Friday, May 26, 2017

For every tree removed, many new trees replanted

By Victoria Miller
Before any tree is removed as part of a project, we do an
inspection to preserve as many of the existing trees as possible.

We love our green, tree-lined scenery and the Interstate 405 corridor is no exception. However, sometimes our construction projects require us to remove vegetation to make room for new roadway features that will ultimately help travelers and nearby residents. We’d like to let you know about some recent activities on I-405 that require tree removal, and what we’re doing to balance this work.

Starting this spring, construction crews will remove trees in two locations near I-405.

The first location is on our property on the east side of northbound I-405 in Bothell between State Route 527 and I-5. The second is on our property on the southeast side of the northbound SR 167 ramp to northbound I-405 in Renton.

What to expect in Bothell

If you drive on northbound I-405 in Bothell between SR 527 and I-5 during the afternoon commute, you have probably noticed and possibly used our new peak-use shoulder lane, designed to help keep traffic moving more smoothly in this congested area. Another part of this project is building a quarter-mile long noise wall for nearby neighbors.

To make space to build this wall, we needed to remove selected trees on our property east of northbound I-405 between 202nd Street Southeast and Richmond Road. That work started this spring and is scheduled to wrap up by the end of next week depending on weather.

What to expect in Renton

In Renton, we are well under way with our I-405/SR 167 Direct Connector project, which builds a new flyover ramp connecting the I-405 carpool lane to the SR 167 high occupancy toll lane. To make space to build that new structure, we need to move the existing noise wall in this area farther east. As a result, we need to remove selected trees in the Talbot Hill area to make room for the relocated wall and the new road improvements. We expect to start that work in early June.
Some trees need to be removed for a noise wall project on I-405 in Renton but we replace any
trees that we take down as part of a project.

How we keep our roadsides green

We understand that seeing trees come down can be upsetting, and we don’t take this task lightly. We are well aware of both the habitat and aesthetic value that roadside vegetation brings to the traveling public.

Before any tree removal occurs, our environmental specialists walk the project area to complete a strict review process. We work to preserve as many trees as possible, especially older ones. We collaborate with our contractor to make an effort to preserve more trees than the initial amount proposed in their project design. To ensure proper tree management, our contractor identifies and reconfirms all trees they plan to remove before work begins.

Most importantly, for every tree removed, we replant many new trees in the project area.

Our policy requires us to calculate the number of trees to replant based on the diameters of the existing trees’ trunks. For example, we replace trees with trunks greater than four inches in diameter with multiple trees. For smaller trees with trunks less than four inches across, we replant one tree for each tree we remove. We have this policy in place to enhance the state’s quality of life by building transportation investments that promote energy conservation and protect the environment.

We make sure that crews remove only the trees necessary to complete work within the project area. Sometimes we get requests from homeowners to remove additional trees for other reasons, such as to improve their views. We only remove trees and vegetation if necessary for the scope of a project, or if they could pose hazards to drivers or nearby residents.

So if you’re driving along I-405 in the next few months and notice less vegetation in either of these two locations, you can count on us to add far more trees in the project area.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Join us for the Chimacum Community Celebration, June 22!

By Nicola Zanchi

Help us welcome our third Olympic Class vessel, Chimacum, to our ferries fleet by joining us on Thursday, June 22 in Bremerton for a community celebration! This event is free and open to the public.

At the event you’ll get a chance to tour the vessel, hear some live music, there will be activities for kids as well as refreshments to enjoy.

About Chimacum
Chimacum is the third of four Olympic Class ferries that are replacing some of our oldest vessels. Tokitae debuted in 2014 and Samish joined us in 2016. Suquamish is under construction at Vigor’s Harbor Island Shipyard. These vessels carry 144 vehicles and have a variety of improvements over our older vessels, including wider car deck lanes, improved access and safety, increased passenger comfort and a reduction in environmental impact and operating costs.

Getting to the event
We encourage attendees to take public transportation to the event.
  • From Kitsap County: Bus Routes to Bremerton Ferry Terminal include: 11, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26 & 27.
  • From Seattle: The Seattle/Bremerton sailing schedule is available online.
PARKING

There will be no public event parking at the terminal. There are several parking lots within 3½ blocks of the terminal. For more information, visit the City of Bremerton parking web page.

ADA ACCESSIBILITY

We are committed to providing equal access to its facilities, programs and services for persons with disabilities.

For more details on access to the Bremerton Transit Center for disabled passengers please check this Disabled Pick-Up/Drop-off Map.

To request disability accommodations for this event, email the ADA Office at least 10 days in advance at wsdotada@wsdot.wa.gov or call toll free 855-362-4ADA(232). Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing may make a request by calling the Washington State Relay at 711.

