Today, numerous Government Agencies have teamed up with Oprah to declare April 30th as the first National “No Phone Zone” day. With a message similar to that of our Heads up Driving Week campaign last year, the goal of today is honor victims of distracted driving and to encourage people to refrain from using their phones while driving.

My hope is that public outreach and awareness campaigns like this one, which focus on putting a stop to distracted driving, will provoke a conversation about traffic safety culture, and ultimately change behavior and save more lives on our nation’s roadways.

Distracted Driving Discussion Continues to Grow

I want to applaud Oprah’s Dnt TXT N Drv Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, and commend her for drawing the public’s attention to this unsafe and increasingly common behavior. Distracted driving is now one of the most discussed public safety issues in America thanks to the Distracted Driving Summit hosted by the U.S. DOT and Secretary Ray LaHood last September. The issue has vaulted to the top of many legislative agendas and now 23 states and the District of Columbia have banned texted while driving with more states expected to follow in 2010. Though AAA Foundation research shows the public is aware of the dangers involved with using cell phones while driving, many continue to do so on a regular basis, risking their lives, and ours, every time they pick up their phone. This disconnect between behavior and knowledge is one that we as a society must try to overcome.

The weather isn’t the only thing improving on Snoqualmie Pass...

by guest editor Craig Kanaya

Now that the snow has melted and spring has begun in Snoqualmie pass its that time of year again. With help from Gary Merlino Construction Co., we’re back to work on the I-90 Lake Easton to Bullfrog concrete replacement project after a planned winter season hiatus. While the construction crews are working on projects that support their families and the communities of Washington state, it also means you will start to see a lot more orange on the road and experience added travel times during your trip on I-90 across the pass. We have a lot of work to do before we complete the project in June, just in time for the peak summer travel season.  Here’s a snap shot of what we’ll be doing:

  • Crews will remove and replace a total of 1,500 concrete panels.

  • Each 12-foot by 15-foot panel weighs approximately 13 tons.  This is equivalent to the weight of almost three adult male elephants. 

  • Crews will remove a total of 7,500 cubic yards of concrete.  This would fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools.   

  • Crews will pave approximately 12,000 tons of asphalt.  This is equivalent to the weight of 25 Boeing 747 airplanes. 

  • Crews have placed approximately four miles (20,000 linear feet) of temporary concrete barrier.  This is equivalent to the height of almost 15 Empire State Buildings.

When we’re done you’ll experience a smoother, safer driving surface.  In the meantime, check the what’s happening on I-90 Web page for what to expect on I-90 between Easton (milepost 70) and Nelson Siding Road (milepost 74):

To the west of Easton on I-90 at Hyak, we’ve begun construction on the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East – Hyak to Keechelus Dam Project (milepost 55 to milepost 58). This is a multi-year project that improves the safety and reliability of I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass. This year, you’ll see crews finishing up the Gold Creek detour bridge, constructing new bridges, and blasting the slopes high above I-90 in order to widen the interstate from four to six lanes.

You can expect some intermittent daytime lane closures and rolling slowdowns over the next couple of weeks as crews construct new detours, but most of our future lane closures will occur during the nighttime hours. 

We understand that lane and ramp closures are never easy and the added travel times sometimes put a kink in your travel plans.  We do have some tools and strategies you can use to make things a little easier: 
  • Plan for added travel time, maintain the posted speed limit, and pay attention to signs

  • Sign up for e-mail updates 

  • Check the weekly Construction Updates Web page and traffic Web page for region-wide updates and Tune into the Highway Advisory Radio at 1610 AM and 530 AM 

  • Follow WSDOT on Twitter  

  • Call the I-90 construction hotline at 888-535-0738

  • Call 5-1-1 for real time traffic and weather information

How do you celebrate Earth Day?

by guest blogger Ann Briggs

In honor of Earth Day today, I’m making a conscious effort to reduce my carbon footprint by printing only the documents I really need to keep for work. My agency is taking part in a statewide effort to reduce paper use by 30 percent. That’s only one of the ways we’re doing our part to reduce consumption and protect our environment.

We’ve joined with other state agencies and organizations to find ways to reduce carbon emissions and encourage people to explore their travel options. For more than 20 years we’ve incorporated environmental components into our everyday operations, so for us Earth Day comes 365 days a year.

In the quest to reduce carbon emissions, there’s a cool new initiative under way called the West Coast Green Highway. It involves Washington, California, Oregon and British Columbia working together to promote the use of alternative fuels. Imagine being able to drive the entire 1,350 miles of the Interstate 5 corridor, between the borders of Mexico and Canada, without having to buy a drop of gas.  It may happen sooner than you think.  Together we are:
  • Working with private partners to develop alternative fueling-locations along I-5.
  • Working with communities, utilities, the electric vehicle industry and other agencies to plan where and how to begin installing public charging stations. In Washington, we’re identifying potential charging station sites at safety rest areas, park-and-ride lots and other state-owned property.
We’ve expanding our own fleet of low-emission and hybrid vehicles. It currently includes 568 flex fuel (capable of running on 85 percent ethanol fuel) and 79 gas/electric hybrid vehicles.

