Topic: Washington State Department of Transportation
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November 14, 2013 at 11:00 AM
The Highway 99 tunneling machine “Bertha” is on the move again, after a rest stop to undergo adjustments and receive a new set of cutting teeth.
Dark, wet soil tumbled off the tall conveyor belt and plopped onto the deck of Terminal 46, to be trucked or barged away. The moving dirt was visible Thursday morning from the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Bertha had stopped beneath South King Street for about two weeks, after advancing 430 feet since opening day July 30. As planned, two dozen sharp, disc-shaped cutting tools (out of nearly 300 on the 57.3-foot-diameter rotary cutter) eroded after they scoured through a concrete wall and grout-infused soil near the Sodo launch pit.
These were replaced by rectangular teeth, suited to the wet, abrasive glacial soil just ahead.
The machine will now creep along the Elliott Bay shoreline for a couple months before what is arguably the most risky part of the 1.7-mile trip — a passage under the viaduct and past Pioneer Square’s brick buildings. The viaduct will close several days, and the buildings are covered with monitoring devices to detect any soil movements to a fraction of an inch.
In related issues, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) says negotiations are continuing in the labor dispute with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which insists on doing four muck-loading jobs per shift at Terminal 46 — jobs currently allocated to building-trades workers. Two weeks ago, deputy project director Matt Preedy said his goal was to settle the impasse by this week.
Also, the DOT says it’s still working on a legal review and possible solutions, for the failure of contractors to hire enough minority- and female-owned small businesses, such as trucking firms. The Federal Highway Administration’s civil-rights division blasted both Seattle Tunnel Partners and state DOT in a recent investigation, and the feds mentioned they might withhold money for the project if things don’t improve.
KaDeena Yerkan, DOT spokeswoman for the tunnel, said Wednesday that Seattle Tunnel Partners this week solicited a new set of proposals from trucking companies. Those could bring a boost in minority hiring, but Yerkan said details weren’t immediately available.
November 11, 2013 at 11:27 AM
The Associated Press
MOUNT VERNON — The Transportation Department says metal work on the Interstate 5 Skagit River bridge is complete.
The last trusses were reconfigured Friday, giving 18 feet of clearance for all traffic lanes.
The Skagit Valley Herald reports there may be some short closures this week to finish maintenance and painting.
A section of the bridge collapsed May 23 when an arching truss was hit by an oversized truck. Workers installed an emergency span and then replaced it with a permanent span.
New, squared-off trusses should prevent a similar strike.
October 29, 2013 at 11:46 AM
The (Centralia) Chronicle
U.S. Highway 12 near the White Pass summit is expected to be fully reopened to traffic by Thanksgiving after a washout Oct. 1 along a steep embankment adjacent to the roadway, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
“We are making progress and we hope to reopen it to two lanes by Thanksgiving,” WSDOT spokeswoman Summer Derrey said.
State transportation officials reopened one lane of the highway at milepost 154, just east of White Pass, four days after the washout. An automated signal is directing alternating traffic through a quarter-mile area near the washout, according to WSDOT.
Commercial vehicles are not allowed through and will have to use Interstate 90 and Interstate 5, WSDOT said.
Before the highway is completely reopened, a series of closures are scheduled next week, Derrey said.
The highway near White Pass will be closed nightly from 7 p.m. to midnight on Nov. 4, Nov. 5 and Nov. 6, according to WSDOT.
WSDOT contractor DBM paved the ditch and shoulder along the hillside to make room for one lane of traffic. The contractor is currently repairing the retaining wall.
“It’s not going to be exactly the same two lanes we had prior. The two lanes are shifting to the mountain side,” Derrey said.
The estimated cost to repair the washout is about $800,000, funded in part through an emergency proclamation signed by Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this month.
October 4, 2013 at 1:33 PM
The Associated Press
YAKIMA — The state Department of Transportation says it’s reopening one lane of Highway 12 near White Pass at 3 p.m. Friday.
