Friday, November 18, 2022

Workforce development key to ferry service restoration

By Justin Fujioka

To address our ferry crewing situation, we must focus on workforce development. That includes hiring new employees, training existing ones and making the maritime industry attractive to the next generation as we look ahead to long-term stability.

These 16 new deck employees, seen here with a few of their trainers, completed orientation and training
at the Seattle Maritime Academy on Nov. 2.

While it remains important to continue hiring new crewmembers, our biggest short-term constraint continues to be a lack of licensed deck officers (captains and mates), who require significant training time.

These 14 new terminal employees began working for us on Nov. 8 after finishing orientation and training.

Earlier this year, we created two new programs that encourage our current employees to take the necessary courses and exams to obtain a mates’ credential. We expect more than 40 to graduate these programs between April 2023 and April 2024, which is great for future system stability. We’re seeking to make these programs permanent.

Twelve of our able-bodied sailors recently completed mate training at our local
Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies.

Our latest Service Restoration Plan (PDF 794KB) Progress Report (PDF 631KB) shows that we’re now on track to confidently restore full service on our Edmonds/Kingston route early next year. Around the same time, we expect to begin trialing a full, three-boat schedule on our Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth run. The timing of full restoration on our Seattle/Bremerton and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes is dependent on the number of new mates who complete training in April 2023. We do not anticipate being able to restore Sidney, British Columbia service any sooner than summer 2023.

Sea Potential program students along with their chaperones and Relief Chie Mate Brett Wheeler aboard the Walla Walla.

Looking far down the road, we must be sure that we will be able to sustain service for many years to come once we are fully restored. We are already looking for potential future crewmembers to fill this void.

For the second time this year, we hosted seven BIPOC (Black, Indigenous People of Color) youth aboard one of our ferries in early November. The middle schoolers, part of the Sea Potential program that helps attract diverse students to maritime jobs, toured the wheelhouse and engine room of Walla Walla.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Taking steps to improve stretch of I-5 through Nisqually River Valley

By Mark Krulish

Over the next couple of years, we’re taking a closer look at a critical section on Interstate 5.

I-5 through Thurston and Pierce Counties moves goods, people and the US military. It passes directly through the Nisqually River Valley, the traditional home of the Nisqually Tribe, and it is a habitat for threatened salmon and steelhead fish.

Two bridges take I-5 over the Nisqually River – northbound was built in 1937, and southbound in 1967. A lot has changed since then. The population of the South Sound has grown by leaps and bounds and that is expected to continue, which will bring more people traveling throughout the region.

Just as our world has changed, so has our approach to how we build highways. If the Nisqually River Bridges were built today, they would be built in a much different manner. Over the decades, we’ve moved to a mindset where we must also be good stewards of the environment. The work done in 1968 would probably not meet the current environmental regulations passed from the National Environmental Policy Act or the Washington State Shoreline master program. While the roadway is structurally and seismically sound, we now recognize they are not the best structures for the environment. Removal of the fill in the Nisqually Delta requires the replacement of the I-5 Nisqually bridges.

The Nisqually River bridges carry I-5 through the Nisqually River Valley but current environmental
standards mean the bridges must be replaced.

We want to be sure the highway system is ready for any man-made or natural disaster and the environmental impacts on the river and fish, and that starts with a federal Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study.

This phase of the study focuses on I-5 from Marvin Road to Mounts Road (Exits 111 to 116 in Thurston and Pierce counties), with a Focused PEL to consider additional technical analyses and stakeholder input.

The state legislature has set aside $75 million to start working on a project on I-5 through the Nisqually River Delta. This funding allows us to look at ways to improve mobility between Marvin Road and Mounts Road for all types of travelers. We’ll explore a preliminary design for a new bridge and look at any parcel of land we might need to acquire to address flood risk.

This stretch of I-5 through the Nisqually River Valley is being studied as we look to make environmental
 and mobility improvements to the area.

Part of that funding also goes towards three roundabouts on State Route 507, which will be a vital alternative route in the event of a disaster affecting I-5.

We may adopt the Purpose and Need – a statement that describes why the project is necessary – and identified alternative(s), which are determined during this process, into the National Environmental Policy Act environmental review. Doing this work now will help speed up the NEPA process.

We expect to learn a lot more about how people use this corridor through this study, and we’ll share updates as we have them. Keep up to date with the latest news on our project page.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Emergency repairs will require SR 28 bypass closure in East Wenatchee starting Thursday

By Lauren Loebsack

Regular commuters of SR 28 through East Wenatchee have probably noticed the bump on the eastbound SR 28 bypass near Fred Meyer and know this isn't the first time there's been settlement on this section of road. Maintenance crews have been out to repave at this location which smoothed out the bump for a time.

Since then, we've been investigating what caused the bump and have determined the problem is related to a failed subsurface stormwater pipe. That means water has been leaking under the road for some time and eroding away the fill. This has caused voids underneath the roadway that settle.

Signs of settling and strucural issues at the Apple Capital trail underpass on the SR 28 eastbound bypass in East Wenatchee

Increased runoff from winter weather is likely to make this issue worse, leading to bigger problems for the roadway and retaining wall. Because of the urgency of these repairs, we've hired Pipkin Construction for an emergency project that will begin on Thursday, Nov. 10.

The project will include excavating an 80 ft. long trench on the bypass to replace the damaged length of pipe, fill in the voids caused by water infiltration, and rebuild and repave the road. To accomplish this safely and efficiently, the contractor will close the eastbound bypass beginning Thursday at 6 a.m. This means travelers headed east on SR 28 towards Rock Island and Quincy will be detoured over the George Sellar Bridge to reconnected to SR 28 eastbound. The Fifth St. NE westbound access from Valley Mall Parkway will also be closed to the roundabout to help maintain traffic flow. This also means access to Fred Meyer from the ramps will be closed. For everyone needing to shop there, you'll need to use the right turn at the intersection of SR 28 and Grant Rd. The Apple Capital Loop trail will also be closed at the underpass.

