Friday, December 30, 2011

New Yakima-Ellensburg transit service quickly becoming the talk of two towns

Passengers prepare to board the Yakima-Ellensburg
 Commuter, a new transit service connecting the two cities.
by guest blogger Jef Lucero

One rider is heading to the hospital for her daily outpatient appointment, thankful that her husband doesn’t have to take time off from work to drive her there. Another is a soldier in the 53rd Ordnance Company, on his way to the training and firing center just outside Selah. Behind him sit two students - one enrolled at Perry Technical College, the other at Yakima Valley Community College, both making their way home after class. The return trip will deliver three students and two professors to the Central Washington University campus. And there’s the rider that just booked a dialysis appointment - he’d been waitlisted at his regular doctor’s office in Ellensburg, but can get in today at a Yakima clinic.

These are just a few of the people enjoying a new option that wasn’t available a month ago, thanks to a brand new commuter transit service between Yakima and Ellensburg. The service is fast becoming a reliable option, meeting the needs of many in two communities not previously connected by public transportation.

On November 25, Yakima Transit and HopeSource unveiled the Yakima Ellensburg Commuter, filling an essential transportation need for both communities. Making eight round trips daily, the service makes five stops between the Yakima airport and the Central Washington campus. According to Yakima Transit Manager Ken Mehin, students and faculty at the three colleges between the two cities favor the morning and late afternoon runs; shoppers shuttling between towns prefer the midday service.

But, Mehin adds, ride along on a given day and you’re likely to share the trip with a number of different people on their way to a wide range of personal and professional business. "As word has spread of the service, the community hasn’t just taken notice," says Mehin, "they’ve responded." In fact, ridership has gone up so fast that Yakima Transit will purchase new, larger vehicles in early 2012 to accommodate the increasing demand.

Because Yakima Transit’s authority extends just past its city limits, so too does its service area. But a strong public-private partnership with HopeSource allowed the idea to move forward. With HopeSource providing drivers and route operation and Yakima Transit providing the vehicles - and with the help of local, state and federal grant funding and investments - the service took flight. Or more accurately, it took to the road.

That level of partnership is one of the things that makes this endeavor so distinct, says HopeSource project manager Geoff Crump. The broad, cooperative approach fostered by a local transit agency and a non-profit organization has caught on fast. “We’re hearing from our drivers almost every day about passengers saying how grateful they are for this service. It means a lot to both of these communities.”

WSDOT’s public transportation grants help provide access, mobility and independence to Washington residents. Made possible by state and federal funds, these grants provide transit services within and between cities, purchase new buses and other equipment, provide public transportation service for the elderly and people with disabilities, and improve public transportation in and between rural communities.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What will traffic do when SR 520 tolling starts?


By guest blogger Emily Pace

The big question when SR 520 tolling starts Thursday, Dec. 29, is if drivers will continue to use the bridge, travel at off-peak times to pay a cheaper toll rate, find an alternate route, take the bus or just stay home.

We’ve tried to come up with an answer by surveying bridge users and creating traffic forecasts. We’ve collected a lot of data about what people might do once tolling starts, but ultimately, it’s hard to predict what drivers will do.

What can drivers do? Plan ahead and allow extra time.

Without a doubt, it will take a while for drivers to settle into a new pattern after tolling starts – up to six months. Don’t expect traffic to behave the same way every day. While there are other routes around Lake Washington like I-90, SR 522 and I-405-to-I-5, these may be even more congested as traffic reroutes to avoid tolls.

Drivers have several choices when tolling starts:

  • Get a Good To Go! pass and save $1.50 each way in tolls when crossing the SR 520 bridge.
  • Travel during off-peak periods to pay cheaper toll rates: Get familiar with the SR 520 toll rates online or download the WSDOT mobile App.
  • Ride the bus: Take advantage of the 730 daily bus trips across SR 520. King County Metro and Sound Transit expanded service earlier this year in preparation for tolling.
  • Share the ride: Visit RideshareOnline.com to join a vanpool or carpool. Drivers are also encouraged to work with their employers to look into compressing or changing work hours and teleworking.

Plan ahead, allow extra time and pack your patience as traffic on all major roadways will be very different after SR 520 tolling starts. You can always get up-to-date traffic information on our website before you leave.

What are we doing to help drivers?

We will closely monitor all of the routes around and across Lake Washington to determine how tolling affects traffic. We will track travel times, ensure signal coordination, and collect traffic volumes on highways and local roads.  We’ll also be using our traffic tools like travel time signs, ramp meters and electronic message signs. We’ll even have extra Incident Response Team patrols out on the road to help clear incidents and keep traffic moving.

We’re working with local governments around the lake to share data because we know it’s not just about highways but also local streets. We will share what we learn about the effect of tolling on traffic with the public, local governments, the Legislature and the Transportation Commission.

What will be the new “normal” after traffic adjusts?

It will take time for drivers to adjust to a new “normal” after tolling starts. When people settle into new routines after six months or so, we anticipate more traffic will return to SR 520 as drivers find paying a toll for a more reliable trip across the bridge is worth it.

After several months we expect to see the following changes in travel speeds during peak periods:

  • Westbound SR 520 morning commute: 20 mph faster
  • Westbound I-90 morning commute: 5 to 10 mph slower
  • Westbound SR 522 morning commute: 5 mph slower

Are we going to toll I-90?

Not at this time. Legislative authorization is required to toll any new corridors, including I-90, and tolling I-90 would also have to be coordinated with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Even with approval from legislature and FHWA, starting tolling on I-90 would be years away. Time intensive work such as developing environmental studies, designing the toll system and starting the contract bid process would still need to be completed.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

SR 522/US 2 Interchange Improvements

A drivers-eye view of the new ramp from
eastbound SR 522 to eastbound US 2
By guest blogger Bronlea Mishler

Heading east out of Seattle and Bothell, State Route 522 gives drivers a shortcut to central Snohomish County and US 2. Unfortunately, that shortcut ends at one of the busiest locations on US 2: Monroe. Drivers often get stuck in congestion on both highways, and have to wait through a sometimes-lengthy stoplight to reach US 2. Delays can be especially tough during morning and evening commutes, and during busy summer and winter weekends.

But congested drives and long waits at stoplights could soon be a thing of the past thanks to a new flyover ramp that opened at 7 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17. Now, drivers headed east on SR 522 can connect to eastbound US 2 via a new direct ramp. The new ramp allows drivers to skip the stoplight and get on to US 2 a half-mile farther east. That means no more waiting at a signal to turn left, and less congestion through town.

About 17,000 vehicles travel through the SR 522/US 2 interchange every day. This new ramp will help smooth traffic flow by giving drivers two options to head east on US 2. The existing loop ramp will remain in place for drivers heading west on US 2 and drivers who want to access local businesses north of US 2 from Kelsey Street. Drivers using the new ramp can access local businesses beginning at Chain Lake Road.

In addition to the new ramp, crews added one new lane in each direction of US 2 – eastbound between Chain Lake Road and SR 522, and westbound between SR 522 and Cascade View Drive. The additional lanes will help improve traffic flow in and out of Monroe.

