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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/

I-90 project remains a funding priority in Olympia

Last week, the Senate Transportation Committee in the Washington State Legislature released a transportation $15 billion transportation package along with an incremental 11.7 cent gas tax increase over three years.  It is a complex package including 11 bills total, including eight reform bills, a bond bill, a revenue bill and a spending bill.  The lawmakers described the package as a compromise, which is ready for public discussion and dissection.

The package proposes funding for specific projects, including enough funding to complete the entire 15-mile I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.  The package provides just over $426 million to the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project to fund the remaining eight miles including a series of wildlife underpasses and a wildlife overpass at Easton Island.  The dollar figure accounts for the anticipated inflation over the duration of this package from passage to project construction.  This funding level is an increase over the amount that was included for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project in the Governor’s transportation proposal Lets Move Forward late last year.

Thanks to the leadership of Senator Curtis King and Representative Judy Clibborn, Interstate 90 has been recognized as a high priority in transportation discussions to date as the major east-west transportation corridor in our state.  They worked with project supporters to ensure that savings from the construction of Phase 1 of the project were kept on the project to keep it moving forward, which provided funding for Phase 2A that breaks ground later this year (and includes the first wildlife overpass).  We hope they continue to work together as these transportation packages are discussed and evolve to ensure that the funding level in the Senate proposal to complete the I-90 project is upheld.

New video on citizen monitoring highlights efforts along I-90

Screenshot from Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project video.

Screenshot from Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project video.

Conservation Northwest, a member of the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, just released a video on the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project that we join together to implement annually in the Cascades.  This video not only provides a background to the program and a great series of wildlife photos from the remote cameras in the field, but features why monitoring in the I-90 wildlife corridor is so important.

View this new video and learn more about what citizens in Washington are doing to document wildlife around the state and along I-90.

Wolverine tracks recorded 8 miles north of I-90

Wolverine.  Credit:  US Fish and Wildlife Service

Wolverine. Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Both agency researchers and citizen scientists have been working together in recent years in complementary efforts to document the recovery of wolverines in Washington’s Cascade Mountain Range.  Recent work by the US Forest Service and Washington Department of Transportation found highly credible wolverine tracks in the snow just 8 miles north of I-90.  It’s exciting for our coalition to imagine this incredible species utilizing the wildlife crossing structures in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project in the future to safely roam between the north and south Cascades.

Learn more about this recent news in a posting from our coalition partner Conservation Northwest.

See a King 5 story following US Forest Service biologist Aja Woodrow into the field to set up research stations to capture wolverine photos (and catch a glimpse of some of the results).

And, keep reporting the wildlife that you see from I-90 when traveling between North Bend and Easton at www.i90wildlifewatch.org

Governor Inslee includes Phase 2 of I-90 project in transportation funding proposal

Yesterday, Governor Jay Inslee announced a 12-year transportation improvement plan entitled Lets Move Forward that recognizes the high priority of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. The investment plan introduces proposals for new funding mechanisms to invest in our states transportation system, while identifying high priority transportation projects that need to keep moving forward – including Interstate 90.

According to the Governor, the plan “charts a path forward by building on the bipartisan spirit of past efforts and offering a good-faith compromise to spark action in the next legislative session. And it introduces a paradigm shift to breathe new life into this effort. Rather than raising a gas tax on everyone, our worst polluters will pay instead. This market-based carbon pollution fee, along with other bonds and previously agreed-to fees, will raise $12.2 billion over 12 years to pay for balanced investments across the state — the equivalent of the amount of revenue generated by a 12 cent gas tax increase, without the tax.”

The investment plan dedicates $170,900,000 towards the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project to complete Phase 2 of the total 15-mile project, see a map of the project’s phases by clicking here (and scrolling down to Page 2).  This investment builds off of the cost-savings that were accrued during construction of the first phase of the project, and are being dedicated to building Phase 2A which includes the project’s first wildlife overpass.

Unlike some highway mega-projects in Washington, the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project benefits from a diverse set of supporters statewide and is ready to build.  $390 million is needed to complete the entire project, which seems like a wise investment when looking at our state’s most important east-west transportation corridor.

We are happy to see the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project recognized as a statewide priority in the Governor’s Lets Move Forward transportation investment plan, while we look forward to exploring the opportunity to invest to not only keep the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project moving forward but headed towards completion in the coming session.

47,921 acres of habitat conserved in the greater I-90 corridor

Yesterday, acquisition of 47,921 acres of land  in the Central Cascades by The Nature Conservancy from Plum Creek Timber Company was announced.  These acres include irreplaceable habitat for wildlife, including elk and bear, as well as rare and threatened species such as wolverine and spotted owl. Touching three lakes and adjacent to the Teanaway Community Forest, this project connects some of the most ecologically diverse forests in the world.

“We are incredibly pleased that The Nature Conservancy has made such a huge commitment to conserving important fish and wildlife habitat in the Upper Yakima Basin. This land is a critical connective corridor between the north and south Cascades for hundreds of species, and their acquisition of these checkerboard lands removes the risk of incompatible development. TNC’s approach to managing their lands for ecological integrity will be essential for the long term health of these species. We welcome them to the partnership that is building safe passage for wildlife across I-90 and this landscape,” said Charlie Raines, I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition Director.

Among the many groups that have worked to conserve this great landscape are The Cascade Conservation Partnership, Forterra, Conservation Northwest, Mountains to Sound Greenway, Trust for Public Land, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Rocky Mtn. Elk Foundation, the Alpine Lakes Protection Society, and the many members of our own coalition. The Forest Service, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Washington State Parks, and Washington Department of Transportation are agencies that have made substantial contributions to this effort.

“We are not only thrilled with this announcement of conservation today, but the opportunities for restoration of habitats and watershed health that this presents for tomorrow,” said Jen Watkins of I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition.

View maps of the parcels protected and learn more.