The eastbound detour for SR 28 will be over the SR 2185 George Sellar Bridge to turn around
and access SR 28 at in the Grant Rd. intersection
  • In order to accommodate all vehicles, including trucks and larger vehicles, travelers that are eastbound from SR 28 on Sunset Highway heading to Rock Island and Quincy will be detoured over the George Sellar Bridge to turn around and access SR 28 at the intersection of Grant Rd.
  • Travelers that are eastbound from Wenatchee who want to travel north to 9th St., Valley Mall Parkway or Sunset Highway towards the junction of US 2/97 will still be able to use the underpass.
  • Westbound access to the George Sellar Bridge on 5th St. NE from Valley Mall Parkway will be closed to maintain detour traffic flow.

The bypass must remain closed through the entirety of project, which could take up to 10 days. The exact timeline is still unknown because the extent of the damage and needed repairs won't be fully known until the roadway is opened up. It's expected that this will cause some heavy traffic and longer travel times around the George Sellar Bridge and Grant Rd. intersections, so it'll be important to add some time to your travel plans or consider alternative routes depending on your destination.

Monday, November 7, 2022

A metal detector, waders and a robot named Elvis: a culvert inspection story

By Joe Calabro

When you’re on a state highway, it’s easy to see certain hazards like potholes or debris. Things get complicated when an issue lies below the road’s surface in one of the thousands of culverts that carry water, and sometimes fish, beneath a highway.

That’s where Chau and Elvis come in.

Chau Nguyen joined our agency in 2021 as an intern with a degree in Environmental Engineering. She enjoyed working with an experienced team and eventually accepted a job as a stormwater and drainage engineer.

Chau Nguyen (right) tests Elvis the robot before sending it in for a culvert inspection

She now leads the culvert inspection program in our King/Snohomish/Skagit/Whatcom area, assessing maintenance work and identifying how to avoid emergency failures of the roughly 14,000 culverts in that area. How does Chau do it? With a robot.

Elvis is her robot’s nickname. The remote-controlled vehicle allows Chau to explore drainage infrastructure that would otherwise be inaccessible.

“Roadway drainage is like a tucked-away underground world that people aren’t aware of – it keeps the traveling public safe,” she said.

Elvis the robot is outfitted with a camera in the front and two headlights to illuminate any obstructions. The corded connection is more reliable than wireless and allows Elvis to be retrieved if inactive.

These inspections pay huge dividends. Rust, corrosion or leaks can lead to culvert failures. A collapsed culvert can require immediate lane closures , and costly reconstruction that can be inconvenient for travelers and freight movement. Moreover, fish migration and other environmental impacts can occur.

In the field

On a recent inspection below State Route 99 in Lynnwood, the purpose of the mission was two-fold: inspect the condition of the culvert and obtain measurements for a new fish passage to be designed in the coming years.

Ryan, a member of our maintenance team in the area, donned his waders and climbed about 10 feet down into the catch basin where he was greeted by knee-high water. Elvis, weighing about 75 pounds, was lowered down to him. Our maintenance teams do regular culvert inspections, looking for obvious blockages or collapsed areas. If they notice an issue, they flag it for Chau (and Elvis) to do an in-depth inspection.

Chau drove the robot through the 36-inch diameter culvert. The feed transmitted back to her is always well-lit and clear thanks to its headlights.

A crew on the other side of the road located a catch basin hidden by gravel. Using old plan sets, they set to work with a metal detector, shovel and broom. They dug up the utility cover in minutes and bragged about their discovery from across the road as any good treasure hunter should.

Chau uses Elvis’ mounted camera and headlight to maneuver the robot through the culvert (left).
A still image from the inspection recording (right).

The team confirmed the culvert’s alignment, material and length and didn’t find anything of major concern. Measurements were taken at each catch basin and the process was repeated at the culvert’s outlet. The robot’s recorded footage can be used for future reference.

The length of a culvert on SR 99 in Lynnwood was measured by marking the length of cable used by Elvis.

This season’s rain and snow will send water flowing through our culverts. Monitoring their conditions will ensure infrastructure is appropriately maintained and safe for travel

Job opportunities

Four different work groups were represented at the culvert inspection on SR 99: Maintenance, Environmental, Fish Passage Design Engineering, and Communications. It’s a small slice of the different fields and career opportunities we have to offer. Check on job openings at our careers webpage and learn more about the benefits that come with working with us.   

Thursday, November 3, 2022

State Active Transportation Plan receives multiple awards

By Barb Chamberlain

If you were one of the voters who responded to our many reminders, thank you — it worked! Washington state's Active Transportation Plan has been named the winner of the People's Choice Award in the national 2022 America's Transportation Awards. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sponsor the annual contest. This represents the first time ever in the competition's 15-year history that an active transportation plan has won the honor.

All 12 finalists in America's Transportation Awards were eligible to win the People's Choice Award, which is based on total votes received through online voting. The totals are weighted by the state populations so bigger states don't have an unfair advantage over smaller states. State departments of transportation encouraged voting through a variety of means, from internal reminders to staff to playful messages on social media like this tweet.

AASHTO Executive Director Jim Tymon (left) and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Sec. Shawn Wilson (right) present WSDOT Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar with the AASHTO People's Choice Award
and a check to be distributed among several charities.

The award brings with it a $10,000 check for the charities of our choice. We're splitting it three ways. One-third goes to our own WSDOT Memorial Foundation that preserves the memory of our workers who died on the job and provides assistance to active and retired employees and their families in times of need. The other two recipients are statewide nonprofits that participated in the plan's stakeholder steering committee, promoted involvement in the plan's outreach phase, and serve on the Cooper Jones Active Transportation Safety Council: Cascade Bicycle Club and Disability Rights Washington.

The ATP became eligible for the finalist round when the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials named it as a regional winner in June, which moved it on to the national competition. As the People's Choice Awards voting was under way, the Washington state chapter of the American Planning Association also recognized it with an award for transportation planning at their annual conference.

