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March 2014

From the Regional Administrator
Keith Metcalf 

Welcome to our March 2014 newsletter. This month we talk about budget challenges, winter road reports, studded tires, and Snoqualmie Pass construction.

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


Budget challenges

With the legislative session wrapped up, we can report on what the transportation budget looks like. As you may know, the Legislature did not pass a “new revenue” budget during this session. It was hoped that a budget containing new revenue would have provided the full funding to add another series of construction projects connecting the already completed north half of the North Spokane Corridor (NSC) to Interstate 90. The discussed new revenue packages also contained dollars to augment our pavement preservation program that would have allowed us to address many miles of sub-standard asphalt and concrete pavement.

As it stands now, the supplemental transportation budget that was passed essentially keeps the funding consistent with what was anticipated for this biennium for Eastern Region. With this level of funding, our pavement resurfacing program does not keep up with the deteriorating pavement conditions. This is a statewide pavement problem. As for the general roadway maintenance budget, it will remain constant, which allows us to meet our basic repair commitments for items such as potholes, guardrail, signage, snow and ice etc.

We remain hopeful that the Legislature can continue discussions during this year and perhaps take another look at the many transportation needs across the state, one of which is continued design and construction on the North Spokane Corridor. We do have two major NSC projects underway; the Francis Bridge replacement, which should be completed in mid-2014, and the BNSF Rail Realignment which will be finished in 2015. One other NSC job that we are able to build with existing funding is a roundabout at the Freya Street/Wellesley Avenue intersection. That work is anticipated to be underway in 2015.

For the Eastern Region, this means we have no new projects to add to our 2014 construction list (pdf 295 kb).


Eastern Region “lowland” road condition reports end for the season

The Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center (SRTMC) has concluded their seasonal highway road condition reports for the winter. They will post adverse condition reports, if needed. The seasonal winter road reports for the next winter season will resume in mid-November, 2014. For over 15 years, the WSDOT Eastern Region has provided winter road condition reports for many of the non-mountain pass highways in the seven-county area. The reports were updated at least twice a day.

The SRTMC provides traffic alerts for State highways in the Eastern Region and Spokane area local roads 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can access their reports on the WSDOT and SRTMC websites.


Studded-tire deadline looms
By Alice Fiman, WSDOT HQ

The Washington State Department of Transportation reminds drivers to remove their studded tires by midnight, March 31.

Unless WSDOT grants a weather-related extension, studded tires are only legal in Washington from Nov. 1 to March 31. With forecasts the rest of the month calling for temperatures well above freezing in most parts of the state, WSDOT does not plan to extend the deadline.

Crews will keep an eye on forecasts, especially at higher elevations, and will be ready to treat and clear roadways if wintry weather returns. But sooner is better for those closer to sea level, as tire stores get busier as March 31 draws closer.

“If you’re heading to the mountains, always check the forecast and keep emergency supplies and tire chains in your vehicle,” said Chris Christopher, WSDOT Maintenance Operations director. “We often see snow on the peaks and near the passes well into May.”

Under state law, driving with studded tires after March 31 is a traffic infraction and could result in a $124 ticket. More information about using studded tires in Washington is available online.

By the way, each year, our Eastern Region office gets calls from Idaho and Montana residents asking if they can get a “waiver” to enable them to still use their studded tires in Washington. There are no temporary “waivers” for out-of-state residents. (Idaho allows studded tires until April 30 and Montana’s deadline is May 31.)


Major construction delays over Snoqualmie Pass unavoidable this spring if drivers don’t plan ahead
By Meagan McFadden, WSDOT South Central Region

If Mother Nature is true to her promise and starts producing spring-like weather, construction is scheduled to return to Interstate 90 east of Snoqualmie in early April. Drivers need to start planning their trips now in order to avoid major construction-related delays.

Starting April 12, I-90 will be reduced to a single lane in each direction for two weeks, including weekends, in order for the Washington State Department of Transportation and the contractor to build detours in preparation for the 2014 construction season. Crews will also remove the 64-year-old snowshed.

“We can’t stress how important it is for drivers to know before they go and plan ahead before heading out the door,” said Don Whitehouse, WSDOT regional administrator. “During the single lane closures, drivers will need to change their travel plans in order to avoid delays of up to two hours. We suggest you travel early in the morning, go later at night, find an alternate route or postpone your trip until after April 25.”

This work is all part of the $551 million project that builds a wider, safer and more reliable stretch of I-90 from Hyak to Keechelus Dam.

WSDOT and contractor crews will also be working on a number of other projects east of Snoqualmie Pass later this summer to replace deteriorating pavement and improve visibility with new lighting and lane markings with solar-powered light-emitting diodes. Rock blasting also resumes this summer and drivers need to plan for hour-long closures Monday through Thursday starting an hour before sunset.

It’s going to be a very busy construction season over Snoqualmie Pass. In order to get through all the delays and back-ups, WSDOT has a wide variety of tools to help drivers plan ahead including the What’s Happening on I-90, Snoqualmie Mountain Pass and Traffic Alerts Web pages. Drivers can also follow WSDOT on Twitter @snoqualmiepass or sign up for email updates. To help get through the single lane closures in April, drivers can access online travel graphs to find the best times to travel and the worst times to avoid.