Aviation Commission releases report with preliminary list of future potential major airports
- Written by Christina Crea, WSDOT communications
OLYMPIA – The Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission released its Phase I report that includes several recommendations, including a preliminary list of six airport sites with potential for expansion. The report also includes a proposal to meet near-term aviation demand at two or more existing airports while the work to locate a new airport continues and a proposal to extend the CACC’s final recommendation deadline to 2024.
The six preliminary airport sites are Arlington Municipal Airport, Bremerton National Airport, Paine Field (Snohomish County Airport), Sanderson Field Airport (Shelton), Tacoma Narrows Airport (Gig Harbor), and Ed Carlson Memorial Field (South Lewis County Airport). These airports could meet some of the demand for air passenger service, air cargo operations and/or general aviation.
“The list of six potential sites should only be considered preliminary because it only includes existing airports at this time,” said David Fleckenstein, CACC chair. “Additional work needs to be done to identify potential sites that may be more appropriate for a major airport. The work of the CACC was greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which constrained opportunities for community engagement.”
A critical next step for CACC is to engage the public to collect input about Washington’s future air transportation demand. The CACC has heard many concerns about noise and the effects on the environment and society. Future work will provide an opportunity to consider measures to reduce both noise and harmful emissions from aircraft. Some of those measures may include the potential use of Community Benefits Agreements at select airports.
The CACC’s next upcoming virtual webinar will be in February and next official meeting in the spring. The website will be updated as soon as the dates are confirmed.
The report was requested by the Washington state Legislature in Substitute Senate Bill 5370 to meet Washington’s aviation capacity needs.
Legislative priorities and tolling to highlight Transportation Commission meeting Jan. 19-20
- Written by Reema Griffith, WSTC executive director
OLYMPIA – The effect lower traffic volumes due to the COVID-19 pandemic has had on tolled facilities, and potential toll rate changes in 2021 will be discussed at next week’s Washington State Transportation Commission meeting. Also, transportation organizations and agencies representing cities, counties, ports, transit, and the state will discuss their priorities for the 2021 legislative session and the year ahead.
The meeting starts at 9 a.m. both Tuesday, Jan. 19, and Wednesday, Jan. 20. Due to limitations on the size of gatherings in response to COVID-19, this meeting will be conducted virtually using GoToWebinar. People interested in attending can register on the commission’s website. The meeting will be broadcast live on TVW at www.tvw.org.
On Tuesday, staff will give an update of the Interstate 405 express toll lanes / State Route 167 high-occupancy toll lanes Low-Income Tolling Study. The study assesses the effects of tolling on low-income drivers of the I-405 express toll lanes / SR 167 HOT lanes and will identify possible approaches to mitigate impacts. The project team will present an assessment of proposed low-income toll program options and the commission will select which options will advance for further evaluation. A final report of findings and recommendations is due to the Legislature by June 30, 2021.
Next, the commission will hear from the Washington State Association of Counties on its 2020 Revenue Study, which includes recommendations on alterations to transportation funding and revenues. In addition, Joint Transportation Committee staff will brief the commission on its report to the Legislature on a options for funding transportation programs, projects, and services over the next ten years, including a timeline for legislative action on funding identified shortfalls.
The commission’s afternoon session will focus on the state’s tolled facility performance. The Office of the State Treasurer will provide financial updates on toll facilities, including results of financial models for the SR 520 Bridge and SR 99 Tunnel. Commission staff will provide an update on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge financial status. Washington State Department of Transportation staff will provide an update on changes to toll facility and toll system shared costs. WSDOT will also provide a draft work plan and timeline to support the WSTC’s rate setting process anticipated for SR 520 and SR 99 this year.
On Wednesday, commissioners will hear from various state and local agencies and organizations on priorities for and expectations of the 2021 legislative session. The commission is tasked with providing transportation policy recommendations to the Legislature and Governor, and these briefings keep the commission apprised of emerging priorities for all levels of government with transportation responsibilities.
For more information about the commission and a complete meeting agenda, visit: www.wstc.wa.gov/
Enjoy the snow and the outdoors - but please don’t park or walk along roadways
- Written by Barbara LaBoe, WSDOT communications
An increase in people looking for winter recreation has led to a dangerous increase in vehicles parking alongside a highway and sledding on interchanges right next to the road.
Winter's here and outdoor activity is a good option during a pandemic – so we know why so many people are flocking to the mountains right now. But we're also seeing some serious safety and access issues with travelers parking and walking along roadways near crowded areas.
Winter activities aren't new, but we're seeing much higher numbers as people seek out new outdoor activities or just a chance to get out of their house. Those higher numbers mean more crowding at popular recreation areas and this poses serious safety concerns. It also is preventing our crews from clearing some roadways and passes. With several more months of winter ahead of us, we're asking all travelers to help us keep everyone along our roadways, exit ramps and interchanges safe.
Highway shoulders are not parking lots – or walkways
On multiple mountain pass roadways, ramps and interchanges across the state, we're seeing vehicles parking along shoulders when parking lots or other areas fill up. This also means people walking along the highway, often carrying bulky gear that obstructs their view of vehicles around them, or wearing snow gear that may affect their mobility. This is a tragedy waiting to happen – just as it was this summer when we saw similar practices. Now, however, we have lower visibility and snowy/icy roads in play as well – and we've already seen close calls in areas.
In the past few weeks, we also saw people using highway interchanges as sledding hills very close to active traffic and areas where crews are clearing snow. Again, this poses serious dangers, including the chance a sledder will shoot out into open traffic. Interchanges and other highway right of ways are not designed for pedestrian use or recreation and they're simply not safe for those activities – even if covered in snow.
Vehicles parking along the shoulder also slow down traffic and increase the risk of crashes as passing vehicles have to maneuver through the now-narrowed area. That's the last thing we need during busy travel times or winter weather.
Help keep our snowplows moving
In addition to the safety factor, vehicles parking along shoulders at interchanges and other areas are also causing problems for our plows and the crews working hard to keep the roadways open.
On Snoqualmie Pass, plows couldn't make it into storage areas for additional salt and supplies recently due to vehicles parked on shoulders and blocking access. In some cases, there also wasn't enough room to turn around a plow to do their return runs, or barely enough space for large plows to move through roadways that people decided to turn into parking lots. Our partners at the Washington State Patrol ticketed some of those vehicles, but they don't have the staffing for such widescale parking enforcement.
During heavy storms these delays could lead to more road closure as crews aren't able to keep roadways treated or cleared. It can also affect emergency crews being able to reach crash sites. We hope everyone keeps that in mind when looking for safe, legal parking options.
So, what can you do to help lower these risks?
- Plan your trips ahead of time – and have a Plan B if your first choice is full. Simply driving until you see snow isn't always safe, especially if there is no designated parking area. Some areas also may not be developed due to avalanche or other risks that aren't immediately apparent.
- Find safe places to recreate. State parks as well as local parks can be a good option to explore the outdoors – check state park sites and safety tips online. If visiting ski areas, check ahead to see if they have limits or new safety procedures due to the pandemic.
- Check conditions and know your limits. Heavy snow can increase avalanche dangers. Check the Northwest Avalanche Center for forecasts and alerts and be sure to carry safety supplies with you. If you're not used to outdoor snow activities, research risks and needed skills, or consider a less risky alternative.
- Do not park or walk along highway shoulders. Hate to sound like a broken record here, but this is not safe for you or passing motorists.
- Pack extra supplies. Whether it's due to a road closure, vehicle trouble or other issue, it's always a good idea to have extra food, warm clothing and other supplies during winter travel. Not sure what you need? Check out our online winter supplies list for suggestions.
We know many Washingtonians enjoy outdoor winter activities and we want everyone – members of the public as well as our crews – to be safe when they do so. Please keep these tips in mind to help ensure all of your outdoor adventures are safe and fun.
North Cascades east side closure point to move from Silver Star Gate to Early Winters on Jan 6th
- Written by Lauren Loebsack, WSDOT Communication
WINTHROP – This Wednesday the east side closure point on SR 20 North Cascades Highway will move from Silver Star Gate at milepost 171 to Early Winters at milepost 177.
The change in closure point is due to increasing winter conditions and allows maintenance crews to focus snow and ice control elsewhere. The road will be gated, and a snow berm will be constructed at the closure point. Recreationalists should plan accordingly, as vehicles will not be able to access the highway past the closure point beginning Wednesday morning.
