Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Tell us your incident response stories

By Mike Allende

Many of us have been there at some point. Stranded on the road after a collision, or maybe because of a flat tire. Maybe you thought you had enough gas in your tank to make it, only to find out, well, you didn't.
Our Incident Response Team does everything from helping out at collisions
to assistant stranded drivers with some gas, a push or a tire change.

It can be a scary situation to find yourself stuck with traffic whizzing by. Fortunately, between our Incident Response Team and our maintenance crews, we have people available to help. Recently we've gotten emails from drivers letting us know they were helped out of stressful situations when our crews changed a tire, jump start a vehicle or simply provided some calming words and traffic control to help the person off the highway.

April is Work Zone Safety Awareness month, when we put extra effort into letting the public know what they can do to help keep all road workers safe. We have a lot planned, but we also want to hear from you.
Providing traffic control is one of the ways our Incident Response Team helps
create a safe environment on the highways for drivers and road crews.

Have you been helped out by a member of our IRT or maintenance crew? We want to hear your stories. What was the situation? What did they do?

If you have something to share, please email allendm@wsdot.wa.gov. Help us work toward making the highways as safe as possible for all road workers.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Testing… testing one, two

By Craig Smiley

If you have traveled through the Canyon Park area recently, you may have noticed some changes to northbound Interstate 405. It’s all related to our new project, which we mentioned back in January, to add general purpose capacity to northbound I-405 between State Route 527 and I-5.

With signs installed, testing of our new I-405 peak-use shoulder lane begins this week.

Since then, work on the I-405 Northbound Peak-Use Shoulder Lane Project has been progressing. Crews recently finished installing four sets of electronic signs that, when the project is complete, will indicate when the shoulder lane is open to drivers and display messages about traffic conditions ahead.

Now it’s time to start testing.

This is only a test
Starting as soon as Wednesday, March 29, the signs will start displaying symbols such as different colored lines and shapes, and several test messages. These test messages will run until the lane is ready to open for use by traffic later this spring.  As this will be the first dynamic peak-use shoulder lane in the state, we are not only testing the signs individually to make sure they work but are also testing all the signs together to make sure the system will operate as planned once we open the lane.

Once the lane is fully operational, here’s what you will see on the signs over the peak-use shoulder:

Symbols on the signs over the peak-use shoulder.

  • A green arrow will indicate when the lane is open to traffic
  • A red “X” will indicate the lane is closed
  • Yellow arrows will indicate when drivers should start to merge out of the lane or use extra caution because of an incident ahead
An additional sign mounted on the side of the signpost may display information about traffic conditions, such as:
  • Shoulder Open 
  • Shoulder Closed 
  • Shoulder Blocked 
  • Shoulder Work Ahead 
  • Incident in Shoulder Ahead 
  • Slow Traffic Ahead 
What if there’s a crash?
Some of you have been asking what happens in the event of a crash. We have worked with our partners at the Washington State Patrol to develop emergency protocols. As with all highway operations, our Traffic Management Center will be actively monitoring the lane. If there is a collision or emergency, we will be able to close the lane to allow emergency services to respond. There will also be four paved emergency pullouts in the area of the peak-use shoulder lane.

Stay tuned for more information about the exact opening date for the new peak-use shoulder lane, which is on track for completion this spring.

Friday, March 24, 2017

All in a night's work

Crew comes to stranded motorist's aid on SR 7


By Mike Allende

All Rhonda Long wanted to do was get home.

Traveling back from Yakima and well into an already 13-hour day, she turned north onto SR 7 in Morton on the very rainy night of March 9. With 100 miles to go before reaching her home in Port Orchard and a slow ride over US 12 behind her, Rhonda was ready to be off the road and safely through her front door.

And then she hit a pothole.

She pulled over to assess any damage but it was 8:15 at night in a driving rain, not ideal conditions to get a good look at her tire. Fortunately for Rhonda, Marty Wilkinson and Jack Thomas, maintenance technicians in the southwest portion of our state, were in the area.

Jack Thomas and Marty Wilkinson

Jack and Marty were in the area fixing potholes on SR 7 and came upon Rhonda and another driver about 5 miles north of Morton. Both had hit the pothole and found themselves on the side of the highway. After helping the first driver with his tire and jumping his dead battery, they moved on to help Rhonda.

