Q: With all the construction on the Eastside, one cannot help but encounter workers holding "STOP" and "SLOW" signs in construction zones. My question is, what is "SLOW"? It's a relative term...

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Q:

With all the construction on the Eastside, one cannot help but encounter workers holding “STOP” and “SLOW” signs in construction zones. My question is, what is “SLOW”? It’s a relative term. Does it mean a certain number of miles per hour below the posted speed? It seems to me that the “SLOW” on the sign should simply be replaced with the speed limit we’re to abide by.


A:

Turns out there are various interpretations of what “SLOW” means. However, all of them share this distinction: driving slowly enough to stop safety should the need arise. “They should be traveling at a speed where they can prepare to stop and make a safe stop,” said Bonnie Nau, a construction traffic manager for the state Department of Transportation. “Fifteen to 20 mph is probably a safe speed.”

Officer Michael Chiu of the Bellevue police says drivers should drop their speed to three-quarters or one-half of the regular speed limit and stay alert. That means put down the cellphone and turn down the talk radio. Often, road workers are only a few feet away from traffic as they paint markings on roads, glue down reflectors or perform numerous other hands-on tasks.

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Sometimes, construction zones have recommended speeds posted, but they’re not enforceable by law, Chiu said. Drivers should know, however, that exceeding the normal speed limit in a construction zone can net them double the fine.

“If you’re going 32 mph in a 30 zone and the flagger is waving his paddle wildly, yes, you could get a speeding ticket for $202 for exceeding the speed limit by 2 mph,” Chiu said. “In my experience, judges and courts don’t look upon these violations lightly.”


Q:

I currently carpool to work with two other people along Highway 167 and wonder how the proposed HOT (high-occupancy toll) lanes between Auburn and Renton would affect us. Would we have to pay a toll to remain in the diamond lanes?


A:

The state Department of Transportation wants to convert the diamond lanes along Highway 167 into HOT lanes. These are car-pool lanes that solo drivers can use if they pay a toll — an option supporters say could ease congestion in all freeway lanes.


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Got an Eastside traffic question? Send it to us by e-mail, east@seattletimes.com; by fax, 425-453-0449; by mail, The Seattle Times Eastside News Bureau, 1200 112th Ave. N.E., Suite C-145, Bellevue, WA 98004.


Car pools and mass transit would still be able to use the diamond lanes for free during the pilot project, said Charlie Howard, the DOT’s director of strategic planning and programming.

Solo drivers would have prepaid accounts. Transponders stuck on their windshields would deduct tolls from the account whenever the vehicle passes beneath “readers” placed overhead. Tolls would rise and fall with congestion to control demand and keep the lanes free-flowing.

The Transportation Department recently received a $1.2 million federal grant for the proposed $14 million project. Some HOT lanes already are operating in California and Texas, and are set to open in Minnesota in the spring.


Early warning


Bellevue:

Drivers can anticipate closures of up to three lanes between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. nightly Monday through Wednesday of next week in both directions of Interstate 405.


Issaquah:

There will be daily right-lane closures on State Route 900 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. northbound and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. southbound for roadside restoration and plantings.

Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618 or kgaudette@seattletimes.com