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I-90 wins in tough legislative session

Posted by Jen Watkins at Mar 29, 2012 03:35 PM |

In the flurry of legislative bills that Governor Gregoire is signing from the ongoing legislative session, a victory for wildlife was included - funding for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.

I-90 wins in tough legislative session

The money's in, for the next step in a proposed overpass at Rock Knob. Credit: WSDOT

In the flurry of legislative bills that Governor Gregoire is signing from the ongoing legislative session, a victory for wildlife was included - funding for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project.

It's been a roller coaster for I-90 wildlife bridges funding. At the end of the last legislative session, we celebrated with our partners such as AAA, Kittitas County, and the Potato Commission. The final transportation bill at that time directed the Department of Transportation to apply nearly $100 million in savings from Phase 1 construction of the first 5-miles of the I-90 project  to the next phase, including Washington's first wildlife overpass!

Then, in this hard economy, the state legislature revisited the Transportation Budget to address a shortfall in funding for existing projects. Early proposals threatened to delay funding to the I-90 project until 2020. Our members, partner organizations, and people like you quickly sent a message that this delay was unacceptable, because delay would result in a tremendous loss of momentum and financial inefficiencies.

Many voices calling for a more wildlife-friendly I-90 made a difference! On behalf of this project, legislative leadership displayed by Senators Rolfes, King, and Frockt, as well as Representatives Clibborn and Armstrong, restored timely funding of the I-90 project. They allocated savings from Phase 1 to be spent beginning this biennium.

The final bill as signed by the Governor directs funding to complete design of the next phase now, followed by construction funding dedicated from 2013-2017. Under this direction, the wildlife overpass at Rock Knob would break ground in 2015.

We are thrilled that the state not only confirmed the importance of this project, but set a timeline for moving it forward. It reflects a conservation victory in this tough legislative session that also provides short and long-term economic benefits to our state.

The timing couldn't be better to keep this project moving. This June, a field tour during the Western Governors Association's annual meeting will visit the project area including a look at the soon to be completed Gold Creek underpass.

Even while we celebrate this success, we continue to work with our partners to identify funding sources that can bring this project to completion. Just this month, we worked with Kittitas County to submit a TIGER IV application for federal stimulus dollars to leverage off of this state funding.

We'll keep our fingers crossed for good luck on this application, as we look forward to a busy construction season ahead at Snoqualmie Pass, procuring safe passage for wildlife!

More news on I-90

King 5 news coverage of wildlife crossings already succeeding

I-90 Wildlife Watch report highlights wildlife on the highway

Kids' creativity means educated drivers

 

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I-90 wildlife bridges

Posted by Luci at Apr 01, 2012 07:21 PM
I would like to comment that the I-90 wildlife bridges may not have happened if it were not for Forest Service biologist Patty Garvey Darda. I'm not sure she has been given the credit she deserves for insuring these bridges were included in the project.

Reply to comment

Posted by Jen Watkins at Apr 02, 2012 09:04 AM
Luci, we could not agree more at the vital role that Patty Garvey Darda has played on behalf of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest not only in the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project but in overall habitat management within the I-90 corridor. There are many individual faces that have been working in this area and on the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project for decades that are very deserved of recognition, and without whom we believe this work we not have been possible. Patty is amongst those, and we appreciate your recognition of her as well. In our news items on the I-90 project we do not attempt to capture those we wish to thank for their work, but we do recognize how important it is. Thank you for your comment.

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