Construction set to start next week on I-90 Snoqualmie Pass
- Written by Meagan Lott, WSDOT
- Hits: 31
Drivers need to plan for delays, slow down and pay attention through work zones this summer
HYAK – Despite late spring snow storms, work on a number of road-improvements on Interstate 90 east of Snoqualmie Pass will begin next week.
Construction-related lane closures will slow down travelers as contractor crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation build new lanes and bridges, repair existing structures, and fix cracked sections of pavement between North Bend and Ellensburg.
“We don’t have as much construction taking place on I-90 this spring and summer as we have had in the past, but drivers still need to plan ahead, pay attention to work zones and be patient,” said Todd Trepanier, WSDOT regional administrator.
Earlier this week, work resumed on the I-90 Snoqulamie Pass East project that will build a wider, safer and more reliable stretch of the interstate from Hyak to Keechelus Dam, and from Keechelus Dam to the Stampede Pass interchange. This 7-mile section of the project is scheduled to be completed by this fall, which includes the first wildlife crossing to be built over I-90.
Next month, work will resume to replace deteriorating sections of concrete pavement panels in the eastbound lanes between North Bend and the Snoqualmie Pass summit. Delays are expected when traffic detours around the work zone. Additional concrete panel replacement is schedule to begin between Issaquah and North Bend in mid-May.
Several I-90 interchanges in Easton, Thorpe and Ellensburg will be repaved this summer.
WSDOT has a wide variety of resources to help with trip planning across I-90. Before heading out the door, travelers can find the latest information on the What’s Happening on I-90, Snoqualmie Mountain Pass and Traffic Alerts pages, and by also following @snoqualmiepass and @wsdot_east on Twitter. Email updates are available, and mobile phone users can sign up for text message alerts by sending the phrase “WSDOT Snoqualmie” to the number 468311.
WSDOT extends 2018 studded tire removal deadline to April 15
- Written by Barbara LaBoe, WSDOT
- Hits: 119
Remove studded tires by deadline to avoid fines, prevent road damage
OLYMPIA – Spring is here but the potential of some late season snow means the deadline to remove studded tires in Washington has been extended for two weeks. The removal deadline is now by the end of the day, Sunday, April 15.
State law allows the Washington State Department of Transportation to extend the deadline into April if current or predicted conditions could make for difficult travel. The decision to extend is made in consultation with meteorologists and maintenance supervisors. The deadline was last extended in 2012.
This year’s decision was based on long-range forecasts that show the potential for significant weather, including snow that could affect cross-state travel into April.
With the extension, all studded tires need to be removed no later than the end of the day (11:59 p.m.) Sunday, April 15. Starting Monday, April 16, drivers with studded tires on their vehicles face a $136 traffic infraction. Removal services can be crowded as the deadline approaches, so please plan accordingly.
Studded tires damage pavement each year – costing an estimated $29 million annually in additional wear and tear on state roads alone. Long-term, WSDOT continues to urge drivers to investigate alternatives such as studless winter tires, which are not subject to removal deadlines.
Washington and Oregon generally share the same studded tire removal deadline and the Oregon Department of Transportation is extending their removal deadline to April 15. Other states may have later tire removal dates, but the Washington law applies to all vehicles in the state, even those visiting from elsewhere. There are no personal exemptions or waivers beyond the extension date.
WSDOT crews will continue to monitor roads, passes and forecasts and work to clear any late season snow or ice. Travelers are always advised to “know before you go,” whatever the season. Check road conditions before heading out and stay up-to-date on changes by using WSDOT’s mobile app and social media and email alert tools, or by calling the 5-1-1 road conditions report.
Technology helping move freight in Washington faster, more efficiently
- Written by Barbara LaBoe, WSDOT
- Hits: 475
Truck drivers have new option to bypass weigh stations
OLYMPIA – Commercial truck drivers now have another option for bypassing state weigh stations – by opting into a system that saves time and money.
A new agreement allows drivers in Washington to use the PrePass weigh station transponder, doing away with having to carry several transponders for in- and out-of-state travel. The Washington State Department of Transportation and HELP, Inc., – a nonprofit public/private trucking industry partnership that provides PrePass transponders – reached the agreement in December. Drivers can now register PrePass transponders for Washington weigh stations.
Transponders allow trucks to bypass weigh stations by electronically verifying a truck’s legal weight, safety rating and credentials as the truck travels at freeway speeds. Based on the transponder, and scales embedded in the freeway, drivers receive either a green light to continue driving or a red light indicating they must report to the weigh station for closer inspection. Transponder usage keeps safe and legal trucks on the road and reduces travel time.
Use of the WSDOT’s in-state transponder system saved the industry approximately 111,000 hours of travel time and $12.8 million in 2016. Washington is the second most trade-dependent state in the nation per capita and one of WSDOT’s roles is to support economic vitality, including the efficient movement of freight.
Previously, truck drivers in Washington purchased a transponder from WSDOT that also worked in several other jurisdictions. The WSDOT transponders could be added to the PrePass system – if requested by the driver – but general PrePass transponders could not communicate with WSDOT weigh stations, meaning some drivers had to carry two transponders. The new agreement means drivers can just carry one transponder if they choose. WSDOT will continue to sell transponders.
