Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Ferry photo contest on Twitter returns with more chances to win

By Justin Fujioka

After a one-year hiatus, our popular Ferry Photo Contest on Twitter is back!

We skipped 2020 because of the pandemic. Uncertainty in ferry ridership demand forced us to frequently modify our route schedules, which caused us to temporarily stop production of our seasonal printed brochures. That’s where we feature the contest’s winning photo.

But like many things, COVID-19 has changed the way we print our schedules. And in this case, it works out in in your favor by increasing the odds of winning the photo contest! How, you ask? Well we now print three separate brochures – one for Central Sound commuter routes, one for Vashon Island routes and one for our vehicle reservations routes – and each one needs an image on its cover!

So this year, we’re looking for three winning photos to be on the three different covers of our printed Winter 2022 Sailing Schedule! It’s your chance for thousands of people to see your best ferry shot!

How to submit a photo

All you need to do is follow @wsferries on Twitter, then tweet your picture between noon Monday, Sept. 27, and noon Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. Be sure to include the hashtag #FerryFotoContest. All members of the public, except WSDOT employees and contractors, are eligible and invited to participate. No fare purchase is required.

This beautiful shot of a ferry arriving at our Mukilteo terminal won our 2017 cover contest

Photo requirements and contest rules

We’re not looking for just any old image of a ferry – we’ve got plenty of those. We want something unique, striking and interesting. You may want to include a city skyline, mountains, passengers, or if you're lucky, wildlife. In addition to the submission qualifications listed above, each entrant must follow these requirements and rules:

  • Your photo:
    • Must include at least one vessel in the Washington State Ferries system (in full or partial)
    • Will be printed in black and white, so consider how that will look
    • Must have been taken yourself and you have the rights to submit it to this contest
    • May have been taken at any time
  • Do not break any laws or do anything unsafe in order to snap a shot. If you are on a ferry please steer clear of restricted areas, and if driving, please no photographing or tweeting.
  • Do not tweet a link to an image that has been uploaded to another site.
  • Do not send your photo via direct message on Twitter.
  • You may submit up to three pictures. If you Tweet more than three, we will only consider the first three shared.
  • You will retain rights to your photograph; however, finalists must agree to grant us rights to use their snapshots for marketing and communication purposes, which will include photo credit. We will never sell your picture.
A ferry with the Olympic Mountains in the background was the 2018 cover contest winner

Selecting winners

A panel of judges will select six finalists based on originality, technicality, composition, artistic merit and overall impact. The decision of the panel is subjective, final and cannot be appealed.

Tough to beat a shot of a ferry with Mount Rainier looming behind, as this picture was our 2019 cover contest winner.

The finalists’ pictures will be posted on the @wsferries Twitter page at noon Monday, Oct. 11. The three images with the most “likes” at noon Friday, Oct. 15, will be named the winner and their photo will be featured on our three different 2022 winter schedules!

Monday, September 20, 2021

Crews work to get in a few more weekends of work on southbound I-5 as fall looms

Update: Sept. 24
Because of rain in the forecast for Sunday, this work is postponed. We will try again next weekend.


By Tom Pearce

As this past weekend shows, the end of our major construction season is nearing as the fall weather begins to assert itself. A lot of the work we do uses materials that don't do well in wet or cold conditions. Hopefully we'll still get a few good weekends, starting with this coming one.

We plan to close several lanes and ramps on southbound I-5 between downtown Seattle and Spokane Street to replace the right side of four expansion joints as part of our Revive I-5 work. Here are the details:

8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, Sept. 27

  • Two left lanes of mainline I-5 will remain open.
  • People will be able to use the collector/distributor to reach off-ramps at Dearborn, I-90, Fourth Avenue South/Edgar Martinez Drive and Airport Way. All C/D traffic will have to exit before or at Airport Way.
  • The following on-ramps to southbound I-5 will be closed:
    • Spring Street
    • The collector/distributor
    • Both directions of I-90
  • Off-ramps to Forest Street and Columbia Way/Spokane Street will be closed.
Drivers will be able to go into the collector/distributor Sept. 25-26 but they’ll nee to use an exit to SODO or I-90. The off-ramps to Forest Street, Columbia Way and Spokane Street will also be closed.

We also plan lane reductions Friday night, Oct. 1, to early Monday morning, Oct. 4. With that closure, we'll again funnel all traffic through the collector/distributor so we can replace the left side of several expansion joints. While the I-90 ramps to southbound I-5 will be closed most of the weekend, we will open them for a couple hours after the Sounders and Mariners games to give many people their usual route out of the stadium district.

