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Monday, July 18, 2011
Lisa Copeland , Region Communications Manager, 360-357-2789
OLYMPIA – Quick action by military, state and local agencies to fix a traffic problem that backed up drivers 11 miles for days earned a regional award for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
WSDOT won the “Innovative Management” award for the 2011 America’s Transportation Award competition hosted by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). The award recognizes WSDOT’s ability to quickly resolve sudden daily traffic jams that began Sept. 7, 2010, on Interstate 5 from Thurston County to Pierce County.
In a letter to Washington Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond announcing the award, John Horsley, AASHTO executive director, said, “All of the America’s Transportation Awards projects have made a difference in their communities, and your project is truly deserving of this honor.”
The 50-year-old stretch of I-5 has been showing its age and nearing capacity for the past decade. Population has boomed in north Thurston and south Pierce counties, businesses are thriving, and traffic to the military bases grew as troops returned from deployment and as Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force combined operations in 2010.
Seemingly overnight Sept. 7, traffic was simply too much. Previous fixes gave way and the system that moves 68,000 vehicles on the busiest highway in the state broke down, tripling drive times and leaving northbound morning commuters with sudden 11-mile backups.
Within weeks, a collaborative effort by WSDOT, cities, the Federal Highway Administration and military leaders at Joint Base Lewis-McChord agreed on a solution to alleviate congestion and give drivers their time back.
Interchanges at military gates were improved with better alignment and better-timed traffic signals, never-before-opened gates were unlocked so military personnel could access the military base, and enhanced tools such as Incident Response were quickly deployed to combat the congestion. Each agency’s flexibility and willingness to participate led to the success of this project.
“Working collaboratively on the congestion problem in north Thurston and south Pierce counties shows our commitment to keeping traffic flowing smoothly on our highways,” Hammond said. “Winning this award honors the hard work we do every day and we’re proud to receive it.”
Traffic mobility is high on WSDOT’s list of priorities and falls within the strategies of its Moving Washington program. The agency uses myriad tools to provide effective and efficient transportation to enhance Washington’s economy, environment and quality of life. Tools include ramp meters, traffic cameras, flow maps, coordinated signal timing and partnering with local jurisdictions. All these tools are designed to improve travel times, reduce collisions, reduce gas emissions, and provide reliable travel times for motorists, freight, and transit.
America’s Transportation Awards were created to celebrate transportation improvements delivered by state departments of transportation on time, on budget and using innovative management.
To learn more about the AASHTO awards, visit www.americastransportationaward.org/.
For more information about how WSDOT and its partners are working together to alleviate congestion between SR 510 in Thurston County and SR 512 in Pierce County, please visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/i5/ftlewismcchordtransportation/.
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