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North Central Region NewsBrief

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October 02, 2015

In this issue:

• On the road
• New traffic camera
• Planning for winter
• Construction award

Dan Sarles

Regional Administrator
WSDOT North Central Region

On the road

dual left turn lanes US 2/97 US 2/97/SR 28/Eastmont

Last week I told you the US2/97-SR28-Eastmont Intersection - Dual Left Turn Lane Revision project was complete.

This week I’m going to answer a question asked several times since then. “Why do both lanes go left? How come the center lane traffic can’t go straight too?”

Unfortunately some drivers are answering their own question and ignoring the left-only arrow above the middle lane. It is signed that way because traffic coming down the hill (westbound) triggers the signal’s pavement sensors allowing those drivers to turn left (south). Going straight up the hill from the middle lane (which is displaying a green light) is a recipe for a T-bone collision as the downhill driver has a green light to turn as well. If not a T-bone then perhaps a rear-ender: the right lane up to Eastmont switches to red when the westbound vehicle comes down the hill, so that uphill traffic stops. If our middle lane driver notices, the most likely action is to slam on the brakes which would be an entirely unexpected action to the driver immediately behind who is expecting to turn left and sees a green light.

Please drive in the lane with the arrow pointing where you want to go (and tell your friends!)

Not us, but...

Orange cones are still out there this coming week, despite the completion of all the planned construction projects. Four projects are Chelan PUD repair/upgrade jobs and one is a guardrail contractor hired to repair and replace what burned up on SR 150 and elsewhere in the Chelan area. 

Check here to see the weekly construction update for project details.

A new camera

SR 20 EB entry to Winthrop SR 20 EB entry to Winthrop

The region’s newest traffic camera began operation this week – the first in the Methow Valley. It’s on the west end of Winthrop about a 10th of a mile from that entry “gate”, but it is pointed the other way (west) so you can see the highway toward Mazama.  

Winthrop traffic camera-SR20 MP 192.55 SR 20 MP 192.55, Rader Rd. @ West Winthrop

Planning for winter

WSDOT, WSP, USFS, CCSO, Stevens Pass Ski Area and others with a stake in the operation of a major state highway with a major winter recreation area met Wednesday to fine tune the plan for US 2 this winter. 

Good Turnout Berne Camp

The fall meeting at WSDOT's Berne Camp maintenance facility just east of the Stevens Pass summit is a well-attended annual event. 

WSDOT Area 1 Maintenance Superintendent Terry Van Hoven began the program with introductions as there are lots of new faces among the participants, this winter.

WSDOT staffing levels remain as it has been for Stevens, Blewett, Incident Response and support staff, but not so for the WSP. The Wenatchee contingent is down five troopers from their assigned strength while Everett is down 12. That means there won't be "extra" troopers available, but the troopers assigned to the pass are better equipped as both districts now have 4WD vehicles for the passes.
NCR Avalanche Chief Mike Stanford described the phase out of the M-60 tanks that are being replaced with howitzers. Only one tank will be in place near Tunnel Creek for one more season. Timing for planned control work will be scheduled between midnight and 5 a.m. when traffic volume is lowest.
retired M60 A retiring M-60 tank

Safety is still the determining factor and if a weather event creates hazardous conditions - expect full closures, so be prepared as your day of skiing could run longer than planned. Do you have your meds?
Construction this season got delayed by forest fire restrictions that stopped contractors from working for weeks, but some old electronic signs are being replaced and back up power supplies are being installed so everything will continue working during power outages, this winter.
Illegal parking and pedestrians on the shoulders generated more discussion. The State Patrol is taking a hard line this winter - Skiers who take their own route outside the ski area down to the highway and are walking or hitchhiking back to the summit will be cited. (Pedestrians are prohibited on the highway there from Nov.1 to Apr. 15) Expect illegally parked vehicles to be towed as well. There will be more tow trucks available this winter.

A major parking expansion (200 spaces) across the road from the Ski Area is in the works, but not in time for this winter. New communications protocols, social media use, electronic sign messaging as well as procedures for dealing with full lots by the attendants should help reduce the congestion on holidays. There will also be more bus service including one from Seattle, this winter.
WSDOT is trying some new fixes to keep the web traffic camera lenses clear in bad weather, so we'll see (or we won't!) Also, as a result of the popularity of the WSDOT internet kiosk last winter, we're putting it back up at the Ski Lodge again.

Steven's Ski Area GM Bill Burton said if weather cooperates, they're going to be ready to open Nov. 1. Their last mountain bike event of what was described as a very successful season takes place this weekend and then the changeover to winter ski operations begins.

Our Incident Response Crew will be on the pass daily starting in November. Their hours reflect the hours of operation for the ski area when traffic is highest.

One more potential traffic impact is the Snoqualmie Pass work to expand I-90 to six lanes. Snow removal is going to be a challenge because crews won't have access to the storage areas they've pushed the snow into in the past. Due to the construction, it's likely to mean longer closures (longer distances to remove the snow) which moves traffic to Stevens and Blewett.

Truckers, take note: the WSP's Commercial Vehicle Division will be running an emphasis operation in a few weeks to make sure you have the required chains on board when you enter a mountain pass zone.

Construction award

I-90 Vantage east Traffic Camera I-90 Vantage East

A 2014 paving project that replaced the asphalt driving lanes on I-90 for 11 miles from the Vantage Bridge to a mile west of George earned an award for excellence. Besides the interstate paving, the asphalt was also replaced on the Silica Road Interchange (Exit 143), the Wanapum Scenic View Area (Exit 139 Eastbound) below the ponies, and Echo Scenic View Area (Exit 139 Westbound) overlooking Vantage. Four miles of badly deteriorated asphalt shoulders were replaced just west of George and the driving lanes for the SR 26 interchange (Exit 137) at the east end of the Vantage Bridge were fog sealed with liquid asphalt. The project has been selected as a WSDOT/Washington Asphalt Paving Association paving award winner for paving projects completed in the 2014 paving season, and will be recognized at the WAPA annual meeting and awards banquet on November 20 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seattle. Project engineer Kevin Waligorski and the Contractor, Central Washington Asphalt will be the award recipients. The $2.9 million project came in 13% under the engineering estimate and was completed in only two months.
From wildfires to winter, what a difference a month can make.

Dan Sarles,

Regional Administrator, WSDOT North Central Region

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