The $150 million project to redesign the Interstate 90 and state Route 18 interchange outside of Snoqualmie is getting closer to completion, with the end of phase one coming before summer.
Representatives from the Washington State Department of Transporation (WSDOT) came to the Valley to host informational sessions about the project at the end of March during the Chamber of Commerce luncheon. They also held a presentation on the subject at the Snoqualmie Police Station on March 28.
While the construction of a new I-90 and SR 18 interchange system has been the primary focus for many, relocating the truck weigh station and widening SR 18 are projects also underway by WSDOT.
John Chi, engineering manager at WSDOT, said his department is working on several alternative options to each of the three components of the project, getting feedback from the community and cities to incorporate their suggestions and concerns. The new location of the weigh station has been one of the biggest elements of contention.
While the weigh station is currently located at the interchange, WSDOT is looking at moving it farther East as part of an effort to reduce freight traffic on city streets. Chi said the agency examined five alternative locations based on cost, environmental impac, and the needs of the project, and eventually narrowed it down to three possibilities. The potential sites are North Bend, Cle Elum and Bandera State Airport, which sits just west of the Snoqualmie Pass. However, a site on the west side of the Snoqualmie Pass is preferred, making Cle Elum a tough choice.
“One of the things we hear from stakeholders, especially with Washington State Patrol, is they want a site west of the pass in order to check trucks for braking systems and enforce chains before they go to the pass,” he said.
Residents of North Bend are concerned that the location of a weigh station near the city would increase the amount of freight traffic the city would get. Chi also said concerns included truck parking.
“…They were concerned that — especially the city of North Bend — they didn’t want to have another truck town on the other side of the freeway,” he said. “But they are also concerned with truck parking along the ramps. We also hear concern with providing adequate parking for trucks.”
In response, WSDOT has begun to examine Bandera State Airport as a possible location that would be both West of the Pass and outside of the City of North Bend, avoiding traffic impacts. There is still work to be done before selecting a site, as WSDOT is in discussions with the airport to determine if the weigh station and airstrip can coexist at the location just past milepost 45.
The other parts of the project are the reworked intersection and the widening of SR 18, which is necessary to accommodate the added lane of traffic in the new diverging diamond design. The truck climbing lane along SR 18 will be extended north from the Raging River all the way to the interchange. Going South, a lane will be added from the interchange down to Deep Creek.
The project is intended to wrap up phase one work before summer of 2019, which includes scoping community engagement and providing a preferred alternative to the weigh station location.
“Phase 2 starts in June and continues with refining the preferred alternative and designing up to 30 percent level and to put together a package that we could advertise to the builder,” Chi said. “Hoping we could get that out by September of 2020.”
Chi said that if everything goes to schedule, construction could begin by 2021 and be complete by 2023.
More open house events are being held by WSDOT in April to get as much community feedback as possible. The first open house is 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on April 17, at Mount Si High School freshman campus in Snoqualmie. On April 18, the second open house will be open from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Twin Falls Middle School in North Bend.
An “online open house” is also available until April 30 at i90sr18openhouse.com.