Friday, December 8, 2017

Ferries crew recognized for water rescue

Jason Rossi and Wayne Reed shuttle an
overturned kayaker to safety
in Edmonds on Oct. 20
by Mike Allende

Jason Rossi and Wayne Reed say it was no big deal. Just what they train for and part of their job. OK, that may be true. But, still, it is a big deal.

On Oct. 20, Rossi, Reed and the rest of the crew of the ferry Spokane had just arrived at the Edmonds terminal when the emergency alarm sounded. The alarm alerts crew that a rescue is needed. And indeed, a kayaker had overturned and was in trouble.

The crew sprang into action and Rossi and Reed took their places in the rescue boat. Other crew members helped get the boat lowered into the water. Rossi and Reed then motored to the kayaker, getting him into the rescue boat and taking him to waiting aid crews on shore. The kayaker was treated for hypothermia but was otherwise OK. The entire rescue took about seven minutes.

For their efforts, Reed and Rossi were awarded a Life Ring Award during a ceremony aboard the Spokane on Dec. 7.

"It’s what we train for," Rossi said. "We had great teamwork. You’re always glad when you can help someone in need."

Wayne Reed (left) and Jason Rossi prepare
for a water rescue training drill
aboard the ferry Spokane.
"We were just doing our job," Reed added. "The rescue we did, it was like second nature because we train for it all the time."

Every ferry crew in our fleet trains every week for a variety of emergency scenarios, including water rescues, fires and medical emergencies. New employees go through a variety of training before they ever begin a shift, everything from first aid to firefighting certification. This year, our ferry crews have responded to 81 rescue/medical emergencies.

"Safety is job No. 1 for us, both for the public and our crews," Assistant Secretary for Ferries Amy Scarton said. "(Secretary of Transportation) Roger Millar and I both went through the training so we saw first hand what our workers go through."

Our ferries crew do a great job of getting the 25 million people who ride every year to their destinations safely, and we’re especially proud of them when they step up and put their safety training into action by helping someone in need. Great job Jason, Wayne and the rest of the Spokane crew!
Assistant Secretary for Ferries Amy Scarton
congratulates Jason Rossi (right) and Wayne Reed
on receiving Life Ring awards for their
effort in rescuing an overturned kayaker in October.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A look back at a busy construction year

By Barbara LaBoe

We’ve completed another year of busy maintenance and construction work. It’s a challenge to schedule all of these projects and also keep traffic moving as well as possible, and we want to once again thank all travelers for their patience and understanding while the work was done.

We need to do much of our work in the summer when our weather is most predictable. Unfortunately that is also a busy travel time and roadwork delays or detours can be frustrating. We do our best to schedule around peak travel times and events, but with so much to do during the dry season, it’s often hard to avoid at least some delays.

The amount of work accomplished each spring and summer is massive and varied – including work improving fish passage through our waterways as well as building roundabouts and making preventative repairs before major problems develop. Here’s a list of some of the most noteworthy work we accomplished this year:

I-5 corridor
I-90 corridor
Alaskan Way Viaduct
Passenger Rail
SR 520 Program
Emergency Response
Pavement Preservation
Fish Passage Improvements
Other notable projects

Interstate 5 corridor
  • Near Marysville, we paved seven miles of northbound I-5 and a couple of miles of southbound to improve roadway quality and preserve the highway. Work continues in the southbound lanes in 2018.
  • Our #ReviveI5 pavement rehab project repaved 20 lane miles (five miles of four-lane highway) and replaced 400 concrete panels as well as expansion joints on overpasses and bridges near Tukwila to improve and preserve roadway surface. Work continues next summer.
  • In Tacoma, progress continued on the HOV lanes and several related projects. Crews:
    • Opened three new bridges on northbound I-5, including the new Puyallup River Bridge, and spans over the eastbound SR 16 ramp, I-705 and SR 7.
    • Began construction of the I-5/SR 16 Realignment and Connections project, with work now one-third complete.
    • Realigned and rebuilt ramps to and from SR 7, I-705 and 26th Street.
    • Reopened the A Street ramp to I-705.
    • Opened a new ramp to SR 167 in April.
    • Activated four new ramp meters on southbound I-5 in Tacoma and Fife.
The newly constructed northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge opened this summer, one of three completed as part of the Tacoma/Pierce County HOV project. The SR 167 bridge is in the background.

  • Near Joint Base Lewis-McChord we extended an auxiliary lane on I-5 between Mounts Road and Center Drive near DuPont, which opened to traffic just before Thanksgiving.
  • In Olympia, crews removed and replaced the Pacific Avenue bridge approach slabs and expansion joints.
  • In Chehalis, work to replace the damaged Chamber Way overpass above I-5 began, with construction of a bypass bridge next to the existing structure. The new wider and taller overpass is scheduled to be complete next fall. The bridge was damaged by a semi truck hauling excavators in 2016.
  • Crews replaced expansion joints, installed new waterproof membrane, applied new lane striping and resurfaced bridge decks on the southbound lanes of the North Fork Lewis River Bridge near Woodland and the I-5 railroad bridge south of Kalama.
Interstate 90 corridor
In Spokane, crews replaced expansion joints and concrete approach slabs on I-90.
  • As part of the project to improve a 15-mile section of Interstate 90 from Hyak to Easton over Snoqualmie Pass, crews finished the second of two avalanche bridges in early November, allowing both directions of traffic on the bridges this winter. These elevated bridges should reduce the number of times the road is closed for avalanche prevention work this winter.
  • The second of two arches of the wildlife overcrossing across I-90 near Price Creek also was completed.
  • Near Cle Elum, we replaced 3 miles of 45-year-old concrete in the westbound I-90 lanes.
  • Crews removed approximately 15,000 square feet of material as part of the project to repair three bridge decks in the westbound lanes between the summit of Snoqualmie Pass and North Bend. This project also included replacing deteriorating concrete panels in the eastbound lanes between North Bend and the summit. Crews milled and smoothed more than 87,000 square feet of concrete. 
  • In Spokane, we replaced bridge expansion joints at the Third Avenue Bridge near Liberty Park and the downtown viaduct near Division Street. We also repaired the Third Avenue Bridge deck and approaches.
  • Crews also resurfaced pavement from the Adams County line to the Spokane County line.
Crews removed and replaced approximately 15,000 square feet of material on I-90
bridge decks between North Bend and the summit of Snoqualmie Pass this summer.
Crews began building a temporary home for the King County Water Taxi and Kitsap Transit Fast Ferry as part of the overall Coleman Dock Project on the Seattle Waterfront. This work was needed to demolish and rebuild the passenger-only ferry terminal on the south side of the dock.
  • Construction of our fourth Olympic Class ferry, Suquamish, is now about 75 percent complete and passed a significant milestone this fall when it left drydock for the first time. We’ll take delivery of the ferry in July 2018; it’s scheduled to enter service next October.
  • In June, construction began on the first phase of the Seattle Multimodal Terminal at Colman Dock Project to rebuild our aging and seismically vulnerable flagship ferry terminal. Crews began work to replace the 79-year-old wooden dock with a sturdier and safer steel and concrete trestle. The project will be complete in 2023.
  • We also started to prepare the site of the new Mukilteo ferry terminal in September, with crews removing decades-old concrete walls and installing in-water piles for the new trestle. In early 2018, crews will begin installing stormwater utility lines. The new terminal is scheduled to open in 2019.
Alaskan Way Viaduct
Tunneling machine Bertha broke through into the receiving pit in April 2017, a major milestone in the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement project. With Bertha’s work completed, Seattle Tunnel Partners spent the summer dismantling the machine piece-by-piece and hauling away more than 16 million pounds of machinery from the disassembly pit at the tunnel’s north portal. STP also continued building the interior structures inside the tunnel.

