Category Archives: Roads

See what local firms can do with concrete

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The DJC’s annual special section on concrete is now available. Its focus is on award-winning projects by members of the Washington Aggregates & Concrete Association.

There’s also a great article by Melanie Cochrun of GLY Construction on how her firm used 600 workers to make two record-setting concrete pours earlier this year in Bellevue.

Check it out!

 

Watch Atkinson make quick work of SR99 bridge over Broad Street

The state Department of Transportation made a time-lapse video of last weekend’s work on SR99 that required closing the highway for several days.
Crews from Atkinson Construction and subcontractor Dickson Co. took just 48 hours to replace the section of SR 99 that crosses above Broad Street. They demolished the old roadway and then added fill to the now-closed section of Broad to level it up with the rest of the highway.
The highway reopened Wednesday.
Nice work!

Video courtesy of WSDOT

WSDOT crews get down and dirty at Montlake

Washington State Department of Transportation maintenance workers will be in the pits this Sunday when they perform an annual cleanup ritual deep inside Seattle’s Montlake Bridge.
Leaves and garbage collect in the bridge pits where the counterweights sit, threatening to jam-up operations. Crews will be using a vactor truck to suck up the debris.
The left lanes in both directions will be closed from 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for the work.

Court Ruling Dents Gas Tax Compact

The State Supreme Court recently ruled that the state’s hazardous substances tax is constitutional. (see the DJC article about it here.) On the face of it, it doesn’t seem too controversial, but the decision could have a severe negative consequence on transportation funding.

How are the two issues connected? The State constitution’s 18th amendment says that gas tax revenues can only be used for highway purposes — gas taxes are put in, as Al Gore would say, a “lock box” for transportation improvements. Washington State voters have shown a willingness to increase gas taxes, in part because they are confident that the taxes will be used to improve transportation infrastructure.

Without any examination of the history or of the context surrounding the adoption of the 18th amendment, the Supreme Court strictly construed that it is constitutional for the state to use the current .07 percent tax (called the MTCA tax) on oil products and other hazardous substances passed by initiative for environmental clean-up.  Nothing against environmental clean-up, but this decision dents that compact with voters that has been in place for 70 years — it no longer seems certain that taxes levied on fuel  will only be used for highway purposes.

The Court has condoned the use of  taxes on fuel for a non-highway purpose, but that’s not the end of the story.  Without the protection of something like the 18th Amendment, the Legislature may — and has already– swept millions of MTCA dollars  not for environmental cleanup, but to plug holes in the general budget.  Is this tantamount to a legislative bait and switch?

This is particularly concerning because the state is in dire need of additional transportation investments. It is likely that within a couple of years the voters will be asked to vote on a revenue package that could include new gas taxes. Would the Supreme Court’s decision imperil passage of a revenue package if voters are no longer confident that the Legislature couldn’t also levy taxes on fuel for other purposes (which could then be redirected any which way)?

Some may argue that the Court has provided an opening for a means to fund  any number of programs, but will the cost  not be an additional loss of trust in government?

Pro-transportation groups are looking into the ramifications of this decision more closely, but that’s the initial concern: that the gas tax “compact” with the citizens of Washington has been dented and in need of repair.

Tunnels dominate local infrastructure scene

 

The DJC’s special section on Puget Sound Infrastructure has a heavy focus on tunnel projects, thanks to the need to put traffic, light-rail and wastewater underground. But, former WSDOT head Doug MacDonald brought up some interesting points about maintaining what is already built instead of showcasing new projects. Some of those thoughts were echoed by WSDOT regional administrator Lorena Eng, who wrote about the state’s deteriorating highways. What do you think?

Tacoma road project info just a click away

Ever spot a street or utility project while driving around that you wanted to know more about? Well, your thirst for information is about to be slaked by the city of Tacoma and its new website called City Projects.

You can type in an address to find details about work going on at that location, or you can click on highlighted areas of a map for the same information. Projects can be searched by address, business district, City Council district or neighborhood district.

“This new tool offers an easy way for people to find out details about a project, how long it will be under construction and what other projects are scheduled to happen in the near future,” said City Councilmember Ryan Mello in a statement.
Check it out at http://www.cityoftacoma.org/cityprojects.

Mowat saves the day (week)

I’ve been getting press releases on the Alaskan Way Viaduct closure several times a day from WSDOT. There’s even been morning briefings held near the site each day at 4:30 a.m. (sorry, not going).

With two days of weekday commutes under drivers’ belts, it seems they have been paying attention to WSDOT’s calls for “Viadoom” if they don’t take the bus, ride the train, shift work hours or just stay home.

Thank you drivers, but there’s another bunch of heroes out there that should be saluted. They are the crews working for Mowat Construction, the contractor building $1.23 million in improvements to Airport Way South, a major arterial that is handling a lot of detoured traffic.

For several weeks, the northbound direction of Airport Way has been reduced to one lane for the improvement project, but crews worked hard to open an extra lane in time for Monday’s commute.

That extra lane has made a big difference for southend commuters. The stretch of Airport Way running through Georgetown saw a few mild backups prior to the closing of the viaduct, but has been free-flowing since two lanes have been open.

Another round of “thanks” goes to whoever decided to delay the closure of the Airport Way Viaduct that spans the Argo railyard just north of G-Town. Mowat is also the contractor on that $16.68 million renovation project. The original plan was to close the Airport Way Viaduct for 14 months beginning in late August or early September. That would have diverted more than 13,000 drivers onto the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s detour routes (East Marginal Way South, First Avenue South, Fourth Avenue South). Can you say Viadoom?

Check out WSDOT’s recommended routes to Seattle here.

 

Mowat crews at work on Airport Way South earlier this month.

 

 

 

 

Door to door construction

Icon Materials repaves a southend street.

Last month, Jerry remarked how tower cranes are making a comeback from the brink of extinction in Seattle. I’d like to add my observations as I drive northbound to Seattle on my daily commute.

It does look like construction is rebounding – at least in the local market. My point? Crews from Icon Materials recently finished a paving job in my neighborhood that included a fresh topping of asphalt right in my cul-de-sac. In back of my house, Schnieder Homes is in the midst of building out a 14-home development and just down the block has plans for 202 single-family lots.

Traveling north on I-5 from the Federal Way area, Mowat Construction is busy building new connections to SR 18, a $112 million project.

Farther north, near Southcenter, Lydig Construction is building the $43 million Bow Lake Recycling and Transfer Station.

Continuing north, this time on Airport Way South to avoid the crowds on I-5, Mowat Construction is repaving the roadway in preparation for a $16.7 million renovation to the Airport Way South Viaduct over the Argo Railroad Yard.

Mowat crews paving Airport Way South.

Nearing downtown, Skanska USA Civil is busy reconfiguring the southern mile of the Alaskan Way Viaduct so it will fit to the future deep-bore tunnel along the waterfront. That project is estimated at $114.6 million.

Arriving at work, I need only to look across the street to see Goodman Real Estate’s Colman Residence tower rising out of the ground at Columbia and Western. Turner Construction is building that one.

Turner builds up the Colman Residence.

There you have it – construction literally from one door to another. Looks like things are finally getting better for local construction folks.