wsdot logoLeave early, use tools to make holiday travel smoother

OLYMPIA – Whether crossing the state or just running to the store for a last-minute ingredient, be sure to allow plenty of extra travel time during the busy Thanksgiving weekend.

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

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 our 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 drive appropriately for conditions.

 

Apple Cup travel

Those traveling to the Saturday, Nov. 25, Apple Cup football game in Seattle should also plan ahead for possible winter weather on passes and allow extra travel time both to and from the game.

Mountain passes

In the mountains, State Route 123 Cayuse Pass (elevation 4,675 feet), State Route 20 North Cascades Highway (elevation 5,477 feet) and Chinook Pass (elevation 5,430 feet) are closed for the winter. On Snoqualmie Pass (elevation 3,022), you can receive text alerts for pass delays 30 minutes or longer – text “wsdot snoqualmie” to 468311 to subscribe, and “wsdot stop” to unsubscribe.

Tolls

In the Puget Sound, the State Route 520 bridge will have weekend toll rates on Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, returning to weekday rates on Friday, Nov. 24. On the Interstate 405 express toll lanes, travel is free to 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 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. 22, and eastbound Friday morning, Nov. 24. Reservations are recommended on the San Juan and Port Townsend/Coupeville routes. Some ferry routes run on Saturday schedules on the holiday, check the Washington State Ferries website 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. All Amtrak Cascades trains require reservations and trains fill up quickly during holidays. Visit amtrakcascades.com/ or call 800–USA–RAIL for details. (There are no extra Thanksgiving trains this year).
  • For information about traveling via state-operated airports, visit wsdot.wa.gov/aviation/airports/Amenities.htm or call 800-552-0666.
  • Check with your local public transit agency for any holiday schedule or service changes, including some Dial-A-Ride and fixed-route service that may not run on holidays

wsdot logoMore snow and avalanche risk triggers seasonal closure between Newhalem and Winthrop

DIABLO – The final page will soon turn on State Route 20/North Cascades Highway this year. The winter gates will close at 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10 due to avalanche risk, and there will be one less route for vehicles crossing the Cascade Mountains.

Washington State Department of Transportation crews have plowed SR 20 between the gates at mileposts 134 near Diablo and 171 west of Mazama since snow began falling in early October. But, new snow has continued to fill avalanche chutes. The forecast for more this weekend makes it too dangerous for our crews to work or the public to drive below full avalanche zones.

“We know this route is popular for access to businesses, relatives and outdoor adventures said WSDOT Twisp Maintenance Supervisor Don Becker. “Our crews work hard to keep it open through the Thanksgiving weekend, but this year it isn’t possible due to the amount of snow in the forecast.”

The highway temporarily closed twice in the last three weeks due to snow accumulation in avalanche chutes.

This year’s closure is a week or so earlier than typical. Last year, the North Cascades Highway closed on November 18. The only time the highway remained open through the winter was in 1976, when a drought produced record-low snowfall.

Winter access along the highway

Snowmobilers, hikers, skiers and other winter adventurers are free to use the roadway behind the gates, but they do so at their own risk.

Starting the 2018 chapter

When conditions permit, crews will reopen the highway in spring 2018. Clearing the 37-mile-long mountain pass highway requires crews working from both sides for roughly four to six weeks.

You can be one of the first to know about that clearing process by signing up for North Cascades Highway emails and following our WSDOT East and WSDOT North Twitter accounts.

bicycle 400OLYMPIA – Pedal power is still strong in Washington as the League of American Bicyclists once again ranks the state as No. 1 “Bicycle Friendly State in America.” Washington has been a leader in the nation for every year since 2008 when the League began its program.

“Our efforts to support bicycling in Washington through our policies and investments is clearly paying off,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “As a state we have invested in Safe Routes to School for a healthier next generation and in a transportation system that supports safer biking and walking mobility options for Washingtonians. I appreciate the work of our Bicycle Friendly communities, businesses and universities that have all contributed to building active, healthy transportation options.”

Each state is ranked based on its score in five categories: Infrastructure and Funding; Education and Encouragement; Legislation and Enforcement; Policies and Programs; Evaluation and Planning; and, Discretionary Scoring.

“It’s great to once again lead the nation in recognizing that bicycling is an important part of a multimodal transportation system,” said Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar. “We’re committed to providing transportation choices for all users of the system – including people who bike and walk. We have more work to do, but this ranking affirms that we’re on the right path.”