Passenger Rail
Work wrapped up on the nearly $800 million federally funded improvement program for our Amtrak Cascades passenger rail service this fall. The multi-year program stretched from Blaine to the Washington/Oregon border and included track and signal upgrades, station improvements, a new route in and out of Tacoma – including a new station -- and new locomotives. The result is two more daily roundtrips between Seattle and Portland starting Dec. 18, as well as shorter travel time between the cites and improved on-time performance.

SR 520 Program

After nearly 3 years of construction, the SR 520 Program delivered a new westbound bridge over Union Bay that links the new floating bridge to Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood.

After nearly three years of construction, the SR 520 Program delivered a new westbound bridge over Union Bay that links the new floating bridge to Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood. The new, 1.2-mile-long West Approach Bridge North meets modern earthquake standards and is built for 75 years of use. We opened the new bridge in stages:
  • In July, we opened a new exit lane and new off-ramps to Lake Washington Boulevard and Montlake Boulevard.
  • In August, the bridge’s mainline opened, which includes two general-purpose lanes, a transit/HOV lane and a full shoulder for disabled vehicles.
  • On Dec. 20, we’ll open the bridge’s bicycle and pedestrian path, extending the new SR 520 regional shared-use path across Lake Washington from the Eastside to Seattle.
Emergency response
In addition to planned construction and maintenance, crews also responded to emergencies such as landslides or road washouts, working on both temporary and permanent repairs.
  • A failed culvert and catastrophic washout on US 395 in Stevens County led to emergency repairs on a 500- by 100-foot deep section of destroyed roadway. The failed culvert also was replaced with a larger, fish-friendly structure.
  • A temporary Bailey bridge was placed over the flood-damaged SR 21 North Fork Sanpoil River Bridge in Eastern Washington.
  • Crews in Seattle and Issaquah responded to landslides near Spokane Street east of I-5 and a debris flow onto I-90. They also responded to a potential slide area on SR 530 near Montague Creek that required a closure until geotechs determined it was safe to reopen. Both SR 11 and SR 410 also had rockfalls that required work to clean up and remove loose rock.
  • Near Newport, a corroded arch support on the SR 25 Columbia River Bridge required emergency repairs and road restrictions for several months.
  • Emergency repairs were also needed on SR 20 Loup Loup Pass after a series of slides, washouts and flooding damaged several sections of roadway. Many hillsides in the area were scarred from previous years’ fires, exacerbating the damage caused by heavy rain.
Pavement preservation work
Besides large projects, we also complete on-going pavement replacement and preservation work each summer, improving road surfaces and extending the life of our roadways.

I-5 bridge resurfacing work near Woodland and Kalama was one of the many pavement and bridge improvement projects our crews completed this summer.

  • We paved, replaced expansion joints and improved road surfaces across the northwest corner of our state, including work in or near Whidbey Island, Sedro-Woolley, Marysville, Renton, Enumclaw and Everett to name just a few. In total for the six-county – Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King, San Juan and Island – area  we paved 247 miles of roadway (including areas where several lanes of one stretch were paved).
  • Further south we repaved 62 miles worth of pavement in Grays Harbor, Kitsap, Pierce and Thurston counties and chip sealed another 146 miles worth of roadway in Clallam, Grays Harbor and Mason counties.
  • In the southwest section of our state we repaved, chip sealed or replaced concrete panels on 495 miles of roadway, as well as other related improvements. This included work on SR 7 between Morton and Elbe and paving work on Padden Parkway (SR 500) in Vancouver.
Crews replaced four culverts under SR 7 near Morton using a “pipe bursting” technique that avoided excavation by breaking and relining, which saved time and money and was better for long-term maintenance.
  • In south central Washington crews also paved approximately 187 lane miles and chip-sealed 214 lane miles in Kittitas, Yakima, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla, Clarkston and Asotin counties.
  • Crews also chip sealed 210 miles on eight highways in Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties in the north central part of the state. That work also included building a two-mile long passing lane on SR 28 at Spanish Orchards, and strengthened the road bed under the new surface of SR 283.
  • On the eastern side of the state we repaved or repaired more than 29 miles of roadway on projects including US 2, SR 270, SR 290, US 395 and SR 904. Work also included turn-lane improvements on US 2 from SR 206 to Day-Mt. Spokane Road.

Crews pave a section of I-5 as part of the #ReviveI5 pavement rehab project between Kent and Tukwila this summer.
Fish passage improvements
We continued to make progress on replacing culverts with larger structures to allow fish to move more freely. More information and a map of all project sites is available on our fish passage website. This year’s work took place at:
  • SR 8 at Wildcat Creek near McCleary
  • US 101 at Matriotti Creek near Sequim
  • SR 112 at Nordstrom Creek in Clallam County
  • I-5 at Fisher Creek in Skagit County
  • SR 202 over Little Bear Creek near Woodinville
  • I-90 at the North Fork Issaquah Creek
  • SR 531 at Edgecomb Creek near Arlington
  • SR 532 at Church Creek near Stanwood.
  • SR 542 at Hedrick Creek In Whatcom County
  • SR 900 at Green Creek near Renton.
Other notable projects
  • In Spokane, work began constructing two US 395 freeway bridges over Freya Street north of Francis Avenue, part of a multi-year improvement project for the North Spokane Corridor in that area. Work will continue into 2019.
  • Several improvements were made to US 12 this summer:
    • From Randall to White Pass we resurfaced 24 miles to extend the life of the highway. A portion completed the chip seal project begun last year, while an area between Packwood and White Pass was repaved a season sooner than planned due to extensive winter pavement damage.
    • Between Packwood and Rimrock we repaired culverts and drainage, repaved 14 miles and removed 1,400 tons of loose rock and material above US 12 near the Rimrock Tunnel.
  • Two projects on US 2 improved and resurfaced the roadway:
    • Eight miles of roadway were repaved starting just west of Fern Bluff Road in Sultan and ending near Tenth Street in Gold Bar.
    • Three segments of roadway – nearly 17 miles total – were resurfaced between Gold Bar and Skykomish.
  • On US 195 from Colfax to Spangle we added a passing lane in each direction near Steptoe.
  • We added roundabouts at the SR 150 and No See-Um Road intersection near Chelan as well as the SR 28 and Fifth Street intersection in East Wenatchee to improve traffic flow and reduce collisions.
  • Crews on the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge adjusted and aligned guide rollers used to operate the drawspan for marine traffic. Workers also will replace worn gearboxes and hydraulic hoses as part of this important preservation work.
  • The two Sol Doc River Bridges north of Forks on US 101 were cleaned and got fresh coats of evergreen paint, protecting the bridges from the elements.
  • We constructed a stabilizing rock buttress wall and resurfaced two damaged sections of roadway located at the far west end of SR 112 near Sekiu.
The majority of our work is done for the year, but we’re already planning for next year’s construction and preservation work. We’ll once again be out and about preserving or improving many areas and we ask you to remember to slow down and stay alert anytime you’re in a work zone. We want to keep you and our workers safe – and to focus on the work that makes traveling safer and more efficient for everyone.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Construction brings sailing schedule adjustments on Seattle-based routes

By Broch Bender

Although we haven't done this since Hammer pants were hip and Amazon only sold books, starting January 7, 2018, the sailing schedule on our Seattle/Bainbridge and Seattle/Bremerton routes will change. Due to construction on Colman Dock, several sailings to and from of our flagship ferry terminal in Seattle will depart 5-15 minutes earlier or later than they currently do.
With nearly a quarter of the 500 steel piles needed to support the state's busiest ferry terminal
firmly in the ground, we're making good headway building your new Colman Dock.

Soon after the New Year, construction to make Colman Dock safer in a major earthquake will shift from pile driving work to demolishing a portion of the Seattle terminal building. The terminal will remain open during the work, with no cuts to service, but the building will be much smaller and will not have enough space to accommodate passengers leaving for more than one destination at a time.

