The in basket: At this year’s Puyallup Fair, I stopped and talked with Richard, who has what seems like an interesting and dangerous job keeping traffic moving on Highway 405 east of Seattle, driving an incident response truck
He had his truck with him at the state Department of Transportation display, a mammoth 10-cylinder pickup capable of pushing large vehicles out of the way of traffic when they are disabled.
In the bed of the pickup he had an assortment of detritus that he had hauled off the highways while on the job. He had put some of it to use, prying and such, he told me.
As common as they are in King and Pierce counties, Richard said there are no incident response trucks assigned to Kitsap County, though one might be sent here for a major accident or blockage.
I was surprised by that, as I was sure I had seen one on a highway around here at what clearly was an ordinary problem. And, sure enough, there it was Tuesday afternoon running interference along with a state trooper, protecting some poor devil changing a flat tire on the narrow shoulder of Highway 3 southbound heading into Gorst.
The out basket: Richard was wrong, it turns out. Doug Adamson of the Olympic Regions public affairs office sent me the following when I asked about it:
“One Incident Response Team (IRT) member is headquartered at the Port Orchard Maintenance office full-time. (That’s on Spring Creek Road just off Mullenix Road.)
“He patrols Pierce County north of the Tacoma Narrows, and all of Mason and Kitsap counties. We also have several WSDOT maintenance staff who are trained to do Incident Response duties, and they can respond to an incident as needed.
“The Washington State Patrol requests IRT assistance for incidents in which a roadway is fully blocked or in other situations where traffic flow is impeded. When not responding to an incident, IRT staff patrol their service areas, helping drivers whose vehicles have become disabled.”
An IRT vehicle, it said,:
- Can pump and haul away 100 gallons of diesel fuel from a crashed semi-truck.
- Can serve as a mobile communications center.
- Carries numerous traffic control devices that divert vehicles away from incidents and collisions. The one I saw Tuesday had a large screen mounted on the back warning oncoming drivers with a yellow display.
- Carries miscellaneous road-service supplies, including small amounts of gasoline to help drivers who have run out of gas, tools to help change flat tires, and jumper cables to jumpstart a dead battery.
Jerry Lowery has the assignment in Port Orchard and others in that office take the truck out when Jerry isn’t there. The job entails a split shift to cover morning and afternoon rush hours.
Doug also referred me to a Web site with more information (www.wsdot.wa.gov/operations/incidentresponse/) that includes this: “Four to 10 minutes of traffic congestion (depending on traffic volume) can result from every minute a lane remains blocked, so incidents must be detected and cleared as fast as possible to minimize the impact on congestion, especially during peak periods.”