Friday, February 27, 2009

What WSDOT is doing for freight haulers during the closure

When the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge closes for six weeks starting May 1, the primary trucking route to and from the Olympic Peninsula will close, too.

Working with freight haulers and communities, we are taking extra steps to help make certain the peninsula stays open for business. We recognize that delivering goods and services will be challenging during the six-week closure, so we are working with the freight community on strategies to improve coordination and communication.


We don’t want anyone to be surprised by the bridge closure, and we’re encouraging everyone we contact to get ready. Projects, plans and potential strategies we’re undertaking to improve freight mobility during the closure include:

  • WSF Sunday-Thursday twilight service between Edmonds and Port Townsend
  • Water shuttle between South Point in Jefferson County and Lofall in Kitsap County to help decrease car traffic on US 101
  • Highway improvement projects on US 101, SR 3 and SR 106 enhance safety and help keep traffic moving during the closure
  • Remotely-controlled signal at SR 3/SR 16 to help keep traffic flowing
  • Flagger stationed at US 101/SR 19 during peak commute times
  • Increased patrols (WSP and WSDOT) on US 101
  • Traffic updates multiple times each day, and a traffic alert system that will utilize cameras, signage, 511 traffic information, highway radio, text messaging, the media and other tools to reach the freight community
  • Also, Kenmore Air Express is increasing flights between Seattle and Port Angeles

Drivers can check their routes before they by calling the project information line 1-877 595-4222, signing up for regular list serv e-mail updates and news releases, and providing the latest views of the highways via traffic cameras.

Freight haulers who need more in-depth industry news can make sure their load is OK for the road by visiting the pages and sites below:

For more information on freight hauling resources during the closure, including helpful trucking resources and information on receiving WSDOT Freight e-mail alerts, visit the Trucking Information page at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr104hoodcanalbridgeeast/.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A closer look at the Edmonds-Port Townsend twilight ferry

Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division (WSF) came through for the peninsula and the project earlier this year when they agreed to provide a nightly, Sunday-Thursday car ferry run between Port Townsend and Edmonds. Thanks to WSF we’re able to offer travelers another option in getting around and help ensure that the Olympic Peninsula will indeed be open for business when the Hood Canal Bridge closes May 1.

Complete details of the proposed service are still being finalized, but current plans include:
One round-trip sailing per evening, Sunday through Thursday with a crossing time of approximately one hour and 45 minutes.


Tentative schedule is:

  • Depart Edmonds: 8:40 p.m.
  • Depart Port Townsend: 10:40 p.m.
The vessel will be an Issaquah-class ferry with capacity for six 82-foot tractor trailer trucks and 86 passenger vehicles -- or 15, 15-foot delivery trucks and about 86 passenger vehicles -- in each direction.

Reservations will be taken for commercial travel on this route starting mid-April (call 877-595-4222), with priority given to commercial vehicles. Fares will be WSF’s regular Peak Season cross-Sound fare (same as the Edmonds/Kingston route):
  • Passenger: $6.70
  • Vehicle and driver: $14.45
  • 80-foot+ truck: $115.60 for an 80’ vehicle + $1.45 for each additional foot
We think the evening runs will help travelers and truckers get across the Puget Sound quicker and reduce traffic and improve safety on US 101 during the closure as well.

Are you planning to use the service? What questions do you have?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Stay “in the know” with real-time text messaging updates

Have you ever sat in traffic and wished you knew why those cars in front of you weren’t moving? Well, if there’s a collision blocking US 101, SR 3 or SR 16 during the May-June Hood Canal Bridge closure, you could get text message from WSDOT.

If you're heading south on 101 through Quilcene and there's a blocking collision near Brinnon it could very well be the difference between you sitting in traffic or having a refill on coffee at Loggers Landing.

Here’s how you can sign up now to receive text messages during the Hood Canal Bridge’s six-week closure:

New subscribers to the Hood Canal Bridge e-mail list wanting to receive text message traffic alerts during the May-June closure
1) Select “E-mail updates” at the top right-hand corner of the http://www.hoodcanalbridge.com/ home page
2) Enter and confirm e-mail address
3) Scroll down to “Optional Secondary E-mail Address” and check the box next to “Send Wireless Alerts to this Address”
4) Enter Wireless Number and Choose provider – typically your 10-digit phone number @ your wireless carrier (ex. 3605551234@Verizon.com)
5) Scroll down and select the “Save” button
6) Select regional alert preferences (Note SR 104 – Hood Canal Bridge Replacement is under ‘Olympic’)
7) Scroll down and select the “Save” button
8) You should receive a confirmation e-mail

Existing subscribers to the Hood Canal Bridge e-mail list wanting to receive text message traffic alerts during the May-June closure
1) Select “E-mail updates” at the top right-hand corner of the http://www.hoodcanalbridge.com/ home page
2) Enter your e-mail address in the allotted space and select “Go”
3) Select “subscriber preferences” to update your subscription
4) Scroll down to “ Secondary E-mail Address” and check the box next to Wireless Alerts preferred
5) Select more info to get your wireless carriers’ e-mail address
6) Enter and confirm your new secondary e-mail address. This will be your wireless number and provider – typically your 10-digit phone number @ your wireless carrier (ex. 3605551234@Verizon.com)*
7) Scroll down and select the “Save” button
8) You should receive a confirmation e-mail

* If you only want text alerts, you can enter the information as your primary “E-mail Address.” Subscribers choosing this option will not receive a confirmation e-mail, but can contact the Hood Canal Bridge Project Team at orfeedback@wsdot.wa.gov or (253) 305-6400 to have a test text message sent to their phone.

Try it out and tell what you think…

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Water shuttle, transit are options during Hood Canal Bridge closure

We’re often asked, “Why are you closing the bridge for six weeks?” Safety concerns, its age and the need for improvements are understandably overshadowed by travelers’ need to get across the canal.

I know where they’re coming from. I lived in North Kitsap for nine years while I worked at the Herald and headed over the Olympic Peninsula fairly regularly – to camp and hike or celebrate a special occasion by donning a clown wig and eating fine cuisine at The Ajax CafĂ© in Port Hadlock. The region’s isolation is truly part of its unique charm. Like folks say in Port Townsend, “We’re all here because we’re not all there.”

Indeed. But they still have to get across the canal and to the “east side” every now and then.

When the bridge closes for six weeks in May-June 2009, you won't be left high and dry. There are several options to help you get to your destination on either side of the Hood Canal.

You can find the fare-free transit schedules and connecting water shuttle service schedule between South Point in Jefferson County and Lofall in Kitsap County on-line at http://www.hoodcanalbridge.com/.

Of course, timing water shuttles and catching the bus means thinking outside the box and planning ahead.

As a recent transplant to Gig Harbor – actually living on the land my great grandfather and namesake Joseph Goodman homesteaded after the Civil War – I’ve been taking the bus to and from work in Tacoma. All that hiking in the Olympics must’ve paid off as runs and all-out sprints to catch the 102 have become the norm. You’d think someone who caught ferries out of Kitsap for so long would know better.

While the bus/water shuttle might work for some people, others might opt to take the car ferry out of Port Townsend, fly out of Port Angeles, take a boat, drive around – it takes awhile but is about as scenic as it gets – or stay put and shop locally. If you can, I’d recommend the latter, and the Ajax while I’m at it – their pork chops are to die for.

The bridge may be closed for six weeks but, rest assured, your favorite businesses will be open.

Map your route now, see if the fare-free transit will work for you and then share your plan here to help others plan ahead. The water shuttle/transit option is definitely less expensive than driving around on US 101 and might just make a bus rider out of you.

The water shuttle: facts and myths

The water shuttle between South Point and Lofall gives you another way to get around when the Hood Canal Bridge closes for six weeks on May 1, providing the least expensive and most direct route to their destinations between Kitsap County and the north Olympic Peninsula.

It won’t be simple though. Most of us have a routine we follow five days a week, wake at 5:45, feed the kids, the pets, shower, scarf down some breakfast while taking the kids to school and then it’s off to an eight-hour stretch at work.

When the bridge closes and if you plan on taking the water shuttle/transit option as opposed to the much longer US 101 route, you should definitely know the facts because your routine will change – dramatically. Schedules for the water shuttle and connecting transit services can be found at http://www.hoodcanalbridge.com/.

The old bus commuter adage, “If you’re late, you wait” will still hold true. I have yet to have a missed ferry turn around to get me on the trip between Bainbridge Island and Seattle – not that I haven’t tried.

That said, here's what you need to know:
  • The water shuttle is primarily a commuter service, and meant to save people who must get to and from work five days a week the time and expense of driving around.
  • The water shuttle won’t be a delivery service. The water shuttle won't be used as to haul packages and dollies to businesses on the Olympic Peninsula.
  • If you need a bag, pack light. Passenger luggage will be limited to carry-on items.
  • Only service animals and those in pet carriers will be allowed on the water shuttle and buses.
  • The water shuttle will only take five bikes at a time and transit can only accommodate three bikes per trip.
  • For safety reasons, bicyclists won't be allowed to bike to and from the water shuttle docks. Cyclists in Jefferson County won't be allowed to bike to the park and ride at Shine Pit -- and will instead board a bus at the Gateway Visitors Center. In Kitsap County, bikers can ride to the Port Gamble park and ride and catch a bus to the water shuttle dock from there.
  • It's recommended that you wear comfortable shoes with good traction to board the water shuttles.

So what other questions do you have about this service?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Getting ready for May 1

“When the Hood Canal Bridge closes for six weeks May 1 will I be ready?”

If you use the bridge now and haven’t asked yourself this question yet, we’d recommend it. Because, like an overnight backpacking trip to Marmot Pass or Mount Townsend, preparation is key.

When May 1 rolls around, the lives of people who rely on the bridge for everything from commuting and recreation to business and medical access will change drastically.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again -- this closure won’t be easy on travelers -- and whether you’re a business owner on Port Townsend’s historic Water Street or living on the scenic, rural stretches of Palo Alto Road, if you rely on the bridge you will be affected.

While WSDOT is definitely offering a number of viable transportation options, nothing we can offer before mid-June will be as simple, quick and direct as the Hood Canal Bridge. The bottom line is it will take you longer to get where you’re going and you’ll have to plan ahead in order to reach many destinations that are on either side of the Hood Canal.

Right now if you live in Sequim and work in Poulsbo, it probably takes you about an hour to get to work driving across the bridge. When the bridge closes it will take about an hour and 50 minutes using the water shuttle or more than three hours taking US 101.

Instead of getting in your car and driving to work, you’ll either take your car or catch a bus to the park and ride at Shine Pit, catch a connecting bus to South Point, catch a water shuttle to Lofall and catch another bus to either another vehicle at Port Gamble or to your destination in Poulsbo, Bainbridge, Kingston or Silverdale. This one-way trip is a lot quicker and cheaper than driving down US 101.

There are other options – including a once-a-night Sunday through Thursday car ferry between Port Townsend and Edmonds, private boats and via a private airplane charter – that we’ll discuss in greater detail in future postings.

But right now, it’s important to plan ahead and get ready. What are you planning to do?