Seattle may need some guidance on making faster, smarter street investments but Mayor Jenny Durkan’s new team is set to clean up some of the messes along the way.
Set to be unveiled by the mayor Wednesday in South Lake Union, the city’s new Rapid Response Team is planned to “help quickly clear debris and vehicles” from the city’s streets “so people and goods can keep moving, and help ensure that Seattle can make the most of its existing streets as we grow.”
The new squad is powered by five “Response Team trucks” dedicated to the cause and armed with “tools needed to clear debris and vehicles, help stranded drivers, and to guide traffic around incidents, using sirens, red lights, variable message and bright pink ‘Emergency Scene Ahead’ signs.”
While it’s a bit like buying Liquid Plumr when you need new pipes, the team is coming together as Seattle enters its “period of maximum constraint” with major projects like the Washington State Convention Center expansion, the closure of the Viaduct, waterfront construction, and the end of bus service in the Transit Tunnel conspire to further clog Seattle streets.
A full announcement from the mayor’s office on the new team is below.
As Seattle prepares for a new era of tough traffic beginning with the permanent closure of the SR 99 viaduct on January 11, 2019 and continuing over the next several years, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today announced the launch of the Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT) new Response Team to help stranded drivers and clear debris and vehicles so people and goods can keep moving.
The SDOT Response Team (SRT) will operate City-wide, 24 hours a day, and seven days a week, with new response trucks equipped with red lights, sirens, and digital messaging signs. The Response Team will work to promptly remove debris in the street; move vehicles out of the traffic lane following a crash; assist stranded motorists; respond to traffic signal issues and fallen critical signs; and provide emergency traffic control during incidents. The SDOT Response Team will focus on Seattle’s busy arterial streets, working with WSDOT Incident Response teams and King County traffic safety crews, who work on state and county roads.
The five-vehicle fleet of response vehicles each come prepared with tow ropes; traffic cones; fluorescent pink incident warning signs; saws to clear tree limbs; absorbent material to clear spills; fire extinguishers; jacks to change flat tires; battery jump starters; and GoJaks – which allow one person to lift a car’s tires off the ground, and push the car out of the way. The SDOT Response Team also leverages smart investments, such as the City’s Intelligent Transportation System technology and the recently expanded Seattle Transportation Operations Center.
“As we build a better city, we must do all we can to prepare for a new era of tough traffic in Seattle and to limit the impact on commuters, residents, and employers. From investing in more transit to launching our new Response Team, we’re taking urgent action to manage congestion during this challenging time,” said Mayor Durkan. “Everyone who travels in and around our City must get ready and make a plan for the new normal for Seattle traffic. It is going to be a challenging time, and it will take all of us working together as we take some important steps to build a more vibrant city of the future.”
“One minute of backup can create four to 10 minutes of delay. That adds up. Our SDOT Response Team helps keep people and goods moving during incidents, while reducing the risk of secondary collisions,” said SDOT Deputy Director Rodney Maxie.
“We are all are all part of the Traffic Incident Management Program, a network of agencies working together to clear incidents quickly, safely, and efficiently,” said Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins. “By preventing backups, the SDOT Response Team can reduce response time for firefighters to respond to emergencies. That can save lives.”
“It can be critical to warn drivers of a crash or roadway-impacting emergency, for their safety and that of the people on the scene,” said Seattle Police Department Assistant Chief Steve Hirjak. “With enhanced management of traffic at incidents, police and firefighters can safely focus on serving those in need.”
The Federal Highway Administration established bright florescent pink as the color for signs indicating an incident, making them easy to distinguish from the familiar orange construction signs. One way to remember this is that when you see pink, think compassion, because someone is involved in an incident up ahead.
To guide the growth of the SDOT Response Team, the City hired traffic incident management veteran and former police officer Patricia Westsik. The SDOT Response Team has been trained to deal with crashes and other traffic incidents; Washington State Patrol defensive driving training; basic and intermediate chainsaw training; and training to earn certification on managing traffic around incidents.
To learn more about how the City of the Seattle and our Department of Transportation are working with our partners to prepare for the viaduct closure and the Period of Maximum Constraint, click here. You can also learn more about the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement and the new 99 tunnel on WSDOT’s #realign99 page here. And as you think about how you might change your commute and how you get around Seattle, please visit our real-time traffic map, and King County Metro’s TripPlanner.
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