Thursday, September 21, 2017

Remodeling I-5 requires patience and creativity

By Cara Mitchell

Anyone who has ever remodeled a home knows that the process requires a lot of time, extreme patience and advanced planning. Adding an extra room or two can mean shifting of furniture, plumbing or moving windows and doors. Cooking a meal without a kitchen sink, stove or counter tops takes some creativity. That is very similar to what is happening in Tacoma, where contractor crews are adding HOV lanes, building new bridges, and remodeling the lanes and ramps to Interstate 5. Maneuvering around the ramp closures requires patience, creativity and planning ahead. The good news is huge progress is being made.

What is finished, and what is ahead
This summer, we moved traffic on to the new northbound I-5 bridge that spans I-705 and State Route 7 in Tacoma. Crews also temporarily split southbound I-5 into two roadways. This effort created workspace for crews to rebuild southbound I-5 and the associated ramps.
Left: Crews are now advancing work on Pier 2 of the new McKinley Street overpass.
Right: Crews are grooving the deck of the new northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge to allow storm water to efficiently drain.

This September, crews successfully re-aligned the southbound I-5 ramp to East 26th Street and the I-705 ramp to southbound I-5. We also closed the southbound I-5 ramp to SR 7 to build permanent retention ponds, install drainage and electrical components, and to rebuild the ramp to match the new alignment of I-5. This closure also gives crews workzone access to begin drilling the shafts for Pier 2 on the new McKinley Street overpass. This is the final long-term ramp closure for this particular project, and it will be in place through fall of 2017. During the closure, drivers who use the SR 7 ramp will be detoured using northbound I-705, the SR 509 interchange and southbound I-705.

Two ramps – the A Street on-ramp to I-705 and the SR 7 ramp to southbound I-5 – are expected to re-open to traffic this fall. Both ramps closed early in the project due to temporary configurations of adjacent ramps leading to southbound I-5.

New northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge opens to ramp traffic
A new phase of construction will move ramp traffic on to the brand-spanking-new northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge in October 2017, weather permitting. The new 1,569 foot-long bridge, built to current seismic standards, is straighter than the existing I-5 Puyallup River bridges. Crews also rebuilt and realigned the northbound I-5 ramps for 28th Street and SR 167. As early as the weekend of Oct. 13, a new 28th Street ramp to northbound I-5 will open to traffic. Drivers who use this new ramp will cross the new northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge prior to merging with mainline I-5 traffic.

In addition, northbound I-5 drivers heading to the Port of Tacoma Road (exit #136B) and East 20th Street (exit #136A) will exit mainline I-5 south of the river and over the new Puyallup River Bridge to reach the interchange. Drivers will need to exit approximately a half mile south of the current exit. Crews will implement this change over the same weekend.

Once the ramp traffic is on the new bridge, crews will begin building lanes to match the new alignment of northbound I-5 leading up to the new bridge. If weather cooperates, all northbound I-5 traffic could be using the new bridge as soon as spring 2018.

One year: Three new bridges
For many commuters driving on I-5 through endless construction, it is hard to see the progress crews are making. Here is an important fact to consider: before the end of the year, crews on three projects covering seven miles of I-5 through Tacoma will have finished building THREE new northbound I-5 bridges.

The third bridge that is rapidly nearing completion is located at the interchange of SR 16 and I-5. Crews building direct-connect HOV lanes between the two highways are on schedule to move northbound I-5 traffic on to its new alignment and over a new bridge that spans the eastbound SR 16 ramp by Nov. 15. 
Left: Progress is being made on the new northbound I-5 bridge near SR 16. The bridge is expected to open to traffic by Nov. 15. Right: The ramp approach to the new northbound I-5 bridge spanning the Puyallup River is being built. The new bridge is 1,569 feet long and the deck is comprised of 6,788 cubic yards of concrete. Traffic will be shifted onto the bridge this fall.

After three years of announcing temporary ramp or lane closures, it is a great feeling to announce to drivers the opening of ramps, lanes and bridges. It is a sign that our three active HOV projects are moving towards completion. Before you break out into a happy dance, there is still one more funded HOV project to go. Construction on the I-5 – Portland Avenue to Port of Tacoma Road – Southbound HOV project is expected to begin in 2018. The project will build a new southbound I-5 bridge across the Puyallup River. The construction schedule and staging for this project will determine when the HOV lanes will open to traffic.

The Tacoma/Pierce County HOV program is a $1.6 billion investment that spanned 17 projects over 20 years. We are down to the final four projects. As always, we appreciate your patience while we remodel I-5 in Tacoma to help ease congestion. To stay on top of weekly overnight ramp and lane closures, please visit

WSDOT: From the age of disco to Twitter, 40 years of keeping the state moving

By Barbara LaBoe

When the Washington State Department of Transportation was created in 1977, dancers still shimmied across disco floors, "The Love Boat" was just starting to sail into people's televisions and the original "Star Wars" movie was still in theaters. Gas cost 65 cents a gallon, the average new home cost less than $50,000 and Atari had just introduced the first popular home video game console.

