Written by Forterra Staff
This week ground was broken near Snoqualmie Pass on a wildlife overpass project that will provide safe passage to wildlife, widen the freeway to six lanes and redirect avalanches under the highway.
The I-90 crossing structures will serve as icons, reminding us we are all part of a shared ecosystem. Innovative solutions are critical in maintaining healthy and resilient populations of our wildlife species in the Cascades: From cougar and wolverines, to deer, pikas, salamanders and lizards—even mollusks.
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) started studying this upgrade to the most important cross-state transportation route 15 years ago. Effective wildlife crossing structures at Gold Creek and Rocky Run already exist but this will be the first wildlife overpass on any highway in the state. This unique and impressive structure will ensure safe passage for both animal and human travelers.
The project is also an incredible demonstration of the value of partnerships and their effectiveness at meeting our state’s critical goals. WSDOT is in charge of the project but they needed the cooperation of land and wildlife management agencies like the Forest Service and Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. Transportation groups like AAA gave support and—unique to this highway project—environmental advocates including Sierra Club, Conservation Northwest, Alpine Lakes Protection Society and Mountains to Sound Greenway also backed the project.
Land conservation organizations including Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy and Forterra, have played a key role in fixing the checkerboard land pattern, which has frustrated cohesive habitat management. Forterra is currently acquiring lands on Keechelus Ridge, up the hill from the new wildlife overpass and in Gold Creek near the completed wildlife passages.
All of these organizations have provided essential building blocks to this habitat corridor—the land, the structure and caring management. We are proud to have been a part of that collaboration.
Governor Jay Inslee and key members of the legislature, in particular Senator Curtis King and Representative Judy Clibborn, were instrumental in securing the funding for this project that has statewide significance for transportation, conservation, recreation and the economy.
A special treat at the event was awarding prizes to winners of our Bridging Futures Contest—a joint project of WSDOT and the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition designed to engage students in our work. Over seven years, we’ve taught students about the challenges of wildlife and transportation facilities. In return, we’ve received their intriguing interpretations and solutions. This year’s contest winners are from Cheney, Duvall, Enumclaw and Ellensburg.
It was an exciting day but I’m already looking forward to the ribbon cutting scheduled for 2018.