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North Central Region NewsBrief

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July 24, 2015

This North Central Region WSDOT News Brief focuses on Wildfires, building partnerships and some new projects starting soon.

I-90 Fires

I-90 after

Our Columbia Basin maintenance crews were called in to work last Friday morning (their day off) when sparks from a metal saw ignited a fire at Inland Tarp and Cover Co. located three miles west of Moses Lake. The fire closed the freeway for two hours. A propane tank exploded releasing a mushroom shaped fireball and flew a 1,000 feet destroying 11,000 tons of hay.

On Sunday afternoon, a fire of unknown origin caused the crews to leave home again. It started near the metal horses sculpture on the hill above our Echo Basin Overlook across the Columbia from Vantage. Smoke ash and dust from the 500 acre blaze closed the freeway for four hours until 7:30 p.m. The only detour route via SR 26 quickly became overloaded.

The same blaze flared up Monday growing to 900 acres and closing the freeway again. I-90 remained closed through the night between Vantage and George until 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
None of us can recall a closure this long in our section of I-90. Manning those closure points and detour routes in an active fire zone is hot, dangerous and exhausting. I would alsolike to give Kudos to our Traffic Management Center staff working around the clock dispatching crews and equipment, changing electronic signs, webpages, 5-1-1, tweeting and sending out email Highway ALERTS.

Building Partnerships

One of WSDOT's Strategic plan's goals is Community Engagement. The desired outcome is to improve the consent of legislators, stakeholders and the public for the initiatives and projects we are promoting and planning. No one likes to be blindsided and being consulted early; having the opportunity to provide input before the plans are final creates partners not adversaries. To that end, we're holding coordination meetings with City and County officials from all around the region. Our plan is to make these occurrences-proactive-instead of "as needed" as was done in the past.

Okanogan mtg.

On Thursday, Chris Keifenheim and Dave Bierschbach (Project Development and Construction), Terry Berends (Traffic) and Paul Mahre (Local Programs) met with Okanogan County representatives to share the new "Connecting Washington's" projects such as the SR 155 Bridge rehabilitation in Omak and maintenance and preservation work coming (especially bridge repairs on SR 153). At the same time, they told us what their priorities are, such as infrastructure damaged by last year's fire. 

Othello Mtg.

With SR 26 and SR 24 bisecting the Othello community and SR 17 on its east side, Dave Bierschbach, Terry Mattson (Program Management), and Cindy McGlothern (Planning) were invited to participate in a public meeting on Monday that kicked off the process to update the region's transportation plan. The community is looking at growth projections that suggest population increasing by more than a third in the near future. The need for an improved pedestrian trail system, designated freight routes to keep trucks out of downtown and where to get the money were the hot discussion topics in the break out groups.

Methow Trails Logo

Also on Monday, Frank Sblendorio (Utilities), Bill Gould (Plans), and I sat down with Methow Trail's Executive Director, James DeSalvo, to help solve a new trail issue. It involves moving a winter cross country trail onto our SR 20 right of way and off private property for 350 feet as the owner has requested. Methow Trails operates 120 miles of ski and bike trails and has formal agreements with 164 property owners and "handshake" arrangements with six more. WSDOT is one of
the six. The collaboration with James will give us the opportunity to get
everything on paper formalizing what's been going on within our right of way for the past 25 years including a couple trail highway crossings.

Construction continues

Chip sealing is winding down in the Basin and Chelan Avenue will be paved with new asphalt starting next week- thanks for your patience until then.

Chip sealing

You'll be hearing more over the next 2-3 weeks about new projects getting underway. South of Quincy, we're going to put in left turn pockets on SR 281 at Road 9 so turning traffic is protected in their own lane while they wait for through traffic to clear.

We'll be installing new cantilever sign structures, some more new variable message signs and back-up power units (and the concrete sheds to house them) for some mountain pass and other locations in the region so they won't go dark when the power goes out.

We're also fine tuning the US2/97/SR 28/Eastmont intersection to reflect actual traffic flow on the east side of the Odabashian Bridge by restriping the lanes so two of them turn onto Northbound Sunset and only one lane goes up Eastmont, instead of vice versa.

Well House

For those who have driven east on I-90 expecting to use the Winchester Rest Area only to find it closed again with a broken water system-relief is on the way. Wednesday, Area 2 Maintenance Superintendent Kirk Poldervardt hosted an inspection tour for private contractors who planto bid on a water system rehabilitation contract that opens for bidding August 5th. 

Be Safe,

Dan Sarles

Regional Administrator, WSDOT North Central Region

If you have any questions on items in this update, or other transportation issues, please let me know. Call me at (509) 667-3001 or send me an e-mail at: