Northeast Novelty Hill Road will soon be a little safer for drivers and animals alike as the King County Road Services Division is planning to build an elevated wildlife crossing over the thoroughfare between Redmond Ridge Drive Northeast and 234th Place Northeast.
The 40-foot-wide, 120-foot-long concrete overpass will connect two major natural habitats in the area and give animals a safe way to get from one to the other without having to enter traffic.
"The goal is to provide connections for wildlife and an access to these different areas without crossing those main arterials," said project manager Rick Brater.
PLENTY OF WILDLIFE
Brater said one of the reasons they are choosing to build the crossing at the edge of the Redmond Watershed Preserve is because King County is filled with wildlife networks, or areas with a lot of animals, and "one of the biggest areas is right here."
In addition, the area has seen a lot of development in recent years so there is an increase in traffic as well.
"It's a natural fit," Brater said about the location choice.
The wildlife crossing will work to protect motorists and wildlife from serious vehicle-animal collisions.
"It's a known problem," said nearby resident Mark Hampson.
Hampson lives in unincorporated King County just outside of Redmond and said he has had a cougar in his backyard and has seen a deer hit by a car and killed right in front of his house on Northeast 116th Street.
"There's plenty of wildlife and it's going to need some accommodating if they're going to enjoy our greenbelts as much as we do," he said.
Animals living in the area include bears, cougars, bobcats, coyotes and deer.
There have been six deer collisions reported since 1999 and two reported cougar collisions since 2004, but Toni Hartje, a King County engineer for the project, said only about 70 percent of vehicle-animal collisions are reported. She said this is because many times, an animal that has been hit will run off and while it may have been fatally injured, drivers would not realize this if damage to their vehicle is minimal.
Hartje added that these collisions are usually only reported when drivers call the King County Sheriff's Office because the animal is injured to the point where it needs to be euthanized.
On Thursday evening, Hampson attended an open house at the Redmond Ridge Community Center to learn more about how the county will accommodate the area's animals with the wildlife crossing. Also, as an equestrian enthusiast, he said he wanted to know if access to the area's trails would be affected by the mile or so of fencing that will be installed along Northeast Novelty Hill Road.
Hartje said they still have to meet with the equestrian community to see what they would like to see, but "access to the trials will be maintained."
More than two dozen King County residents -- mostly from the Redmond and Woodinville area -- attended the event and Brater said most people he spoke with were like Hampson, who just wanted to get more information.
Brater said a lot people also asked how the county will pay for the overpass.
The project is funded by two grants -- $500,000 for design and about $5.3 million for right-of-way and construction -- from the Federal Highway Administration and according to the King County website, the county contributed an additional $300,000 for planning and design.
Planning for the crossing has taken many years as Brater said the county received the design grant in 2006. King County was awarded the second grant in 2010.
This wildlife crossing is only the second in the state (the first is in Cle Elum). Brater and Hartje said for research, their team has looked to northern Europe, where these crossings originated, as well as Canada, where they are also used.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Construction of the overpass is scheduled to start fall of this year and take about one year to complete. Brater said traffic disruption from this project will be minimal and they will set up detour routes when necessary. He added that a separate county project will expand Northeast Novelty Hill Road into a four-lane road and the new crossing will be built wide enough to accommodate this when the time comes (left).
There was talk of building the crossing underground, but there is an 81-inch storm water line running parallel to the road in the way. Brater added that it would also be more expensive to construct an underground crossing.
Hartje said there are various ways to encourage animals to utilize a wildlife crossing including fencing, changing the terrain and certain types of vegetation to attract animals to the crossing or deflect them from the road. The county is not planning on altering the terrain, so they will likely utilize the vegetation option. However, Hartje said the crossing's designs are not finalized yet. She added that they will also have "jump outs" for animals to utilize if they do somehow get trapped on the road since the fencing does not extend across the whole roadway of Northeast Novelty Hill Road.
Hartje said these recessed areas will allow animals to jump over the fencing, which will be designed to make it very difficult to jump into traffic.
How much money does King County have to waste? Apparently they have $6 million to blow on an overpass on Novelty Hill Road.
This 40-foot wide, 120-foot long overpass will increase safety and reduce car-involved accidents. People will be so much safer. Oh, it’s not for people? No, it’s for animals only.
King County is building an overpass to reduce road kill. My community along Novelty Hill doesn’t have a light at our intersection. We don’t have a crosswalk. We take our lives in hand every day just entering the roadway during commute.
We risk our lives crossing the street. But six deer have been hit since 1999 and that warrants a $6 million concrete overpass for the critters.
Mike Costello, Redmond