HYAK – Improvements to a five-mile section of Interstate 90 east of Snoqualmie are taking shape in the form of new lanes, bridges and fish and wildlife crossings. However, before crews could begin turning any dirt, important partnerships were formed to ensure the project design met both transportation and environmental needs. Those unique partnerships are now receiving national recognition.
The Federal Highway Administration will award the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) the 2011 Environmental Excellence Award for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project on Monday, Aug. 22. The award recognizes transportation projects, processes and people who incorporate environmental stewardship into project planning and development.
For more than a decade WSDOT worked with dozens of government and non-government agencies to ensure the I-90 project met transportation, safety and mobility needs, and mitigated impacts to wetlands, streams and wildlife habitat.
“This project shows how different agencies can work together to design a project that not only benefits both the environment and the transportation system, but reduces project costs and increases efficiency,” said Jason Smith, WSDOT environmental manager.
For instance, WSDOT worked closely with the State Department of Ecology and State Parks on an agreement to store 350,000 cubic yards of excavated material from Keechelus Lake at Crystal Springs Snopark to reuse in the project. This saved fuel, emissions and costs from 35,000 truckloads of material that would have been hauled 20 additional miles and later returned to the project for reuse. Those round trips would have equated to about 1.4 million miles, or enough miles to fly to the moon almost six times. At about seven miles per gallon of diesel, the trucks would have consumed at least 200,000 gallons – enough diesel to fuel more than 11,000 trucks.
WSDOT also partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to extend geotechnical and environmental studies to include Forest Service property, share costing and resources.
Students from Central Washington University and Montana State University helped WSDOT study local habitats early in the project’s design phase. The data is now being used to develop the best approaches to reduce collisions with new highway-crossing features for wildlife, reuse natural materials and protect fish and wildlife habitat.
The I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East – Hyak to Keechelus Dam project is scheduled to be complete in 2017. This $551 million project will add capacity, reduce avalanche risks, minimize road closures required for avalanche control work and reduce the risk of rock and debris falling onto the interstate from unstable slopes.