide updates as they become available.

The closure at milepost 10.18, which blocks access to Mount Rainier National Park’s Nisqually entrance, will remain in place. There is no detour available. We strongly encourages travelers to not venture beyond the closure location, which is now an active work zone.

4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12
Today, our crews worked with Pierce County Emergency Management to coordinate a single escorted convoy for residents on State Route 706. As our emergency contractor mobilizes tomorrow, we will continue to evaluate damage and how we can safely reopen the road beyond emergency and escorted access.

9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12
Our crews have cleared a path through the slides on SR 706 for emergency vehicle access only.  After we fully evaluate the extent of the damage and debris, we can develop a timeline for reopening one lane beyond emergency access. We’ll continue to provide updates here on the blog.

4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11
Today, our maintenance crews began moving debris and repairing several sections of SR 706 approaching the slide area at milepost 11.4. Under guidance from engineering geologists, crews are addressing safety issues concerning trees near power lines in the slide area near milepost 11. Crews are also preparing to move in larger equipment to the work area.

We also received the authorization today to initiate an emergency contract to begin repairs on SR 706 in the extensive slide area.

With rain or snow in the forecast, it is possible that the slide activity will again increase, which can cause unforeseen delays.  As crews clear away the debris, the creek and stream water coming down from the hillside has to be closely monitored.

After crews start to work on the slides and evaluate the extent of the damage and debris, we can develop a timeline for roadwork going forward and will continue to provide updates.
WSDOT crews began moving debris off SR 706 near milepost 11.

1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11
While visiting the site on Monday, Feb. 10, geotechnical engineers began outlining a plan for us to begin safely clearing the road to allow emergency access for local residents only who live and work near Mount Rainier National Park.

There are two known slide sites that our engineers are focused on. Both locations have unique characteristics that crews will be addressing. Crews will begin their work at the slide located near milepost 11. The work at milepost 11 will initially involve safely diverting the water and debris away from SR 706 and begin removing the debris from the highway. We will continue to provide updates once crews are able to safely mobilize and begin the temporary repairs.

5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10
SR 410 has reopened in both directions.

By Doug Adamson

Many travelers who visit Mount Rainier National Park often refer to State Route 706 east of Ashford as "the road to Paradise." But after several days of torrential rain, the road to Paradise now resembles a muddy creek bed complete with large boulders, six-foot deep debris and several streams in areas where they shouldn't be. In short, the roadway is a mess and the hillside above is extremely unstable. That means the road, which first closed due to slides at 4 a.m. on Feb. 6, will remain closed with no timeframe for reopening.

While we know keeping the highway closed is frustrating to residents and backcountry adventurers seeking the tranquility of one of our state's most notable landmarks, until water from the displaced streams is redirected, we can't reopen the highway.
What's the problem?
On most slides, once our geotechnical engineers give us the all-clear, contractors or maintenance teams break out the heavy equipment to scoop off debris. Once the debris is clear, we sometimes need to reduce the roadway to one lane of alternating travel to ensure safety while we complete repair work, depending on the conditions of the site.

However, this slide is much different and much more dangerous.

Following early-February's driving rain, the area around a U.S. Forest Service road above SR 706 collapsed in at least two locations. Early on Thursday, Feb. 6, the slide was reported to our crews as debris and water began to cover the highway. SR 706 now resembles a creek bed, complete with a new creek and other running water in at least two locations. Additional slides have been reported along a 4-mile section that our crews have not yet been able to reach.
Left: an overhead look at the origin of the slide above SR 706. Right: The second slide on SR 706 further east cutting through Forest Service Road #59 with an unidentified source of water runoff.

If we simply cleared the debris – which is up to six-feet deep in places – running water, which is still eating away at the hillside above the highway, could still cause the highway to collapse. According to geotechnical engineers, the crews that inspect hillsides all across our state, this creates an extremely hazardous situation for anyone in the area, as running water could trigger additional mudslides or landslides.

The bottom line: crews need to have the spigot turned off before we can begin to clear the roadway, and that's really in Mother Nature's hands. While the dry weather of the past couple days has helped a little, she doesn't seem eager to let off the accelerator. Inspections of the highway and any repairs will then need to occur before we can reopen SR 706. Right now, we have no timeline for when the water and debris will stop flowing.

We're going to do everything we can to safely clear the roadway for the people who rely on it every day.
Left: An abundance of debris blocks the highway at milepost 11.6 in Pierce County with no estimated time of reopening. Right: Our Assistant Regional Administrator of Maintenance and Construction, Troy Cowan observing the debris and devastation across SR 706. Much work remains for our crews.

Stay out, your life could be in jeopardy
We cannot overstate the importance of staying out of this area. Do not go beyond our road closure location due to the imminent threat to life and safety. The hillside is unstable and running water only compounds the problem. People who venture into the area potentially endanger themselves and the lives of rescuers who go to the area.

We will update this blog with any new information in terms of progress of reopening SR 706.

Nearby slides on SR 410
SR 706 isn't the only road affected by the heavy rain this month. Our crews along with other agencies have been responding to or monitoring more than 20 slides around the state. While many have reopened, several remain closed, including on SR 410. During the course of three days, four landslides fell onto SR 410, resulting in a closure between Mud Mountain Road and Greenwater. These slides took down trees and power lines. On Sunday, crews were able to restore power and clear three landslides to open up SR 410 to milepost 48 for local traffic only. However, debris from the farthest landslide remains, keeping SR 410 closed to all traffic between these two points. Crews continue to work on this last closure. Until all debris is cleared, SR 410 cannot be opened to all.

People can stay updated to any road closures by checking our travel alerts page and by downloading our app.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Happy Birthday, SR 99 Tunnel

By Laura Newborn

One year ago today, we opened the State Route 99 tunnel and quickly watched it become a fast, easy way to bypass downtown Seattle traffic. Traveling SR 99 through Seattle is much safer than it was pre-tunnel, when the Alaskan Way Viaduct carried SR 99 through the city. Drivers now travel underneath Seattle inside a tunnel designed to survive strong earthquakes, with state-of-the-art ventilation, fire suppression and intelligent traffic systems.
Seattle's SR 99 tunnel opened on Feb. 4, 2019 and in the year since, the downtown waterfront has completely transformed.

In the year since the tunnel opened, the Alaskan Way Viaduct was demolished. Seattle’s central waterfront has transformed visually and audibly – it’s hard to describe how much quieter it is to walk along the water today without two decks of highway traffic roaring overhead.

With the viaduct out of the way, the City of Seattle is building its waterfront of the future. One of the first elements of that project will open later this winter: a new, two-way bus route on Columbia Street to connect thousands of bus commuters between Third Avenue and points south and west of downtown.

Tunnel usage
The SR 99 tunnel now averages more than a million trips each month. To no one’s surprise, the busiest travel times are the peak hours – weekday mornings between 6-9 a.m. and weekday afternoon/evenings between 4-7 p.m. Tolling started in November 2019, and 83 percent of drivers using the tunnel have a Good To Go! account, which means they pay the lowest toll rates possible ($2 less than having no pass or account). The tolls help pay back construction bonds and pay to keep the two-mile-long tunnel running safely and smoothly.

Did you know?
Drivers can sign up for a Good To Go! pass and save $2 off every trip in the tunnel and other toll roads in Washington. It only takes about 15 minutes to open a Good To Go! account online – here’s everything you need to know.

Even if you used the tunnel without an account and received a bill in the mail, it's not too late to save money on your bill.