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New I-90 avalanche bridge nearly ready

Wednesday, October 4, 2017by  Jon Osterberg

Westbound avalanche bridge nears completion alongside Lake KeechelusMotorists driving Washington's busiest cross-state highway, I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass, will use the new westbound avalanche bridge later this month, weather allowing.

"That's our hope, and our goal," said Meagan Lott, WSDOT spokesperson. "It's possible that the new westbound bridge will open to traffic by the end of October."

The 1,200-foot structure, a twin of the eastbound bridge that opened to traffic in August 2016, further enables avalanches to pass harmlessly beneath the roadway, eliminating closures and traffic delays.

Previously, traffic below the avalanche-prone slope alongside Lake Keechelus had been partially protected by a concrete snowshed built in 1950, now demolished.  But all too often snow blocked the freeway, stranding motorists. Currently, eastbound and westbound traffic squeezes onto the year-old bridge, two lanes in each direction. Any snow that tumbled down the steep slope last winter simply slid under the bridge into Lake Keechelus.

Second arch now erected for the I-90 wildlife overcrossingOnce the new span opens, each bridge will be configured for just two lanes in each direction, Lott said. But they'll expand to their final alignments next summer – three spacious lanes in each direction, plus shoulders.

A few miles to the east, work crews have finished building the second archway for the I-90 wildlife overcrossing. Facework resumes next spring, and the overcrossing is scheduled to be fully completed and ready for animals by October 2019.

finished-wildlife-overcrossing.jpgAlso, new streetlights erected near and west of the overcrossing area will be illuminated this winter, Lott said.

Motorists will enjoy the improved roadway, better lighting, and expanded chain-up shoulders just in time for busy winter travel. November brings late-season deer and elk hunting, Thanksgiving, and the Apple Cup football game in Seattle, while Leavenworth hosts its popular Christmas Lighting Festival on three straight weekends beginning Dec. 1.

Photos courtesy of WSDOT

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