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Construction begins on first wildlife overpass on I-90

I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition staff, Charlie Raines and Jen Watkins, standing in front of the Lake Keechelus Wildlife Overpass as it is constructed.

I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition staff, Charlie Raines and Jen Watkins, standing in front of the Lake Keechelus Wildlife Overpass as it is constructed.

This week the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and its contractors installed the first of two archways that will span six lanes of traffic on both directions of the interstate. It’s a significant milestone in the construction of I-90’s first “wildlife bridge” entitled the Keechelus Lake Wildlife Overcrossing.

The site where dozens of 40,000 pound concrete pieces were being lifted into place to form the archway is located east of Snoqualmie Pass past Keechelus Lake near Price Creek.   A wide range species from the Pacific tree frog to elk to wolves are anticipated to use the wildlife overpass once it is complete.  They may walk, hop, or inch their way safely over I-90 on this new crossing structure – some taking longer then others. See a more complete list of species here.

Traffic should begin driving under these new arches over I-90 later this fall, while construction of the remainder of the wildlife overpass will continue through 2018.  This is a huge milestone in making the roadway safer for people and wildlife for this 15-mile project.

See coverage by the Seattle Times and NWCN on this important moment.

Watch preview trailer for new film under development on I-90

Cascade Crossroads: Film preview trailer (click to view)

Cascade Crossroads: Film preview trailer (click to view)

In an effort to share the amazing story that is unfolding on Interstate 90 just east of Snoqualmie Pass, our coalition is developing a film for release in 2017. Cascade Crossroads will chronicle the human and ecological narratives that intersected in a singular project within a special landscape – making it safer for both wildlife and drivers. Besides documenting the history of this groundbreaking project, we hope this film will inspire similar solutions elsewhere.

Watch the trailer, and “like” our project page on Facebook to stay tuned to news on the development and release of the full documentary.

Learn more about the film and how to become a sponsor by visiting the project page.

Comment by January 31st to remove development proposal on state lands adjacent to I-90 project

Image showing proximity of Crystal Springs property to crossing structures to be constructed in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. Credit: Image cropped from a WSDOT project map.

Image showing proximity of Crystal Springs property to crossing structures to be constructed in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. Credit: Image cropped from a WSDOT project map.

Washington State Parks has proposed various forms of privately financed development on 11 sites of State Parks land known as Candidate Sites for Recreation Business Activities, which they are accepting comment on through January 31st.  One of the sites that they propose significant development on is immediately south of several crossing structures in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.

Specifically the Crystal Springs proposal, which is part of the Iron Horse State Park in Kittitas County, suggests a lodge with up to 20 rooms, up to 100 cabins, an RV facility, retail shops, equipment rental and year-round recreation facilities.  This development proposal on public lands contradicts the historic public and private conservation investments made to date and underway in the I-90 corridor, while undermining the effectiveness of the crossing structures planned in the I-90 project.

There are ample opportunities at Snoqualmie Pass and farther east in Kittitas County for vacation rentals and recreation equipment sales and rentals, but the Crystal Springs property is in a location where there are limited options for fish and wildlife.  This proposal should be removed from the list due to its impacts on wildlife and the inconsistency of the proposed actions with the land management focus and conservation investments of the landscape of which this park is a part.

Read the letter submitted by the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition on this proposal, and submit comments of your own via an action alert from coalition member Conservation Northwest’s action page or through Washington State Park’s online comment form or by emailing planning@parks.wa.gov

New transportation bill fully funds I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project

I-90SPE_map

I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project area map.

On Friday as the extended Washington legislative session came to a close, Governor Inslee signed a new transportation package that includes $426 million over 10 years to fully fund the completion of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.

“Broad support for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project has again won support from the legislature. With significant benefits to safety of drivers and wildlife, the project now has the funding for the full 15 miles,” said Charlie Raines, I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition director.  “This includes multiple underpasses for animals, and an additional overpass for wildlife across Easton Ridge connecting heavily use habitat . Our coalition looks forward to working with WSDOT to complete this unique transportation facility.”

