Creative ideas for Snoqualmie Pass wildlife crossings win scholarships for 2 high school students

"The structure I am proposing is a bridge, not unlike a normal highway entrance/exist overpass," said contest winner Connor Gill.  "The more natural look and setting of the crossing should increase use of the bridge by animals."

“The structure I am proposing is a bridge, not unlike a normal highway entrance/exist overpass,” said contest winner Connor Gill. “The more natural look and setting of the crossing should increase use of the bridge by animals.”

Two Washington high school students are earning green for college in a scholarship contest focused on bringing fresh ideas to creating safer passage for wildlife and motorists on I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass.

Connor Gill, a sophomore at Delta High School in Richland, received a $1500 scholarship from the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition and a week-long adventure with the Cascade Mountain School for submitted an essay and artistic rendition of a wildlife overpass that garnered the top votes from our review panel. Second prize went to Sarah Zhou, a junior at Issaquah High School, whose essay and designs allowed wildlife to move both under and over the interstate earning her a $500 scholarship.

“Connor is an engineer in the making. He did a great job creating a bridge design for wildlife,” said Brian White, Assistant Regional Administrator for Project Development and I-90 with the Washington Department of Transportation after a review of the entries. “Sarah did a wonderful job designing and explaining her wildlife crossing concept. She obviously did her homework about the dangers I-90 poses to wildlife.”

In the 2014 Bridging Futures Scholarship contest co-hosted by the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, high school students from across the state were asked to provide concepts that tackle the same problem WSDOT engineers are solving: Building a wildlife crossing over I-90. The crossing had to be similar to the structure scheduled to be built in 2015 near the Price Noble Creek Sno-Park and temporary rest area. The wildlife crossing is part of the second phase of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project.

Entries were reviewed by coalition and WSDOT staff to select the winners. “Connor and Sarah showed a real grasp of the challenges when wildlife encounter highways, and suggested creative solutions to insure safe passage for the animals as well as vehicles on I-90.They both incorporated elements to insure the passages are effective for a wide variety of wildlife species. We are pleased to be able to help further their education,” said Charlie Raines, I-90 Wildlife Bridges Director.

"I-90 is dangerous to many species of wildlife such as deer, elk, coyotes, and bobcats who want to move freely between habitats on both sides of the highway," said runner-up Sarah Zhou in her essay.

“I-90 is dangerous to many species of wildlife such as deer, elk, coyotes, and bobcats who want to move freely between habitats on both sides of the highway,” said runner-up Sarah Zhou in her essay.

In addition to wildlife crossings that help reconnect habitat in the central Cascades, WSDOT is improving I-90 by building a new six-lane freeway from Hyak to Keechelus Dam. This project:

  • Replaces deteriorated concrete pavement in the existing lanes and shoulders for a smoother ride
  • Stabilizes rock slopes to reduce the risk of rocks falling onto the roadway
  • Extends chain-up and -off areas to improve safety
  • Straightens sharp curves to improve visibility
  • Replaces the snowshed east of Snoqualmie Pass with new avalanche bridges
  • Adds lights, traffic cameras and variable message signs.

WSDOT received funding from the 2005 gas tax package to design and construct this project. The first five miles of improvements are scheduled to be complete in 2017.

Hyperlinks within the news item:

  • I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Web page: www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I90/SnoqualmiePassEast/
  • I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition: www.i90wildlifebridges.org/
  • Connor Gill’s winning entry:  Essay and artistic design
  • Sarah Zhou’s runner-up entry:  Essay and artistic design

Bridging Futures has been an annual contest since 2006 co-hosted by Washington Department of Transportation and I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, click here to learn more about its history.

 

 

 

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