February 13, 2014
Welcome to the February North Central Region WSDOT monthly newsletter. This issue includes an update on our 2014 construction season, a new safety device in Tumwater Canyon, a new Leavenworth traffic camera on our website and some new recreation initiatives involving SR 20.
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WSDOT North Central Region
Our 2014 construction season begins right after President's Day - The region's $15.5 million chip seal project, featured in last month's newsletter, gets underway with crack sealing work on Tuesday. www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/ChipSeal/2014NCRSeal/ With more than 200 miles of highway being resurfaced over the next 7-1/2 months, starting all the necessary pre-work while there's still snow on the ground will allow the actual chip sealing to begin by May 1.
There's also a uniquely "urban" project starting in about three weeks on SR 171 in Moses Lake. www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR171/MosesLakePedestrianImprovements/ It is a pedestrian safety project that upgrades four existing pedestrian crossings and installs four new ones along a 3-mile section of Broadway Avenue which has a history of pedestrian/vehicle collisions. In the last five years there have been seven vehicle-pedestrian collisions here. Three of them were fatalities, two produced serious injuries and two more, somewhat lesser injuries. When the project is done, the current crossings will have their flashing beacons replaced with new rectangular rapid-flash beacons (RRFB) at Driggs Drive, Burress Ave., S. Western Ave.and Dogwood St. The existing push buttons will be replaced with audible push buttons to aid the visually impaired. The other four "new" intersections also get RRFB's, audible push buttons and illumination at Melva Lane, Gibby Rd., Gumwood St. and Third Avenue. The new, rectangular RRFB lights have produced 80% to 90% compliance in vehicles yielding to pedestrians at high risk crossings. We are partnering with the City of Moses Lake on this $638,244 Federal Highway Safety Administration-Quick Response Safety Program Grant-funded project.
Recreation is a significant attraction along SR 20 from its beginning on Whidbey Island to its end at the Idaho border. In our region, the North Cascades Highway portion over Rainy and Washington Passes to Loup Loup and Wauconda Passes are considered visual treasures whether viewed from a vehicle, bicycle, snowmobile or on foot, skis or snowshoes. With its national scenic highway designation, it's featured in many publications targeted at drivers, but snow enthusiasts and bicycle promoters are joining the chorus of SR 20's fans.
First, snow enthusiasts: With the less than normal snowfall in December and January on the eastern slopes of the North Cascades, the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association that maintains a network of cross country ski and snowshoe trails approached the Forest Service to add some special provisions to accommodate President's Day weekend guests. Part of the accommodation involved use of portions of SR 20 starting at the Silver Star closure gate. The whole process began Jan. 29 and by Feb. 11 - less than two weeks, an amendment had been drafted and approved addressing everything from vehicle parking, WSDOT maintenance vehicle access, what would be allowed when and by whom as well as insurance riders. As good as everyone felt about the amazing amount of work accomplished between a private local organization, a State and a Federal agency in that short period of time, it didn’t get implemented. The 2+ feet of new snow that fell this week at Mazama provided all the ground cover necessary to use MVSTA's established trail system. Regardless, we were happy to help and we'll all be ready the next time.
Second, bicyclists: As the highway is opened each spring the number of bicycles has continued to grow each year. Recently a national organization called Adventure Cycling, working in conjunction with AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) has taken the lead to develop route designations (essentially a naming or reference system, not standards for development or improvement) for National Bicycle Routes across the U.S. Our Local Programs Office in Olympia has been working with all three WSDOT regions that include part of SR 20. In this region, the City of Okanogan endorsed the designation at their last meeting. We are pleased that if the designation is adopted for SR 20, it will benefit the communities along the route. The designation by itself doesn't include any funding for things like new bike lanes or improvements to existing shoulders or changes in surfacing. However, it could strengthen any applications when competing for funding through programs like the Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program or the State Pedestrian and Bicycle Program.
Closing Tumwater Canyon due to avalanches, fires and construction has become a frequent enough event that we installed permanent drop arm gates at both the top and bottom of the canyon. With the bridge replacement project essentially complete, we could finish installation of the second gate near the Tumwater Campground. The one at the Leavenworth end was installed last year. Crews completed installation of the illumination and gate at the campground, this week. The gates save time and expense with no barricades to have to go get and then set up. They are easily operated by either a single WSP trooper or WSDOT maintenance crew member.
Finally, if you check the WSDOT traffic and roads web page for the map with all the traffic cameras on it, you will find there's a new one in Leavenworth. It's focused on the US 2 intersection at 9th Street (the one that goes down toward Front St. at the east end of the park.) No promises as to when, but we're working to add two more cameras on US 2 in the Bavarian Village.