Monthly Archives: April 2009

DOT Going Orange

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 sites.

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 plate.

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.

Ferry Advocates Meet With Governor

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, D-Bainbridge Island.

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 said.

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 gavegovgroupphoto to them during the hectic final week of the legislative session.

Narrows Bridge Toll Predictions

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.

Narrows Bridge Tolls on the Line Next Week

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.

Manette Bridge Cost Goes Up; Aesthetics Go Down

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 enhancements.

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 November 2013.

Ferries System Spending Stimulus Money

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.

San Juan Ferries Return to Normal

The 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 90-car Sealth to bump down to the inter-island route and relieve the 34-auto Hiyu .

The Elwha was removed from service on March 24 after the crew discovered sparking in an electrical switch in its drive motor.

Washington State 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 fully addressed.

No Wi-Fi on One Bremerton Boat

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 following sailings:
Seattle: 7:35 a.m., 10:15 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 4:20 p.m, 6:45 p.m and 9:05 p.m.
Bremerton-6:20  a.m., 9 a.m, 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.