Besides being the first active transportation plan to win the national award, the ATP is also the first-ever analysis of our state highways that looks at how well they work for people who need to walk, bike, or roll along or across them. It's the first effort to really quantify the features of the roadway, traffic volume, and traffic speed that tell us we'll make it better and easier to use active transportation if we make some changes. And it's the first time the state plan has been named in legislation as a resource to identify where improvements will make a difference, in the Move Ahead Washington transportation investment package passed in 2022.

Our State Active Transportation Plan continues to look for ways to improve
infrastructure for all modes of travel, like the SR 520 trail.

We're very proud of the work and the recognition it received. None of this would have been possible without the insights and efforts of advocates and professionals across the state as the plan came together. And we're not resting on our laurels! We're already reporting out performance metrics in the Gray Notebook, using the analytical tools in our decision-making around Complete Streets designs, and talking about which of the topics on the "Future Watch" list in Chapter 6 we should dig into next.

Speaking of the future, have an opinion on that? Here's the list from Chapter 6 (which gives you a brief description of how each of these relates to active transportation.

  • Technology and innovation
  • Electric bikes and e-mobility
  • Aging in place and human services transportation
  • Sharing economy
  • Urban freight mobility
  • Curb management
  • System resilience and disaster recovery
  • Education, encouragement, incentives
  • Land use, housing costs, and displacement
  • Funding

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

A heroic survey crew gives new meaning to roadside assistance

By Angela Cochran

When friends talk about putting out fires at work, usually they mean metaphorically. For one of our survey crews this past month, it was very much in the literal sense.

Just before 11 a.m. on Oct. 12, Jeff Karnes and Garth Gavette were doing routine survey work on State Route 507 in Yelm when they suddenly found themselves in the middle of a brush fire. Jeff was operating the survey equipment and Garth was recording the information few hundred feet away from him. Jeff looked down to type a code into his data collector machine and when he looked back up, he thought Garth was moving a little strangely.

"I saw Garth kind of stomping and looking like he was dancing around, and then I saw the flames," Jeff said.

Jeff Karnes and Garth Gavette were doing survey work in Yelm when brush fires broke out around them, and they took action to rescue livestock and prevent the fire from spreading to a nearby residence.

He grabbed the fire extinguisher and started spraying. That's when they noticed three or four more fires breaking out all around them and they called the fire department. The dry conditions made it easy for the fire to quickly spread towards the neighboring property and some cows. Jeff's first thought was to notify the property owner but no one was home.

They jumped into action again and herded the cows into an adjoining field away from the fire. At the same time, they noticed the fire was also moving toward a horse shed. They found a garden hose and soaked the shed and surrounding grass to keep the fire away. Then firefighters arrived to take over for them.

One of the brush fires that broke out in Yelm as two of our surveyors were working near the highway. Their actions helped save livestock and a nearby residence.

The cause of the fire is unknown. Sometimes they can be caused by something as simple as ashes from a stray cigarette or sparks from chains dragging behind a passing vehicle.

This amazing story reminds us just how tied to the community our roadworkers are. Many of them live in the same communities they work and are deeply committed to helping keep those areas safe, as Jeff and Garth's actions show. We are so grateful that they sprang into action to help a neighbor. They don't do this kind of work for recognition, but the best way to say thanks to them or any of our road workers is by being alert, slowing down, being patient and giving them room to do their job. Help get them home safely.

Great job Jeff and Garth, we're incredibly proud of you and your actions!

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Weekend work on northbound I-5 in Everett finished for 2022

 By Tom Pearce

Our last weekend-long lane reduction this year for northbound I-5 in Everett finished Sunday afternoon, Oct. 30. Our contractor, Acme Concrete Paving, was able to replace about 100 old broken concrete panels during two weekends of work last month.

Acme originally planned three weekends with lane closures but were able to do enough during the first two that they only have a small number left, which can be done during overnight shifts. That will mean several overnight lane reductions in the next few weeks before work shuts down for the winter.

Replacing dozens of concrete panels on a busy highway requires weekends to complete. There isn’t enough time to get it all done overnight.

“We’re really pleased that Acme could finish this much work in just two weekends. We have several sections where we needed to replace multiple panels, so it was much more cost-effective to do that during a weekend,” said project engineer Shawn Wendt.

In addition to replacing several more individual panels, the contractor crews will grind the freeway to eliminate ruts caused by decades of wear. Grinding down the high spots outside the wheel ruts will create a smoother surface and reduce puddling when it rains.

Expansion joints on deck for 2023

There will be several more weekend-long lane reductions in Everett next summer as we replace four expansion joints between 41st Street and US 2. To keep lanes open, we have to replace the left or right half one weekend, then the other half during another. We usually replace more than one joint during a weekend.

In 2023 we’ll replace expansion joints at the dots – north of 41st Street, Hewitt and Pacific avenues and US 2.

These joints are more than 50 years old. It takes an entire weekend to replace them because our contractors need to chip out the old joint, make any necessary steel repairs, install the new joint steel, then pour concrete and allow it to cure.

Replacing these joints during scheduled weekends will allow people to make plans to use alternate routes or perhaps delay a trip. It also will help avoid emergency closures if one of these old joints were to break. We’ve had that happen several times in other areas, creating unexpected backups during peak traffic times.

We appreciate your patience as we complete these necessary repairs. I-5 has served all of us well since the 1960s. This work will keep it in good shape for many more decades.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Aviation Commission recommends two potential paths to add aviation capacity in Washington

By Christina Crea

With demand increasing for commercial passenger, air cargo, and other services, the need for aviation capacity is rapidly outgrowing existing airports like Paine Field and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. You can learn more about the growing demand for aviation on our website (PDF 1.4MB) .

In 2019 the State Legislature (PDF 76KB) created the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC) to think about how to meet the growing demand for aviation services, while also looking at options to reduce the noise and environmental impact associated with airports.

While the CACC is made up of representatives from the aviation industry, the public, airport communities, freight industry, state and local agencies and elected officials, our agency provides the CACC technical assistance and staff support from our Aviation Division.

In February 2022, the CACC recommended six preliminary airport sites (PDF 396KB) that have the potential to meet both short and long-term aviation needs. After months gathering public feedback and reviewing technical analyses, the CACC recently submitted its top two recommendations (PDF 974KB) to the Washington State Legislature.

Click to view full infographic (PDF 974KB)

Option 1 would add capacity to Paine Field and assumes that Sea-Tac executes its Sustainable Airport Master Plan. It includes a recommendation to assist other airports interested in providing regional commercial service.

Option 2 would continue to explore construction of a new, two-runway airport at one of three locations in Pierce or Thurston counties. Any consideration of a new airport would include additional technical analysis and community engagement.

"This is an opportunity for the state to consider how to meet capacity limits while also planning for an airport of the future," said David Fleckenstein, WSDOT Aviation Director and chairman of the commission. "Increasing the use of sustainable aviation fuels could significantly reduce harmful emissions. Emerging aeronautics technology could also reduce noise from airplanes while also providing additional commercial air service options to more airports around the state."

The CACC is looking at environmental effects, economic and technical criteria, and public feedback and opinion as it develops recommendations to improve Washington's air transportation capacity.

What's next

The best way to stay informed about the CACC is by signing up for our listserv and visiting our website as we continually add important updates and documents.

In the coming months, we will offer additional opportunities for public input – including another online open house early next year – and continue studying technical data about each option still being considered. The CACC will submit a final recommendation to the Legislature by June 15, 2023. After that it will be up to the Legislature and potential airport sponsors to act to increase Washington's aviation capacity.

Media links

Members of the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission sat down with TVW for an interview to talk about the CACC's work and the state's aviation capacity, opportunities and challenges. See the interview here: https://tvw.org/video/inside-olympia-is-a-new-airport-in-washingtons-future-2022101157/

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Keeping people moving while building a new SR 3 bridge for Chico Creek

By Doug Adamson

How do you build a bridge while vehicles drive across it? It seems impossible – but contractor crews for the SR 3 Chico Creek Fish Barrier Removal project are making it reality.

Our contractor, Guy F. Atkinson Construction, has been making steady progress to remove barriers to fish at Chico Creek by constructing new bridges on Chico Way and State Route 3. These bridges will create more space for Chico Creek to flow underneath the highway and improve fish passage and access to spawning habitat for native fish species.

Video via Guy F. Atkinson

Crews are building the bridge in phases to avoid major traffic disruptions on SR 3 near Bremerton. At the start of the project in fall 2021, they shifted northbound and southbound traffic to the outside lane and shoulders of SR 3 to create a work zone in the median. This allowed them to construct the center portion of the new SR 3 bridge.

What to expect

As soon as early November, traffic will shift onto the newly built center portion of the bridge and move the work zones to the outside lane and shoulders of northbound and southbound SR 3.

Our crews will keep people moving through the area by keeping two lanes of traffic in each direction. They will install a permanent barrier to divide the northbound and southbound lanes. Once the shift is in place, people will notice they are driving on the center of the roadway. The reduced speed limit through the work zone will remain at 45 miles per hour.

During Stage 2 construction, traffic will shift to the inside lanes of SR 3, close the Chico Way Northwest on-ramp to southbound SR 3, and realign the stream that flows under Chico Way Northwest.

What’s next

Project construction will continue through winter 2023.Once completed, travelers will use the new on-ramp and exit locations for SR 3 at Chico Way Northwest to access the two new bridges. This will create more space for Chico Creek and the unnamed tributary and eliminate the need for culverts.

Once the project is completed in winter 2023, fish will have access to 21 miles of potential habitat and an improved connection to Chico Creek and Chico Bay.

Chico Way work

In addition to SR 3, crews also have worked to remove barrier to fish on Chico Way at the interchange. This has included building a new bridge that carries Chico Way over an unnamed tributary to Chico Creek. In this instance, we built a new path for the tributary which will feed into Chico Creek. Logs and root wads were added along the water. The wood provides a dual purpose. It helps stabilize the hillside while providing habitat for fish. The design is intended to benefit fish at every lifecycle.

A new and improved path for small unnamed creek which feeds into Chico Creek

Heads up, phone down

Please keep our crews, yourself, and others safe by driving cautiously through work zones. We know traffic shifts can take a little getting used to at first, so slow down and stay aware so our crews can get this work done safely. Visit the project website for more information and to sign up for email updates.

The bridge being built on SR 3 near Bremerton. The span will eventually carry the highway over a rerouted portion of Chico Creek.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Increase in work zone crashes leads to safety adjustments to protect workers, drivers

By Mark Krulish

Just after midnight on Oct. 7, our maintenance crews were sweeping the shoulders on southbound I-5 near 56th Street in Tacoma when a driver hit our truck mounted attenuator (TMA) that was in place protecting our workers. Soon after, another TMA we moved into place to protect the collision scene was also hit. A third vehicle then tried to cut through the scene to take the 56th street ramp and hit one of the cars involved in the first crash.

We are fortunate that neither of the workers inside the TMAs were seriously hurt and that none of our other workers were hit. Road workers have families, they have friends and they deserve to get home safely each and every night. One of the trucks did sustain significant damage while the other had minor damage. And this type of incident has become more common lately.

A rise in nighttime work zone crashes – like this one recently on I-5 in Tacoma – means we’re making some safety adjustments to help keep our workers and drivers safe.

Our highway maintenance crews are on the road just about every weekday of the year, both day and night. The vast majority of collisions in our work zones happen at night, with lower visibility once the sun sets combined with a rise in inebriated and drowsy drivers putting road workers at greater risk.

This is one of the reasons you may see our workers around more than usual during the daytime. While we recognize that this may affect traffic, nothing is more important than the safety of our workers and the traveling public, and we need to take steps to help protect them.