This is the first phase of a two-stage project to widen SR 522 to four lanes between US 2 and the Snohomish River Bridge. Construction began on the second part of the project in July and is expected to be completed by late 2014.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Top Ten Questions about SR 520 Tolls

The popular sticker pass is about the size of a band-aid.
by guest blogger Emily Pace

Tolling on the SR 520 Bridge is starting Dec. 29. Last week we asked everyone to send us their questions on SR 520 tolling. Here are the top 10 questions we’ve received and answers.
  1. I got my pass at the store. I’m set, right?
    You’re almost set. If you purchased your pass at one of our retail partners (Fred Meyer, Safeway, Costco or QFC) you will need to:
    • Go online to set up and put money in a Good To Go! account and activate your sticker pass
    • Install the sticker pass on your vehicle per the instruction accompanying the pass. Don’t forget to do this before Dec. 29!
  2. I only cross once or twice a month, so why would I get a pass?
    Getting a Good To Go! pass and setting up an account will save you $1.50 in tolls each time you cross the bridge – the $5 sticker pass pays for itself in just four crossings (that’s $6 saved). By setting up a pre-paid account with $30 your tolls will be automatically deducted. So the real question is; why wouldn’t you purchase a pass and open an account?

  3. How much are the tolls?
    • Toll rates vary depending on the time of the day you cross the bridge, but two points are always the same: drivers spend less by driving during off-peak times, and you can save money in tolls with a Good To Go! pass.
    • For those with a Good To Go! pass, toll rates range from $1.60 to $3.50 during the week and $1.10 to $2.20 on the weekend. Rates are $1.50 higher for vehicles without a pass.
  4. How did you come up with these rates?
    The Washington State Transportation Commission recommended toll rates and the Legislature approved them.

  5. Where is this money going, and how much of this is going to pay for the bridge?
    Tolls on SR 520 expect to raise $1 billion to help fund the $4.64 billion SR 520 bridge replacement and HOV program. The target date to open the new bridge is 2014.

  6. What kinds of vehicles are exempt?
    The only vehicles exempt from SR 520 tolls are registered vanpools, transit, emergency response vehicles (such as police, fire and ambulances) on bona-fide emergencies, Washington State Patrol vehicles assigned to the bridge, tow trucks authorized by the Washington State Patrol to clear a blocking incident, and bridge maintenance vehicles. Carpools and motorcycles are not exempt.

  7. What other routes can we take?
    While there are other routes around Lake Washington like I-90, SR 522 and I-405-to-I-5, these may be even more congested as traffic reroutes to avoid tolls. We encourage SR 520 drivers to get a Good To Go! pass and save $1.50 on each toll when they cross the bridge. Drivers can also share the ride and take advantage of carpools, vanpools, transit and work with their employers to look into compressing or changing work hours and teleworking.

  8. Is this really, truly going to happen?
    Yes. Tolling will start at 5 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 29 and we are ready. When we encounter issues we will work to solve them as quickly as possible and keep the public updated. Drivers can help and save money in tolls by getting a Good To Go! pass and setting up an account on line as soon as possible to avoid the last-minute rush. Don’t have online access? Just call Good To Go! customer service at 1-866-936-8246 for other payment or pass options.

  9. How many people are going to change their travel routes?
    Every driver is different and it’s going to take a while for travel patterns to shake out. Once people get settled into their new habits we expect to see slightly more traffic on I-90 and SR 522 during rush hour. We also expect to see more traffic return to SR 520 and a more reliable trip across the bridge as drivers find paying a toll for a more reliable trip across the bridge is worth it. We will closely monitor all of the routes around Lake Washington during this transition.

  10. What should visitors from out of the area do to cross the bridge?
    No pass? No worries. Your out-of-town guests don’t have to do anything – a photo will be taken of their license plate and we will bill them by mail at a higher toll rate. You can also call customer service within 72 hours of crossing to pay the toll by setting up a Short Term Account. But those who want the lowest rate possible should check out the pass options online.
Don’t see your question answered here? We have more answers in our SR 520 Tolling Frequently Asked Questions, including information for those who activated their Good To Go! Pass by April 15 - yes, you still get your credit!

If you have questions or concerns regarding a toll bill, civil penalty or Good To Go! account please call 1-866-936-8246 or email GoodToGo@GoodToGo.wsdot.wa.gov.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ever heard of a rolling slow down?

We get great questions from time to time that are worth having a bigger conversation about.  Dr. David Parks recently asked, "Why are you doing "rolling slowdowns" on I-90 Snoqualmie Pass even on weekends?  This last Saturday, the roads were totally clear (no ice, no snow, no avalanches, no construction), and I encountered a 20 minute "delay" behind your wonderful DOT trucks traveling 20 mph down the road?"

Our Assistant Maintenance Superintendent for the North Bend to Vantage area, Harry Nelson, took the time to answer his question:

We generally experience high traffic volumes on the  I-90 corridor, ( 15,000 to 40,000 vehicles daily ), and sometimes during peak travel times more. They also average 75 plus mph on any given day unless weather will not allow, even then some still attempt this speed. With these high volumes, and fast pace, emergent work, (potholes, debris, disabled vehicles, etc.), can become quite a challenge for our crews.

Rolling Slow Downs are a safe way for us to accomplish our emergent work with little impact. It appears that our vehicles are just holding you up for no reason. I assure you that is not the case at all. What you did not see is the emergent work ahead of our trucks being done on the roadway. This could have been a pothole, or any other incident that would cause damage to a vehicle, cause an accident, or be a safety issue to the traveling public. As you stated “they hold you back at 20 mph,” when the work you do not see ahead of you is complete, they get out of your way and let you go and you may never see the workers ahead of you that were doing the emergent activity. These slowdowns average 5 to 8 minutes. These slowdowns are designed for short duration work, so not to delay the public and keep our crews and the public safe. While you are traveling 20 mph behind our vehicles, our crew is doing this work without anyone driving through their work zone.

Safety is our #1 priority.

If we were to close a lane to do this short duration work, the traffic delays would be significantly longer, maybe even 1 to 2 hours longer added to your travel time in peak traffic situations. Instead we prefer the 5 to 8 minute delay, as you can understand why, less inconvenience to you, and safer for our crews. I hope this helps you understand that what looks like wasted time, may prevent an accident, unnecessary damage to a vehicle, or bodily injury either to the public or our workers.

Again our main concern is SAFETY to all, and not to inconvenience anyone.

So if you see one of our trucks or crews out there on the road, be sure to take the time and give them a brake.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Roundabout benefits come full circle


Believe it or not, driving in circles can actually save fuel and reduce harmful emissions. Though it may sound counterintuitive, roundabouts actually have many environmental benefits – on top of all their safety benefits – that should put them at the top any intersection improvement list.

SR 548 Roundabout - Aerial
The safety benefits behind roundabouts are jaw dropping - reducing deaths by 90 percent, injuries by 76 percent and all crashes by 40 percent, according to the InsuranceInstitute for Highway Safety. But did you know that the efficiency and emissions statistics behind roundabouts are equally impressive?