There are other ways to reduce carbon emissions. Just this month, Governor Gregoire recognized 46 employers that are setting the example by participating in Commute Trip Reduction, a program that brings public and private organizations together to promote transportation choices other than just driving alone. Approximately 530,000 people are employed at work sites that participate in Commute Trip Reduction programs. This translates to 62 million fewer vehicle miles traveled annually and saves three million gallons of fuel and 27,490 metric tons of greenhouse gases.

In addition, we’re working with cities and counties to improve and expand sidewalks and bike paths. In Washington, 13 percent of the federal stimulus projects for transportation included bicycle and pedestrian components. Our state has been recognized as the top Bicycle Friendly State two years in a row.
You can read more about what we’re doing to address Climate Change and environmental stewardship on our website. 

So what can you do?
  • Keep your vehicle tuned up and tires properly inflated. You’ll get better gas mileage and produce less pollution.
  • Set a goal to drive less. Combining errands into one trip is one way.
  • Adjust your driving speed to conserve fuel.
  • Making a short trip within the neighborhood? Consider walking or riding your bike – you’ll be doing something healthy for you and the environment.
  • Check with your employer to see what programs your organization may offer – telecommuting, compressed work weeks, bus passes, carpools, or vanpools.
  • For your next trip, try taking the bus or a train.
  • Consider buying an electric or hybrid for your next vehicle purchase.

Thanks for the tradition Tootsie!

by guest blogger Jeff Adamson

Every year when the North Cascades highway opens in the spring, Tootsie is there to celebrate with the crews with warm cinnamon rolls.  This year marks the third year in a row that she has had the honor of opening the gate.

4-16- 2010 Opening Day 008

She can’t remember exactly how long she’s been taking cinnamon rolls up to the Diablo Gate.  She says she and her husband did it a few times after it opened in ’72, but it wasn’t until “20 or 25 years ago that I started doing it regularly”, she said.

It began as a tribute to her dad who was a big supporter of the North Cascades Highway’s construction, but he died before it opened.

This year, despite stuffing the trunk of her Caddy, “I ran out of cinnamon rolls for the first time!”  She’s not sure how many she started with – “between the coffee and the rolls, I usually get up there with about 60.”  “This year, there were the most people I’ve ever seen waiting in line.  We get there at 6 a.m. to be first in line and we had company!”  She usually just brings her cinnamon rolls to those in line who are waiting, this is the first year that she drove up to Washington Pass to provide cinnamon rolls to the crew.

4-16- 2010 Opening Day 001

When asked if she was going to give it up after next year – her 90th – she said “Nope, I’m going to start back. I’m going to be 89 again!”

She typically starts baking at 1 a.m. “so the cinnamon rolls are still warm when we get to the gate.”

Thanks for the warm and delicious tradition Tootsie!

Sparks fly during Secretary Hammond’s visit to Todd Pacific Shipyards

by guest blogger Shawn Devine

Add welder to the list of job duties performed by Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond, who visited Todd Pacific Shipyards on Monday, April 19 to commemorate the start of construction of the state’s second new Kwa-di Tabil Class (64-car) ferry.
Secretary Hammond struck the first arc weld, joining the keel to the first section of hull during the visit. Decked out in a leather welder’s vest, gloves and welder’s mask, Hammond welded her initials onto the vessel’s keel.  She has had numerous opportunities to get behind the controls of excavators and backhoes for highway projects, but this was her first experience as a welder. First Weld
“My initials are in concrete all over the state, but this was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to weld them,” she said.
Hammond was helped by welding supervisor Kevin Olsen who has been with Todd since 1989, who said her work was excellent. First Welders
WSDOT Ferries Division (WSF) is in the process of building three new Kwa-di Tabil Class (64-car) Ferries. The first of these ferries, Chetzemoka, is currently at Todd’s subcontractor Everett Shipyards, where crews are performing final outfitting and sea trials before delivering the vessel to the state.  The second vessel, which is yet to be named, is scheduled to go into service in summer 2011 followed by the third vessel in spring 2012.
Ferry Builders
Workers at Todd Pacific Shipyards with Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond and David Moseley, Assistant Secretary for Washington State Ferries.

Work Zone Safety: Who is 'em?

On Washington state and local roads from 2005-2009, 46 drivers, passengers and roadway workers were killed and close to 4,000 injured in work zones. And the majority of the time, it’s driver speed that causes those injuries, those deaths.

Just this week, someone drove a car into a construction zone and hit a parked WSDOT truck on southbound I-5 at the I-90 interchange. A worker in the truck received minor injuries, while the car’s passenger was killed. And in work zone collisions, 90 percent of the time, it’s the driver or passenger who suffers.

Ever try and convince someone their own behavior will get them killed? The term “blue in the face” comes to mind….

So we ask people to Give ‘em a Brake. Seen those signs? They ask drivers to slow down through work zones and don’t hit “them” working there. The Give ‘em a Brake efforts show success across the country.

Have you ever wondered who ‘em is? They are members of the community, and may be sitting or standing right next to you. At a recent Olympia-area youth baseball game, each field had at least one parent who is a transportation worker.