The League credited Washington for passage of its 16-year Connecting Washington funding package, including more than $20 million per year for bicycling and walking projects. It also noted Washington State Department of Transportation’s creation of the new, statewide Active Transportation Division as another reason why the state has retained its spot as a national leader in improving conditions for people who bike and walk.

wsdot logoDrivers can use studded tires starting Nov. 1

OLYMPIA – With snow already falling on some mountain passes, it’s never too early to get ready for winter ice and snow.

The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all drivers 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 drivers to always “know before you go” and get the most up-to-date roadway information before heading out.

To check conditions and prepare for snow or ice:

“Our crews work hard to keep roads clear of snow and ice for drivers, but last year’s severe winter certainly highlighted the importance of being equipped for winter conditions,” said James Morin, WSDOT’s snow and ice program manager. “We need the public’s help by driving for conditions and obeying chain-up notices. Often it’s just one unprepared driver spinning out that forces a pass closure.”

Alternatives to chains

Some vehicle manufacturers recommend against the use of tire chains for certain vehicle models. The Washington State Patrol provides a list of approved, alternative-traction devices that meet state chains and traction tires requirements.

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 can approve studded tires earlier in extraordinary conditions, but at this time the date remains Nov. 1. Motorists are encouraged to visit a tire dealer to learn more about stud-free traction tires that are legal for year-round use and do not cause the same roadway damage as studded tires. WSDOT estimates studded tires cause between $20 million and $29 million in damage, combined, to state-owned asphalt and concrete roadways each year.  More information about studded-tired restrictions and requirements can be found in the FAQ on the WSP website.

WSDTlogo450OLYMPIA – Tolling topics and plans for a Road Usage Charge pilot project are on the agenda for the State Transportation Commission’s meeting next week in Olympia. The commission also plans to name a section of State Route 507 in honor of an Iraqi war veteran who died in action.

The meeting starts at 8:30 a.m. both Tuesday, Oct. 17, and Wednesday, Oct. 18, at the Transportation Building, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE, on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. This meeting is open to the public and persons wishing to speak to the commission may do so during public comment periods at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday and 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

On Tuesday morning, the commission will hear a progress report for the Road Usage Charge pilot project that will launch early in 2018. A road usage charge is a per-mile charge drivers would pay for the use of the roads. It is under consideration as a potential replacement for the gas tax drivers now pay on a gallon of gasoline. In light of growing fuel efficiency of new vehicles, which consume less gas and therefor raise less revenue, it would provide a more sustainable funding source for investments in transportation infrastructure. The pilot project will engage 2,000 volunteers from across the state to test the concept and shape how it might work.

With detailed planning for the pilot project operations well underway, the commission will learn more about current public attitudes toward road usage charging, and progress with volunteer recruitment. Additional discussions will focus on reporting options, activities of other partners in the pilot project, and the draft evaluation plan.

Other briefings on Tuesday include transportation recommendations from the Resilient Washington subcabinet, a proposal to accommodate autonomous vehicles on Interstate 5, and transit agency perspectives on tolling.

In addition, the commission will take action on a proposal initiated by the city of Rainier to name the portion of SR 507 within the community for Sgt. Justin D. Norton. A graduate of Rainier High School, Sgt. Norton was killed in action in 2006 while on patrol in Baghdad.

On Wednesday morning, the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Toll Division will report on FY 2017 traffic and revenue for each tolled facility, as well as progress toward meeting legislative benchmarks for toll operations and efficiency.

The meeting will conclude with an update by a commission workgroup formed to assess options for providing long-term, toll-payer relief for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The legislature has asked that the commission deliver its prioritized policy solutions to the legislature by December 2017.

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

wsdot logoWSDOT seeking input on 20-year plan by Nov. 6

  • OLYMPIA – Washingtonians have an opportunity to provide input into the future of the state’s transportation system through the Washington Transportation Plan, Phase 2 – Implementation. The plan establishes how the state can prepare itself for an uncertain future in the face of climate change and advances in technology.
  • The Washington State Department of Transportation is seeking public comments on the plan from now through Nov. 6, 2017.

The plan builds on WTP Phase 1, which established a 20-year vision for the statewide multimodal transportation system. Phase 1 highlighted emerging trends and challenges facing the state’s transportation system and developed recommendations for meeting those challenges.

WTP Phase 2 implements recommendations from Phase 1 through four focus areas and 11 action items to achieve the 20-year vision established in Phase 1. It also establishes how the state can prepare itself for four plausible, but uncertain futures regarding climate change and technology and their potential impacts on the statewide transportation system. Through its proposed recommendations, Phase 2 will guide decision makers on major issues facing the statewide transportation system.

