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Public invited to comment on changes coming to I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass

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Date:  Monday, October 22, 2012

Contact: Meagan McFadden, WSDOT communications, 509-577-1618 (Yakima)
Jason Smith, WSDOT environmental manager, 509-577-1750 (Yakima)

Proposed bridge design could save taxpayers $650,000 in annual maintenance costs

HYAK – For more than 60 years, the snowshed along Interstate 90 has been a familiar passageway to travelers making their way across Washington state. Now the state is considering a new look for one of its most-traveled roadways: replacing the snowshed with avalanche bridges.

The Washington State Department of Transportation recently completed and released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East project. The draft highlights a substantial project-design change, and WSDOT is turning to the public for comments.

Replacing the existing snowshed with eastbound and westbound avalanche bridges represents a step away from the original plan in the 2008 Final EIS, which resulted in the selection of a new, expanded snowshed. Because the avalanche bridges were not evaluated in the 2008 Final EIS, the Federal Highways Administration and WSDOT recently prepared the Avalanche Structures Draft Supplemental EIS that compares and contrasts the social, economic and environmental impacts of both options.

The public is invited to learn more about the project proposal and weigh in on the decision-making process by attending one of three public hearings. The hearings are informal and the public is encouraged to drop by anytime during the following events:

Tuesday, Oct. 23
Lewis Creek Visitors Center
5808 Lakemont Blvd. SE, Bellevue, Wash. 98006
4 – 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 24
The Summit Inn
603 State Route 906, Snoqualmie Pass, Wash. 98068
4 – 7 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 25
Hal Holmes Community Center
209 N. Ruby St., Ellensburg, Wash. 98926
4 – 7 p.m.

The public can also review the Draft Supplemental EIS, take a look at the hearing displays and submit their comments online.

WSDOT awarded the third contract of the I-90 Project in 2011 to Guy F. Atkinson Construction (Renton, Wash.). Atkinson proposed building bridges to further separate the highway from the hillside, allowing avalanches to pass under the highway. A snow storage area beneath the bridges would act as a series of chutes directing sliding snow away from the bridge piers.

The cost to build the bridges is about the same as the cost of a new snowshed: approximately $71 million. However, the bridges would save the state and taxpayers approximately $650,000 a year or nearly $49 million over the next 75 years in maintenance and operation costs.

After gathering public feedback and completing additional studies, WSDOT and the contractor will complete a Final Supplemental EIS and a Record of Decision. By spring 2013, WSDOT and FHWA will make an informed decision on whether to accept or reject the proposal.

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