- Written by Barbara LaBoe, communications, WSDOT
Holiday travel prep is just as important as planning the big meal
OLYMPIA – Just like shopping, prepping the turkey and checking kick-off times before a big holiday gathering, the key to smooth Thanksgiving travel is planning ahead. Being prepared to call an audible for any delays doesn’t hurt either.
The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to “know before you go” and plan ahead for the busy holiday weekend. Staying informed also lets travelers react to any delays or other issues and still make it to the feast on time.
The agency 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.
· Visit WSDOT’s online traveler information about traffic, weather and ferry schedules.
· 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 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. 29, Apple Cup football game in Seattle should prepare for possible winter weather on passes and allow extra time if traveling Thursday evening and Friday morning as people make their way to the 1 p.m. game.
· State Route 123 Cayuse Pass and SR 410 Chinook Pass close for the season at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, and will not be available for holiday travel. These passes close every winter due to avalanche danger, poor road conditions, lack of snow storage and no emergency response services within close proximity.
· SR 20 North Cascades Highway remains open as of Wednesday, Nov. 20. Details about the road status and winter closure are available online and travelers should check that the pass is still open before heading out.
· 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.
In the Puget Sound area, the SR 520 bridge and SR 99 tunnel will have weekend toll rates on Thanksgiving, Nov. 28, returning to weekday rates on Friday, Nov. 29. 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, Nov. 29. 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 on the Good To Go! visitors page.
Traveling by ferry
Please plan ahead for heavy holiday ferry traffic and consider purchasing tickets online or walking onto ferries if possible to save time. The longest lines are expected westbound the afternoon/evening of Wednesday, Nov. 27 and on Thanksgiving morning. Eastbound, the longest lines are expected Thanksgiving afternoon and Friday morning, Nov. 29. Those driving onto ferries can sign up for vehicle wait time alerts and check terminal conditions online. Some ferry routes run on Saturday schedules on the holiday; check ferry schedules online or call 888-808-7977 for details.
Space is limited on the Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry route on Wednesday, Nov. 27, and Thursday, Nov. 28, due to tidal current cancellations of several evening sailings.
Canadian service is suspended through Sunday, Dec. 8, due to required maintenance on the vessels certified to run international service.
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. Oregon’s trains will run on their weekend schedule Wednesday, Nov. 27, through Sunday, Dec. 1. All Amtrak Cascades trains require reservations and trains fill up quickly during holidays. Visit www.amtrakcascades.com/ for reservation and schedule details or call 800–USA–RAIL.
· 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.
- Written by Barb Chamberlain, Active Transportation director, WSDOT
WSDOT hosts virtual events Nov. 26 and Dec. 11; online open house through Dec. 15
OLYMPIA – People who live in Washington have an opportunity to help create a vision for a transportation system that supports all modes of travel – including walking, biking and rolling. The Washington State Department of Transportation is updating the state active transportation plan, which serves as the needs assessment for accessible pedestrian and bicyclist connections, and public input is needed.
An online open house is available now through Sunday, Dec. 15, at http://bit.ly/WSDOT-ATP-Online-Open-House with a questionnaire to collect input from Washington residents.
WSDOT will also host virtual events during which staff will share information on the safety, mobility and accessibility issues the plan is intended to address. Those who are interested can register at http://bit.ly/WSDOT-ATP-Virtual2019. Participants will be able to submit questions and comments using the chat function in the presentation software. These will be recorded and available online after the presentations.
- 12 – 1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26
- 7 – 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11
Washingtonians are invited to sign up for the plan’s email newsletter to receive future event announcements: http://bit.ly/WSDOT-2019-ATP.
Community events open to the public that WSDOT staff are attending are listed on the Community Events and E-News page of the online open house. This list is updated as new events are added.
- Written by Nancy Huntley, Local Programs, WSDOT
WSDOT seeks input on the draft Statewide Transportation Improvement Program from Nov. 18 to Dec. 17
OLYMPIA – Each year, the Washington State Department of Transportation develops the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program from local agency, metropolitan and regional transportation improvement programs. This compilation of prioritized transportation improvement projects is now ready for review and public comment.
The draft 2020-2023 STIP is a four-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 in order to authorize the expenditure of federal funds. More than 1,200 statewide transportation improvement projects using $3.4 billion in federal funds are included in the 2020-23 STIP.
