wsdot tday 2021

Please be prepared for winter weather this Thanksgiving weekend

OLYMPIA – Whether heading across the state or just across town this Thanksgiving weekend, there’s a good chance of encountering extra traffic and congestion. Which is why holiday travel prep is so important.

The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to “know before you go” and plan head for the busy holiday weekend. Staying informed throughout a trip also allows travelers to react to any winter weather, delays or other issues without missing the holiday feast or a big game.

The agency provides several tools to help plan holiday travels:

  • Consult WSDOT’s travel times charts, which use historical information to help drivers plan the best times to travel. (There are no charts for I-5 at the Canadian border this year because it only recently reopened and COVID-19 testing and vaccination requirements make it difficult to forecast travel patterns).
  • Check out the newly updated WSDOT travel map with options to view alerts, restrictions, weather stations and traffic cameras.
  • Look up real time travel data for a particular road or ferry route online using the new WSDOT website or track it on the WSDOT app.
  • 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 mountain passes webpage 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.

Changes this winter

This year, WSDOT is asking travelers to be especially prepared for winter travel as staffing challenges mean the agency may not be able to deliver the same level of service as in years past. Crews will absolutely still be out plowing roadways, but some roads may have snow or ice on them longer, some road or pass closures may last longer and some areas may not get plowed as often as in years past. Crews need the public’s help in preventing avoidable closures by ensuring vehicles have proper equipment and drivers are not going too fast for conditions.

WSDOT’s road work, as always, will be prioritized based on safety, resources and pre-existing plowing priority maps based on volume and/or critical roads.

Apple Cup travel

Those traveling to the Friday, Nov. 26, Apple Cup football game in Seattle should prepare for possible winter weather on passes and allow extra time on Thursday evening or Friday morning as people make their way to the 5 p.m. game.

Mountain passes

Track the conditions of any mountain pass using the updated mountain passes page on the WSDOT website.

  • State Route 123 Cayuse Pass, SR 410 Chinook Pass and SR 20 North Cascades Highway have all closed for the season and are not available for holiday travel. These passes close every winter due to avalanche danger, poor road conditions, lack of snow storage and no nearby emergency response services.
  • 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. This pass in particular sees heavy traffic on most holiday weekends.

Tolls

In the Puget Sound area, the SR 520 bridge and SR 99 tunnel will have weekend toll rates on Thanksgiving, Nov. 25, returning to weekday rates on Friday, Nov. 26. On the I-405 express toll lanes, travel is free for everyone 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.

Traveling by ferry

People riding a state ferry should keep updated with the latest sailing schedules online as additional sailings may be added at a moment’s notice if there is adequate crewing.

  • Peak travel times on most routes are expected to be westbound (or onto an island) Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 24, through Thursday morning, Nov. 25, then eastbound (or off island) Thursday afternoon through Friday, Nov. 26. Customers also can bypass vehicle lines by traveling as a walk-on passenger.
  • There will be a few schedule changes on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25. Holiday timetables and sailings are marked on the schedule page for each route.
  • Before heading to a terminal or boarding, customers are encouraged to sign up for ferry email alerts and check terminal conditions.
  • A face covering is required in all indoor areas of vessels and terminals in compliance with the governor’s “Washington Ready” proclamation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s order for public transportation.

Other travel alternatives

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

  • 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. Passengers departing or arriving in Tacoma are reminded to use the new Tacoma Dome Station at 422 E. 25th All Amtrak Cascades trains require reservations and trains fill up quickly during holidays. Visit www.amtrakcascades.com/ for tickets and schedules or call 800–USA–RAIL. Transportation Security Administration regulations require all passengers to wear masks.
  • Information about traveling via state-operated airports is available online 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 logoWSDOT invites comments from Nov. 16 to Dec. 15 on the draft 2022-2025 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program

OLYMPIA – A compilation of prioritized transportation improvements projects is now ready for public review and comment. More than 1,300 statewide transportation improvement projects using $4.5 billion in federal funds are included in the 2022-2025 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP for short.

The draft 2022-2025 STIP is a four-year program of multimodal transportation projects that have been identified through state, metropolitan, regional, tribal and local agency planning processes.

