On Saturday, October 31, 2009, we drove the length of Interstate 90 in Washington, from Seattle, through the rain-drenched Cascades, across the plains of the Columbia Basin, to Spokane and the Idaho state line.
State route No. 90 — American Veterans Memorial Highway — Washington green highway:
A state highway to be known as state route number 90, and designated as the American Veterans Memorial Highway as well as a Washington green highway, is established as follows:
Beginning at a junction with state route number 5, thence, via the west approach to the Lake Washington bridge in Seattle, in an easterly direction by way of Mercer Island, North Bend, Snoqualmie pass, Ellensburg, Vantage, Moses Lake, Ritzville, Sprague and Spokane to the Washington-Idaho boundary line.
Just south of Safeco Field and downtown Seattle, I-90 begins at a junction with the almost imperceptible SR 519.
A curve or two later, I-90 has its grand junction with I-5. In the distance, you can spy the Amazon headquarters on the northern point of Beacon Hill.
We then curve around Beacon Hill and dive into the Mt Baker tunnel (which does not go under Mt Baker, by the way, but under the Mt Baker neighborhood, which has views of Mt Baker), then pop out on the Lake Washington floating bridge, then dive into another tunnel on Mercer Island, then some trenches and more tunnels, then a bridge over the lake's East Channel, then into Bellevue, whereupon we see the junction with I-405 (or as we locals simply call it, "405"). The stretch of I-90 from the Mt Baker tunnel across Mercer Island was the most expensive length of road in the country . . . until Boston's Big Dig at the other end of this interstate.
Up and over Eastgate's hill and down near Lake Sammamish, we have a junction with SR 900 at the west end of Issaquah. SR 900 follows the old highway's route around the south end of Lake Washington, from before the floating bridge was opened in 1940. Do you see the towering clouds? I wonder if it's raining ahead.
Yup. It's raining. Up the Issaquah Creek canyon to Preston, along the Raging River's drainage, we climb to a junction with SR 18.
The freeway drops back down to the Snoqualmie River valley and North Bend, where we intersect SR 202, a remnant of another old route eastward from Seattle, this time around the north end of Lake Washington. . . . This would be a rotten day to climb Mt Si.
After we leave North Bend, the freeway starts climbing in earnest, heading up the South Fork Snoqualmie River to Snoqualmie Pass. And here we are at the pass, which is also the western junction with SR 906, even though the signs don't mark it as such. SR 906 will take you along the route of old US 10 past the ski areas.
Heading downhill now, the rain starts easing off. Welcome to the rain shadow! Also, welcome to Hyak and the eastern end of SR 906.
A few minutes later, the clouds are gone. We've zigged the length of Lake Keechelus and followed the Yakima River past Easton to the far end of Cle Elum, where we find a junction with SR 970, which once was US 97, US 10, and the Sunset Highway. The sign also mentions Highway 903, which starts a hundred yards north of I-90, taking you back to Cle Elum and points north. Highway 970, for its part, goes almost due east.
After going up and over Indian John Hill and Elk Heights, I-90 descends to the Thorp Prairie (Hi, Granddad!) and back to the Yakima River. Before arriving at Ellensburg, we have a northward junction with US 97, which will take you to Wenatchee if you missed the 970 cutoff.
The length of Ellensburg, US 97 is co-signed with I-90, but when we reach I-82, US 97 follows it south. . . or is that east?
We thus leave the Yakima River and gradually climb up the east end of Kittitas Valley, then suddenly drop drop drop to the Columbia River at Vantage. At the far end of the bridge, just before you hit the cliffs, there's a junction with SR 26. Notice the sign for Pullman, which is 150 miles away past the far end of Highway 26. I guess that's what happens when you have a state school in your town.
I-90 climbs up out of the Columbia's canyon and onto the plateau. Near George, there's a junction with SR 281.
A couple miles later, we find a junction with a spur of SR 281. SR 283 has a junction with that spur shortly north of I-90. Since eastbound travellers probably won't be doubling back to Highway 281, Highway 283 gets the sign. Going westbound, however, both exits are labeled Highway 281.
At Moses Lake, we find one of the rare Business routes, which aren't official state highways, but local roads. Although in this case, it's also SR 171.
At the east end of Moses Lake, I-90 has a junction with SR 17, which is also the Business route 90.
Crossing the farmlands of the Columbia Basin, there was this odd fog, which was probably dust, actually. 'Twas a very windy day, after all. It was quite apparent at this junction with SR 21.
At Ritzville, US 395 joins from the southwest, knocking I-90 northeast. There's actually no direct exit from eastbound I-90 to southbound 395, so here's the onramp junction.
Very shortly thereafter, we find a junction with SR 261.
The terrain starts getting rougher, with tiny buttes and cliffs dotting the landscape. The farms are gone. We travel the length of Sprague Lake and come to the junction with SR 23.
At the Spokane County line, the trees begin. Soon we come to the junction with SR 904. It will take you to Cheney along the highway's old route.
Several miles later, SR 902 branches off in the opposite direction, although it's still signed for Cheney.
Another few miles later, we find the eastern end of SR 904, which will also take you to Cheney. I guess when your town has a state college. . .
A short while later, the eastern end of SR 902. We're almost to Spokane!
We pass Spokane International Airport and start down the hill to Spokane. Near the top is a junction with US 2, which will take you to the airport and Everett if you wish. This one's westbound only for US 2. We now have I-90, US 2, and US 395 all together, but there's never a three-number sign like I-82 has in Yakima.
Almost to the bottom of the hill, down by the bridge over Hangman Creek, I-90 finds the north end of US 195. Colfax, Pullman, Lewiston, points south!
In the heart of Spokane, US 2 leaves I-90, heading north ("east") to Newport. It takes the signage for US 395 with it, leaving I-90 all alone.
Several blocks later, I-90 has a major interchange with SR 290, which will take you over the Spokane River on a freeway bridge and promptly hit stop lights near Gonzaga. It was supposed to be the start of the North Spokane Corridor freeway, but that got moved eastward a mile and doesn't have a junction with I-90 yet. Lovely sweeping offramps here, though.
Out in the valley -- the City of Spokane Valley -- I-90 has a junction with SR 27, the slow road to Pullman.
Ten miles later, just near the bridge over the Spokane River, I-90 crosses into Idaho. Welcome to the Gem State, where sales tax is only 6%!
And there you have it, the totality of Interstate 90 in Washington, from milepost 2 to milepost 299. It's so nice to get out of town for a while.