Hope floats for commuters and residents who regularly drive through the often congested – and often dangerous – I-90/SR 18 interchange area near Snoqualmie.
The 2015 gas tax funded, $16 billion Transportation Bill provided $150 million for improvements to the antiquated, signal-controlled 90/18 interchange area – BUT that funding wasn’t scheduled to come through until 2023.
Numerous times over the past year, local 5th District legislators have said waiting until 2023 to begin redesigning the dangerous interchange is just too long – and had promised to work to advance that funding during the current legislative session.
After a January 25th meeting with the Transportation Committee chairs, both 5th District Senator (D) Mark Mullet and 5th District Representative (R) Jay Rodne said they are ‘cautiously optimistic’ that they will succeed in securing $6.5 million this year to enable the “commencement and completion” of interchange design work.
Both legislators complimented each other on the coalition building work in their respective legislative branches – something needed to expedite the project’s timeline. Mullet said they have benefitted from having the ‘major players’ – like the Washington State Patrol, WSDOT, the Trucking Association, the Ports, and local cities – all supporting the need to expedite interchange improvements. He added that 8th District U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert also made a call to the transportation chair in support of pushing up the project.
When asked if expediting the I-90/SR 18 interchange project would delay another transportation bill projects, Mullet said no. The ability to move it up stems from additional gas tax revenue the state is collecting – attributed to lower gas prices which resulted in people driving more and/or buyer bigger vehicles.
Rep. Rodne said the transportation budget should hopefully be finalized in April, but the full biannual budget might not be finished until the summer as the legislature struggles to meet the McClearly decision to fully fund education.
Sen. Mullet said the remaining interchange project funds would then be pushed up in sequential chunks, with the goal being to complete the project in 2023.
Rep. Rodne said, “This is truly a bipartisan effort and Mark, Paul [Graves] and I are all working on the same page for the benefit of the District.”
To improve the I-90/SR 18 interchange area, WSDOT is looking at eliminating the existing signals, adding flyover ramps and widening the SR 18 to four lanes between Tiger Mountain and I-90.
WSDOT has repeatedly stated it recognizes the dangers surrounding the interchange as traffic regularly backs up onto I-90 and SR 18 over Tiger Mountain. WSP is supportive of closing the weigh station located at the interchange and moving it east near I-90 milepost 33. Ports benefit from moving freight safely and smoothly. Snoqualmie Valley residents, as well as southeast King County commuters, want improved travel times and safety in the fast-growing area of the county.