While our busy construction season is coming to an end, we do a lot of maintenance work in the winter, including road and guardrail repair, clearing debris from drainage systems and removing tree limbs so they don’t interfere with power lines during winter storms. In the past we’ve done some of that work at night. More will be happening in daylight now as drivers are generally more alert, and our crews and work zone signage are easier to see.

Drivers may see more roadwork during the day when it is typically safer for both workers and drivers.

That doesn’t mean we’re eliminating nighttime work altogether, but we need to adjust how we do things to increase safety.

This may include:

  • Reducing the number of times our crews are exposed to traffic. This includes bundling various repairs into one job. For example, if we have to fix a guardrail, we may also do work like crack sealing and litter or graffiti removal at the same time to avoid having a second work zone.
  • Closing more lanes or creating a longer work zone area to create a larger buffer for crews
  • Using additional safety equipment on the roads, such as temporary portable rumble strips and zipper barriers

A good example of this is the repair job we’ve had on I-5 in southern Thurston County over the past couple weeks. Crews have been repairing cracks and restriping between lanes on the highway. We’ve had two lanes closed on short sections between Maytown and the Thurston/Lewis county line. We’re doing this during the day because of the increase in dangerous driver behavior, particularly on I-5 at night. Crews will return to the southbound side of I-5 next week from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17. This may mean more congestion around work zones and longer delays – but we simply must take steps to improve worker and traveler safety.

And as you are driving through, please slow down and keep an eye out for our workers and work zones. Please make sure you give them enough room, don’t drink and drive and be sure you’re alert and focused. You play a part in their safety, and we need your help.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Revive I-5 pavement replacement is first of many projects coming to Everett area

By Tom Pearce

Revive I-5 comes to Everett this weekend, which means people traveling north through the city on the freeway need to plan around the traffic effects it will have. While Revive I-5 has mostly been in Seattle so far, other sections of I-5 around the region – including this one – need preservation work.

Starting at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, northbound I-5 will be reduced to two lanes from Lowell Road – about two miles north of SR 526 – to Everett Avenue. The closure will last until 5 a.m. Monday, Oct. 17.

During the closure, the regular off-ramps to Broadway and 41st Street will be closed, but the HOV ramp to Broadway, with access to 41st, will be open to all drivers.

This lane reduction will create a safe work zone for our contractor crews while they replace many broken concrete panels.

This section of I-5 opened in the late 1960s. The original designers expected it to last about 25 years before needing major work. While it's lasted twice that long, this section of the freeway is showing its age. Numerous concrete panels are broken. We need weekend-long lane reductions to replace those panels.

Replacing a section of panels, which was done here as part of an earlier
Revive I-5 project, can be more cost-efficient.

It's much more cost-efficient and will result in a better final product to do this work during a weekend lane reduction. Our contractor crews from Acme Concrete Paving need to dig out the panels, make sure the soil underneath is in good condition to support the new panels, then pour the concrete and let it cure.

After more than 50 years of use, the freeway also has tire ruts, worn by the roughly 80,000 vehicles that use this portion of road daily. To fix these, our contractor will grind off the high spots outside the ruts to provide a more level driving surface. This will reduce puddling when it rains, improving safety.

Before they can take out broken panels, crews cut them so they can break them and remove them.

Plenty more work on I-5 and SR 529 corridor

This project is the first of several occurring in the Everett/Marysville area. In addition to the current work to replace broken concrete panels, starting in 2023 several other preservation projects are planned, including:

  • Replacing four bridge expansion joints on I-5 between 41st Street and US 2 in Everett
  • Four projects to repair and/or repaint SR 529 bridges between Everett and Marysville
  • A new northbound HOV lane as well as an interchange at I-5 and SR 529 to improve access to and from Marysville
  • Replacing a damaged girder at the 12th Street Northeast overpass over I-5 in north Everett

While we have these separated into several projects, we understand that as local travelers all you'll see is a lot of work. That's why we're already planning to coordinate the work schedules as these projects come online. The goal is to limit the number of lane closures occurring at any one time.

We realize these closures on I-5 and SR 529 are going to have a major effect on everyone traveling between Everett and Marysville. However, preservation work is critical for aging infrastructure. That's a huge part of what we do every day, but we'll also continue to make sure you can get to your destinations.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Washington's Right of Way Safety Initiative addressing homeless encampments on state roadways, property

By WSDOT staff

This spring work began on the state's Right of Way Safety Initiative, a new partnership of state and local partners to find solutions for people living homeless on state highway rights of way.

This initiative is led by three state agencies – the state departments of Commerce and Transportation and the Washington State Patrol. It's a result of Gov. Jay Inslee's request to the Legislature earlier this year to address increasing safety issues along state highways. Our agencies do this work in partnership with numerous local governments and non-profit partners.

While homelessness isn't new on state lands, funding provided by Legislature this past session allows for new approaches and opportunities to augment city resources to provide shelter and housing options. Commerce has $143 million for a variety of services and types of housing, including $45 million from the initial legislative proviso.

The work has started in five counties: King, Pierce, Thurston, Snohomish and Spokane. Initial efforts are centered along some of our largest interstate corridors, but the ultimate goal is to expand these efforts as more funding and resources allow.

Early successes

This outreach and housing approach has been visible in both King and Thurston counties this year, where we've had some early successes clearing areas at five sites – some stretching over many sections of an interchange.

Since starting this work in June, two sites have been cleared in Thurston, with outreach underway at new locations. In King County three sites have been cleared, including one large site at Dearborn and I-5, and work continues for other sites. While not everyone moves into the housing offered to them, those who do have had good outcomes. Of the 77 people who have accepted housing so far, 73 – 95 percent – remain housed, a testament to the early outreach identifying needs and options. In addition, these sites have now been cleaned, modified in some instances to discourage future encampments, and have not been reinhabited.

Safety, partnerships and roles

The Right of Way Safety Initiative focuses on state highway rights of way because of the inherent safety risk these sites pose to anyone on them. Vehicles pass these locations at 70 mph or higher, regular inspections and access are needed, emergency and planned construction takes place, etc.

