Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Preservation work on I-5 Stillaguamish River bridge completed

By Meggan Carrigg Davidson

If you traveled on southbound Interstate 5 over the Stillaguamish River bridge in Arlington this past summer you probably noticed a lot of activity. Our contractor, Southern Road & Bridge, LLC, began repainting the bridge and replacing some of the worn 88-year-old original steel that helps support the structure. The bridge's trusses were stripped to bare metal and received a new coat of paint to protect the aging structure for years to come.

While we kept two lanes open in both directions along I-5 during the peak of summer traffic, we know there were some delays and we appreciate everyone's patience while we got this work done!

Work on the southbound I-5 Stillaguamish River bridge was done under a full
containment system to protect the waterway below.

Preservation work was needed

Existing paint on the southbound Stillaguamish bridge was weathered and damaged, allowing corrosion to occur. This project removed old, chipped paint and corrosion, taking the entire bridge back to bare metal for the first time since 1933.

The contractor cleaned exposed metal and applied a total of 2,476 gallons of paint under a full containment system to protect the waterway below. They also replaced two minor steel members and 1,414 rivets and bolts.

Much more than just a matter of appearance, new paint helps prolong the life of the bridge by preventing rust and other corrosion.

Crews used 2,476 gallons of paint and replaced two minor steel members and 1,414 rivets and bolts on the bridge.
Here’s a look at before and after the work.

Where did traffic go during this closure?

From June through October, all southbound I-5 traffic was diverted onto the existing median bypass on the adjacent northbound lanes. This kept both directions of I-5 moving during the preservation work.

For drivers who have been around awhile, you may remember that in 2014 we used the same crossover when the southbound bridge deck was replaced after 81 years of service. It took about four months to complete that work and the bridge reopened in November 2014. During this most recent work, crews were able to utilize the existing median bypass on either side of the bridges to again accommodate this necessary work.

All southbound I-5 traffic was diverted onto the existing median bypass
on the adjacent northbound lanes.

A bit more to do

This coming spring be prepared for some lane closures over a few weeks as crews complete permanent erosion control in the median. This work will include final stabilization and sediment control of the excavated areas.

Stillaguamish River bridge's history

The southbound Stillaguamish River bridge was built in 1933 to carry US 99. When I-5 opened in the 1960s, the bridge became part of the interstate, carrying two lanes in each direction. A new northbound bridge opened in 1971 and traffic was separated, resulting in three lanes on each bridge. The southbound steel truss bridge comprises three spans over the river and spans 607 feet.

Each bridge carries an average of 39,000 vehicles per day, but that can rise to 50,000 per day during the summer.

A look at before (left) and after of the preservation work on the I-5 Stillaguamish River bridge

The rest is history!

This bridge has seen its fair share of normal wear and tear over the years. Again, we thank you for your patience and care during the completion of the restoration work. We are excited to see the bridge back in action for its crucial role in transporting goods and services along the I-5 corridor.

You can check out photos of all the stages of work in our Stillaguamish River bridge Flickr album.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Routine work night becomes heroic rescue for signals technician

By Stefanie Randolph

Most of Casey O'Connell's challenges as a signal technician involve fixing a signal cabinet or figuring out why traffic lights aren't operating as they should be. But on Nov. 10, he faced a huge challenge, and we're so proud about how he rose to the occasion.

At around 3 a.m. on November 10, Casey was driving a signal truck toward Puyallup on State Route 512 to repair a signal cabinet that'd been damaged in a crash early that morning when he witnessed the worst thing he could imagine seeing: a head-on collision.

Casey O’Connell was on his way to a routine signals repair job when he witnessed a head-on collision
and helped rescue one of the drivers from their burning vehicle.

Just before Canyon Road, he saw a car cross the median and strike a vehicle going the other direction. There was no one else around and Casey knew he needed to check on the people, so he turned around at the next exit and was the first on the scene.

When he arrived, one car was on fire. He immediately looked inside and saw the driver was conscious but not moving.

"I asked her if she could move," Casey said. "She said she was hurt. I told her we had to get her out right now because the car was on fire. I pulled on the door and it wouldn't open, so I had to give it my all. She couldn't move, so I picked her up out of the car."

The driver of this car that was involved in a head-on crash was pulled to safety
by Casey O’Connell, one of our signals technicians.

Casey carried the woman to the road while someone else called 911. By then, the car was engulfed in flames. First responders arrived within minutes and after they took over the scene, Casey went on to Puyallup to help another signal technician with the original task of repairing the damaged signal cabinet.

Fortunately the woman Casey rescued is recovering from several broken bones.

While rescuing people on the highway isn't in Casey's job description, we aren't surprised that when faced with an emergency he didn't think twice about stepping up with heroic actions.

"It was definitely scary," he said. "I didn't even care about how hot it was. I had one thing on my mind, and that was to get her out."

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Maintenance crews clear dozens of landslides in Clallam County following storm

By Tina Werner and Mark Krulish

The Nov. 15 storm that hit western Washington had a significant effect on the Olympic Peninsula, closing US 101 and State Routes 112, 113 and 110 in multiple locations. Reopening these routes was no small task for our hardworking maintenance crews. While the repair work on US 101 and SR 112 is ongoing, crews made great progress in really challenging conditions to re-establish critical lifeline routes to Clallam County communities.

Wet conditions got a whole lot wetter

Leading up to the Nov. 15 storm, a month's worth of rain had already fallen in the Olympic Peninsula in less than two weeks. The soil was saturated, and the rivers were high.

Then the storm brought another round of heavy rain, coupled with high tides and wind, which hit the peninsula with a vengeance.

Clallam County PUD placed a temporary water line over the slide at milepost 15.8 near Clallam Bay. The site continues to move and our team is designing a long-term fix, purchasing right-of-way and working with partners on a path forward.

As the atmospheric river dropped more-than-generous precipitation across our state, Port Angeles maintenance lead Jim Hart said the sheer amount of water on the roadway was "unreal." Crews worked quickly to ensure roads weren't completely washed away as water came spilling down the hillside. They cleared slides and debris as much as they safely could, although some sections of road were blocked by flood waters and crews couldn't even reach them until after Tuesday evening.

The Forks and Neah Bay communities were cut off from the rest of the state and we knew we had to restore their access ASAP. We called in crews from other areas including Kitsap, Grays Harbor and Mason counties to clear downed trees, landslides, and blocked culverts.

Our first goal was to get US 101 reopened. Reopening this highway would restore travel across the peninsula and give us access to SR 113 and SR 112.

