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Originally published Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 7:53 PM

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DOT ''passport' system to keep trucks rolling when I-5 floods

A new "passport" system for truckers will make it easier to skirt Interstate 5 in the Chehalis-Centralia region when Interstate 5 is flooded.

The (Centralia) Chronicle

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Skirting flooding on Interstate 5 in the Chehalis-Centralia region to deliver needed goods and services will be made easier with a new truck passport system, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Colin Newell, the DOT's Chehalis-area engineer, said the system will be functional by the end of this year.

It will be used when flooding has closed Interstate 5 for at least 24 hours and poses the risk of closing it for 72 hours.

At that point, a trucker who needs to make a delivery will go online and apply for a special tag, which will allow access to Highway 12 and Highway 7 during a certain time slot.

If the trucker does not complete the delivery within the allotted time, he or she will have to apply for another passport.

Tags will be awarded in varying classifications: A tags for those delivering emergency equipment, B tags for necessary or perishable goods, and C tags for all other deliveries.

Approximately 50 trucks each hour will be allowed to use the I-5 alternate roads.

More trucks will be allowed through if roads remain relatively clear, Newell said.

Monitoring of traffic, and of truckers' use of the system, will be conducted via cameras stationed on Interstate 5, Highway 12 and Highway 7 and by guarded check points, including one at the State Patrol building in Morton.

The system is intended to facilitate deliveries, while leaving roads clear enough for other vehicles, Newell said Friday at the county's annual pre-flood preparation meeting.

"In the past, it was bumper-to-bumper truck traffic moving at 2 miles per hour over 7," he said.

"We want to keep it open enough so emergency vehicles can get to where they need to go."

The project has been in the works since 2011 and is estimated to cost $1.6 million, the majority of which came from federal funding, according to the DOT.

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