News & Media

I-90 wins in tough legislative session

by Jen Watkins (Conservation Northwest)
March 29, 2012

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.

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!