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An adventure over Snoqualmie Pass a.k.a. 12 miles in 90 minutes

Headed east over the passes? Good luck! (KIRO Radio, Chris Sullivan)

It’s no surprise that heading over I-90 during the summer can be a pain in the backside, but as I found out last weekend, this summer it is much worse, thanks to construction.

WSDOT rescues over 250 cars trapped in Snoqualmie Pass

I knew the state was doing some concrete repair between North Bend and Snoqualmie Pass, but I didn’t realize just what that meant for drivers. Having experienced a 90 minute, bumper-to-bumper drive to go 12 miles Friday afternoon, I have a much better appreciation.

Around 3:30 p.m., I was rolling around the corner past the Snoqualmie Casino, when I had to lay on the brakes like never before. I went from 75 miles an hour to zero. No joke.

The backup lasted all the way to just before mile post 38, where the two right lanes are closed for construction. I got back up to the speed limit for about two miles, thinking I was in the clear, but then ran into another two-lane closure.

That’s where a driver from Texas, who didn’t understand how to zipper merge, intentionally veered into my lane to prevent me from merging. If I had not swerved, this driver would have hit me.

Tempers were flaring at that point, from everyone.

“We’re doing bridge deck repair,” said Brian White, with the Washington State Department of Transportation. “We’re doing concrete panel replacement. We’re doing grinding of the road surface and we’ll be doing some culvert repair, as well.”

Just expect 19 miles of I-90 eastbound to be down to two lanes from North Bend, all the way to Snoqualmie Pass. There was also a major event at the Gorge that added to the traffic last weekend, but White said you should expect delays, even without a huge event.

“We try to keep two lanes open the whole time,” he said.

But when you combine weekend traffic volumes with slow trucks and construction, it is a combination for a traffic nightmare.

One of the complaints I had while sucking the fumes of the car in front of me was that the lanes were closed without any apparent work being done. It’s a complaint I have heard from others as well. White’s answer to that is simple. You can’t drive on curing concrete. Those lanes need to stay clear.

“We have to keep those lanes closed,” he said. “It’s unsafe for people to drive on that roadway until it’s repaired.”

I chuckled a bit when I saw an electronic sign from the state saying it appreciated my patience during construction, but White said the contractor is doing all it can to keep lanes open.

Traffic is finally returning to normal on I-90

“We work with the contractor to minimize the lane closures, shorten them up as much as possible so we can minimize the impact on the traveling public,” he said.

You can expect these kind of nightmarish drives east of North Bend through the end of August. That’s five more weekends where you really need to assess your travel plans. I would consider leaving Thursday.

And yes, I am aware of the return trip on Sunday, which can be just as bad leaving Cle Elum.

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