On Sunday, April 6, 2008, and Saturday, April 19, 2008, we drove the length of Highway 5 within Washington State. This highway is more commonly known as Interstate 5. I thought US 2 was a challenge, but I-5 has that one beat. Not only is it long, but it also intersects other state highways every 4.6 miles on average!
I-5 is also unique in this project in that it will probably be the only highway we drive on two non-consecutive days (unless the North Cascades Highway closes for the winter and we decide to do the Puget Sound stretch anyway).
State route No. 5 — Washington green highway:
A state highway to be known as state route number 5, and designated as a Washington green highway, is established as follows:
Beginning at the Washington-Oregon boundary line on the interstate bridge over the Columbia river at Vancouver, thence northerly by way of Kelso, Chehalis, Centralia, Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle, Everett and Mt. Vernon, thence northwesterly to the east of Lake Samish, thence northeasterly and northerly by way of Bellingham to the international boundary line in the vicinity of Blaine in Whatcom county.
Halfway across the main channel of the Columbia River, I-5 crosses from Oregon into Washington.
And before you even get to the opposite shore, there's the offramp for SR 14.
A mile later, in Vancouver, there's the exit to the south end of SR 501. It loops away and comes back to I-5 after a dozen miles or so. Don't ask me where the other two Plain Boulevards are, or even what is a Plain Boulevard.
Still in Vancouver, the exit for SR 500. We've only gone two miles from the state line. Chunlin is certainly keeping busy with the camera!
This is where I-205 comes in. It's the first junction so far in our travels where it's just an onramp from our direction. You can get to I-205 south from I-5 southbound, of course. Otherwise, what would be the point? I-205 is the loop freeway around Portland.
Rain showers come and go as we find the junction with SR 502. As we drove, it seemed that most of the rain was hovering over the junctions . . . just to make taking photographs difficult.
And oh, look! SR 501 has returned. It says "west," but I'd like to call it "south."
Here's the exit if you want to go climb Mt St Helens. Maybe this year my knees won't give out halfway up. SR 503 will be a fun drive.
Finally up near Longview and Kelso, we arrive at the beautiful, sweeping interchange with SR 432.
Hoo-ee! Look at those menacing clouds! But here we are in Kelso in a patch of sunlight. Weird weather that day, I tell you what. Oh, look. We're in Kelso, at SR 4, our first doubly-visited junction! Hooray!
Just over the rise is the junction with the north end of SR 411 and the west end of SR 504. Welcome to Castle Rock! They have an IMAX. I watched Independence Day there once.
The state tricked me on this one, I admit. The signs are for SR 506, but this isn't really the end of 506. It's only a place where the two highways get close to each other. For some silly reason, SR 506 parallels the freeway north from this interchange for another couple miles. Sadly, we didn't get a photograph of the end of 506. Maybe in a few years. . .
Oh, look. It's raining again. Winlock is over there, just down SR 505.
And here we are at US 12 . . . eastward only. Still raining, in case you didn't notice. Chunlin took about five pictures of some of these junctions, just to make sure the windshield wipers weren't in the way.
A couple minutes later, we approach SR 508. Would you like to go to Onalaska? It's named after a Wisconsin town named after the Alaska town, Unalaska. The Alaskans changed the spelling afterwards.
Now, Pe Ell, on the other hand, was named after a Frenchman named Pierre. 'Tis true! I just can't wait to drive SR 6 in a few weeks.
Take SR 507 to get to Centralia. We are now halfway from Portland to Seattle. Yay!
Uh oh. It's raining again. Take the exit and loop around on this overpass to get on US 12 westward.
Darn that auto focus! I woke up Chunlin from her all-too-brief nap and she didn't have time to get the focus set before we were upon the junction. Oh well. We'll get a better picture of the south end of SR 121 in a couple years.
And here's the north end of SR 121, anyway. It's just a little loop a few miles long that swings over to Millersylvania State Park. I might be wrong, but I think Washington State has a law that requires all state parks to be on or near a state highway, and a freeway flying past doesn't count.
Is that the state capitol I see in the distance? Well, no. Not for another mile. But this is the state capital, Olympia. The junction with US 101. It'll take you on a long loop around the Olympic Peninsula and down the coast to Oregon. Truthfully, I think that's got to be the slowest road to Oregon we've got.
I think that once upon a time as a teenager, I drove down SR 510 to Yelm in the middle of the night. I could be wrong though. It was dark out then. This trip, it was just raining and we didn't take the exit.
And after Chunlin's longest break yet (fifteen minutes), we're at SR 512. Actually, there's a highway planned in the middle of that distance, but it's not built yet. But enough about that. We're in Lakewood! Puyallup! South Tacoma!
Do you want to go over the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge? Well, that's what SR 16 is there for!
I-5's interchange with I-705 and SR 7 is about two miles long. Here, we're almost to the actual cross-over. To get to I-705 or SR 7, you had to exit a mile and a half ago. I hope you didn't miss it! But look, there's the Tacoma Dome. It's the largest wooden dome in the world. . . . I think.
Down by the Puyallup River, it's another exit to Puyallup: SR 167.
Once upon a time, SR 99's south terminus was all the way down at the Columbia River. Now, though, it's in Fife. Glorious Fife.
Look! SR 18! I used to live over that way!
Would you believe that SR 516 is also called the Kent-Des Moines Road in this area?
The freeways are getting busy. Here we are in Tukwila (You know, Southcenter!), at the interchange with I-405 and SR 518. Where do you want to go? Renton? Bellevue? Sea-Tac Airport? We even have an exit to stay on I-5 here, but only if you have at least one passenger in your vehicle (solo motorcycles okay).
And away goes SR 599, a shortcut from I-5 to SR 99. Get it? 5, 99, 599!
Almost to Seattle, here's the junction with SR 900 -- onramp only. SR 900 used to be the main route east from Seattle, back when it was called US 10.
Finally, we're at the heart of Washington State's freeway system: the junction of I-5 and I-90! Everything is possible from here; all roads are open to you!
Leaving downtown Seattle behind, we find the junction with SR 520. 520 has a floating bridge across Lake Washington. I-5 keeps going north over the Ship Canal Bridge. It doesn't float. It just sort of stands there.
Ahhh, Green Lake. Note that there are exit signs for SR 522 going both to the left and to the right. Those are actually going the same direction up Lake City Way. The lanes on the left, over the wall, are the reversible express lanes. I'd usually take the express lanes, but we couldn't get a shot of 520 from those. . . . Shortly after this photo, we pulled off the freeway for a short rest of twelve days or so.
After waiting for the next rainy weekend (or snowy, actually), we headed out again, continuing northward. Very soon, we arrived at SR 523, better known around these parts as 145th Street.
Through the rain we go, arriving at the Snohomish County line and SR 104.
The exit before this was signed "To SR 524," but I wasn't confused. Here's the real SR 524 junction. Do you want to go shopping at Alderwood Mall?
I-405 comes in from the right and continues off to the left as SR 525. Lovely snow on the trees, don't you think? This is April, right?
A few minutes later, SR 96. We'll be back here in a mere two years. . .
Welcome to south Everett. This junction is a bit strange. SR 526 changes to SR 527 as the highway crosses I-5, but this is also where SR 99 has its northern terminus. Heading northbound on I-5, there's only a merging onramp for the direct connection with 99, but you can get to 99 if you take the 527 exit, cross I-5 onto 526, then take a city street south a bit till the southbound exit from I-5 merges and the city street becomes SR 99.
Down to the heart of Everett, we're now at the southern end of SR 529. You can see US 2's exit very close in the distance.
Back to where it all started! I-5 at US 2. Hooray!
It's only been four miles, but we've hit SR 529 again. Oddly enough, this isn't the northern terminus, but just a cross-over. It's also an onramp only. That exit sign you see in the distance is for the next junction.
Welcome to Marysville. Here we find SR 528 and, I suppose, a route to southbound 529, if you so desire.
Across the forested plains of northern Snohomish County to Smokey Point and the unincorporated Lakewood. SR 531, here were are.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'. SR 530, Arlington, Darrington. This is the area of Puget Sound with the highest rainfall, thanks to the convergence zone. This weekend, the convergence was a bit further south for a change, so there's no snow on the ground here.
I can't wait to drive SR 532, now that it has been funded for improvements by the state government (ahead of more dangerous roads like US 2, the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the 520 floating bridge).
Down into the Skagit valley, we're definitely in the area of northern Washington that I've never stopped. I guess SR 534 goes to Lake McMurray, but don't hold me to it.
I have stopped here before, in Mount Vernon. There's a good brew pub restaurant. SR 536 is the exit to take.
Perhaps Mount Vernon has a college somewhere near SR 538. Don't ask me, though. University Street in Seattle doesn't have a university on it.
Aw, here's SR 20. West to the San Juans and Whidbey Island, east to the mountains. It's a good road.
The south end of SR 11. It's actually where the old Highway 99 used to go, until I-5 replaced it.
After a lengthy (eighteen minutes) drive through the mountains, we emerge in Bellingham at the northern end of SR 11.
Take SR 542 up to Mt Baker, where Chunlin and I met!
Just north of Bellingham, we arrive at SR 539. It'll take you due north to Canada.
As far as I can tell, SR 548 exists solely as a loop access to Birch Bay State Park. Curiously, the next exit is the one signed for Birch Bay.
North a bit, another exit for Canada. Be careful if you take SR 543 for a gas stop and want to go to Peace Arch border crossing. You might end up going five miles south on I-5 accidentally before you can turn around. Trust me. I did that in January on our Whistler trip.
And here's the other end of SR 548. I have a feeling that the northern portion of 548 used to be Highway 99 through Blaine. We're almost to the border!
And there it is! O Canada! You can see the change in pavement and stripe painting at the border, right between those two cement markers. After explaining our purpose to the Canadian border guard (he was a bit suspicious), he gave us directions to the nearest turnaround, but also added, "Feel free to stay awhile."
After 276 miles and two weeks, our drive of Interstate 5 in Washington State is complete!