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.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

New timeline for opening HOV lanes through Tacoma

By Cara Mitchell

Earlier this summer our contractor, Guy F. Atkinson Construction, developed an ambitious but attainable schedule to move lanes of southbound I-5 to the new Puyallup River Bridge. That would have set the stage for opening HOV lanes from Fife to Tacoma before the end of 2021.

As we've seen in other industries, supply chain issues exacerbated by the pandemic are affecting our contractor's schedule. This issue, compounded by subcontractor availability and weather, has changed the timing of connecting and opening the I-5 HOV lanes from Fife to Tacoma. The new schedule now has the HOV lanes open in summer 2022.

We know this isn't what you wanted to hear. Both directions of I-5 from SR 16 in Tacoma to Port of Tacoma Road in Fife are in a temporary configuration with shifted and narrowed lanes and shoulders. Sitting in traffic congestion through the construction zone is not pleasant. We gave you a timeline, and it has unfortunately changed. It's further out, but it is still within the original project timeline.

An aerial photo taken this October of the new northbound and southbound I-5 Puyallup River bridges. The old bridge structures are being removed while the new southbound bridge is under construction.

Schedule challenges
In recent months, the I-5 Portland Avenue to Port of Tacoma Road – Southbound HOV project started seeing delays with materials such as drainage pipe and precast concrete panels needed for the project.

These concrete panels are being used in several locations throughout the project – near East 28th Street, Portland Avenue East and in the T Street work zone.

Timelines and schedules for the T Street work zone are important because this area has to be finished before we can move southbound I-5 into its final configuration. Once the T Street work zone is complete, all lanes of southbound I-5 will be moved so that you can drive over the top of it.

Unlike the concrete panels for Portland Avenue East and East 28th Street, the concrete panels for T Street began arriving on time. Unfortunately, the work crews needed to install them were not available. This set the schedule back several weeks.

Inside the T Street work zone on the I-5 Portland Avenue to Port of Tacoma Road – Southbound HOV project.

The project also saw a delay this summer and fall with the pipe needed for drainage structures on the new bridge and elsewhere. The contractor re-sequenced some of the drainage work to keep the project moving forward.

We are at a point where the drainage pipe on the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge must be installed. This requires an approval from the railroad because the work takes place over the railroad, on the new bridge. Finally, the drainage work elsewhere on the project must be completed prior to final paving. Wet, cold weather isn't ideal for paving.

Simply put, we can't shift southbound I-5 lanes on to the new bridge until the T Street work zone is finished. We are waiting to hear from the railroad on installing the drainage pipe on the new bridge. We need decent weather to pave the connections and final surfaces on the ends of the project to mainline I-5. It will happen, just not before the end of 2021.

Resetting the timeline

  • We anticipate that when work is finished at the T Street work zone this winter, the contractor can move into the next phase of construction, which is moving all lanes of southbound I-5 on to the new bridge.
  • From there, northbound I-5 lanes can be shifted into final alignment across the Puyallup River.
  • The connected HOV lanes from the Fife Curve to SR 16 will open sometime in summer 2022.
  • The opening of the new East L Street bridge is currently on the same schedule as the opening of the new I-5 HOV lanes.

Despite the delay in getting I-5 lanes into final configuration, the revised construction schedule is still within the original project completion timeline.

Why drive times increase through Fife and Tacoma
We frequently get asked why it takes so long to get from Fife to Tacoma or why the backups are so consistently harsh from eastbound SR 16 to northbound I-5. The short answer is, the lanes are in a temporary configuration.

Southbound I-5 from the King County line to Port of Tacoma Road goes from five lanes, including an HOV lane, down to four lanes, then to three lanes in the work zone across the Puyallup River. To put it in perspective, the three lanes in each direction going across the Puyallup River is the same number of lanes that I-5 had near Port of Tacoma Road shortly after it opened in 1963. Average daily traffic volumes in 1960 from the King County line to Port of Tacoma Road was 21,600 vehicles. In 2019, the volume for this same area was roughly 200,000.

Northbound I-5 also merges down from five lanes to three through Tacoma to the Puyallup River Bridge. The big difference is not only does SR 16 merge with I-5 on the right side of the highway, the SR 16 HOV lane merges on the left side of northbound I-5. That will change when the HOV lane opens. Travelers using the HOV lane on northbound I-5 will no longer merge into mainline just past SR 16.

The open area in the center of I-5, shown here between Pacific Avenue and Delin Street, is the home for future HOV lanes. The HOV lanes are anticipated to open in summer 2022.

Delays stink. But we're almost there.
Making plans then adjusting is a letdown for all of us. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it's that we can adjust. We will finish this project. The 20-year road trip for the Tacoma Pierce County HOV program is coming to an end. We're almost there and we have a contractor that is doing all they can to complete the project as quickly as possible. Stick with us. The benefits the project will provide will be worth the wait.

We will continue to provide you with updated information pertaining to lane and ramp closures or new changes to the schedule as information becomes available.

Bring on the steel!

