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Eastern Region - Newsletter - July 2014

From the Regional Administrator
Keith Metcalf 

Welcome to our July 2014 newsletter. This month we talk about the Sanpoil, highway construction, and campaign signs on highway right of way.

As always, if you have any questions on items in this newsletter, or other transportation issues, please let me know. Give me a call at (509) 324-6010 or drop me an e-mail at:

Keith Metcalf
Regional Administrator
WSDOT Eastern Region


New ferry vessel nearing her one-year anniversary

Ferry vessel Sanpoil

Our new vessel on the Keller ferry route, the M/V Sanpoil, is nearing her first anniversary of service. The Sanpoil has been plying the route, crossing the Columbia River, since August 14, 2013.

With over 12,000 crossings, the Sanpoil is just getting her sea legs. The Department expects that this boat will be in service for most of this century, just like her predecessor, the Martha S.

Overall, our customers like the new vessel. Of course, the boat is a little faster and the crossing time has been reduced by a few minutes. But most riders appreciate the smoother ride and larger capacity. With room for almost twice as many passenger vehicles, the Sanpoil really shines on a busy summer holiday weekend. In the past with the old Martha S. and her capacity for only 12 cars (or one tractor-trailer combination), traffic could back up well over a mile, adding hours to vacationers travel time. Now, with the 20-car capacity Sanpoil, drivers are rarely left waiting on the shore for the next trip.

Truckers are also discovering the advantages of the new vessel. The Sanpoil can haul a tractor/trailer combination of 105,500 lbs., up from just 80,000 lbs., (plus a few cars). This is a big advantage for shippers traveling up to Ferry County, Republic and Canada, avoiding the expense of climbing over Sherman Pass on SR 20, Washington State’s highest mountain pass at 5,575 feet in elevation.

The first year hasn’t been without some challenges. As with every new vessel design and construction, there is always a “shakedown” period where problems are discovered and crews gain experience in operating a completely different boat.

One of the very first challenges was matching the loading ramp terminals, (built in 1981 for the Martha S.), to the new vessel. Because the budget didn’t allow for new terminals, the existing ramps had to be modified to match the higher car deck. The Sanpoil was built to current U.S. Coast Guard standards which require more internal sealed compartments to ensure the vessel remains afloat should more than one compartment take on water. As a result, the Sanpoil deck is several feet higher than the previous vessel and the ramp angles were steeper. A few vehicles with extremely long overhangs or very low-riding suspension would scrape as they transitioned the ramps. It took a while to get the ramps adjusted, (a process that had to wait until the new vessel was in service and vehicles of various weights and sizes were loaded) to determine the proper flotation for the terminals and the best balance of vehicle locations on the car deck.

Another challenge was how windy conditions affected the new vessel. As mentioned above, the required flotation makes the vessel rest higher in the water. Another design aspect was the need for the pilot to see both sides of the boat while under way. On the old Martha S., with a side-mounted pilot house, if there was a large truck on board, the pilot’s vision was obscured. New design standards require 360 degrees of view for the pilot and that is made possible with the overhead pilot house. This adds to the higher vessel profile and makes the Sanpoil a little more challenging for the pilot. While underway, high winds up to 40 or 50 knots may make the boat lean a bit, but it easily compensated for by the operator. Landing and holding steady at the dock, especially on the north shore, is a bit tougher when the wind is howling. The pilot has to make sure the vessel stays aligned with the ramp to ensure safety when vehicles are loading and unloading. High winds in the river canyon have resulted in some service disruption over the past year but, as the pilots gain in experience, those incidents are becoming a rarity.

Another service disruption was due to a pesky leak from an internal water line. At first, when the crew noticed water in one of the tiny compartments under the car deck at the bow, it appeared to be a leak in the hull. Only after a close inspection of the very small and dark compartment, reached only through a 12-inch square access hole in the internal framing, did they discover the water was coming from a pinhole in a water line, spraying on the inside of the hull. The pipe was repaired and has been trouble-free ever since.

Overall, we are pleased with the Sanpoil and look forward to many years of continued use. For more information on the Sanpoil, visit the Keller Ferry web site.

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Construction Project Updates

There is still a lot of highway construction work to finish up before our crews and the contractors call it quits for the 2014 season. Here are a few highlights:

Asphalt paving work on I-90 between Barker Road and the Idaho border is in full swing with the major roadwork taking place between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays. Paving is also underway on I-90 west of Spokane between Salnave Road and the Lincoln County line.

Other major paving projects that are under way include US 2 west of Spokane from I-90, through Airway Heights out to the Espanola Road intersection. There is also paving underway on US 2 north of Spokane from Westwood Road to the Pend Oreille County line. Work on these jobs is also planned for evening and overnight hours.

Contractor crews are finishing up the final touches on the paving project on SR 904 between Cheney and Four Lakes and the paving work on I-90 in Adams County.

The 2014 Chip Seal project involves work on 80 miles of rural highways. As of this writing, (July 16) work is underway on a 38-mile section of SR 25 from Davenport to Fruitland and crews are ramping up for work on SR 20 between Usk and Newport in Pend Oreille County.

To keep up with our projects on a weekly basis, check out our Construction Update information on our web page.

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WSDOT reminds campaigners to check regulations for legal sign locations

(Reprinted from the June 24, 2014 WSDOT media release)

Candidates and their supporters are reminded by the Washington State Department of Transportation that campaign signs are not allowed in the state highway right of way.

Because it’s not always easy to know the boundaries of a state highway right of way, here are a few clues: Utility poles are typically located inside the right of way; so no signs between the pole and the state highway. Many locations also have a fence line separating the right of way from private property. Signs are not allowed between the fence and the state highway.

Under the Washington Administrative Code 468-66, temporary political signs are allowed on private property visible from state highways. However, the property owner must consent and the sign must comply with the WAC, as well as any local regulations.

Campaign signs on private property visible from the state highways must also meet the following requirements: Maximum size of 32 square feet in area. Remove within 10 days following the election.
Local municipalities might also have additional regulations, which could differ from city to city and county to county.

Questions about determining the boundary lines for a state highway right of way can be directed to: WSDOT Outdoor Advertising Specialist Pat O’Leary at or by calling 360-705-7296. Be prepared to provide the state route number (Interstate 90, State Route 28, US 2, US 195, etc.) and the name of the nearest intersection or approximate highway milepost.