transportation

The North American International Auto Show is a place where car industry gathers to celebrate — and in recent years to apologize. At this year's show in Detroit, it was Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller's turn to face the media.

The Department of Homeland Security Friday extended its deadline for non-compliant states to raise ID card standards. That means a regular driver's license issued by Idaho, Oregon or Washington state will be acceptable identification to board an airplane for at least another two years.

There were high-fives this week from Detroit to Washington, D.C., as carmakers celebrated record auto sales.

Americans bought 17.5 million cars and trucks in 2015. That's a huge turnaround from 2009, and the Obama administration cheered the rebound as vindication of the president's decision to rescue General Motors and Chrysler from bankruptcy.

"Because of the policy decisions that were made by this administration to place a bet on those workers, America has won, and our economy has been better for it," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday.

In this Dec. 15, 2015 photo, a crew member working for Seattle Tunnel Partners watches a crane lift other crew members out of the pit that STP used to access and repair Bertha.
Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1O7O5sO

Bertha is on the move again. 

The tunnel boring machine got stuck a little over two years ago, shortly after it hit a metal pipe. It’s taken until now to get the machine going again.

Like cheap gasoline?

Then you're in luck. Experts say gas prices very likely will keep falling. That's because a report released Wednesday showed a sharp increase in gasoline inventories.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said that last week, companies added another 10.6 million barrels of gasoline, creating the biggest surge in supply since 1993. That added to fears that supplies will far outstrip demand for a long time.

Cynthia Ulrich of Stop 405 Tolls looks unhappy as she prepares to enter the toll lane for the first time.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

A beat-up red convertible bumps south along Interstate 405. Driver Cynthia Ulrich is about to break her boycott on the freeway’s new toll lanes -- all to help KUOW illustrate how tolls are collected and spent.

But she’s not happy about it.

Volkswagen's use of a "defeat device" to fool U.S. regulators has resulted in a federal lawsuit against the company. Volkswagen has acknowledged that millions of its diesel cars worldwide relied on a ruse to skirt emissions controls.

The civil complaint was filed in federal court in Detroit, with the Department of Justice acting on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency — which says it hasn't yet reached an acceptable agreement with Volkswagen over how to handle a recall.

White Pass near Mount Rainier is open to drivers and skiers, but damage from washouts and rockslides has reduced Highway 12 to one lane in two spots.

Traffic on Second Avenue in downtown Seattle.
Flickr Photo/Oran Viriyincy (CC-BY-NC-ND)/http://bit.ly/1irsJLd

You drive from Seattle, over the Cascades, through Yakima, then down into eastern Oregon. And the government knows where you are all along the way.

Privacy is just one concern with a proposal for a pay-by-mile system to fund roadwork, said Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington.

That road was covered by 15 feet of snow in the Snoqualmie Pass area. (The road is still six feet under the excavator.) More than 112 inches of snow have fallen in the last seven days.
Washington State Department of Transportation

Update, 10 a.m., Dec. 26, 2015: The Washington state Department of Transportation tweeted early Christmas Day that Interstate 90 westbound had reopened. The eastbound lanes had reopened a few hours earlier.

Snow Report: Bad For Drivers, Good For Skiers

Dec 23, 2015
Crews repair one of three roadway washouts at milepost 154 over White Pass on Dec. 16. The pass has since reopened.
Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1Mx0Nx1

David Hyde speaks the recent snow onslaught in the Cascades with National Weather Service meteorologist Ted Beuhner and Adam McKenney, owner of Leavenworth Mountain Sports.

Gas prices are under $2 a gallon across much of the country. That's because crude oil has plummeted to the lowest price in nearly a decade.

The average U.S. household has saved an estimated $700 this year because of lower gas prices. And drivers can expect more savings in 2016.

Recently, Sharlene Brown was filling up her minivan at a Philadelphia gas station. When prices are down, Brown says, she drives more.

"It changes where I go, who I pick up because a lot of times I pick up and do errands for the church," she says.

Heavy rains in the lowlands and heavy snow in the mountains are making holiday travel tricky.

car keys
Flickr Photo/walknboston (CC BY 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1O4LD7v

Seattleite Else Driflot kind of knew when it was time to give up her keys. Her eyesight had declined and she was having trouble seeing. It made sense to give up her keys, but that doesn't mean she liked it. 

"It was totally miserable. You know, because I lived alone, I had a good car, I loved my car. So it was hard," Driflot said.

In some ways, Driflot was lucky because giving up driving was a pretty cut-and-dried decision. That's not the case for many seniors and that can lead to some tough conversations.

KUOW's Bill Radke spoke with Laura Fraade-Blanar, a graduate student at the University of Washington studying the link between aging and crash risks, about when and how to have those tough conversations. 

Washington’s White Pass on U.S. Highway 12 near Mount Rainier is still closed both eastbound and westbound. Crews are still working 24/7 to open the high Cascade pass by Christmas, but winter storms might slow that work down.

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