How to comment on the plan

The comment period closes on Nov. 6, 2017. Copies of the plan and a comment form for submitting feedback are available:

  • Online: https://washtransplan.com/
  • By telephone request: 206-464-1261
  • By written request:Washington State Department of Transportation, Multimodal Planning Division, 401 Second Ave., Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98104. 

wsdot logoTravelers on I-90 should plan for significant congestion Friday and Monday

OLYMPIA – Heading out for one last summer holiday weekend? Planning ahead could be the key to smooth sailing whether on land or sea.

Travelers can use the Washington State Department of Transportation’s traffic volume charts this holiday weekend to “know before they go” and help time their travel on key routes. In particular, this year, holiday congestion is expected on Interstate 90 near Snoqualmie Pass – especially westbound traffic.

I-90/Snoqualmie Pass

Bridge deck repairs in the westbound lanes of I-90 between the summit of Snoqualmie Pass (milepost 52) and North Bend (milepost 34) will not be complete by Labor Day as initially hoped. This means only two of three lanes will be open for drivers heading westbound. The lane closures are needed because portions of the bridge decks have been removed and traffic can’t be shifted back on those decks until new concrete is placed and cured. Drivers will also encounter lane closures and traffic shifts through the Cle Elum area (milepost 86) due to work to replace old pavement with new concrete lanes.

During the holiday weekend:

  • Eastbound travelers will experience delays on Friday, Sept. 1, and should consider traveling early in the day or late in the evening.
  • Westbound travelers should expect major delays Monday, Sept. 4, near the detour. If possible, travelers may want to leave early or possibly extend their return trip into Tuesday, Sept. 5.
  • The WSDOT I-90 travel charts do not reflect this construction work, but they can still be used as an overall guide to the times when the most congestion is expected.

Navigating congested areas

  • Slow down: Please obey posted speed limits. Speed is reduced for everyone’s safety.
  • Stay alert: Be especially aware of other vehicles and prepare for any sudden stops.
  • Allow extra travel time: Drivers delayed by congestion sometimes try to compensate by driving faster once the congestion clears. Instead, allow extra travel time or consider adjusting travel schedules if possible.

Know before you go

To ease congestion statewide, WSDOT suspends most state highway construction work during the holiday weekend starting Friday, Sept. 1. On Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 4, the State Route 520 bridge toll will be on holiday rates, while the Interstate 405 express toll lanes will be free and open to all drivers.

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.

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.
  • Aviators can get updates on state-operated airportsor by calling 800-552-0666.
  • Most public transit systemswill follow a holiday schedule, and some transit systems will not operate fixed-route or Dial-A-Ride service on holidays.

wsdot logoStatewide partnership preparing for annual count Sept. 26-28

OLYMPIA – The number of people who choose to walk or ride bicycles as their mode of transportation is increasing in Washington each year. Just how many? Here is an opportunity to help the state find out. Volunteer registration is now open for anyone who wants to help count the number of people who walk or ride bicycles to their destinations during a three-day survey starting Tuesday, Sept. 26.

Volunteer support is vital to the success of this project, and about 400 people are needed for the count. In 2016, volunteers tallied more than 78,000 people biking and walking in communities across Washington.

For this ninth annual survey, the Washington State Department of Transportation and Cascade Bicycle Club are partnering with FeetFirst, Washington Bikes and Futurewise to help count the number of people bicycling and walking Tuesday, Sept. 26, through Thursday, Sept. 28.

“Data from this survey help state and local governments plan and evaluate improved connections for Washingtonians who walk and bike, in a similar way we plan for other modes of travel,” said Active Transportation Division Director Barb Chamberlain. “Volunteers make the collection process possible – we couldn’t do this work without them.”

This volunteer effort makes sure that people who bike and walk are counted as essential users of the transportation system. Data collected during the count is used by state and local agencies to estimate demand; measure the benefit of bicycle and pedestrian project investments; and improve policies, project designs and funding opportunities.

In addition to the annual count, WSDOT, Cascade Bicycle Club, and local agencies are partnering to install permanent counters at locations around the state. To see data from both data collection programs, visit the WSDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Portal.

Get involved

To learn more, visit WSDOT’s website, %This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">email Cascade Bicycle Club or call 206-954-4896.

