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October 2012

From the Regional Administrator
Keith Metcalf 

Welcome to our October 2012 newsletter. This month we highlight our winter snow and ice strategies, NSC traffic volumes, and the Adopt-A-Highway program.

You can always find out where construction work is located by checking the Weekly Update on our web site.

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 crews readying for winter road duties

With winter upon us, crews from the Washington State Department of Transportation, Eastern Region, are getting prepared to handle snow and ice control duties. About 200 crew members working two shifts, seven days per week are assigned to the 1,600 miles of state highways in the seven northeastern counties in the state, including Washington’s highest mountain pass - Sherman Pass at 5,575 feet above sea level. The Region snow and ice control cost is about $13.7 million for the two-year budget cycle.

Snow and ice control crews and equipment are based at 20 locations throughout the Region. The crews use nearly 100 truck-mounted snowplows, most of which include a system to spread sand or granular de-ice chemical. The Region also operates 14 liquid anti-ice chemical trucks. When the big snowfalls are combined with high winds, three highway snow blowers are put into service to clear drifts. During our winter shift schedule, which starts in mid to late November, maintenance teams are normally on duty from around 4:00 a.m. to midnight or later. The exact hours of each shift will vary slightly at different locations. If needed during a storm, shifts are extended to provide 24 hour coverage.

Ultimately, drivers are responsible to operate their vehicles in a safe manner during winter road conditions. Most winter collisions result from drivers traveling too fast for conditions or following too closely. This is especially important during the morning hours. It takes our crews about four hours to make the first pass over the full 1,600-mile network each day.

Our highway network is divided into sections and winter snow and ice control is based on our treatment goals (see internet link below). Highways with higher traffic volume, such as Interstate 90, have more frequent treatments than low volume highways in rural areas.

Our crews make every effort to keep the highways open for travel, but weather is always unpredictable so drivers should be prepared for wintery driving conditions at all times.
We have some resources for winter driving on the Internet. Just follow these handy links:

WSDOT Snow and Ice Plan Roadway Treatment Goals  (pdf 1.2 mb)

Winter Driving web page

Winter Driving Guide brochure   (pdf 1.4 mb)

North Spokane Corridor traffic counts way up

Now that the north half of the North Spokane Corridor (NSC) is fully completed, drivers are using the route more and more, with traffic counts nearly triple since the first segment was opened in 2009.
About 11,000 vehicles per day travel on the nearly 6-mile long route. That’s up from less than 4,000 per day in 2009.

Completing the northern half of the NSC helped speed up north/south freight traffic in the Spokane metro area. Drivers on the US 395 corridor now cut up to 20 minutes off their travel time by using the NSC, then connecting to the Market, Greene and Freya route. Drivers only encounter 11 traffic signals instead of plodding along on Division Street through 29 signalized intersections and countless business approaches.
With the north half of the 10-mile corridor complete, the first construction project in the south half of the NSC got started in early October. Graham Construction and Management of Spokane is working on the Francis Avenue Bridge Replacement project, the first component in the NSC between Francis Avenue and Interstate 90. The next project in the pipeline is the rail relocation and trail extension job in the Hillyard area. These are the only projects currently funded for construction.

To date, about $615 million has been allocated for the NSC. An additional $1.3 billion is needed to fully fund all of the remaining work to build the full facility from Francis to I-90. Engineers are working on less costly interim configurations to create a drivable link through the remaining 5-mile section.

Freeman students really clean up

The Future Business Leaders of America Club (FBLA) at Freeman High School in south Spokane County once again did their part in keeping our highways clean. In mid-October they picked up litter along a two-mile stretch of State Highway 27 near their school.
The club is part of the WSDOT Adopt-A-Highway program and has been keeping the roadside along this portion of the highway tidied up since 2008.

Thank you FBLA students for your help.

Any group can sign up for the program. Just visit the Adopt-A-Highway page on the WSDOT website to learn more.