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Yakima/Ellensburg Area Questions

Welcome to "Ask the Traffic Team," a Web page created to answer your everyday questions about traffic issues in WSDOT's  South Central Region . You can find common questions sorted by subject in our Frequently Asked Questions archive.  

To submit your question, simply e-mail our Public Affairs office and provide as much detail as possible. You can typically expect a response with a week.

I-90 local traffic
Cle Elum residents are confused and upset at the inability to travel locally on I-90 during closures for avalanche control. Wasn’t this sorted out years ago? What’s going on?

Snoqualmie Pass striping
Several drivers are concerned about faded lane striping through the construction zone on Snoqualmie Pass. What can WSDOT to improve this?

Snoqualmie Pass plowing
Toby would like to see WSDOT use salt on Snoqualmie Pass and plow it more often. As a truck driver, he rarely sees plows out there. What can WSDOT do?


Q: Why can't local residents travel on I-90 during closures for avalanche control?
We appreciate the input and know how challenging it can be to travel locally during a closure. You are correct in stating that this was settled a few years ago but unfortunately it has a few glitches if you will. Normally at the West Cle Elum exit (82), we have either local law enforcement or WSDOT personnel stationed there to monitor local traffic. When you approach them they ask for some proof, (drivers license, etc.), and if you live in a vicinity before the cause of the closure they will allow passage. With that said, you are still traveling on a technically closed highway and are susceptible to being stopped by WSP.

We have had instances of abuse to this procedure, when travelers go beyond their indentified destination and have caused some serious safety concerns. Some of these abusers have gone down the roadway and interchanges the wrong direction, and you can understand what the ramifications of this action could be. Most people are courteous and do not abuse the procedure and just want to get home, but there are the few that have no concern for public safety and have caused problems with the way this procedure works.

We will station personnel at Exit 80 if workforce is available; most of the time if the freeway is closed, law enforcement don’t have available staff and the gate is used on the ramp. The westbound truck scale, Exit 80, and the Bullfrog Road will not support the amount of traffic you will get monitoring at that location; they will back up or park and the whole Bullfrog Road becomes a parking lot. It is almost impossible to separate local and non-local traffic. Once they see people moving that direction they will follow each other to the point where all you get is a traffic jam and very disgruntled travelers. By monitoring traffic in Cle Elum at least the truckers and non-locals have some lodging, food, and other amenities to occupy them during this time or they can choose another route.

Q: Can WSDOT refresh the faded lane markings on Snoqualmie Pass?
Maintaining good lane striping on I-90 across Snoqualmie Pass has always been a challenge. After lane markings are put down, they only last a limited time. The main reason for wear and tear to the pavement markings is abrasion from winter-related conditions and the extreme weather. Deicer, anti-icer, sand and plowing, along with studded tires, heavy truck traffic and tire chains, all contribute to the lane markings wearing off.

The contractor on the I-90 project put down new lines and striping just prior to winter, but those lines have subsequently worn off because of the winter weather, anti-icing products and heavy traffic.

Our striping crew has been up to the area twice this week to reapply markings but conditions have been less than ideal. Roadway surface temperatures are well below the manufacturer’s recommendations for pavement marking installation. In addition to temperature challenges, we are dealing with areas of wet road from snow melting and running across the highway making a successful installation very difficult. Even with ideal conditions, lane markings will only last for a limited time.

With that said, we are planning to continue to monitor and re-establish the pavement markings in this area throughout the winter as weather allows.

Q: Can WSDOT make sure to plow Snoqualmie Pass more often when it snows?
We understand the importance of commerce to the state’s economy, of which you are a big part, and we make every effort to keep the Snoqualmie Pass safe for all drivers.

Not seeing our plows on the pass may just be a simple matter of geographical circumstance: You may simply be in the wrong place at the right time. Our plows travel in groups or tandem, and it’s possible that due to trees or the separation in the roadway, you may miss them completely. In stormy weather, you might still see a white or slushy road surface and think we’re not plowing. Our plows average 2 to 4 inches per hour, and can sometimes take an hour to complete their rounds – meaning that snow can build up on the freshly plowed areas.

WSDOT also does use salt on Snoqualmie Pass. We apply it at a rate of 100 to 600 lbs. per lane mile depending on conditions. We also use straight magnesium chloride for frost conditions at 20 to 40 gallons per lane mile. Salt is our main tool of choice for most conditions, but when traction becomes a factor, we also use ACM, which is Abrasive Chemical Mix, which is 5 parts maintenance sand and 1 part salt.

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