WSDOT to start new year with big changes in leadership team
- Written by Lars Erickson, External Relations, WSDOT
Retiring Deputy Secretary Keith Metcalf sets off series of transitions
OLYMPIA – Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar announced today, Wednesday, Dec. 30, the appointments of several key positions in his agency’s executive leadership team. The upcoming retirement of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s second in command, Deputy Secretary Keith Metcalf, set these changes in motion, which include new appointments for Assistant Secretary of Washington State Ferries Amy Scarton; Assistant Secretary of Urban Mobility & Access Patty Rubstello; and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Mega Programs Julie Meredith.
“I thank Keith for all his hard work and tremendous leadership, and I wish him the very best in his hard-earned retirement. I am pleased that WSDOT will continue to be in good hands with Amy, Patty and Julie in these roles,” Gov. Jay Inslee said.
“Keith has dedicated 43 years of public service to transportation for WSDOT and the people of Washington state, and we have all benefitted from his contributions,” said Millar. “I am fortunate to have a deep bench of highly qualified and experienced individuals on my leadership team who can step up and take on the challenges of these roles.”
Amy Scarton, currently the head of Washington State Ferries will serve as WSDOT’s deputy secretary. Scarton was appointed to the helm of WSF in 2017 and is credited with the completion of the first ferries long range plan in more than a decade. Working to reduce transportation emissions, she initiated a program to electrify the state ferry fleet and convert some of the largest ferries to hybrid power. Scarton also shepherded the first new ferry terminal to open in 40 years at Mukilteo.
Patty Rubstello will serve as the new assistant secretary of WSF. Rubstello created and led the Office of Urban Mobility & Access, which brings together tolling, regional transit coordination, and the management of mobility divisions to enhance operational and planning coordination in the greater Puget Sound area. With 30 years at WSDOT, Rubstello has experience in design, construction, planning and traffic operations, and in 2015 served as the agency’s assistant secretary for Tolling.
Julie Meredith will serve as the assistant secretary of Urban Mobility & Access, while also continuing to oversee the more than $6 billion investments in the Puget Sound area “mega” programs (Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement, State Route 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV, Interstate 405/SR 167 and Puget Sound Gateway). Meredith has more than 30 years at WSDOT and highlights of her career include the successful delivery of the SR 520 bridge, world’s longest floating bridge; and overseeing the opening and multi-jurisdictional coordination of the State Route 99 tunnel.
To ensure a smooth hand-off of duties and continued delivery of transportation programs, these transitions will begin in January.
State active transportation plan is rolling: Washingtonians invited to comment by Feb. 15
- Written by Barb Chamberlain, Active Transportation Division director, WSDOT
Online open house, webinars scheduled to provide overview
OLYMPIA – Every Washingtonian uses active transportation connections at some point in a trip, whether crossing the street from their parking spot to their destination, walking to a bus stop or bicycling to school or work. That is why the Washington State Department of Transportation is asking for comments on its draft of the new State Active Transportation Plan, 2020 and Beyond.
The new plan comes during a time when more people than ever are walking and bicycling – according to WSDOT’s multimodal transportation dashboard – both as alternatives to transit use and to maintain physical and mental health during the pandemic. At the same time, a preliminary assessment of crash statistics found that 2020 fatal crashes involving those vulnerable road users appear to be occurring at higher rates than the averages for 2010-2019.
“Highways in most places weren’t originally designed for people walking or cycling, so it’s no surprise we found a number of places with gaps,” said Barb Chamberlain, director of WSDOT’s active transportation division “This analysis helps us understand how the use of state routes has changed as population centers have expanded, and why they may no longer be safe for the mix of uses and people there.”
The draft plan assesses the needs for accessible pedestrian and bicyclist facilities, highlights safety concerns and provides the first-ever examination of state right of way and its suitability for active transportation. An online open house and a series of webinars will provide opportunities to learn more about the draft plan and to provide comments.
Active transportation plan online open house information
When: Friday, Dec. 18, to Monday, Feb. 15, 2021
Where: Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, plan information is available to view in an online open house.
Details: A copy of the draft active transportation plan document is available in an accessible PDF, and a link to a feedback form to collect input from Washington residents is provided. Deadline for comments is Monday, Feb. 15.
WSDOT will also host virtual events with staff providing an orientation to the draft plan document. Slides will be presented with real-time closed captioning and descriptions of visual content. Participants will be able to submit questions and comments using the chat function in the presentation software. These webinars will be recorded and available online after they’re completed.
Active transportation plan overview webinars
Participants must register to view one of the three webinars:
- Webinar 1: 6 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021
- Webinar 2: Noon 1 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021
- Webinar 3: 4 to 5 p.m., Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 (subject to cancellation based on registration numbers)
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/.
