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North Central Region Newsletter - December 2013

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December 2013

Welcome to our December 2013 newsletter. This one focuses on the transition between our two "seasons" - construction and winter, but there are also some signs changing in your neighborhood.

Signs, first:

On SR 17 just north of Moses Lake, the speed drops from 60 to 50 MPH about two-thirds of a mile earlier than before. The 50 MPH zone now includes the construction/concrete company entrance. There are more vehicles entering and exiting through this area and our studies show the average speed decreased near Airway Dr. from 58 to 53, making 50 MPH appropriate there.

Also on SR 17 in Grant County, but way up at the county line at Bridgeport, the speed limit past the State Park entrance and across the bridge drops from 60 to 50 MPH, about four-tenths of a mile earlier. Again, it’s due to more turning vehicles, the narrowness of the bridge, our speed study and WSP consultation.

In Chelan County on US 2 above Tumwater Campground, the 50 MPH speed limit is extended one-third of a mile further west after our study and input from the State Patrol.

Watch for these new speed limit signs.

There are also some other new signs that say "Sidewalk Closed" being installed due to deteriorating concrete supports on a pair of Methow River Bridges on Hwy. 153. The bridges are located roughly three and four miles south of Carlton.

Winter construction shutdowns:

Two projects have been put to bed for winter including the US 2 Stevens Pass West Slope Stabilization project where MidWest Rockfall crews have been clearing, scaling, rock bolting and hanging steel netting on four unstable slopes for the past two summers - A few more weeks of work will complete this $5.5 million project next year.

The US 2 Tumwater Canyon Bridge Replacement project replaced three old bridges - Drury Canyon Creek, the Wenatchee River and Chiwaukum Creek. The construction is done and removal of the old green bridge and its concrete footing next summer will complete Selland Construction's work on this $8.5 million project.

As traffic volume dropped in November we took care of some maintenance which can't happen during tourist or harvest season. We closed the Knapp's Hill tunnel between Entiat and Chelan for three days. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day we detoured traffic off US 97A between Navarre Coulee and Pat and Mike's onto SR 971. That added 8 miles and about 15 minutes to the trip while our electricians performed annual preventative maintenance on the tunnel’s illumination system.

Completed projects:

Several jobs were finished in November including the Region's Sign Update that installed new signs on sections of eight highways including I-90 between Vantage and Warden, SR 281 between George and Quincy, SR 24 between Vernita and Othello and SR 243 from Vantage to Vernita.

Another project between Wheeler and Nelson Roads on SR 17 in Moses Lake solved standing water problems by installing drains in the noise wall.

In Okanogan, Granite Construction crews finished a $2 million project on US 97 adding two way left turn lanes at Oak St. and at the Cameron Lake/Armory Jct. Rd. (The new street lights are back ordered, so they'll go up when they get here - weather permitting!)

Thanksgiving week included a milestone event as the SR 28-Eastmont Avenue Extension opened to traffic. Drivers can now bypass Sunset Highway in favor of a new 3.2- mile roadway connecting Eastmont Ave. and the Odabashian Bridge. It diverts traffic from SR 28, reducing congestion. Douglas County has been the lead agency for this $36 million project, funded by the legislature with 2005's (Transportation Partnership Account) 9-½ cent gas tax.

Nearby another project just got started. A groundbreaking was held Nov. 12 at Lincoln Rock State Park for the Apple Capital Loop Trail’s new 5 mile long Rocky Reach Extension.
The trail is being built on WSDOT owned right of way and Chelan County PUD properties under a lease with State Parks. Construction was originally expected to begin back in 1996, but legal challenges took the project to court three times before it was finally allowed to proceed.
Selland Construction is already working on the north mile-long section of the trail. Funding came from grants from WSDOT, State Parks, Chelan PUD and private contributors. Trail backers are raising $150,000 over the winter for the part of the extension that connects to the Loop Trail at the south end. The $3.7 million to build the middle 3.5 miles was included in the state's capital budget bill during the 2013 Session.

Chelan’s first electric car charging station debuted at Campbell's Resort with a ribbon cutting on Nov. 14. It offers a faster charging rate than most other stations in the state that WSDOT has facilitated. It adds 43 miles of range per hour of charge compared to only 18 miles for typical units. It's in the resort’s main parking lot; available for guest and public use and it's free!

From construction to winter:

The Iron Goat Interpretive site 6 miles west of the Stevens Pass summit closed for winter in early November ( )

Exactly a month later winter had captured the lowlands as well - The parking area and access to the Wild Horse Monument on the hill top above I-90, across the Columbia from Vantage closed for the season. ( )

Our Traffic Management Center at Olds Station became a 24 hour/7 day a week operation until next April, and our maintenance staff brought in temporary and seasonal employees to cover the passes around the clock.

The surest sign that we are in winter mode is the closure of the North Cascades Highway. The latest round of wintery weather was the knockout punch that will keep it closed until next spring.
We temporarily closed the highway Sunday, Dec. 1, due to heavy snowfall and high winds. By Tuesday we knew it wouldn't reopen. Slides below just one of Liberty Bell Mountain's avalanche chutes, measured 12 feet deep and 150 feet wide.
Everyone always hopes we can keep it open for Thanksgiving. We made it this year; last year, it closed on Nov. 20.
Here is the link to pictures of the slide. ( )

Happy holidays!
Dan Sarles