Can a bridge look like Swiss cheese? I-405's Benson Rd bridge soon will

by guest blogger Steve Peer EAVB_EYUFDCOVPP

Update, Monday, June 28:
The shift happened in Renton over the weekend.

Crews put the finishing touches on the new Benson Road S Bridge last weekend and early Sunday morning vehicles were using the new bridge to get across I-405.  Now that traffic has shifted to the new bridge crews will begin to take apart the old one to properly recycle it. For details, read below and stay tuned for bridge removal photos.  

Original post:
Right now the old Benson Road S. Bridge stands next to its replacement spanning across I-405 in Renton. It’s a fully operational bridge that carries more than 15,000 vehicles a day. This weekend, we’ll close the old bridge. 

The work is the beginning of the end for the old bridge.

Benson Bridge
If the weather holds, we’ll shift traffic onto the newly built bridge early Sunday morning and crews will begin taking apart the old I-405 crossing.  Like most structures, the old bridge was framed using wood before it was incased in cement. Before crews can tear down the old to welcome the new, they have to drill through the concrete, forming holes large enough for a person to slide into to remove the old wood. Picture that—large holes all over the bridge—yes, Swiss cheese. Why the “Swiss cheese”?  The wood needs to come out of the concrete so we can properly recycle both materials. Imagine the size of the recycling bins.

This work kicks-off the countdown to tearing down the old Benson Road Bridge. For the weekend of July 10th, all I-405 lanes through Renton will close for 33 hours. Be prepared to avoid the curve with detours.

Details of this weekend’s road closure: Crews will close a stretch of Benson Road South from Renton City Hall to Eagle Ridge Drive June 26 at 6 am.  Drivers will use Puget Drive/Talbot Road/Grady Way S. to detour around the construction zone. We’ll re-open the road at 5 a.m. Sunday morning.

For more details check out our What’s Happening In Renton page.

Crews slide to safety during Chetzemoka Marine Evacuation System test

Crews at Everett Shipyard tested the Chetzemoka’s marine evacuation system (MES) on
Tuesday, June 22.

It took less than 90 second for the MES to fill with CO2. A loud hiss could be heard from shore as 1,740 psi of CO2 filled the evacuation slide and rescue platform. This initial
hissing of CO2 was followed by an impressive splash as the 1,000 pound unit hit the

Moments later, test participants were sliding down the 40-foot ramp into the platform.
About 30 Washington State Ferries crewmembers and mangers participated in the test. Once
all the crewmembers were safely aboard the platform, a secondary platform – held tightly
in cylindrical container – was dropped from the side of the vessel into the water,
releasing another impressive cannonball like splash.

Crews positioned the container next to the inflated platform and “popped the cork”
unleashing a rush of CO2 into the structure. In an emergency situation, passengers would
transfer from the primary platform into the secondary platform, making room for other
passenger to safely evacuate the vessel.

There are two marine evacuation systems on each vessel. The Chetzemoka’s four platforms
have capacity for approximately 192 passengers each. The MES test was required by the
U.S. Coast Guard to demonstrate the functionality of this important piece of safety

Todd Pacific Shipyards moved the Chetzemoka to Everett Shipyard in April, where crews are
performing final outfitting and systems testing. The MES is just one of the hundreds of
systems that will have to be tested before the vessel goes into service.

We hope we never have to use it, but if an emergency does arise, we know the Chetzemoka’s
MES is ready to go.

Distraction Is A Problem for Adults Too, Not Just Teens

A new study released earlier this week by the Pew Research Center found that adults are as just as likely to engage in texting while driving as teens. In fact, the survey of 2,252 adults age 18 and older, which was conducted last month, found that 47% of adults who text said they had sent or received text messages while driving compared with only 34% of teens that reported doing so in study released last September. Although these findings run contrary to popular belief that teens are the primary offenders when it comes to texting, it does support the AAA Foundation’s belief that distracted driving is a problem for all drivers – regardless of age. Our 2009 TSC Index survey of more than 2,500 adults found that 87% felt that texting/emailing while driving was a very serious problem, yet 21% of those same people admitted to doing so in the previous month. Every potential distraction – eating, drinking, cell phones, passengers, etc – are things that ALL motorists need to address in their own driving behavior.

Missouri DOT worker riding across country to raise money for a workzone safety memorial

From guest blogger Jeff Adamson

Kris Sandgren and the bike he plans to ride across the country
You’re getting this update because I’m shamelessly taking advantage of a Missouri DOT bicyclist’s twisted idea of a 3-week vacation – Riding from Anacortes to Jefferson City, Missouri  (via SR 20) – to raise money for a Work zone Safety Memorial in his state.  Kris Sandgren expects to cover about 100 miles a day as he works his way across the state and then on into Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Missouri.  (If you see him – wave, honk, give him a thumbs-up or buy him a cinnamon roll!)