The I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project, stretching 15-miles from Hyak to Easton, is divided into several phases for construction.  In 2009, construction began on the first 5 miles (Phase 1) that included two wildlife underpasses at Gold Creek and one at Rocky Run.  With cost savings from this first phase, a contract was signed this spring to kick-off construction on a 2.5 mile continuation (Phase 2A) that includes the first wildlife overpass. Both of these phases will be complete by fall 2019.

“The new transportation plan is exciting news for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project. We will now be able to continue improvements along I-90 all the way to Easton. These improvements include rebuilding I-90 to six lanes, addressing safety and wildlife connectivity along this critical freight and recreational corridor,” said Brian White of Washington Department of Transportation.

This summer, thousands of travelers will drive Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass through the project area crossing safely over the wildlife bridges near Keechelus Lake from Phase 1 while animals go under.  Now, we can also celebrate that our state legislators and Governor Inslee have invested in completing all phases of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project from Hyak to Easton addressing our state’s most important east-west transportation corridor and one of our region’s most important north-south wildlife corridors.  We want to thank the legislators and Governor Inslee, who made this a priority for our state.

Links to additional information

Washington State new transportation bill – 2015

I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project webpage

 

Greenway National Heritage Area legislation is introduced

Bipartisan legislation was introduced today to designate the Mountains to Sound Greenway (which includes the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project area) as a National Heritage Area. Senate legislation was introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and House legislation was introduced by Congressmen Dave Reichert and Adam Smith.

The Mountains to Sound Greenway encompasses 1.5 million acres of public and private land from Seattle to Central Washington. The scenic beauty of the Greenway is the backdrop for the daily lives of millions of residents, while the landscape provides vital habitat for fish and wildlife in our Cascade mountains.

This legislation will promote local economic growth from tourism and outdoor recreation, so it attracts the support of business leaders and community members alike. As a non-regulatory framework, designation will not affect private property rights or mandate federal oversight of public land.  It will help shine a light on efforts like the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project that are displaying innovative ways to connect ecological and social communities in our state.

Visit the Mountains to Sound Greenway webpage for more information on this news.

WSDOT breaks ground on next 2 miles of I-90 project east of Snoqualmie Pass including construction of wildlife overcrossing

State, federal, non-profit, and individual partners in the I-90 corridor stand in front of a graphic rendition of the wildlife overpass now being constructed on I-90 at the groundbreaking event.

State, federal, non-profit, and individual partners in the I-90 corridor stand in front of a graphic rendition of the wildlife overpass now being constructed on I-90 at the groundbreaking event.

Today, the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition and many partners attending the groundbreaking event for Phase 2A of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.  A 2-mile section of the project that includes a wildlife overcrossing structure to make the roadway safer for people and wildlife.  Winners from our 2015 Bridging Futures contest co-hosted with the Washington Department of Transportation were announced and recognized at the event.  See the Washington Department of Transportation’s press release below, as well as this comment from our Coalition Director.

“The wildlife overpass at Price Creek is a milestone in both transportation and wildlife policy. It will be an icon that continually reminds us that we are all part of an ecosystem- and what we can accomplish on behalf of ourselves and the species which share the planet. This structure will ensure safe passage for animal and human travelers,” said Charlie Raines, I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition Director.  “This is also an incredible demonstration of partnerships – and how they can be effective at meeting critical goals of our state. Washington Dept of Transportation, land and wildlife management agencies, transportation and environmental advocates and land conservation organizations – all have contributed essential blocks to this habitat corridor- the land, the structure, and its wise use. We are proud to have been a part of that collaboration.”

WSDOT breaks ground on next 2 miles of I-90 project east of Snoqualmie Pass
Date: Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Contact: Meagan Lott, WSDOT communications, 509-654-0697
Summer Derrey, WSDOT communications, 509-494-3948

HYAK – Six new lanes, one wildlife overcrossing, new bridges and culverts, and safety improvements are coming to a 2-mile stretch of Interstate 90 beginning this summer.