These areas are not safe places for anyone to be living, and the encampments make these areas unsafe for crews working on these sites, for passing motorists who can be distracted and the neighbors of these areas.

Our efforts are very much a partnership between the state agencies as well as local partners and that is vital because there are several steps that need to happen to clear an encampment and help people find shelter or housing. Those steps and the agencies who work on them are:

  1. Identify and offer shelter and services to people living at a site (local jurisdiction & service/outreach providers; funding offered by Commerce)
  2. Provide secure storage of their belongings (local jurisdiction & service/outreach providers)
  3. Ensure safety and security for people on site and work crews (local law enforcement & WSP)
  4. Restore and clean up the property (WSDOT)

Stopping the cycle is labor-intensive work

Homelessness is a challenging issue. We hear from people who are frustrated and want fast solutions, but we've found during recent years that connections to services and housing are necessary for stopping the cycle of displacement and encampment. This process takes time and work from skilled outreach teams.

Without this type of outreach, clearing an encampment merely displaces people to some other area of the community. Forcing people to move to another site is a quick, temporary action that is neither sustainable nor humane.

The state's Right of Way Safety Initiative allows for a new approach. The funding requires that housing be offered to the people living on any site we address, including outreach to individuals so we can find the best possible solution for them. This involves strong partnerships with local government and a wide swath of non-profit groups who can do that critical outreach work. This work starts long before a site is posted with a deadline for people to leave the site – and is already underway in various degrees in all five counties.

This type of work takes time, but it also allows us to make meaningful progress and put people on the path of long-term, permanent housing.

Moving forward

Each site and community are different, which is why it's so important to have meaningful, productive partnerships with local governments and outreach groups. In some cases, such as Spokane, that may mean fencing an area (for the security of those within the camp and the local neighborhood) while outreach takes place, in others it's identifying hotels or other sites that can be turned into long-term housing. It's usually a variety of approaches.

The local governments and outreach partners play key roles because they're able to identify their local needs as well as have the connections with area providers who can help meet those needs on the ground.

This work doesn't happen overnight, but we are looking forward to making more progress in the coming months which will help bring people inside as well as remove the safety risks from encampments on rights of way.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Aviation emergency services division successfully locates two survivors near Lyman following missing plane event

By Tina Werner

An 18-hour air and ground search for a missing plane along State Route 20 between Concrete and Sedro-Woolley came to a successful conclusion Monday as a search coordinated by our agency located two survivors of a crash near the small town of Lyman in Skagit County.

The survivors, the sole occupants of the plane, were spotted near a clearing which led to the foothills south of SR 20. They blended into the foliage, so crews had to look carefully to find them in the early morning hours.

The small Cessna aircraft were last seen after reportedly leaving the Concrete airport at 2:16 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25. The plane was headed to a private airstrip the pilot owned just west of Snohomish.

This small Cessna plane went missing on Sunday, Sept. 25 between Concrete and Sedro-Woolley but on Sunday
search teams were able to successfully locate the pilot and passenger.

The search involved several agencies, but why were we involved? When a plane or helicopter goes missing, our on-call Aviation Emergency Services coordinator is notified by the Washington State Emergency Management Division or the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. Those agencies receive notice from local emergency services.

Our pilot, who is also the search coordinator, was notified at 8:30 p.m. Sunday and immediately began air search and rescue efforts. The Skagit and Snohomish county sherriff’s offices also led a ground search Sunday night. The search continued Monday by air and ground and around 8 a.m. our pilot located the two occupants near the wooded area. They had walked about a half mile from the crash site to get to a clearing with hopes of being rescued in the daylight. They were exhausted and transported to a nearby hospital for medical treatment.

A look at the rescue site on Monday near Lyman south of SR 20. The small helicopter (circled) was onsite with a medic onboard to provide medical attention and
transport the survivors to a nearby hospital.

Crews worked in an area that was identified as a high probability range by the radar and cell phone forensics teams at the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. While flying, our Aviation Emergency Services pilot could detect a signal on the emergency frequency which led into the foothills south of SR 20 near Lyman. That is how they were able to pinpoint the last known signal of the aircraft and locate the pilot and passenger.

The crash survivors blended into the foliage so it took a carefully trained eye
by our pilot to locate them Monday morning.

The names of the pilot and passenger are not being released at this time. The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the crash.

We are thankful they were found alive as many searches don’t always have a positive outcome. Our thoughts and well wishes are with them as they are reunited with their families thanks to the efforts of all the crews and partners who worked on this mission. This is yet another example of the important work done by our Aviation Emergency Services team, and we thank them for their around-the-clock dedication to serve the citizens of our state.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Answering your most common questions about why we do so much weekend summer work

By Mike Allende

Fall has arrived and with it, thoughts of winter start creeping into our heads. At the same time, road workers are busily trying to get as much done as they can before the wet, cold weather arrives.

In the Seattle area, that means another busy weekend of work, including a full closure of westbound I-90 across Lake Washington, and closures of the I-5 express lanes and the southbound I-5 exit to Mercer Street, as well as the I-90/southbound I-5 ramps. This is just the latest in what has been an extremely busy summer of roadwork. You’re tired of it. We’re feeling fatigued. It’s a lot for everyone to manage and try to get around in.

We get it. We go to all the games and big events too. If there was a way to get all of this done overnight in the middle of winter, we’d do it. It’s just not possible. How come? Great question. In fact, we’ve gotten lots of good questions this summer, and we wanted to provide a handy one-stop shop to answer the most common ones. So, here you go!

During the 23 weekends of the Revive I-5 construction season, there is only one weekend where there are no large events happening, making it impossible to get work done and avoid disruptions.

Q: Why can’t you just do this work overnight like every other agency in the country?

