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North Central Region NewsBrief

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This just in:

SR 20, the North Cascades Highway has been tentatively scheduled to reopen between Newhalem and Rainy Pass on Sunday, August 30.

August 28, 2015

In this issue: 

  • Wildfires
  • Silver Alert
  • Showing Off!
  • Construction Winding Down

Construction is winding down

The Chelan Avenue paving project contractor is raising the last of the utility covers this coming week and will be applying the permanent plastic pavement markings. The plastics require cool pavement so there’s also night work to do the applications on the Basin chip seals (SR 17, 28 & the 281 spur). Our back up power installation project is on hold until the fire protection level drops below 4. Rain should help. And those new left turn lanes at Rd. 9 NW on SR 281 outside Quincy may be done by Tuesday. 
Check here to see the weekly construction update if you want all the details.

Showing Off Local Agency Projects in Our Region!

Chief Joe Bridge

Last week, Kathleen Davis, WSDOT’s Director of Local Programs, was in the North Central Region to review two projects that were nominated for an Excellence Award. The projects were in Moses Lake - “Heron Bluff Trail” and Oroville -“Central/Cherry Street Improvements”. That alone created a logistical challenge for our Local Programs Engineer, Paul Mahre, to see both in one day. Fortunately the long drive provided an opportunity to show her active or completed projects in Soap Lake, Bridgeport, Brewster, Omak, and Tonasket. The highlight of the trip was a stop at the site of the reconstruction of Chief Joseph Bridge in Douglas County near Bridgeport. When completed this structure will have the longest concrete free span girders (240 feet) among all local agencies in the State. WSDOT has only one with a longer span, the Manette Bridge in Bremerton is 10 feet longer. The trip was not without some drama – They got detoured near Riverside by the fire that closed US 97 in Okanogan County. Kathleen and Paul made It back safely just before several other state highways closed behind them!

What is a Silver Alert?

Silver Alert

Amber Alerts have helped to find many abducted children and now help is on the way for families searching for missing senior members. Starting yesterday motorists may see a new alert message on Washington’s electronic highway signs.

The new Silver Alert messages will be for endangered missing people who are 60 years or older. Previously, those messages were handled as Endangered Missing Person alerts, which are for anyone who could be in danger due to age, health or mental or physical disability and those alerts will continue for people younger than 60.

Once confirmed by the Washington State Patrol, the WSDOT will display Silver Alerts on electronic variable message signs on highways and may also include the information on highway advisory radio messages and the 511 system. Drivers who see the vehicle described in the alert should notify law enforcement by calling 911.

Silver Alerts join the AMBER Alerts and Blue Alerts (for suspects in attacks on law enforcement officers). A Silver Alert, however, will not automatically ring your cell phone. The new alert was created by the Legislature during the past session to aid in the search for missing seniors.

Wildfire stories you’d never hear

Closing Highways is not always easy as this pair can attest.  (L-R) Area 3 maintenance techs David Averill, Brian Jenn and friends… 
David Averill and Brian Jenn and friends

Manning a highway closure barricade can be a little challenging when interfering with people's travel plans.
To reduce tensions, Electric City Supervisor Bob Martin persuaded the National Guard to assign parking spots for some Humvees at several of the highway closure barricades. It worked. Good manners prevailed.

Can you hear me now?

Goat Peak before

There are two microwave communications towers at a site about 2 miles west of Alta Lake on Goat Mountain. One is ours, the other, the State Patrol’s. Both in the path of a fire.

We have great appreciation for our friends. In this case the US Forest Service.

Our communications specialists got the OK from the fire fighter in charge there to go up to our site and were asked to mark any trees that should be removed if the fire continued to advance, promising to take them down the next morning.

At the site, they found the fire fighters had already cut the two big trees under our dishes, cleaned all the weeds and stuff under the building, cut all the underbrush around the site and were in the process of chopping the big trees up and spreading the debris out away from the site. They also made several fire rings around the site to keep the ground fire from advancing to the towers. 

Goat Peak during

The fire burned all the way up to the site in the grass and a little bit of wind could have moved the fire up in the two trees. They saved this site from going up in flames. 

Goat Peak after

Fiber Fix

Then, it was our turn to help. Later in the week, that same communications team answered the call when word came to them that the fiber connection to the Okanogan 9-1-1 center was in the fire’s path. Without it the Center would not be able to take 911 calls and they would lose communications to the Emergency Operations Center which was managing the firefighting. Our team worked late into the night establishing a back-up for the Center utilizing our microwave relay towers from Okanogan to Wenatchee. While the fiber system never did fail, no one dialing 9-1-1 would have ever known.

If you want to help, here are local charities providing aid to our fire crews and fire victims:

Dan Sarles, 

Regional Administrator, North Central Region

If you have any questions about this update, or any other transportation issues, please call  (509) 667-3001 or send me an e-mail:

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