Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Zipping Into White Pass; Scenic Byway Along Highway 12 Set for 8 New Stations

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Note: This content was produced by the Economic Alliance of Lewis County, which publishes a monthly print supplement in The Chronicle focusing on economic news and commentary.

Electric vehicle drivers in Lewis and Yakima counties will soon have eight more options for charging their rides along U.S. Highway 12.

Construction is set to begin on new stations along the White Pass Scenic Byway this spring, according to a press release.

Leading the infrastructure expansion effort is Energy Northwest, a Washington state joint operating agency that operates one of the largest carbon-free energy portfolios in the region. Energy Northwest has been involved with electric vehicle infrastructure development since 2016 and has overseen installation of 10 EV charging stations throughout eastern and central Washington. The addition of the White Pass Scenic Byway stations will bridge the charging gap between eastern and western parts of the state.

The project is a collaboration among EN, Lewis County Public Utility District and Twin Transit, with support from White Pass Scenic Byway organization, Benton REA and surrounding community members.

“Highway 12 is integral for east to west travel, with stretches of rural areas through Lewis, Pierce and Yakima counties. It’s designated as an underserved corridor for EV drivers,” said Jennifer Harper, Energy Northwest project developer. “There was a desire and support from local communities along the route to bring this effort together.”

Energy Northwest secured two grants to fund the infrastructure project — a $1.15 million grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Clean Energy Fund and about $667,000 from the TransAlta Coal Transition Fund.

“Transportation is Washington’s largest source of polluting greenhouse gas emissions, and the 2021 State Energy Strategy emphasizes the essential need to improve the design and operation of our state’s transportation networks,” said Washington State Department of Commerce assistant director Michael Furze. “Establishing charging infrastructure along the White Pass Scenic Byway is a necessary step towards electrifying Washington’s transportation sector. We support Energy Northwest’s efforts to connect communities and the regions across our state by making long distance electric charging possible in this beautiful part of our state.”

Stations along the route will include at least one DC fast charger and one Level 2 charger at each site. Each location will also have a White Pass Scenic Byway interpretive sign highlighting nearby attractions and local information.

“The White Pass Scenic Byway is a beautiful drive and there are amazing recreational opportunities all along the way. We’re thrilled that EV drivers who want to get out and explore places like Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens or Mount Adams can do so without the worry of where they can charge their vehicles,” said Maree Lerchen, White Pass Scenic Byway president.

Once the stations are online, they will be listed for drivers to find on the PlugShare website and mobile application. The stations are scheduled to be operational by the end of the year.

Energy Northwest develops, owns and operates a diverse mix of electricity generating resources, including hydro, solar, battery storage and wind projects – and the Northwest’s only nuclear power facility. Energy Northwest comprises 27 public power member utilities from across the state serving more than 1.5 million customers.