A: We do lots of work overnight. But not ALL work can be done overnight. There just isn’t enough time. Major jobs like our Revive I-5 expansion joint project are too large to just get done overnight. Between setting up a large work area, then replacing the expansion joints – there are large pieces of metal that have to be cut out – then letting the concrete set (which can take almost a full day alone) and picking up the work zone, there isn’t enough hours overnight to get all of that done. Some work also just isn’t safe to do in the dark.

Q: But why do you have to do it during the summer when we are all out trying to enjoy the weather?

A: In short, we need predictably dry, warm weather to do work that involves a lot of concrete. Otherwise, the concrete won’t set firmly or evenly. In western Washington, that leaves a pretty small window of weather – basically June to maybe mid-September – to get a ton of really big work done.

It takes full weekends to replace the dozens of expansion joints on southbound I-5
in Seattle as part of the Revive I-5 project.

Q: Why are you closing multiple highways at the same time?

A: The Revive I-5 work involves replacing about 40 large expansion joints. Each half of the expansion joint takes quite awhile to replace, and so we need the full summer to be able to get it all done. But there is other big work that also has to get done on highways like I-90, I-405 and SR 520. With I-5 work happening basically every weekend, there really aren’t enough weekends to do work on other highways while avoiding I-5 work weekends. And, if we don’t do this work each summer we risk emergency closures when an aging expansion joint fails and that also snarls traffic – but with no advance notice.

And the big one...

Q: Why are you doing this the same weekend that (fill in the blank major event) is happening?

A: Our first weekend of Revive I-5 work was May 13-15. The last one will be about Oct. 14-16 if the weather holds out. Between those two times – encompassing 23 weekends – there was ONE weekend where there wasn’t at least one pro sports game happening. That’s not counting major festivals and events like Seafair and Comicon, holiday weekends and the many concerts at the stadiums and arenas. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to do this work and not affect a major event.

With Revive I-5 happening every weekend, we still must get work done in other areas, like this coming weekend
on I-5 near Mercer Street where work on our SR 520 project will be happening.

Again, we go to these games, concerts and events too. We know it’s frustrating to deal with closures and traffic. If this major work could be done in a way that has no effect on anything, we’d do it in a second. It’s just not possible though, and so we do the best we can to give people heads up – on our various social media, through the traditional media, on our website, via our email/text alerts and on signs – so they can plan around them.

The good news is that this construction season is almost over. The not-as-great news is, we’ve got a lot of busy summer construction seasons coming up. And they will undoubtedly effect people’s abilities to get where they need to go. So please continue to stay looped in via our social media and other outlets so you can stay informed on what’s to come. It’s not going to be easy, but with our roads aging and in need of major work, it’s vital, and we’ll do our best to keep you in the loop about what to expect.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Potential for cancelled Amtrak Cascades trains starting Friday, Sept. 16

Update 8:18 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 15

The potential freight railroad strike has been averted. Amtrak Cascades trains between Seattle and Eugene will resume normal operations today. The Amtrak long-distance trains - Coast Starlight and Empire Builder - will resume operations Friday. All affected customers are being notified.


By Janet Matkin

We're keeping a close eye on the ongoing freight rail labor contract negotiations and working with our partners at the Oregon Department of Transportation and Amtrak about what this means for our Amtrak Cascades service.

The negotiations do not involve Amtrak or the Amtrak workforce but still do affect train travel. While we are hopeful that parties will reach a resolution, Amtrak has now begun phased adjustments to its service in preparation for a possible freight rail service interruption later this week.

The train tracks on which Amtrak Cascades trains run in Washington and Oregon are primarily owned by BNSF Railway and Union Pacific. These railroad companies control all train movements in this region and therefore the potential strike of their workers will affect Amtrak Cascades trains. Our trains cannot operate without the BNSF and Union Pacific dispatchers.

As a precautionary measure, Amtrak has secured buses for Thursday, Sept. 15, that will transport Amtrak Cascades passengers if necessary, ensuring train passengers are not stranded mid-trip. However, if a strike occurs, it will result in complete service disruptions starting on Friday, Sept. 16,  and there are no buses available this weekend to provide alternative transportation options. Ticketed customers are being notified of the potential situation and Amtrak is offering to change their reservation to another travel date, waive any difference in fare for departures through Oct. 31 or provide a full refund without cancellation fees.

Additionally, Amtrak has already suspended service on its two long-distance trains out of Portland and Seattle – the Empire Builder that travels to Chicago and the Coast Starlight that travels to Los Angeles. These adjustments were necessary to ensure trains can reach their terminals before freight railroad service interruption if a resolution in negotiations is not reached.

We know disruptions and uncertainty are frustrating and we're working to keep passengers informed of any changes and thank you for your patience and understanding. Amtrak Cascades trains will resume running as soon as the labor negotiations are resolved.

An Amtrak Cascades train on the tracks – we’re closely monitoring a labor dispute
that may disrupt service starting Friday, Sept. 16.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Coordinating projects like Revive I-5, West Seattle Bridge reopening keeps people moving

By Tom Pearce

We are nearing the end of our expansion joint replacement project on southbound I-5 between I-90 and Spokane Street in Seattle, with only a few weekends of work remaining.

Our next weekend coincides with a major Seattle Department of Transportation event – the long-awaited reopening of the West Seattle Bridge on Sunday, Sept. 18. While we will work the weekend of Sept. 17-18 on the I-5 off-ramp to the West Seattle Bridge, we are requiring our contractor have all lanes of southbound I-5 reopened early Sunday, Sept. 18. When SDOT reopens the bridge that day, people will have an easier time getting to and from West Seattle.

Remaining work

Generally, we replace expansion joints one-half at a time – either on the left or right side of the roadway – allowing us to keep at least some lanes open. In some areas where the road is narrower, like on- or off-ramps, we have to do the entire joint at once, which means full closures.

By replacing either the left or right half of expansion joints during the weekend, we can keep lanes open.

So far, we have replaced 41 full expansion joints and still have 10 joints to complete. We also need to add sealant to a number of joints and repair ruts on the I-90 on-ramps to southbound I-5 as well as the Forest Street and West Seattle Bridge off-ramps, which have been worn by decades of vehicles using the ramps.