The emissions and gas-savings stats have been less publicized, but they’re no less stunning from a sustainabletransportation standpoint. In a day and age when we’re counting every last pound of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere, these numbers are becoming even more important.

A Kansas State University study found that replacing four-way stops with roundabouts reduced carbon monoxide emissions by 38-45 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 55-61 percent. Nitrogen oxides dropped 44-51 percent, and hydrocarbons fell 62-68 percent.

The number and size of vehicles play a big role in emissions. Roundabouts have even greater environmental benefits at busier intersections, especially if used by lots of semis.

Aerial view of SR 539 Wiser Lake roundabout

Other studies show that when roundabouts replace intersections with or without signals, there’s a 30 percent reduction in carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides and a 30 percent drop in fuel consumption.

The bulk of emissions aren’t necessarily from idling: We really pump the emissions into the atmosphere every time we accelerate from that stop sign or red light.

In fall 2005, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studied 10 intersections where traffic signals were built instead of roundabouts. The study estimated vehicle delays and fuel consumption at the signaled intersections and then compared the results to what they would have been if roundabouts had been built instead. For those 10 intersections, roundabouts would have: 

  • Reduced delays by 62-74 percent, saving 325,000 hours (37 years) of motorists’ time annually.
  • Decreased fuel consumption by about 235,000 gallons per year, for an annual savings of $587,000 (assuming an average cost of $2.50 per gallon of regular gas).
  • Caused fewer emissions and pollutants to be released into the atmosphere. 
Once a signal is installed, they’re rarely removed. They’re around for quite a few years, and their annual costs really add up over time.

The annual cost to run and maintain a signal is assumed to be about $8,000 a year. That’s $5,000 for basic electricity and routine signal maintenance and $3,000 to retime and optimize for traffic. Plus, signals get a rebuilt after 20 years – new guts and software – which costs about 30 percent of the initial cost. There are none of these costs when you build and maintain a roundabout.  

In the last four years, 14 signals have been removed and replaced with roundabouts at intersections in Washington. Today, there are 220 roundabouts total across the state, and 58 of those are on state highways.

Olympia Roundabout Looking East

Many drivers believe traffic signals are the better choice simply because that’s what they’re used to. But from safety, societal cost and environmental standpoints, the roundabout wins hands down.

If roundabouts reduce pollutants and save gas, why would anyone prefer to sit and wait at stoplight or stop sign?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Viable opportunities in viaduct recycling

by guest blogger Noel Brady


This chunk of the Viaduct showed up on Ebay
Turns out there’s more than one way to recycle a 60-year-old viaduct.

When we razed the southern portion of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in late October, several shrewd spectators turned to eBay to recycle their pieces of Seattle history into cold hard cash. One chunk of concrete went for at least $16.50, minus shipping.

WSDOT and viaduct contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) saw opportunity in recycling too; they turned viaduct rubble into cold hard building materials. Our transportation engineer Amjad Omar said nearly 100 percent of the old concrete and rebar from this portion of the viaduct in Seattle will be recycled and reused.

From October’s demolition alone – about 25 percent of the total viaduct structure – crews hauled 3,500 truckloads of concrete rubble to Terminal 25. There, the concrete was crushed to be reused for the new SR 99 Tunnel that will replace the viaduct, and the rebar is being prepared for transfer to a local recycler.

Not only does recycling save us on the cost of materials, but it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions from hauling rumble to a far-off disposal site, producing new materials and hauling it to the work site. Recycling old bridges and other transportation structure is nothing new for us. Last spring we recycled 100 percent of the NE 12th Street Bridge that spanned I-405 in Bellevue.

The state does not require recycling in bridge demolition, but it is becoming the norm as the market for recycled materials grows. Our engineers routinely write construction specifications to ease the future recycling of materials.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Are you ready? Tolling starts December 29 on the SR 520 Bridge

by guest blogger Emily Pace

Toll Division Director Craig Stone presents the
 start date for tolling on the SR 520 Bridge
Get your Good To Go! Pass today

Tolling on the SR 520 Bridge starts Thursday, Dec. 29. We recommend you open a Good To Go! account now to avoid the inevitable last-minute rush before tolling starts.

To pay the lowest toll rate, it’s important to set up a Good To Go! account now to make sure you receive your Good To Go! Pass before tolling starts. The longer you wait, the longer the lines will be – either on the phone, in the store or online.

You can buy a Good To Go! Pass at retail stores, online at www.GoodToGo520.org, in-person at a customer service center, or by calling 1-866-936-8246. If you choose to order your pass online, we recommend you do it soon to allow plenty of time for delivery before tolling starts.

If you’ve already got your Good To Go! Pass and it’s sitting on your counter, don’t forget to activate it (if you bought it at a retail store) and install it in your vehicle. You should also make sure all your account information is up to date.

To prepare for the expected high volumes of customers registering and activating accounts this month, WSDOT has extended call center hours, added capacity to the phone lines and Good To Go! web page and hired extra customer service staff.

Knowledge is power. We want drivers to become experts on the topic of SR 520 tolling: know your travel options and know the rates. To help you get a start, we’ve gathered the top five things drivers should know. Check ‘em out and feel free to ask us any other questions that come to mind.

Top Five Things to Know About SR 520 Tolls:

  1. A Good To Go! Pass is the cheapest, easiest way to pay the toll. If you travel the SR 520 Bridge at least once a month, we recommend opening a Good To Go! account. You’ll save $1.50 in tolls each time you cross the bridge with a Good To Go! Pass.

  2. Toll rates vary by time of day. Toll rates vary by time of day to help improve traffic. Toll rates are most expensive during peak travel times and cheaper during off-peak periods. As some drivers shift their drive times, we expect traffic to improve during peak hours.

  3. There will be no toll booths. All tolls will be collected electronically. With a pre-paid Good To Go! account, tolls are automatically deducted without stopping or slowing down.

  4. There’s more bus service. To give drivers an alternative to paying the toll, King County Metro and Sound Transit have added 130 daily bus trips to routes on SR 520 for a total of 700 every weekday.

  5. Tolling helps pay for a new SR 520 Bridge. The revenue generated from toll helps build a new, more reliable and safer bridge. The target date for opening the new bridge is 2014.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Milepost 31: The rest of the story

by guest blogger KaDeena Yerkan

Why did you spend money creating a “museum” in Pioneer Square? That question, and variations of it, is one we’ve heard a lot in the past few days, ever since we opened Milepost 31, an information center devoted to the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program and Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood.

We didn’t decide on a whim to spend money on this information center. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires agencies to take into account the effects of their projects on historic properties, such as those in the Pioneer Square Historic District. Replacing the viaduct is going to have impacts on Pioneer Square, and we were required to create a plan that mitigates them. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have received federal approval to build the SR 99 tunnel. No mitigation plan, no tunnel – it’s as simple as that. And Milepost 31 was created at no additional cost to state taxpayers, since mitigation funds were already included in the project budget.

So, why include something like Milepost 31 in the mitigation plan? This was the result of negotiations with neighborhood and historic preservation organizations brought together as part of the Section 106 process. Everyone agreed that an information center could offset construction effects in Pioneer Square by reminding people that neighborhood businesses are open during construction and by encouraging visitors to the area.

Advocates of such an information center included the city of Seattle, the state Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation, the Alliance for Pioneer Square, national and local preservation groups, and local tribes. “Milepost 31 has already become a vital asset to the neighborhood. It gives people another reason to visit Pioneer Square during the holiday season, which is a crucial time for retailers and other businesses in the neighborhood,” said Leslie Smith, executive director of the Alliance for Pioneer Square.

So, we hope the controversy doesn’t steer you away from visiting Milepost 31, located at 211 First Ave. S. in Seattle. It’s a one-of-a-kind place for a one-of-a-kind project. Visitors to the center will find historic artifacts, 3-D models and pieces of tunneling equipment. Interactive exhibits show how Seattle’s landscape and shoreline have changed during the past 20,000 years, and how crews will build the massive tunnel that will replace the viaduct and reshape the SR 99 corridor. And, if you have questions about it, feel free to contact us at viaduct@wsdot.wa.gov.

Monday, December 5, 2011

New ways to pay the Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll

by guest blogger Emily Pace

Drivers with Good To Go! still pay the same toll rate

Tacoma Narrows Bridge electronic tolling
Do you have relatives or friends traveling across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge this holiday season? If they don’t have a Good To Go! pass, they won’t need to wait in line at the toll booths anymore. With the introduction of photo tolling, Tacoma Narrows Bridge drivers now have additional ways to pay the toll.
Here’s how photo tolling works: you drive across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge without a Good To Go! account and without stopping to pay at the toll booths. A photo is taken of your license plate as your vehicle passes through the electronic toll lanes and a bill is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. Photo tolling allows us to offer new payment options to two-axle vehicles and motorcycles:
  • Pay By Mail - $5.50 If you travel across the bridge without a Good To Go! account or stopping at the toll booth, the registered owner of the vehicle will be sent a Pay By Mail toll bill. These drivers previously would have received a $52 infraction notice for not paying the toll.
  • Good To Go!  Pay By Plate - $3.00 Add Grandma’s license plate to your Good To Go! account and pay for her trip to your house for the holidays. Simply add their license plate and vehicle information to your account. You don’t need a pass.
  • Good To Go!  Short Term Account - $5.00 You can set up a Short Term Account within 72 hours of traveling across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. A Short Term Account is valid for up to 14 days and then it automatically closes. Each day’s toll transactions are charged directly to your credit or debit card.
No changes for existing Good To Go! pass holders and drivers who stop at toll booths

If you’re a Good To Go! customer, nothing changes with the introduction of these new payment options. Good To Go! pass holders still pay $2.75 for two-axle vehicles and those who stop at the toll booths still pay $4.00.

Having a Good To Go! pass (transponder) still guarantees you pay the lowest toll rate and it works on any tolled facility in the state. The three new payment options listed above can also be used on the SR 520 Bridge when tolling starts later in December, although toll rates for that bridge will vary from those listed. If you are a solo driver using the SR 167 HOT Lanes, you must have a Good To Go! pass installed in your vehicle.

SR 520 tolling coming soon; purchase and activate your pass before the last-minute rush begins

Offering photo tolling on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is an important milestone in providing more options for Good To Go! customers. You might also want to check out the new pass options available for carpoolers using HOT lanes, for motorcyclists looking for a transparent sticker that adheres to the headlamp, and for families wanting to share one pass among several vehicles. Remember the most popular choice is the new sticker passes that are smaller and cheaper at only $5.00 each. You can purchase them online, by calling 1-866-936-8246 or at a customer service center. In addition, the sticker passes are available at Safeway, Fred Meyer, QFC or Costco. If you have purchased your pass from one of these stores, be sure to activate it online or over the phone. 

For more information on Good To Go!, visit www.wsdot.gov/goodtogo.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Recap of Thanksgiving holiday travel

By guest blogger Alice Fiman

It wasn’t an invasion, but shopping Black Friday deals, combined with a favorable exchange rate and the Canadian government relaxing the duty for up to $400 worth of goods (for a two-day trip) brought many more Canadians down I-5 over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Well, that may have been it anyway. we, unlike travel companies, measures how many vehicles cross its traffic sensors. We just don’t know the reason – but when looking at the numbers and other factors, we have our theories. Such as how there was a significant increase in traffic on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass for 2011. This was most likely due to favorable weather as anyone who was around last year knows Thanksgiving 2010 was white and cold. Same deal with US 2 Stevens Pass. Another hypothesis includes ski area openings. Traffic fluctuates depending on if they are open or not.

In any case, traffic increased on I-5 from Bellingham to the U.S. Canadian border for 2011. It was the Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) southbound traffic that showed a notable bump, with what we believe were Canadians traveling to Washington stores for 2011 Black Friday shopping specials. Between Wednesday and Sunday, 157,500 vehicles travelled northbound and southbound on I-5, an increase of 17,700 vehicles (11 percent) compared to the same period in 2010.

Thanksgiving travel graph

I-90 Snoqualmie Pass

For Wednesday through Sunday 152,300 vehicles traveled on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass. This was an increase of 25,800 vehicles (20 percent) compared with the same period in 2010.

I-5, Olympia to Tacoma

That same 2010 winter storm most likely kept folks off I-5 in Pierce and Thurston counties.  More than half of a million (560,500) vehicles traveled I-5 between Olympia and Tacoma over Thanksgiving weekend 2011, an increase of 38,100 vehicles (7 percent).

US 2, Stevens Pass

And yes, there was snow and ice on US 2 for Thanksgiving 2010. Almost 30,000 traveled over Stevens Pass between Wednesday and Sunday of the Thanksgiving 2011 holiday while the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday traffic was only 17,100 vehicles. This year, the day after Thanksgiving was especially busy on Stevens Pass. Since the coldest day in the Skykomish area was Friday, it was most likely a travel day for skiers.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Milepost 31 - People, projects and Pioneer Square

We would invite you inside for a ride, but even the world's largest diameter tunnel boring machine can only fit so many people.

And so we offer the next best thing, Milepost 31, a public information center that will highlight the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement, tunneling technology and the history of Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood. This is a first for WSDOT, an opportunity to explore interactive exhibits about one of our projects and dig into Seattle's first neighborhood.

What does viaduct replacement have to do with Pioneer Square? Replacing a highway that runs through one of the state’s most treasured historic neighborhoods comes with challenges. Pioneer Square will see years of construction impacts like noise, dust and traffic detours. Fortunately, after we put the highway traffic into the SR 99 tunnel and tear down the remaining section of the viaduct, the neighborhood will be reconnected with the Seattle waterfront.

Milepost 31 was one of several strategies we developed in partnership with neighborhood groups and historic preservationists to maintain Pioneer Square’s vibrancy during construction. It is designed to give people another reason to visit the neighborhood during construction, while giving the public another opportunity to learn about the important work we do at WSDOT.

