$595 million construction project on I-90 begins earlier than expected - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

$595 million construction project on I-90 begins earlier than expected

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SNOQUALMIE PASS, Wash.- Expect construction on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass for the next couple of years. This $595 million dollar project is funded by a 2005 Transportation Partnership Account or gas tax. The project is beginning one year ahead of schedule.  

Take a look at I-90. Soon, it won't look like this. Department of Transportation employees are transforming the four-lane highway into six to reduce traffic congestion. Another priority is avalanche control, which is why employees will build a new snow shed.

"We're still going to have weather, snow, we'll probably still have to close the passes but this will significantly reduce the times we have to close" said Randy Jiles, the Project Director.

Plans include new pavement for a smoother drive and a crossing for wildlife to improve safety for everyone.

"That's going to provide an avenue that wildlife can move underneath the freeway," said Jiles.

Not just drivers and wildlife benefit from this highway project but businesses too.  With thousands of trucks using this highway to import and export local goods everyday, a reliable road, all year round is crucial.

"Customers halfway around the world just don't understand if a road is closed in the United States due to heavy snow or not keeping the roads open," said Mark Anderson, owner of Anderson Hay in Ellensburg.

To make sure road conditions stay safe and traffic delays are minimal, DOT employees already built a detour bridge. Cars will use the bridge while the highway is expanded.

Employees are now working on the first five miles of the project, from Hyak to Keechelus Dam. The project is expected to be completed by 2015.