Local officials, business leaders and transportation advocates joined the Washington State Department of Transportation Tuesday, June 9, to break ground on the next major phase to widen I-90 from four to six lanes and improve reliability and safety for drivers east of Snoqualmie Pass.

“This project is a shining example of WSDOT’s future direction. It embraces our values, goals and strategies for a safe transportation system that improves mobility and supports economic growth,” said Cam Gilmour, deputy secretary of transportation.

This phase of the project builds a new six lane highway, stabilizes rock slopes, constructs new bridges and culverts, and builds a wildlife overcrossing, the first of its kind in the project corridor. Construction is scheduled to be complete in 2019.

The groundbreaking signals increased construction-related delays on Snoqualmie Pass this summer. Drivers will experience minor, periodic delays caused by single-lane closures and rolling slowdowns through October.

The start of this 2-mile section is an extension of the $551 million project funded by the 2005 gas tax to improve 5 miles of I-90 from Hyak to Keechelus Dam, scheduled for completion in 2018. The Legislature allocated funding in the 2013 transportation budget to continue expanding I-90 to the Stampede Pass interchange.

Creative art from Washington students win awards and put a face to the wildlife waiting to use the wildlife over crossing now under construction on Interstate 90

Winning artwork for best mammal or bird category by Jeffrey Henion of Tolt Middle School.

Winning artwork for best mammal or bird category by Jeffrey Henion of Tolt Middle School.

In a social media art contest hosted by Washington Department of Transportation and I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, entitled Bridging Futures 2015: #iHearti90Wildlife, creative individual and group submissions from Berkeley, California to Yakima, Washington animated the diverse suite of wildlife living in Washington’s Cascade mountains that will benefit from the wildlife overpass being constructed over Interstate 90 just east of Snoqualmie Pass. Utilizing markers, paint, beans, and other art materials students and teachers represented the small crawling amphibians to the fast moving large mammals. Winners of the contest were announced and recognized in five categories at today’s groundbreaking ceremony for Phase 2A of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project, which includes the construction of the wildlife overpass. The winners are:

“The judges were taken aback by the passion and thought that went into every single entry,” said Jeff Burnside, investigative reporter with KOMO 4 and contest judge. “These artists will never know the number of wildlife their art work saved by raising awareness of this important project.”

The winning classroom was awarded $500 and custom made t-shirts celebrating habitat connections for wildlife over Interstate 90, while individual winners were awarded a package to support their next wild adventure including a GoPro, REI gift card, endangered species chocolate, and the custom made t-shirt. Prizes are sponsored by the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, a collection of non-profits engaging the public on the need for safer passage for people and wildlife on Interstate 90 just east of Snoqualmie Pass including Conservation Northwest, Sierra Club, Alpine Lakes Protection Society, and more.  Coalition Director Charlie Raines shared, “It is heartening to see the next generation’s understanding and support for the needs of wildlife and how we can incorporate that in our transportation facilities.  These artworks are both thoughtful and creative.”

“The 2015 Bridging Futures: #iheartI90wildlife art contest was a joy to be a part of, said Roger Levesque of the Seattle Sounders FC. “For these young artists to celebrate wildlife and the construction of the new I-90 overpass is inspiring. All the artwork is worthy of being recognized and each artist is a winner in my book!”

All entries are available for viewing on the contest Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ihearti90wildlife

Vote by midnight on Friday May 15th for our Bridging Futures 2015 People’s Choice Award

A few of the entries from our 2015 Bridging Futures:  #iHearti90Wildlife social media art contest.

A few of the entries from our 2015 Bridging Futures: #iHearti90Wildlife social media art contest.

Our 2015 Bridging Futures: #iHearti90Wildlife social media art contest for youth has ended and some amazing entries have been submitted from Berkley, California to Yakima, Washington.  Awards will be given in 5 categories: (1) best group collection (i.e. classroom, family, friends, youth group), (2) best mammal or bird, (3) best amphibian, mollusk, or reptile, (4) most creative entry, and (5) people’s choice on Instagram and Facebook (total votes from both sites counted).  Now we need to hear from you on which entries are your favorites, as we select the People’s Choice award.