Spokeswoman Summer Derry in Yakima said drivers will be directed through a washout area by portable lights and should expect periodic closures as work continues.
A contractor hopes to restore two lanes of travel before winter. A permanent repair will have to wait until spring.
After heavy weekend rain, a 500-foot section along the highway gave way Tuesday three miles east of the White Pass summit. A 45-mile stretch of highway between Packwood and Naches was closed.
October 3, 2013 at 1:08 PM
The Associated Press
YAKIMA — The state Department of Transportation hopes to reopen one lane of Highway 12 near White Pass in time for weekend travel.
Spokeswoman Meagan McFadden in Yakima says traffic will be directed through the washout area by portable lights. The highway will remain closed to oversized vehicles.
She says the contractor will have to bring in a lot of fill to replace ground that gave way Tuesday following heavy weekend rain.
The 500-foot long washout is three miles east of the White Pass summit. A 45-mile stretch of highway between Packwood and Naches is closed.
The department plans a temporary fix with a permanent repair next spring.
September 15, 2013 at 7:30 AM
The new permanent replacement span over the Skagit River has reopened — nearly seven hours later than originally planned.
The state Department of Transportation said the new north span was opened to traffic just before 2 p.m. Sunday, much later than the expected 7 a.m. opening. The open was delayed initially because the cutting of steel plates to secure the new permanent bridge took longer than expected, says DOT.
Then work crews had to wait for newly painted stripes on the roadway to dry.
Construction teams had worked overnight to slide a new 915-ton bridge span over the river to replace a temporary span.
The original north span of the freeway bridge collapsed May 23 when a tall truckload hit several overhead crossbeams. A military-style bridge was temporarily installed June 19, with a reduced speed limit of 40 mph.
Drivers had to detour through the business district of Burlington until the new span was opened to traffic.
To see a time-lapse of the new permanent span being moved into place, click here.
June 7, 2013 at 12:46 PM
The Wenatchee World
SNOQUALMIE PASS – Crews finished rock blasting on schedule Thursday evening over I-90, just east of the summit of Snoqualmie Pass, and no further closures are expected this weekend, state Department of Transportation official say.
Blasting to remove weak, fractured rock closed the route in both directions Thursday evening between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. No major traffic tie ups were reported, a DOT official said.
April 12, 2013 at 11:31 AM
The state’s chief bridge engineer has been fired, and one other Department of Transportation employee demoted, in the wake of design flaws that caused cracks in the first batch of new Highway 520 bridge pontoons.
Jugesh Kapur, head of the DOT’s Bridge and Structures office, confirmed in a phone interview Friday that he was let go. Kapur said he has no other comment at this time.
Chief of Staff Steve Reinmuth issued the disciplinary letters April 5, spokesman Lars Erickson said Friday. He said DOT wouldn’t release the letters or identify the two employees Friday, saying a Seattle Times’ request for the records must first be reviewed, and the two employees have a chance to object, before any disclosure. These will be the only people disciplined, Erickson said.
Repairs and redesigns of the pontoons are expected to cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, wiping out the savings that DOT claimed when it received low bids in 2010.
A state investigative report, by internationally-known concrete expert John Reilly, blamed the Bridge and Structures Office (BSO), which was trying to carry out instructions by the Legislature and former Gov. Chris Gregoire to get the floating bridge done by 2014.
The BSO did most of the pontoon design in house, instead of delegating those details and the financial risk to contracting teams. The goal was to allow bids to be submitted sooner. But DOT’s own engineers were confused about the division of responsibility, and the state’s design included mistakes.
While the first six pontoons were cast in May 2012, a high tension cable broke through the corner of one pontoon, forcing retrofits to others in the Grays Harbor casting basin. And the geometry of thick “bolt beams,” where the end walls of pontoons will be fastened together on Lake Washington, created stresses that generated long cracks in the walls. To fix these, the DOT will add more high-tension steel cables, and squeeze the pontoons from either side as diagrammed below:
Paula Hammond, former DOT secretary, also said the design team took shortcuts, including a failure to run models that would have predicted the cracking problems.
