Whidbey is long, but let's not stretch it

Hey Johnston: I've always heard that Whidbey Island is the longest island in the 48 contiguous United States because Long Island, the competition, is a fake. Is this official?

Answer: As long as Mr. Johnston can remember, which is about a month or so, he has heard that "Whidbey Island is the longest island in the United States, by golly!" Or the longest island surrounded by saltwater or the longest island because we said so!

Like many things we hold dear to our hearts, this isn't correct unless you narrow it down to "the longest island on the Pacific Coast of the contiguous United States."

Long Island in New York is 118 miles from end to end, while Whidbey Island is 41 to 45 miles, depending on who is doing the measuring. Both islands are connected by bridges, so you can't say that would eliminate either one.

Plus if you confine your island search to the lower 48, you would find that Whidbey Island ranks fifth in length. Besides Long Island, an island in Michigan and two in Texas are longer.

Whidbey Island's size is just one of those things we accept as true. For example, D.B. Cooper never hijacked a plane out of Portland, although everyone knows the hijacker by that name.

The guy who hijacked the plane to Seattle and the fellow the FBI is still looking for is Dan Cooper. At least that's the name he used when he got on the plane in Portland.

There was a D.B. Cooper, and the FBI checked him out after the hijacking, but he was in jail at the time and was cleared.

Hey Johnston: Help me understand why on Saturday and Sunday mornings the express lanes are configured for traffic going in one direction and don't change during the day. Some weekend mornings they are completely closed! This happens on both Interstate 90 and Interstate 5.

It doesn't make sense to me. Please explain.

Answer: The easiest explanation is that the state Department of Transportation doesn't want to pay a crew to make those switches during the weekend.

The direction of the express-lane traffic can't be controlled by someone flipping a switch. A crew has to be sent out to the freeway to close it all down, drive on it to make sure no one is stranded or still driving around on it. After it's cleared, the gates are lifted, and traffic is allowed to go on it.

Not only does the state say it costs too much, but there isn't a great need to have the express lanes switched around during the day. Of course that is changing as traffic continues to build, but so far the way the lanes flow Friday night is the way they stay for the weekend.

Hey Johnston: Where can I get information about the International Investment Group? I've tried several publications and other sources with no luck.

Answer: There are companies that will track down companies and stock certificates, but before paying money for someone to do something you could do yourself, we have a suggestion.

Go over to the Bellevue Regional Library and to the business section. Folks there will be able to help you search. Free.

How to Just Ask Johnston: This column appears Mondays and Wednesdays in the Eastside edition. Leave your questions on Steve Johnston's voice mail at 206-464-8475. Or write: Just Ask Johnston, c/o The Seattle Times, 10777 Main St., Suite 100, Bellevue, WA 98004. The e-mail address is east@seatimes.co.