Questions?
For more information on the Chimacum Community Celebration, please contact us at wsfcomms@wsdot.wa.gov

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Improvements underway for I-5 exit, crossing in DuPont

By Barbara LaBoe

Drivers at I-5's exit 119 near DuPont and Steilacoom are seeing more green and less red these days.

Changes to the crossing signals and lights led to longer than expected delays when they first went live a couple of weeks ago. Due to unanticipated growth in the area, traffic volumes at this interchange grew much faster than originally predicted in 2012 – we're already at levels not predicted until 2030. As a result, backups were longer than expected and drivers sometimes had to wait through several signals to make it through the intersection. We know this was frustrating and began looking at all possible solutions or remedies.
Revisions to the signal timing on exit 119 off of I-5 near DuPont should
help traffic flow more smoothly through the intersection.

The change in signal timing was part of the larger Point Defiance Bypass rail project, which will reroute passenger train traffic through the area starting this fall. Shortly after the new signals went live, though, it was clear the change was causing frustration. We adjusted the signals to display a green turn arrow more often to help ease congestion and wait times, but knew more work was needed.
An additional signal box like this one will help timing and traffic at exit 119 off of I-5 in DuPont.

Last week we added a second controller at the Barksdale/Wilmington/DuPont-Steilacoom intersection. The controller is what directs the signals, including which color light to display and for how long. A second controller means vehicles are moving through the intersection faster and drivers are seeing longer periods of "green" lights, especially for those vehicles traveling south on DuPont-Steilacoom Road approaching Barksdale.

We're seeing shorter lines and fewer backups in the area, which is good news for everyone using the intersection.

In addition, we're working on traffic/railroad signage revisions to better guide motorists through the intersection and rail crossing. We're also going to restripe the area to better define where vehicles should stop for the crossing.
Adjustments to signal timing at exit 119 off of I-5 near DuPont was meant to help
safety near railroad tracks but led to some significant congestion.

Long-term, we've committed to working with DuPont city leaders on an overall transportation plan for the city as the area continues to grow.

The lights still may require some adjustment for residents, but we hope the alterations we implemented have made that change easier. Safety was the top priority when we met with community leaders about this project starting in 2010, and these changes are designed to address those safety concerns by reducing the chance of collisions.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Weekend-long lane reductions scheduled for northbound I-5 in SeaTac, Tukwila

By Tom Pearce

Our work to #ReviveI5 in South King County is about to ramp up! Since mid-April, crews on northbound I-5 between Kent and Tukwila have been replacing broken concrete panels, grinding the concrete to eliminate ruts, repairing concrete and much more - all while many of us are sleeping.

But some work requires more time than an overnight window can provide. Starting Friday, June 2, we'll begin the first of the project's 10 weekend-long lane reductions. We have eight weekends planned for 2017 and two in 2018. If the weather holds up, here's the six we've schedule so far:
  • June 2-5, 16-19, 23-26
  • June 30-July 3
  • July 7-10, 14-17

The cracker slowly rolls down southbound I-5, breaking the 50-year-old concrete panels.

During the six weekends already scheduled, our contractor will do crack-and-seat paving between State Route 516 in SeaTac and South 170th Street in Tukwila. For each of these weekends:
  • Crews will start reducing lanes at 8 p.m. Friday
  • By 10 p.m. Friday, northbound I-5 will be down to two lanes.
  • Between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. on Friday and Sunday nights, northbound I-5 may be reduced to one lane.
  • By 5 a.m. Monday all lanes will reopen.
Why limit lanes on the weekend?
The simple answer is, there are some things we can't finish during an overnight lane closure. When we do crack-and-seat work, we have to remove a football-field length of concrete panels across two or three lanes at each end of the work zone and replace them with asphalt. You can't dig up that much concrete, then repave with asphalt in a single night.
During southbound work in 2016, crews use a roller to smooth out a section where new asphalt will be paved.

Besides replacing the concrete with asphalt, we have to use a cracking machine with a 12,000-pound blade to break a couple of miles of concrete. Crews then need to compress the pavement with a 35,000-pound roller. Next, we have to put asphalt over the top of that. We did this last year on southbound I-5 in the same area and it took all weekend to finish.

We're still scheduling the last two weekends in 2017. Those will probably be in late summer or fall, when we'll replace four expansion joints on the Duwamish River Bridge.

In the first half of 2018 we'll have two more weekends with northbound I-5 reduced to two lanes as we replace expansion joints on the Interurban Avenue overpass.
It takes a weekend to chip out old expansion joints, place new ones and pour the concrete.

We understand the inconvenience of all this work, but I-5 is more than 50 years old. If we want it to continue serving our families and businesses another 50 years, it needs major preservation work. The weekend-long lane closures allow us to complete parts of the project that need more time.

You can stay updated on work and traffic by checking our construction update page, following our Twitter account, checking our traffic map and downloading our mobile app.

