Thanksgiving Travel Smart Quiz

Are you ready for Thanksgiving? Got the shopping done, china and silver dusted off? Whew, those preparations are done - now it's time to prepare for travel. We will be working all weekend, but need your help. Test your holiday travel smarts with our Thanksgiving Travel Smart Quiz. With these tips (and others on our Web site) you can get where you need to be this holiday weekend, whether you are taking a ferry, crossing the border, or just loading the car with the kids to see grandma. Just remember to Know Before You Go, and travel safely!

When is the best time to travel on Thanksgiving weekend?

A) Right after the 5 p.m. whistle.
B) Just after lunch
C) While the kids are sleeping


Answer: B - while C might be the easiest, if you want to get there faster, try to stay away from the 3-10 p.m. time frame

. Check out our driver tips for Thanksgiving to help plan your trip.

What should I have in my car if I have to travel during the busy time?
A) Lots of music
B) A winter snow kit, tire chains and extra patience.
C) It doesn't matter, I will just be on the major highways.

Answer: B - while B is a must, A is a good idea. As for C, always be prepared! There are still some spots where there is minimal cell service. For answers to some Frequently Asked Questions on winter driving, visit our winter driving page.

When are the longest ferry backups on Thanksgiving Weekend?
A) Westbound on Wednesday afternoon and eastbound on Friday morning.
B) Right after discovering your uncle overcooked the turkey again and you’d rather be back home.
C) I’ll just show up right before my sailing leaves. 

Answer: A - if you want to make it to Thanksgiving dinner on time, C is not a good idea. Make sure you arrive early, try not to travel during those busy times and hope your uncle doesn’t overcook the turkey…again.

If my car breaks down halfway to grandma's house, what should I do?
A) Stand in the middle of the highway and flag down a passing driver for help.

B) Stay in the car, turn on your hazard lights, then call 911.
C) Ask your significant other to give you a piggy-back ride the rest of the way there.

Answer: B - although it might be tempting to flag down a passing driver, especially if you don't have a cell phone or are out of range, your best bet is to stay in your car where you will be safest. If possible, call 911. A dispatcher can make sure to get assistance heading your way.

What's the best time for me to head across the Canadian border?
A) Anytime. Canada had their Thanksgiving a month ago.
B) During nonpeak hours, before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

C) I'll just check the WSDOT border wait times and cameras before I go.

Answer: B - checking the border cameras and wait times is a great way to see what the current delays are. Typically, peak delays occur during the middle of the day, so if you can plan your trip earlier or later in the day, you'll likely have less of a wait. You can also view our average delay travel graphs to get a good idea of when to travel across the I-5 Peace Arch or SR 543 truck crossing.

You’re in the right lane of the freeway and you see a State Patrol trooper parked beside the freeway with their overhead lights on, apparently assisting a disabled motorist. What do you do?

A) Speed up and get past before the trooper sees you’re not wearing your seat belt.

B) Move left if safe, and slow down as you pass.
C) Continue at the same speed in the same lane. Be predictable and let the trooper decide how to best avoid you.

Answer: B - Washington’s Move Over law requires drivers approaching emergency vehicles to move left if traffic permits, and to slow down as they pass. WSP says this is an “easy” law to comply with. Simply ease off the gas, and move to the left. And of course always wear your seat belt. Even minor collisions can result in serious injury or death.

What is the most important equipment on your vehicle for winter holiday mountain pass driving?
A) Eight tiny reindeer.
B) Sharp sleigh runners.
C) Approved traction devices.

Answer: C - your local tire store can tell you if you have traction tires. And always carry chains. Check out our helpful video on how to install tire chains.

What's the best route to take during winter holiday travel
A) Over the river and through the woods.
B) Follow the yellow brick road.
C) Major highways with services.

Answer: C - you can see a list of WSDOT's roadway treatment goals to help you plan your route.

So how did you do? 100%? Stay safe this Thanksgiving holiday and save some room for pie!

Photo Friday: The New Stanwood Station Edition

In April 2009 we began building a new train station on the northeast corner of 271st Street NW and 84th Avenue NW in Stanwood. The station will give residents of the Stanwood-Camano Island area access to Amtrak Cascades intercity passenger trains that travel between Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, BC, and ten intermediate communities.  The last time passenger trains stopped in Stanwood was over 35 years ago.

Don't you just love old photos? This is a great one. It's the old Stanwood station in the 1960's.

Crews constructed the storm water retention system in July.

Measuring for trainman’s ramp. What is a trainman's ramp?  That's a good question, I didn't know either. A trainman’s ramp is a place where a train crew member who has to walk along side a freight train can easily climb on to and off  a train station platform, and is a railroad safety requirement.

And here is the finished product. Beautiful! You can find the rest of the construction photos in the Stanwood Station set on flickr. The new station will open for service on Saturday morning, November 21st, 2009! An opening ceremony will be held at the station starting at 8:45 a.m. Tickets are on sale now at

Point Defiance Rail Bypass project

By Guest Blogger Kevin Jeffers – Rail Engineering Manager

The Pt. Defiance Bypass project is a capital rail project that will reroute passenger trains that currently operate on the BNSF Railway main line near Pt. Defiance and along southern Puget Sound to an existing rail line that runs along the west side of I-5 through south Tacoma, Lakewood, and DuPont. Part of the bypass route is the same route that Sound Transit will use to extend Sounder commuter rail to Lakewood.

