wsdot logo greenOnline open house available through Sept. 5

OLYMPIA – An online open house is now available for travelers, freight haulers, business owners and others to provide feedback on the future of safety rest areas across Washington state. Input will be used to make decisions about the program’s maintenance and operations and to update the Washington State Department of Transportation’s strategic plan for rest areas.

The online open house is available through 5 p.m. Sept. 5 and allows participants to learn more about the strategic plan process as well as leave comments or feedback.

“This outreach will inform our strategic plan, which shapes the overall operations of our 47 safety rest areas,” said Safety Rest Area Planning Manager Angela Vigil. “It’s an important conversation as we work with our regional maintenance crews, agency leaders and partners on priorities and establish a clearer vision for the future of this program for all travelers.”

The public will have the opportunity to comment on safety, facility conditions, freight parking, site operations, traveler needs, WSDOT’s free coffee program and funding challenges. The agency will begin writing the draft strategic plan this fall, which also will be available for public review and comment. The plan is expected to be finalized in spring 2023.

Online open house information

When:            June 27 to Sept. 5

Where:           Engage.wsdot.wa.gov/safety-rest-areas/

Details:           The online open house is available to access 24/7, whenever best fits individual      schedules. The open house includes:    

  • Strategic plan information
  • Understanding the Safety Rest Area Program
  • Timeline and next steps

Free, temporary internet access is available at several sites across the state for those who do not have broadband service. A list of sites can be found online at: www.commerce.wa.gov/building-infrastructure/washington-state-drive-in-wifi-hotspots-location-finder/

About WSDOT’s Safety Rest Area Program:

WSDOT owns and operates 47 safety rest areas statewide. While services at each site vary, most offer general visitor information, electric vehicle charging stations, a place for travelers to rest (8 hours for vehicles and 11 for freight haulers in accordance with federal law), picnic areas, restrooms, drinking water, RV dumping stations, vending machines, and free coffee as part of WSDOT’s free coffee program by local volunteer groups.

wsdot logoWSDOT tools available for best times to travel on key routes

OLYMPIA – With the Fourth of July holiday fast approaching, the Washington State Department of Transportation’s highly anticipated travel charts are now available to help people plan ahead. The weekend prior to Monday, July 4 is expected to see increased travel on many key routes including Interstate-5, I-90 and ferry service throughout the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands.

The closure of the U.S.-Canadian border the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in unreliable travel data and wait times for travelers. For this reason, WSDOT will not produce travel charts for the border crossing this year. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination remains a requirement for entry into Canada.

WSDOT encourages travelers to “know before they go,” and follow these tips whether traveling across town or the beautiful Evergreen State:  

  • Get informed about WSDOT's online tools, including the WSDOT mobile app, traffic cameras and email alerts.
  • Visit online traveler information for traffic, weather, ferry schedules and a real-time travel map.
  • Follow WSDOT's social media accounts, such as several Twitter accounts and the agency Facebook page.
  • Pre-program your vehicle radio to 530 AM and 1610 AM for highway advisory radio alerts.
  • Have a backup outdoor destination if your first choice is full. If parking lots are full, find an alternative site and never park along road shoulders, as this is unsafe for everyone on the roadway.
  • Allow extra time for travel to avoid rushing or distraction.
  • Carry extra food and water as well as extra masks and hand sanitizer as an added precaution for emergencies or unexpected stops.

Highway construction paused

Most state highway construction work is suspended through the holiday weekend – including Friday, July 1 – to ease congestion. However, Revive I-5 work which requires multiple lane closures in downtown Seattle will take place beginning 9:30 p.m. Friday, July 1 through 6:30 a.m. Monday, July 4. Please stay alert for new lane shifts or work zone staging areas that may remain in place. And please give any emergency repair crews plenty of space to work safely.

Snoqualmie Pass

No construction or lane closures are planned on I-90 from Friday, July 1, until Tuesday, July 5. However, the usual holiday increase in traffic volumes means travelers should expect eastbound delays beginning on Thursday, June 30, then westbound Tuesday, July 5 (see charts for more detail). Receive text message alerts about significant delays by texting the number 468311 with the words "WSDOT Snoqualmie."

Tolling

In the Puget Sound, weekend toll rates will be in effect Saturday through Monday, July 2-4, on the SR 520 bridge and SR 99 tunnel. The I-405 express toll lanes will be free and open to all drivers on the weekend and Monday holiday.