Why weather matters
This past weekend our contractor, C.A. Carey, postponed our Revive I-5 work southbound between I-90 and Spokane Street because of rain in the forecast. For this project we are using polyester concrete, which uses a polyester resin binder with sand and aggregate rock to create a more durable driving surface.

We've already paved 1¼ miles of southbound I-5, but when we install each of the 40 new expansion joints on this section of I-5 we will use the polyester concrete to hold the new joints in place.

When we worked during the June heatwave, we had to wait for the existing road surface
to cool before paving with the new polyester concrete.

While polyester concrete is more durable, it's also more weather-sensitive than regular concrete, which can handle cooler temperatures and even a little rain. With polyester concrete, if there is any moisture – even from dew – the concrete may not cure properly. Also, temperatures need to be between 50 and 100 degrees. That was a factor when we paved during the June heat wave. Our contractor had to wait until late into the evening for the surface to cool before they could pave.

About those bumps on southbound I-5...
Anyone who has driven southbound I-5 between I-90 and Spokane Street in the past couple months knows there are bumps at each expansion joint where we repaved the freeway. The old joints are typically an inch or so below the new road surface. As we replace the joints, our contractor is making the new ones more level with the new roadway.

Looking across I-5 from ground level, a 4:1 grading at each expansion joint will lessen the bump.

We did the paving first because it's easier to match the new joint height to the new pavement than vice versa. Piecemealing this process – doing a little paving here and replacing a few joints there – would have greatly increased costs and the time needed to complete this work.

The contractor is now working to lessen these bumps. They are grinding a 4:1 bevel on both sides of each joint. That means for each inch of drop, they shave the surrounding concrete at an angle back four inches, creating a little ramp. There still may be a bump, but it won't be as sudden.

It's going to take until fall 2022 to complete all of this work, but in the end you'll have a smoother ride through this section of I-5. This is just one of many projects we're doing in the next decade to Revive I-5.

New toll bills and statements start arriving in mailboxes

By Chris Foster

The next generation of Good To Go! officially launched this summer. The new system offers tools and features our customers have been requesting throughout the years (you can read about some of these features on our previous blog post).

Your toll bill is coming soon
You may recall before we launched the new Good To Go! system that we anticipated it would take a while for us to send the first toll bills and statements. We knew we'd need a little extra time to perform our due diligence to ensure they are accurate. This week, people with a Good To Go! account who have a balance due on their account, are starting to receive bills in the mail.

In the coming weeks, we will begin sending toll bills to customers who Pay By Mail without a Good To Go! account. This means if you traveled this summer, you may get a bill in the next couple of months that could include  trips from June, which is when we stopped sending bills prior to transitioning to our new Good To Go! system. It also means if you traveled frequently this summer and didn't have a Good To Go! account, you could receive a larger bill with many trips on it.

If you Pay By Mail, it's important to remember that it's not too late to lower a bill once you receive it in the mail. It's easy with our new system to save $1.75 on every Pay By Mail trip when paying your bill online if you choose to open a Good To Go! account. With the first round of bills being sent, we're also providing extra time for customers to pay their bill before late fees are assessed.

Finally, if you're waiting to receive a bill from us, remember, when you Pay By Mail, you don't owe anything until you receive a bill in the mail.

You may notice our bills have a new look. So what has changed?

What's new: If you have a Good To Go! account
A big change with the new system is if your Good To Go! account balance becomes negative for any reason, you'll still be able to manage all toll trips through your account.

If you have an account and you receive a statement with a balance due, the alerts section will inform you of any potential issues with your account; this could be anything from an expired credit card to an account without autopay turned on that reached a low balance.

With this information you can log in to your account and quickly fix whatever issue caused your tolls to remain unpaid.

After a period of time, if you don't add money to your account, we'll mail a statement to the account holder with the trips at the higher Pay By Mail rate ($2 extra per trip on top of the Good To Go! pass rate).

Balance breakdown
One of our priorities for the new look toll bills and statements was to ensure it is clear to customers about what is included in a balance.

The balance breakdown will show your total balance and due date, along with a categorized view of the charges included in the balance. The first line item will show your previous balance. This is a big change for our new system, as toll bills will now include any unpaid tolls from a previous bill. You'll also see line items for:

  • Any payments you have made during the billing period
  • New toll charges that occurred within the billing period
  • Other charges (this will typically be for account holders only and represents things like pass purchases)
  • Fees and civil penalties

What to know if you signed up for Pay As You Go
If you signed up for Pay As You Go, our new payment option that eliminates the need to prepay $30 in tolls, you might notice your statement shows an amount due. With Pay As You Go, any toll trips you take are posted to your account in real time. However, your account is only charged twice a month. So, if you travel on a toll road sometime in between these two payment dates, the trip will remain unpaid until the next payment date.

