I-90 is getting a special overpass to ease and protect wildlife crossings.
On June 9, 2015 Washington state’s Department of Transportation broke ground on its first freeway overpass for wildlife on I-90. This will provide safe passage for everything from elk to mice.
When completed, a 15-mile stretch of I-90 from Hyak to Easton will have more than 20 major underpasses and two overpasses for wildlife to safely cross roadways and migrate to new areas.
Gold Creek (pictured below) was the fist successful underpass finished that many animals are already putting to use. It now allows a natural creek to flow freely under it for trout to move upstream as well as opened up a new flood plane for Keechelus Lake to help preserve wetlands in the area.
This overhaul is part of a $1-billion-dollar project to add lanes, straighten curves, reduce avalanche hazards, and improve overall driving conditions for the mountain highway.
“I-90 has a tremendous impact on wildlife in the Cascades,” said Jen Watkins of the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition. “Animals fundamentally require the ability to move on the landscape, and if we prevent then from doing that we can block their ability to find food and mates and new habitat when conditions change.”
The first bridge is scheduled to open in 2019 and will span more than 150 feet and cost $6.2 million to finish. It will be covered in natural vegetation to help blend seamlessly into the surrounding environment.
Although many were skeptical of these over- and underpasses, it has proven successful in other places. The most successful being the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park. Nicknamed the “meat maker,” vehicles used to constantly collide with deer, elk, and moose. With a combination of bridges like these, car and fencing collisions dropped 80 percent.
All photos courtesy of the Seattle Times