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Washington State

The Takeaway

Washington's Mudslides: An Unfolding Tragedy

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It's day four in the rescue effort to find survivors after a mudslide devastated a community in Washington State. Residents are crying out for stability in the wake of this unfolding tragedy that has left many missing and at least 14 people dead. Ed Ronco, Morning Edition host and producer for KPLU in Seattle, weighs in on the rescue and recovery efforts and the way forward for Washington.

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Transportation Nation

Washington State Admits Bridge Problems Result Of Design Flaw

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The first new bridge pontoon on its way to Lake Washington in 2012. (Flickr photo/WSDOT)

(Derek Wang - Seattle, KUOW) Washington Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond said Tuesday that cracks in the pontoons for the state Route 520 floating bridge project were largely the result of a flawed design by the state.

The pontoons are the floating part of the 520 bridge across Lake Washington, the longest floating bridge in the world. They’re huge concrete structures that support the roadway; the larger pontoons are about the length of a football field and weigh the same as 23 Boeing 747 jetliners.

Last year, cracks were discovered in the pontoons for the new bridge, which prompted then-Governor Chris Gregoire to convene an expert panel to review the situation.

The panel released their findings on Tuesday, and found two reasons for the cracks: the contractor didn’t follow the state’s engineering guidelines as it was building the pontoons, and the state had a faulty design.

WSDOT never ran models that tested the pontoon design.

Specifically, the cracks occurred when the steel bands were used to compress the concrete pontoons, a process called post-tensioning. Originally, those bands were inserted through the lengths of the pontoons.

The fix involves using the same technique but in a different direction. WSDOT said it would insert the steel bands across the width of the pontoons and compress the concrete, which should eliminate the major cracks.

Washington Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond said her department did not follow standards of good practice. She said WSDOT never ran models that tested the pontoon design.

“Engineering is all about analyzing and testing, and checking, whether it’s a pontoon or bridge or highway off ramp. And so I think a step was missed,”she said.

Hammond said she didn’t know why that step was missed, but she said she requested an internal review and heads might roll. “What are the accountabilities for those employees?” she said.

The development comes at a time when there will be a change in leadership at WSDOT. Last week, Governor Jay Inslee announced a new transportation secretary, effective next month.

Hammond said the pontoon problems have been frustrating for her. “I know I’ve taken a very strident approach to lessons learned, what exactly happened, how do we go after making sure this never happens again. And as I leave, if that’s what I can leave the agency, an awareness of what we did wrong and how we can improve ourselves for the future, then I would say that at least that’s a positive note,” she said.

Hammond said the contractor, Kiewit-General Joint Venture, will work to fix the pontoons. The state has about $200 million in its contingency fund to cover the costs. WSDOT will have to negotiate with the contractor to determine which party pays for the repairs of the different cracks, because both WSDOT and Kiewit-General are responsible for the problem.

The work means that the floating section of the bridge will probably open in the fall of 2015, Hammond said. The contract for the floating bridge calls for the project to be open by July 2015, although officials had publicly said they hoped it would be open by the end of 2014.
Follow @DerekJWang on Twitter.

 

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Washington State and the 2012 Election

Thursday, October 04, 2012

There have been major economic shifts across the country since President Obama was elected in 2008. Washington State is home to Boeing as well as Amazon and Microsoft, and Chris Grygiel, Seattle news editor for the Associated Press, talks about how the economic recession and recovery have affected these major employers.

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Transportation Nation

Washington State, DOT, Others Ink Agreement on High Speed Rail

Saturday, February 26, 2011

At least something is going right for Ray LaHood...

US DOT released the following today:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Statement on High-Speed Rail Agreement in Washington State

Washington, DC – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued the following statement today:

“President Obama's historic investments in a national high-speed rail network will enable America to win the future by creating construction and manufacturing jobs today and laying the foundation for future economic growth. By building safe, reliable and energy-efficient passenger rail corridors we will be able to help small businesses thrive and move people and goods more quickly than ever before. I am thrilled to congratulate the State of Washington, BNSF, and Amtrak for their contributions to the agreement signed today by the Federal Railroad Administration and Washington DOT that will make $590 million available for work to begin on significant improvements to the popular Cascades corridor, which connects Eugene, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver.   Thanks to the hard work, dedication, and flexibility of all parties involved in the negotiations, this agreement will immediately put Washingtonians to work in good paying jobs, significantly improve rail service for commuters and travelers, and preserve the world-class freight rail system America has today.”

Additional background on the agreement:

‪As part of the President’s long-term vision to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail in the next 25 years, this initial $590 million in funding for high-speed and intercity passenger rail will create more than 6,000 direct and indirect jobs in the Washington region.  And thanks to the performance standards included in this agreement, travelers will benefit from two additional daily roundtrips between Seattle and Portland, a 10 minute reduction in travel time, and reliability improvements of up to 88%.  With the signing of this agreement, 5 of the 6 high-speed rail corridors that require coordination with freight railroads now have a signed agreement in place. The Department of Transportation will build on this momentum to realize President Obama’s vision of a national high-speed rail system that will allow American workers to out-build, out-innovate, and out-compete the rest of the world.

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Studio 360

Robot Hut

Saturday, January 18, 2003

The toy collector John Rigg began wiring circuits in kindergarten. He was still little when he gave his mom a cardboard robot he built with motors, electric lights, and a little candy-filled drawer. Today, John Rigg displays thousands of “metal men” in a big barn ...

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Studio 360

Flying Objects

Saturday, August 18, 2001

Producer Harriet Baskas finds the magic of wind-powered art at the Kite Museum in Long Beach, Washington.

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