What really happens behind the scenes of a rockslide on I-90

 by guest blogger Meagan McFadden

What were you doing on March 22 at around 5 p.m.? Driving home from work, getting ready to make dinner, running last minute errands, taking the kids to soccer practice? Well, if you worked for us, your night was busy dealing with the aftermath of a rockslide.

Yes, we are very relieved that fence was there.

A large boulder the size of a pick-up truck pushed its way out of the hillside along I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass just west of the snowshed. Before the boulder could make its way to the highway, a rockfall fence stopped it dead in its tracks.

As you were driving home from work, you heard the local news mention that I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass was closed westbound from milepost 54 to milepost 70 due to a rockfall. The first thing that comes to your mind is how long is it going to be closed? Do they really need to keep it closed over night?

These are all good questions that I’m sure are asked a lot whenever we close a highway. But the primary reason we close the highway, especially due to rockslides, is for your safety. Our work begins once we close the highway.

Great perspective as to how large the rock is.
On March 22, crews were busy late into the night making calls to our contractor, Max J. Kuney, to find out how quickly they could gather equipment to remove the 12 foot by 6 foot boulder. They called our geotechnical crews from Olympia, brought in a consulting geotech from the I-90 Hyak to Keechelus Dam Improvement Project out to the rockslide to evaluate the hillside. Crews even took photos of the rockslide so the media could show you what we were really dealing with.

Once the geotech evaluated the hillside, we got the thumbs up to open one of the westbound lanes to traffic. Crews broke up the large boulder into smaller pieces to make it easier to remove from the side of the highway just before lunch on March 23. Now it’s just a matter of time and patience. Crews are working to clear the shoulder of debris and rocks while keeping other factors in mind such as traffic, daylight and weather. Before crews can hop in their cars, grab a late meal, and make it home in time to tuck their kids into bed, they must finish removing debris from the ditch and restore drainage along I-90.

Just another day at the office.