Thanks for your patience!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Holiday travel charts a mix of facts, figures and common sense

by Barbara LaBoe

We know our holiday travel charts are popular – we get requests for them well before most holidays and drivers were disappointed last year when we were unable to produce Fourth of July forecasts.

Our Memorial Day Weekend charts are now out, but how do we make each year’s forecast? Good question.

Start with data, mix in analysis and common sense
The quick answer is a healthy mix of facts and figures with a dash of common sense. Staff in our Travel Data and Analysis office start out with historical traffic data from our roadway traffic sensors, then add in some analysis to improve the forecast.
We know holidays like Memorial Day have heavy traffic, but analysis and common
sense goes into predicting when the heaviest travel times will be.


An example? Last year there was a sudden mid-day dip in congestion on I-90 on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. That didn’t look right to our traffic engineers when they pulled up the numbers this spring, so they did some sleuthing. Turns out there was a large crash which temporarily stopped all traffic. Fewer vehicles moved past our sensors – but only because they couldn’t move, not because there were fewer drivers on the road. Using data from other years, we adjusted the charts to predict the steady congestion we expect to see this year. Without that adjustment, the straight numbers could lead people to think that several hours midday on Saturday will have relatively low congestion, when we expect exactly the opposite to take place.
We know holidays like Memorial Day have heavy traffic, but analysis and common
sense goes into predicting when the heaviest travel times will be.

Once the data is collected and analyzed, staff from our graphics and web teams format the charts so they’re ready to share with the public. We try to release the charts a week before major holidays to give people plenty of time to make plans.

How should I use the charts?
The charts are forecasts of the entire corridor – not an exact spot or milepost. They’re also tools to help in planning, not promises or guarantees. A crash or sudden, bad weather, for example, can change conditions and forecasts rapidly, so be sure you’re always prepared with supplies and check traffic conditions before heading out.

People returning to the west side on Memorial Day should travel
 before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m. to avoid heaviest congestion.
Our traffic engineers suggest looking at the overall trend the charts show and then plan accordingly. The number of vehicles isn’t as important as the overall arch showing heavy congestion times. Is late afternoon and evening looking congested? Consider leaving earlier in the day or postponing travel until late evening or the next morning. If you have to travel during a peak time, recognize there will be lots of traffic and give yourself plenty of extra travel time so you’re not rushing or distracted by watching the clock.

Historically, our forecasts are pretty spot on. But ideally, our analysts hope that by sharing the predictions they’ll actually be proven “wrong.” If enough people adjust plans and travel during non-peak times, they say, it helps everyone travel more smoothly.

Are charts from previous years interchangeable?
We’re often asked why we can’t use last year’s charts for the current year. This is where the human factor and experience play a role. If the Fourth of July is on a Saturday, for example, we might see most people travel on late Thursday/early Friday and Sunday. If the holiday is on a Sunday, though, Friday night/Saturday morning and Monday afternoon become the most popular travel days. Those are things our engineers factor into their predictions.

A fair amount of traffic heads to Canada on the Saturday of
Memorial Day Weekend but traveling early or late will help.
Why don’t you have Seattle travel charts?
We get this question a lot. The answer is that Seattle is large enough that it doesn’t act like a typical traffic corridor because it has too many different ways to get around. Going north/south, for example, you can use I-5, I-405, SR 99 or a variety of city streets. That makes it hard to predict with good accuracy.

Our charts focus on the corridors where we see the most congestion without nearby alternative routes: I-5 from Olympia to Tacoma; I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass; US 2 between Stevens Pass and Leavenworth and I-5 near the Canadian border. In these cases, those routes are essentially the only viable options.

Why can’t you make the charts for every weekend, or my morning commute?
We’re happy the charts are useful enough for people to want them on a regular basis, but it takes a significant amount of time to do the analysis for each holiday – especially researching anomalies – and we don’t have the resources to do that on a regular basis.

Heading back from a trip to Eastern Washington on Memorial Day?
The roughest US 2 traffic will be from 10 a.m. to about 1 p.m.
If you want to do some comparison yourself you can get an idea of area traffic volumes using our Map Archives page, which lets you search by area, date and time of day. It won’t have analysis or as much historical data, but it can give you an idea of typical traffic at a given time.

What about Fourth of July this year?
Normally, we don’t create charts for holidays that fall midweek, including this year’s Fourth, which falls on a Tuesday. There are many more variables about when or if people choose to travel on those holidays. Last year, a glitch in our system prevented us from producing Fourth of July charts, which disappointed many.

So, would Fourth of July charts be helpful this year – with the caveat that the dates people may travel may not be as clear? Or should we stick to charts only on three- or four-day weekends? Leave your comments on this blog or email to: laboeb@wsdot.wa.gov and we’ll use them as we make our decision.