The comment period is the final step of the community engagement process that began locally during development of the individual transportation improvement programs. Comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17. WSDOT will send any comments it receives 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 2019-22 STIP can be viewed online and a similar, searchable database of the 2020-23 STIP will be created in January 2020, following FHWA and FTA approval.
How to comment
- 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 winter fast approaching, now is the time for travelers to make sure they’re prepared for driving in inclement weather.
The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to start preparing themselves and their vehicles before traveling on snow and ice. 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, but as last winter showed, any part of the state can experience severe weather and we need the public’s help as well,” said WSDOT Maintenance Operations Manager James Morin. “Most pass closures are due to spin outs or crashes from vehicles traveling too fast or not having proper winter equipment. Preparing early and staying informed about conditions and restrictions can help keep traffic moving during storms.”
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 Facebooksite and online travel alerts.
- Sign upfor email and/or text updates about road conditions – including Snoqualmie Pass delay text alerts.
- 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 approved, alternative-traction devices that meet state traction requirements. All travelers are reminded to carry chains or approved alternatives whenever crossing mountain passes to be prepared for changing weather conditions and 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.
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. 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.
- Written by Reema Griffith, WSTC executive director
OLYMPIA – At its October meeting, the Washington State Transportation Commission will take action on policy recommendations to the legislature on testing and deploying autonomous vehicles. The commission also will begin drafting its final report to the legislature assessing whether the state should consider implementing a Road Usage Charge system as a possible replacement to the gas tax.
The meeting starts at 9 a.m. both Tuesday, Oct. 15, and Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the Transportation Building, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE, on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. The commission meeting is open to the public and persons wishing to speak to the commission may do so at public comment times at the end of each day.
On Tuesday morning, the commission will receive a briefing on a study of city transportation needs completed earlier this year for the Joint Transportation Committee. The study concluded that city transportation investments fall short by half of what is needed. In addition to the report’s findings and recommendations, commissioners will hear the reaction from two of the case study cities.
The remainder of Tuesday’s agenda is devoted to the topic of exploring a potential replacement to the gas tax to fund roads and bridges. Because gasoline is taxed by the gallon, as vehicles become more fuel efficient or switch to electric power, gas tax revenue will decline. In 2012, the legislature directed the commission to assess the potential of a road usage charge to replace the gas tax. A Road Usage Charge (RUC) is a per mile charge drivers would pay for the use of the roads, as opposed to paying by the gallon of gas.
The commission, with the assistance of a stakeholder steering committee, has determined that road usage charging is feasible and that over time it can generate more revenue than the gas tax, as cars become more fuel efficient. To test how such a system could work in Washington and evaluate different ways of recording and reporting mileage, more than 2,000 Washington drivers participated in a year-long Washington Road Usage Charge pilot project. With the conclusion of the pilot, the commission is now ready to report on its findings, including the RUC experience of other states.
Oregon, the first state in the country to implement a RUC, now has several hundred vehicles paying by the mile for using its roads. Oregon Department of Transportation staff will brief the commission about legislation enacted in Oregon earlier this year to stabilize and expand its road usage charge program.
Then, the commission will consider the work of its road usage charge steering committee, results and findings from the test-driving phase of the Washington RUC pilot project, and reactions of pilot participants, as it drafts its report recommending next steps. Commissioners will identify preliminary findings and recommendations for the 2020 legislature, and provide direction regarding the RUC Assessment Final Report. They also will discuss a proposal on gathering public input in November on the preliminary recommendations.
On Wednesday, the commission will act on several policy recommendations forwarded to it from a broad-based Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Work Group that includes members from the private sector, state and local government, and the legislature. Established in 2018, the legislature created the AV Work Group to enable Washington state to address the public policy issues raised by emerging AV technology in an informed, thorough, and deliberate manner. The briefing and discussion led by the work group chair and its subcommittees will frame the commission’s report to the Legislature and Governor on testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles in our state.
The commission also will hear a brief update on preparations for tolling the State Route 99 tunnel and receive a report on a recent study of the Interstate 405 express toll lanes by the Washington State Transportation Center. Using data from each trip made on the I-405 express toll lanes during operating hours, demographic data on census block groups, and lane speed, volume, and travel time data, the study reveals insights into how the express toll lanes are used, the benefits they provide to the region, and how these benefits are distributed among different groups of noncommercial users.
For more information about the commission and a complete meeting agenda, visit: www.wstc.wa.gov/
- Written by Jana Ratcliff, Environmental Services Office, WSDOT
WSDOT accepting public input Oct. 7 - 18
WSDOT is responsible for managing stormwater from highways, rest areas, park-and-ride lots, ferry terminals and maintenance facilities in urban areas throughout the state. In spring 2019, the state Department of Ecology issued WSDOT a permit that regulates stormwater from these paved surfaces. As part of that permit, WSDOT is required to submit to Ecology a stormwater management plan by Oct. 31, describing how the agency will implement the permit’s requirements.
Any comments WSDOT receives by Oct. 18 will be considered before finalizing the plan this year. WSDOT will consider comments received after the deadline in next year’s plan update.
Managing stormwater from highways and other paved surfaces is important to traveler safety and for water quality in streams and underground water supplies. Untreated, stormwater can carry pollutants downstream and can cause flooding and erosion that might lead to roadway damage.
- Written by Reema Griffith, WSTC Executive Director, WSDOT
STEVENSON, Wash. – Transportation challenges unique to rural areas will be highlighted in a meeting between the transportation commissions from Washington state, Oregon and California this month in Stevenson, Washington. Presenters from the three states will lead discussions on rural freight-movement challenges; the connection between reliable rural access, jobs and economic growth; emergency access and enabling response; and road usage charging efforts in all three states.
The tri-state meeting is from 8 a.m. to noon Monday, Sept. 16, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 17, at Skamania Lodge, 1131 Skamania Lodge Dr., Stevenson. The meeting is open to the public and persons wishing to speak to the commissions may do so during the public comment period at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday.
Following opening remarks from each state’s commission chair, Monday’s meeting kicks off with a panel discussion of the complex supply chains involving trucks, trains, barges and planes that move rural freight from farm to markets across the country and the world. Another panel will focus on reliable transportation access in rural areas. Panelists will discuss how highways, public transportation, rural airports and trails all uniquely contribute to sustainable economic development and opportunity.
On Monday afternoon, commissioners from the three states will tour the regional area on both sides of the Columbia River, and make stops at a few businesses to hear first-hand the transportation challenges they face in moving product and conducting business in a rural setting. The commissioners will also get a briefing on the Hood River Bridge and will view a bicycle-pedestrian facility on Oregon’s Historic Columbia River Highway.
During Tuesday’s meeting, each state will share how it responds to natural disasters – from wildfires to seismic events – and the role transportation agencies and infrastructure plays in response and recovery. Panelists will include an Okanogan County commissioner who has worked on partnerships and planning to better respond to region-wide wildfires, and the mayor of Paradise, California, the town in the Sierra foothills ravaged by fire last fall.
Other meeting topics include a briefing from the administrators of the Federal Highway Administration in each state, and the latest work by each state to address declining revenue from the gas tax as cars and trucks become more fuel-efficient. The three West Coast states lead the nation in developing a road usage charge as an alternative funding source to replace the gas tax.
Since 2009, the Washington State Transportation Commission has met periodically with its colleagues in California and/or Oregon to share strategies for addressing common issues and to identify opportunities for collaboration. During their 2018 meeting, the three state bodies focused on technology and transportation.
The meeting will be webcast live on tvw.org.
For more information about the commission and a complete meeting agenda, visit: www.wstc.wa.gov/
- Written by Barbara LaBoe, WSDOT Communications
Plan ahead, use WSDOT tools to stay in the know before and during trips
OLYMPIA – The last holiday weekend of the summer typically brings additional traffic, so planning ahead and allowing extra travel time is even more critical as Labor Day approaches.
Travelers can consult the Washington State Department of Transportation’s holiday-weekend traffic volume charts to help plan the best times to travel on key routes. If possible, altering travel to less busy times can improve individual trips and help keep all traffic flowing more freely. Those venturing out on land or sea can also use several WSDOT tools to keep updated throughout the trip.
Know before you go
- Check WSDOT’s mobile app, Facebook page, multiple Twitteraccounts and online tools for traffic information and ferry schedules. (When driving, have a passenger check online updates or pull over to safe place before using electronic devices).
- Call the 511 travel information hotline. For out-of-state callers, it’s 1-800-695-ROAD (7623).
- Pre-program vehicle radios to 530 AM and 1610 AM for highway advisory radio alerts.
- Carry extra water, snacks and other supplies in case you’re delayed along the way.