The STIP is developed annually by the Washington State Department of Transportation.  Projects that use Federal Highway Administration or Federal Transit Administration funds must be included in the STIP to authorize using the federal funds.

The comment period for the STIP is the final step of the community engagement process that began locally during development of individual transportation improvement programs. WSDOT will accept comments until 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15. Any comments received by WSDOT will be sent to the local agency, metropolitan or regional planning organization for their consideration.

About the STIP

The STIP is a four-year, prioritized multimodal transportation program of state, local, tribal and public transportation projects. The program includes highways, streets, roads, railroads, transit-hubs, park-and-ride lots, bridges, sidewalks, bike lanes, ferry terminals, trails and safety projects.

The collaborative effort between WSDOT, local agencies, metropolitan and regional planning organizations ensures projects are consistent with local, regional and state long-range plans. Some county projects are not included in the draft STIP because state law requires counties to complete their transportation improvement programs by the end of the year; those projects are amended into the final STIP in January.

The current 2021-24 STIP can be viewed online and a similar, searchable database of the 2022-25 STIP will be created in January 2022, following FHWA and FTA approval.

How to comment

Written comments can be sent to: Nancy Huntley or Steve Ahlsten, WSDOT, P.O. Box 47390, Olympia WA 98504-7390, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Free, temporary internet access is available to those who do not have broadband service in locations throughout the state. To find the nearest Drive-In WiFi Hotspot visit: www.commerce.wa.gov/building-infrastructure/washington-state-drive-in-wifi-hotspots-location-finder/.

wsdot new site 800

OLYMPIA – Visitors to the Washington State Department of Transportation’s website will notice a big difference in the site’s appearance today. The agency debuted an all-new website design yesterday, Sunday, Nov. 7, the first major overhaul in more than 15 years.

Although the name has stayed the same, www.wsdot.wa.gov is totally redesigned to focus on the needs of its 75,000 daily visitors. About 90 percent of the people who come to the website are looking for travel information, and more than 60 percent use a mobile device to access it. The new site is mobile and user-friendly with improvements for accessibility to serve everyone, on any device.

“Digital tools are more important than ever, and people have expectations for being able to find the information they need to complete a task quickly and easily,” said Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar. “We have worked hard to ensure our website meets those expectations and we’re excited to share this new cleaner, less cluttered and easier to use tool.”

Features of wsdot.wa.gov

The redesigned website prioritizes travel information and a key feature is the new Travel Center. No matter how one travels, information about road and traffic, ferry, weather, tolling, train, airport, bicycle and walking is available all in one place. The Travel Center allows customers to view information as a list or on a map. 

The new site also organizes content for:

  • Those who work for or want to work for WSDOT.
  • People who are looking for rules, regulations and policy.
  • Those interested in knowing how and where transportation dollars are being spent.
  • People who want information about the agency itself.

User tested

WSDOT’s new website is a user-centered design, based on how customers organize content to make it easier for them to find. More than 20,000 website users, both internal and external, were engaged in the development of the website design. Usability tests were conducted throughout the redesign project, including website users who depend on assistive devices, to help WSDOT refine the site to better meet customer needs.

wstc oct2021

OLYMPIA – Six possible names are being considered for Washington state’s next new ferry and the public is being asked to help decide. The Washington State Transportation Commission has legal authority for naming state highways, bridges and ferries in Washington and is putting forth the names for further consideration and public input. The selected name will be given to the state’s next new ferry, which will be a 144-car, hybrid-electric Olympic Class ferry.

The commission received 19 eligible name proposals that met its naming guidelines and requirements. After further review and consideration, the pool was reduced to six finalists which will advance for public input.  The six names are:

  • Wishkah
  • Stillaguamish
  • Snoqualmie
  • Enie Marie
  • Stehekin
  • Muckleshoot

The commission’s process for gathering public input on the pool of six names includes the following:

  • The list of names is posted on the commission’s website and the public can provide comment online until Tuesday, Nov. 30.
  • Washington State Ferries and members representing each Ferry Advisory Committee for all ferry-served communities will review the list of names and provide input.
  • Members of the 20,000-plus Ferry Riders Opinion Group (FROG) survey panel will be asked via an online survey to consider all six names and indicate their preference. Anyone can become a member of the commission’s FROG survey panel; joining is fast and easy.