"It was very dark and raining very hard but the first thing we think of is to keep the public, ourselves and our coworkers safe," Marty said. "We use our amber strobe lights to hopefully slow down traffic and that helps us all out."

Adding to her problems, the wheels on Rhonda's vehicle also sank into the mud as rain pelted them all. But our crew was able to help get a spare tire put on and move the vehicle out of the mud, and soon Rhonda was on her way.

"I cannot express how grateful I am for Jack's and Marty's help in getting safely off the road and out of the mud," Rhonda said. "I was able to get back on the road from that point! Exhausted, but home!"

It was just in a night's work for Marty, Jack and the rest of our hard-working road crews. Not only do they put forth great effort to keep our highways safe, they also are always available to help out drivers in need, regardless of conditions. Jack and Marty went on to spend the night fixing more potholes along SR 7 with traffic control help from the Washington State Patrol.

These workers don't look at these situations as anything special. But,  but for people like Rhonda, who find themselves in need on dark, rainy nights, help from our crews and other road workers make a huge difference. Thanks for your service, Marty and Jack!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Washington State Ferries’ summer schedule cover contest

With summer just around the corner, it's time to leave the passenger cabin for sunnier skies on the sun deck!


By Nicola Zanchi

Calling all high school students. We're looking for a sunny new look for our summer 2017 sailing schedule.

Summer is our busiest sailing season, as millions of tourists and locals flock to our ferries to spend time on the water. Whether it is yoga on the sun deck, riding a bicycle aboard for a two-wheeled island adventure, or taking in the sights from the pickle fork, summer on the ferry is an unforgettable experience.

High schoolers are invited to send us their best drawing of what “Summer sightings on the ferry” means to them.

School's out for summer

As Alice Cooper crooned, school's out for summer – or will be soon – and high schoolers, we want you to indulge your summer break daydream and participate in our summer schedule cover contest! Students currently in grades 9-12 have until early April to create and submit original artwork based on the theme "Summer sightings on the ferry."
Alexander Sowers, a 13-year-old
from Seattle, won our 2017
spring sailing schedule
drawing contest with
this image.

This summer we will print more than 985,000 ferry schedules with the selected cover art and distribute them across our 10 ferry terminals and 22 vessels that make up our fleet. With more than eight million passengers travelling aboard our ferries last summer, just think of all of the people who will see your artwork!

CONTEST RULES

Who is eligible?

All students currently in grades 9-12 are eligible and invited to participate in this contest. Submissions will be accepted beginning Wednesday, March 22. The contest ends Monday, April 10. No submissions will be accepted after that date.

What are the submission requirements?
  • Dimensions:
    • Electronic: Submissions must be 300 dpi or higher, and portrait oriented. Submissions cannot exceed 16 MB.
    • By Mail: Submissions must be on 8.5 x 11 paper, and portrait oriented.
  • Media: We welcome a variety of media, both designs produced by hand and computer graphic design.Submissions must be in black and white. Color submissions will not be accepted. Artists are encouraged to use bold, strong lines.
  • Original artwork: All work must be original and include a ferry or elements of a ferry (i.e. life ring). No copyright images, text or other material will be accepted. (For example, artwork depicting characters from television shows, video games or books is not allowed).
  • Ownership: Artist submissions shall be treated as being free of restrictions and limitations to their use. By submitting artwork, you give ownership to WSF and authorize WSF to post your entry on our website indefinitely, and grant WSF the right to use, print and publish your design.
  • Deadline: All submissions must be received by Survey Monkey or mail by Monday, April 10.


Our summer schedule drawing contest is open to anyone in grades 9-12.

How do students submit their artwork?
  • Electronic: Submissions must be entered via Survey Monkey. Please fill out the form with contact information and upload the artwork by Monday, April 10.
  • By Mail: Submissions must be received by Monday, April 10. All submissions should include a note with the student's name, age, grade, school, and the best phone number and email to contact them. All hard copy submissions should be sent to the following address:

    Washington State Ferries
    ATTN: Communications Staff Aide
    2901 3rd Ave. Suite 500
    Seattle, WA 98121
  • Please note: Each student may only submit one entry.
Who will select the winning artwork?

