7-year reign: Washington retains its title as nation’s most ‘Bicycle-Friendly State’

For the seventh consecutive year, Washington has been named the nation’s No. 1 “Bicycle-Friendly State” by the League of American Bicyclists.

Meanwhile, Washington state will officially celebrate Bike Month in May with a signed proclamation (pdf 182 kb) by Governor Jay Inslee describing the many benefits of bicycling.

“As a bike rider I get to see firsthand all that Washington has done to make bicycling part of a sustainable transportation system,” said Gov. Inslee. “Bicycling helps make healthy communities, healthy people and a rich quality of life. There’s always more to do, but being named the most bike friendly state shows we are moving on the right path.”
Strong partnerships among the state’s cities, counties, advocacy organizations, state agencies and transportation providers form the foundation of Washington’s success in improving conditions for bicycling and walking.

“Being an avid bicyclist, I’ve had an opportunity to explore Washington’s urban and rural roadways this past year,” said Washington Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. “We’ll continue to work with our local partners to identify and fund bicycle needs in their areas, especially on highways that also function as main streets in our communities.”

The Washington State Department of Transportation supports bicycling through its Bicycle and Pedestrian programs and provides transportation design guidance, grant programs and technical support.

“We’re pleased and proud that Washington has remained the number one bicycle-friendly state,” said Barb Chamberlain, Washington Bikes executive director. “The work that goes into growing bicycling statewide every year is important for everyday people bicycling to work, school or errands. It’s equally important for Washington’s reputation as an incredible place to experience the great outdoors through bike travel and tourism. What a great way to kick off Bike Month!”

The League of American Bicyclists annually ranks all 50 states on how “bikeable” they are. The League evaluates each state’s cycling success in several categories: legislation and enforcement; policies and programs; infrastructure and funding; education and encouragement; and evaluation and planning.

WSP Chief, Secretary of Transportation honor telecommunicators in both agencies

Washington Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson and State Patrol Chief John Batiste took time to honor telecommunicators who work in their agencies all last week.

Telecommunicators are those who answer emergency phone lines and work radios in the two agencies. At WSP, they answer calls to 911 and dispatch troopers to where they’re needed. They also dispatch backup when troopers themselves need help.

“Our telecommunicators are our lifelines,” Batiste said. “Many times I’ve been on a lonely road with a sketchy individual, and my only source of assistance was that calm voice on the other end of the radio. I will always be grateful to those dispatchers who got me help when I needed it.”

At WSDOT, staff located in six Traffic Management Centers (TMC) across the state work closely with WSP telecommunicators while operating the department’s electronic communications systems. TMC staff monitors roadway traffic conditions and operate freeway traffic control systems in response to conditions. They also provide critical maintenance, construction and emergency incident information to the patrol, the media and the public.

Telecommunicators at WSDOT and WSP work with WSDOT’s Incident Reponses program to respond to about 40,000 incidents a year.

“We work hand-in-hand with Washington State Patrol to keep people safe on the highways,” said Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. “Our agencies’ dispatch operators are critical to getting the right people and equipment to incidents and emergencies quickly and efficiently, when every moment counts. They are our unsung heroes.”

Every year, the second full week of April is dedicated to the men and women who serve as Public Safety Telecommunicators. Communities across the nation are currently recognizing those first responders / telecommunicators who help save lives in times of personal, local, or national crisis.

On April 2, Governor Jay Inslee issued a Proclamation which proclaimed April 13-19, 2014, as Public Safety Telecommunicators Week in the state of Washington, and urged all people in our state to join him in recognizing the important contributions of this dedicated group.

NPSTW provides an opportunity to recognize public safety telecommunicators across the state of Washington as well as the nation by honoring those who work hard every day to protect our communities by performing mission critical tasks behind the scenes to support police, fire and emergency medical personnel. 

APCO International has established an NPSTW blog where agencies can share celebration ideas, along with photos of this year’s festivities. Citizens can share thoughts of gratitude and personal stories. 

WSDOT to fund added SR520 costs with additional revenue

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Transportation announced it has reached agreement with its pontoon contractor for added costs associated with building pontoons for the new State Route 520 floating bridge.

In late December WSDOT executed five new change orders for the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program with its pontoon and floating bridge contractors. These change orders total $42.65 million, of which $37.1 million is with Kiewit-General Joint Venture for the redesigned pontoon work on Cycles 3 through 6.

In a media briefing today, Washington Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson and SR 520 Program Director Julie Meredith said WSDOT’s pontoon design error is consuming much of the SR 520 program’s $250 million risk reserve. One additional change order associated with the pontoon design error is expected in the next month and will likely bring the total cost associated with the pontoon design mistake to approximately $200 million. WSDOT also has signed or identified expected change orders worth $134.3 million related to other construction in the corridor.

With the signed and expected change orders, plus WSDOT’s thorough analysis of the potential future risks associated with the remaining $800 million in funded construction, the agency has determined that approximately $170 million in additional project funding is required. Peterson said the agency has identified existing funding sources to cover these costs and keep the bridge-replacement project on track. 

WSDOT has determined that most of the needed construction funds can be obtained from available SR 520 toll bonding capacity, with other existing agency resources providing the remaining funds, dependent on legislative approval.

The SR 520 program’s legislatively authorized budget currently is capped at $2.72 billion. The budget covers three major projects: Eastside improvements to the SR 520 corridor from Medina to Redmond; the new floating bridge and bridge landings; and pontoon construction. The addition of transit/HOV lanes in both directions from Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood to I-5, along with other corridor enhancements on that stretch of highway, remains unfunded. WSDOT will work with the Legislature to request authority to change the program budget from $2.72 billion to $2.89 billion.

“The original pontoon design included an unfortunate and costly mistake,” Peterson said. “While the error discovered in 2012 is depleting most of the contingency reserve, we are proactively managing the remaining risks and don’t foresee the need for new funding sources to complete the work at hand and move our region closer to a safer, higher-capacity, multimodal 520 corridor.”

In 2012, WSDOT determined that repairs and modifications were needed on four pontoons from Cycle 1 as a result of a design error. In addition, all remaining pontoons required either modifications or construction using an updated design. WSDOT contractors have since completed repairs on two of the four Cycle 1 pontoons, and will complete repairs on the remaining two pontoons this spring.

When complete, the SR 520 program will replace the existing, 50-year-old SR 520 bridge across Lake Washington with a safer structure, dedicated lanes in each direction for buses and high-occupancy vehicles, a separate path along the highway corridor for bicyclists and pedestrians, and environmental improvements along SR 520 between I-5 in Seattle and SR 202 in Redmond. The new floating bridge is expected to open to traffic in late 2015 or early 2016.

More information about the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program is available at www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr520bridge.