A look at the closure locations on the Olympic Peninsula at 5 p.m. on Nov. 15 following a major rain storm

US 101 at Lake Crescent

At the Lake Crescent site alone, truck operators removed 5,000 yards of debris using four excavators, two front-end loaders and 11 dump trucks. Thirty-two people and more than 915 combined hours later, we were able to get  US 101 between Forks and Port Angeles reopened.

Reopening US 101 at Lake Crescent was a combined effort by Olympic National Park,
Clallam County and our crews from across the region.

US 101 south of Forks

A landslide closed US 101 at milepost 185 near Forks after the storm. The slide affected approximately 50 feet of roadway and three smaller embankment failures filled a ditch with debris and trees, clogging a nearby culvert, which caused water to spill onto the roadway. Our crews were able to clear downed trees, debris and water, and install a jersey barrier in the center to reopen a path out of Forks. Crews restored one-way alternating travel near Kallman Road on Wednesday, Nov. 17 after two days of work. An emergency contract is being prepared for a long-term fix of the site. Smaller slides on SR 113 and SR 110 were cleared in the days that followed.

The situation at US 101 at milepost 185 south of Forks

US 101 at the Elwha River Bridge

In 2016, bridge crews discovered erosion on some of the piers on the US 101 Elwha River Bridge in Port Angeles. Since then, we have had an emergency plan in place that involves closing the bridge when water levels reach certain flows to prevent further erosion. This was the first time since 2016 we've had to implement this plan. The bridge remained closed until water levels dropped low enough for engineers to inspect the bridge piers. The 80-plus-year-old bridge is on track to be replaced in summer 2022.

The US 101 Elwha River Bridge was closed for two days due to high river water.

Structural engineers continued to monitor the Elwha bridge piers for scour for two full days before recommending its reopening on Nov. 17.

Bridge crews used an Under Bridge Inspection Truck to evaluate the piers and columns
of the US 101 Elwha River Bridge prior to reopening it.

SR 112 between mileposts 0 to 11 near Neah Bay also reopened on Wednesday, Nov. 17. Our maintenance crews cleared 14 sites within the 11-mile stretch. Flooding of the Hoko River prevented crews from accessing and evaluating damage west of milepost 12 until Tuesday evening. Crews removed debris from small slides and cleared drainage culverts to prevent flowing of further debris and damage to the roadway.

Thanks to the work of our crews, we are down to only two remaining closures.

SR 112  is closed at milepost 32 near Jim Creek and 15.8 near Clallam Bay leading to Neah Bay, which we discussed in greater detail in an earlier blog. Both sites will require emergency contracts to reopen, and our design engineers are developing long-term fixes. We expect to have a contract available for competitive bids in early 2022.

On Friday, Dec. 3, crews repairs and opened Eagle Crest Way, a temporary bypass route around the slide at Clallam Bay for local traffic. This allows Clallam Bay and Neah Bay residents a way to access other needs across the peninsula.

A huge challenge

This storm's aftermath was an incredible challenge for our crews. Veteran employees like Hart work hard to keep our roadways clear. They talk with homeowners near closures about the incident and request entry to begin repairs, work with local public utility districts to clear powerlines, remove downed trees, and keep our tribal and jurisdictional partners updated.

Our crews simply attribute the work as part of their job, and while that's true, there's no arguing that the work they put in in these emergency situations is extraordinary. They care about our transportation facilities and the people who rely on them. Not only do they work in this area, they also live here, drive these roads and interact with others who live there, and they take great pride in keeping the roadways safe for everyone. Please remember to watch out for workers, and if you see them, slow down in work zones. If you get a chance, thank them for working diligently all year long.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

It's beginning to look a lot like construction on I-405 in Totem Lake

By Victoria Miller

With the holiday season in full swing, it's possible that you are out on the roads doing some shopping for yourself or your loved ones. If you're traveling on Interstate 405 in Kirkland, you could be doing that shopping at the Village at Totem Lake. Do you ever wish there was another exit in that area? Well you're in luck because a new interchange is coming by way of the I-405/NE 132nd Street Interchange Project.

Why a new interchange?

We will construct a new on-ramp to northbound I-405 and a new off-ramp from southbound I-405 at Northeast 132nd Street, creating a half-diamond interchange that will complement the other half-diamond interchange at Northeast 116th Street farther south on I-405 in Kirkland. This new interchange will ease congestion on the local streets, improve non-motorized facilities, and provide an additional access point to and from I-405.

The project design also includes roundabouts at the future ramps, which will replace the traffic signals you see there today. We will create connections on Northeast 132nd Street to better manage traffic flow, and we will make sidewalk and bicycle lane improvements along both sides of Northeast 132nd Street and its connecting streets in the project area.

Once the project is complete, which is anticipated to be in 2024, travelers will have the option to access I-405 to and from the north at Northeast 132nd Street rather than traveling to the heavily congested Northeast 124th Street or Northeast 160th Street interchanges.

The I-405/Northeast 132nd Street Interchange Project is funded by the 2015 Connecting Washington funding package. The project is part of the I-405 Master Plan, which includes more than 150 projects designed to improve travel between Lynnwood and the Renton/Tukwila area.

What should I expect in the near term?

As of mid-November 2021, crews have begun pre-construction work including initial field investigations, surveying the work site, clearing brush, and conducting geotechnical borings. This work will continue in the first few months of 2022.

How can I find out more information?

Our team will be hosting its first quarterly public meeting at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 15 via Zoom Webinar. We will be giving a project update, sharing more information about upcoming work, and answering your questions. Register to join us if you are interested in learning more about the project. You can also sign up for email updates on this project by messaging us at i405sr167program@wsdot.wa.gov. That's also a good email to send us any questions you may have about the project, or call us at 425-224-2433.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

What’s the status of SR 112 in Clallam County?

Update: March 22, 2022

Clallam Bay

Crews reopened State Route 112 at Clallam Bay at 6 p.m. Monday, March 21 to two-way travel for the first time since November 2021 following a massive landslide and regionwide flooding. Travelers may encounter intermittent lane closures with flaggers as crew complete final guardrail installation and hillside seeding. A portion of the highway will remain a temporary gravel surface until crews are cleared to pave it after the highway dropped 6 inches. Engineering geologists continue to monitor the new roadway settlement, which was discovered on Thursday, March 17. The temporary detour on Eagle Crest Way has been removed and returned to private property owners. We would like to thank travelers, residents, the Makah Tribe, and property owners of Eagle Crest Way for their cooperation and support during this closure.

Jim Creek

Construction at milepost 32 further east is expected to begin late March. More information about this emergency repair project is available online.