The draft plan is Part 1 of a two-part plan. Part 1 covers:
- The purpose and need of the statewide active transportation plan.
- Benefits of active transportation.
- The current state of active transportation in Washington.
- Concerns and priorities gathered through public engagement.
- Broad cost estimates for changes to state right of way and local systems to improve conditions for active transportation.
Part 2 of the plan will come out in 2021 and cover relevant policy topics, performance measures associated with the plan’s goals, and next steps in developing an implementation and action plan. WSDOT staff will use comments received on Part 1, as well as past community and partner input, to help identify policy topics in Part 2.
To receive future updates specifically for the plan subscribe to the ATP E-News. For active transportation news updates including grant opportunities, webinars, and activities of WSDOT and partners subscribe to the WSDOT Walk + Roll E-News.
Pathway forward for ultra-high-speed travel in the Pacific Northwest detailed in new report
- Written by Janet Matkin, WSDOT communications
Study focuses on next steps in governance models, funding and outreach
OLYMPIA – A new report, the 2020 Framework for the Future, sets forth a roadmap for continued work in a post-COVID-19 future to bring ultra-high-speed ground transportation to the Pacific Northwest.
The report builds on previous studies conducted over the past three years and details next steps on governance, strategic outreach and funding and financing. It was released Tuesday, Dec. 8, and submitted to the executive and legislative branches of Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.
Offering travel time of less than an hour between each major city – at speeds of up to 250 mph (402 km/hour) and 20 to 30 trips per day – the new system would link the metropolitan areas of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia while also offering connections to stations in between and beyond. Uniting this megaregion could transform the Pacific Northwest by improving overall mobility, boosting economic growth and significantly decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 6 million metric tons (tonnes).
The 2020 report focuses on three areas crucial to future decision making. It offers direction on creating a coordinating entity to advance the project beyond the initial concept phase and outlines a more formal governing model for the future. It also emphasizes the importance of robust engagement with communities, elected officials, state and national officials, business and labor leaders and advocacy organizations. Finally, it sets forth several funding and financing scenarios that include possible federal, state and private investments.
Earlier studies estimated that the ultra-high-speed system could generate $355 billion in economic growth and more than 200,000 family-wage jobs. Construction costs were estimated to be between $24 and $42 billion and revenues are expected to cover project costs by 2055. (All dollar figures are US currency). Using high-speed rail, magnetic levitation or hyperloop technology, the system would be stand-alone, rather than sharing or relying on existing infrastructure. It would include some elevated tracks and tunnels, with no at-grade crossings with roads. The exact route and type of technology has not been determined and requires more analysis.
The 2020 ultra-high-speed study was led by the Washington State Department of Transportation, in partnership with the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Province of British Columbia and Microsoft, which all shared equally in the costs.
“We are living in unprecedented times that call on us to envision our future in new ways. Transformative infrastructure projects like this one could help us rebuild our economy in the short term and provide us with a strong competitive advantage in the future,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Imagine fast, frequent and reliable travel with the potential for zero emissions and the opportunity to better compete in a global economy. It could transform the Pacific Northwest.”
“This study is another important step toward better, faster ways for people to get where they need to go throughout the Pacific Northwest,” said British Columbia Premier John Horgan. “Improving connections through ultra-high-speed rail is good news for people on both sides of the border as B.C. moves forward with Washington and Oregon on a path to building a stronger post-COVID19 regional economy that works for everyone.”
“Bringing high-speed rail to the Pacific Northwest would bolster our economies, while contributing to our efforts to combat climate change,” said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. “This study affirms that a regional high-speed rail system would yield an equitable and modern transportation infrastructure that benefits people, the environment, and the economy. This type of bold investment would help position our region for the future.”
“High-speed rail will shrink travel times throughout the Cascadia Corridor, providing a strong transportation core for our region,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith. “This report provides a valuable roadmap for making this international project a reality.”
An advisory committee, representing public, private and nonprofit sectors from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, provided input during the year-long analysis. The study was completed by consultant WSP USA along with IMG Rebel and EnviroIssues.