Ferry travel

People boarding a state ferry by vehicle should prepare for long waits. Peak travel times on most routes are expected to be westbound Thursday and Friday, June 30 and July 1, then eastbound, Monday and Tuesday, July 4-5. Customers also can bypass vehicle lines by traveling as a walk-on passenger.

  • All riders should double check the sailing schedules as some routes are operating on timetables that are different than prior to the pandemic.
  • Visit the Washington State Ferries website for more details on vehicle reservations, rider alerts, checking terminal conditions and COVID-19 travel updates.
  • The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends wearing face masks on indoor transit, but they are no longer required.

Trains, airports and transit

Travelers making a trip by train, personal aircraft or bus also should plan ahead to avoid holiday delays:

  • Amtrak Cascades passengers are encouraged to purchase tickets early and should plan to arrive at the station one hour before departure. Trains are running between Seattle and Eugene, Oregon. Buses are operating for travel between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia. Masks are encouraged, but not required on all trains and buses. Visit www.amtrakcascades.com/ or call 800-USA-RAIL for tickets.
  • For information about traveling via state-sponsored airports, visit wsdot.wa.gov/travel/aviation/airports-list or call 360-788-7437.
  • Check with your local public transit agencies for any holiday schedule or service changes, including some Dial-A-Ride and fixed-route service that may not run on holidays.

wsdot logoThe March 2022 edition of WSDOT’s quarterly performance report (Gray Notebook 85) is now available online. While numerous performance measures are reported throughout the Gray Notebook, highlights from this issue include:

  • WSDOT's Electronic Screening System helped the trucking industry avoid 230,000 travel hours and $28.9 million in operating costs in 2021
  • Amtrak Cascades had a 46% increase in ridership to 251,000 passengers in 2021 compared to 172,000 in 2020
  • WSDOT and partners recorded a minimum of 8,683 animal crossings in the Snoqualmie Pass East Project area in 2020 and 2021
  • WSDOT began monitoring nine new wetland and stream mitigation sites on 32.7 acres in 2021
  • WSDOT’s and Washington State Ferries' combined agency-wide recordable incident rate increased 29.5% in 2021
  • In the first quarter of 2022, WSDOT Incident Response teams provided an estimated $21.3 million in economic benefit by reducing the effects of incidents on drivers
  • Washington State Ferries completed 27,955 (98.8%) of its 28,306 regularly scheduled trips in the third quarter of FY2022
  • WSDOT advertised 58 of 143 Pre-existing Funds projects during the third quarter of the 2021-2023 biennium

Gray Notebook editions can accessed at the Gray Notebook archive page.

wsdot logoState agencies cleaned nearly 22,000 miles of Washington’s roads in 2021

OLYMPIA – Every year, more than 12 million pounds of litter ends up on Washington’s roadways and up to 40% - almost 5 million pounds - comes from unsecured cargo blowing out of trucks and cars. This debris isn’t just unsightly, it’s dangerous to motorists, people who walk, bike or roll, and roadside workers. To recognize this, Washington is marking National Secure Your Load Day on June 6, which commemorates people whose lives were impacted or taken by unsecured loads and encourages drivers to properly secure their loads every time they drive.

“Washington is the most beautiful state in the country, and to keep it that way we all have to do our part to keep litter and debris off our public spaces,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “Unsecured loads are a threat to our safety and to the health of our fellow Washingtonians. We’re reminding every driver about the importance of securing their cargo and keeping Washington litter free.”

Today marks the first anniversary of the We Keep Washington Litter Free campaign, which initially focused on alerting Washingtonians about the significant safety and environmental impacts of unsecured vehicle loads. The statewide Secure Your Load for Safer Roads program is a partnership between the Washington State Department of Ecology, the Washington State Patrol, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission aimed at increasing safety and reducing roadside litter.

“Last year, debris on highways caused about 300 traffic crashes and 30 injuries in Washington. So far this year, we’ve also seen two known fatalities related to unsecured loads. This is devastating because these crashes were all preventable,” said Sgt. Darren Wright, a public information officer with the Washington State Patrol. “It’s so important to properly secure your load before driving. Anything that flies off a moving vehicle is dangerous, and can even be deadly. In order to save lives, every driver in Washington needs to secure their vehicle load every time they drive.”