Voting is easy, visit our Facebook page and click on “photos” on the left side of the page to see the full gallery of entries that have come in.  Simply hit “like” for any that you think should win People’s Choice.  You can also go to Instagram and search the hashtag #ihearti90wildlife to view and heart entries uploaded via that format.

Voting ends at midnight on Friday, May 15th.  The winner of People’s Choice will recieve a GoPro, REI gift card, custom #iHearti90Wildlife t-shirt, and endangered species chocolate bars.  Our judging panel made up of Charlie Raines (Director of I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition), Jeff Burnside (KOMO news reporter), Lynn Peterson (Washington State Secretary of Transportation), and Roger Levesque (Seattle Sounders FC) will cast their votes next week for the remaining awards.  All winners will be invited to be recognized at the June 9th groundbreaking event for Phase 2A of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project, which includes construction the wildlife overpass that the wildlife animated through this contest will use.

House Proposal Misses Opportunity to Complete I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project

WSDOT artist rendition of the Price-Noble Creek wildlife overpass to be constructed in Phase 2A of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project, breaking ground this summer.

WSDOT artist rendition of the Price-Noble Creek wildlife overpass to be constructed in Phase 2A of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project, breaking ground this summer.

Today, the House Transportation Committee in the Washington State Legislature released a transportation package to fund necessary ways to keep Washington moving. While the package provides nearly $206 million for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project, that would fund less than half of the remaining eight miles of the project.

“Not only is Interstate 90 the most important east-west transportation corridor in our state, it is a barrier to wildlife connectivity,” said Charlie Raines, Director of the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition. “The I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project shares broad support from across the state from freight haulers to recreationists to environmentalists – because it will both improve the flow of freight and tourists and provide safe passage for all wildlife species. Now is the time to fully fund the project through to its completion.”

Earlier in the session the Senate Transportation Committee’s package proposed $426 million to complete the entire 15-mile I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project in Kittitas County. That funding level would complete the remaining eight miles,– widening the freeway to six lanes and including a series of wildlife crossing structures. I-90 Wildife Bridges Coalition urges lawmakers in Olympia to uphold the full funding for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project as negotiations between the Governor, House, and Senate result in a final bill. This funding is needed to ensure that the first wildlife overpass in the state will be built in this biennium.

Thanks to the previous leadership of Senator Curtis King and Representative Judy Clibborn, Interstate 90 has been recognized as a high priority transportation project for our state, and it is ground breaking in addressing wildlife and environmental issues, which led to an early and efficient construction start of Phase 1 (and Phase 2A breaking ground this summer).

Click here to see a project map of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project that outlines all of the project phases.

Social media contest asks students to draw attention to first wildlife overcrossing east of Snoqualmie Pass

PrintToday the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition and the Washington State Department of Transportation launch a social media contest asking students to show that they “Heart I-90 Wildlife” on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

The contest is part of our annual Bridging Futures project, geared towards educating youth about safe wildlife passage along the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass corridor.

Students grades K-12 interested in entering are asked to visit the contest web page, choose one or more species from a list of native Cascade Mountains wildlife, illustrate the wildlife, take a photo of their art, and post it to Instagram using the hashtag #iHearti90Wildlife.

Awards will be given in several categories, including best group collection, best mammal or bird, best amphibian, reptile, or mollusk, most creative entry, and people’s choice. Prizes include GoPro HEROs, customized #iHearti90Wildlife T-shirts, and REI gift cards.

The contest runs from March 25 to May 11, 2015. Winners will be announced in late May.

WSDOT will start building the wildlife crossing over I-90 this summer. The structure will be located 10 miles east of Snoqualmie Pass as part of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project.

Watch a short video on the contest by clicking on this image.

Watch a short video on the contest by clicking on this image.

Links for more information:

  • 2015 Bridging Futures #iHearti90Wildlife contest:  http://i90wildlifebridges.org/bridging-futures-2015/
  • 2015 Bridging Futures #iHearti90Wildlife contest promotion video:  https://youtu.be/ktCeiWxp2sc
  • I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I90/SnoqualmiePassEast/