At a Lakewood City Council meeting on November 9, WSDOT staff from the State Rail and Marine office gave a presentation on the Pt. Defiance Bypass project. During the presentation, several videos were shown on traffic simulations for Bridgeport Way, Thorne Lane, and Berkeley Ave. There were also videos showing a comparison of train speeds between freight and passenger trains and a video demonstrating wayside horns.

Demonstration of wayside horns installed at McCarver and Ruston Way in Tacoma, WA

You can view this video on our streaming server if you can't access it on YouTube.

Pt. Defiance Rail Bypass project - traffic simulations

You can view this video on our streaming server if you can't access it on YouTube.

Comparison of freight and passenger train speeds in Puyallup, WA
You can view this video on our streaming server if you can't access it on YouTube.

There were several questions and comments from both the Council and community members in attendance as well as some strong opinions on the project. We take your comments seriously and want to make sure that your questions are being answered (pdf 32kb). For the most up to date information on the project, please visit our project page. If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail us.

Deer: a seasonal driving hazard

November means it's the time of year where we start focusing a lot on preparing drivers for weather-related hazards. Studded tires are always a hot topic, the closing of mountain passes garners a lot of attention, as does the general anticipation /speculation of what this year's winter weather will bring. But we often overlook the fact that deer are a seasonal driving hazard as well. November is prime time for road kill—deer in particular. We remove approximately 3,000 deer carcasses from state highways every year with most vehicle collisions involving deer happening during the months of October- January.

Why is this?

1. Hunting season. Deer may ramp up their movement to avoid hunters, this act of self-preservation increases the likelihood that they will be wandering around near or crossing highways.

2. Food. The colder temperatures bring deer down from higher elevations to the valley floors in search ripe tree fruit and ornamental bushes. 

3. The rut. The what? This was a new term for me actually, but the rut is simply the breeding season. Does start to chase off their young and these suddenly abandoned youth wander around in search of direction. Ah...teenagers...some things never change, eh?

The rut signals an increase in deer movement as bucks and does are on the go searching for potential mates.  They are particularly active during dawn and dusk, which as we all know are peak driving times. So we've got less daylight, more precipitation, less visibility, and more deer running around increasing the chance of a vehicle-deer collision.

What can you do?

The first step is to be aware that this time of year is going to mean an uptick in deer activity. I have had my fair share of deer exposure all summer, trying to keep them from decimating my tomato plants, so I personally wasn't aware that road kill have seasons too.  I found some fantastic tips from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to help with driving and deer:
  • One deer crossing the road may be a sign that more deer are about to cross. Watch for other deer-- they will move fast to catch up with leaders, mothers, or mates and may not pay attention to traffic.
  • When you see brake lights, it could be because the driver ahead of you has spotted a deer. Stay alert as you drive by the spot, as more deer could try to cross.
  • Wonder why the person ahead is driving so slowly? The driver may know where to slow down and be extra alert for deer. Don’t be too quick to pass, and watch out.
  • Take note of deer-crossing signs and drive accordingly. They were put there for a reason.
  • If a collision with a deer seems imminent, take your foot off the accelerator and brake lightly. But—and this is critical—keep a firm hold on the steering wheel while keeping the vehicle straight. Do not swerve in an attempt to miss the deer.
Do not attempt to touch the animal AT ALL – even if it appears to be dead. Often, the animal is only temporarily stunned and people who attempt to move the animal have been seriously injured by antlers and sharp hooves. Always keep in mind that scared and injured animals are extremely dangerous. Call 9-1-1 to get the right people on the scene to help with the situation.

For a more detailed and thorough look at this issue check out the Analysis of Deer and Elk-Vehicle Collision Sites along State Highways in Washington State.

Help us do what we do better - communicate with you.

What gets measured gets managed. It is a philosophy I have heard repeated countless times at the Washington State Department of Transportation. People here take the idea of accountability and transparency very seriously. Our quarterly Grey Notebook regularly tops 100 pages or more, jammed full of data and information about our agency’s performance.

As the WSDOT communication director, it is my job to see whether we are meeting the public’s expectations for quality two-way communication. We have many anecdotal examples of how we have met your expectations, and a few examples of how we have not. We now hope to build a qualitative baseline of public opinions about our communication and public involvement efforts. Do you think we do a good job reaching out the public? Are we listening well to what you are saying? Of course, you can post your thoughts here. But we ask that you take a few minutes to fill out our online survey.

Our mission is to keep people and business moving by operating and improving the state’s transportation systems vital to our taxpayers and communities. We take this mission seriously. We would like to know your opinion about how we are doing. Your feedback will help us learn more about how we can improve our performance. Thank you.

Looking for some property at a great price?

Remember back in August when we had all of those cabins up for auction near Mt Baker?  We had a lot of buzz around those little structures which garnered quite a turnout. We had another auction recently that seemed to fly a little under the radar as we have quite a few properties still up for grab.  This one pictured on the left is in Skagit county.  It's a 2 bedroom, 1 bath with a couple of detached outbuildings on 1.35 acres...and it's available on a first-come, first serve basis at the minimum bid price!

We are currently offering 16 properties total that were up for auction. The monies received for these properties will immediately benefit the motorists of Washington by supplementing the special funding resource dedicated to highways.

Check out that view! Here is specific information about this parcel as well as a list of all of the available properties on our Real Estate Services Auction home page.

If you have questions about these or any of the available parcels, please contact Michelle Newlean at 360-705-7332 or