As a part of the annual campaign, state troopers are conducting emphasis patrols across the state for three consecutive weekends, starting June 10 and ending June 26. Drivers can get pulled over and ticketed if their loads are not properly secured in accordance with state law. Fines for littering and unsecured loads range from $50 to $5,000. If an item falls out and causes bodily harm or property damage, the driver could also face jail time. The largest fines are for “lit debris” — primarily cigarettes — and items that can cause vehicle crashes.

Roadside litter is an expensive and unrelenting problem in Washington. The Washington State Department of Transportation and Department of Ecology together spend $8.5 million a year on efforts to clean the state’s roads and highways. Last year, Ecology-funded pickup programs spent more than 125,000 hours collecting nearly 5.2 million pounds of litter and cleaning nearly 22,000 miles of road. In just the first four months of 2022, WSDOT’s Adopt-a-Highway volunteers and maintenance crews have already found and removed 136 tons of litter and debris from roadways and rights of way.

“We’re proud of the work we’ve done with local government and state agencies to lessen the harmful environmental impacts of roadside litter, but the truth is that more litter is deposited every year than we can pick up,” said Amber Smith, statewide litter prevention coordinator at the Washington Department of Ecology. “Litter from unsecured vehicle loads affects every corner of Washington and can contain harmful chemicals or cause injuries to wildlife, as well as people. Please, help keep our roads safe, beautiful and litter free by making sure your cargo is properly secured before driving.”

Tarps, straps and cargo nets are easy and effective solutions for securing many types of vehicle loads and preventing road hazards. The Washington State Department of Ecology is piloting cargo net giveaway events in King, Thurston and Yakima counties in June. Up to 40 statewide retail hardware store partners will also share best practices and products to safely secure loads. 

In addition to unsecured loads, the We Keep Washington Litter Free campaign focuses on additional littering behaviors in several sub-campaigns. Statewide advertising for the 2022 Secure Your Load for Safer Roads campaign runs through June.

The public can lend a hand cleaning up roadside litter through WSDOT’s Adopt-a-Highway volunteer program. Anyone interested in joining can learn more on the Adopt-a-Highway program webpage.

More information

travel map2022

Use WSDOT tools, allow extra travel time during popular travel weekend

OLYMPIA – With Memorial Day just around the corner, now’s the time to make a travel plan for this traditionally busy travel weekend.

For those who are traveling, consulting the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Memorial Day weekend traffic volume charts can help determine best times to travel on key routes, including times to avoid if possible. The Interstate 5 Canadian border forecast is not included in these charts because testing/vaccination requirements and the length of time the border has been open doesn’t allow for reliable forecasts at this point. Travelers should also check ahead for any COVID-19 safety requirements at their destinations or stops along the way.

By following these steps, travelers can “know before they go” and plan ahead, whether they’re just traveling across town or across the state:

  • Get informed about WSDOT's online tools, including the WSDOT mobile app, traffic cameras and email alerts.
  • Visit online traveler information for traffic, weather, ferry schedules and a real-time travel map.
  • Follow WSDOT on social media, such as several Twitter accounts and Facebook
  • Pre-program your vehicle radio to 530 AM and 1610 AM for highway advisory radio alerts.
  • Call 5-1-1 for updated road conditions.
  • Have a backup outdoor destination as parks and other outdoor recreation sites tend to fill up quickly on holiday weekends. If a site’s parking is full, never park along road shoulders, as this is unsafe for everyone on the roadway.
  • Allow extra time for travel to avoid rushing or distraction.

Highway construction paused
Most state highway construction work is suspended through the holiday weekend – including Monday, May 30 – to ease congestion. However, please stay alert for new lane shifts or work zone staging areas that may remain in place. And please give any emergency repair crews plenty of space to work safely.

Snoqualmie Pass
No lane closures or other construction is planned on I-90 from Friday, May 27, until to Tuesday, May 31. However, the usual holiday increase in traffic volumes means travelers should expect delays, especially eastbound on Friday, May 28, and westbound Monday, May 30 (see charts for more detail). Text message alerts about significant delays are available by texting the words “WSDOT Snoqualmie” to 468311.

Chinook and Cayuse passes
State Route123/Cayuse Pass is scheduled to reopen by 8 a.m. Friday, May 27, in time for Memorial Day weekend. Relentless winter weather with continued snowfall and high avalanche danger will keep State Route 410/Chinook Pass closed until it is safe to reopen. Travelers can check the Chinook Pass and Cayuse Pass online reports for updates. Both these passes close each winter due to weather and hazardous conditions.

