4/17/2014

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SDOT facing criticism over recent mistakes

SDOT facing criticism over recent mistakes
SEATTLE -- Traffic backups and accidents are part of life in any city, but the Seattle Department of Transportation admits it has made big mistakes in the past week.

Those mistake include dousing the West Seattle Bridge with too much deicer and using interns to run part of its traffic management system.

When preventable traffic problems pop up, SDOT has to answer tough questions.

Last Monday, SDOT's Rick Sheridan said planners were prepped for potential freezing conditions and possible snow. With that information in hand, a deicing truck was sent to the West Seattle Bridge.

"The driver, however, applied the salt brine at too high a rate," Sheridan said.

It was actually double the normal amount, and Sheridan said that turned the bridge into a slippery mess that led to accidents.

"Our expectation is that drivers will file claims with the city," Sheridan said.

It all boils down to one driver making a mistake.

"He simply did not follow the instructions properly," Sheridan said.

That wasn't the only problem SDOT faced in the past week, either. Last Friday, an accident on the Viaduct backed up traffic for hours, and a lack of communication between SDOT and other agencies delayed notification to the public.

SDOT relies on interns to help get the word out in those situations, even in rush-hour traffic.

"The intern who's performing these services, they're very straightforward functions," Sheridan said.

He said interns are in the command center on lookout unless there is a major weather event. SDOT wants to add staffing soon, but those in West Seattle are unsettled.

"It seems like an awful lot of responsibility to give an intern," said resident Wiley Norwich.

Sheridan said SDOT is now going to retrain its ice trucking driver and his supervisor to work on better communication. When large-scale weather events happen, SDOT brings in extra qualified city staffers to do the same job as the interns.

Sheridan said this past week's weather was not considered serious enough for that extra attention.
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