CHOKEPOINTS

Construction season comes to an end as I-90 work wraps east of Snoqualmie Pass

Oct 12, 2023, 5:00 AM

The construction is coming to an end as work on Interstate 90 from Snoqualmie Pass to Easton wraps up. It’s been a successful year, but most of the work can’t be seen by drivers.

It’s hard to imagine, but this is the 14th year of construction on the widening of I-90 between the east side of Snoqualmie Pass and Easton. It hasn’t been 14 straight years. Workers did take a break in the middle.

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They are in Phase 3 of the project which is working closer to Easton. Drivers have been in a shifted configuration for more than a year, with eastbound drivers being moved into the westbound lanes down the Easton Hill.

The Washington Department of Transportation’s Summer Derrey said most of this year’s work has been behind the scenes.

“We focused on rock blasting and excavating tons and tons and tons of material to make room for those added lanes and that realignment,” Derrey explained.

Workers removed 450,000 cubic yards of dirt and debris this year, that’s about 15,000 truck loads. They removed hundreds of trees and started building the piers that will support the eventual configuration of I-90.

If you are driving eastbound today, the new lanes are being built on your right, but Derrey said it’s time to close up shop for the season.

“We have two seasons,” Derrey joked. “We have construction, and we have winter. We have a very limited window that we can work in before the weather. It’s on a major mountain pass and with temperatures and snow restricting us. We will be wrapping this project up here in a couple of weeks.”

The current lane shifts and restrictions will last through the winter.

People often ask why it’s taken 14 years, and counting, of work to add a lane in each direction of the freeway. It’s only a 15 mile stretch.

“There’s certainly a challenges,” Derrey responded. “It’s a lot more than just widening. It’s a mountain pass that has all sorts of Mother Nature and obstacles it likes to throw our way.”

Mountains on one side, lakes on the other. This is not an easy place to work.

A large focus of this 15-mile expansion is on preventing wildlife and drivers getting mixed up. The first wildlife over-crossing that opened a few years ago has done a good job in preventing those accidents. Another large over-crossing is planned for this project near Easton, and Derrey said they are doing a lot of work under the freeway too.

“There’s quite a few under crossings areas where we’ve widened the culverts made the bridges wider to facilitate animals across under the highway,” she said. “15 more are planned in the next coming years.”

Phase 3 is expected to take another five years to complete, sometime in 2028.

But this is not the final phase. A few more years of work will be needed to widen a small section skipped in this current phase.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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Construction season comes to an end as I-90 work wraps east of Snoqualmie Pass