Be sure to stop by Milepost 31's grand opening celebration on Dec. 1. We’ll have tunneling and historical experts on hand to answer questions, as well as a drawing to win an iPad® and gift certificates to Pioneer Square businesses, furnished by the Alliance for Pioneer Square.

Milepost 31 grand opening
3 – 6 p.m. (guest speakers at 3:30 p.m.)
Thursday, Dec. 1
211 First Ave. S., Seattle

After Dec. 1, Milepost 31 will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How to find out the condition of the mountain passes...

Winter is upon us, not officially, but mother nature has decided it's definitely time to start snowing in the mountain passes.  When this snow happens and the weather changes one of the most asked questions we get is "how do I decide if it's safe to drive over the pass" and "which pass should I take?" 

We can't tell you which pass is better to go over at any specific time, pass conditions change rapidly and unexpectedly.  In addition, the terrain and traffic on each three major mountain pass highways is quite different. I-90 Snoqualmie Pass is what can be described as a more urban highway – more traffic, multiple lanes in each direction, divided in most areas. US 2 Stevens  Pass and US 12 White Pass are more rural (not as much traffic, one lane in each direction, not divided/no median, etc.)

Here’s what you can do. Take that info, along with help to know how to be prepared to get there and add in the latest conditions to make the wisest choice. Here's a few tips on how to get over the pass and where to find out the latest information on mountain pass conditions.

First: Be prepared
  • Are your tires properly inflated.
  • Do you have enough gas in the tank, you may end up sitting waiting for other vehicle spinouts to clear or even avalanche control.
  • Is your cellphone fully charged, do you have a spare battery or a car charger just in case
  • Have you recently gotten a vehicle winter maintenance check-up for your vehicle?  You'd be surprised how many people get stuck because their cars engine or  isnt' ready for the journey.
  • Do you have food, water, blankets if you do get stranded and have to wait for an emergency vehicle to come assist you.
  • If you prefer a checklist, the Take Winter By Storm website has some fantastic preparedness checklists.
Secondly: Know where to find the latest info
  •  Check any one of the mountain pass pages on our website.
  • If you have an Android or iPhone, download our mobile app by searching "wsdot" in the market place.  If you have a blackberry or other web enabled mobile device check out our website for small screens.
  • Dial 511.
  • Sign up to have pass reports delivered to your inbox.  Word of warning however, pass reports update every couple of hours so it could end up being a lot of emails.  On the other hand, you will be very well informed as to the changing pass conditions.
Most importantly, drive for conditions. By planning ahead and taking your time getting over the passes and you should arrive to your destination safely.






Friday, November 18, 2011

Risk of rocks in the roadway reduced on US 12 west of White Pass

By guest blogger Mike Westbay

Drivers who have experienced close calls or collisions with rocks on the roadway know how frightening and damaging they can be.

Two crew members from Janod Inc. work to stabilize the slope above
US 12 west of White Pass. (photo courtesy of Echo Entertainment)
To reduce the risk of these types of collisions happening on US 12 near White Pass, we worked all summer with the brave slope stabilization crews from Janod Inc. of Dorian, Quebec, Canada.

Janod’s crews, hanging from the hillside on ropes, kicked down loose rocks that threatened to fall to the highway. After removing debris (dirt, trees, shrubs and rocks) from several sections of unstable slopes, crews blasted boulders, drilled holes, hauled away about 38,000 tons of rocks and placed protective nets on the steep slopes above US 12, five miles west of White Pass.

A total of 900 pounds of explosives were used to blast apart the largest rocks that posed a risk to drivers.

After the dust settled and the blast debris was removed, a combination of 52 bolts and dowels were installed to hold the rocks together and to keep them from sliding toward the highway.

The final stabilizing work was anchoring the net/fence onto the slopes to contain the rocks that are likely to come loose and fall into the roadside ditch due to erosion.

The $4 million project (including design and construction) was completed within budget and a season ahead of schedule.

Janod Inc.’s crew will be featured in a National Geographic Channel series called “Rock Stars”. The first episode airs at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

WSDOT prioritizes the treatment of unstable rock or soil slopes on a statewide basis, using an engineering analysis to compare the cost to the potential benefit.   This year’s $4 million project is one of a series of unstable slope projects on a 25-mile corridor on US 12 near White Pass. Work in the corridor started in 2006 and is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SR 531 - Curbs Reducing Crashes


by guest blogger Bronlea Mishler

How do you curb collisions on a busy highway? With curbing – if you’ll pardon the pun. In the five years since we installed curbing along the center of SR 531 in Arlington, turning and driveway-related collisions have dropped by 70 percent. We’re not trying to pat ourselves on the back or anything, but we think that’s a pretty sweet deal  – and not just for us. Anyone who drives that road on a daily basis is benefiting from a safer, less congested commute.

We installed the curbs between I-5 and just past Smokey Point Boulevard in the fall of 2006 as part of two separate projects. Like a lot of construction projects, our ultimate goal was to improve traffic flow on SR 531 and reduce the risk of collisions.

The first project wrapped up in July 2006, and ultimately widened the SR 531 bridge over I-5 to six lanes. As part of that project, crews installed curbing down the center of the bridge to separate east and westbound traffic. The second project wrapped up a few months later, in September 2006. During that project, we added dedicated left-turn lanes, built bus pull-out locations and u-turn locations, and added curbing along the center of the highway, all the way from I-5 to just east of Smokey Point Boulevard.

It’s probably easy to see how a new, wider bridge could improve traffic flow. More lanes means more traffic getting through the area. But what about curbing? How does a little bit of concrete curb make such a big difference in reducing congestion and collisions? By limiting the number of places where drivers can turn across traffic, other drivers can better anticipate – and react to – turning traffic. More reaction time typically translates to fewer collisions. And dedicated turn pockets and u-turn locations give turning drivers a safe place to wait for a gap in traffic without backing up other drivers who aren’t turning. Fewer collisions? No waiting in line behind a driver turning left? Those are two big factors that help traffic flow better.

On SR 531, the curbing has paid off in a big way. In the three years before the curbing was installed, there were 95 driveway or turning-related collisions. In the three years after the curbing was installed, those collisions dropped by 70 percent, to only 27. Not only that, but the total number of collisions on SR 531 between I-5 and Smokey Point Boulevard dropped by 27 percent after curbing was installed. 
It’s nice to know that even a small piece of construction can make a big difference.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/4793711455/

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Manette Bridge opens in Bremerton

By guest blogger Joe Irwin 

New Manette Bridge open to traffic
It was a case of “out with the old and in with the new” over the scenic Port Washington Narrows on Nov. 10.

The old: a rusted, worn down, 81-year-old bridge that lacked shoulders and, due to structural deficiencies, had weight restrictions imposed on it in 2008.

The new: a wider, safer bridge that features, two 11-foot-wide lanes, two 5-foot-wide shoulders, and a 10-foot-wide pedestrian walkway.

Federal, state and city officials joined hundreds of local residents to mark the opening of the new Manette Bridge – reminiscing fondly about the past and looking forward to the future.

