WSDOT works with event organizers to help with special events that take place within the highway right-of-way. Following the steps below will allow you to tap into WSDOT’s resources and expertise, and communicate information about your event with the Washington State Patrol (WSP). It also helps you provide a safe and enjoyable experience for your event's participants.
WSDOT and EMS provides support during the OBLITERIDE race (The ride to end cancer). Photo Credit: Chris Parvin
Special events conducted on state highways may include parades, filming, organized bicycle or pedestrian events, or other types of activities that may impact highway operations. Conducting events safely on state highways is enhanced by cooperation between the event organizer, WSDOT and WSP.
Step One - Application Process
Once you’ve determined that your event will require use of state highways, complete the Special Event Application . Submit the application electronically, or contact your nearest WSDOT Regional Traffic Office below to obtain a hard copy of the form.
It’s best to submit the form as early as possible in the planning process, typically 60-90 days prior to your event.
Regional Contact Information
Step Two - Department Review
The regional representative will review the information you’ve submitted. During this process, they may contact you for more information. The representative will:
- Review the proposed route and gather information about any construction or maintenance projects that may create specific challenges or conflicts
- Analyze the impact the event may have on roadway operations
- Examine your traffic control plans for compliance with state and federal standards
- Determine whether participants in the event will follow the Rules of the Road contained in state law (RCW 46.61)
WSDOT will make a determination about using the highway for your event based on the type of activity, number of participants, proposed route along state highways, and any other elements that would increase the chance of an incident during the event. The regional representative will get back to you with a response or request for additional information within two weeks.
Step Three - Working Together
If WSDOT determines your event has no impact on highway operations, requires no special traffic control, and that all participants will follow the Rules of the Road, you will receive a Letter of Acknowledgement (pdf) along with copies of all pertinent traffic laws. We inform you about construction projects along your route, and will also notify WSP about your event; that way WSP can keep an eye out for your group along the highway.
If WSDOT determines that your event impacts roadway operations, requires special traffic control, requires use of state forces or materials, or will conflict with the Rules of the Road, the event will require a Letter of Agreement . (pdf) WSDOT will contact you. The Letter of Agreement has no application fee and consists of several components, including a liability section which contains “hold harmless” and liability insurance coverage information.
Additionally, with a Letter of Agreement, each event type will have an attached Exhibit further describing the specific procedures governing the event.
Filming on State Highways
A Letter of Agreement (pdf) is used to administer this type of special event. Filming companies are requested to contact the Washington State Film office to begin the special event approval process.
WSDOT supports and encourages bicycle events except where prohibited by law. Bicycles are vehicles under state law. Bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as other vehicles, subject to the requirements imposed by law. Many bicycle events, such as club rides that occur daily throughout the state or others because of their size, routes, or extent of use of state highways, are not considered a special event. The following link gives further detail through the WSDOT Bike Event Policy .
Competitive Bicycle Races
Competitive bicycle races are handled in a different manner than recreational or touring events because of their nature and logistical requirements. Competitive bicycle races are allowed under procedures provided in the Bicycle Racing Guidelines . The Bicycle Racing Guidelines document features uniform procedures that facilitate safe races with minimal interference to traffic.
These special events include running or walking events and are allowed by state law only on non-interstate highways. Depending on the route and particulars of the event, either a Letter of Acknowledgement or Agreement is used.
Many communities sponsor parades or festivals and wish to use a portion of the state highway through the town. These events generally close a portion of the state highway and therefore require a Letter of Agreement which includes a traffic control plan for any necessary detour.
Other Special Events
WSDOT receives many fascinating requests for the use of state highways and works with event organizers to facilitate these where laws, safety and highway operations concerns allow. These special event requests are considered on a case by case basis.
WSDOT provides the following services and support for your event at no cost:
Coordination with the Washington State Patrol
- Review Traffic Control Plans
- Some Regions have temporary traffic control signs that can be loaned out for specific events
- Use of Changeable Message Signing where available and appropriate as determined by WSDOT
- Maps and other informational brochures
- Coordination of routine maintenance sweeping with your event’s schedule
- Current highway construction & maintenance updates
- Identification of alternate routes if needed
In addition, WSDOT and WSP can provide the following services and support for your event at standard rates:
- Traffic control operations
- Event specific highway sweeping
- Traffic control plan expertise
Step Four - Appeal
If your group or organization’s special event is denied use of the state highway or you do not agree with the need for a Special Event Letter of Agreement, you may appeal the decision. The letter of appeal should be submitted to the State Traffic Engineer within 30 days of the denial and no less than 14 days before the scheduled event. Send the appeal to:
Washington State Department of Transportation
Attn: State Traffic Engineer
P.O. Box 47344
Olympia, WA 98504-7344