WSDOT seeks comment on 4-year program of multimodal transportation projects
- Written by Nancy Huntley, Local Programs, WSDOT
Public comment invited on the draft Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, Nov. 17 through Dec. 16
OLYMPIA – More than 1,100 statewide transportation projects using $3.7 billion in federal funds are included in the draft 2021-2024 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, called STIP for short. This compilation of prioritized transportation improvement projects is now ready for public review and comment.
The Washington State Department of Transportation annually develops the STIP from local agency, metropolitan and regional transportation improvement programs. The draft 2021-2024 STIP is a 4-year program of multimodal transportation projects identified through state, metropolitan, regional, tribal, and local agency planning processes. Projects identified as using Federal Highway Administration or Federal Transit Administration funds must be included in the STIP to authorize the expenditure of federal funds.
The comment period for the STIP is the final step of the community engagement process that began locally during development of the individual transportation improvement programs. WSDOT will accept comments until 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16. 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, fiscally constrained, prioritized multimodal transportation program of state, local, tribal, and public transportation (transit) projects. The STIP 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 2020-23 STIP can be viewed online and a similar, searchable database of the 2021-24 STIP will be created in January 2021, following FHWA and FTA approval.
How to comment
Chinook and Cayuse passes closed for the season due to heavy snow
- Written by Summer Derrey, WSDOT communications
MOUNT RAINIER – The gates to State Routes 410 and 123 inside Mount Rainier National Park, including Chinook and Cayuse passes, are closed for the season after heavy snow and a forecast of more to come.
These routes closed temporarily Tuesday night, Nov. 10, due to deteriorating travel conditions and a 14-vehicle collision, which included commercial vehicles that are not allowed to travel through the park.
After an assessment of the roads and the upcoming forecast, Washington State Department of Transportation, in coordination with Mount Rainier National Park, made the decision to keep State Route 410/Chinook Pass and State Route 123/Cayuse Pass closed for the winter. For the safety of the crews, signs will be removed and facilities will be winterize before more heavy snowfall. Completing this work prevents sign damage and makes the spring reopening more manageable.
The roads inside the park typically close sometime in mid-November each year due to avalanche danger, poor road conditions, lack of emergency services in close proximity and limited snow storage.
Chinook Pass (elev. 5,430 feet) is closed between Crystal Mountain Boulevard, about 12 miles northwest of the summit, and Morse Creek, 5 miles east of the summit. Cayuse Pass (elev. 4,675 feet) is closed within the boundaries of Mount Rainier National Park between Crystal Mountain Boulevard and the park arch at milepost 2.5 at the southern park boundary.
Tools to keep travelers connected
Sign up for email alerts via “Mount Rainier Area State Highway News” newsletter. Additional information about Chinook and Cayuse passes is available on a combined webpage that features the status of closure and reopening efforts. Current weather and highway conditions are posted on the mountain passes webpage.
’Tis the season to plan for snow and ice
- Written by Barbara LaBoe, WSDOT communications
Studded tires allowed in Washington from Nov. 1 to March 31; stud-free winter tire alternatives are legal year-round
OLYMPIA – With some early storms already here and full-fledged winter fast approaching, now is the time for travelers to make sure they’re prepared for winter driving.
The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to start preparing themselves and their vehicles for winter weather. 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 work hard to keep roads clear, but we need the public’s help as well,” said WSDOT Maintenance Operations Manager James Morin. “Most pass closures are due to preventable spin outs or crashes from vehicles driven too fast or not having proper equipment. This year COVID-19 protocols could mean slightly longer road or pass closures, as well as more chain requirements during major storms, so we need everyone to be prepared and stay informed to help keep traffic moving.”
To check conditions and prepare for winter weather:
- Download the WSDOT mobile app.
- Follow WSDOT's regional and pass accounts on Twitter, the agency's Facebook site and online travel alerts.
- Sign upfor email and/or text updates about road conditions – text alerts about Snoqualmie Pass delays is a subscription option.
- Download, print and carry the WSDOT Winter Driving Guide.
- Get your vehicle ready and plan extra time to cross all mountain passes, including heavily traveled routes such as Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass and White Pass.
- Carry chains and know current traction and chain requirementsfor mountain passes, which are also available on highway-advisory signs, highway-advisory radio and by calling 511.
- Preset your radio to 530 AM and 1610 AM for WSDOT's traffic-information stations.
Alternatives to chains Although some vehicle manufacturers recommend against the use of tire chains for certain models, that doesn’t excuse travelers from state traction device laws. 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. 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 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, and no personal exemptions or waivers exist.
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 their 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.