In other words, if your Pay As You Go account is set to to make payments on the 9th and the 25th, any toll trips you take after the 9th will show as unpaid on your statement (and your account dashboard) until the 25th, at which point your payment method would be charged and the toll would be paid. You can look up your account payment dates, also known as replenishment dates, by logging in to your account at MyGoodToGo.com.

What's new: If you're a Pay By Mail customer
If you're used to getting toll bills from us in the mail, you'll notice they look different. The first change you'll notice is the information callout box in the upper right corner of the document. Here you'll find the two pieces of information you'll need to pay or dispute a toll: the statement number and the license plate number.

Below that information, you'll see your Customer ID (which you can use for reference when contacting customer service), the billing period for the tolls, the amount due and the due date. With this information, you can easily pay or dispute tolls online at MyGoodToGo.com.

Further down the page, you'll see a message explaining that a vehicle registered in your name has incurred unpaid tolls. You'll also see how much money you could save by opening a Good To Go! account.

Questions about your bill
Before you pick up the phone to call customer service, be prepared for long wait times. The best times to call are typically in the afternoons, particularly Saturday afternoons.

As the first bills arrive, we expect there will be an uptick in customers calling Good To Go! which could lead to longer wait times. Skip waiting by using the automated phone option to pay a toll bill, on our new and improved website with more self-service features.

We appreciate customers' patience as it will take time to settle into normal operations over the next several months.

Friday, September 17, 2021

A decade later, the story of Daddy Bear still brings good memories and marks a change in the way we interact with the public

By Summer Derrey

We first started using social media with a job recruiting post on June 13, 2008 and were still just kind of getting our feet wet for a few years, not gaining a ton of audience interaction. And then came Daddy Bear.

Daddy what?

Daddy Bear. And yes, it's hard for us to believe that it's been a decade since a concerned grandma reached out to us for help. After that, our social media presence really took off.

Justice received Daddy Bear from her dad, who at the time was
stationed with the Army in South Korea.

In search of Daddy Bear
On Oct. 12, 2011, Patty Holland Sweeney reached out to us via a Facebook post for our help tracking down her granddaughter's lost teddy bear.

A plea on Facebook from a grandma asking for help tracking down Daddy Bear first showed us the
importance of connecting with the public via social media.

Patty's post made clear how important Daddy Bear was to her 6-year-old granddaughter Justice, and showed us what a powerful tool social media could be.

"At the time, I really liked Facebook and so my husband encouraged me to reach out to WSDOT that way," Patty said.

The lost teddy bear wasn't just any bear. It was given to then 2½-year-old Justice by her dad Chile, who was in the Army and stationed in South Korea, and she named it Daddy Bear. The very special lost bear was a reminder to a young girl that her dad was with her even though he was thousands of miles away serving our country. She slept with the bear. She took it to school. It was her best friend.

We knew we had to find Daddy Bear.

Besides asking our road crews for help, we turned to Twitter and Facebook, asking the public to be on the lookout. It got A LOT of attention and the public became invested in the plight of Daddy Bear.

Maintenance to the rescue
Two of our favorite maintenance dads, Harry Nelson and Terry Kukes, went searching and quickly located it on the shoulder of I-90 east of Cle Elum. Luckily, Daddy Bear appeared to still be in pretty good shape! Since that time, Harry has been promoted to Maintenance and Traffic Manager and Terry retired a few years ago.

Harry Nelson and fellow maintenance worker Terry Kukes rescued Daddy Bear from the shoulder of I-90 east of Cle Elum and reunited him with Justice.

"My daughter was very young at the time as well," Harry said. "She was in a horseback riding accident and so I got her a teddy bear too. I know how much it meant to Justice, and I was glad I found the bear."

A short time later, on their own time, they drove to Sedro-Woolley to reunite the Justice with her friend.

We announced on social media that Daddy Bear had been found and reunited with Justice, to much virtual applause from our social media followers. But it didn't end there.

The story to reconnect Justice with her lost Daddy Bear became a media sensation and hit the national headlines.

"ABC News wanted to watch the reunion and so they came to our door," Patty said. "At the time, Justice was very shy but happy to have her Daddy Bear back."

The story of Justice and lost Daddy Bear made national news.

An impact a decade later
A decade later, both Justice and Daddy Bear have changed a bit. Justice has gone from a shy little girl to a very outgoing teenager. She turns 16 today, Sept. 17. Daddy Bear is still going strong, though Patty has had to restuff him a couple times. One thing that hasn't changed much, though, is their importance to each other.

Another thing that hasn't changed is the kindness of our maintenance crews. At our maintenance shed up on Snoqualmie Pass we've seen our crews welcome cold, stranded motorists out of the snow. They have gone out of their way to provide a warm cup of coffee or two and even a spare Cup of Noodles.

