Shedding light on Snoqualmie Pass

By Meagan McFadden

This is how the LEDs will look
once they’re installed in the highway.
It’s cold, dark and raining. You prepared for this trip over Snoqualmie Pass all week, but there is one thing you cannot prepare for. Where are the lane stripes? The only thing separating your car from the car next to you is your attention.

On an average winter - this year being an exception! - more than 400 inches of snow falls on Snoqualmie Pass. Lane stripes fade from deicer, snow removal, studded tires and chains. Keeping lane stripes visible is a big challenge! This year we will have a striping truck at the Hyak maintenance shed so we can try and get out whenever the weather is dry to restripe areas that are fading.

Safety is our number one priority. With the help of a federal grant aimed at improving highway safety, we are testing a new kind of lane marker to help define where the lanes are. Basically, we are going to insert a solar-powered light into the highway, the fancy name is a solar-powered light-emitting diode. We are hoping these LEDs will help drivers see where the lanes are during the long dark Cascade winters. We will be installing the LEDs this summer over the summit of Snoqualmie Pass.

Before we start the project, we want to hear about your experience driving over Snoqualmie, particularly during dark, rainy conditions. Whether you travel over the pass once a month, once a year or once in your life, please take a few minutes to shed some light on the visibility of lane markings over the pass by taking our online survey. This survey will be online until later this summer. Responses from the survey will establish the baseline of public opinion before the new lane markers are in place.

This project is the first of its kind in the state and we are hopeful the new kind of lane markings will improve visibility despite dark, seasonal conditions. If successful, solar-powered LED lane markings may be considered for other locations along the I-90 corridor.

We will conduct a follow up online survey in the fall of 2014 to determine if drivers think the new LED markers improve visibility of the lanes.

We hope next winter, you won’t be squinting and asking yourself, “What lane am I in?”