Much has happened in the past four decades – bell bottoms even had time for a (thankfully brief) return – but the agency's mission remains much the same: Keeping people and goods moving across the state.
Left: final paving of the I-90 bypass in North Bend in July 1978.
Right: crews backfill the northbound I-205 bridge abutment in Clark County in March 1982

Of course, there were state highways long before the age of 8-Tracks and pet rocks. The first official state agency to develop roads was created in 1905, later morphing into the state Department of Highways and adding ferries in 1951.

Want to know more about our history? Our department library has digitized many records and documents, some as far back as 1905, with more being added all the time.
When we opened the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 2007, 60,000 people walked across the span to celebrate.

A unified department
In 1977, lawmakers voted to "create a unified department of transportation." Gov. Dixy Lee Ray signed the legislation into law on June 2, 1977, and the agency officially began Sept. 21, 1977, with the first meeting of the newly organized State Transportation Commission. (Initially the commission hired the Secretary of Transportation, though now the governor appoints the head of the agency).

In addition to highways and ferries, the new agency now oversaw the Aeronautics Commission, the Toll Bridge Authority and the Canal Commission, as well as some functions of other agencies. This allowed for better overall state transportation planning, and made it easier for the state to apply for national funding and implement national transportation policy. Agency leaders also said the one-stop location for transportation issues also would allow for more public comment and involvement.
Almost 7,000 cyclists helped celebrate the April 2016 opening of the SR 520 bridge in Seattle.

A busy 40 years
It's been an eventful four decades. Since 1977, our agency has:
  • Completed the Washington portion of Interstate 90 and half of the North Spokane Corridor.
  • Rebuilt the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway (State Route 504) after the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens destroyed dozens of roads and bridges.
  • Launched state-funded Amtrak Cascades passenger train service.
  • Inspected and repaired numerous roads and bridges after the 2001 Nisqually quake, leading to the project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel.
  • Opened the Hood Canal, Glenn Jackson (I-205), I-182, Intercity, Foss Waterway, new Tacoma Narrows and new 520 bridges.
  • Added sensors and traffic cameras to roadways and computerized traffic management systems to better track real-time traffic conditions.
  • Purchased new, larger vessels for the Washington State Ferries system, the largest ferry system in the country.  
  • Launched the Commute Trip Reduction program to ease congestion, improve air quality and reduce oil consumption by promoting alternatives to driving alone to work.
  • Placed a temporary bridge on I-5 over the Skagit River just 27 days after a vehicle strike knocked a portion of the structure into the river.
  • Started the agency's first social media account, growing to what is now the largest following of any state DOT in the nation.
  • Worked with local and state agencies to rebuild a road – and help a community recover – in Oso after a massive landslide buried homes and State Route 530, killing 43 people.
  • Created the Active Transportation Division to further integrate active transportation modes into our agency and assist others in doing the same.
The Chimacum is the latest of our ferries to set sail and is the third of four Olympic Class ferries to join our fleet.
So, what's next?
No longer focused on just highways, our agency's multimodal focus includes people who walk, bike, take transit, ride a ferry or rideshare. That includes considering the range of travel modes when planning projects, embracing new technology and reorganizing our management structure to better integrate all travel modes into decisions. (It's also a nod to our history: the 1905 Road Laws of the State of Washington allowed for dedicated bicycle and pedestrian lanes on all public highways).
The Amtrak Cascades passenger train service – owned jointly by Washington and
Oregon - will soon have these new locomotives on the rails.

As we embark on our next 40 years, our agency's name guides us more than ever: We serve all travelers in the state, no matter how they make their way through the world.

Or, to paraphrase Fleetwood Mac in "Don't Stop," one of 1977's most popular songs: We won't "stop thinking about tomorrow."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Show us your MS Paint skills

By Mike Allende

Because of some technical issues earlier in the week, we’re extending this contest through the weekend. Entries are now due by 7 a.m. Monday, Sept. 25.

By now most of you have seen our busy weekend maps featuring some pretty impressive Microsoft Paint drawings. We use these maps as a creative way to help paint a picture of what travelers can expect over the weekend, including special events and road closures. The maps, which we’ve used regularly since the start of summer, have proven to be one of our most popular pieces of content.

Now we want to see what you can do.

We’re holding our first Busy Weekend Map MS Paint contest! Show us your skills in balancing information with art and you could find your submission posted on our various social media platforms, which are followed by about a million people!
Our busy weekend MS Paint maps have been very popular, and we want to see what you can come up with.