Work Zone Safety week in Washington was back on April 19- 23.  Kris’s ride provides a perfect opportunity to raise the awareness of work zone safety here, in the middle of the construction season when our contractors employees and our WSDOT inspectors are most at risk.  You may recall that this year, the method we (and the rest of the country) chose to support the men and women who work just feet from “live” traffic to improve our highways was by Going Orange.

Kris got to Anacortes Sunday and heads 2,500 miles to the east Tuesday morning.  His motivation is understandable – He knew some of the Missouri work zone victims, personally.
Work zone safety is something we take seriously, too. Since 1950, 57 Washington State Department of Transportation employees have lost their lives in work zone-related activities.

This isn’t the first time Kris has done this ride. Last time it was for himself. This time it’s for his friends and coworkers who’ve died in roadside work zones. He’s riding to raise some of the $94,000 needed for Missouri’s first Fallen Worker’s Memorial.  Missouri has lost 128 employees in work zones.

He got a little publicity before he left Missouri – here’s the story:

GHSA Study – More States Addressing Distracted Driving

Last week the Governors Highway Safety Association released the report, "Curbing Distracted Driving: 2010 Survey of State Safety Programs." The study cites the increasing number of states who are addressing the issue of distracted driving by collecting data and incorporating distraction into more educational materials for drivers. The report states that twenty-seven states and D.C. have made Distracted Driving a priority in their Strategic Highway Safety Plans and thirty-seven states and D.C. have public information or education campaigns warning drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

It’s wonderful to hear more states are becoming engaged in this issue and I applaud GHSA for its research. We must keep in mind that the goal of our collective efforts is to actually change driver behavior so that our roads are safer and passing legislation is one step in this direction. As GHSA Chairman Vernon F. Betkey Jr. recently said, “We need to create a traffic safety culture that does not condone driving while distracted much like we have done with drink driving.” I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment and even touched on the very same point in a recent radio interview. All of us need recognize the severity of the problem and do our part to help change things – starting with our own driving behavior.

Carefully moving 61 tons of bridge in Union Gap

by guest blogger Meagan McFadden

It takes a lot of skill and coordination to place a 44,000 pound bridge span within a quarter of an inch of its final location, in this case, above the roadway on Valley Mall Boulevard in Union Gap. Now repeat that process two more times. In all, our contractor, Apollo Inc., moved three metal spans weighing a grand total of 61 tons on June 15, 2010. That’s like moving eight elephants – what a zoo!

If you don't have access to YouTube, here is a Windows media version so you can watch the video.

Since April, our contractor has moved 48,000 yards of dirt and will place 9,000 tons of asphalt for the temporary lanes, which will be used as a detour so crews can build the new I-82 Valley Mall Boulevard interchange. We plan to shift traffic onto the temporary detour (pdf) the second week in July. Eastbound travelers on I-82 will shift to the left and use what are currently the westbound lanes. Westbound travelers on I-82 will shift over to the newly constructed temporary westbound lanes, including the temporary bridge. The eastbound on-and-off-ramps to I-82 will be temporarily detoured to N. Rudkin Road. This detour will remain in effect until this fall.

This year, construction crews will build two of the three roundabouts and build the new eastbound I-82 bridge. Next summer, construction crews will finish the third roundabout, the westbound I-82 bridge, pave the Yakima Greenway parking lot, and finish widening lanes on Main Street.

Once the back-hoes, dump trucks, asphalt trucks, and orange cones are gone, and the construction crews have packed up and left in fall of 2011, drivers will have a new and improved interchange. This project will change how the on-ramps and off-ramps connect to Valley Mall, three new roundabouts at the new intersections will decrease delay and congestion, and two new, wider bridges on I-82 will accommodate future widening of I-82.

