Washington State elk will soon have a portion of Interstate 90 all their own.
The Washington State Dept. of Transportation broke ground on phase 2 of its larger 15-mile I-90 improvement project. But this $107 million portion includes the interstate’s first-ever wildlife crossing.
The state spent years researching and studying the migration patterns of wildlife living near I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass. With that information in hand, the new overcrossing will get built in an area where wildlife naturally migrates to Keechelus Lake and, as of now, get blocked by I-90.
The overcrossing will allow the likes of bears, cougars, elk, deer and other wildlife to get to the lake without endangering themselves or drivers with risky I-90 crossings.
As part of the project, large fencing will help funnel animals to and over the crossing. When opened in 2019, the crossing will rise 35 ft tall, measure 60 ft wide and run about 150 ft long, all with natural habitat designed to encourage wildlife to take the path over the interstate.
Below the animals, though, drivers will encounter a new portion of roadway. The interstate from Keechelus Dam to the Stampede Pass interchange will widen from four to six lanes, while gaining larger areas for vehicle chain-up for those snow-filled winters. As part of the project, WSDOT will also be able to replace the concrete pavement, stabilize rock slopes and straighten the roadway.
Even with all that roadway modernization, the wildlife will soon have its own way of skipping past it all.
Tim Newcomb is Engineering News-Record’s Pacific Northwest contributor. He also writes for Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated and more. You can follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb or visit his website here.