Talkin' About the I-90 Expansion
The I-90 expansion over Snoqualmie Pass has been in progress for a number of years, and will continue to be for another number of years. As caretakers of and advocates for the Cabin Creek Sno-Park and associated nordic ski trails, Kongsberger Ski Club has made it a priority to stay involved with the project through the ever-changing roster of project managers, to make sure the wishes and needs of local skiers are heard. To that end, KSC member Jeff Eustis, who has been our main point person in interacting with the Washington State Department of Transportation for many years, put together a meeting at the Kongsberger cabin this week to facilitate a discussion between ten club members – all four officers, several board members, and a couple members at large – and three WashDOT employees – the Development Branch Project Engineer, the Assistant Development Branch Project Engineer, and the Environmental Engineer – about the recreational uses of the trails, the parking situation, and plans for the future.
Club historian Rob Corkran kicked off the meeting with a brief history of the club, letting the WashDOT people know that we have been a presence here, jumping and skiing and taking care of the trails and advocating with government and non-government agencies on behalf of all trail users (okay, not those ATV guys who are tearing up the trails right now) for more than 50 years.
Then it was WashDOT’s turn, with a PowerPoint presentation that laid out the particulars of the project’s Phase 4, which is the stretch of I-90 between Price Creek and Cabin Creek, and showed the number of players who have been and continue to be involved, from State and federal government to local nonprofits and universities.
Here are some details (note that the project is not even at 30% design right now, which means everything, and I mean everything, that follows is preliminary, subject to change, not cast in stone):
· Project design: going on now; 30% design by the end of next year, 60% six to nine months later
· Project advertisement (out for the bid when the project is at 100% design): 10/25/2027
· Construction begins: 4/15/2028
· Construction completed: 11/30/2032
This is interesting. Turns out the existing overpass at Cabin Creek doesn’t meet updated code standards in terms of height, so a whole new overpass will be constructed to the west of the existing one. The new one will be higher, to meet code requirements, which means higher on- and off-ramps (I can visualize a slightly steeper road off the freeway down to the parking lot, but I’m not sure about a steeper entrance to the trail system). The good news is that our existing parking lot will, as a result, be slightly bigger and its elevation will be raised roughly to the same extent as the access road that will serve it. We emphasized that three entry/exit points need to be maintained so we don’t end up with any worse traffic mayhem than we already have. Because those three access points already exist, it should be no problem maintaining them in the new design. We extended an invitation to the WashDOT guys to drop by the parking lot any winter weekend morning about 10:00 to get a flavor for what we’re stressing here.
WashDOT is still considering a couple of options for the layout of the new overpass, but the likely version at this point will be about four feet wider than the current one, with a six-foot walkway on the side, which will be plowed along with the roadway. Access to the current overpass will be maintained throughout the construction period. This is all positive news, and it was very encouraging to hear the project details.
We discussed with WashDOT the post-construction use of the large staging area to the northeast of the Stampede Pass road, which is fairly close to the western-most loop of the Viking trail. Given that it lies on Forest Service land, WashDOT indicated that it would be returned to Forest Service management, regraded, and reclaimed as a wetland for habitat mitigation. We also discussed the possibility of using a smaller, existing cleared and graveled area that lies at the northeast corner of the Stampede Pass interchange for additional parking. Although not proposed, it may not be totally out of the question. For that, we would need to work with the Forest Service.
We talked about the lack of restroom facilities along that stretch of I-90 between Cle Elum and the Hyak area because the Price Creek rest area was removed (as it turned out, due to high groundwater) and how, as a result, many travelers use the Cabin Creek interchange as their personal toilet and garbage can (if you’ve ever participated in our Sno-Park cleanup days, you know what I’m talking about, and it is gross). It turns out that the most likely site for a new rest area would be Easton Hill, and the limiting factor is not budgetary, but finding the real estate. When we asked what we could do to help move along the development of an Easton Hill rest area, WashDOT suggested contacting our legislators.
Finally, there was some discussion, but no solutions, about the possibility of making the parking lot and trail entry more ADA-accessible.
All in all, a very productive and informative meeting was held, and we appreciate everyone from the club and the State who showed up to talk and exchange ideas!