“The goal is one transponder that will work everywhere,” said Anne Ford, WSDOT’s commercial vehicle services administrator. “We are pleased our partnership with HELP, Inc. helps achieve that goal.”
“We are excited to be entering into this partnership with Washington and look forward to working with WSDOT through this mutual agreement,” said Karen Rasmussen, president and CEO of HELP, Inc. “Safe fleets and drivers appreciate the time and fuel savings of PrePass as well as opportunities for interoperability of their transponders.”
To use PrePass transponders in Washington, carriers should contact the
Washington Road Usage Charge Pilot Recruitment Complete; Project Begins Enrolling Drivers Today
- Written by Reema Griffith, WSTC executive director
- Hits: 288
OLYMPIA – Washington drivers are ready to get behind the wheel and test a new way to pay for our roadways. Since active recruitment of drivers began last fall, the Washington Road Usage Charge Pilot Project has heard from nearly 5,000 drivers from every corner of Washington state who have expressed interest in participating. With the recruitment phase now complete, starting today (Tues., Feb. 6) the Washington State Transportation Commission will begin inviting drivers to enroll and fill the 2,000 available spots in this year-long pilot.
“We are thrilled with the strong response and interest in participation from Washington drivers,” said Joe Tortorelli, chair of the Washington Road Usage Charge Steering Committee and Washington state transportation commissioner from Spokane. “It’s exciting to know that so many drivers are interested in this unique opportunity to inform future transportation policy – we hope to see a continued strong response throughout the enrollment process.”
Over the next few weeks, invitations to potential participants will be sent via email until all 2,000 drivers are enrolled. The enrollment goal is for a participant pool that best represents state demographics, including geographic location (rural, urban, and suburban), race, income, and gender. Types of cars driven will also be considered, as the pilot is aiming for a mix of electric, hybrid, and gas-powered vehicles. The 2,000 drivers that ultimately enroll will test a simulation of a road usage charge system and provide feedback on their experience throughout the pilot.
Drivers who are not invited to participate will be placed on a wait list and will remain on our interested drivers list so they can stay in the loop as the project progresses. If participants drop out of the pilot project, or if invited participants do not enroll, drivers on the wait list will be invited to fill the open spots.
The findings from the pilot project will be presented to the legislature and the governor before they make any decisions about whether to enact a road usage charge in Washington. Public participation in the pilot is crucial, as it will inform future decision-making. The pilot will conclude in early 2019 and a report will be presented to the legislature during the 2020 legislative session.
Transportation Commission discusses tolling, road usage charging and Public/Private Partnerships, Jan. 17 and 18
- Written by Reema Griffith, WSTC executive director
- Hits: 582
OLYMPIA – Several tolling items, including future tolling for the State Route 99 tunnel in Seattle, are on the agenda for next week’s Transportation Commission meeting in Olympia.
The meeting starts 9 a.m. each day, Wednesday, Jan. 17, and Thursday, Jan. 18, at the Transportation Building, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE, on the Capitol Campus in Olympia.
On Wednesday, the commission will kick off the next update of the statewide transportation plan with a briefing on the suggested focus for the next plan. Commissioners also will discuss the public review and input process that will take place during 2018. The Washington Transportation Plan establishes a 20-year direction for the statewide transportation system, based on six transportation policy goals established by the Legislature related to: preservation, safety, mobility, environment, stewardship, and economic vitality.
Tolling items fill out the rest of Wednesday’s agenda. The Legislature has directed the Transportation Commission to adopt tolls to generate $200 million towards the construction cost of the tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. At 1 p.m., the City of Seattle, King County Metro and the Northwest Seaport Alliance will share their priorities and concerns with prospective toll policies and rates. This input will inform the commission’s toll rate and policy proposal, which it will release in spring for public review and input. Tolls will be adopted in fall 2018 and will vary by time of day to manage congestion on the facility and impacts on surface streets.
In addition, commission and Washington State Department of Transportation staff will present recommended system-wide changes to toll policies and rules with the intent of greater consistency across all tolled facilities. Proposed changes will focus on toll exemptions, and if advanced, the proposed changes will be released in spring for public review and input before changes would be adopted. The commission also will discuss proposed changes to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge policy requiring maintenance of a sufficient minimum balance in the bridge’s account. Action by the commission on this policy is expected.
On Thursday, the commission will get a progress report on preparations for the upcoming launch of the statewide Road Usage Charge Pilot Project. A road usage charge (RUC) is a per-mile charge drivers would pay for the use of the roads, rather than paying by the gallon of gas. The RUC would be a replacement to the gas tax to provide a more sustainable, long-term funding source for transportation infrastructure, in light of growing fuel efficiency of new vehicles. The pilot project will have 2,000 volunteers from across the state testing four different ways to pay by the mile. It will run for the next 12 months to determine how the RUC works for drivers under various conditions and travel behaviors.
Thursday’s agenda also includes a legislative preview of 2018 priorities from city, county, port and transit partners, along with a report from WSDOT on its work exploring partnerships with the private sector that would potentially aid in the funding and financing of ferry terminal facilities, transit-oriented development, and the possible replacement of the US 2 westbound trestle in Snohomish County.
This commission meeting is open to the public and persons wishing to speak to the commission may do so during several public comment periods throughout the two-day meeting.
For more information about the commission and a complete meeting agenda, visit: www.wstc.wa.gov/
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