The person out there working in traffic could be someone you know. See how others are showing their support for “them” workers and see what you can do at the Go Orange for Work Zone Safety Web site

Please, give them a brake and give yourself a brake too. Slow down in the work zone.

More properties up for auction

It's that time again! We have 18 properties available in a sealed bid auction that is scheduled for April 28, 2010 at 1:30 P.M.  

One of the parcels available is located in Skagit County with a charming home built in the 1930’s.  This property (left)  is not only large in size but also has several great outbuildings.   It's a 2 bedroom, 1 bath with a couple of detached outbuildings on 1.35 acres. There is an open house scheduled for Sunday, April 18th from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. for those interested in seeing the property in person.

Part of the construction of a project, such as the widening of a highway, or the building of a new stormwater treatment area, involves us acquiring properties affected by the construction. After the project has been completed, remaining properties, such as this land and home are declared surplus to our needs and are available at auction.

Three of the properties included in the auction have various views of the Tacoma Narrows and the Puget Sound. Here is specific information about the parcel pictured to the right as well as a list of all of the available properties on our Real Estate Services Auction home page.

The monies received for these properties will immediately benefit the motorists of Washington by supplementing the special funding resource dedicated to highways.

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

Busy times in the transportation world...

There is a lot going on lately in transportation in the transportation world in Washington state.  Thought I would put a summary together to let you know what all is happening.

  • Big construction weekend for those in or who commute through Lacey/Olympia area.  3 of 4 southbound lanes will be closed on I-5. Can you believe that concrete lasted 25 years longer than we expected it to!  It's really quite amazing. 
  • Opening of the North Cascades pass commenced, wouldn't you know it it's been snowing on those guys like crazy! Be sure to catch the daily updates Jeff Adamson sends by subscribing to the North Cascades Highway e-mail update list.
  • The SR 519 project in downtown Seattle near the stadiums is nearing completion.
  • No new settlement on the SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct.
  • We launched a beta version of a mobile application for those with Android based phones, go to the market and search for the term "WSDOT".  We will be working on the iPhone version next.  For those who have mobile devices with internet access be sure to try out this url:
  • The deadline to remove studded tires was extended to April 17 due to the continuing snow that is falling in the mountain passes.  What a crazy April huh?
  • Construction of the new ferry boat, the Chetzemoka, is showing great progress.  It was moved via tug last weekend up to Everett shipyards for completion, see photos of that move.
  • We launched a new traffic homepage to make it easier to access the items on our Web site that help you make the most informed decision before traveling.
  • We are inviting you to post your favorite safety photos to our Flickr group for Workzone Awareness week April 19-23 (more on that coming soon, we will be changing the entire site orange again).  I even got in on the chance to show support for our workers on the roadway with a staff photo (I'm on the left with the great pants!).
  • Active Traffic Management signs are starting to go up in the Seattle area, we are very excited about the possibilities these signs offer for safety and collision reduction.
  • Lots of dowel bars are being added to I-90 in the Seattle area to improve the strength of the roadway to enable HOV lanes between Seattle and Bellevue.
  • We are improving safety along SR 14 by removing loose and unstable rock near White Salmon.  Check out a very cool video of some of that work.
  • In Yakima, the I-82 Valley Mall Boulevard interchange project started work on April 5.  This project was made possible due to ARRA stimulus funding.  If you haven't seen it yet we talked to some folks who gave us great personal stories about how stimulus funding helped save their jobs.  And for those of you who love roundabouts, there are three of them being built on this project.
  • Work continues on I-405 between NE 8th Street and SR 520 in Bellevue.
  • Work on I-5 in Blaine will close D Street/Peace Portal Drive for 50 days.
Like I said there is a lot going on lately.  If you haven't yet, be sure to fan us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, keep up with construction progress on Flickr, or subscribe to one of our many e-mail updates to keep up with some of the interesting things we do everyday.

For those of you with Andriod devices, here's a shortcut for you:

The Chetzemoka ferry transfers to another temporary home...

By Guest Blogger Shawn Devine

The Chetzemoka made its initial journey up Puget Sound amid blustery skies and choppy seas on Saturday, April 3. Todd Pacific Shipyards moved the Chetzemoka from its home on Harbor Island where construction began in June 2009, to its temporary home at Everett Shipyard where crews will perform final outfitting, system testing and sea trials.

The journey began just before 8 a.m. as Western Towboat Company’s 72 foot, 2,500 horse power tugboat Westrac tied onto the Chetzemoka in preparation for the journey.

Chetzemoka crossed paths with several of its fellow Washington State Ferries along the way, including the Kitsap and Puyallup serving the Seattle/Bremerton and Edmonds/Kingston routes respectively. The journey ended around noon when the Chetzemoka arrived at Everett Shipyard, check out the photos

Todd is working to complete the Chetzemoka so that WSF can conduct several weeks of training and sea trials before it goes into service on the Port Townsend/Keystone route in late-summer 2010.

Here is a video of a portion of that trip courtesy of the West Seattle Blog: