Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Perfect Recipe for Weekend Traffic

by Ally Barrera

Did you know that weekend traffic is a lot like baking? You need to plan things out in advance, have a lot of patience and be prepared for some setbacks.

But just like that first bite of that fresh-out-of-the-oven cookie, cupcake, or brownie, reaching your final destination is oh, so, sweet.

This weekend, construction and major events are creating the perfect recipe for packed highways and travel delays. To get you ready, check out our latest video on what could slow you down on the roads. Warning: you may want to eat a cupcake afterward.

INGREDIENTS

In the Seattle area:

  • Seahawks vs. Vikings, 7 p.m. Friday, CenturyLink Field
  • Hempfest, all day Friday to Sunday, Myrtle Edwards Park
  • Tom Petty, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Safeco Field
  • Sounders vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m. Sunday, CenturyLink Field
  • #ReviveI5, 8 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, northbound I-5 between SR 516 and Southcenter
  • Montlake Bridge full closure, 10 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday
On the Eastside:
  • I-90 Bellevue Way ramp closures, 5:30 a.m. Saturday to 9 p.m. Sunday
  • Incubus concert, 6:45 p.m. Saturday, White River Amphitheatre
  • Woodinville Festival, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
  • I-405 overnight lane and ramp closures, all weekend, Totem Lake and Renton
Snoqualmie Pass:
  • Zac Brown Band concert, 7 p.m. Saturday, Gorge
  • WSU Move-in Weekend, all weekend, Pullman
  • Gigantic Bicycle Festival, Friday to Sunday, Snoqualmie
Up North:
  • SR 532 Church Creek full closure
DIRECTIONS
  1. Mix ingredients until just combined for packed roadways and slower travel times.
  2. Bake in 75 degree mostly sunny weather.
  3. While baking, prepare yourself by checking the WSDOT Mobile App, the WSDOT traffic twitter accounts, or our website.
  4. Once baked, give yourself extra travel time before enjoying your destinations.
There is still plenty of other things happening this weekend that could impact your weekend travel. Below we have the latest edition of our popular Microsoft Paint maps, along with a list of other notable events.


  • Seattle Storm vs. San Antonio Stars, 7 p.m., KeyArena
  • Bryson Tiller concert, 8 p.m., WaMu Theater
  • BIG3 basketball tournament, 2 p.m., KeyArena
  • Skagit Powersports Monkey Butt 300 motorcycle ride, all day, Skagit County

Last minute Eclipse Tips

By Barbara LaBoe

With just a few days until the Great American Solar Eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, are you ready?

Whether you're traveling to Oregon to see the total solar eclipse, checking out the partial eclipse here in Washington or just going about your normal errands you'll likely notice different traffic patterns this weekend and on Monday. Central Oregon was already seeing traffic backups and fuel shortages Wednesday evening at the start of an eclipse festival. With up to 1 million people expected to travel to Oregon, we expect increased traffic throughout our state as people make their way there and back.

If any significant congestion or closures happen, we'll post details here.
This NASA map shows the Path of Totality through Oregon during Monday's eclipse. Expect heavy traffic this
weekend through Tuesday as people in Washington make their way to and from the viewing sites.

So, how bad will traffic be? What's the best route? And when is the best time to leave? Unfortunately, we don't have a crystal ball. This isn't an event where people buy tickets or register travel plans. Based on hotel and campground registrations and anecdotal information about people's plans, though, we do expect traffic to be heavier than normal throughout the weekend as well as Monday and Tuesday as people return.
Follow these tips from our friends at the Illinois Department of Transportation
to help stay safe during Monday's solar eclipse.

Whether you're traveling to the eclipse or just through your hometown, please remember:
  • Do not stop in roadways or on the shoulder to view the eclipse. This is illegal and unsafe and could delay emergency vehicles from doing their job.
  • Give yourself extra travel time or alter travel times if possible.
  • If traveling to the eclipse, bring extra water, food and other necessary supplies. You may be in your vehicle longer than normal and you need to be prepared.
  • Have a plan. Trying to attend the eclipse last minute is not a good idea and likely will be unsuccessful given expected heavy traffic.
  • Stay informed. Use our tools such as the WSDOT app, travel alerts page, Twitter accounts and this blog to stay in the know.
There's certainly a lot of excitement about the eclipse, but please prepare and stay safe so that everyone can enjoy the experience.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sinkhole success story

By Andrea E. Petrich

A couple of different sinkholes have closed down our roads this summer. One of the most recent, on Monday, July 31, 2017, was on State Route 534, which runs for about five miles through Skagit County near Lake McMurray and Camp Korey. While small, this road is very important to those who live and work in the area. It is a busy truck route and connects neighbors in the Lake McMurray area and along SR 9 with I-5.

This sinkhole started as what might be described as a dimple in the road. A little sunken area that most of us probably wouldn't have noticed. Luckily our maintenance teams did, though! Lead technician Doug Knott, and his team were heading to a project on SR 534 when they noticed that the area just didn't look right. They stopped to investigate and quickly realized that this little void wasn't quite so little.

