I-90 snow shed could be swapped for bridges

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The familiar snow shed on Interstate 90 just east of Snoqualmie Pass is going to be consigned to history.

The Washington State Department of Transportation is considering a proposal to build snow bridges instead.

Work to widen I-90 to six lanes had included plans to replace the existing snow shed with a larger one to cover both eastbound and westbound lanes.

Guy F. Atkinson Construction, of Renton, Wash., the contractor on the next stage of freeway widening, recommended eliminating the snow shed from the plan and replacing it with snow bridges.

The cost of the different structures is about the same at $71 million each.

But the snow sheds would cost $650,000 more each year to maintain.

The snow bridges would be placed farther away from the dangerous cliffs that are prone to snow slides. That will allow avalanches to pass beneath the freeway lanes.

A snow storage area beneath the bridges would involve a series of chutes to direct snow away from bridge piers.

The freeway is being widened for five miles along Keechelus Lake at a cost of $551 million. Work is now in its fourth year. The project includes wildlife passages beneath the freeway, new chain-up areas, rock stabilization and easier curves.

WSDOT officials have written a draft environmental impact statement for the proposed switch to snow bridges. The draft must be approved before the bridges can be built.

A series of public meetings were held last week in Bellevue and two communities near the pass to solicit comment.

Members of the public can comment online through Nov. 19 at ubne.ws/TPYL5S.

WSDOT also is developing a new statewide rail plan, and they are asking for public input. The plan will detail strategies for the next five years as well as the next 20 years.

A public meeting will begin at 9 a.m. on Tuesday at WSDOT’s Eastern Region office, 2714 N. Mayfair St., with a formal workshop beginning at 10 a.m.

Members of the public who want to attend are asked to RSVP by phone at (360) 705-7900 or by email at rail@wsdot.wa.gov so organizers can make sure they have enough information material available for everyone who attends.

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