Wednesday, December 23, 2020

SR 112 closed in Clallam County

Update: Jan. 8, 2021
A fifth slide has been identified along SR 112 at milepost 36.9. The roadway remains closed between milepost 31 and 39. WSDOT GeoTechnical Engineers are currently evaluating the roadway and will recommend repairs and reopening plans.

Update: Dec. 28, 2020
Beginning the week of Jan. 4, our geotechnical experts will survey and assess multiple slide zones along SR 112 near milepost 31.8 through 32.2 at Jim Creek. The highway remains closed until further notice until a plan for repairs is recommended and approved. An estimated timeline for reopening has not been made available at this time. Travelers are currently detouring using SR 113 and US 101.
Real time travel information
By Doug Adamson

When winter weather strikes in Washington, sometimes we see snow, and sometimes we see rain.

Both struck at the same time this week on State Route 112 in Clallam County on the Olympic Peninsula, including especially intense driving rain.

The damage left behind closed a portion of the highway until further notice.

What we know so far
A section of SR 112 east of Pysht closed due to sloughing and roadway settlement Monday. The damage occurred in three places around milepost 31.8.
A large winter storm including heavy rain and snow forced this section of US 112 in Clallam County to drop.
The stop sign gives an idea of the scale of the situation.

WSDOT crews inspect sunken section of SR 112

Our engineering geologists examined the three locations and found the hillside is still moving in at least one place around the highway. In one section, the roadway drops 22 inches where a 100-foot-long settlement stretches across the highway. We've yet to see the settlement stop, and geologists observed a crack in the hillside over the roadway. In another, a large stretch of the hillside below the road sloughed away. In the third, the hillside sloughed off below the roadway.
A hill behind SR 112 in Clallam County washed out during a recent winter
storm that included heavy rainfall.

What we're doing
As of Tuesday afternoon, crews could still hear material moving in the forest above the roadway. Our engineering geologists saw continued movement on the roadway and the slide areas. They'll return next week to survey the area again. Once they give us the all-clear, our crews can safely clear and repair the roadway.

Travelers will continue to take the detour around via US 101 until we're able to make the fixes and safely clear the roadway for the people who rely on it.
SR 112 detour map

We understand the importance of this highway for everyone who uses it. However, Mother Nature is setting the tempo at this time. We'll continue to monitor the situation and set a game plan for repairs.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Starting 2021 off big in Tacoma with record-setting bridge girders

Update: Jan. 15, 2021
Over the past two weeks, between windstorms and working through mechanical issues with cranes, crews set 22 bridge girders, including a record-breaking 223-foot-long girder. During the overnight hours the week of Jan. 18, crews will install the final 8 bridge girders to complete the backbone of this new bridge. The bridge has a total of 84 girders. Travelers on I-5 and State Route 167 in Tacoma will see overnight lane and ramp closures. We are keeping this list updated at

Update: Jan. 6, 2021
Overnight closures:
Full closures of southbound SR 167/Bay Street/River Road at East Grandview Avenue may begin as early as 8:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday nights. Any Friday night closures of southbound SR 167 will start at 10 p.m. The southbound I-5 exit 135 to Portland Avenue and North SR 167 and the Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 are now closing each night at 9 p.m.
By Cara Mitchell and Nick VinZant

We, like you, are ready to kick 2020 to the curb. It just so happens that the pandemic delays felt in our construction schedule allows us to start 2021 with a big project milestone. What is happening in January is no small matter. In fact, it is record breaking.

The longest prestressed concrete girder made in North America will soon arrive at its new home on the new southbound Interstate 5 Puyallup River Bridge in Tacoma. At 223 feet long, almost nine feet high and more than 246,500 pounds, it is a record. This mammoth girder, along with 29 others that are almost as big, will complete the backbone of a bridge that will carry southbound I-5 traffic over the Puyallup River and several railroad lines.
Our new 223-foot-long girder stretches all the way across Port of Tacoma Road.

Installing these colossal girders will require some overnight lane and ramp closures. Once installed, we will be one step closer to easing congestion on I-5 near the Puyallup River Bridge and connecting HOV lanes from SR 16 in Gig Harbor to I-5 and across the Puyallup River in Tacoma and into King County.

The girders
Picture a blue whale and a 747 airplane. Your average blue whale weighs around 200,000 pounds. Most 747s have a wingspan of just under 200 feet. That is roughly the same weight and length as each of the 30 girders we are about to install.