The crew closed the road and coordinated with our communications staff to get the word out to the public about this closure. It was important that we let travelers know quickly that the detour during the repair was expected to last most of the day.

Then Doug and his team got to work. They opened up the dimple, revealing the sinkhole, and then kept digging.

They determined that the issue was a leaking culvert right under the highway that was washing away the roadbed, leaving nothing for the asphalt to sit on.

The crew dug up all the damaged area and prepared for a temporary repair. They moved in gravel to fill the area and then added asphalt back to the road.

Thanks to Doug and his crew for their sharp eyes and hard and quick work. They were able to reopen the road in less than five hours and while we know some folks were forced to take that long detour, the quick work by the team meant that afternoon commuters didn't need to alter their routes.

There is still a dip in the road where the temporary repair is so you may see signs warning drivers to slow down and be ready for it.

Now plans are being made for a permanent repair which we don't have work hours scheduled yet, but I'll let you know when we do.

Digging into a different way to move dirt

By Victoria Miller

If you drive on Interstate 405 near downtown Renton, you may have noticed a lot of activity happening on the hillside to the south of the freeway.

You may have even asked yourself, "What is that funny looking machine hanging over I-405?" Well, we have been hard at work this spring and summer constructing the I-405/SR 167 Interchange Direct Connector Project. We've already completed some early milestones, such as relocating a noise wall to protect our neighbors from construction noise and shifting traffic to create safe work zones.
In early July, we began mass excavation of the hillside near the Talbot Hill neighborhood. We have been moving dirt in this area to prepare once again to shift lanes of northbound I-405 to the south and create space for the future flyover ramp.
But this isn't your average dirt-moving project. Originally, the mass excavation was scheduled to take approximately three months. Trucks would have been hauling 80,000 cubic yards of dirt 24 hours a day, seven days a week through city and neighborhood streets. That is equal to 2,500 truckloads or eight Goodyear blimps of dirt!
An innovative way of moving dirt on our I-405/SR 167 project is saving time, money and fuel.

Instead, the contractor came up with a creative alternative. The team cut out a hole in an existing retaining wall and installed a conveyor belt, that funny looking machine that was hanging over I-405, which loaded dump trucks with dirt and allowed them to exit on Smithers Avenue South via northbound I-405, avoiding driving the whole route through city and neighborhood streets.

We realize that construction can be an inconvenience for drivers and nearby residents, which is why we're always looking for ways to minimize effects that people experience from our projects. By carrying out this innovative plan, our contractor saved approximately a week and a half of time, minimized construction noise and traffic issues on neighborhood streets, and conserved fuel.

The next construction activity you will see is crews repaving roughly six miles of southbound SR 167. Then we will move on to setting girders for a new I-405 bridge over Talbot Hill and the first stages of work to help improve fish passage in this area, which are scheduled to begin sometime next spring.

For the latest construction closure information, please visit our I-405 Construction Updates page and our King County Construction Updates page.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Support for the I-405 express toll lanes is growing

By Ethan Bergerson

When the I-405 express toll lanes opened nearly two years ago, it stirred up a lot of strong feelings. But we had learned from feedback about the SR 167 HOT lanes that public support would improve with time. Though some drivers continue to express frustration, over time we’ve heard more and more positive comments about the express toll lanes as well.

I-405 drivers tell us what they really think
We wanted to hear directly from customers, so we visited the Bellevue Good To Go! customer service center to talk to I-405 drivers and ask what they thought about the express toll lanes.
We heard a mix of opinions. Some customers said the express toll lanes worked great and they liked having the option, and others said they didn’t see the benefit and only used them when they really needed to get somewhere on time.

Surveys show growing support for express toll lanes
We also conducted a survey in June 2017 to help us find out what people are thinking about the express toll lanes. The survey represented drivers who have used any part of I-405 in the past year and who lived throughout Snohomish and east King county. About half of respondents said they had used the express toll lanes, and half had not. It used a diverse online panel and had a ±4.8% margin of error.

Sixty percent of people told us that they like having the option to use the express toll lanes for a faster trip. This represents a complete flip in opinion compared to the surveys we did when the express toll lanes were brand new. When we asked people what they thought of the express toll lanes in January 2016, three months after they opened, 87 percent of people told us they did not support the project.

Today, two-thirds of those surveyed agree that the express toll lanes help reduce congestion in the regular lanes, a complete change from January 2016 when 77 percent of people we surveyed thought the opposite.

The answers to these questions were consistently positive among people of all incomes, ages, and genders.

People who dislike the express toll lanes still feel as strongly as ever
Despite the growth in popularity, there are still people who feel as strongly as ever that the express toll lanes are a bad idea.

Not everyone who liked having the option to use express toll lanes loved every aspect of them.  For example, only a third of people agreed that tolls are an effective way to reduce congestion, which shows that a lot of people still have mixed feelings about these lanes.

Please continue to let us know how you feel about the express toll lanes. Your feedback – positive and negative – is important to us and helps us make improvements to the system.