railroad bridge800

WSDOT Photo - Railraod Bridge before work

wsdot logoThe barricades east of Othello will be removed at noon Friday

OTHELLO – Work to replace the State Route 26 bridge deck over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks east of Othello will be complete at noon on Friday, Dec. 14. After barriers are removed by contractor crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation, traffic between Colfax and Vantage will no longer need to use the 32-mile detour for this primary route between western Washington and Washington State University in Pullman.

Between now and Dec.14, the concrete barrier rails will cure for the necessary ten days since they were poured. Specialty crews will finish curbing and guardrail work, paint temporary striping and perform deck pavement grooving before traffic flow is restored at noon.

“Safety for travelers and workers is always WSDOT’s first priority and we appreciate the support and patience from parents and WSU students who were inconvenienced.  We are also grateful for the difficult work in harsh conditions accomplished by Degerstrom crews and BNSF,” said Project Engineer Dan Lewis. “At the same time, the simple detour has proven capable of safely accommodating high traffic volumes without significant delays.”

The deck replacement project began Oct. 15 and was expected to take six weeks. The contractor, N.A. Degerstrom Inc., initially hoped to finish the $1.2 million project by Nov. 21, but the new concrete bridge deck and rails could not be poured and cured following delays due to permitting and weather.

WSDTlogo450Dec. 11-12 meeting takes place in Olympia

OLYMPIA – An updated statewide transportation policy plan, Washington Transportation Plan 2040 and Beyond, ongoing transportation technology work and the first round of findings and recommendations on autonomous vehicle policy needs are on the Washington State Transportation Commission’s agenda next week in Olympia.

The meeting starts 9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, and at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12, at the Transportation Building, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE, on the Capitol Campus in Olympia.

On Tuesday morning, the commission will receive a briefing on the Road-Rail Project Final Report, which recommends to the Legislature a statewide project list for separating road and rail traffic in places where they cross at the same level.

Then, the commission will continue its information gathering on transportation technology and autonomous vehicles so that it can provide timely and insightful recommendations to the Legislature in the 2019 session. First, the commission will hear from industry leaders on truck platooning. INRIX, an international traffic data company headquartered in Kirkland, has identified corridors that can most immediately benefit from freight truck platooning, including Interstate 5 in Oregon and Washington as a prime corridor. Platooning is when trucks, operating with autonomous systems, can safety follow each other at a close distance to achieve travel and fuel efficiency and increase safety. 

On Tuesday afternoon, the commission will receive a report on the progress of the Autonomous Vehicle Work Group and its subcommittees. This briefing and discussion will frame the commission’s report to the Legislature and Governor with findings and recommendations about autonomous vehicle policy needs prior to the 2019 session.

Tuesday’s agenda concludes with an update on the Road Usage Charge (RUC) pilot project and a briefing on the Office of Financial Management’s 2018 Transportation Attainment Report. This report measures areas of improvement and challenges to be addressed in the statewide transportation system and operations.

Wednesday morning’s agenda begins with a briefing on proposed changes to broaden the scope of the Commute Trip Reduction Program, a partnership with business to encourage their workers to drive alone less often, reduce carbon emissions and keep the busiest commute routes flowing.

The commission then turns to tolling items, beginning with an update on the tolling options under consideration for the “Gateway Program,” which relies on tolling revenues to complete the SR 509 and SR 167 connections with I-5 near SeaTac and in Pierce County. Following this, there will be an update on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge financial plan, and an overview of SR 520 tolling.

The meeting concludes with commission action to adopt WTP 2040 and Beyond, the long-range statewide transportation plan that establishes policy and fiscal guidance within the context of the six transportation policy goals established in law: promoting economic vitality, mobility, safety, preservation, environmental health and stewardship. This plan is updated every four years and provides guidance for other plans and statewide investments.

The commission also will adopt its 2018 Annual Report, which contains near-term policy and fiscal recommendations for the Legislature and Governor to consider in the 2019 session.

The 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/

sr20close2018

DIABLO – Get the holiday decorations ready – the snowy season has arrived, at least in the mountains. Enough snow has fallen in the North Cascades that avalanche chutes are full and, for traveler safety, the 37-mile seasonal stretch of State Route 20 will close at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28.

