Through the miracle of technology, I was able to hear about a wreck on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge via an email alert sent by DOT, then go to the DOT website and see a picture of a blown-over mobile home blocking the two right lanes. I texted my kid and warned him in case he was over in Tacoma. I know none of this is cutting-edge stuff, but it’s amazing what I can do now that I couldn’t not that many years ago. It’s darn useful for a reporter, and hopefully for others.
There’s a string of cameras all the way from Purdy to the bridge, and beyond. I use those a lot, because we write about accidents in that fringe of our coverage area, plus it’s part of my commute. It’d be cool to have more cameras in Kitsap, but we don’t really need them. There are a few at each ferry dock, a string between Poulsbo and the Hood Canal Bridge to check backups from bridge openings, and one just south of Gorst at Highway 3 and Christopherson Road. I have no idea why it’s there.
When I get an email saying the Hood Canal Bridge is opening, sometimes I go to the camera to see if it’s a submarine, but they turn off the camera for security reasons.
Cameras are part of fixing the clog on I-5 near Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Emergency crews can use them to see what kind of mess they’re responding to, and people can check traffic before leaving to see if they might want to wait or take a different route. DOT’s website now also features travel times between Olympia and Tacoma, a stretch that carries 132,000 cars a day. Earlier this month, DOT began using ramp meters at Marvin, Nisqually and Mounts roads to space out traffic as it enters I-5. It’s the same idea they had for Highway 16 and why the cameras and ramp meters were installed in the Gig Harbor area. When the new bridge opened, however, they didn’t need them anymore.
The joint-base ramp meters, traffic cameras and online information were part of a $2.5 million project to improve traffic near there. More improvements are on the way. DOT recently got a $15 million grant to install more ramp meters, new signals and widen shoulders to allow cars to drive on them between on- and off-ramps during peak commute hours.