As head of bridges and structures, the 52-year-old Kapur earned about $127,000 as of 2010, for a broad range of duties that include maintaining some 3,000 crossings. Kapur was in the news describing DOT fixes to halt settlement of the old Alaskan Way Viaduct, for years after the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. The bridge office conducted extra reviews in the wake of the I-35 bridge collapse in Minnesota in 2007 — Washington state DOT reviewed the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge and 47 others supported by steel trusses. The state DOT’s bridges tend to be more structurally sound than the national average but maintenance funds are running low.
New Gov. Jay Inslee appointed a new secretary, Lynn Peterson, who took office in March. Floating-bridge construction is now expected to last well into 2015.
February 26, 2013 at 1:00 PM
Millions of dollars must be spent to fix the pontoons being built for a new 520 bridge, transportation officials said Tuesday, after underwater inspections revealed that the pontoons’ worst cracks grew over the winter.
Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond also said Tuesday the state is unlikely to meet its December 2014 goal to open the floating section of the new six-lane bridge. “I’m hopeful the project will be done within 2015,” she said.
Hammond acknowledges the cost, yet to be precisely determined, will be in the tens of millions. She doesn’t know if it will reach $100 million, but says she’s confident it will be less than the $200 million still in the bridge contingency budget. Much depends on whether the state and contractors Kiewit-General-Manson can agree on ways to accelerate the job, through double shifts or overlapping tasks, she said.
The state released the new findings Tuesday from three pontoon investigative reports.
The most serious cracks begin in the end walls, and wrap around the upper and lower edges to continue along the top and bottoms. These are blamed on state design mistakes. During post tensioning, which involves cinching the pontoons tight using steel bands, the high forces caused cracking. An untreated underwater crack can let in water at rates of 1 cubic foot per hour, a technical report says.
The main remedy for pontoons already on Lake Washington, and more being built in Grays Harbor, is to use high-tension steel bands to compress the pontoons from side to side, at each end.
Hundreds of smaller cracks, blamed mainly on concrete-handling flaws by contractors, are relatively easy to seal with epoxies, and comparable to cracks on other floating bridges.
Hammond also said disciplinary action will be taken against state bridge division staff who signed off on the design without running models that might have foreseen the cracking. She says the state was moving fast to meet elected officials’ desire for quick completion, but that’s no excuse.
Hammond is leaving her post March. 8. Gov. Jay Inslee last week named Lynn Peterson, a highway engineer and adviser to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, as her replacement.
October 20, 2012 at 8:02 AM
Weather: There’s a 50-percent chance of showers today and tonight. Highs today and tomorrow will be around 50. Snoqualmie and Stevens passes are getting their first taste of snow this season so motorists should expect traffic delays. The National Weather Service forecast.
Traffic: The Highway 520 floating bridge is closed for construction between Montlake Boulevard and Interstate 405 until noon tomorrow. Traffic map and cams.
TV for accused killer : Christopher Monfort, who is accused of killing Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton and wounding his rookie partner on Halloween night 2009, will become the first inmate at the King County Jail to have his own television set in his cell. Jail officials say the decision was made to combat Monfort’s severe isolation. But the Seattle Police Department and the officers’ union aren’t happy with the idea.
Candidates trade barbs: Congressional candidates Suzan DelBene and John Koster traded accusations during appearances Friday in two different television studios.
Duel in the desert: The Washington Huskies (3-3) kick off the second half of the season with a Saturday night game against Arizona that could be a swing game for the rest of the year. The Huskies need a win to avoid falling into a hole, especially with surprising Oregon State coming to town next week.
Most-read stories this morning on seattletimes.com:
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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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