Update: March 18, 2022

Clallam Bay

As our emergency contractor was finalizing re-grade work at milepost 15.8 near Clallam Bay to reopen the highway on Thursday, March 17, crews discovered additional settlement had occurred. The highway has settled approximately six inches since the roadway repairs had been made. The dynamics of large landslides are complex, and because SR 112 sits on an active slide zone, we are taking immediate action. Our geotechnical engineers are on site today and will recommend next steps for reopening. Crews anticipate additional repairs will take place the week of March 21 to reopen the highway as quickly as possible. Travelers will continue to detour using Eagle Crest Way around the slide until further notice.

Update: Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Clallam Bay

Our emergency contractor continues to make good progress clearing milepost 15.8. As of Monday, Feb. 28, crews hauled 39,700 cubic yards of debris from the hillside and roadway. Next steps include erosion control measures and replacing a damaged culvert beneath the highway. From there, crews will rebuild the highway, install new guardrail, and complete hillside seeding. We expect to reopen SR 112 at Clallam Bay in the coming weeks. Project webpage: https://wsdot.wa.gov/construction-planning/search-projects/sr-112-clallam-bay-emergency-repairs

Jim Creek

The design solution at Jim Creek is more complex. We expect to have a contract out to bidders by March 4, 2022, for a bid opening in mid-March. With a rapid award and execution process, crews could mobilize and begin work later this month. Work will include ground drainage measures, improved surface drainage, and rebuilding the roadway. Construction should last through spring 2022. Project webpage: https://wsdot.wa.gov/construction-planning/search-projects/sr-112-jim-creek-west-emergency-repairs

Update: Feb. 15, 2022

Clallam Bay

At milepost 15.85, our emergency contractor is making progress towards reopening SR 112. Crews have removed 15,000 cubic yards of hillside debris. They are on schedule to reopen SR 112 at Clallam Bay in early spring 2022. Until then, travelers will continue to use the bypass route, Eagle Crest Way which is maintained weekly by construction crews.

Jim Creek

Further east at milepost 32, design solutions for Jim Creek are more complex. Through a rapid award and execution process, we anticipate construction to begin the week of March 7. Work will include ground drainage measures, improved surface drainage, and rebuilding the roadway. Repairs are expected to take 8 weeks to complete.

Update: Feb. 1, 2022

Clallam Bay

This week, our contractor mobilized heavy equipment to milepost 15.8 and will begin work to install fencing and prepare the waste site. Eagle Crest Way remains open to all traffic while repairs to the Clallam Bay slide are underway. Work is expected to take 8 weeks to complete.

Jim Creek

Our design engineers are finalizing contract plans. We expect to solicit bids the week of Feb. 14, and with rapid award and execution, begin work as soon as the week of Feb. 28. Construction to reopen the Jim Creek slide includes ground drainage improvements, debris removal, guardrail installation and rebuilding the highway. Work is expected to take 8 weeks to complete.

Update: Jan. 18, 2022

Clallam Bay

On Tuesday, Jan. 18, we solicited bids to five emergency contractors related to long-term repairs to State Route 112 at milepost 15.8 near Clallam Bay. We expect to receive bids back on Thursday, Jan. 20 and, with a rapid award and execution process, start work the week of Jan. 24.

Work is expected to take 4-8 weeks to complete. The temporary bypass route via Eagle Crest Way will remain open and maintained by a separate contractor until repairs to the Clallam Bay site are complete.

Jim Creek

We are awaiting final design recommendations from our engineering geologists on long-term repairs to reopen SR 112 at milepost 32 near Jim Creek. Those recommendations determine our final plans and proposal documents we provide to contractors.

We expect to solicit bids on Friday, Feb. 4. With rapid award and execution of this emergency contract, we anticipate work to begin the week of Feb. 14.

Work is expected to take 4-8 weeks to complete

Update: Jan. 4, 2022

Clallam Bay

Final engineering, hydraulic design, and survey work to reopen SR 112 at milepost 15.8 near Clallam Bay is almost complete. We have obtained emergency entry permits to work along the hillside away from state right of way. We are pursuing long-term design solutions to reduce the frequency and severity of potential future slide activity.

With the recent winter weather behind us, our emergency contractor will grade the Eagle Crest Way bypass route on Wednesday, Jan. 5. Grading, patching, and plowing will continue through Friday, Jan. 7. Travelers should expect one-way alternating conditions with flaggers while repairs are underway to the route.

We expect to have a contract available for competitive bids the week of Jan. 10. Bid opening follows the next week. Because SR 112 is a vital link for the local community, we are conducting an expedited bid and award process of five days. We expect to have a contractor on board to begin site mobilization the week of Jan. 24.

Work to reopen the highway includes removing hillside and roadway debris, slope stabilization efforts, roadway repairs, installation of new guardrail, replacement of damaged culvert pipes, erosion control, and seeding.

A contract for the Clallam Bay slide will also include maintenance of Eagle Crest Way until work is complete. Construction should last up to 8 weeks. Eagle Crest Way will remain open to all traffic during construction.

Jim Creek

Further east, the repairs necessary to reopen SR 112 at milepost 32 near Jim Creek are more complex due to the nature of the slide zone. The work for Jim Creek will be a separate contract from the Clallam Bay slide. We expect to advertise for competitive bids in Feb. 2022. Right of way permitting and design work is underway through late January. Travelers will continue to detour around the slide via SR 113 and US 101 until further notice. Repairs to Jim Creek should take up to 8 weeks.

Please continue to follow our blog and social media channels for the latest updates on SR 112.

Update: Dec. 23, 2021

State Route 112 at milepost 15.8 near Clallam Bay remains blocked after more than 300 feet of the hillside toppled onto the highway last month. We continue to maintain the temporary bypass route at Eagle Crest Way to ensure nearby communities have access and necessary supplies. Maintenance crews smoothed the surface again last Thursday with several truckloads of gravel. Please travel slowly in the area to help keep the bypass roadway smoother.

On Monday, Dec. 20, emergency contractor Bruch and Bruch Construction, Inc. took over maintaining the temporary bypass road. Bruch and Bruch will grade the gravel road and monitor the temporary traffic signal until repairs to the Clallam Bay slide site are complete. A tentative schedule for releasing an emergency contract to repair the Clallam Bay and Jim Creek sites is underway now, as well as right-of-way permitting, survey and maintenance work.

Update: Dec. 14, 2021

SR 112 at milepost 15.8 near Clallam Bay remains saturated and unstable. Our engineering geologists have completed their preliminary investigations and expect construction to take approximately four to eight weeks to reopen the highway once we can get started clearing the roadway of debris and stabilizing the slope.

Further east, repairs to the nearly two and a half feet of roadway settlement at Jim Creek (milepost 32) are complex. Our crews have installed monitoring devices at Jim Creek to evaluate earth movement. After it's stable, we can begin the work to reopen the highway, and we expect the work to reopen SR 112 at Jim Creek to take four to six weeks.

Our designers, engineering geologists and construction experts are working together to develop a timeline for an emergency contract. We'll update this blog with more information about the process and contracts when we have it.

Update: Dec. 6, 2021

Crews completed repairs to a temporary bypass route at Eagle Crest Way on Friday, Dec. 3. Crews will maintain and operate the bypass while repairs to SR 112 are underway. Unfortunately, the Clallam Bay slide (milepost 15.8) is still moving. Additional debris fell Sunday, Nov. 28, extending the slide area another 200 feet across the roadway.

Engineering geologists are evaluating the Clallam Bay site to encompass new debris that includes drainage solutions prior to excavation work. While design work remains underway for both Clallam Bay and Jim Creek sites, project engineers hope to have a contract available for competitive bids in early 2022. Our team is working with local property owners to obtain temporary right-of-way permits to allow crews access to areas where repairs will be necessary. We will continue to update this blog as we know more information.


By Stefanie Randolph

It was a rough November for Clallam County, as you may have heard. A strong storm closed every state highway in the county on Nov. 15, keeping road crews busy trying to assess and clear debris and keeping travelers either stuck or finding long alternate routes.

While our crews worked around the clock to reopen as many roadways as possible – pulling crews from Aberdeen and Port Orchard to help – State Route 112 remains closed, and because it will require some extensive repairs, it could be a while before it fully reopens.

Why? Some of these pictures tell the story. An initial slide near Clallam Bay was 275 feet wide and covered 325 feet of the highway. And it's still moving – more debris fell this past Sunday, Nov. 28, extending the slide area another 200 feet across the roadway. In short, it's a really big slide, and still active and potentially dangerous area.

Left: The initial slide covering SR 112 near Clallam Bay was 275 feet wide and covered 325 feet of highway.
Right: Since the first slide, more debris has fallen onto the roadway at SR 112 near Clallam Bay,
preventing crews from safely moving into the area.

Our geologists are regularly monitoring the site but until the hillside is stable, we can't safely go in and clear debris or begin repairs. With Gov. Inslee's emergency declaration, we are able to expedite the process – including finding an emergency contractor – but there are still several steps that have to be taken, including designing a safe repair plan. We don't have a timeline yet for all of this as it's dependent on the site stabilizing enough for crews to move in.

Temporary help

The good news is we have restored some local travel. Earlier this week, we secured permits to establish a temporary bypass route around the slide area to accommodate local traffic including school buses and commercial vehicles. The route uses a private two-lane road with one-way alternating in one spot. On Wednesday, Dec. 1 and Thursday, Dec. 2 there will be some delays while we do some maintenance in that area. We'll maintain and repair this road until SR 112 is reopened. There will be signs to help travelers get through the area.

Left: Another 200 more feet of SR 112 have been covered by slide debris after the initial slide covered 325 feet of roadway. Right: Near Jim Creek, SR 112 has dropped about 2 feet and will need extensive repairs to fix.

What about Jim Creek?

The Clallam Bay site isn't the only spot that remains closed. SR 112 at milepost 32 near Jim Creek is also closed after the storm resulted in standing water, roadway settlement and a debris slide. Once our crews were able to safely respond to that area, they found that the road had dropped more than 2 feet and will also require an emergency contract to reopen.

This is the same area where we recently finished repairs after a storm in Dec. 2020 dropped the highway almost 13 feet.

Progress

After November's initial storm, SR 112 was also closed between mileposts 0-11 near Neah Bay. Our crews were able to clear that stretch. Flooding of the Hoko River prevented crews from evaluating damage west of milepost 12 until late Tuesday, November 16. Once they were able to get safely through, maintenance crews cleared 14 sites within the 11-mile section and reopened it on November 17. They removed debris from small slides and cleared drainage culverts to prevent flowing of further debris and damage to the roadway.

Real-time travel information is available on our updated travel center map and travelers can sign up for project email alerts. Once we know more, we will share that info but in the meantime, please do not go beyond road closure signs and stay alert for road workers.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Maintenance crew goes above and beyond to help rescue missing traveler

By Mike Allende

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks, and we couldn't be more thankful for the incredible caring actions of our Blewett Pass maintenance crew workers recently.

Lynell McFarland, a 68-year-old woman from Spokane Valley, went missing on Thursday, Nov. 18 after leaving a friend's house in Ellensburg. A Silver Alert was issued and the Kittitas County Sheriff's office launched a search.

Meanwhile, Aaron Byrd, our Maintenance Lead Tech for Blewett Pass, was off duty when he noticed a social media post about the missing person, which included a picture of where her cellphone had last pinged from. He recognized the location and alerted the night maintenance crew, letting them know where to look.

The car of a missing driver who went over an embankment on Blewett Pass was tracked down by our maintenance workers after one of them recognized the location of the last place the cell phone of the driver pinged.

Heading out to the spot near the Blewett Pass summit in snowplows at about 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22, maintenance techs Koby Todd and Gunnar Lantz checked over an embankment and spotted a vehicle about 40 feet down that matched the description of the car. As you can see in these pictures, it's remarkable they spotted it given that it was dark, the vehicle is black and it was surrounded by trees and debris. Knowing precisely where to look and taking the extra time to do so was vital.

Emergency responders rescue a woman who went over an embankment on Blewett Pass and was stuck in her car for several days until our maintenance team tracked down the car.

Our crew alerted emergency responders who roped down over the embankment. Thankfully, Lynell was still conscious in her vehicle!

She was transported to Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee with minor injuries.

A Silver Alert was issued for Lynell McFarland after she went missing after leaving her friend’s house in Ellensburg. Our maintenance team was able to find her over an embankment near the Blewett Pass summit.

Our road workers look at these type of situations as nothing out of the ordinary – just something they do as part of their job. But we know differently.

Yes, helping the public is something they do every day. But acts like this go above and beyond their normal work, and we couldn't be more proud of them. It was truly extraordinary actions they took to help the stranded woman and we are so grateful to have outstanding people like them working on our roads to help keep the public safe.

We are thankful for them today, and every day. And we're also very thankful that Lynell was rescued and is spending Thanksgiving getting the care she needs.

Friday, November 12, 2021

First major stage of SR 509 Completion project starting soon

By Lizzy Buechel

As usual this fall, we are seeing shorter days and leaves changing colors. If you drive in south King County or live or work near I-5 in Des Moines, Kent, or SeaTac you may also notice another change: the beginning of construction on the SR 509/I-5 to 24th Avenue South Expressway project. This four-year project starts sometime in November, depending on weather.

Through the SR 509/I-5 to 24th Avenue South Expressway project, we will provide a new connection to Sea-Tac International Airport, reduce truck travel on local roads, and improve access and safety for those who walk, roll, and use transit in the area. This work is part of the SR 509 Completion Project, which will extend SR 509 from where it currently ends at South 188th Street, to I-5.

This blog is the first in a series that will inform you about construction and what you can expect each step of the way. We start with a detailed look at where we are beginning construction – the I-5/SR 516 Interchange and the South 216th Street Bridge.

Want more information? Check out the SR 509/1-5 to 24th Avenue S. – Expressway Project Online Open House to find more details around SR 509 construction including primary work zones and schedules. The online open house is open through December 13.

I-5/SR 516 Interchange
The biggest change to the I-5/SR 516 interchange will be the construction of a new Veterans Drive undercrossing of I-5. The new undercrossing and Veterans Drive extension will provide a relief valve for drivers going to and from the Kent Valley, as it includes new access to both directions of I-5 and the new SR 509 Expressway. Combined with new and reconstructed ramps at the existing interchange, drivers will have a smoother trip through the area and new options for getting to where they want to go.

The first thing drivers may notice this fall is a slight shift of southbound I-5, which will move towards the median so that crews can widen the I-5 bridge over Kent-Des Moines Road. Crews will also be shifting lanes on Kent-Des Moines Road under I-5.

If you walk, roll, or use transit in this area you can expect the access you have today until 2024, when one of the two eastbound bus bays will temporarily close. The new eastbound SR 516 bus stop will open later in 2024.

If you live or work in the area you can expect typical construction impacts including heavy equipment, noise, and nighttime work on I-5.

A reconfigured SR 516 interchange, new ramps that provide connections between SR 509 and I-5, and non-motorized improvements will make it easier for people who drive, walk, bike and use transit to travel through the area.

South 216th Street Bridge
To build the new ramps to the SR 509 Expressway, we need to demolish and replace the existing South 216th bridge. Unlike the existing bridge, the new bridge will include sidewalks, bike lanes and a turn lane, to make it easier and safer for all people to get across I-5 in this location. Those who walk and roll will have access across the bridge throughout construction.

The new bridge will have one lane in each direction, a center turn lane, 5-foot-wide bike lanes and 6-foot-wide sidewalks.

Crews will construct the eastbound lanes of the new bridge next to the existing bridge, between early 2022 and early 2023. During this stage, the bridge will be open to both directions of traffic, but there will be changes on I-5 where we will reduce lane widths and shift lanes on I-5 between SR 516 and South 200th Street. This will allow crews to build the new bridge and ramps connecting I-5 to the new SR 509.

From mid-2023 to late 2023, we will demolish the existing South 216th Street bridge, and construction on the westbound lanes of the new bridge will begin. During this second stage, the bridge will close to eastbound traffic for approximately six months. A signed detour route will direct drivers across I-5 at South 200th Street.

The new South 216th Street bridge will be open during stage three of construction, with periodic lane closures. The new bridge will fully open by the end of 2023/early 2024.

The new bridge will be built in stages to minimize affects to the traveling public.

Drivers can expect nighttime lane closures on I-5 in 2022 and 2023 when crews demolish the old bridge and set girders for the new bridge. When these lane closures happen, all but one lane of either northbound or southbound I-5 will close overnight, typically between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Drivers can also expect periodic single and double lane closures at night throughout construction.

Need a quick refresher?
The SR 509 Completion Project is part of the Puget Sound Gateway Program, which also includes the SR 167 Completion Project. Together these projects will help truck traffic move more efficiently and ease congestion throughout the Puget Sound region. These improvements will enhance the state's economic competitiveness, both nationally and globally, connecting the state's largest ports to key distribution centers in King and Pierce counties.

When finished, SR 509 will provide new access to the airport, allow drivers to bypass I-5, SR 518, and help get freight off local streets. That means, among other things, less truck idling and related CO2 emissions in the area due to heavy traffic. In addition to SR 99 tunnel improvements, this project will also create a critical north-south alternative to I-5 through Seattle and King County.

The project will improve access through the area with interchange improvements, new ramps that connect I-5 to SR 509, and the first mile of the SR 509 expressway.

The SR 509/I-5 to 24th Avenue South Expressway Project is the first major stage of the greater SR 509 Completion Project. This first major stage of construction will begin in late 2021 and will end in 2025. We will complete the SR 509 Completion Project with Stage 2 between 2024 and 2028.

If you still have questions, you can call the construction information line at (206) 225-0674 or email the project email at sr509construction@wsdot.wa.gov.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Crash Responder Safety Week: This week, and every week, our crews need you help protecting roadside workers

By Celeste Dimichina

A split-second glance in the mirror – and the safety training behind it – likely saved Frank Stewart's life.

As a member of our Incident Response Team, Frank responds to all kinds of situations in a single shift. He can go from helping someone who has run out of gas to changing a spare tire to helping control traffic around a multi-vehicle crash scene – all while working next to active traffic.

So when he was called to a crash scene on State Route 14 in east Vancouver last December, Frank was already thinking how to keep himself and others safe. He parked his truck at an angle, for example, knowing it would help shield emergency workers up ahead from the passing traffic.

Despite orange flashing lights on his truck, Frank also knew to take the extra step of checking his mirrors one last time before stepping out of his vehicle. And that's when he saw a truck approaching at full speed and switching lanes. An instant later the driver struck Frank's truck and landed in a ditch. Neither Frank nor the driver were seriously injured but if Frank hadn't done one last mirror check this event could easily have ended in tragedy.

The damage to the front of our IRT truck was bad enough but if this was a worker instead of a
 vehicle this could have ended as a tragedy.

This is Crash Responder Safety Week but close calls like Frank's show why this safety message is important every day and every week of the year. As this year's Governor's proclamation reads, "the safety of all, including the traveling public and response personnel at incident scenes is of paramount concern." And that's why we need the public to stay alert any time you see flashing lights on the side of a road.

This is the second year Gov. Jay Inslee has issued a proclamation reminding all drivers about the importance of keeping all roadside responders – including transportation agency crews – safe.

Move over/Slow down whenever you see roadside flashing lights
In Washington, the Move over/Slow down law requires motorists to move over a lane or slow down as they pass emergency vehicles and other vehicles with flashing lights. While you may not think of them as emergency responders, that includes our highway maintenance crews making repairs as well IRT trucks like Frank drives. It also applies to tow trucks and utility trucks if their lights are activated.

If there is room, drivers should move over a lane as they approach these vehicles. If that's not possible then they must slow to 10 miles below the posted speed limit.

In addition to moving over to give roadside crews enough room to safely work, whenever you see flashing roadside lights please remember to:

  • Slow Down – drive the posted speeds (and 10 mph below them if unable to move over one lane)
  • Be kind – our workers are helping to keep you safe and improve the roadways
  • Pay Attention – both to workers directing you and surrounding traffic
  • Stay Calm – no meeting or appointment is worth risking someone's life

Help us keep our crews – and everyone on the road – safe
Frank has been with our agency for 27 years – 22 years in our maintenance department and five years in IRT. When he isn't working, Frank enjoys finding, collecting and refurbishing old Coleman lanterns. The lanterns are just another way he stays prepared for any sort of emergency.

Frank Stewart places traffic cones out along the roadway as one of several safety precautions to
 protect our maintenance crews doing road repairs.

We ask everyone to please remember folks like Frank and the dangers they face every day as they work along our roads and highways.

Doing your part to be as safe as possible when you enter a work zone or emergency response scene ensures everyone -- you, your passengers, surrounding travelers and our crews – make it back home safe every day.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Our second pandemic winter will look a little different – what you should expect

By Barbara LaBoe

These aren't ordinary times, and this won't be an ordinary winter on our roads.

Washington state is almost two years into a public health emergency of global proportions. Like many others in our state, this has affected our agency in a number of ways – including winter operations.

Our staff began winter prep work months ago, but we also want the public to know that things will look different this winter. And that's why it's more important than ever to plan ahead, be prepared and stay informed.

What to expect this winter

So, what will the public see this winter?

Safety is always our top priority – for those of you traveling and our employees. Our dedicated crews will absolutely still be out on the roadways, plowing during and after storms as well as preparing and, in some cases, pre-treating roadways before storms.

Drivers should be prepared for possible delays or closures during the winter while crews work to clear highways.

But we have fewer staff this winter for several reasons, which means roadways will look different during storms. Our work, as always, will be prioritized based on safety, resources and our pre-existing plowing priority maps based on volume and/or critical roads.

What to expect:

  • Some roads and passes will be closed longer than normal during and after significant storms.
  • Some roads will not get the same level or service, may be only plowed minimally or will have snow and ice on the roadway for longer periods of time. Some areas may not be staffed 24/7.
  • Especially during large storms or long-lasting ones, we won't have a deep enough "bench" of staff to respond 24/7 for several days throughout the storm.
  • Some lanes of the freeway system may have snow and ice while crews focus on keeping just one or two lanes open.
  • Lower speed limits in areas with variable speed limits.
  • There may be slower responses to crashes and other emergencies, and it may take longer to clear major crashes or slide-offs.
  • Less attention to secondary routes and recreation areas as crews focus on higher priority roadways.

Pandemic staffing issues

In a typical, pre-pandemic winter we have about 1,500 people in the jobs tied most directly to winter operations. (Many other staff throughout our agency also provide valuable support, of course).

Staffing has been a challenge for all kinds of businesses and agencies throughout the pandemic – and we're not immune:

  • An aging, close-to-retirement staff and pandemic-related hiring freezes, reduced revenue, furloughs, etc. left us understaffed going into last winter. Some of the positions we were able to fill were temporary and not permanent.
  • This past year, we've seen a global worker shortage as well as very high demand for some of our key winter jobs, such as diesel mechanics and people with Commercial Drivers Licenses. It's not just in Washington, our fellow state DOTs are seeing the same challenges.
  • Some of our open positions – especially mechanics – are a force multiplier because if we can't keep trucks running, that affects each employee who uses that particular plow throughout the day.
  • Some of our internal promotions also create a secondary vacancy we then must fill.
  • In October, we had some staff leave the agency due to the state vaccine mandate – 5.9 percent agency-wide – which affected the already-low winter operations numbers.

We are actively and creatively recruiting to fill winter operations positions: please check our online site or @WSDOTjobs on Twitter for open positions and read about typical winter work on our 2020 blog.

Crews will be working hard to maintain highways this winter though some roads may not see
the same level of service they’ve seen in the past.

We're also prioritizing work and planning on shifting staff as needed to respond to storms in particular areas. But as of Oct. 19, 2021, of our typical 1,500 winter staffing positions, we were down almost 300 to 1,200 today. And even as positions are filled, training time means there's still a lag before we see increased crews on the road.

Our workers are incredibly dedicated and take the service they provide their communities personally. We know it's tough for them to not be able to provide the same level of service this year. But we simply can't ask these hard-working colleagues to do more with less. Safety is key here – we can't risk staff being injured or equipment being damaged by working crews beyond reasonable limits. It's not safe for anyone.

What you can do

As we do every year, we're asking that the public be prepared for winter conditions, including ensuring their vehicles are ready, packing winter supplies and staying informed about conditions both before and during travel. This year that will be even more important.

One person driving too fast or not having the proper equipment can close a pass down for everyone. In fact, on Snoqualmie Pass most closures are due to crashes and spin outs, not avalanche control work to remove higher mountain snow. So please, be prepared for winter conditions to help keep everyone moving.

We have several options to help you track conditions, including online tools, travel alerts and pass conditions webpages and our 511 telephone travel information line. Please also pack some extra winter supplies (PDF 1.5MB) and be prepared for delays when heading into storms. Keeping the gas tank filled, your mobile device charged and some extra snacks on hand is always a good idea. And remember, if you're unsure about your driving skills or your vehicle during a storm, there's no shame in delaying or canceling plans.

We know road and pass closures are frustrating even during a normal winter. And seeing more snow and ice on roads this winter won't be welcome news. Our crews will be out there, clearing and reopening roads as soon as it's safe to do so, but we also thank you for your patience as they do this work during these unusual times.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

New I-5 HOV lanes showing immediate benefit for travelers

By Cara Mitchell and Tim McCall

This October marked three years since the I-5 Steilacoom-DuPont Road to Thorne Lane Corridor Improvements projects began. While the contractor is wrapping things up, our traffic engineers are looking at how the addition of a new northbound and southbound high occupancy vehicle lane has changed traveling through this corridor.

In July 2021, when the northbound HOV lane first opened near 41st Division Drive at JBLM to Gravelly Lake Drive in Lakewood, drivers told us they saw an immediate improvement in drive time. The daily backups that previously occurred during the commute hours approaching 41st Division Drive vanished.

Three months later, an early look at the traffic data shows big benefits for travelers.

I-5 with HOV lanes open at Berkeley Street near JBLM and Lakewood's Tillicum neighborhood.

Ways to look at traffic data
Traffic data comes in different forms.  We can look at actual traffic volumes or look at traffic density or congestion.

Because the corridor has been under construction for three years, pulling accurate traffic data that uses traffic volumes can be misleading. Construction tends to skew that data because there are either reduced or shifted lanes that traffic sensors can't capture. This happens in large part because the instruments that we use to capture that data were disrupted or temporarily taken offline during construction.

The type of data that we can look at with a fair amount of confidence is density or congestion. That is what these heat maps show, and it reflects the feedback that travelers through the corridor are experiencing.

What these colorful maps represent
The colors in these density maps represent traffic congestion at different locations at different times.

  • Red and black indicate that things are slow going.
  • Yellow indicates some slowdowns.
  • Green is free flowing with no backups or delays.

The locations are listed on the right side of the map. The time of day is listed at the bottom.

The data chosen for the heat maps shown below were Tuesday through Thursday averages in the month of September for year 2019 and 2021. We are not using 2020 data due to the low traffic volumes associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Northbound I-5 traffic density in 2019 and 2021

In 2019, before the HOV lanes opened, travelers on northbound I-5 frequently saw heavy traffic volumes during the afternoon commute approaching JBLM Main Gate through Berkeley Street. The morning commute also saw frequent congestion, although not quite as dense as the afternoon, starting from SR 510 in Thurston County north to Berkeley Street in Lakewood.

The data from 2021 shows during the afternoon northbound commute the previous congestion disappeared, while the morning commute is not as heavy.

Southbound I-5
The story for southbound I-5 is encouraging.

In 2019, morning commuters on southbound I-5 saw very little congestion. If slowdowns happened, it was often seen approaching Berkeley Street and JBLM Main Gate. The afternoon commute painted a different story. Heavy traffic volumes typically would begin at 3 p.m. near SR 512 and continue south eight miles into DuPont.

The new southbound HOV lane made previous morning congestion disappear. The afternoon commute has been shortened. The congestion naturally moved further south. The graph above shows an afternoon commute starting at 4 p.m. near JBLM Main Gate. We still see some congestion during the afternoon commute near Berkeley, but it's for a shorter duration than before.

The congestion moved
Yes, in the afternoon on southbound I-5, the location where we see heavier traffic volumes has moved further south. One big reason for this is because the HOV lane and new auxiliary lane ends just south of 41st Division Drive – for now. The next phase of construction, scheduled to begin in 2023, will finish widening I-5 to Steilacoom-DuPont Road and extend the HOV lane a few miles south.

Many people ask why not widen I-5 further south past Mounts Road. It's something we are looking at, but right now there is no construction funding for it. We are aware of the congestion through Nisqually. In fact, these heat maps capture it. The cost to modify I-5 through the Nisqually Delta would be significant and require legislative action.

Project history
The I-5 Mounts Road to Thorne Lane Corridor Improvements Project was funded in 2015 by the State Legislature for $485 Million. That funding was spread out over 10 years and broken up into four separate construction projects. Traffic patterns, volumes and populations can easily fluctuate over 10 years. Just as the price of land has gone up for developers and homeowners, it goes up for construction projects too. It's a big reason why we look at the resources available to us. We use practical solutions, which is a process that solves problems and needs as quickly and inexpensively as possible, to help solve traffic problems. We made the choice to build HOV lanes – a traffic management tool that moves people rather than individual vehicles.

Some of our earliest traffic studies from the 1990s told us that HOV lanes on I-5 were going to be a necessity in the years ahead through Pierce County. Finding funding for improvements like this isn't easy, which is why when it is allocated, we have to design and build something that will take us as far into the future as we possibly can see.

Traffic patterns and data are always changing
We think it's important to mention that traffic patterns and volumes fluctuate daily. It may not be obvious to you when you're behind the wheel, but our traffic engineers see it. For example, weekdays see heavier traffic volumes at different times of the day than the weekends. Anyone who has endured a Friday afternoon commute on southbound I-5 knows just how difficult that journey can be. Likewise, traffic patterns change in the summer months when schools are on break and the summer travel season is in full swing. It's important for us to monitor this because it will help determine when a contractor can close lanes for a construction project, or when a good time is for maintenance crews to go inspect a bridge and not have a lane closure cause long backups tor travelers.

Monday, November 1, 2021

New WSDOT website goes live Nov. 7

By Mike Allende

A lot has changed with how we get and consume information in the past 15 years. Twitter was born. Streaming services blew up. Mobile devices became a regular part of our wardrobe. But one thing that hasn't changed in that time is our website.

Until now.

Starting Sunday, Nov. 7, people who log on to wsdot.wa.gov will find a new, refreshed website that makes finding information easier than ever. Whether you want mountain pass conditions, road closures, ferries schedules or anything else you might need, you'll find it in a simpler, more useful way than ever before.

Why now?
It's been more than 15 years since our website has had a major update. That's a long time in today's world. How people get information has changed significantly, and we needed to meet those needs.

We started working on the redesign three years ago. At 14,000 web pages on the site, we knew we had to do some serious spring cleaning to make it easier to navigate. We did extensive testing with a wide range of website users to see how they go about finding what they're looking for, and what information was most important to them.

On average, we have 75,000 website visitors a day and more than 60 percent of them access our site from a mobile device. So, we knew we needed to make the new site much more mobile friendly. Ninety percent of website visitors are looking for travel-related information. That obviously needed to be a huge focus of the redesign.

We think we've done that. We've narrowed the site down to about 2,000 web pages and re-written the content to make it easier to understand. Our new Travel Center feature will make it faster and more convenient for people to find what they're looking for regardless of their mode of travel. And we've made the site much more accessible so that it's a useful tool for everyone.

Our new website home page makes finding the information you need for whatever your mode of travel much simpler.

Tell me about the Travel Center
Don't mind if I do.

Whether you drive, bicycle, walk, ride a ferry, ride a bus or deliver goods, you'll find what you're looking for in our Travel Center – and you'll be able to personalize that information for your own needs.

  • Real-time travel data: You'll be able to click on this to get any travel alerts for whatever route you're traveling. Going on US 2 between Monroe and Wenatchee? Click on it and you'll be able to find lane closures, cameras, truck restrictions and mountain pass reports all in one place. You can get this information in list form, or on a real-time travel map.
  • Commercial vehicles: Truck drivers who deliver our goods will find it a lot easier to map their trips, find any restrictions and get information about permits and weigh station e-screening.
  • Ferries: With one click you'll find the ability to buy tickets, make reservations, find schedules, get real-time status updates and more.
  • Active Transportation: Looking for information and maps for bicycling, walking, running or rolling across our state? It will all be there, easy to find.
  • Riding the rails: Interested in riding Amtrak Cascades? You'll be able to find schedules, buy tickets and plan your trips right on the site.
  • And more: The travel center also has tolls info, information about border crossings and park & rides, maps you can print out, holiday weekend travel charts, information about local airports and lots more.
Our Travel Center map makes planning trips easier by showing real-time issues for whatever route you’ll be taking.

