Monday, April 20, 2009

Making a reservation on the medical bus

As we head down the final stretch toward the approximately six-week closure of the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge a number of individuals who receive ongoing medical treatment and do not require constant monitoring or care have asked how exactly the medical bus service will work.

Whether your appointment is at a Kitsap County medical office or with a physician in Seattle, calling 1-877-595-4222 at least two business days before your scheduled visit will help WSDOT assist you with your travel plans. Please note that reservations are taken between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday-Friday.

When you call, please be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Appointment date and time

  • Customer name and phone number

  • Physician or clinic name

  • Physician or clinic phone number and address

  • Estimated length of appointment

  • Whether you'll be accompanied on the trip or use a wheelchair or scooter (Check weight/size requirements)

For more information about the medical bus, visit the medical transportation FAQs section or the medical transportation assistance page at our project Web site (

Monday, April 13, 2009

All roads lead to Mason County during bridge closure

Even though the northern border of Mason County is more than 40 miles from the Hood Canal Bridge, Mason County drivers will feel the effect of having the bridge closed.

That’s because a convoy of commuters is headed Mason County’s way in May-June 2009, when the Hood Canal Bridge closes for up to six weeks.

Based on traffic statistics from past closures of the Hood Canal Bridge, Mason County will see a significant spike in the number of vehicles on US 101, SR 3 and SR 106.

Highways running through Hoodsport, Union, Shelton and Belfair are going to be heavily traveled during the closure. Essentially, Mason County is the Hood Canal Bridge for six weeks in the spring.

During two weekend bridge closures in 2005, daily traffic on US 101 near Shelton surged by about 1,700 vehicles, a 75 percent increase. Traffic counts taken during the 2005 closures also show a 25 percent increase on SR 106 and increases ranging from 5 to 15 percent along SR 3.

The 2005 closures were short term, allowing many commuters to delay their trips until the bridge reopened. Average daily traffic on the Hood Canal Bridge is 16,000 - 20,000 vehicles, but during the 2005 closures, 80 percent of the normal Hood Canal Bridge trips were deferred. Considering the duration of the May-June closure, deferring trips is less realistic for people who need to get to work, transport goods, or seek medical care.

Mason County drivers can help by traveling at off-peak times, allowing for extra drive time, and by driving alertly and cautiously. The influx of traffic brings many drivers who are unfamiliar with the curves, speed-limit changes, crossroads and driveways on US 101, SR 3 and SR 106.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Watching pontoons float out separately and combined

Watching Monday’s float-out of pontoon UVWX from Todd Pacific Shipyards (TPS) was an interesting experience for me. At a length of some roughly 925 feet, the concrete roadway pontoon – made up of four connected pontoons – is an enormous structure. It’s sight to behold, really.

I’d seen its four pontoons constructed at Concrete Technology Corporation in Tacoma over the course of several months – U and W literally from the ground up – and wished them safe passage as they made their way north to TPS for outfitting and assembly in February and August.

They were connected, columns and girders were poured, roadway concrete was placed and hours upon hours of planning, hard work and braving a pretty foul Seattle winter finally paid off.

The chilly weather stuck around Monday morning, making shooting time lapse footage of the float-out in Seattle seem like it took longer than it did. The gray, blustery skies on the YouTube video of the event sum it up pretty well.

There weren’t any speeches as UVWX made its way north to Port Gamble Bay, where it will be moored until the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge replacement project begins May 1. Rather, there was a certain pride in a job well done and a true sense of accomplishment that words can’t really capture anyway.

That’s never stopped me from trying, though.

I was talking to the Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce last week and mentioned how often I – as a former resident of Kitsap County – had crossed the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge without giving it much thought. I practically gushed about how impressed I was with the work being completed and how engrossing the project has been for this former journalist.

The sheer magnitude of material needed is astounding and the accuracy required to put everything together is nothing short of amazing. Seeing the work that has gone into pontoon UVWX has given me a new respect for the structure as a whole.

It should go without saying that my days of not giving the Hood Canal Bridge any thought while crossing between Kitsap and Jefferson counties are most definitely over.