I-90 rock blasting

by guest blogger Amanda Sullivan

The first rock blast on I-90 Snoqualmie Pass happened on June 15, 2010 at approximately 8 p.m. Crews are using standard, conventional and proven blasting techniques with waterproof explosives. Crews drilled holes in the rock slopes to establish a pre-split line. This pre-split line serves as a guide to where the “finish line” of the rock cuts are to end, which is why the blast appears to occur so far back on the slope. After drilling holes and establishing the finish line, crews  placed 500 pounds of explosives in the holes. They then detonated the explosives and set off the controlled blast. The explosives fractured and cracked the rock of an area about 120’ by 120’ by 24’ deep, or about 12,800 cubic yards. Crews kept the blast small and manageable to better control the amount of material being removed. After the blast, crews used large equipment to safely remove the rock from the slopes and haul it away. The material will be recycled to construct the new lanes on I-90. But enough about the details, here's the video of the blast:

From now until October, crews will blast and excavate one million tons of rock from the slopes adjacent to I-90 near the Lake Keechelus Snowshed (milepost 58) in order to widen the highway from four to six lanes. Blasts are currently schedule to occur every Monday and Thursday evenings around 8 p.m. Crews may also blast on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Since construction schedules and activities can change day to day, WSDOT urges motorists to plan for up to one hour delays on blast nights from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. For more information about blasting closures and the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project, please visit:

WSF crew receives Public Service Award for life saving efforts

U.S. Coast Guard Public Service Award
Originally uploaded by WSDOT.

Saving lives may not be the first job duty that comes to mind when describing a day in the life of a Washington State Ferries (WSF) crew. But when a call for help comes in, our crews are fully trained and ready to respond on a moment’s notice.

WSF crews are required to perform a series of safety drills every week, including rescue boat, fire fighting, man overboard and abandon ship, among others. In total, WSF crews perform more than 10,000 individual drills annually as a part of their training regimen.

This training was put to the test when the crew of the Spokane was called on to respond to two divers in distress at the Edmonds dive park on the morning of March 27. The ferry had just left dock at 10:53 a.m. when a passenger reported a possible diver in distress. Minutes later, the crew of the Spokane launched one of its two rescue boats with Able-bodied Seamen Seth Hamlin and Marjorie Ess aboard. They retrieved the motionless diver and performed CPR, resuscitating her as they approached the beach where Washington State Patrol (WSP) was waiting. After delivering the diver to WSP on shore, Ess and Hamlin headed back out and safely transported the other diver to shore.

By 11:24 a.m., the rescue boat was back aboard the Spokane and the vessel was underway to Kingston.

On Tuesday, June 15, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Gary T. Blore presented Public Service Awards to Ess, Hamlin and Captain John Tullis for their roles in rescuing the divers. The Public Service Award is one the highest honors given to civilians for furthering the U.S. Coast Guard’s safety mission of eliminating injuries and preserving life at sea.

“It is truly noteworthy when civilians are able to assist us with aiding those in distress. It is a great honor to recognize Captain Tullis and his crew today; they heroically put service before self, underscoring a maritime tradition of aiding those in distress,” said Rear Admiral Blore.

Captain Tullis credited his entire crew and the engine room crew for working together on the rescue. It takes the entire crew to launch and recover the boat. The right personnel, the right equipment, the right training, and that’s the result, he said.

“I applaud the efforts of the entire crew of the Spokane for their skill, professionalism and courage,” said David Moseley, Assistant Secretary for WSF. “I would also like to thank our safety and security partners in the U.S. Coast Guard for the work that they do to keep our 23 million annual passengers safe.”

It takes close coordination with our partners the U.S. Coast Guard and WSP to ensure the nation’s largest ferry system is also its safest ferry system.

Election Signs and the State Highway

Monday was what the Office of the Secretary of State called their Opening Day, the first day of filing week. With opening day comes time for people to start showing support for their team. During election season, that means campaign signs.

Just a reminder that campaign signs are not allowed in the state highway right-of-way. A big thank you to those who take the time to share this information with campaign volunteers. If you haven’t yet shared that info, please do.

Because it’s not always easy to know the boundaries of a state highway right-of-way, here are a few clues:

  • Utility poles are typically located inside the right-of-way. So no signs between the pole and the road.
  • Many locations also have a fence line separating the right-of-way from private property. So again, no signs between the fence and the road.

If we see signs in these locations, or others within the state right-of-way, we take them down. Sign removal isn’t one of our primary duties, so we may not get to them all. But, if you find your sign was taken down and you would like it back, contact your local WSDOT Maintenance Office. No guarantees, but it could still be around.

Under the Washington Administrative Code 468-66, temporary political signs are allowed on private property visible from state highways. However, the property owner must give consent, the signs must comply with the WAC, as well as any local regulations. Campaign signs on private property visible from the state highways must also meet the following requirements:

  • Maximum size of 32 square feet in area.
  • Removed within 10 days following the election.

Also remember, what I am writing here is for state highways. Local municipalities also have their own regulations, which may differ from city to city and county to county.

The best way to determine the boundary lines for a state highway right-of-way is to check with WSDOT Outdoor Advertising Specialist Pat O’Leary. He can be reached at or by calling (360) 705-7296. You will need to provide the state route number (I-5, SR 28, US 2, US 97, etc.) and the name of the nearest intersection or approximate milepost.

Second Annual Traffic Safety Culture Summit

Since 2006, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has been researching America’s driving beliefs, attitudes and habits through our annual national Traffic Safety Culture Index survey. The 2009 Index showed how prevalent car crashes are in our lives: Nearly a quarter of Americans have been involved in a serious motor vehicle crash in their lifetime, and more than a third have had a friend or relative seriously injured or killed. The survey also found although the public recognizes dangerous driving behaviors, they continue to engage in activities such as talking or texting on cell phones. It’s time we consider the cultural factors that define our values and govern our behavior to improve transportation safety.

Last summer the Foundation co-sponsored the first National Summit for Rural Traffic Safety Culture in an effort to promote discussion of safety culture within the transportation community. The summit attracted more than 100 researchers, officials and policymakers and resulting in unanimous resolution calling on President Obama to devote more resources to improving highway safety. We’re now finalizing preparations for this year’s summit which will be held in Big Sky, Montana from July 11-13th. Similar to the inaugural summit, discussions will focus on the role of traffic safety culture, including what it means and how it relates to behaviors, attitudes and the implementation of safety programs. Keynote speakers are set to include officials from both the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Registration is still open for anyone interested in attending.

Memorial Day weekend traffic recap: Fewer drivers? Really?

While those of you who sat through the backups may not believe it, the numbers I received from our Traffic Operations show there were actually fewer drivers who crossed I-90 Snoqualmie Pass this Memorial Day weekend.

Besides Snoqualmie Pass, we highlight three other areas across the state ( for holiday travel. Of those, traffic decreased from 2009 in two areas (I-5 through Lewis County and US 2 over Stevens Pass) and increased slightly in one (I-5 near the Canadian Border).

So, you ask, if there were 12,000 (or 5.8 percent) fewer vehicles over I-90, why was I going so slow? Friday, it was a collision that led to the eastbound backup. I wish I had a simple answer for the Monday traffic. Wow, that 27-mile westbound backup was really something.

Part of the issue is the time those 187,000 vehicles traveled. As you see in the graphs below, more people were on I-90 during "peak" hours, while not as many traveled in off-peak hours. Other theories include the type of vehicles on the road - recreational vehicles and those towing trailers or boats just don't accelerate as quick.

As you look forward to your travels this summer, we will have our forecasts available for the next two "long" weekends - Fourth of July and Labor Day, so please check them out and take notice of the peak travel times. As for other weekends? Use the tools we have available on our website and the 5-1-1 hotline. Know before you go and watch the highways signs.

Memorial Day 2010 travel weekend:

I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass
  • 187,000 vehicles traveled both directions of Snoqualmie Pass between Friday and Monday, an decrease of 12,000 vehicles or 5.8 percent from 2009.
  • 55,000 traveled Friday, a decrease of 3.4 percent from 2009, with most of the decrease in the afternoon.
  • 2,700 fewer vehicles traveled Saturday.
  • 3,200 fewer vehicles traveled Sunday.
  • 53,000 traveled Monday, and decrease of 6.3 percent from 2009, with most of the decrease in volumes in the evening hours (hence the backups).
I-5, Bellingham to US Canadian border
  • Friday through Monday there were 118,000 vehicles on I-5. This was an increase of 3,000 vehicles (3 percent) when compared to 2009.
  • 33,700 traveled Friday, 174 less.
  • 30,400 traveled Saturday, 1000 more.
  • 29,300 traveled Sunday, 2,000 more.
  • 25,000 traveled Monday, 200 more.

I-5, Olympia to Chehalis (Thurston/Lewis county line)
  • Friday through Monday there were 254,600 vehicles on I-5. This was a decrease of 15,000 vehicles (6 percent) when compared to 2009. Maybe the rain?
  • 73,700 vehicle traveled Friday, 5,400 less.
  • 67,600 vehicle traveled Saturday, 4,600 less.
  • 54,300 vehicle traveled Sunday, with 3,600 less.
  • 63,600 vehicle traveled Monday, 1,400 less.

US 2, Stevens Pass
  • Friday through Monday there were 35,500 vehicles on US 2. This was a decrease of 2,700 vehicles (7 percent) when compared to 2009.
  • 9,700 vehicle traveled Friday, 290 less.
  • 7,000 vehicle traveled Saturday, 1,300 less.
  • 8,300 vehicle traveled Sunday, with 400 less.
    10,200 vehicle traveled Monday, with 700 less.
Click on graph to view larger: