Road Warrior’s tragedy leads to some answers

The Judybaker, my wife of nearly 20 years whose observations and questions often enhanced the Road Warrior column, won’t be gracing it any longer. She was taken from me June 20 by a grotesque abdominal infection that grew out of a June 9 surgery.

Her suggestions and contributions to Road Warrior are just a tiny part of what I miss about her.

I want to thank all of you who learned of her death and sent expressions of condolence and sympathy.

A couple of columns I had finished before she died have appeared since her death but this is the first one I’ve tried to write with her gone.


The in basket: My visits to the hospital the week following the initial June 9 surgery, done in Federal Way, made me realize how much harder getting around is between there and Tacoma compared to what we Kitsappers imagine to be traffic congestion. Every day, seemingly at any hour, from the Tuesday of the surgery to the following Saturday, it was miles of vehicles crawling southbound on I-5. Fortunately, I mostly got to see it from the northbound lanes after fighting my way past equally bad backups of those trying to get from Highway 16 onto northbound I-5.

I wondered if what I saw is just the day-to-day norm there, or if something unusual caused it all. And while all the construction on I-5 near the Tacoma Dome certainly will make it easier to get from Highway 16 onto northbound I-5, it isn’t obvious how it could help the southbound jams.

I asked State Trooper Guy Gill of the Tacoma my first question, and Claudia Bingham-Baker of the state Department of Transportation my second one.

The out basket: Guy told me the southbound congestion comes and goes and it doesn’t take much to get it started.

“We have our normal little fender-bender crashes, and when we have one in that corridor past the Tacoma Dome down into Fife, we are seeing people going to the shoulder with tow trucks and everyone likes to look at that stuff. (Backups) will set in from a crash like that and it will take hours to filter out.

“We ask folks to move both vehicles completely off the freeway, find a parking lot or and let us know where you are. If you can steer it, clear it.

“At least clear the lane. It’s up to the trooper to figure it out. Troopers will ask you for a written statement.”

He also put in a pitch for keeping the smart phone out of sight when driving, or you might cause one of those fender-benders.

Claudia replied, “The HOV lanes we are building will help both directions of I-5 traffic. We have two construction projects underway at present; one will add an HOV lane in the northbound direction between Portland Avenue and the Port of Tacoma Road; the second one will add HOV lanes in both directions between M Street and Portland Avenue.

“We have yet more construction coming down the pipeline after these two projects are complete that will add a southbound HOV lane between Portland Avenue and Port of Tacoma Road and an HOV roadway and ramp connections at the I-5/SR 16 interchange.

“These projects are all very large and take several years to complete. We are using the opportunity to not only expand I-5, but to rebuild all lanes of I-5 within each project. I-5 was built in the 1960s and the concrete needs to be replaced. The result is many traffic shifts and realignments that cause construction-related slowdowns.

“So the answer to your question is yes, the current construction will help traffic flow better through Tacoma when it is complete,” Claudia said.

I wish I had greater confidence in the worth of HOV lanes to reduce congestion, but I’ve also learned that the state’s traffic engineers have a good track record in solving problems (not counting the driving surface of the Warren Avenue Bridge in Bremerton) so I’ll take their word for it.

14 thoughts on “Road Warrior’s tragedy leads to some answers

  1. Travis, please accept my sincerest condolences. I can’t imagine what you went through and are still experiencing.
    On the constipation of I-5, especially the SR-16/I-5 connection – that work has been going on for decades, with no end in sight. Still no relief from congestion. I’ll bet people have been hired, and retired after working on nothing but that mess of concrete their entire career. I know it’s been decades because I moved to Bremerton in 1969, and it was being worked then. Someday, maybe.

  2. Travis you have my deepest sympathy for the loss of your best friend. May the Lord help you through this terrible time.

  3. Travis; our families deepest sympathy and condolences for your loss, Judy was a classmate of mine and always a positive person. While we did not see each other often when we did it was as though the last time we talked was only yesterday. We send our prayers your way.

  4. My sympathies are with you. You left a picture of your Judybaker in my mind that showed how much you cared for her. She must have been a special woman.

  5. Travis:

    Our condolences on your loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    We hope you continue to do your column; we have read it with interest and appreciated it greatly for the few years we have lived in Kitsap County. Your column is one of the best features of the Sun, (the funnies being the other), and you should know that it and your work is very much appreciated.

  6. Thank you all for your good wishes. If any of you want to see her life in photos, it’s online at, under obituaries.
    I think Ron P. must have someone else in mind. The Judybaker was Judy Robbins in high school, which was South High in Torrance, CA.

  7. Travis: I am very sorry to hear of Judy’s passing. Praying that God Bless and keep watch over you to get through this difficult time. As credit to her, you have often mentioned of the contribution she had made to a column of the day; that is a great tribute in itself. While I may skip over news articles that are disheartening or have no interest to me, your columns are the one constant that I always read. I have learned much through your writings. Keep ’em coming, my friend!!

  8. Travis and Family,
    I’m so deeply sorry for your loss. I have read your traffic warrior for a long time and even though I didn’t know that your wife sometimes contributed to your column, it doesn’t surprise me. Sounds like you two made a great team. I wish you peace as you move forward.

  9. Dear Travis,
    I am so sorry to hear about your wife’s passing. My sincerest condolences to you and your family. It is not easy losing a beloved spouse. I pray you will take great comfort in the memories and the love you shared.

  10. Trav,,
    I just learned of Judy’s passing. I know this must be devastating for you, but it was very evident just how you two loved and blessed each other. You have had a wonderful marriage and I know you’ll always have great memories. If there’s anything I can do, please contact me.
    Don Atkinson

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