The contest
Use the base map below as your starting point. Then take a look at the various special events and road closures below. Using MS Paint (to ensure a level playing field other programs can’t be substituted), produce a map that shows what special events are happening, and what construction work is going on. It’s up to you to decide which events and closures to use and how you’ll present them. Can you squeeze them all onto the map? Do you have to be selective? Are your art skills up to creating certain items?
Save this base map to your desk top and use it as the starting point for
your MS Paint masterpiece.

Not sure how it’s done, or want some tips? Check out the video below featuring our ace MS Paint artist Ally Barrera:
Remember, the primary purpose of the map is to provide information about where people may encounter traffic delays, so keep that in mind while you’re drawing a WSU football helmet or a picture of Don Henley.

Oh, and WSDOT employees and their family are not eligible.

Submissions will be accepted until 7 a.m. Friday, Sept. 22, and can be sent to Please include your name and where you live. We will select the 10 finalists and open it up to voting on our Facebook, Instagram and Flickr pages. Comment on which picture you like best, or give it a “like,” to vote. Voting will continue until noon on Tuesday, Sept. 26 and we will announce the winner via a Facebook Live broadcast on Wednesday.

The winner will have their work shown on our various Twitter accounts as well as Facebook and Instagram.

What to include
OK, so you’ve got your map ready and MS Paint pulled up. But what to put on it? Here’s a list of what’s going on. Remember, you decide what should go on your map, where, and how it should look:

Sept. 29 – Oct. 1 weekend
Special events

  • Central Washington Fair, Friday-Sunday, Yakima
  • Leavenworth Oktoberfest, Friday-Sunday
  • WSU football vs. USC, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Pullman
  • Fright Fest, Friday-Sunday, Wild Waves (Federal Way)
  • GeekGirlCon, 9 a.m. Saturday, 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Washington State Convention Center (Seattle)
  • Eagles and Doobie Brothers concert, 6 p.m. Saturday, Safeco Field
  • Sturgill Simpson concert, 7 p.m. Saturday, Marymoor Park (Redmond)
  • Seahawks vs. Colts, 5:30 p.m. Sunday, CenturyLink Field
  • #ReviveI5. Northbound I-5 reduced to two lanes between the I-405/SR 518 interchange and the Duwamish River Bridge from 8 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.
  • Southbound I-5 Ship Canal Bridge maintenance (Seattle). Two left lanes between NE 50th St. and Boylston Ave. closed 2-10 a.m. Saturday. Two right lanes between NE 50th St. and Boylston Ave. closed from 2-10 a.m. Sunday. The NE 45th St. on-ramp to southbound I-5 closed 2-10 a.m. Sunday.
  • I-90 Bellevue ramps. The I-90 on- and off-ramps at Bellevue Way will be closed from 5:30 a.m. Saturday to 9 p.m. Sunday.
  • SR 410 closed due to fire activity west of Chinook Pass between mileposts 65 (SR 123 junction) and milepost 88 (Bumping River Road).
  • Ongoing construction work on I-90 between North Bend and Ellensburg.
OK, you’ve got your map, your information and a helpful video from our resident expert. The ball is in your court. Send us your submissions by 7 a.m. Sept. 22 and let your creativity and information sharing shine!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

How it’s made: Busy traffic weekend maps

By Ally Barrera

This year, you might have noticed maps like this pop up on our social media platforms. Our busy weekend traffic maps are one of the most popular ways we spread the word about major road work and special events happening on the weekends.

Mixed with the right amount of colors, fun emojis, and sub-par-at-best Microsoft Paint artwork, they have become the talk of social media this summer.

Every week people ask, "How do you make those maps?" or "How did you draw that (whatever doodle) that looks like something a 5-year-old drew?" Well, you're in luck, because in this week's Busy Traffic Weekend video, we are pulling back the curtain to reveal how we put together these popular maps.
The finished product:

There are a few other things going on that we couldn't fit in the video or map.
  • Boats Afloat Show, Thursday to Sunday, Lake Union
  • Renton City Comic Con, Saturday to Sunday, Renton
  • Hank Williams, Jr. concert, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Puyallup
  • #ReviveI5 overnight lane closures
    • Up to two lanes closed between South 260th Street and SR 516, including ramp closures at the I-5/SR 516 interchange
    • Lane closures will start at 8 to 9 p.m. and finish by 9 to 10 a.m. the following morning
  • Seattle ramp closures (10 p.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Sunday)
    • The southbound I-5 ramp to 45th/50th Street Northeast
Clearly, there is lots of stuff happening this weekend. No matter which side of the mountains you are traveling to this weekend, PLAN AHEAD! We have several resources that help you know what is happening on the roads before you leave the house.
We'll be posting closures and updates on those three platforms throughout the weekend to help you #KnowBeforeYouGo.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Putting people to work: Transportation, trades and community services team up for a win-win

By Ann Briggs

As our workforce ages and Baby Boomers continue to retire in droves, the transportation industry is struggling to fill positions with qualified, skilled tradespeople. These traditional “blue collar” jobs – including carpenters, welders, electricians, ironworkers, and masons – rank among top high-demand jobs that are hardest to fill.

At the same time, many capable young minority men, women and disadvantaged persons in urban communities face barriers and challenges to getting the education and skills training needed to hold living-wage jobs. Typical barriers for low income individuals trying to find better paying jobs are a lack of:
  • Reliable transportation
  • Gas money
  • Proper safety equipment and work boots
  • Language skills
  • Driver’s license

So how do we resolve these two needs? Enter a new program, Pre-Apprenticeship Support Services (or PASS for short), that brings together the state, highway construction industry and community services to give disadvantaged individuals in pre-apprenticeship programs the support they need to succeed. Authorized through the Connecting Washington transportation funding package, the PASS program is already showing great success in its startup phase.

In the past year, the PASS program has sponsored two training classes conducted by the Ironworkers Union, Local 86, in Tukwila. As part of the PASS program agreement, the union provides training through its certified apprenticeship program as well as job placement assistance for those who graduate. For the 28 individuals who completed the four-week training, 25 are now employed as ironworker apprentices, earning wages up to $25 per hour. They also have the potential for regular wage increases as they gain experience. These are people who were previously dependent on social programs; working multiple, low wage jobs; or unemployed.
People going through our PASS program train with the Ironworkers Union to
become the next generation of skilled trades workers.

While in the training program, community-support-services providers were there to help trainees by removing barriers that might have otherwise caused them to fail. For one person, it was getting funds to pay for driver’s training so they could get a license; for another, a gas card to help get them to and from training. Other PASS trainees received housing assistance that allowed them to cut back on their work schedule so they could attend training, and many trainees were provided required safety equipment in order to work.

Using this model, we’re expanding the PASS program in next phase and offering training classes for carpenters and cement masons, in addition to ironworkers.

As of August 2017, the state invested approximately $83,000, and in return the graduated ironworkers have earned total wages of $537,800. That’s money that supports their family, helps support their local economy and has reduced or eliminated their dependence on public assistance – a true win-win for Washington.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Weekend traffic is going to the dogs...and cats

By Ally Barrera

The dog days of summer may be winding down but we still have lots of road work and special events that will impact your weekend travels. To get you prepared for what's ahead, we called on actual dogs – and a couple kittens – from Seattle Humane to help us out in this week's Busy Traffic Weekend video.
If you’d like to adopt an animal from this video, or any other animals, contact Seattle Humane at
Video highlights:
  • #ReviveI5 is back with more lane closures, and if past weekends are any indication, it will create traffic impacts for a lot of Western Washington travelers.
  • It's a full sports weekend in Seattle with Mariners, Sounders and Husky football.
  • Expect to see a lot of Cougs on I-90 as they make their way to Pullman for WSU's big game against Boise State.
Our latest Microsoft Paint map gives you an even better idea of where we'll see the biggest traffic impacts this weekend. It also features some of our best doodling to date! (I'm particularly proud of the Husky logo and Ol' Crimson flag)

We couldn't cram all the big events onto this week's map, so here's what else you'll need to plan for:
  • Seattle's Night Market & Autumn Moon Festival, Saturday 4 p.m. – midnight, Seattle's International District
  • Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival, Friday to Sunday, near Mukilteo Ferry Terminal
  • Wooden Boat Festival, Friday to Sunday, Port Townsend
  • San Gennaro Festival, Friday to Sunday, Seattle's Georgetown neighborhood
Once again, the best way to get through this weekend of traffic is to PLAN AHEAD! We have several resources that help you know what is happening on the roads before you leave the house.
We'll be posting closures and updates on those three platforms throughout the weekend to help you #KnowBeforeYouGo.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

When are tolls worth it?

How much time you save for each dollar spent in the I-405 express toll lanes

By Ethan Bergerson

Everyday, more than 51,000 drivers choose to use the I-405 express toll lanes. Drivers tell us they like having the choice for a faster trip when they really need it but sometimes it's hard to tell exactly how much time you're saving because toll rates change in confusing ways.

Why do toll rates change?
Toll rates manage traffic in the express toll lanes based on real-time traffic conditions. Every five minutes, the traffic management computer system updates toll rates based on how many cars are in the express toll lanes and how fast they are going. The goal is to use the laws of supply and demand to keep traffic moving.

When traffic is flowing smoothly and there is plenty of room in the express toll lanes, the price is low. When the lanes start to fill up and slow down, the price goes up in order to discourage too many cars from getting in so that traffic in the lanes can keep flowing smoothly.

Tolls can reach $10 when congestion is heavy. For most people, $10 is only worth it when you're in a rush to something really important but is too much to spend every day. We understand that, and that's what makes it all work. When traffic is at its worst, higher tolls help traffic so that these lanes can move as many people as possible without jamming up. That's how we make sure that you have a dependable way out of traffic when you really need it.
The value of time
Time is money, so exactly how much time do you save when you pay to use the express toll lanes? Do you get a deal when the tolls are high or low?

We crunched the numbers and it turns out the more you pay, the more time you will probably save. When tolls are at $1 drivers save an average of 5 minutes compared to the regular lanes on trips between Bellevue and Lynnwood. Time savings add up pretty consistently when toll rates go up, and for every dollar the toll rate increases drivers save about another minute and a half. When tolls are at $10, drivers save about 20 minutes on average.

The average toll people are paying during peak periods is $3.29. Drivers are saving an average of 11 minutes heading south in the mornings, and 14 minutes heading north in the afternoons.

Sometimes there are slow spots but you can save a lot of time overall on the full trip. To do this math, we looked at how much time drivers saved for a trip all the way between Bellevue and Lynnwood. We also only looked at data for the peak times of day.

The graph below shows the average minutes saved on full corridor trips during peak periods compared to the rates displayed during those trips.

How is this possible?
It is frustrating spending $10 and then hitting a slow spot in the express toll lanes. If that's happened to you, you're probably feeling a little skeptical right now. But remember, high toll rates mean that the express toll lanes have started to get crowded and we're trying to keep it under control.

On average, express toll lanes move about 19-24 miles per hour faster than the regular lanes at peak times. That doesn't mean there's never a slow spot, but overall these lanes run way more smoothly than the old HOV lanes did a few years ago.

We try to keep things moving at around 45 miles per hour, because that's the most efficient speed for moving the most cars at a time. When traffic is at its worst, each express toll lane can carry up to 30 percent more cars than a regular lane in some locations at the height of the peak commute relieving some pressure on the regular lanes. So even on the days when the toll isn't worth it to you, at least you know that it's freeing up some space in the regular lanes around you when other drivers choose to pay.

Labor Day weekend traffic will be slow going

By Ally Barrera

Many see Labor Day weekend as the last big travel weekend of the summer, before the kids head back to school and the weather starts to turn nasty.

With major events happening on both sides of the state, we expect traffic to be heavy on all our key mountain pass routes, as well as the I-5 corridor. Our latest Microsoft Paint map gives you an idea of how jam-packed the roads will be this weekend.

Not to sound like a broken record, but if you’re heading out for one last summer hoorah this weekend, PLAN AHEAD! We have several resources that help you know what is happening on the roads before you leave the house.
We’ll be posting closures and updates on those platforms throughout the holiday weekend to help you #KnowBeforeYouGo.

 For the best times to travel this weekend, check out our traffic volume charts to help plan your trip.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Tragic collision leads to close call for IRT worker Wednesday

Please help everyone stay safe this holiday weekend

By Mike Allende

A tragic collision early Wednesday morning in Parkland led to a close call for one of our Incident Response Team workers.
While helping with traffic control at a fatality collision Wednesday morning, our IRT truck was struck by a driver believed to be impaired.
At about 2:30 a.m., the driver of a semi truck pulled over to the gore point on eastbound SR 512 at SR 7 to check the GPS. Another driver then ran into the back of the semi truck at high speed without braking, according to the Washington State Patrol. The driver of the vehicle that hit the semi died from the crash injuries.

Fortunately, our IRT worker avoided being struck Wednesday morning by jumping over the barrier.
Meanwhile, our IRT worker arrived at the scene to set up traffic control and was setting up a sign just west of the crash. She noticed a vehicle headed at her at a high rate of speed and jumped over the barrier to avoid getting hit. That vehicle ran into our IRT truck and the driver was arrested for vehicular assault and is under suspicion of driving under the influence. That driver had minor injuries and her passenger was in critical condition with a broken femur.
The vehicle that struck our IRT truck. The driver
suffered minor injuries but their passenger
was in critical condition with a broken femur.

Our thoughts go out to everyone involved in these crashes and we are incredibly thankful that our employee and the rest of the emergency responders escaped uninjured.

Our state averages 850 roadway work zone injuries every year. In 96 percent of those cases, those injured are not the workers, but the other driver, their passenger or pedestrians.

Labor Day weekend is coming up and while most of our construction projects will be shut down for the holiday, there will be lots of traffic out there, and lots of emergency responders, including the State Patrol, fire department, tow trucks and, yes, our IRT, out helping people. It’s so important for drivers to make smart decisions on the highway, drive sober, focus on the road and give those road workers plenty of room to do their jobs. They are working to keep people safe and traffic moving and we want all of them to go home safely to their families.

Early or late travel advised over I-90 Labor Day weekend

By Mike Allende

Labor Day weekend is the last gasp of summer for most people and it is a very busy travel weekend on state highways. In particular, we see a huge surge in traffic over our mountain passes, including I-90.

Because of several construction projects over I-90 this summer, we’ve been advising drivers to plan for significant delays, especially on weekends. And that remains true for Labor Day.
Creating a safe work zone on I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass required us to split westbound traffic in order to continue to let vehicles through.

While we pick up most of our construction work zones across the state on most holiday weekends, in the case of some of the projects on I-90, that isn’t possible. That means the traffic shift on westbound I-90 between the summit of Snoqualmie Pass (milepost 52) and North Bend (34) due to a major bridge deck repair project will still be in place Labor Day weekend.

Why can’t we remove the traffic control?

When it comes to bridge decks, once you’ve started, there’s no turning back. The work has to be finished, which is why this detour has been in place 24/7 since we started in mid-June. All three of the bridges we’re working on have sections where the deck has been removed and it isn’t safe to put traffic on the unfinished driving surface.
With parts of the I-90 roadway near Snoqualmie Pass torn up for bridge deck repair, it’s not safe to allow vehicles to travel over those areas.

Our goal was to have the detour removed in time for Labor Day weekend but construction can be unpredictable and issues came up that delayed that. The contractor’s schedule fell behind due to some contractual issues as well as labor disputes that made delivery of concrete difficult.

The contractor has been working 21 hours a day over two shifts, six days a week (there’s a three-hour window they can’t work due to environmental regulations) to try to get this work done before the wet and cold season arrives.

Remind me what’s happening

Repairing the bridge decks on this stretch is no easy task. It requires removal of the top layer of the bridge deck using high-pressured waterblasting tools. Once the top layer is off, the bridge is assessed for damage or areas that need to be repaired. Then crews pour a layer of concrete, which cures for seven days.
A look at the best and worst times to travel on I-90 during Labor Day weekend.
In order for this work to be safely done, the westbound lanes are reduced from three lanes to two, with one of those two shifted around the work zone. So one lane continues on in the westbound direction, and the other detours around the construction site via an eastbound I-90 lane.

Travel early or late if you can

You can now access our Labor Day travel charts on our mobile
device by clicking the red icon on the travel maps page.
Every weekend we see heavy traffic on eastbound I-90 on Fridays and on westbound I-90 on Sundays. This will be true again Labor Day weekend, though the heaviest traffic westbound will likely be Monday. We recommend that drivers planning to use I-90 travel early in the day or late at night if possible to avoid the heaviest times of congestion. Please note that we also expect to see slow downs near Cle Elum due to work replacing old pavement on that stretch of highway.

Be sure you and your vehicle are prepared for potentially long waits if you travel during peak travel times. Have a full gas tank, food and water available and be sure your vehicle is in good working order. Check travel conditions before you head out and stay informed throughout your travels by using our online tools – but not while you’re driving, of course. You can also access our Labor Day best-times-to-travel charts on our mobile app by clicking on the red icon at the top of the screen on our traffic map.

If you plan on using other mountain passes like US 2 as alternatives, understand that other people are planning that as well. Again, this is a very busy travel weekend and it’s likely you’ll find congestion in most areas if you travel during peak times. And finally, please be sure to keep all debris - especially flammable debris - in your vehicle. We've already seen lots of roadside fires this summer and we hope we can avoid seeing any more.

We understand that this is frustrating to travelers and we regret that this construction zone is still in place. This is important work and it has to get done in a limited amount of time before weather conditions change in the passes and we appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we work to get these projects complete.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Another year, another TransComm trifecta

By Mike Allende

Communicating information to the public is a vital part of our agency’s mission. Everything from sending out day-to-day traffic reports to updating project statuses to giving the public an inside view of some of the work we do – it’s all important in letting people know just what’s going on in our agency and on the highways. We know travelers depend on this information and we work hard to share it in as many ways as possible.
Our YouTube channel, featuring more than a dozen videos about the Bertha tunneling project,
was named the best DOT video channel in the country.

So it’s always rewarding when we’re recognized for those efforts.

Earlier this week we learned that we’ve been awarded first place in three categories at the annual TransComm Skill Contest awards, handed out as part of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials convention. We also received two runner-up awards.
For the second time, our mobile app was named the best among DOTs nationally at the annual TransComm convention.

This marks the fourth year in a row we’ve won three awards from TransComm, and we have won at least two awards in each of the past 10 years. This is a testament to the skill our communications team shows in providing timely, creative information to keep the public informed.

This year’s awards included:
While we’re proud of the work and recognition of our communications team, we’re always looking to get better. What would you like to see us do more of, or do differently? What type of information do you find most useful? What’s the best way we can get information to you?
We teamed with the Seahawks and Amtrak Cascades on an award-winning
Stay Back From the Tracks safety campaign.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hawks, Sounders fans should plan ahead for ferry travel

By Justin Fujioka

If you're planning to catch the ferry between Bremerton and Seattle on Friday to cheer on the Hawks at CenturyLink Field, you may want to use alternate routes or make it a full-day celebration if you can!

With the Kaleetan running on half power and reduced speed due to maintenance issues, our 12:20 p.m. departure from Bremerton and 1:30 p.m. from Seattle will be canceled again to make sure we start the afternoon commute with an on-time schedule.
Because the Kaleetan is running on half power, riders should plan ahead for longer trips until the boat can be repaired.

As a result, we are anticipating a large amount of walk-on passengers on the 1:45 p.m. Bremerton departure on the Chimacum. The 3 p.m. sailing may also be packed with 12s, who will be cutting it close if they hope to see kickoff at 5 p.m.

Alternate routes
Seahawks fans in Kitsap County have the following options if they want a good shot at getting to the game on time:
  • Depart Bremerton on our 11:10 a.m. sailing (or earlier).
  • Depart Bainbridge Island on our 2:55 p.m. sailing (or earlier).
  • Depart Bremerton on Kitsap Transit Fast Ferry 3:25 p.m. sailing (walk-on only).

Fans headed to the Seahawks or Sounders games on a ferry this weekend
should plan ahead and take earlier sailings if possible.

Returning to Bremerton
Because of Kaleetan's slower speed, all of its evening departures are delayed. Our 9:05 p.m. Seattle departure has been running about 40-50 minutes late this week. The Chimicum is scheduled to leave Seattle at 10:30 p.m. Friday and 12:50 a.m. Saturday. Fans also have the option of taking a ferry to Bainbridge Island. Our last departure is scheduled for 1:35 a.m.

Sounders Sunday
Don't even consider the 5:30 p.m. Bremerton to Seattle sailing on the Kaleetan Sunday if you want to make it to the 7 p.m. Sounders match on time. On reduced power, that departure will be delayed and arrival may not be until after kickoff.

When will the Kaleetan be repaired?
We currently do not have a spare vessel to replace the Kaleetan on the Seattle/Bremerton route. Plan for this modified schedule to continue until another boat can be brought in so the Kaleetan can be repaired.

Follow our ferries Twitter account, travel alert bulletins and Vessel Watch for real-time updates. Customers can also sign up for email or text updates.

Don’t get caught in a jam, plan ahead!

by Ally Barrera

We all know sitting in traffic is not child’s play, especially when you are trying to get to your fun weekend plans.

To help navigate around another busy traffic weekend, we thought we would bring in the most adorable toddler ever to guide you.

In our latest video, “Toddler B” lays out the construction and special events that could jam up state highways, including:
  • More #ReviveI5 lane closures
  • SR 520 bridge weekend closure
  • Friday night Seahawks game
  • The Evergreen State Fair in Monroe
  • Sounders vs. Portland Timbers
…just to name a few.

We’ve also included our latest Microsoft Paint map with this weekend’s major closures and events. You know, in case you want to print it out and hang it on your fridge. Up to you.

The best way to avoid a traffic-related tantrum? Plan ahead. We have several resources at your disposal that help you know what is happening on the roads before you leave.

  • Our WSDOT traffic page
  • The WSDOT mobile app
  • The @wsdot_traffic twitter accounts
We’ll be posting closures and updates on those three platforms throughout the weekend to help keep you informed. Safe travels! #KnowBeforeYouGo

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

SR 520 Westbound: Straight ahead

By Ashley Selvey

In just a few short days, the new State Route 520 West Approach Bridge North is opening to full capacity for the first time. At 5 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 28, westbound drivers will take their inaugural drive in two new general purpose lanes, and carpoolers and transit riders will see their HOV lane extended farther west from the floating bridge to the new lanes.

Just weeks after last month’s opening of the new westbound off-ramps, we’re on track to open the general purpose and HOV lanes as the second of three major project milestones in 2017. The final milestone? Later this fall we will open the SR 520 trail from the floating bridge to Montlake - giving bicyclists and pedestrians a new, safe route across Lake Washington.

Key changes on Monday
Drivers headed west across Lake Washington will experience a few changes to their traffic patterns come Monday morning.
  • Three lanes will carry traffic from the floating bridge west into Seattle – two general purpose lanes and an HOV/transit lane. 
  • The HOV lane will extend the current westbound HOV lane west from the floating bridge. The HOV lane will end east of the westbound exits to Montlake to make space for the transit-only lane and the new location for the westbound SR 520 transit stop at Montlake Boulevard. 
  • Transit riders will have a new platform under the 24th Avenue East Bridge. You won’t miss it — you’ll use the same path to connect to/from Montlake Boulevard.

SR 520 closed Aug. 25 – Aug. 28
Crews need time and space to prepare the new bridge for vehicles. To complete the work necessary to open the new lanes, SR 520 will be closed in both directions from 92nd Avenue NE to Montlake Boulevard from 11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25, to 5 a.m. Monday, Aug. 28. So this weekend, drivers needing to cross the lake should use alternate routes like I-90.

