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Increased activity seen on I-90 wildlife overpass in 2020

An entire herd of elk were spotted crossing safely over the freeway, signifying a positive sign animals are figuring out new ways over the freeway.

New images of the wildlife overpass over I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass show an entire herd of elk crossing safely over the freeway.

The overhead structure, which bridges the whole freeway was completed in 2018. From above, the animals see what looks like their natural environment complete with vegetation, downed logs, and walls that shield them from headlights and much of the traffic noise.

The sighting of the elk herd is a positive sign that more animals are figuring out new trails to get safely over the freeway, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.  

In the beginning, animals seemed to catch on quickly.  

“You’d see a coyote. We’d see one elk or deer. Now we’re starting to see large herds starting to move through these structures,”  said Brian White, the assistant administrator. "So, really the part we’re kind of waiting for and excited about, is when does the bear move through.”

Yet, the overpass is just one of many human-made crossings to get over this busy stretch of I-90. There is also a wide underpass not far from Hyak, but most are widened culverts, enlarged during the years-long I-90 revitalization over Snoqualmie Pass.

A bear sighting is about all they were missing in looking at recorded sightings in 2020, which included 2,319 deer and more than 1,300 elk traveling over 14 crossings on a nearly 11-mile stretch between mileposts 55.3 and 66.1. There were also 12 bobcats, 25 racoons and19 weasels documented. Only one cougar and one skunk were recorded.

The department of transportation is now getting calls from around the country from other states considering wildlife crossings.

A second overpass is being planned for the next phase of I-90’s rebuilding near Easton.