Statewide construction halted, but expect holiday travel delays -- especially on passes
To ease congestion statewide, WSDOT suspends most state highway construction work during the holiday weekend, starting Friday, Aug. 30, through Monday, Sept. 2. This includes Interstate 90 from North Bend to Vantage, but some construction zone detours will remain in place. Traffic is always heavy over Snoqualmie Pass on summer weekends – especially Labor Day – so travelers should allow extra travel time or consider traveling during non-peak times, typically early in the day or later in the evening.
In the Puget Sound, weekend toll rates will be in effect on Monday, Sept. 2, on the State Route 520 bridge. The Interstate 405 express toll lanes will be free and open to all drivers on the Monday holiday. Travelers can learn about toll roads and rental car tips on the GoodToGo visitors page.
Washington State Ferries passengers should expect heavier traffic during the holiday weekend and reservations are strongly recommended for the Anacortes/San Juan Islands; Anacortes/Sidney, British Columbia; and Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry routes.
- Reservations can be made onlineor by calling 888-808-7977.
- Visit the schedules and best travel times website for more details.
Other travel considerations
Travelers planning to avoid highway congestion by traveling via train, personal aircraft or transit also should factor the holiday into their plans:
- Amtrak Cascades passengers are encouraged to purchase tickets early and should plan to arrive at the station one hour before departure. Book nowor call 800–USA–RAIL for details.
- Check the status of state-operated airports online or by calling 800-552-0666.
- Most public transit systems will follow a holiday schedule, and some transit systems will not operate fixed-route or Dial-A-Ride service on holidays. For details, check with the local transit system.
- Written by Lauren Loebsack, WSDOT Communications
CASHMERE – Beginning Monday, Aug. 26, a contractor for the Washington State Department of Transportation will begin work to repair and upgrade wiring to the flashing beacons at intersections of US 2/97 between Monitor and Dryden.
During the work, the “Prepare to Stop When Flashing” signs with flashing beacons that correspond with the change of intersection signal lights from green to red, will be covered. A temporary sign without any lights will inform travelers to “Be Prepared to Stop” while the contractor performs necessary repairs to ensure these flashing lights continue to work properly.
Five intersections between Monitor and Dryden will have the beacons shut off for repairs in the following weeks. These include:
- US 2/97 and E. Main St. / Easy St. at Monitor,
- US 2/97 and Cotlets Way / Eels Rd.,
- US 2/97 and Aplets Way / Nahahum Canyon Rd.,
- US 2/97 and Hay Canyon Rd. / Goodwin Rd.,
- US 2/97 and Dryden Ave. / Johnson Rd.
For the week of August 26, the contractor will be working at the US 2/97 intersections of Dryden Ave./ Johnson Rd. at Dryden and Hay Canyon/Goodwin Rd. at Cashmere. Future updates on this project will be available on the North Central region construction and travel advisory webpage.
This work will not affect signal timing at these intersections, but the change of warning signage will mean that drivers will not have the flashing beacons to indicate that an intersection signal is changing from green to red. With a speed of 60 mph on this section of the highway, it is imperative that travelers on this section of road are attentive and use caution when approaching these intersections during the project.
- Written by Lauren Loebsack, WSDOT communications
Public input sought in person and online to help develop traffic control plans during rock slope scaling work in 2020
Travelers who regularly use US 97A can help choose the best times for rock slope scaling work during the 2020 construction season.
The Washington State Department of Transportation is seeking public comment regarding the best time for closures during the much needed work. Specialized contractors will remove loose rock and debris from the slopes adjacent to US 97A to reduce the risk of it falling onto the highway.
All of this work takes time, during which traffic cannot travel through the work zone. At the upcoming in person and the online open houses, the public can comment on whether all day or short closures of approximately 30 minutes make more sense for the area. Longer closures mean more work can be accomplished but with more affect to travel times, and vice versa for shorter duration choices.
US 97A/SR 971 rock slope scaling work in person open houses
When: 4 – 7 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 14
Where: Chelan City Hall
135 E Johnson Ave.
When: 4 – 7 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 20
Where: Entiat Grange
14108 Kinzel St.
During both of the in-person open houses, learn more about the options of closure times when WSDOT crews start working on the rock slope scaling in 2020. Responses received from the open houses will help determine the timing and length of the closures to complete the work.
Online open house
Those unable to attend either open house, or who want to review the information and options prior to a meeting, can visit the online open house.