We expect to complete the last of these repairs and joint replacements by mid-October, depending on the weather. Our contractor can work with some rain, but if heavy rains or winds are in the forecast, we may have to postpone to another weekend.

Replacing several joints each weekend helps finish the work more quickly.

Coordinated efforts

It would be easier for us to simply close highways to do repairs, but with so many people relying on these roads, it's not a realistic way to do work. For example, earlier this year, I-405 had a weekend-long closure in downtown Bellevue. After considering the options and effects, we determined we would not work on I-5 that weekend.

That sounds like a simple decision, but sometimes it isn't. In the next several years we have major projects in the greater Seattle area on I-5, I-405, I-90 and SR 520, as well as other highways around the region. Beginning next year, we may have to allow closures on multiple highways at the same time in order to complete work in a timely manner. We understand this will be inconvenient for people, but the sooner we finish, the sooner everyone will have a better road network.

Besides planning among our own projects, we also will work with our other partners like SDOT to coordinate so people can get where they want to go.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Ferry workers save two people in one week at Vashon terminal

By Justin Fujioka

The week before Labor Day was a busy one for our ferry workers at Vashon terminal. They helped save the lives of two people in two separate incidents.

Person in the water

On Aug. 31, someone at the dock alerted our terminal employees that a person was in the water. Our staff spotted the individual and immediately called for assistance.

While waiting for help to arrive, our terminal employees were able to get a life ring to the person in the water. They also worked to keep them calm by offering reassurance that help was on the way.

Our ferry Issaquah arrived within a few minutes and a rescue boat was launched. The crew was able to successfully rescue the person from the water and bring them ashore to Vashon terminal. That's where emergency medical services took over and transported the individual to the hospital.

Our Vashon terminal staff and Issaquah crewmembers worked to save the life of a person in the water near the passenger-only dock on Aug. 31.

Cardiac event

Just two days later on Sept. 2, a ferry rider at the dock suffered a cardiac event. Our terminal employees quickly sprung into action by starting CPR. They also used an automated external defibrillator.

Emergency medical service transported the person to Fauntleroy aboard our ferry Kitsap to Harborview Medical Center, where they underwent emergency heart surgery.

All new terminal hires starting this year received training in the AED as part of their new hire training. All deck employees have received that training as a requirement of the Coast Guard.

We got word that the individual is on their way to recovery. Doctors say that our employees' speedy initiation of CPR probably saved the person's life and limited any permanent damage to their heart. The person's family has expressed their extreme gratitude to our Vashon terminal staff.

We are so proud and thankful for our terminal employees and vessel crews for stepping up when needed most. These events highlight why their first aid and rescue training are so vital. Safety and care of our passengers is always our top priority and we applauded all our colleagues who were involved in these rescues!

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

I-405 lane reductions in Bellevue Sept. 15-18 for emergency repair work

By Victoria Miller

Drivers on Interstate 405 should prepare for four full days of emergency repair work that will include a 23-hour full closure of the highway and lane reductions in the Bellevue area near 112th Avenue Southeast/Lake Washington Boulevard Southeast (Exit 9) from Thursday, Sept. 15 to Sunday, Sept. 18. During that time, crews will excavate and replace an existing culvert with an interim drainage structure. At least one lane or ramp will be open at all times during the four-day closure.

Why is this work happening?

In spring 2022, we discovered a failed culvert under mainline I-405 in the vicinity of 112th Avenue Southeast near the Newport Hills Park and Ride in Bellevue. The failed culvert resulted in an approximately 15-foot-deep sinkhole in the Newport Hills Park and Ride and has the potential to cause similar sinkholes under mainline I-405. This emergency repair of the culvert should prevent that from happening.

A failed culvert led to a large sinkhole forming in a Bellevue Park and Ride, leading to emergency repairs in mid-September.

How will the construction be phased?

Over the four days of work, crews plan to excavate and replace the existing culvert underneath I-405 in three phases beginning at the southbound I-405 off-ramp to Exit 9 and moving east toward the northbound I-405 on-ramp.

  • Phase One
    From 11 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15 to 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, the southbound I-405 off-ramp to Exit 9 will be closed. Southbound I-405 will be reduced to two lanes between Coal Creek Parkway and Exit 9. Drivers wishing to exit southbound I-405 will detour to the Northeast 44th Street (Exit 7) off-ramp.
  • Phase Two
    From 11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, all lanes of I-405 at Exit 9 will be closed. Drivers will use the Exit 9 ramps as the detour with flaggers directing traffic.
  • Phase Three
    From 11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18, the Exit 9 on-ramp to northbound I-405 will be closed. All other lanes and ramps will be open.
The repair work will be divided into three phases and drivers should expect at least one lane or ramp to be open on I-405 at all times during the four-day project.

During the second phase of work when all lanes of I-405 are closed, we will have flaggers directing traffic from the off-ramp over the city street and back onto the highway via the on-ramp at the same exit.

The southbound I-405 offramp to Exit 9 will be closed during the first 18 hours of the closure. Drivers will use the southbound offramp at Northeast 44th Street (Exit 7) as the detour.

How you can help

We realize how big of a challenge/inconvenience this is for drivers. There will also be other events occurring over the course of these four days, including concerts in Seattle and Woodinville, and the Washington State Fair at the Puyallup Fairgrounds.

During the second phase of work, from 11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, all lanes of I-405 will be closed. Drivers will use the Exit 9 ramps as the detour with flaggers directing traffic.

With all this happening at once, we ask that drivers please do their best to be patient, give each other space, stay alert for road workers, and if you can delay your trips until very early or very late, do so. It will be a huge team effort to safely help this emergency repair project get done, and we want you on our team.

To stay up to date with the latest traffic and closure information, "know before you go" by using our real-time travel map. If you have questions about this emergency work and closure, you can contact our project office at i405sr167program@wsdot.wa.gov.