CHOKEPOINTS

Major traffic shift coming to I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass

Sep 27, 2022, 6:23 AM
I-90...
Snoqualmie Pass (Photo from Flickr Creative Commons)
(Photo from Flickr Creative Commons)

It likely won’t have the same impact as the recent closure of westbound Interstate 90 over the weekend, but a significant change is about to happen on I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass.

Westbound I-90 drivers have been watching the preparations for this change for months. It’s hard to miss a new two-lane stretch of freeway carved into what used to be rocks, dirt, and trees down Easton Hill.

The new lanes are next to the existing westbound lanes, separated by a jersey barrier. The road then peels away from the westbound lanes and snakes its way over the eastbound direction at the bottom of the hill.

Summer Derrey of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) said cars will be sharing that side of the freeway shortly.

“We’re going to move the eastbound lanes over to the westbound side soon, likely early next week,” Derrey said. “That will be a two-mile traffic shift through that area, and that will be in effect for a couple of years.”

WSDOT is widening six more miles of I-90 to go with the eight miles it already expanded from Snoqualmie Pass.

Derrey said it shouldn’t be too big of an issue for drivers, but driving in the oncoming direction of the freeway can take some getting used to.

“Just follow the detour signs and reduce your speeds through the work zone,” she said.

This shift will likely remain in place for four or five years since only about half the year is available for construction.

“The reason why we are shifting traffic through this area is so we can work quicker, for sure,” Derrey said.

This is the third phase of the widening project from Snoqualmie Pass to Cle Elum, and it will include another wildlife overcrossing near the Easton Hill.

What’s odd about this project is that the widening will not begin right where I-90 goes down to two lanes, just east of the first wildlife crossing. It’s actually starting about two miles away, leaving a gap where the road will go from three lanes in each direction to two and then back to three.

There are many more environmental issues and concerns in that two-mile section which requires much more study and permitting. WSDOT didn’t want to wait for that, so it’s jumping ahead a few miles to work on what it can.

Watch for that lane shift sometime next week.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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Major traffic shift coming to I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass