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Farewell, Spooky Bunker. Hello, New Traffic Control Center

Timothy McCall works in WSDOT's new $17.3 million Northwest Region Transportation Management Center in Shoreline.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols
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Timothy McCall works in WSDOT's new $17.3 million Northwest Region Transportation Management Center in Shoreline.

Washington has a new Transportation Management Center in Shoreline. That’s the nerve center where engineers help resolve traffic problems.

Before officials showed me the new center, they showed me the building they used to work out of. It looks like an underground missile control bunker from the Cold War era.

Morgan Balogh ran the place. He said every year, there was new technology and more engineers to cram in.

“We would squeeze a little more room, we would notch out a little space for somebody to work in, stick them around the corner,” he said.

Eventually, his engineers reached a breaking point.

“And we just couldn’t push anymore.”

They finally opened a new facility last month. It’s big and full of indirect sunlight. It’s built so that it can adapt to new technology as it changes. Engineers like Timothy McCall sit in comfy chairs, wrapped in huge flat screens displaying data.

“The first time I walked in was like the shock effect. I was like, 'Wow, I get to work here. This is really cool,'” McCall said.

[asset-images[{"caption": "WSDOT used to monitor Northwest Washington's traffic from this control center in Shoreline full of spooky old analog dials, buttons and switches.", "fid": "121984", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201511/old_facility.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols"}]]In the old building, these engineers could manage only one or two traffic incidents at a time. They’d try to redirect drivers to alternate routes, but sometimes that led to unexpected congestion in other places.

Now, they can manage lots of incidents across a broad region. That comes in handy during rainstorms, when there are accidents everywhere.

[asset-images[{"caption": "The new digs for state traffic control engineers in Shoreline.", "fid": "121986", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201511/transpo_ctr_wide_0.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols"}]]