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White Pass, WA, to get electric vehicle charging stations

Charging an electric car along one of Washington state’s most scenic drives will be easier thanks to Energy Northwest in Richland.

The agency is leading work to add eight more options for charging along the White Pass Scenic Byway as it winds past the shadows of Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams.

Energy Northwest already has helped with installation of electric vehicle charging stations in eastern and central Washington, including in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Connell, Prosser, George, Cle Elum, Ellensburg and Yakima in recent years.

But the 110 miles of Highway 12 from near Naches west to Marys Corner has remained an underserved corridor for electric vehicle drivers.

“The White Pass Scenic Byway is a beautiful drive and there are amazing recreational opportunities all along the way,” said Maree Lerchen, White Pass Scenic Byway organization president.

“We’re thrilled that EV drivers who want to get out and explore … can do so without the worry of where they can charge their vehicles.”

The start of autumn touches the trees surrounding the hills and mountains of Riffle Lake in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. S. Clyde Courtesy U.S. Department of Transportation

The Federal Highway Administration calls the scenic byway Washington state’s best roadway for wildlife watching, passing through habitat for elk, bald eagles, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and black bears.

There are more outdoor recreational opportunities along its length — including for camping, wilderness hiking, fishing, snowmobiling and hang-gliding — than anywhere else in the south Cascade Mountain region, it says.

Adding charging stations on the White Pass Scenic Byway also will help connect travelers between eastern and western Washington.

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Courtesy U.S. Department of Transportation

The new stations are expected to be finished by the end of the year and will include at least one DC fast charger and one Level 2 charger at each site.

Energy Northwest secured two grants for the charging station project — a $1.15 million grant from the Clean Energy Fund of the Washington state Department of Commerce and a $667,000 grant from the TransAlta Coal Transition Fund.

WA electric vehicle goals

The work to add more charging stations comes as the Washington state Legislature set a new goal in the state’s transportation plan for only electric vehicles to be sold in the state just eight years from now.

““Energy Northwest is striving to help Washington state meet its climate goals and looking to ways we can make an impact in both the energy and transportation sectors,” said Greg Cullen, Energy Northwest’s vice president for energy services and development.

Visitors take in the view of Mount Rainier along the White Pass Scenic Byway. U.S. Forest Service Courtesy U.S. Department of Transportation

“As transportation evolves, getting the infrastructure in place is vital for communities across Washington,” he said.

Transportation is the state’s largest source of polluting green house gas emissions, according to the Washington state Department of Commerce.

The charging station project is a collaboration between Energy Northwest and Lewis County PUD and Twin Transit, with support from the Benton REA, the White pass Scenic Byway organization and communities along Highway 12.

Once the stations are operating, drivers can find them on the PlugShare website and mobile app.

The Tieton River flows alongside the White Pass Scenic Byway as trees turn colors in the fall. Ellen Berdan Courtesy U.S. Department of Transportation

This story was originally published April 18, 2022 5:00 AM.

Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.