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Eastern Region Newsletter - May 2014

From the Regional Administrator
Keith Metcalf 

Welcome to our May 2014 newsletter. This month we talk about pavement preservation, a new interchange opening, the Keller Ferry, and how we take care of our NSC property.

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: metcalk@wsdot.wa.gov.

Keith Metcalf
Regional Administrator
WSDOT Eastern Region

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Strategic preservation maintains roads and saves money

In response to dwindling preservation funds, a new program to stretch highway paving dollars and keep the highway surfaces repaired is the newest strategy in the WSDOT toolbox.

In our pavement preservation program, highway asphalt pavements are usually resurfaced on a regular schedule with projects planned every 12 to 15 years, depending on the location and condition. WSDOT crews inspect pavements annually, and projects are set up in sections that are several miles long. The existing pavement is usually ground out to a depth between one and two inches, for the full width of the roadway, from fog line to fog line. New asphalt is then placed and the highway is good for another decade or so.

Times have changed, and with less and less money available for highway resurfacing, we needed to find additional ways to preserve state highways.

WSDOT’s response is “strategic preservation.” Because most of the early pavement failure issues begin as small segments, the idea is to repair them first, delaying the programming of a multi-million dollar project over long sections of state highways. WSDOT engineers review the highway pavements every year, look for small segments of failing pavement, create a list of locations, reviewed and approved by Region management, then a specialized maintenance paving crew handles the work.

WSDOT maintenance crews patch small asphalt problems, such as potholes, on a regular basis, but strategic paving is a more extensive fix. Most often, the failed pavement is aligned with the wheel path in only part of the lane; once fixed, the full width paving job is delayed, allowing those paving dollars to be used elsewhere in the system where the small repairs are no longer practical. A small pavement grinding machine is used to remove the top layer of asphalt in narrow strips, usually about 40 inches wide. The length varies, depending on the extent of the damage. A fresh layer of hot mix asphalt is placed in the segment then compacted with a small roller until it is even with the surrounding surface. Other repairs that are considered include crack sealing, chip sealing and rut infill.

Repairing these small segments at a minimal cost allows us to defer the cost of the larger project for two or three years, or perhaps longer. It is a strategic approach to extending our pavement life and put our limited funds into the right places at the right times. This concept does not eliminate the need for a full width and depth pavement project, but instead, helps make our dollars go a little farther in these tight budget times.

As drivers travel over these repaired sections, they will notice a different “look” on the roadway. The asphalt on long, repaired sections may not be the same color as the adjacent pavement and may have a different surface smoothness than the older material next to it.

WSDOT is adopting this new strategy on a statewide basis, so motorists will see more of this nearly everywhere they travel.

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Community to celebrate US 195/Cheney-Spokane Road interchange project

Elected officials, local residents and business leaders will gather with Washington State Department of Transportation officials at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 23, to celebrate the opening of a major highway interchange that will improve traffic flow on US 195 and Cheney-Spokane Road.

The $9.5 million project eliminates turning and cross traffic, reducing the risks of collisions at this busy location. The new interchange also eases commute hour backups at the southeast Spokane connection.

We’re pleased to get this project opened. A number of tragic collisions have occurred at this intersection; this interchange will help prevent those and move traffic more efficiently in this growing Spokane neighborhood.

WSDOT and the contractor, Selland Construction, worked during the past 16 months building the new interchange for the 19,000 drivers who use this state highway, and the nearly 7,000 vehicles that access Cheney-Spokane Road daily.

It’s important for people to be able to use the new interchange. But we aren’t finished just yet. We'll have three of the four on and off-ramps open on May 23. The last piece, the southbound on ramp, can now be built.

Opening the new bridge and three of the four ramps means traffic can move off the temporary intersection, allowing crews to build up the fill material and pave the new southbound on-ramp. While construction is underway on the new southbound on-ramp, drivers will use the Qualchan Road intersection to access southbound US 195.

Following the ceremony and completion of some clean-up items, the northbound on and off ramps, the southbound off-ramp, as well as the overpass bridge will be opened to traffic.

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Crews busy keeping the NSC right of way trimmed up

The growing season is upon us again, and that includes weeds and grass along Interstate 90 right-of-way acquired in preparation for the construction of the North Spokane Corridor connection.

Each year the WSDOT mows weeds, hauls off tons of illegally dumped material, and performs some weed spraying and grading on 125 acres of North Spokane Corridor right-of-way along the north and south side of I-90, and along the west sides of Greene and Market Streets. During the early growing season, a three person crew works up to six days a week constantly cycling through the property until the vegetation growth slows down. Sometimes it only takes a few days after mowing for the property to again start showing signs of overgrowth. However, the crew will be back to trim the vegetation down again. There are occasional periods when mowing work is stopped as the crew members are shifted to help on high priority work such as asphalt paving or bridge repair. However, every attempt is made to get them back onto the mowing as soon as possible. So far this season at least one mowing unit, and more often two, has been operating each work day since early spring.

Efforts to improve the terrain and vegetation on these properties started in 2013. Between mowing and garbage hauling, the crew has been filling in holes and leveling lots, removing dead trees, branches and bushes, weed treating lots that are full of weeds and then hydroseeding to bring back the grass to improve the look and make the property easier to maintain.

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Keller Ferry back in service

The Keller Ferry went back into service at 12:30 p.m., Friday, May 16.

An elusive issue with the computerized steering system on the Keller Ferry vessel, M/V Sanpoil, disrupted regular service on the Columbia River route for seven days.

On Friday, May 9, at about 3:30 p.m., one of the ferry operators reported an anomaly in the steering of the vessel. A supervisor was advised and the vessel was taken out of service.

WSDOT notified the US Coast Guard of the steering issue and they officially removed the vessel from passenger service until the steering system could be inspected by the manufacturer, Rolls Royce. The Coast Guard only allowed the vessel to operate to move the ramp terminals, as needed, to accommodate the frequent lake level changes.

Motorists were advised to use alternate routes. Messages were posted on the advance signs, broadcast on the Highway Advisory Radio station that covers terminal areas, and placed on the Washington state Ferries telephone information system. The Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center sent out a media alert and noted the disruption on its Twitter feed. Also, WSDOT Davenport Maintenance sent out a service disruption notice to their extensive e-mail alert list.

Rolls Royce representatives were on site early Wednesday, May 14 and inspected the vessel. After two days of extensive tests, they were unable to find anything wrong with the steering systems. Rolls Royce reported this to the Coast Guard, and the vessel was approved to return to service. The Coast Guard did put a restriction in place that no operation would be allowed in winds 30 knots (45 mph) or greater.