The new sailing schedule in and out of Colman Dock staggers trips so that only one ferry arrives and departs at a time. This way, there's plenty of room to hold a boat's worth of travelers inside the smaller terminal building.
Find out if your sailing departure time is changing in January 2018

Learn more online, or join us at one of our sailing schedule drop-in events this month.
Pick up a copy of the 2018 Winter Sailing schedule at the terminal or on the ferry

Holiday travel and more Winter 2018 route changes

Before you make merry, check the time of your ferry.

Some ferry routes operate on a holiday schedule on Christmas (Dec. 25) and New Year's Day (Jan. 1). Since New Year's Eve falls on a Sunday this year, your sailing may also be on a Sunday or weekend timetable as well.

Last, but not least: It's not just the Seattle routes that change on Jan. 7. As tourist season goes into brief hibernation for the winter, there will be fewer sailings on our Anacortes/San Juan Islands route and ferry service to Sidney, BC will be suspended until spring.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Start planning your route: SR 520 bicycle and pedestrian trail to open across Lake Washington Dec. 20

By Ben Lennon

This is it!

In less than three weeks, the SR 520 Trail for bikes and pedestrians will extend across Lake Washington! Crews are completing the final touches on the path’s newest section over Union Bay in Seattle and at 3 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 20, the trail will open to the public. So grab your walking shoes and bike helmets (and maybe rain jackets too) and get ready to enjoy the new connection between the Eastside and Seattle.

A long time coming
A trail across Lake Washington has long been contemplated on SR 520. When discussions about reconstructing SR 520 began in the late 1990s, the idea to include a bicycle/pedestrian path quickly gained traction. Feedback from the community during the planning stages made clear a bike and pedestrian facility should be an important part of the project.

Everyone’s welcome
The trail is designed for users of all abilities, from the casual or serious rider, to pedal-powered commuters, to walkers out to savor the sunset or gaze at Mount Baker and Mount Rainier. Along the 2.7-mile trail above the lake, you’ll find 11 viewpoints, perfect places to take a break and enjoy the scenery surrounding Lake Washington. The trail is 14 feet wide, which allows for a comfortable mix of bicyclists and pedestrians. A concrete barrier provides safe separation between trail users and the bridge’s vehicle traffic.
The view from one of the SR 520 Trail’s viewpoints

We’ve heard from a few bike riders that the cover plates on the new floating bridge’s expansion joints cause a “bump” when crossed. These half-inch-thick plates are needed to support the weight of fire trucks and aid vehicles in case of emergencies. The plates also must support the load of our large, specialized trucks that use the path for under-bridge inspections.

WSDOT’s specialized sweeper, Broom Hilda, will be utilized to keep the trail clean.

Please use caution when riding over the cover plates. We’re placing yellow paint at each expansion joint to alert path users of the plates. And for everyone’s safety, keep your speed under 15 mph.

With the trail opening in just a few weeks, it’s time to start planning your routes! To help your planning, we put together a few maps of suggested routes. All along each route, you’ll find beautiful views, open green spaces, lively neighborhoods and fantastic regional trail connections.

Maybe you’ll enjoy both of the floating bridge paths along SR 520 and I-90, and ride approximately 20 miles to finally complete the box!

Or perhaps you want to check out the north end of Lake Washington with this route, which is about 27 miles. (If you rotate it counter-clockwise and squint, it kind of looks like a shoe – okay, that might be a stretch.)

If you’re feeling really daring, might we suggest our favorite? The “520,” made up of three different routes that total about 84 miles:

Heads up – these routes are for inspirational purposes only and may not follow well-established routes. Follow at your own risk (and compass)!

No matter which way you go, we hope you enjoy this new community asset. This trail has been a long time in the making and we can’t wait to see you out crossing the lake!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Skagit River power: Rebuilding a section of road following November flooding

By Andrea E. Petrich

Many people in Skagit and Whatcom counties spent their holiday weekends dealing with flooding, flooding and more flooding as rising temperatures melted snow and the rain just kept falling. Homeowners weren't the only ones affected. Our crews were out throughout the weekend to help clear water from roadways, remove fallen trees and to make sure the highways were safe for travelers.
SR 20 at milepost 101 on Thanksgiving as flood waters from the Skagit River crested over the highway and concrete barrier.

