I-90 plan reroutes highway near pass

A 15-mile stretch of Interstate-90, east over Snoqualmie Pass, is scheduled for an overhaul in the coming years that will address deficiencies ranging from avalanche closures, rock slides and deteriorating pavement to sharp curves, low clearance bridges and wildlife crossings.

Though it won't begin until 2011, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) wants to know what citizens think of the project now.

WSDOT is about to publish the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass Project, which will run from Hyak to Easton along Lake Keechelus. Three public hearings will take place over June and July to gather citizen feedback.

The final DEIS will be published in the summer of 2006 and construction will begin in spring of 2011. It is estimated to last for five years, depending on the preferred alternative, funding and scheduling conditions.

Alternative designs WSDOT is currently considering include four options. Alternative 1 will feature twin three-lane tunnels 1.9-miles long with 70-plus mile per hour curves. Alternative 2 features twin three-lane tunnels 0.6-miles long, a six-lane bridge to bypass avalanche chutes at the showshed and all 70 mile per hour curves. Alternative 3 would include a single three-lane tunnel 0.6-miles long, a six-lane bridge to bypass avalanche chutes at the snowshed, an avalanche retention fence on the slide curve and mostly 70 mile per hour curves with a few 65 mile per hour curves. Alternative 4 would have a six-lane bridge to bypass avalanche chutes at the snowshed, an avalanche retention fence on the slide curve, some 70 mile per hour curves and some 60 mile per hour curves.

Depending on the design selected, the project could cost between $410 million and $980 million. The state Legislature recently allocated $387.7 million for design and construction of the first phase of the project, which will run from Hyak to Keechelus Dam.

Randall Giles, project manager with WSDOT, said builders will keep four lanes of traffic open during construction by utilizing existing roadways and building some temporary ones.

"There are a lot of things we're trying to accomplish with this project. There are a bunch of different needs that come together in these 15 miles," Giles said. "Eventually, the different construction phases will reconstruct roadways, repair the pavement, provide additional capacity for future growth, improve safety and make conditions safer for wildlife."

Three public hearings will be held this summer so WSDOT can review the comments of citizens and choose the preferred design alternative for the project.

Public hearings will be held June 29 at the Ellensburg Inn, 1700 Canyon Road, Ellensburg; June 30 at the Summit Inn on Snoqualmie Pass, 603 State Route 906; and July 7 at South Lake Union Naval Reserve Building, 860 Terry Ave. N., Seattle. All meetings will run from 4 to 8 p.m.

WSDOT engineers and environmental specialists will be present to answer questions and discuss alternatives proposed in the DEIS.

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