A panel of judges from the WSF executive team will review entries. A winner whose work best depicts the theme of "Summer sightings on the ferry" will be selected. Entries will be judged on creativity, originality, clarity of theme and artistic merit.

What do I win?

Five finalists will be selected and featured on the WSF website, on the WSF Twitter, and in the WSF weekly update. From those finalists, the winning artwork will be chosen to be featured on the 2017 WSF summer sailing schedule.

Questions? Contact us at wsfcomms@wsdot.wa.gov

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The imperfect storm: How we worked to clear the I-405 semi-truck crash in Bellevue

By Harmony Weinberg

Morning commuters, we understand your frustration. Whether you were late for work, school or appointments on this dreary Wednesday, sitting in traffic could not have been any fun.

So what happened, exactly? Why did it take more than four hours to clear the semi-truck that crashed and rolled over on northbound I-405 in Bellevue? On top of that, why did traffic clog up on I-5 and I-90? Let's get right to your questions.

What happened?
Just after 5 a.m. Wednesday, March 15, a semi crashed into the barrier between the northbound I-405 lanes and the off-ramp to Northeast 4th and Northeast 8th streets in Bellevue, splitting the trailer in half. Tons of boxes packed with clothes and paper products went pouring onto the roadway. The impact of the crash also ruptured the truck's gas tank, spilling nearly 100 gallons of diesel.

We worked with the Washington State Patrol to close all lanes of northbound I-405 for approximately an hour before opening two lanes. Then, the real work began: It was time to clear the truck and clean up the mess.

What does it take to clear a crashed semi-truck?
Clearing a split semi-truck trailer and its cargo and leaking diesel is no easy task. Not only did we need to safely secure the area and set up traffic control, we also needed to get all the right people and equipment there so we could clear the scene and get traffic moving again.

Setting up a safe work zone
  • Our overnight maintenance crews rushed to the scene to help WSP with traffic control.
  • Our first priority was to keep drivers away from the debris in order to keep them safe and avoid any secondary collisions.
  • It was also crucial to create a safe work zone for our crews so they could do the cleanup work.
Getting equipment and workers to the scene
  • It took careful coordination to get the right equipment and the right people to the scene.
  • Get a load of this: Crews on scene needed to get a giant tow-truck, designed to haul semis; giant flatbed trucks that could carry the two halves of the trailer; and a loader to remove all the debris.
  • The Department of Ecology (DOE) sent a crew to inspect and clean the spilled diesel, which can present both safety and environmental hazards.
Clearing the truck and the debris
  • Crews used the loader to push the debris off the freeway and onto the exit ramp so we could get all lanes of I-405 moving again.
  • We were able to reopen all lanes of traffic just before 9:30 a.m. However, we kept the exit lanes closed while we loaded the spilled cargo into empty trucks by hand and then haul it away.
  • At the same time, the DOE crew cleaned up the spilled diesel.
  • Maintenance crews also had to fill orange barrels with sand in order to create a temporary barrier between the exit and the freeway.
Why was traffic so bad everywhere?
You probably noticed while stuck in traffic that it was pouring down rain. Combine that with the crash, and you get a ripple effect on traffic throughout the area. Then, throw in the inconvenience of this happening during rush-hour conditions. Top it off with only two lanes open on a very busy northbound I-405 and traffic diverting to I-5 and city streets and, well, you have a big influx of congestion just about everywhere in the area. Call it the imperfect storm.

Our Traffic Management Center worked quickly to alert travelers of the closure on our overhead messaging signs. Our communications team turned to social media right away to let people know before they hit the road so they could avoid the area and take alternate routes.

Thank you!
We want to thank all of you affected by today's snarled roads, and for staying engaged about the changing traffic conditions while our hard-working crews and all of the first responders worked to clear the scene and get you moving again. Many of you turned to our social media accounts to learn more about the situation.

This is a good reminder to prepare yourself, your passengers and your vehicles for the possibility that you could get stuck in a traffic jam at any given time. It's always a good idea to have water, snacks, entertainment for the kids and blankets in your vehicle.

Final words of wisdom: If your gas tank is half-full, it's also half-empty – you should fill it up.