Tolling
In the Puget Sound, weekend toll rates will be in effect on Monday, May 30, on the SR 520 bridge and SR 99 tunnel. The I-405 express toll lanes will be free and open to all drivers on the Monday holiday. Out-of-town travelers, including those using rental cars, can learn about toll roads and short-term account payment options on the Good to Go! visitors page visitors page.  

Ferry travel
People boarding a state ferry by vehicle should prepare for long waits. Peak travel times on most routes are expected to be westbound Thursday and Friday, May 26-27, and eastbound, Sunday and Monday, May 29-30. Customers also can bypass vehicle lines by traveling as a walk-on passenger.

  • All riders should double check the sailing schedules as some routes are operating on timetables that are different than prior to the pandemic.
  • Visit the Washington State Ferries website for more details on vehicle reservations, ferry email alerts, checking terminal conditions and COVID-19 travel updates.
  • The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends wearing face masks on indoor transit, but they are no longer required.

Trains, airports and transit
Travelers making a trip by train, personal aircraft or bus also should plan ahead to avoid holiday delays:

  • Amtrak Cascades passengers are encouraged to purchase tickets early and should plan to arrive at the station one hour before departure. All Amtrak Cascades trains require reservations. The federal CDC still recommends wearing face masks on indoor transit, but they are no longer required. Visit amtrakcascades.com or call 800–USA–RAIL for details.
  • For information about traveling via state-operated airports, visit wsdot.wa.gov/travel/aviation/airports-list or call 800-552-0666.
  • Check with your local public transit agencies for any holiday schedule or service changes, including some Dial-A-Ride and fixed-route service that may not run during holidays.

wsdot logoOLYMPIA – After more than two years, volunteer groups across the state can once again participate in the state’s free coffee program at selected safety rest areas, providing coffee to the traveling public.

The free coffee program promotes safe highways by providing coffee to reduce drowsy driving. Volunteer non-profit groups dispense the free coffee at 34 designated rest areas operated by the Washington State Department of Transportation. In addition to coffee, travelers get a chance to learn more about the local volunteer group and can also make a voluntary donation for the coffee. The popular program was shut down in March 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic safety concerns.

Groups can now start making bookings for slots for Friday, May 20, through the end of the year by vising the program webpage for details (www.wsdot.wa.gov/about/contacts/rest-area-free-coffee-program). 

Participating groups should follow good sanitation and COVID prevention practices and follow https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/proclamations/21-14.3%20-%20COVID-19%20Vax%20WA%20Amendment%20%28tmp%29.pdf

Governor Inslee’s Amended Proclamation 12-14, including providing a declaration to WSDOT that the group meets the proclamation’s vaccine verification, exemptions and accommodations requirements (more details available online).

Free coffee program details:

  • An updated reservation system is available this year through email on a first-come, first-served basis. Applications also can be mailed (more details on the website).
  • Only coffee and other non-carbonated beverages can be dispensed; food cannot be part of the free coffee service.
  • Not every location has free coffee volunteers every day; service depends on volunteer group availability.
  • Some sites may not have volunteers scheduled on the first available weekend. Groups will have signs out at near coffee dispensing areas when they’re on site.

wsdot logoIt’s time for airports to submit their applications for the second round of 2021-2023 Airport Aid Program grants. The Washington State Department of Transportation Aviation Division anticipates awarding between $1.1 and $1.3 million in funding.

Airports can only apply for projects previously submitted through the Statewide Capital Improvement Program, also known as SCIP. The SCIP is an unconstrained prioritized list of projects entered by Washington’s 132 public-use airports that captures project requirements for airports to address individual airport needs.

To apply, airports can fill out the online application and airport aid application checklist. WSDOT requires airport aid grant assurances be submitted with the application package.

Applications are due Friday, May 15, no later than 5 p.m. Qualifying projects should be targeted for completion by June 30, 2023. Eligible projects may include work beginning after June 1, 2022.

WSDOT will prioritize applications based on the SCIP project scores.

Guidance and information regarding scoring is provided online in the WSDOT Airport Aid Grant Procedures Manual.

WSDOT will announce grant award decisions after June 1, 2022.

The next grant cycle begins July 2023.

Airport Transformation Grant Program

Starting this year there is also an Airport Transformation Grant Program. The purpose of the program is to support the transformation of Washington's public use airports to become more environmentally sustainable.