The commission will consider the input gathered from these outreach efforts in making a final name decision at its Tuesday, Dec. 14, meeting.

Free, temporary internet access is available to those who do not have broadband service in locations throughout the state. To find the nearest Drive-In WiFi Hotspot visit: www.commerce.wa.gov/building-infrastructure/washington-state-drive-in-wifi-hotspots-location-finder/.

dot winter 2021

OLYMPIA – With winter just around the corner, now is the best time to make plans and prepare for winter driving.

The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to get themselves and their vehicles ready for winter weather well before they head out. Drivers can visit 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 transportation information both while planning trips and during travel.

“Our crews work hard to keep roads clear, but we also need the public’s help to keep traffic moving during winter weather,” said WSDOT Maintenance Operations Manager James Morin. “Most pass closures are due to preventable spin outs or crashes with vehicles going too fast or not having proper winter equipment.

“This winter, being prepared and staying informed will be even more important because staffing shortages will affect our ability to clear roadways and passes as quickly as in years past,” Morin added.

WSDOT crews are already planning for winter storms, but ongoing staffing challenges mean that some areas may not see the traditional 24-hour service, some roadways will not be plowed as often, and compact snow and ice will remain on roadways longer than a typical winter. This will be especially true during large or long-lasting storms. WSDOT determines its storm response based on safety, available resources and pre-set priority plow maps for highest volume and/or critical roadways. Travelers should be sure to check conditions before and during travel and always have proper winter weather supplies before heading out.

To check conditions and prepare for winter weather:

Alternatives to chains Although some vehicle manufacturers recommend against the use of tire chains for certain models, the state’s traction device laws still apply to all vehicles. These requirements exist to help keep all traffic moving safely during extreme winter conditions.

The Washington State Patrol provides an online list of state-approved alternative traction devices on its vehicle equipment webpage under “traction tires.” These approved alternatives meet state traction tire requirements and can be used instead of chains when chains are required. Not every alternative on the market has been approved by WSP, so please check the website before making purchases. All travelers are reminded to prepare for changing weather conditions and avoid a costly ticket by carrying chains or approved alternatives whenever crossing mountain passes. 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 only legal for use in Washington state from Nov. 1 through March 31. This applies to all vehicles in Washington, even those traveling from other states, and no personal exemptions or waivers exist to allow for earlier use of studded tires.

WSDOT estimates studded tires cause between $20 million and $29 million in pavement damage to state-owned roadways (asphalt and concrete roadway damage combined) each year. WSDOT encourages motorists to visit a tire dealer to learn more about their winter tire options, including stud-free, winter tread traction tires. This type of tire is different than an all-season tire, is legal year-round and does 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.

wsdot800

OLYMPIA – Emerging technologies that reduce carbon, reduce the amount of time to get goods to consumers and move agricultural goods to market more efficiently will be explored at the Washington State Transportation Commission’s October meeting. Commissioners also will discuss their next round of recommendations to the state Legislature about steps needed to prepare for autonomous vehicles operating on public roadways.

The two-day meeting starts at 9 a.m. both Tuesday, Oct. 19, and Wednesday, Oct. 20. Due to limitations on the size of gatherings in response to COVID-19, this meeting will be conducted virtually using Zoom Webinar. People interested in attending can register on the commission’s website: www.wstc.wa.gov/agendas/2021/10/07/meeting-agenda-october-19-20-2021/. The meeting will be broadcast live on TVW at www.tvw.org.

Tuesday morning kicks off with a work session co-sponsored by the ACES Northwest Network, and the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region. The ACES Northwest Network is focused on developing and promoting autonomous-connected-electric-shared mobility technologies. A panel of policy and industry leaders will explore a number of topics including: trucking and rail automation, including how electrification is revolutionizing logistics; advanced air mobility, focusing on what’s taking flight in our state; and getting perspectives on agricultural automation.

Tuesday afternoon, the commission will hear from a panel representing transit, counties, cities, ports, and the private sector on how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact transportation and operations. 