Our contractor, Guy F. Atkinson Construction, will begin installing these girders as early as Monday, January 4. Each weeknight through the month of January, construction crews will move the girders from their current home at Concrete Technology Corporation in Tacoma to their new home on the southbound side of the new I-5 Puyallup River bridge. Two cranes will move 3-to-5 girders a night into place. Once installed, this final set of girders – along with 54 others that were installed in February 2020 – will form the backbone of the new bridge.
Overnight closures and detours
Because of the size of the girders and the equipment being used, and to keep drivers and workers safe, some overnight lane and ramp closures will be in place during this work.
This map shows the closures and detours needed to safely install girders on the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge. Not all closures will happen at the same time.

Monday, Jan. 4 through Thursday, Jan. 7
  • One lane of southbound I-5 across the Puyallup River Bridge will close each night from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • The Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 will close each night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • The southbound I-5 exit 135 to Portland Avenue and North SR 167 will close each night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • Southbound SR 167/Bay Street/River Road will close at East Grandview Avenue each night from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Monday, Jan. 11 through Thursday, Jan. 14
  • One lane of southbound I-5 across the Puyallup River Bridge will close each night from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • The Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 will close each night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • The southbound I-5 exit 135 to Portland Avenue and North SR 167 will close each night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Monday, Jan. 18 through Thursday, Jan. 20
  • Two lanes of southbound I-5 across the Puyallup River Bridge will close each night from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Southbound SR 167/Bay Street/River Road will close at East Grandview Avenue each night from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.
  • The Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 will close each night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • The southbound I-5 exit 135 to Portland Avenue and North SR 167 will close each night from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Clearly signed detours will be in place for each of the closures. We will share the closure hours and dates on the project website and on the Pierce and Thurston County travel planner one week prior to the closure.

Installing girders this size is weather dependent and brings with it some unique concerns. Construction work will need to be paused to accommodate railroad activity and stopped during periods of high wind. The schedule could change because of these delays. We will keep you updated if anything changes.

Focus on the finish
Seeing these massive girders being installed will be quite a sight but please keep your eyes focused on the road. We will be using drones to capture all the action, so you won't miss a thing.

Once crews are finished installing these girders, we will have completed a major step forward in construction of the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge.

With the bridge's backbone firmly in place, construction crews can continue building the bridge deck and take the next step forward in paving the road. Once this work is complete, the new lanes will open, and you'll be able to say you've driven across the biggest girder of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. That momentous occasion is just as big as finishing construction of the HOV lanes through Fife and Tacoma.

When might travelers be driving across the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge? Given the year we have just had, it's really hard to say. The contractor hopes to have one or two lanes open for southbound travelers exiting to SR 167/Portland Avenue or coming from the Port of Tacoma Road sometime in the summer of 2021. All lanes of the new bridge are tentatively scheduled to open in fall 2021. There is a lot of work left on the project such as finishing the new East L Street overpass, replacing the original roadway surface of I-5, and removing the old 1960s era bridge spans.
A drone's-eye view of the construction site of the southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge.

We know this has been a long time coming and we are just as eager as you are to finish the job!

Thank you for your continued patience. Please help keep workers safe by paying attention to the road in front of you as your drive through the work zone.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Partnering with UW students to provide real-life experience

By Angie Millar

Forging ahead through the difficulties of a remote-learning environment, University of Washington engineering students completed a project that could change the way we maintain infrastructure.

As part of our partnership with the UW, earlier this year, mechanical and electrical engineering students designed a small remote-controlled vehicle that can be used in cramped spaces, specifically to inspect culverts. With several culvert failings statewide each year, we are working to improve our ability to maintain current infrastructure by investing in new solutions like the HydroCUB bot designed by UW. Culvert failings can lead to flooding, sinkholes, and other environmental issues.
The HydroCUB bot designed by UW students can easily work in small spaces allowing
for better inspection of culverts and bridges.

Building a better bot
To inspect culverts, we currently use a remote-controlled vehicle bot called the HIVE bot, which has a few flaws students hoped to improve on. The HIVE bot runs on WiFi and cannot operate if it is out of range. The camera used on the HIVE bot also has limited mobility and sits too close to the ground.
The HydroCUB bot is able to operate without using WiFi. It also is equipped with a better camera to give inspectors improved views of potential issues, and has more speed control to allow for more precise operation.
Work on the HydroCUB bot project will continue in 2021 when UW students will complete two prototypes, one of which we will keep to use to improve our culvert inspections.