Recently we've had workers rescue a kitten and a family of ducks on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and track down (and adopt) a cat on a Skagit Valley highway.

And it seems the generosity and willingness to help runs in the family. Harry's brother, Joe, recently helped a woman locate her lost bag on Snoqualmie Pass.

Our maintenance crews always go above and beyond to help. Earlier this year, Joe Nelson – the brother of Daddy Bear rescuer Harry Nelson – tracked down a woman’s lost bag near Snoqualmie Pass.

A rise in social media
Another thing that has changed is the importance of social media in our messaging and interaction with the public. We started with a Facebook page, one Twitter account, a YouTube channel and Flickr for photos. Since then, we've added a Facebook page for our ferries division, now have 13 Twitter accounts, Instagram, TikTok, Reddit and a blog to go along with YouTube and Flickr. Across all of those platforms we have well over a million followers who turn to us for news, information, updates, videos and even the occasional bad joke or two.

And it all really started with Daddy Bear.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Using Fife’s new SR 99 roundabout

By Lizzy Buechel

What do you call a round intersection with multiple lanes and exits? Well. …it depends! If you're in New England, you might call it a rotary; in New Jersey, a traffic circle; and in Fife: the newly opened State Route 99 roundabout!

In case you didn't already know, as part of the SR 167 Completion Project, we built the first SR 99 roundabout in the state. This work connects SR 99 to the new Wapato Way East Bridge over I-5. The roundabout replaced a nearby traffic signal where significant backups were common. Now, traffic flows through the roundabout to reduce congestion and improve freight mobility between Fife and the nearby Port of Tacoma.

The SR 167 Completion Project includes a new SR 99 roundabout and four-lane Wapato Way East Bridge.

What to expect
As we mentioned, multi-lane roundabouts like the one in Fife move traffic more consistently than traffic signals. The reason is simple; traffic is not required to stop – only yield – which allows more vehicles to move through in the same amount of time.

Skeptical that we can all share one roundabout? It does take some getting used to. Rest assured, we worked with the city of Fife, the Port of Tacoma, and the freight community to make sure the roundabout could safely accommodate the large trucks that will use it frequently, as well as cars and people who walk and bike through the area. Washington has plenty of experience to draw upon, with more than 100 multi-lane roundabouts (some in place for more than a decade). There are multi-lane roundabouts on US 2 in the Spokane area, in the Yakima and Tri-Cities areas, and several in the Bellingham/Lynden area. National studies prove that roundabouts are safer than intersections with stop signs or signals. Studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Federal Highway Administration show:

  • 90 percent fewer fatality collisions in roundabouts
  • 75 percent fewer injury collisions in roundabouts
  • A 40 percent reduction in pedestrian collisions
  • A 37 percent reduction in overall collisions

Two important tips for driving a multi-lane roundabout
It may be a little intimidating the first time around, but these two important tips could make your travels safer.

  • Tip one: Many people don't know that by law, large trucks are permitted to straddle the lanes to move through the roundabout. So your best defense is to give trucks plenty of space. Don't drive next to or try to pass a truck inside the roundabout.
  • Tip two: Always slow down when entering the roundabout; the posted speed limit on SR 99 is 35 mph and a safe roundabout speed is 15 mph.

Driving the new SR 99 roundabout
Drivers enter the roundabout from either SR 99 or Wapato Way East and then travel in one of three directions: South on SR 99, north on SR 99 or onto Wapato Way East. Like other high-volume roundabouts designed with trucks in mind, this roundabout has two lanes that are wider than typical lanes, which make it easier for trucks to navigate the roundabout. There are also two "slip" lanes for vehicles to enter or exit the bridge without going through the roundabout. The new SR 99 roundabout also has sidewalks and crosswalks for people who bike, roll, and walk in the area. These crosswalks have pedestrian activated flashing beacons for added safety. Drivers should always yield to pedestrians and pedestrians should always use the marked crosswalks and wait for traffic to stop before crossing roundabout lanes.

Know before you go
The graphics below will help you plan your trip so you know what to expect before you travel through the roundabout.

If you are continuing south on SR 99 or getting onto southbound SR 99 from the new bridge,
you can use either lane of the roundabout.
To access the new bridge from northbound SR 99, use the right “slip” lane to bypass the roundabout.
To access the new bridge from southbound SR 99, use the left lane and stay in it as you proceed through the roundabout.

Resources
If you've been trying to wrap your head around roundabouts throughout this blog, but feel like you are just going in circles, we have some excellent resources you can circle back to. Below you will find everything from safety tips to instructional videos.