With the significant growth in home delivery of goods, increasing the demand being placed on city streets and neighborhoods, the commission will hear from the University of Washington’s Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center about how this growth has accelerated a paradigm shift in freight movement. They will also brief the commission about their efforts to engage private sector industries in researching and the pilot testing of low-emission, last-mile delivery solutions in the Puget Sound. 

On Wednesday, the commission will receive an update on the 2021 work of the Autonomous Vehicle Work Group and determine their next round of recommendations to the Legislature.  The work group is charged with identifying policy and regulatory needs to accommodate autonomous vehicles on our public roadways. An overview of the work group’s efforts and explorations in 2021 will be covered and the commission’s report of findings and recommendations to the Legislature will be discussed. 

Public comment will be taken on Wednesday, Oct. 20 at 11:25 a.m. People wishing to provide comments can sign up by posting their name in the Q&A box that can be found on-screen during the virtual meeting. Written comments can also be submitted via email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more information about the commission and a complete meeting agenda, visit: www.wstc.wa.gov/.

Free, temporary internet access is available to those who do not have broadband service in locations throughout the state. To find the nearest Drive-In WiFi Hotspot visit: www.commerce.wa.gov/building-infrastructure/washington-state-drive-in-wifi-hotspots-location-finder/.

laborday2021 wsdot

Use WSDOT tools to help prepare for holiday weekend traffic

OLYMPIA – With summer drawing to a close, travelers during the Labor Day weekend should plan ahead for extra congestion, including allowing extra time and traveling during non-peak times if possible.

Checking the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Labor Day weekend traffic volume charts when planning trips can help determine best times to travel on key routes. There will not be travel charts for the I-5 US-Canadian border crossing this year because the border has not been reopened long enough to provide for good analysis. Travelers should also check ahead for any COVID-19 safety requirements at their destinations or stops along the way.

By following these steps, travelers can “know before they go” and plan ahead, whether they’re just traveling across town or across the state:

  • Get informed about WSDOT's online tools, including the WSDOT mobile app, traffic cameras and email alerts.
  • Visit online traveler information for traffic, weather and ferry schedules.
  • Follow WSDOT's social media accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • Pre-program the vehicle radio to 530 AM and 1610 AM for highway advisory radio alerts.
  • Call 5-1-1 for updated road conditions.
  • Have a backup outdoor plan if the first choice of an outdoor location is full and never park along road shoulders, as this is unsafe for everyone on the roadway.
  • Carry extra food and water as well as extra masks and hand sanitizer as an added precaution for emergencies or unexpected stops.
  • Keep vehicles at least a quarter full of fuel throughout travel. The state Department of Commerce says with many people still driving rather than flying, there could be local delays in fuel deliveries during heavy travel weekends. Downloading an app that identifies nearby gas stations may be helpful if traveling in a different part of the state, as will buying only the fuel needed and leaving enough for everyone else.
  • Given ongoing fire danger and dry conditions, never throw cigarettes or anything ignited out of vehicles, don’t park on grassy areas and ensure towing or other chains don’t drag on pavement causing sparks.

Highway construction paused

Most state highway construction work is suspended through the holiday weekend – including Monday, Sept. 6 – to ease congestion. However, please stay alert for new lane shifts or work zone staging areas that may remain in place. And please give any emergency repair crews plenty of space to work safely.

Snoqualmie Pass

No lane closures or other construction is planned on Interstate 90 from Friday, Sept. 3, until Tuesday, Sept. 7. However, the usual holiday increase in traffic volumes means travelers should expect delays, especially eastbound on Friday, Sept 3, and westbound Monday, Sept. 6 (see charts for more detail). Receive text message alerts about significant delays by texting the number 468311 with the words "WSDOT Snoqualmie."

Tolling

In the Puget Sound, weekend toll rates will be in effect on Monday, Sept. 6, on the State Route 520 bridge and SR 99 tunnel. The Interstate 405 express toll lanes will be free and open to all drivers on the Monday holiday.

Ferry travel

People boarding a state ferry by vehicle should prepare for long waits. Peak travel times on most routes are expected to be westbound (or onto an island) Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 2-4, and eastbound (or off island), Sunday through Tuesday, Sept. 5-7. Customers also can bypass vehicle lines by traveling as a walk-on passenger.