What about that project I've heard about?
Some people visit our website to find out information about a project happening near them. Our Construction and Planning section of the site will make finding a specific project easy by allowing searches by road or county. Studies? Funding? Future plans? Environmental steps we've taken? It's all there for simple browsing.

Working with WSDOT
Besides travelers, one group that regularly turns to our website for information are people and companies looking to work with us. We want to make getting that information as easy as we can so we have a Business With WSDOT section to find all our contracting opportunities and the requirements that go into bidding for work. You'll also find information about grants, highway sign advertising requirements, and more.

Anything else?
Yes, lots of stuff. Particularly in our About section, where people can find job listings, all kinds of data like traffic and crash statistics, research reports and contact information.

These are the highlights, and we invite everyone to check it out, scroll around and see what they think. We're confident website visitors will find a much more valuable, simpler to use experience where the most important information to you is just a click or two away, whether you're accessing it on a desktop or mobile device. We're excited to roll it out and hear what you think!

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Remember what Uncle Ben said

By Barb Chamberlain

Spider-Man's Uncle Ben said it best: "With great power comes great responsibility."

That power lies in your hands and under your foot when you're behind the wheel. You're operating a vehicle that likely weighs two tons or more. The faster you drive, the less peripheral vision you have (the tunnel effect). This means you're more likely to miss seeing someone crossing the street ahead of you. And the faster you're driving when you hit them, the greater the chance you'll seriously injure or kill them with that impact.

We're coming up on the most pedestrian-friendly and kid-friendly date on the calendar: Halloween. Or at least it should be. But research tells us the relative risk of a child 4-8 years old dying on Halloween because a driver struck them is 10 times higher than it is the rest of the year. On Oct. 31 — and every night — it's up to you to make it safe for those outside your vehicle.

A lot of people will be out trick or treating this weekend so if you're driving please be alert, slow down and give them room to make it a safe holiday for everyone. Kids sometimes act in unpredictable ways so if you're driving,
always be prepared, slow down and do your part to keep them safe.

WalkSafe (a program at the KiDZ Neuroscience Center) provided some Halloween-specific tips to go along with our other reminders to drivers below. We've added a few reminders of Washington state law (and the laws of physics).

  • Reduce your speed to 20 miles per hour or less in neighborhoods whether you see children or not. Just because the sign says "SPEED LIMIT 30" doesn't mean you should drive 30 miles per hour.
    • RCW 46.61.400 tells you not to drive "at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions" and "In every event speed shall be so controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person no matter what the posted speed is."
    • If you want your neighborhood to have a posted speed of 20 mph, ask your city to consider using the Neighborhood Safe Streets Law in RCW 46.61.415. They don't have to do an engineering study to lower the speed limit.
    • A car traveling at 30 miles per hour travels about 100 feet in 2.3 seconds, the average reaction time for drivers.
  • If you see a group of kids at or near the side of the road, slow your vehicle to walking speed and give plenty of room. Remember, excited kids will act like excited kids; parents may be overwhelmed.
    • RCW 46.61.245 requires drivers to "exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and...exercise proper precaution upon observing any child..."
    • That Spider-Man mask may make it hard for the child to see you.
  • The nose of your car must stop behind the stop line at all intersections, whether you see a pedestrian or not. Never stop ahead of the line.
    • This refers to intersections with marked crosswalks and/or stop lines. Remember that under RCW 46.61.235 you must stop at both unmarked and marked crosswalks. Every intersection is a legal crossing unless crossing is officially prohibited under RCW 46.61.240.
  • Be extra patient when letting trick-or-treaters cross the street. It can be a chore to keep a group of excited kids orderly, and a child may drop something while crossing. Stay behind the stop line until the entire group has passed.
  • Treat any neighborhood street with no sidewalks as if you were driving ON the sidewalk. The street is this neighborhood's sidewalk.

Once we get past Halloween, November brings two events that serve as reminders to use extra caution on our state's streets and roads. Daylight saving time ends Sunday, Nov. 7, and we head into the winter months with their darker, shorter days. Then on Sunday, Nov. 21, the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims takes place. This international day of recognition reminds all of us to slow down, look out for others, and remember the terrible cost of traffic crashes to victims, their families and friends, and emergency responders.

To save lives so people don't have to just remember their loved ones — instead, they still get to spend time with them — remember Uncle Ben. As the new traffic safety video from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission reminds us, when you're the biggest and the fastest, you have to be the safest too.

Driving Safety Tips

  • Drive the posted speed limit, or slower if conditions make visibility difficult. If a driver hits a pedestrian or bicyclist at 20 mph or less, there is an estimated 95 percent survival rate; at 30 mph, a pedestrian has only a 5 percent chance of walking away without injury and the death rate jumps to 45 percent. The driver trying to save a few seconds by speeding could end up taking someone's life.
  • Stop for people in crosswalks — every intersection is a crosswalk. It's the law. Drivers must stop for pedestrians at intersections, whether it's an unmarked or marked crosswalk, and bicyclists in crosswalks are considered pedestrians. It is also illegal to pass another vehicle stopped for someone at a crosswalk. In Washington, the leading action by motorists that results in them hitting someone is failure to yield to pedestrians.
  • Look and then look again before turning. The majority (68 percent) of pedestrians and bicyclists hit by drivers in Washington state are struck as they are crossing the road.
  • Pass at a safe distance — if you can't, slow down and wait. It's the law, updated in 2019 to require that you move over an entire lane when possible, pass at least three feet away if you can't use the other lane, or wait until it's safe to pass. Darkness and weather conditions may affect a driver's ability to gauge distance. Leaving an extra safety buffer in time and space when passing people gives you more ability to see and react. Be aware that a bicyclist needs to be positioned in the lane a safe distance away from opening car doors, grates, and other hazards not visible to a driver.
  • Watch for people walking or biking near schools, parks, community centers, and other destinations. Remember that children, shorter people, wheelchair users, and people using a recumbent or handcycle may be in the street below your bumper height if you're in a large vehicle like an SUV or pick-up.
  • Put the phone down. Hand-held cell phone use and texting is prohibited for all Washington drivers and may result in a $136 fine for first offense, $235 on the second distracted-driving citation.
  • Don't drive impaired. Lack of sleep as well as alcohol and other substances reduce your ability to see, decide, and react in time.
  • Use your lights but know their limitations. Many car headlight systems were found to provide relatively poor performance in studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Another study by AAA and the Automobile Club of Southern California's Automotive Research Center found that over 80 percent of vehicles on the road have low-beam headlights that don't provide adequate illumination for stopping distance at speeds over 40 mph. Use your brights wherever possible, as long as they will not dazzle the eyes of other drivers.