The hardest hit area for us was on SR 20 east of Rockport. The high and rushing water in the Skagit River scoured out riprap along the bank, pulling material from under the road, collapsing part of the highway and sending traffic barriers into the water. We dispatched maintenance, construction and environmental crews to the site and they closed down the right (eastbound) lane, assessed safety concerns and worked to determine a fix.

What's happening now?
  • A temporary signal is alternating traffic through this area in the westbound lane.
  • Our maintenance crews are on scene 24/7.
  • Our Mount Vernon project office is working to get a contractor mobilized to the scene.
A 20 foot section of SR 20 was severely damaged during Nov. 2017 Skagit River scouring. The river also
moved nearly 100 yards of additional bank material that will need to be built back up.
This area was rebuilt about 20 years ago to protect the highway.

What's next?
  • The contractor is expected to take over the site from our maintenance team Tuesday night.
  • On Wednesday they will start work to replace washed-out riprap and repair the road.
  • Crews will work daylight hours, 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, Dec. 3 this week.
  • Crews hope to wrap up this work before Christmas.
Looking west down SR 20 from milepost 101 and downstream of the scoured area. In 2014 WSDOT contractor crews
did a project to protect the road in a critical area just downstream. The area damaged in 2017
wasn't included in that 2014 project because it was stable at that time.

While not many people travel this stretch this time of year, we know it's an important route for those who live or work in Marblemount as well as a favorite stretch used by many in the summer and other adventurers year-round. We've been getting plenty of questions since the incident began so here's some answers to the most popular:
  • Why is it going to take so long?
    We don't have a precise measurement of how deep or wide the scoured area is so the amount of material needed is still unknown. It will take time to place each rock where it's needed in the scour hole. The weather is also not on our side and this is work that needs to be done in the daylight, which there isn't a lot of this time of year. This is also a remote location and getting the needed material here will take time.
  • Didn't you just do a project here?
    We did a project in 2014 downstream from this area. The river was threatening the road so we received emergency federal funds to protect the highway.
  • Well, why didn't you just protect this area then?
    This neighboring area was stable during the 2014 project. We received emergency federal funds for that project and couldn't spend money on an area that wasn't directly impacted at that time.
  • How many drivers does this affect?
    Our traffic counts for this stretch of road are determined during the peak season (when the North Cascades Highway is open across the mountains). During that time, 2,200 vehicles used this stretch each day.
  • What sort of delays should I expect if I live in the area?
    Crews will be using the washed-out lane as a work zone, leaving one lane to be shared by both eastbound and westbound travelers. Those who need to travel through this section should expect up to 30 minutes of delay daily between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Flaggers will be on scene alternating traffic through the area and, for everyone's safety, will hold traffic on both sides during certain work. Delays outside of those times should be less, depending on traffic volumes, as you'll just need to wait for the traffic light to cycle through.
  • How are crews planning to fix it?
    Crews will replace the riprap the river washed away. They will start by placing 6-foot diameter rocks in the water until the underwater area/bank is built back up. Once they've got those placed, they will add smaller rocks behind and atop that - and so on - until all the riprap that was there is replaced. They will then rebuild the road over that washed out stretch, put asphalt down and redo striping – work that is weather dependent.
  • How long will that fix last?
    That depends on the river. Geologists believe the event that scoured this section was part of a 5-year-flood. This section was last repaired in a similar manner about 20 years ago, which gives some indication of how long this repair should last. We will be looking at ways, and funding, to keep this area from being scoured in the future. That said, Mother Nature and this river is more powerful and doesn't always do what is expected.
  • How are you paying for this?
    We are in the process of requesting federal emergency funding for this repair. Costs right now are being paid through state dollars.
View more photos of Thanksgiving flooding on the Flickr album.