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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Conservationists Applaud I-90 Groundbreaking

Wildlife underpass included in the construction to beginning today on Interstate 90

Today, environmentalists joined with engineers and economic interests to show their support for the improvement of the busiest highway through Washington’s Cascade Mountains, as the WSDOT broke ground on a major upgrade to Interstate 90 that incorporates a series of bridges for wildlife and fish.

Aug 11, 2009

Additional contacts:

Charlie Raines: (206) 619-5575
Jen Watkins:  (206) 940-7914

SEATTLE, WA - Today, environmentalists joined with engineers and economic interests to show their support for the improvement of the busiest highway through Washington’s Cascade Mountains. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) broke ground on a 5-mile Phase 1 of a major 15-mile upgrade to Interstate 90 that incorporates a series of bridges for wildlife and fish. Their forward looking design for the project had gained the endorsement of the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, representing over 40 local and national environmental groups, who attended today’s groundbreaking ceremony to show their support.  “This is an important day to celebrate the innovation in design and unique partnerships that have made this project happen,” said Charlie Raines, director of the Coalition. He add, “This major improvement to our transportation system and habitat connections will also provide hundreds of jobs over the next six years.”

The overall 15-mile I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project will incorporate some of the best highway crossing facilities for wildlife in North America including a series of underpasses that allow water and wildlife to move under the highway, and two vegetated overpasses to assist wildlife in moving safely over the highway.  The first phase of this project includes construction of a wildlife underpass at Gold Creek, which will combine high quality restoration of the creek with improved connectivity for wildlife.  Gold Creek is home to a population of threatened bull trout, and is a critical valley providing passageway for wildlife moving north and south in the Cascades.  The I-90 project will replace a current 140 foot bridge over Gold Creek with a 900-foot bridge in the same location, while adding a small bridge that will remain dry year-round for wildlife movement under the highway.  “The I-90 project shows how our transportation planning can not only help to mitigate the impacts of climate change, but in this case help wildlife in adapting to the changes coming as well,” said Jen Watkins, Outreach Coordinator for the Coalition.

It is unusual for conservationists to support a major highway project, but in this case the opportunity to dramatically improve both wildlife passage and public safety has resulted in the backing of many organizations.  “By making wildlife connectivity a goal of the project, WSDOT set up a process where we found a solution to which we all could agree,” said Paul Balle, Coalition Steering Committee Member. “This can be a model for other highway projects.” 

Construction of Phase 1 is expected to continue until 2016, while the remaining 10-miles of the project remain unfunded.  “There is clearly still work to do to ensure the entire project is completed,” stated Charlie Raines, Director of the Coalition.  “We have a proposal with wide support now to add another 1.5 miles to this first phase if we could gain funding.  This would extend the construction to the end of the lake with key traffic improvements and include the wildlife overpass at Rock Knob.”


More Information
WSDOT I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project Page
http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I90/SnoqualmiePassEast

More information, project photos, and project visualizations can be found on the coalition website at www.i90wildlifebridges.org.

 

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