Trains, airports and transit

Travelers making a trip by train, personal aircraft or bus also should plan ahead to avoid holiday delays:

  • Amtrak Cascades passengers are encouraged to purchase tickets early and should plan to arrive at the station one hour before departure. All Amtrak Cascades trains require reservations and Transportation Security Administration regulations require all passengers to wear masks. Visit www.amtrakcascades.com/ or call 800–USA–RAIL for details.
  • For information about traveling via state-operated airports, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/aviation/airports/Amenities.htm or call 800-552-0666.
  • Check with your local public transit agencies for any holiday schedule or service changes, including some Dial-A-Ride and fixed-route service that may not run during holidays.

bike map

New bike route designations expand to southeast corner of the state

OLYMPIA – There’s exciting news for people who desire to travel long distance by bicycle – Washington state is expanding its U.S. Bicycle Route system (pdf 1.8mb) by more than 200 miles by designating four new routes in the southeast corner of the state.

U.S. bike routes direct bicyclists to a preferred route through a city, county or state, and provide options for riders to select among various route choices. These preferred routes tend to have lower vehicle traffic volumes and take advantage of scenic landscapes as well as connect riders to services, parks and points of interest. With the addition of these new route designations, Washington’s USBR system will expand to just over 1,000 miles throughout the state.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials approved the Washington State Department of Transportation’s latest application for the new USBR segments earlier this week. 

The new routes are:

  • USBR 20: 77.2 miles, starting at the city of Clarkston/Idaho state border along US 12 over the Columbia Plateau to the Columbia County line near the Lewis & Clark Trail State Park
  • USBR 40: 1.9 miles from town of Tekoa to the Idaho border; a small step to the beginning of an ambitious route plan to span 400 miles across Washington to La Push
  • USBR 81: 103.5 miles on state and county roads, from the northern border of Whitman County near the town of Tekoa to the city of Asotin, south of Clarkston
  • USBR 281: 23 miles, starting in the city of Pullman, heading southeast along State Route 27 and US 195 to the Washington/Idaho border

“The U.S. Bicycle Routes are an example of how state highways can serve as critical connections in an overall network for bicycling, as well as support tourism, just as they do for people traveling by car,” said Barb Chamberlain, director of WSDOT’s Active Transportation Division. “Bike travelers stop in more places and spend more on average than those traveling in motor vehicles, so bike routes are especially good for the economy in our small and rural towns.”

The new routes are now eligible for national and global promotion and are authorized to use nationally recognized signage.

mobility dash800

OLY­MPIA – People use the transportation system in different ways and to better understand how, the Washington State Department of Transportation is shifting its analysis from a print publication to a fully interactive, online dashboard.

WSDOT’s recently released Multimodal Mobility Dashboard delivers annual performance data and multi-year and annual trends for numerous travel modes on select state-owned facilities. Included are user-friendly features that include accessible, interactive data visualizations and maps.

In addition to highway travel information, the dashboard format provides quick access to performance information for areas ranging from public transportation to WSDOT’s Incident Response program while providing in-depth analysis of multimodal freight mobility, Amtrak Cascades, Washington State Ferries, walking and biking as well as from airports statewide.

Currently, data compiled is through 2019. Data for 2020 will be added in the next update, which is currently scheduled for winter 2021. For some measures, daily data from March 2020 through the present is available in WSDOT’s COVID-19 Transportation System Performance Dashboard, which shows the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Washington’s multimodal transportation system. Highlights from the Multimodal Mobility Dashboard include:

  • In 2019, 35.4 billion vehicle miles were traveled on state highways
  • Washington public transportation users took 239.9 million trips in 2019
  • Washington State Ferries carried 24.3 million riders in 2019
  • Amtrak Cascades trains carried 7,100 bicycles in 2019

The Multimodal Mobility Dashboard achieves goals set forth in a 2019 comprehensive engagement process, which helped WSDOT determine how to best meet stakeholder needs for system reporting. The process included interviews with over 130 internal and external stakeholders and made a strong case for moving away from a text-heavy document to a more streamlined, accessible online version that also allows users to download all data and charts in a variety of formats.

Additional information about WSDOT performance reporting, including the new Multimodal Mobility Dashboard, is available on WSDOT’s Accountability webpage.