 The Washington State Department of Transportation will swing the North Cascade Highway gates closed at milepost 134 near Diablo and milepost 171 near Mazama. This section will remain closed until sometime in 2019 when the snow stops falling and melts enough to make it safe for maintenance crews to plow the road.

 Winter access

Snowshoers, cross-country skiers, fat-tire bikers or snowmobilers can access the closed area throughout the winter. Parking is available near each closed gate. Anyone choosing to use the area should know the conditions, including avalanche risks, watch the forecast and bring proper gear.

 Later this winter, once there is significant snowfall, adventurers should plan for the gate closures to expand on both ends of the North Cascades Highway. In the Diablo area it will move back to milepost 130, on or after Jan. 2, 2019. The closure in Mazama will move back to milepost 178 once snow is too deep for snow blowers. Extending the closure area when the snow gets heavier and deeper saves money and resources. There will still be parking available at both closure locations.

 Highway history 

WSDOT opened the final section of SR 20/North Cascades Highway in 1972. Each year crews close it to vehicles for the winter due to the snow in the 27 avalanche chutes that loom above the highway. That closure usually happens in November or December. However, in previous years the highway has closed as early as October. The latest closing was Jan. 3, 1990 and in 1976-77 the highway remained open all winter due to the lack of snow.

 Spring 2019 reopening

Avalanche experts will assess conditions in the spring. When it is safe, WSDOT will move snow blowers, plows and loaders to the area to start clearing snow, removing winter debris and replacing damaged guardrail and signs. That clearing process usually takes about eight weeks.

art dotWashington will become the first state to embed an artist in a statewide agency, bringing a creative approach to advancing the agency’s goals like improving safety, reducing congestion, promoting economic vitality, supporting multimodal transportation systems and creating healthier communities.

Nov. 20, 2018 — An artist-in-residence will spend a year working with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to help develop new ways to achieve agency goals through a first-of-its-kind program created by ArtPlace America and Transportation for America, a program of Smart Growth America. WSDOT will be the first stage agency in the country to pilot an artist-in-residence program.

Applications are now open for artists interested in the year-long position, which will be located within WSDOT. The call for artists and application can be found here: https://smartgrowthamerica.org/program/arts-culture/wsdot-air/

Recognized as a tool for pioneering innovative and creative solutions, artist-in-residence programs have been piloted across the nation in municipal governmental agencies, including the Los Angeles and Seattle DOTs, but never before at a statewide agency.

Several organizations collaborated on the artist-in-residence program. ArtPlace America is providing a $125,000 grant for the program, including a $40,000 stipend for the selected artist and $25,000 for a final project(s) the artist and staff develop. Transportation for America (T4A) will administer both the funds and the overall program, including providing staff and consulting assistance. The State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) will also provide staff support. Both T4A and SSTI are programs of Smart Growth America. WSDOT will supply in-kind contributions consisting of work space for the selected artist and staff time for agency workers to collaborate on the groundbreaking new program.

“Artists can provide fresh approaches and new ways of doing things, interpret complex processes, and provide unique perspectives for existing programs,” said Ben Stone, Smart Growth America’s director of arts & culture. “While a handful of cities have embedded artists in various departments over the years, WSDOT will be the first statewide agency to embark on such a program. We’re excited to be a part of helping Washington state harness arts and creativity to create better supported and more beloved transportation projects that help accomplish the state’s goals.”

Why employ an artist-in-residence?

“This type of program has a proven track record at the municipal level by bringing creativity to design challenges, increasing community buy-in, fostering deeper community engagement, building relationships with underrepresented communities and helping improve processes for day-to-day work," said Roger Millar, WSDOT’s secretary of transportation. “Our goal is to find innovative ways to better engage the communities we serve and deliver the best possible transportation projects.”

What will an artist-in-residence do?

The residency will run for one year with rotations through WSDOT’s core divisions to gain knowledge on the agency’s operations, priorities and challenges. The artist will then propose projects to address WSDOT’s overarching goals while improving community engagement, supporting alternatives to single occupancy vehicle transport and enhancing safety and equity. After four months of rotations, eight months will be devoted to the artist’s project(s) development and production.