To sign-up to volunteer, visit bikepedcount.wsdot.wa.gov

Participating communities

WSDOT and the Cascade Bicycle Club are asking volunteers from across the state to perform the counts in nearly 60 communities including Anacortes, Bainbridge Island, Battle Ground, Bayview, Bellevue, Bellingham, Bothell, Bremerton, Burien, Burlington, Concrete, Ellensburg, Everett, Federal Way, Ferndale, Gig Harbor, Issaquah, Kelso, Kenmore, Kent, Kirkland, La Conner, Lake Forest Park, Lakewood, Longview, Lyman, Lynden, Mercer Island, Milton, Mount Vernon, Mountlake Terrace, Oak Harbor, Olympia, Orting, Parkland, Pasco, Pullman, Puyallup, Renton, Richland, Seattle, Sedro-Woolley, Shoreline, Skagit County, Snoqualmie, Spokane, Spokane Valley, Sumner, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Reservation, Tacoma, Tukwila, University Place, Vancouver, Vashon Island, Walla Walla, Wenatchee and Yakima.

WSDOT’s count is part of the National Documentation Project, an annual bicycle and pedestrian count and survey effort sponsored by the Institute of Transportation Engineers Pedestrian and Bicycle Council. The count will also help measure WSDOT’s progress toward the goal of increasing bicycling and walking to reduce the number of vehicle miles driven.

WSDTlogo450SEATTLE – After hearing from ferry riders during local community meetings, reviewing hundreds of emails, and gathering input from key stakeholder groups, the Washington State Transportation Commission took final action today (Wednesday, July 26) on ferry fare increases that will be implemented over the next two years. The commission made changes to its original proposal in response to public input, which resulted in benefits to passengers and bicyclists. 

The commission is required to ensure ferry fares generate $381 million in operating revenue between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2019, as required in the recently passed two-year state transportation budget for Washington State Ferry operations. The commission’s fare proposal accomplished that but increases to passenger fares and bicycles with trailers generated the most concern from the public. In response to those concerns, the commission reduced the passenger fare increase in 2017 from 2.5 percent, to 2.1percent. It also applied a fare increase to bikes towing a kayak or canoe; this does not change the fare for bicyclists towing other types of trailers. 

The final ferry fare adjustments adopted by the commission will take effect as follows:

  • October 1, 2017
    • 2.9 percent fare increase for small and standard sized vehicles
    • 0.8 percent to 1.8 percent fare increase for oversized vehicles (22 feet and longer), depending on vehicle size
    • 2.1 percent fare increase for passengers
    • Passengers who bring bicycles towing kayaks or canoes will pay the motorcycle/ stowage fare. All other bicyclists towing items other than a kayak or canoe would continue to pay the same fare as today (bicycle surcharge plus the passenger fare). 
  • October 1, 2018
    • 2.5 percent fare increase for small and standard sized vehicles
    • No fare increase for oversized vehicles (22 feet and longer)
    • 2.1 percent fare increase for passengers
    • School Group passengers fare will increase from $1 per group for a one-way trip to $5 per group for a one-way trip

For more information on the commission, and its ferry fare proposal and fare setting process, please visit the transportation commission’s web site:  www.wstc.wa.gov

wsdot logoOLYMPIA – Approximately $230 million in newly awarded state and federal grants will help more than 80 public-transportation agencies provide better connectivity, sustained service, new buses and other mobility improvements to people in every county of Washington state.

Once the Legislature passed the 2017–2019 budget, the Washington State Department of Transportation notified the grant recipients that they could begin utilizing their funds. These grant programs allow public-transportation providers to improve services to people with special needs, seniors, veterans and the general public in their communities.

“It is so important that all citizens have the opportunity to remain active and connect with their communities. No matter their age, income or physical ability, access to reliable transportation makes that possible,” said WSDOT Public Transportation Division Director Brian Lagerberg. “These grants give local providers the ability to serve the people who need transportation options the most.”

A wide range of transportation providers received funding for a variety of projects and services. Some of the grant recipients from around the state:

  • San Juan County: $120,000 to offer transportation vouchers for people with special needs.
  • Central Transit: $464,529 to expand services to the general public in Ellensburg.
  • Grays Harbor Transit: $2,085,120 to replace some of its fleet of 35-foot-long buses.
  • Lummi Nation: $586,945 to sustain transit operations between the Lummi reservation and Ferndale.
  • People for People: $2,509,918 to sustain services for persons with special needs and the general public in rural communities in Yakima County.
  • Intercity Transit: $885,000 to replace 40 vanpool vehicles.
  • King County Metro: $1,626,587 to increase service between Renton and Seattle.
  • Spokane Transit: $3,925,000 for high-performance transit improvements and park and ride construction.

WSDOT’s Public Transportation Division administers state and federal grant awards for transit agencies and other service providers across the state. These grants improve public transportation within and between rural communities, provide transportation services between cities, purchase new buses and other equipment, and provide public-transportation services for the elderly and persons with disabilities.