Wildlife crossing on Redmond Ridge nearing completion

Workers dig and build away over the summer at the future wildlife crossing on Redmond Ridge. - Courtesy of King County Deptartment of Transportation
Workers dig and build away over the summer at the future wildlife crossing on Redmond Ridge.
— image credit: Courtesy of King County Deptartment of Transportation

Animals on Redmond Ridge in unincorporated King County will soon have a new route to travel across Northeast Novelty Hill Road as the area’s new wildlife crossing nears completion.

Most of the crossing’s main structure is done and construction is expected to be finished in the next few months.

Rick Brater, a road engineer for King County, said they are looking to be done by the end of the year, but there will still be some planting to do. However, the latter will depend on the weather during the winter, so they may have to wait until spring, he said.

The 40-foot-wide crossing is an elevated bridge stretching 120 feet across Northeast Novelty Hill Road between Redmond Ridge Drive Northeast and 234th Place Northeast. Like a standard overpass, the bridge has a clearance of 16 and a half feet and Brater said they have left room underneath in case the two-lane road is widened into four lanes in the future. There will also be 1,000 feet of fence on each side of the road — stretching 500 feet in each direction from the bridge — to lead the animals toward the bridge in order to cross the road. The vegetation that will be planted along the bridge, Brater said, will help create a barrier between the animals and vehicles as well as a seamless, natural transition from one side of the road to the other.

Brater said, thankfully, they haven’t had a major vehicle-animal accident yet, and with more than 20,000 cars on the road each day, the crossing is a safety project designed to keep it that way, separating wildlife from vehicles.

“It’s an accident-reduction project,” Brater said.

He said crossings have been built throughout the country in states such as Arizona, Florida, Colorado and North Carolina and they have proven to be very successful.

The community’s response to the project has been mixed.

Brater said they have done some public presentations, including one at Trilogy at Redmond Ridge in which more than 150 people attended. For the most part, people supported the wildlife crossing, but there were some people who were against it, he said.

The Redmond Reporter put a call out on its Facebook page, asking community members what they thought about the wildlife crossing.

Ian McCaffrey of Redmond called the bridge a “huge waste of money.”

“I’ve lived on Novelty Hill/Union Hill for over 25 years and I can only recall seeing one deer get hit in that area where the bridge is being built,” he said.

McCaffrey said tax dollars should be used to widen the road to relieve traffic congestion.

The $5.5 million project is fully funded by a federal grant through the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

“I realize the project is federally funded, so there’s no fault to (King County), but I would much prefer that the money was used to fund something that was actually needed and useful,” said Kerry O’Leary.

While citing a Reporter story from April 2012, which states there have been six deer collisions since 1999 and two cougar collisions since 2004 but only 70 percent of vehicle-animal collisions are reported, Charlie Tillinghast of Woodinville said the numbers for the project do not make sense. He said if the crossing saves 100 animals over the course of 50 years, it will cost $60,000 per animal.

“I am all for saving wildlife, but imagine how many acres of habitat could have been purchased before the development of Redmond Ridge with $6 million,” he said. “Enough habitat to support more than two additional large animals per year. This project is a tragic waste of tax dollars even for the most ardent supporters of wild land and wildlife.”

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