Cities across the country have engaged artists-in-residence to support their efforts. The Seattle Housing Authority has engaged artists-in-residence to collaboratively produce art with residents of Yesler Terrace that celebrates the community's culture and history, builds connections to the adjacent neighborhoods, and connects residents to the arts. The Seattle Department of Transportation has embedded artists-in-residence in the northwest tower of the Fremont Bridge to produce art and performances that explore the historic bridge's role and meaning in Seattle.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation's artists-in-residence have installed interactive artistic elements to bus shelters, taught storytelling skills to the DOT staff to help them better communicate their projects to the public, and served as a bridge between transportation advocates and DOT staff. In Minneapolis, artists-in-residence have used theatre to help the city's Regulatory Services Department staff develop more empathetic policies and better relate to their constituents, while St Paul's artists-in-residence have worked to make community meetings more creative, fun, and productive.

“We are thrilled to invest in the first artist-in-residence program within state government, and to share the results with state departments of transportation across the country,” said Jamie Bennett, ArtPlace America’s executive director.  “WSDOT will establish a valuable model for how artists can contribute toward the planning, creation and utilization of safe, sustainable and integrated multimodal transportation system.”

The artist will be based in WSDOT’s headquarters in Olympia, but may also work from one of WSDOT’s regional offices in Spokane, Wenatchee, Shoreline, Tumwater, Union Gap, or Vancouver for part of the residency.

Interested artists can learn more about the position and apply for consideration here: https://smartgrowthamerica.org/program/arts-culture/wsdot-air/.

Equal Opportunity Employment

Equal opportunity and having a diverse staff are fundamental principles at Transportation for America. Employment and promotional opportunities are based upon individual capabilities and qualifications without regard to race, color, religion, gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation/preference, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, disability, veteran status, or any other protected characteristic as established under law.

wsdot logoLeave early, use tools for smoother holiday and Apple Cup travel

OLYMPIA – While making plans for the big holiday feast, be sure to add travel prep to the Thanksgiving to-do list.

The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to “know before you go” and plan head for smoother travel during the busy holiday weekend.

The agency also provides several tools to help plan holiday travels:

  • Consult WSDOT’s travel times charts, which use historical information to help drivers know before they go.
  • Check out online tools, including mobile apps, traffic cameras and email alerts.
  • Visit WSDOT’s online traveler information about traffic, weather and ferry schedules.
  • Follow WSDOT’s social media accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • Pre-program 530 AM and 1610 AM to vehicle radios for highway advisory radio alerts.
  • Carry chains and other winter driving essentials.
  • Check current chain and traction requirements on the WSDOT passes website or by calling 5-1-1, and watch for highway advisory signs.
  • Leave extra time for holiday and winter travel, slow down and leave extra space between vehicles when driving on snow or ice.

 

Apple Cup travel

Those traveling to the Friday, Nov. 23, Apple Cup football game in Pullman should prepare for possible winter weather on passes and allow extra travel time. A detour on State Route 26 near Othello – the main route to Pullman from the west side of the state – will continue for the holiday weekend to allow concrete to cure. The detour adds 15 minutes to the normal drive, but travelers should prepare for delays during heavy holiday or game-day traffic. Westbound traffic on I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass both Saturday, Nov. 24, and Sunday, Nov. 25, is likely to be heavier than normal with both game and holiday travelers, so please allow extra time or alter travel plans if possible.

Mountain passes

  • SR 123 Cayuse Pass and SR 410 Chinook Pass remain open as of Nov. 15, but check the winter closure webpage for updates before traveling because conditions could cause the passes to close before the holiday.
  • SR 20 North Cascades Highway also remains open as of Nov. 15 and details about the road status and winter closure also are available online.
  • On Interstate 90 Snoqualmie Pass travelers can receive text alerts for pass delays of 30 minutes or longer – text “wsdot snoqualmie” to 468311 to subscribe, and “wsdot stop” to unsubscribe.

