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

Brydon Eakins's winning computer design for an overpass submitted to the 2013 Bridging Futures contest.

Brydon Eakins’s winning computer design for an overpass submitted to the 2013 Bridging Futures contest.

A first place tie means two Washington high school students are earning green for college in a scholarship contest focused on Interstate 90 wildlife crossings.

Brydon Eakins, a senior at University High School in Spokane and Elaina Thomas, a junior at Garfield High School in Seattle, both received a $1,000 scholarship from the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition today.

In our 2013 Bridging Futures scholarship contest, statewide high school junior and senior students were asked to provide concepts that tackle the same problem Washington State Department of Transportation engineers are solving: building a wildlife crossing over I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass. The crossing had to be designed for the same location as the first funded wildlife overpass in second phase of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project, which is scheduled to be built in 2015 a mile southeast of Keechelus Dam.

Juniors and seniors from across the state submitted scholarship entries that all proposed creative solutions to provide safer passage for both wildlife and motorists on Interstate 90.  Entries ranged from 3D models to computer simulations to hand drawn blueprints.

“We received an incredible response from very talented high school students, making our job to select the best an exciting challenge,” said Charlie Raines, contest judge and Wildlife Bridges Coalition director. “Two students stood out in their work, and how ironic that these two students reside in cities that bookend I-90 – Spokane and Seattle.”

Entries were screened to select a Top 5 that went to a judging panel of transportation and project area experts.  The judging panel included Charlie Raines (I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition Director), Kirk Holmes (Kittitas County Public Works Director), Douglas MacDonald (former Washington State Transportation Secretary), Congressman Dave Reichert, State Senator Curtis King, and Lynn Peterson (current Washington State Transportation Secretary).

“These are all amazing young people that put a lot of effort into the submittals.  I was very proud, and a bit humbled, to have been able to participate,” said contest judge Kirk Holmes.

Brydon Eakins submitted a computer designed model (images above) that incorporate design features on the exterior for motorists to view as they passed under, and as his essay stated “demonstrates wildlife connectivity by embracing nature and quite literally covering the roadway with a blanket of natural vegetation and surroundings.”

Elaina Thomas submitted a 3D model that incorporate detailed features to “be visually appealing, to fit in the landscape, and act as a showcase.”  Her design incorporated remote cameras to monitor wildlife, renewable sources of energy, a water feature for animals as they cross over the interstate, and designs to ensure a safer route for motorists.

“We appreciate all of the students that entered this contest, and congratulate the two winners,” said Brian White of WSDOT.  “We’ll be displaying the designs in our headquarter office over the summer to share these great ideas, and hope the students return from college to see the real crossing structure on I-90 when it is complete.”

All students in the Top 5 will receive a $50 gift card donated by REI, and are invited to share their design ideas with the official interdisciplinary team working with the Department of Transportation to finalize design for the official wildlife overpass.

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.

Essays and photos from the Top 5 entries in the contest including the two scholarship winners are available at http://i90wildlifebridges.org/bridging-futures-2013-entries

Contacts: 

Meagan McFadden, WSDOT communications, 509-577-1618 (Yakima)
Summer Derrey, WSDOT communications, 509-577-1943 (Yakima)
Jen Watkins, Conservation Northwest, 206-940-7914 (Seattle)

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