The work students completed would typically be done in a laboratory with in-person guidance. However, the pandemic pushed students, engineers and professors to adopt a virtual approach. In 2021, another team of students will work virtually on building two prototypes of the HydroCUB bot, one of which we will use to inspect culverts and even bridges.

A hands-on partnership
This work is an extension of the partnership we have with UW through which some of our hydraulic and environmental design and construction experts mentor and guide civil and environmental engineering students working on their final projects. We provide a list of possible projects to the professor— Faisal Hossain – which often include fish passage improvement work, and they pick one or two best suited for students to get involved with. Students work on teams for these industry-sponsored projects and then present the finished work to peers and professionals.
The partnership between our construction staff and UW civil and environmental engineering students is typically done in person but the pandemic has moved the partnership online, where students present their final projects virtually.

This type of project-oriented work provides students with hands-on experience interacting with industry professionals that not only helps them learn, but also to get a job in the field of their choice after graduation.

Students at UW and Washington State University also assist in collecting and analyzing data for various research projects. This helps transportation agencies get valuable information about projects, equity and more. Every summer the Data Science for Social Good program brings students from different schools around the nation together to work on in-depth projects.

Research projects involving both graduate and undergraduate students occur in a wide variety of subject areas ranging from Connected Vehicles and other Intelligent Transportation Systems, to examining how to reduce the frequency of wildlife-vehicle collisions, to more environmentally-friendly snow and ice control systems and water runoff treatments, to the design and construction of more seismically resistant bridges and more environmentally sustainable paving materials.

Past projects included an analysis of the equity of the use of I-405’s Express Toll Lanes, the Seattle Mobility Index Project and improving transit services using ORCA data. This program provides recent data that can assist agencies in tailoring their approach, solutions and work for communities.

We also have a popular internship program where most students work in our engineering offices and Traffic Management Centers. However, we also have roles within other offices such as environmental, real estate services, tolling, human resources, and even in our ferries engine rooms.
Taylor Lenderman interned at our Bellingham office this past summer, working on a variety of projects as part of our popular internship program.

Similar to our mentorship of university projects, interns are able to get hands-on experience developing practical solutions, better preparing them for careers.

For more information about career opportunities and internships, please visit us online.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Newly installed left-turn on SR 503 north of Battle Ground helps improve safety

By Kathryn Garcia-Stackpole

It's no surprise that we're seeing more people using State Route 503 – also known as Lewisville Highway – north of Battle Ground. New housing opportunities, proximity to outdoor recreation and economic activity in the area make Clark County our state's fourth-fastest-growing county.

The intersection of SR 503 near Northeast 299th Street and Northeast McBride Road has become increasingly difficult for people to get into and out of as more than 12,000 vehicles now travel this stretch of highway each day. This added congestion is also resulting in more collisions.

We knew something had to be done.
A low-cost solution
Sometimes, a relatively low-cost, somewhat simple solution can make a big difference.

In this case, adding left-turn lanes on the highway.

Our project team studied the area, including traffic and collision data, and gathered feedback from the community to develop a solution within the available budget.

Two left-turn lanes were added in late September at the intersection. These new turn lanes help limit possible conflicts between through traffic on the two-lane highway and vehicles slowing to turn. These also help reduce potential rear-end and side-impact crashes as well as provide refuge for left turning traffic while promoting lower speed through the intersection.

By making the most of the existing infrastructure of the highway, crews were able to provide left-turn  lanes in both directions on SR 503 at the intersection by reducing the shoulder width, beefing up the shoulder pavement depth, removing the centerline rumble strips and restriping the existing roadway.

Done ahead of schedule
Working within COVID-19 safety protocols has made construction and maintenance work even more challenging. State-mandated furloughs, limited budget and increased safety precautions all mean road work may move a bit slower than usual. But in this case, our project team was able to complete this project ahead of schedule, needing just four days to open the new turn lanes and completing the work for just $70,000.

As our video above shows, we're already seeing good safety improvements from the project and feedback from the public has been positive. Road work during the time of a pandemic is a big challenge but we're proud of the work our project team did in working with the public to develop this low-cost solution to an ever-busy traffic area!