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December 2, 2013 at 1:32 PM
UPDATED 4:20 P.M | The West Seattle Bridge reopened this afternoon, following nearby crashes that were blamed by police on road de-icer.
Three cars spun out on the curve next to the Nucor steel mill, where eastbound traffic turns downhill toward the high bridge, said Steve Pratt, road-maintenance director for the Seattle Department of Transportation.
The crashes happened shortly after a midday application of salt solution de-icer.
“The only thing I can assume is, perhaps the (road) deck is a little too warm,” Pratt said.
Pratt said the city was trying to treat the bridge corridor before tonight’s Seahawks game and afternoon rush hour, and SDOT was hearing reports that a cold front would reach the city by 1 p.m.
He was thinking about Nov. 22, 2010, when freezing rain stranded cars on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and road crews couldn’t salt the road decks because the stalled traffic was blocking them. So on Monday, he said he wanted to get a jump on the forecast freeze.
“I’m going to put this in the category of ‘no good deed goes unpunished,’ ” he said.
City officials also blamed high car speed for the wrecks. The posted limit is 40 mph near the steel mill and 45 mph on the bridge.
Pratt, who was doing other work in West Seattle at the time, said he drove onto the high bridge from the Delridge Way onramp, trouble free. But when crashes began, the police closed the entire high bridge route, including the Delridge onramp, as an apparent precaution.
SDOT has used salt solution for more than three years and has never had a problem like this.
The de-icer used Monday is called FreezGard, an opaque brown liquid containing magnesium chloride. It takes five to 10 minutes to crystallize on the pavement, said Pratt. Meantime, it goes on slightly slippery, “particularly if vehicles are exceeding the posted speed limit,” said SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan. Many years ago, the curve at the steel mill wasn’t treated at all, so that when vapor from the steel mill condensed, a sheet of ice invariably caused spin-outs on any frosty morning.
Usually, the city applies salt solution overnight. Just before noon Monday, the air was 43 degrees and the road deck 38 degrees, said Pratt.
He said the city will think twice before applying salt solution in the daytime. Another idea that’s been discussed is a rolling slowdown, where a vehicle behind the de-icing truck slows the drivers behind it for several minutes.
Crashes occurred between noon and 1 p.m. The bridge reopened to traffic in both directions around 3 p.m., after crews dropped sand to improve traction.
The city has applied liquid salt compound since December 2009, following the city’s slow ice response in December 2008 when SDOT under then-mayor Greg Nickels avoided salt, and some streets took days to thaw.
October 18, 2013 at 10:05 AM
UPDATE: 10:30 a.m. | The bridge is now open to traffic.
The Ballard bridge is stuck open this morning after an apparent mechanical failure.
Rick Sheridan, spokesman for Seattle Department of Transportation, said that the failure occurred around 9:30 a.m. The bridge tender noticed the eves weren’t aligning when closing it after boat traffic passed by. The bridge is in the open position while crews work on it.
“We do occasionally experience some mechanical issues with our bridges. These are complex pieces of equipment,” Sheridan said.
Seattle police are rerouting traffic.
June 4, 2012 at 4:54 PM
A section of Seattle’s Northeast Ravenna Boulevard is going to remain bumpy a little bit longer.
Because of rain, plans to repave the street in the eastbound direction between Northeast 65th Street and 15th Avenue Northeast have been delayed until Wednesday night.
The closure was to include the Interstate 5 on-ramp from Northeast Ravenna, the Northeast 65th offramp and the Northeast 50th Street onramp. Those are open tonight and Tuesday night.
Weather permitting, those closures are now scheduled for 10 p.m. Wednesday to 5 a.m. Thursday.
Also delayed was today’s repaving of westbound Ravenna between University Way Northeast and 65th. That work is now scheduled to start tomorrow.
February 23, 2012 at 3:35 PM
The man in charge of traffic management for Seattle announced his resignation Thursday, citing personal reasons.
Charles Bookman, who joined Seattle’s Department of Transportation in 2002, said he is leaving his post March 30 to oversee the care of his ailing 97-year-old father, who lives in New York City.
Bookman’s division is responsible for the city’s signs and street markings, and for its traffic lights.
”It’s been in the works for months,” said Bookman, 64, who will remain in Seattle but travel monthly to see his father. He said he does not plan to retire, but does not expect to work with the city in the future.
In an e-mail announcing his resignation, he wrote: ”I am proud to have served three successive administrations. Together we have steadily kept on course, building the transportation system we need out of the one we have. SDOT’s Traffic Management Division is positioned to do great things in the future. We are building innovative new facilities, and now have the tools, knowledge and systems to operate them at optimal efficiency.”
Bookman’s division came under scrutiny this week, following reports that managers in his division took 11 hours to dispatch a crew to repair a broken traffic light at a major intersection in West Seattle.
“It’s unfortunate timing,” he said Thursday, noting that his decision was unrelated to that incident or the complaints the city’s signal electricians have made against one of his subordinates.
Management decisions and a staffing experiment begun last month left the intersection at 35th Avenue Southwest and Fauntleroy Way Southwest to operate as a four-way stop on Feb. 8 until a crew was dispatched at rush hour, when traffic was already tied up.
The division eliminated the night shift in January to save money, and replaced it with an on-call roster that had rules about who could volunteer for overtime. The electricians’ union contract requires everybody to be available for overtime. But the manager supervising the electricians instituted a rule in August that only electricians living within 30 minutes of the workplace could volunteer for overtime, according to the employee.
The manager was Paul Jackson Jr., a former division chief who led the city’s botched response to the December 2008 snowstorms and who figured prominently in a yearlong human-resources investigation into the department’s street-maintenance division.
January 17, 2012 at 6:03 PM
Despite extensive publicity about its snow readiness, the Seattle Department of Transportation was caught unprepared by the first blast of January snow Sunday morning, when cars spun out on Boren Avenue.
The confusion was captured on this humorous YouTube video, titled “Seattle Drivers in Two Inches of Snow.” It was shot on a steep slope near University Avenue and Boren. The street runs past Virginia Mason Medical Center and is a route to Swedish and Harborview medical centers, so a clear path is crucial for emergency services.
The city had issued a press release a couple days before, saying maintenance crews were “on standby for snow response” and have been treating areas prone to frost and ice.
Asked about the slippery slope, street maintenance director Steve Pratt said Tuesday that there were only 10 snow-response trucks on duty late Sunday morning. A sudden squall hit at about 10:30 a.m. The city was focused mainly on the north end based on the weather forecast, Pratt said, but snow fell heaviest in West and central Seattle.
There wasn’t enough rock salt on Boren to melt the falling snow, he said.
“We weren’t prepared with enough material, to put it bluntly.” Within a couple hours, Pratt said, there were 20 to 30 trucks on the streets citywide.
Also Sunday, transit buses slid on the freeway ramp that descends from northbound I-5 to Sodo at Spokane Street. Pratt says about 15 buses spun out citywide Sunday.
He said 30 trucks will be at the ready, including a front-end loader to scoop snow from Highway 99 at Sodo, before the commute begins in expected heavier snow Wednesday morning.
Times reporter Susan Kelleher contributed to this post.
About The Today File
The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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