The celebration brought everyone from representatives from the Armed Forces to the Bremerton High School Marching Band. It also brought the festive air of music, song and cheers. The celebration continued on with honking horns as the first cars made their way across the bridge.

The $60.6 million Manette Bridge Replacement Project not only results in a more driver-, pedestrian-, and bicyclist-friendly structure, but it also adds a new roundabout in Manette that will keep traffic flowing for years to come.

Crews from Manson-Mowat, the contractor that built the bridge, are still hard at work on site, expanding the nearby Whitey Domstad Viewscape that overlooks the Port Washington Narrows. Manson-Mowat is gearing up to tear down the old Manette Bridge, a hefty task in itself that is scheduled to wrap up in February 2012.

The old bridge’s in-water concrete supports will be demolished later in 2012, marking the end of a structure that eight decades ago brought east and west together across the narrows, and provided direct access for Manette and Bremerton residents that didn’t require a boat.

Among those who were first to cross the new bridge were a handful of people who had also crossed the original bridge in 1931. Now how many people can claim to have been on hand to open the same bridge twice? Truly, Nov. 10 was a great day for many, and a uniquely historical day for a few.

Find out more about the event and check out photos of the celebration.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

No longer the “jungle” – now a new community trail and greenbelt

View of Seattle's skyline from the trail


By guest blogger Vickie Sheehan

For Seattlelites, thinking about the “jungle” might bring to mind homelessness, drugs, violence and crime. Until recently, a stretch of urban forest along I-5 and I-90 on Beacon Hill dubbed “the jungle” was a community eyesore begging for a transformation.

Hopefully that negative image can be replaced with a positive one now that a multi-use trail and park has been carved out of the hillside known as the East Duwamish Greenbelt.

Mountains to Sound trail map
The new section of the Mountains to Sound trail is nearly a mile of paved, level surface great for walking, biking and running. Bring your dog(s) as there is also an off-leash park adjacent to the trail. Huge street lights line the path from beginning to end for night use and safety.

Connections between Beacon Hill and downtown Seattle and the International District are available via 12th Avenue South, and to the SODO district, sports stadiums, and the waterfront via South Holgate Street.

Even if you’re not from Beacon Hill, this new trail deserves a visit. It is a great place to take a stroll with some of the most breathtaking views of Seattle. It parallels I-5 and eastbound I-90 so you can get a 180-degree view of the Seattle skyline, downtown, the stadiums and even the waterfront. On a clear day (and even not so clear days) it is just amazing! Judging by the photo above, you could even create your own postcard!

What is extraordinary is the incredible transformation of this area. Check out these amazing before-and-after photos:

The "jungle"
More of the "jungle"
The finished trail
New pavement for walkers and cyclists
More photos available at our Flickr page.
The Mountains to Sound Trail is part of the larger Mountains to Sound Greenway effort that has helped create 100 miles of trail along I-90 from Central Washington to Seattle, focusing on preserving open spaces and wildlife habitat.
We worked with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to build the trail beginning in June. The trail is built on mostly state right-of-way. and was completed at the end of October.
On Saturday, Oct. 29, we hosted a ribbon-cutting event in partnership with SDOT, the Mayor’s office, Seattle Parks & Recreation, and various community groups that supported the project. A large number of folks from the community attended the ribbon cutting event, which showed the immense support for this project. It was a beautiful sunny day and really showcased the transformation of this area and the potential for expanded use. Lots of people hit the trail for the first time including Mayor McGinn and Deputy Mayor Smith, as well as a couple of officers from the Seattle Police Department Bike Patrol.
We are proud to be a part of this project as it will make a difference in an area that needed a major boost. The Mountains to Sound trail will hopefully provide the breakthrough needed to help this area become a community asset.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ribbon cutting participants agree - slowing down for roundabouts better than stopping and waiting at traffic signals

By guest blogger Mike Westbay

Don Whitehouse, WSDOT regional administrator and Paula
Hammond, state secretary of transportation, hold the ribbon
cut in celebration of completing the I-82 Valley Mall
Boulevard project in Union Gap.
Completion of new ramps and the third and final roundabout at the Valley Mall Boulevard/ Interstate 82 interchange marks the end of construction on a project that already has improved traffic flow and reduced collisions in Union Gap.

On Monday, Oct. 31, local, state and federal officials joined the Washington State Department of Transportation in celebrating the interchange improvements with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The $34 million, 18-month reconstruction project  included installation of three large roundabouts, two new interstate bridges built higher for better clearance and wider for future expansion, and new on-ramps and off-ramps that allow traffic to access the interstate without waiting at stop signs or traffic signals.

"These improvements relieved traffic congestion at the busiest intersection in Union Gap, opened access to businesses and kept 140 men and women working, " said state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. "Investments like this one help the economic vitality of the area and provide family wage jobs - important benefits at this time in our recovering economy."

Since the first two new roundabouts opened in November of last year, traffic flow has improved and traffic data shows that collisions in the area have been cut in half. Some 22,000 vehicles use the Valley Mall Boulevard interchange each day and, prior to the reconstruction, occasionally backed up onto I-82.

"Prior to reconstruction I can remember waiting for several minutes in long lines to get through the signalized intersections," said Don Whitehouse, WSDOT regional administrator. "Now the longest I've waited to get through the new roundabouts is about 10 seconds."

Apollo Inc. of Kennewick was the general contractor on the project, which was the largest project funded in Yakima County by federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money. Funding also came from the state's 2005 Transportation Partnership gas-tax increase.

The project was completed on time and half a million dollars under budget.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

SR 99 history in the making

 by guest blogger Ryan Bianchi

This week, tens of thousands of drivers a day are using a brand new section of State Route 99 in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood. After slogging through the not-quite nine day closure (it turned out to be about seven-and-a-half days) of the Alaskan Way Viaduct last week, drivers are now rolling across a new bridge over South Atlantic Street. This is the first of two side-by-side bridges that will make up the new highway near Seattle’s port and stadiums. The new bridge is temporarily connected to the viaduct along the downtown waterfront through what we’re affectionately calling the “SR 99 construction bypass road.” Okay, it’s not really affection so much as an accurate description of how we are able to keep SR 99 open through construction of the viaduct replacement.

We want to thank everyone who carpooled, bused, took the water taxi, or adjusted their work schedule for helping to keep Seattle traffic moving while SR 99 was closed.

The photo above this story shows Skanska Project Engineer Tim O’Neill and WSDOT Assistant Project Engineer Diane Berge waving to the driver and passenger in the first car to cross the new SR 99 bridge just before 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29. The new bridge currently accommodates two lanes of both north- and southbound traffic, while crews finish demolishing the southern portion of the viaduct and begin building the second bridge. The construction bypass road, with its 25 mile per hour speed limit, will be in place until the SR 99 tunnel opens in late 2015.

During the last week, you probably saw a few pictures or videos of demolition in the media. We must admit that demolition is really cool to watch. We tried not to go overboard with our own photos, so we put the best of our best images on our Flickr site. Demolition isn’t over, so we’re regularly updating our demolition set with new photos.

As demolition got under way, we wanted to be sure that you and anyone else had a chance at an up close and personal goodbye to the viaduct. Despite constant rain on Saturday morning, Oct. 22, more than 3,200 people obliged by walking up to the top deck of the viaduct to take pictures, check out the view and even hula-hoop.

Demolition and the first car on the new section of SR 99 are all now part of history. If you’re interested in seeing more viaduct history, we recommend you peruse our ViaductHistory.org website.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Saving money by building a custom truck...

The old bridge truck a 1998 utility van
by guest blogger Kris Olsen

Remember that old reality show “Monster Garage?” Well, it’s got nothing on our transportation equipment technicians who are truly experts in the field of fabrication. They also know how to reduce, reuse and recycle in a big way!

Earlier this year, the bridge crew’s old 1998 Chevy utility van (which looks like a bread wagon) needed to be replaced - the old “bread wagon” was turning into a rusty bucket and it didn’t have enough room to carry the crews and the big pieces of equipment needed to maintain thousands of bridges. Assistant bridge superintendent Rick Rodda explained to the equipment techs that what the bridge crews really needed was a heavy-duty crew-cab truck with a van body. So, the equipment techs went to the drawing board and got creative. The result is truly a one-of-a-kind truck.

As luck would have it, the Ferries Division had recently turned in an old warehouse van. The techs took one look at it and were inspired. They tore the 18-foot-long van body off. Then they bought an International 4300 crew-cab chassis. And then took these two different pieces and built a custom truck exactly to bridge’s specifications while staying within budget.

But the techs aren’t done! The chassis from the dismantled ferry warehouse van has some life left in it yet. The techs plan to use that when they build a new traffic-control truck, known affectionately as a “Road Warrior.” In fact, most of our “new” vehicles, like traffic and maintenance trucks, go into our shop first before they get used in the field. They don’t arrive ready to go, at least not quite ready for what we need them to be able to do. Our mechanics install radios, computers, customized tailgates, lighting, etc. The vehicles are specially modified to do exactly what we need them to do.

Hats off to our equipment techs who routinely find unique ways to solve problems, build and maintain complex pieces of machinery, and do it within budget. “Monster Garage,” eat your heart out.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Meeting today’s transportation needs

By guest blogger Summer Derrey

State Route 22, located south of Yakima,
connects I-82 to US 97 through rural Toppenish
Narrow rural highways don’t meet today’s safety standards and tomorrow’s driver expectations. That’s why our engineers saw the need to make improvements to State Route 22 through Toppenish. Forty-seven collisions occurred along this mile and a half corridor since 2005.

This summer and fall, our contractor was busy enhancing the corridor as part of the $4.63 million SR 22 – I-82 to Toppenish – Safety Improvement project. Crews widened the shoulders from one foot to four feet. A wider highway gives drivers who stray from their lane due to inattention or other reasons, a better chance of recovering control and getting back on the right path without damage or injury.

Crews also decreased the risk of collisions by adding guardrail, signs and striping. Since SR 22 passes through the city limits of Toppenish, the project includes upgraded pedestrian facilities such as sidewalks and ramps to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Crews constructed left and right turn lanes at two major intersections where the posted speed limit is 50 miles per hour – this will help reduce rear-end and enter-at-angle crashes.

Now, all that’s left to do next spring when the weather is warmer is place the final layer of asphalt on the roadway and install permanent striping; this will make a better corridor for drivers, pedestrians and bicycle-riders.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fun and fantasy collide as contest winners take over the Alaskan Way Viaduct

By guest blogger Hilary Bingman

More than 3,200 people came to the Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition event Saturday morning, Oct. 22, to spend some quality time on the city’s historic structure. Many visitors walked onto the top deck to take photos and enjoy the scenery, while others spent their time writing farewell messages in chalk, playing Frisbee, hula hooping, and enjoying a picnic with a view. Another group of partakers, however, were able to experience travelling on the viaduct in a more unique way.

Winners of our “One Last Shot” contest got their own special section of the viaduct for 30 minutes to live out their dream proposals, derby and daredevil style. The Rat City Rollergirls skated and bouted on the top deck while the Seattle Cossacks built human pyramids and performed stunts on their vintage Harley Davidson motorcycles.





Many thanks to our contest winners – the Cossacks’ Dave Eady and the Rollergirls’ Jenn Harowicz – for submitting their ideas.



Congratulations to the Rat City Rollergirls and Seattle Cossacks!


Everyone had such a great time at the demolition event, even Governor Gregoire joined in on the fun!
 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Alaskan Way Viaduct South End Demolition Video Footage

If you aren't getting a chance to see the demolition of the south end of the Alaskan Way Viaduct first hand we captured some video. You may want to turn your speakers down before playing them, this demolition is anything but quiet.

Don't have time to watch all of the videos? This first one puts it all in perspective:









Friday, October 21, 2011

Alaskan Way Viaduct contest winners revealed: Rolling together through Seattle’s past and present culture clash

Dave Ross (right), Ken Schram (middle), and Alaskan Way Viaduct
Replacement Program Administrator Linea Laird (left) made up the
judging panel for the “One Last Shot” viaduct contest
By guest blogger Hilary Bingman

Excitement was in the air as Dave Ross, Seattle’s KIRO-FM radio talk show host, and Ken Schram, KOMO Newsradio host, joined Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program Administrator Linea Laird to decide who was going to win a rare opportunity to spend 30 minutes on a vacant Alaskan Way Viaduct during the structure’s nine-day closure.

The panel of judges immediately set to work reading through the top 15 submissions, out of nearly 600 submitted to the program. What were they looking for when selecting a winner? They wanted to find the ultimate idea that was creative and unique, fun and family-friendly, and significant for the entrant and our city.

Of course, a lot of contest entries fit perfectly into these categories, but didn’t make it into the top list because they weren’t feasible. Some of the favorites – rolling down the viaduct in the P.I. Globe, making the world’s longest slip-and-slide, setting up a drive-in movie for the waterfront, hosting an Oktoberfest party, competing in an ultimate dodgeball contest, and having a campout to roast marshmallows, to name a few.

With an incredible assortment of entries, debate between the judges broke out immediately. Should we pick the proposal to fly stunt kites, set up model trains, or organize a flash mob? How about the ideas to host a prom, choreograph a Bollywood film, paint a huge mural, or set a world record for the most espresso shots produced? The judges pointed out that they didn’t want to pick an idea that was “Seattle safe.” The contestant field was narrowed down to two without a clear winner. Ultimately, the judges came to a solution - select two winners!

The Rat City Rollergirls bout at Key Arena
The Rat City Rollergirls, members of the first flat-track roller derby league in the Northwest, won with their proposal to speed skate and “bout” along several blocks of the viaduct. Jenn Harowicz, a mother and work-at-home graphic designer known on the track as “Know Mercy,” secretly submitted the idea without telling her teammates. "What attracted me to derby was that it's women of all ages and walks of life. Each skater has a life outside of derby," she said. Jenn drives on the viaduct daily and made a compelling case in her entry for wanting a unique memory of skating on it with her Rollergirls.

Dave Eady (center bottom row) and his fellow
 Cossacks perform motorcycle stunts in Seattle
The second winner – Seattle Cossacks – will use their 30 minutes to perform stunts on the viaduct with their vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Dave Eady, a life-long member of the group, has been performing stunts on his motorcycle for the last 39 years. He submitted his entry because of the historical significance the group and viaduct share. The Seattle Cossacks formed in 1938 and have been taking part in transportation history ever since. The Cossacks were the first to lead the opening of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the 1940’s, and also led the opening of the Spokane Street Bridge. When notified he had won, Dave became overwhelmed by emotion. “I’m 70 years old, so just looking at me you wouldn’t think I could do something like this, but I can,” he said. Dave wants to share the winning time with his team to say a special farewell to the historical structure.

Both of the winning groups are homegrown locals who represent the unique flavor of Seattle. Following their 30 minutes, they will help kick off a viaduct demolition celebration event by performing on the SR 99 off-ramp at 1 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 22.

Want to know about some of the “One Last Shot” entries that didn’t win? The nearly 600 submissions included:

  • Love is in the air in Seattle – 24 proposals, weddings, and anniversaries
  • Celebrating in style – 19 birthdays and parties
  • The city’s got a vibrant music scene – 29 bands to perform, including many songs written about the viaduct
  • Seattle’s got moves – 29 dance groups
  • City Iconography – 66 photo shoots

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Good things come to those who wait, especially if you are traveling over I-90 Snoqualmie Pass this week


We have all heard the saying, “Good things come to those who wait.” If you plan to travel over I-90 Snoqualmie Pass this week you will be waiting, potentially up to two hours, but as the saying goes that must mean good things are on the way!

Crews have been working very hard this summer to build the brand new eastbound lanes and bridges on I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass, which is part of the I-90 project that improves a five-mile section of roadway from Hyak (milepost 55) to the Keechelus Dam vicinity (milepost 60).

Crews will spend the week paving the transitions between the new and old lanes and by Friday, Oct. 21 the new eastbound lanes will be open for your enjoyment!

If the idea of sitting in traffic isn’t want you had in mind this week, avoid the delay by using our travel time graphs (pdf) to find the best times to travel.

Want to see what the wait is all about? Here is an up close look at what is going on behind the scenes during the closure.

Kitsap County’s SR 3 Windy Point area gets a rock face lift



By guest blogger Joe Irwin

Kitsap County drivers who drive the short stretch of State Route 3 between Gorst and Bremerton aren’t big fans of “rock ‘n’ roll” – at least as far as their commutes are concerned.

For decades, the unstable slopes that seem to linger above the highway like a hammer waiting to fall have dropped everything from pebbles to basketball-sized boulders onto the four-lane roadway. And while no one has been injured in these sporadic incidents, this summer we started taking action to reduce the likelihood of any sort of potentially dangerous rock falls in the future.

Project crew member scaling the side of Windy Point
to stabilize the slopes above SR 3.
In August, crews from Rock & Company ascended on the scene, scaling the craggy faces of Windy Point to remove loose rocks and other debris from the slopes, using anchor bolts to hold large rocks in place and installing wire mesh fence to further protect motorists.

That was the “easy” part.

Determining how to best get the 71,000 drivers who travel this section of SR 3 daily past the mile-long work zone was anything but easy. With no available detours, simply closing a southbound lane for the duration of the project would have extended rush hour backups significantly.

So our thinking shifted, and traffic lanes did too. We opted to maintain four lanes of traffic on SR 3, but with reduced lane widths from 12 feet to 10 feet through the work zone, and dropped the speed limit from 50 to 35 mph.  It was a great fix and one that would prove to significantly lessen backups and delays.

But it wasn’t enough.

This section of SR 3 is sandwiched between the cliffs of Windy Point and the waters of Sinclair Inlet. Shifting the lanes required temporarily eliminating the roadway shoulders, and, in essence, removing the lanes bicyclists use to get between Gorst and Bremerton.

A shadow loomed over the traffic shift plan, but was eventually turned to the project’s and travelers’ advantage. We turned the pilot vehicle concept, in which drivers from the project crew lead motorists through work zones, on its ear and implemented a “shadow” vehicle.

Through this program, project crew drivers follow, or shadow, bicyclists through the length of the work zone, ensuring a safe buffer between bicyclists and motorized traffic.

The number of shadow vehicles committed to the project has been reduced since the program started in August, but the positive effect on bicyclists’ safety and traffic flows will continue until the project wraps up later this month.

When it does, the only rock ‘n’ roll on this section of SR 3 will be blaring from car radios.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Girl loses teddy bear and WSDOT crews find and return it

by guest blogger Dustin Terpening

The things our maintenance crews do never cease to amaze me. These are the guys and gals who work through the night during floods and snowstorms, respond to crashes, and remove dead animals from our highways. They’re always going above and beyond to take care of drivers and our highways. This time they went the extra mile to find a missing teddy bear along I-90 in eastern Washington for a six-year-old girl.

We first learned of the missing teddy bear when Patty Sweeney posted a message on our Facebook page. The teddy bear belonged to her granddaughter, Justice, who got carsick during a recent road trip. Somehow, Daddy Bear, as Justice affectionately calls him, escaped from the car when they pulled over. It wasn’t until they got home that they realized Daddy Bear was missing. It was a long night for the family -- Justice couldn’t sleep without coveted bear. Her dad, who is now stationed in Korea, gave her the bear when she was two before he left for Iraq. Needless to say, the bear has some sentimental meaning.

When Harry Nelson and Terry Kukes, with our maintenance team in eastern Washington, found out about a missing teddy bear along I-90, their own kids and grandkids came to mind. Harry actually recalled the teddy bear he gave his daughter when she was born. Now, his daughter is almost 13 years old and still hangs on to the bear. He knows how important a teddy bear can be.

Harry actually used to be a logger by trade. He worked for WSDOT in the ‘80s in maintenance as a seasonal employee. When the logging industry went “timber,” Harry decided he’d better find something more solid than a tree. That’s why he picked WSDOT. He started his second career in 2005, and loves the people he works with.

The duo went looking for the bear because, with all the media attention, they didn’t want drivers slowing down along the highway looking for the bear themselves. It just wouldn’t be safe. Amazingly, the guys found the bear after two quick trips through the area where the family thought they might have lost the bear. The guys snapped a picture (insert photo) of the bear and sent it to the family to verify that it was, indeed, the bear. Sure enough, it was the one.

Knowing how special this bear was to Justice, these guys took it upon themselves, on their own time, to make the 3½-hour commute from eastern Washington to Sedro-Woolley to personally deliver Daddy Bear. “We heard the little girl was having a hard time sleeping at night without the bear,” Harry said. “When we were driving down to return the bear, I was hoping it would help the girl sleep good tonight.”

What a special moment it was to see Daddy Bear reunited to the arms of Justice. She was so excited. The family never thought they’d see the bear again, but here he was showing up in the unlikely hands of two of our maintenance crews.


Update: see this story on World News Tonight and Good Morning America