Question: Recently I headed up to Stevens Pass to go skiing. Prior to leaving Arlington at noon, I checked the state Department of Transportation Web site for the pass report several times, which told me that traction tires were required going eastbound on U.S. 2.
When I got to Monroe, the electronic reader board sign said chains required except on all-wheel-drive vehicles. The electronic signs in Gold Bar, Skykomish and Scenic all said the same thing.
Not knowing what the real requirement was, I phoned 511, the state traffic line. It told me only traction tires were required. The radio station traffic reports between noon and 3 p.m. were also saying traction tires were required with no mention of chains.
Which information source takes precedence: the electronic signs along the highway or the Web site and traffic line info? It appeared that the electronic signs requiring chains were the correct answer because a Washington State Patrol trooper was there to stop people. As a result, I had to stop and chain up when if I had known this information in advance, I might have rescheduled my trip for another time. What is the point of having these DOT Web sites and traffic lines if the information given is incorrect? To top off my frustration, even The Everett Herald reported on the front page the next day that traction tires had been required.
Kirk Lee, Arlington
Answer: Our operators do their best to update the 511 traveler information phone line, DOT Web site and electronic information signs simultaneously as conditions change. We realize these tools provide drivers with information they will use to plan their routes and schedule trips.
Unfortunately, on that day, a computer error prevented our Mount Passes Web site and 511 system from updating with the most current information about Stevens Pass. Our operators discovered the problem and fixed it. However, this system was down for nearly three hours.
In the meantime, we continued to inform drivers about the chain requirement on our electronic information signs and through the Washington State Patrol’s chain enforcement efforts. Our redundant system ensures that all vehicles traveling over the pass have the necessary traction equipment to make the trip safely.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. We also recommend that drivers always prepare for the possibility of winter driving conditions in addition to checking our Web site, calling 511, watching electronic message signs and listening to local media. Conditions on mountain passes can change without warning.
Jeff Adamson, DOT spokesman
Why no reflective paint?
Question: Why is the state not using reflective paint for road striping on the Highway 9 improvements at Maltby? Also, why is the state not using reflective road bumps at this location? Is the cost of these visibility improvements so high that plain paint and bumps are the only choice?
Reflective road bumps were used for road improvements made when Costco was built just south of the current road widening project. Why are these bumps not used now?
T.J. McDermott, Lake Stevens
Answer: Crews will finish installing reflective lane striping and raised pavement markings on Highway 9 between Highway 522 and Highway 524 near Maltby as soon as weather cooperates. Crews are using a highly reflective paint called Methyl Methacrylate or MMA.
MMA is a plastic paint mixed with glass beads to increase reflectivity. It is more durable than standard pavement paint and is expected to last four to five years.
This work is weather sensitive. Crews must have consecutive days of warm, dry weather to allow paint to cure and adhere to the roadway properly. Once we have completed striping, we will then place raised pavement markings throughout the project, which will further increase reflectivity.
To learn more about the Highway 9 widening project, visit: www.wsdot.wa.gov/ Projects/SR9/sr522_212thst.
John Chi, DOT project engineer
Ask about traffic
Have a question about traffic or street rules in Snohomish and Island counties? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The Street Smarts blog is at www.heraldnet.com/streetsmarts.