Tolls

In the Puget Sound area, the SR 520 bridge will have weekend toll rates on Thanksgiving, Nov. 22, returning to weekday rates on Friday, Nov. 23. On the I-405 express toll lanes, travel is free for all on the Thanksgiving holiday, returning to normal toll and HOV requirements from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday. Weekends are always free to travel in the express toll lanes. Out-of-town travelers, including those using rental cars, can learn about toll roads and short term account options on the Good to Go! visitors page.

Other travel alternatives

Travelers planning a trip by ferry, train, personal aircraft or bus also should make plans to avoid holiday delays:

  • Please plan ahead for heavy holiday ferry traffic and consider purchasing tickets online to save time. The longest lines are expected westbound Wednesday afternoon and evening, Nov. 21, and eastbound Friday morning, Nov. 23. Reservations are recommended on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands/Sidney, British Columbia and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes. Some ferry routes run on Saturday schedules on the holiday; check ferry schedules online or call 888-808-7977 for details.
  • Amtrak Cascades passengers are encouraged to purchase tickets early and should plan to arrive at the station one hour before departure. There are no extra Thanksgiving trains this year. All Amtrak Cascades trains require reservations and trains fill up quickly during holidays. Visit www.amtrakcascades.com/  or call 800–USA–RAIL for details.
  • Information about traveling via state-operated airports is available on line or call 800-552-0666.
  • Check with local public transit agencies for any holiday schedule or service changes, including some Dial-A-Ride and fixed-route service that may not run on holidays.

wsdot logoCLE ELUM – Maintenance crews with the Washington State Department of Transportation will close the westbound lanes of Interstate 90 near Cle Elum to remove trees next week.

The westbound lanes of I-90 will be closed at Exit 84 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13 to remove several trees in the area. Traffic will be detoured around the closure using Exit 85.

Drivers should plan for added travel time. This work is weather dependent and subject to change.

WSDOT provides a variety of tools to help plan your trip over Snoqualmie Pass:

wsdot logoDeck replacement work east of Othello will remain in place at least through Thanksgiving and Apple Cup game

OTHELLO – Work to replace the State Route 26 bridge deck over the BNSF right-of-way east of Othello has taken longer than expected, so the closure now could last into December.

The 32-mile detour around the closure using state routes 17, 260, and US 395 remains in place. It adds an extra 14 miles to the trip compared to the usual 17.5 mile drive through the now-closed portion of SR 26.

Contractor crews from N.A. Degerstrom Inc., working for the Washington State Department of Transportation, had hoped to complete the work in time for the Thanksgiving holiday and annual Apple Cup football game. However, protecting the railroad tracks under the bridge during demolition work took longer than anticipated, delaying the concrete pour.

Contractor crews had hoped to finish this $1.2 million project by Nov. 21, but the new concrete bridge deck will not cure in time for that. The remaining work may require the closure to extend into December.  

“Safety for travelers and workers is WSDOT’s first priority and requires the additional time for this project,” said project engineer Dan Lewis. “At the same time, the simple detour has proven capable of safely accommodating high traffic volumes without significant delays.”

Regardless of the route, travelers should be prepared for winter driving. WSDOT’s online traveler information provides updates on traffic and weather.

WSDOT will provide weekly construction updates on the project’s web page including pictures as well as social media postings. Also:

  • Subscribe to get email messages for both regional traffic and construction alerts. Sign in with an email address or phone number for texts and you are automatically subscribed to the requested list.
  • To get WSDOT Eastern Washington Twitter feed, go to and follow @WSDOT_East.

wsdot logoStudded tires allowed in Washington from Nov. 1 to March 31

OLYMPIA – The falling leaves and colder weather can mean only one thing – snow and ice are just around the corner. With the changing seasons, now is the perfect time for travelers to shift their focus towards winter driving.

The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to start preparing themselves and their vehicles well before the threat of snow and ice kicks into high gear. Drivers can check out WSDOT's winter driving web page for tips and information. WSDOT also asks travelers to always "know before you go" and get the most up-to-date roadway information before heading out.

“Our crews are ready for winter and work hard to keep roads clear of snow and ice,” said WSDOT Maintenance Operations Manager James Morin. “But we also need the public’s help in being prepared for winter weather. Most of the pass closures we see are due to spin outs or crashes from a vehicle traveling too fast or not having proper winter driving equipment.”