Benefits of the new bridge
Replacing the 50-year-old structure, the new bridge has enhanced safety features including:
  • Wider shoulders.
  • Taller, noise-reducing traffic and pedestrian barriers.
  • Solid, instead of hollow, columns.
  • Seismic isolation bearings that reduce the risk of damage in the event of an earthquake.

View larger image (pdf 1.4 mb)

Future SR 520 Milestones

  • Early Fall 2017 – Restripe eastbound SR 520 to add an HOV lane east of Montlake.
  • Late Fall 2017 – Open the SR 520 trail connecting Montlake and Bellevue.
  • Beginning of Montlake Phase (late 2018) – Shift both east and westbound traffic onto the new WABN structure while we construct the new West Approach Bridge South and Montlake lid.

In these final months of West Approach Bridge North construction, we’d love to interact with you more. The first new @WSDOT_520 follower on Twitter that mentions this blog will win a free SR 520 Grand Opening hat. Good luck!

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.


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
  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

Sunday morning update:
Safety First
So, you’ve packed your vehicle and made a plan to view Monday’s eclipse. Before you leave, check out these safety tips to help ensure a smooth trip.
  • Keep your gas tank full – fill up regularly along a long trip to guard against long lines or some stations in Oregon running low on gas.
  • Bring extra food and water as well as a first aid kit and any mediations you may need.
  • Bring or print out a paper map of where you’re headed. Cell systems may be overloaded, which could knock out GPS directions.
  • Protect your eyes. You can’t look at a partial or transitioning eclipse without special safety glasses – regular sunglasses aren’t enough. (However do not drive with the glasses on – you only need them when looking directly at the sun).
  • Be fire wise. Don’t pull your vehicle on brush or grass – the heat can ignite a wildfire – and never throw cigarettes or other lit material from vehicles. Always obey closure signs during evacuations.
  • Planning a long trip? Here’s a list of our state’s rest areas in case you need a bathroom break or to stretch your legs

Original post:
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.
  • Do not operate a vehicle while wearing your eclipse glasses. That's not what they were designed for.
  • 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, traffic cameras 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, 77 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.

Updated Aug. 25, 2017 to correct that the January 2016 survey found 77 percent opposition to express toll lanes, not 87 percent.

Friday, August 11, 2017

SR 9/SR 204 Intersection Improvements project hosts third public open house

by Diana Barreto

Big changes are in store for one of the busiest and most congested intersections in the city of Lake Stevens. Next week, our  SR 9/SR 204 Intersection Improvements project team will host an open house to share the recommended design to address the congestion at the intersection.

Open house information
The open house will take place from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 16 at Hillcrest Elementary School in Lake Stevens. A presentation will begin at 6:15 p.m. We’ll have staff available to chat about the design and next steps.
The busy intersection of SR 9 and SR 204 in Lake Stevens will be undergoing some big changes in the next few years.

Throughout the past year, we have worked closely with the SR 9/SR 204 Intersection Improvements project Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG), reached out to business owners and the Lake Stevens community to develop and assess design options that will create better connections for all roadway users of this intersection, including pedestrians, transit riders, bicyclists and drivers.

The advisory group is comprised of business owners and representatives, elected officials, transit and multi-modal agency representatives and residents who met seven times throughout the past year, starting in summer 2016. We worked closely with stakeholders to define a project needs statement; develop, analyze and review potential practical solutions and reach consensus on a preferred alternative design for the intersection.
An open house to discuss changes to the SR 9/SR 204 intersection in Lake Stevens will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 16.

Following the upcoming open house on Aug. 16, we will brief the Lake Stevens city council on the recommended design and continue to move the project forward. We’ll also continue to work with stakeholders to address any ongoing or new concerns moving forward.

The $69.5 million project is funded by the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation package. Construction is scheduled to begin by 2019.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Busy weekend ahead for fun and roadwork

By Ally Barrera

Get ready for what could be one of the busiest travel weekends we ve seen all summer! Not only will there be a ton of construction work happening around the Puget Sound area, but there is also a bunch of fun events going on. Translation: prepare for packed roads.

One of those fun events is the Mariners Edgar Martinez Weekend, and we thought, who better to help us spread the word about the expected traffic ahead than the beloved Mariner Moose. He may not say much in this video, but he sure knows how to get the point across.
The Moose only scratched the surface of what s happening this weekend. As you can see in the map below, we barely had enough room to cram in all of the road work and big events.

Bottom line: give yourself plenty of time to get where you need to go and expect to experience some delays along the way. I m going to Friday s Mariners game, so you better believe I ll be leaving early to get there. Don t want to miss out on getting an Edgar bobblehead! It s a light bat!