Crews launch next phase of construction at Colman Dock

By Suanne Pelley

A whole lot of steel is on the way to Seattle's waterfront. How much steel? About 700 tons—or 1.4 million pounds—of steel is arriving at the Multimodal Terminal Project at Colman Dock. People will see crews begin to erect the steel framing for the next key components of the project, the entry building and the elevated pedestrian connector. An average of four trucks a week for nine weeks will bring this prized commodity to the jobsite.

The first steel arrived on Oct. 19 for the key remaining structures on the Colman Dock project – the entry
building and the elevated pedestrian connector.

By Oct. 22, crews began erecting the steel framing for the new entry building.

This busy terminal serves 10 million passengers per year on two routes as travelers reach key destinations in Kitsap and King counties and beyond. The entry building, a two-story structure that will border Alaskan Way, creates a dynamic portal welcoming both ferry customers and passersby. The entry building will provide ferry ticketing and new retail space on both levels and include three stairways and two elevators for customers to reach the upper level and the passenger terminal building. A new Marion Street pedestrian bridge will link with the entry building on the second level, providing seamless access to the passenger terminal building.

At right is the new entry building to be constructed on the north end of Colman Dock, as seen from Alaskan Way.

Looking south from Alaskan Way at the entry building. The new Marion Street pedestrian bridge is shown connecting to the upper level, allowing direct access to the passenger terminal.

What's the remaining schedule at Colman Dock?

  • By summer of 2022 we will open the remaining two-thirds of the new passenger terminal building, a section of which opened in 2019.
  • In late 2022 or early 2023 we plan to open both the entry building and elevated pedestrian connector.
  • In 2023 the city of Seattle will open the new Marion Street pedestrian bridge, providing access to the terminal from First Avenue. When this new connection is in place, we will remove the temporary pedestrian bridge at Columbia Street.

We look forward to sharing more information as we approach these upcoming milestones!

For more photos, videos and images, please visit the Colman Dock Photo Album. To stay apprised of the Colman Dock project, you can sign up for construction updates or rider alerts for information on the Bainbridge Island or Bremerton routes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Revive I-5 closures turn to the northbound interstate

Update: Oct. 14
Work on the northbound I-5 collector/distributor in Seattle has been postponed due to rain in the forecast. The work is rescheduled for 11 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, and 11 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, to 5 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20. The same ramp closures listed below will be in effect.

By Tom Pearce

We've been working nights on Seattle's northbound Revive I-5 project between Seneca Street and SR 520 since early summer, but that project is about to become a whole lot more visible.

This weekend – weather permitting – we're going to close the northbound I-5 collector/distributor overnight to prepare for a lot of work to improve mobility on the northbound interstate. We will close the northbound C/D:

  • 11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, to 5 a.m. Sunday, Oct 17
  • 11 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17, to 5 a.m. Monday, Oct. 18

This means ramp closures as well, including:

  • Both directions of I-90 to northbound I-5
  • The northbound I-5 off-ramps to James and Madison streets
  • The Dearborn on-ramp to northbound I-5 (through the C/D) will close from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday nights

So far with this project, it's been all night work and we've had at least one lane open on I-5's mainline. The next part of work on mainline I-5 requires nighttime full closures with all traffic shifted through the C/D. Restriping the C/D gives us two northbound lanes for travelers when the I-5 mainline is closed. When the mainline is open during the day, we'll have the current configuration of one lane from the C/D to the mainline.

With an exit-only lane to Seneca, northbound I-5 in Seattle narrows to two lanes. Single-lane on-ramps from the collector/distributor and Cherry Street add lanes, but the Seneca bottleneck
is one of the worst in the state.

Improving mobility on northbound I-5
OK, so that's what we're doing this weekend, but in the big picture, why? Currently northbound I-5 has an exit-only lane to Seneca Street, which reduces the interstate to just two lanes in downtown Seattle. Between now and fall 2022, we're going to move some barrier along the northbound I-5 mainline north of Seneca Street. By changing the Seneca exit-only lane into a through lane and restriping, we'll have enough room to create three through lanes in the mainline. This should help reduce northbound congestion.

The current lane configuration has only two through lanes on the I-5 mainline and one lane from the collector/distributor to northbound I-5. When work is complete, here’s what the lanes will look like. These maps are not to scale.

In addition to three through lanes on the mainline, this project will create two metered on-ramp lanes from the northbound C/D to I-5. It also will add an auxiliary lane for the ramp from Cherry Street to northbound I-5. The auxiliary lane will only be open during peak traffic times.

Other northbound closures
Finally, this project will require a handful of overnight full closures of northbound I-5 between 12:01 and 4 a.m. We're going to replace a number of the posts and crossbars that hold signs over the freeway and we can't do that while there's traffic below. We'll announce these closures well in advance.

If you're going to Snohomish County while we're doing this work, you'll want to consider using I-90 to I-405 before heading north. You can also use SR 99, just remember there's a toll to use the tunnel. The other detours will be through Seattle on city streets.

This project is one of dozens we are doing to Revive I-5. All these projects will take about a decade to complete, but when we're finished, I-5 should be in good shape for many years to come. Thanks for your patience.