To check conditions and prepare for adverse weather:

 Alternatives to chains

Some vehicle manufacturers recommend against the use of tire chains for certain models – but that doesn’t exempt travelers from state laws about extra traction devices. The Washington State Patrol provides a list of approved, alternative-traction devices (pdf 133 kb) that meet state chains and traction tires requirements. All travelers are reminded to carry chains whenever crossing mountain passes to be prepared for changing weather conditions and potentially avoid a costly ticket. Failure to obey a tire chains sign can mean a ticket of up to $500. Special chain enforcement patrols will be keeping an eye on mountain passes this winter.

Studded tires

By law, studded tires are legal for use in Washington state only from Nov. 1 through March 31. This applies to all vehicles in Washington, even those traveling from other states.

WSDOT estimates studded tires cause between $20 million and $29 million in pavement damage to state-owned asphalt and concrete roadways each year. Motorists are encouraged to visit a tire dealer to learn more about stud-free, winter tread traction tires. These type of tires are different than all-season tires, are legal year-round and do not cause the same roadway damage as studded tires. More information about studded-tire restrictions and requirements can be found in the FAQ on the WSP website.

wsdot logoOLYMPIA – With new and evolving technology advances in vehicle operations, the Washington State Legislature enacted a law in 2018 creating the Autonomous Vehicle Work Group. The body is convened by the Washington State Transportation Commission and is required to make recommendations on possible laws and regulations that will address the operation of autonomous vehicles on public roadways in the state.

The work group will meet from 12 – 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, in the Nisqually Board Room at the Department of Transportation Headquarters Building, 310 Maple Park Ave SE, Olympia. The meeting is open to the public.

The work group held its first meeting in June and established five subcommittees charged with assessing regulatory and legal needs for autonomous vehicle deployment on roadways. The subcommittees bring together public and private sector interests to collaborate on assessing potential implications and effects of autonomous vehicles across five topical areas: 

  • Vehicle and driver licensing/ rules of the road
  • Safety/ enforcement
  • Infrastructure and systems
  • Liability/ insurance
  • System technology and data security

The work group will receive status reports and recommendations from the five subcommittees at their Oct. 24 meeting. The work group will then forward the recommendations on to the commission for consideration during its Dec. 11 and 12 meeting in Olympia. The work group will also provide the commission with a proposed work plan for the next two years (July 2019 – June 2021) which will outline the major efforts they will undertake in their ongoing review and assessment of autonomous vehicle deployment in Washington state. 

The commission will submit a report of findings and initial recommendations, along with the proposed two-year work plan, to the Legislature in January 2019. 

For more information on the work group, visit:  wstc.wa.gov/Meetings/AVAgenda/AutonomousVehicleWorkGroup.html

For more information on the Transportation Commission, visit:  wstc.wa.gov/

wsdot logoOLYMPIA – The Washington State Transportation Commission today voted to approve toll rates for the State Route 99 tunnel under downtown Seattle. Drivers will not be charged tolls when the tunnel first opens in early 2019, and an exact date to begin tolling has not yet been determined.

The adopted toll rates will range from $1 to $2.25 for drivers with a Good To Go! pass, depending on time of day. Drivers without a Good To Go! account will pay an extra $2 per toll.  Toll rates will also be higher for vehicles with more than two axles.

On weekdays, tolls will be $1.50 during the morning peak commute (7 a.m. to 9 a.m.), $2.25 during the evening peak commute (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.), and $1.25 during non-peak hours between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Overnight (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and weekend tolls will be $1.00. Toll rates will increase by 3 percent every three years beginning in July 2022, subject to annual review by the Transportation Commission.

The Transportation Commission has previously determined that there will be consistent exemptions on all toll facilities for public transit, emergency responders, highway maintenance vehicles, school buses and qualified private buses, which serve the public or commuters.

State law requires that SR 99 tunnel tolls be used to repay $200 million borrowed to build the tunnel as well as related debt service costs, and ongoing operations, maintenance, and safety costs.

The Transportation Commission engaged in a five-month long public input process before finalizing toll rates. The commission considered over 1,900 written public comments during this time, and held three public meetings in Seattle during June 2018.