The Washington State Department of Transportation has turned its
Web site orange, covered part of its headquarters in orange and is
encouraging its employees to wear orange for work zone awareness
week. I presume that’s because orange is synoymous with work
OK, so work zone safety might not be that sexy, but here are
some interesting tidbits.
Fifty-four people were killed in work zone accidents since
January 2000. What’s weird is that 99 percent of people injured or
killed aren’t the workers but drivers and passengers. Pedestrians,
flaggers and roadway workers account for only 1 percent of injuries
and fatalities. Rear-end collisions cause most of them.
Here’s a shocker. A recent survey asked drivers whether they
slowed down when they entered work zones. Four out of five said
they did, but radar showed that all of them were lying.
DOT now has a small SUV it can park along work zones. In it is
an automated traffic safety camera. If it catches somebody
speeding, it takes a picture of the vehicle’s rear license
WSDOT hasn’t had a worker killed since 2002, but four contractor
workers died in the past two years.
Wednesdays in August is the most likely time for a work zone
accident. Traffic flaggers are most at risk. Speeding and not
paying attention are the main causes.
Gov. Chris Gregoire met with members of the Ferry Community
Partnership on Tuesday and they came away with a good feeling.
Gregoire also invited along Secretary of Transportation Paula
Hammond and Jill Satran, her transportation policy adviser.
Debbi Lester of Bainbridge, Walt Elliott of Kingston and John
Stokes of Bremerton were among the ferry group. They were joined by
Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, and Rep. Christine Rolfes,
Gregoire told the group, which wants to build 144-car ferries as
soon as possible, that she understands the need for the 144-car
boats as well as the 64-car boats. We’ll have to wait a few more
days to find out which ones the Legislature decides to build, she
The governor also talked about the need for sustainable ferry
funding and said she had hoped the legislature would define it this
session. Maybe next year.
She said she wants 2.5 percent fare increases, but that the
Legislature could wind up raising them a little more, possibly 3
percent. I hadn’t heard mention of anything other than 2.5.
They said they were there to plant seeds for the future to
encourage the governor, legislature and Washington State Ferries to
use the expertise available in ferry communities to help with
issues of efficiency and economy, and to consider the possibility
of a ferry community advisory committee to play a part in fare
discussions. Seaquist was pushing for that this session, but said
it’s dead and they’ll have to give it another shot next year.
The group said it was “incredibly impressed with the generosity
and the serious attention: the governor gave to them during the
hectic final week of the legislative session.
The Bellingham Herald ran a story
Wednesday from the boat-builder’s point of view about the low-wake
fast ferry Kitsap Transit is having built up there by All American
Marine. Company president Matt Mullett says he expects to start
building it in June, after the company finishes another project,
and it’ll take about 10 months to complete. They had these sketches
of the boat.
Tacoma Narrows Bridge users dodged a toll increase Wednesday and
unless something goofy happens, it looks like they’ll be off
the hook until July 1, 2010. Keep in mind that the bond payment was
structured to go up every year, and tolls will parallel them until
they reach about $6 a trip.
We’ve found out in the first year and a half that the citizens
committee wants to keep tolls cheaper for electronic payers than
manual ones as sort of a frequent user discount, although the state
never meant for it to play out that way (Plus, it costs about 57
cents more to process a toll at the booth). And the state wants to
keep the cash payment in even dollars to avoid the cost and hassle
of dealing with lots of coins.
Given those parameters, without doing any math or looking at any
projections I predict that on July 1, 2010, the tolls will go up to
$3.75 for people with transponders and $5 for those without.
The state Transportation Commission will decide next Wednesday
whether to raise tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge beginning on
July 1. It’s meeting is 9 a.m. at the Transportation Building,
Commission Board Room 1D2, 310 Maple Park Ave., Olympia.
Let’s replay how we got here:
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Citizens Advisory Committee
recommended in December that tolls stay at $2.75 for electronic and
$4 for manual.
In March, with revenue and traffic falling short of projections,
the commission rejected the citizens group’s recommendation and
proposed that tolls be $3.25 for electronic and $4 for manual.
The citizens group got another crack at it on April 1 and stuck
by its earlier recommendation, saying there will still be plenty of
money in reserve and if it starts to get low, they can raise
the tolls later.
So the ball is back in the commission’s court. If it decides on
Wednesday to raise tolls, there will be public meetings May 11 in
Gig Harbor and March 12 in Port Orchard. It’s odd to hold the
meetings after the amount has been declared, but commission
administrator Reema Griffith said it could still be changed at that
point. There would be one final public hearing May 26 in Gig Harbor
where a new toll would be approved.
In doing a little background research for this item about an
open house for the new Manette Bridge project (May 5, 4-7 p.m.,
Norm Dicks Government Center), I came across a story I wrote in
1999. It said that the $18 million Manette Bridge replacement was
being delayed because the $180 million Hood Canal Bridge was
hogging all the money.
Fast forward 10 years, and the price tag on the Hood Canal
Bridge is now $499 million and the estimate for the Manette Bridge
is $83 million. The project page for the Manette Bridge says the
costs have increased “due to unusually high construction cost
escalation” the past few years. As a result, some of the aesthetic
concepts presented in previous public meetings are no longer
included as part of the project. DOT says it will work with the
community and and support its efforts to get other funding for
Construction on the Manette Bridge was supposed to start in 2001
before DOT decided it couldn’t wait any longer to replace the east
half of the Hood Canal Bridge. Now construction is expected to
start in the summer of 2010. It is expected to open to traffic in
Washington State Ferries director David Moseley said in his
weekly memo today that the system is wasting no time spending the
$8.4 million in federal stimulus funding that the Puget Sound
Regional Council approved for it last month.
Early in the week, the 188-auto Spokane went to Fairhaven
Shipyard in Bellingham for a 14-week preservation project that
received $2.7 million in stimulus funds. The work includes
repainting most of the boat’s superstructure, replacing steel and
upgrading piping and navigational equipment. The Spokane is usually
on the Kingston-Edmonds route.
Later this month, the 87-car Evergreen State will go in for a
preservation project that got $1.5 million in stimulus funds.
It’s usually in the San Juans.
The other $4.2 million in stimulus dollars will pay for several
terminal preservation projects to begin construction later this
year. WSF is also preparing to compete for the $60 million national
federal discretionary grant program.
144-car Elwha’s drive motor has been fixed and it returned to the
Anacortes-San Juan Islands route on Thursday. That will allow the
down to the inter-island route and relieve the 34-auto
The Elwha was removed from
service on March 24 after the crew discovered sparking in an
electrical switch in its drive motor.
Ferries electricians and port engineers worked with the vendors of
the drive motor and control system to perform a full evaluation of
the drive motor, component by component. Crews cleaned the motor,
changed brushes, and made recommended adjustments. Crews compared
data collected during sea trials to ensure that the problem was
The Yakima will be on the Bremerton-Seattle route for the next
two weeks and it does not have Wi-Fi. This will impact the
Seattle: 7:35 a.m., 10:15 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 4:20 p.m, 6:45 p.m and
Bremerton-6:20 a.m., 9 a.m, 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m., 5:30 p.m.,
and 7:55 p.m.
King County Ferry District officials say 3,429 riders rode the
West Seattle-to-downtown passenger ferry on Sunday. The old record
for opening day was 2,404 riders in 2007.