On Friday, August 30, 2013, we drove the length of Washington State Route 240, from the wilds of Hanford to the heart of the Tri-Cities.
A state highway to be known as state route number 240 is established as follows:
Beginning at a junction with state route number 24 in the vicinity east of Cold Creek, thence southeasterly by the most feasible route across the Atomic Energy Commission Reservation to a junction with state route number 224 at Richland; also
From that junction with state route number 224 at Richland, thence southerly to a junction with state route number 182 at Richland; also
From a junction with state route number 182 at Richland southeasterly to a junction with state route number 395 at Kennewick. The secretary may enter into negotiations with appropriate federal agencies to secure right-of-way for the highway over and across the Atomic Energy Commission Reservation.
Highway 240 begins in the desert at the edge of the Hanford site, at a junction with SR 24. Combined with Highways 243 north to near Vantage and 24 across the Columbia River, Highway 240 seems to be a more important route than Highway 24. I wonder why the planners didn't combine Kennewick to Vantage as something like Highway 15, perhaps even including Highways 281 and 28 to Wenatchee. As it is, we have quite the mish-mash of route numbers for following the Columbia through central Washington. ...Anyway, on the road again:
Southeast down the flat Cold Creek Valley we go, not that you'd notice the creek. Barren Rattlesnake Mountain looms to our right. Eventually we arrive at a junction with SR 225 near a bend in the Yakima River.
We briefly follow the Yakima River along the Horn Rapids, then enter the City of Richland when it still seems like we're in the wilderness. Hanford buildings off to the left. Farms. Golf course. When we actually arrive at what feels like a city, Highway 240 turns southwest onto a bypass around town. Our little rural road is now a six-lane arterial. Feels like L.A., all of a sudden. We reach the junction with SR 224.
Highway 240 curves south and then southeast, zipping around Richland. Shortly we arrive at the interchange with I-182.
The signed route for SR 240 stays as an exit-only lane for a mile or so, on I-182. It's not co-signed on a post, though, but that would be cool, since US 12 is routed on the freeway here, as well. We'd have an interstate shield, a US route shield, and a Washington silhouette. But no. ... Per the code above and how WSDOT keeps track of highways, SR 240 actually has a gap for this section, restarting from George Washington Way in Richland, heading southeast over I-182, so that's what's pictured above.
Now a full-fledged freeway, SR 240 crosses the Yakima delta wildlife area and then follows the Columbia River eastward across the Tri-Cities. The "Entering Kennewick" sign appears far later than I expect. I've driven through the Tri-Cities many times now, but this was the first time on the SR 240 freeway for me. I find it odd that three of the five exits are named "Columbia" something. Isn't that confusing? ... The Blue Bridge approaches. We reach the interchange with US 395 and take the roundabout for Columbia Drive to finish the route properly, without crossing the bridge.
Even as a two-lane road, this is a busy route, but the character certainly changes from one end to the other. In that regard, it reminds me of Highway 7. Fewer trees, though...