In October 2021, WSDOT Aviation announced that with its 2022 Airport Aid grant program, 10% of the annual program funds available will be dedicated to this program.

Sustainable aviation projects may include, but are not limited to, sustainable aviation fuel storage, electrification of ground support equipment, electric aircraft charging infrastructure, airport clean power production or electric vehicle charging stations whose infrastructure also supports ground support equipment and electric aircraft charging.

Projects will be evaluated on their ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the modification of airport infrastructure to adopt clean forms of transportation, adoption of airport clean power generation, and/or modification of existing infrastructure resulting in less dependence on fossil fuels.

Projects not selected for funding for Airport Transformation Grants will automatically be considered for funding under a new sustainable aviation grant program that WSDOT Aviation will establish in 2022.

Information on how to apply for an Airport Transformation Grant can be found on WSDOT’s Aviation website.

wsdot logoOnline open house, virtual public meetings coming statewide

Olympia – The approach of spring brings a new opportunity for the public to help grow and improve the state’s Highway System Plan. The Washington State Department of Transportation is hosting an online open house to gather public input on future highway system investments for the update to the plan.

The opinion poll linked in the online open house asks people to weigh-in on highway investment priorities, such as maintenance, operations, walking and bicycling.

WSDOT is also hosting seven regionally focused virtual public meetings in late March and April to discuss the Highway System Plan and answer questions.

The plan, last updated in 2007, creates a 20-year vision for preserving, maintaining, improving and operating state highways. This long-term outlook is shaped by the diversity of the people who live in Washington, which helps ensure the highway system meet the needs of people who use transit, vanpools and vehicles; people who walk, ride bikes and use wheelchairs, and people who transport goods and services around the state. The update will address major challenges, including aging infrastructure and climate change.

Highway System Plan online open house information

When:                  Open through Monday, May 2

Where:                 Online at engage.wsdot.wa.gov/highway-system-plan/

Locate a free drive-in Wi-Fi access using the Washington State Department of Commerce location finder.

Details:                Participants will learn about the Highway System Plan and can use the opinion poll to share their preferences on future highway system investments. The poll is hosted by the University of Washington.

Virtual public meeting information

When:                   March 29 - April 14

Where:                 Zoom (virtual)

Details:                 The public can sign up for a virtual public meeting through the online open house to learn more about the highway plan. Each of the seven meetings focuses on a specific region of Washington, however anyone can participate in any meeting.

drone reg

OLYMPIA – Drone usage is on the rise for both personal and commercial use. Beginning April 1, people or businesses using drones for commercial purposes will need to start registering their drone with the Washington State Department of Transportation Aviation Division.

In 2021, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill directing the WSDOT Aviation Division to create and manage a commercial drone registration program. Commercial drone operators must register unmanned aircraft every year beginning in April 2022.

The $15 drone registration fee will support WSDOT Aviation’s work to assess and collaboratively work on integration of emerging technologies.

Steps on how to register commercial drones can be found on the Aviation Division’s website.

For any questions regarding drone registration, contact State Unpiloted Systems Coordinator Eddy Hensley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

wsdot logoPlan ahead to avoid the rush and possible fines

OLYMPIA – The arrival of spring brings a reminder to drivers in Washington to remove studded tires before the end of the day Thursday, March 31. By planning ahead, drivers can beat the rush at tire service shops and avoid a potential fine of $136, starting Friday, April 1.

Studded tires are legal in Washington from Nov. 1 to March 31. The Washington State Department of Transportation encourages drivers to remove studded tires prior to the deadline, if possible. Studded tires damage pavement, so removing them promptly after winter has passed helps preserve state roadways.

State law gives WSDOT the authority to extend the deadline when circumstances call for it, most commonly when a forecast indicates widespread snow and ice. While late season storms are possible in the mountain passes, there are no forecasted statewide conditions that would call for an extension of the deadline. For mountain travel, WSDOT recommends drivers use approved traction tires and carry chains, if necessary.

Travelers are always advised to “know before you go” by checking road conditions before heading out and staying up-to-date on changes by using WSDOT’s social media and email alert tools or calling the 5-1-1 road conditions report.

Washington and Oregon share the same studded tire removal deadline. Other states may have different studded tire removal dates, but the Washington law applies to all drivers in the state, even visitors. No personal exemptions or waivers are issued.

More information about studded tire regulations in Washington is available online.