US 99 was part of the original US Highway System adopted in 1926. The Washington State portion ran from the Interstate Bridge at the Oregon-Washington state line to Blaine at the British Columbia Canada-Washington State USA boundary. US 99 was decomissioned in Washington State in 1969.
Vancouver to Woodland
US 99 originally followed Main St thru Vancouver. By the 1940s, Washington St, one block west of Main, was used as US 99 in the downtown area. A 4 lane US 99 freeway was built in the mid 1950s from the Columbia River to today's I-5 exit 3. This freeway was extended in 1962 to exit 7. US 99 originally followed Hazel Dell Ave rather than the present Hwy 99 NE in the Hazel Dell area. The present Hwy 99 NE in Hazel Dell was built in the late 1920s or early 1930s. From the north end of Hazel Dell, US 99 went thru La Center on the way to Woodland. A concrete deck arch built around 1924 is still in use across the East Fork of the Lewis River on the south side of La Center. A new bridge is under construction in 2000-2001 to replace this bridge. The original cantilevered arch truss bridge across the Lewis River at Woodland in 1912 was replaced by a steel beam bridge around 1965. In the early 1940s, US 99 was straightened between the vicinity of I-5 exit 7 and Woodland. This highway was built to expressway standards. 4 lane bridges were built across the two forks of the Lewis River. The highway itself may have been only two lanes until after WWII. Parallel spans were added around 1970 when this stretch of highway was upgraded to 6 lane I-5.
Woodland to Kelso
The original US 99 for the most part was located to the east of later US 99/I-5. Where the cliffs come close to the Columbia River between Woodland and Kalama, later US 99 and I-5 have obliterated the original highway. Local traffic from I-5 exit 22, Dike Access Rd to exit 27, Todd Rd-Port of Kalama must use I-5. 4 lane expressway US 99 was extended north from Woodland past Kalama in the later 1940s. At the Kalama River, north of the town, a 1929 thru truss carried US 99 across the river for several years. This bridge was paralleled by another thru truss just west of the 1929 bridge in 1954. When I-5 was widened to 6 lanes, two 3 lane concrete box bridges were built across the Kalama River. The 1954 truss was moved to the east of I-5 to serve local traffic along old US 99. North of the Kalama River, old US 99 went up into the hills. A half bridge structure, still in use, is visible from I-5. The newer US 99 route closer to the Columbia River along the base of the cliff was built in the late 1940s to early 50s. Approaching Kelso, Old 99 crossed over I-5 and the Coweeman River on Grade St. Old 99 turned left on Ash St, followed Ash west to Pacific Ave, and took Pacific Ave the rest of the way thru town. A 2 lane expressway bypass was opened around Kelso in the late 1940s and widened to 4 lanes in the early 1950s. Two parallel thru trusses built just a few years apart carried this expressway across the Coweeman River. When I-5 was upgraded to 6 lane freeway in 1981, new concrete bridges were built for the freeway. One of the 2 lane truss bridges is still used by Kelso Drive, just east of I-5.
Kelso to Castle RockNorth of Kelso, Old 99 continued along Pacific ave around the west side of Rocky Point. The late 1940s US 99, now I-5 alignment, passes to the east of Rocky Point. The BNSF mainline runs thru a tunnel under Rocky point. The old 99 bridge at the southern RR tunnel portal is dated 1919. The old bridge at the north end of the tunnel was replaced in the 1980's. North of Rocky point, old 99 was obliterated by newer 99. Traffic following old 99 must cross under I-5 and parallel I-5 on the east side past the Ostrander interchange, exit 42. North of the Ostrander interchange, there is a bridge over I-5 connecting traffic with Pleasant Hill Rd, the route of old 99 the rest of the way to the southern outskirts of Castle Rock. From the Ostrander area to the north end of Castle Rock, a newer 4 lane expressway alignment of US 99 opened around 1950. Old 99 followed Huntington Ave thru Castle Rock. Northbound Huntington Ave is now posted as Business Loop 5. From downtown Castle Rock north to I-5, Huntington Ave is also WA 411. At I-5 exit 49 (Jct WA 411 and 504) old 99 crosses I-5 and heads north along the east side of I-5 to exit 52. Between the two exits, old 99 crosses the Toutle River on a 1935 vintage 4 lane thru truss bridge. At the time the bridge was built, US 99 was only 2 lanes at this point. The circa 1950 4 lane Castle Rock bypass was extended to the bridge. When I-5 was upgraded to 6 lane divided freeway in the area in the late 1960s, two new parallel 3 lane tied arch bridges were built a short distance to the west. The road approaching the 1935 bridge reverted to 2 lane.
Castle Rock to ChehalisOld 99 crosses over I-5 at exit 52 and continues to the Lewis County line as Barnes Drive. This stretch of old 99, paved with portland cement concrete in the early 1920s, was only paved over with asphalt in late 1998 or early 1999. A short distance north of the county line, old 99 crosses over I-5 at exit 57. At Toledo, the 1920 vintage 4 span thru truss bridge across the Cowlitz River was replaced in the early 1990s by a concrete bridge. A plaque dedicating the 1920 bridge to veterans of the World War (I) was saved and is displayed at the Toledo end of the new bridge. Cylindrical metal piers from a pre 1920 bridge are vivible a short distance upstream from the present bridge. Old 99, including the Cowlitz River bridge, is now part of WA 505. North of Toledo, old 99 continues along the Jackson Highway, passing Lewis and Clark State Park and Mary McCrank's, a popular restaurant in business since around 1935. In the mid 1950s, US 99 was extended north from the Toutle River to Chehalis as a 4 lane divided expressway. The Cowlitz County portion was widened to 6 lane as I-5 about the time the twin 5 bridges were built across the Toutle. The Lewis County portion, upgraded to full freeway in stages durring the 1960s and early 70s, is still 4 lane except where a tuck lane has been added on some hills.
Chehalis to Tumwater
Old US 99 passed thru downtown Chehalis. North of the downtown area, an E-W connector, including a bridge across the BNSF mainline, was built to link older US 99 with the mid 1950s expressway US 99 at exit 79. Originally a spur of National Ave, the local street name for old 99, this connector was renamed Chamber of Commerce Way in the 1990s after the Twin Cities C of C moved its office to this street. The I-5 exit signs call this street Chamber Way. There were still a couple of Business Loop 5 signs along eastbound Chamber Way in early 1999. Exit 79 was the temporary southern terminus of the US 99 expressway. I think that the exit 79 to exit 102 portion of US 99 expressway opened around 1953 or 54, with the portion south of exit 79 to the Toutle River opening in 1955 or 56. The Chehalis to Tumwater expressway was similar to the Toutle River to Chehalis expressway, having been upgraded to freeway as I-5 but still mostly 4 lane. As I-5 approaches Tumwater, the route becomes 6 lane. The pre expressway route of old 99 heads north from Chehalis to Centralia as a one way couplet. The southbound side is older. The Yardbirds, no longer a single store as it once was, sits in the middle of the couplet. At downtown Centralia, old 99 turns left and crosses under I-5 at exit 82 as Harrison Ave. The Chevron (formerly Standard) Station at the NW quadrant of this interchange has been at times the highest volume gasoline retailer in the state. Old 99 heads north along the west side of I-5 to grand Mound, I-5 exit 88 and jct US 12. from exit 88, old 99 heads NE to Tenino. In the Tenino area, WA 507 follows part of old 99. At Tenino, old 99 turns and heads N to Tumwater. There is a low clearance tunnel where the BNSF Seattle-Portland mainline crosses over old 99. At Tumwater, old 99 becomes known as Capitol Blvd.
Tumwater to DuPontTrosper Rd connects I-5 at exit 102 with old 99, Capitol Blvd, a block or so E. Trosper was the temporary route of US 99 when the 1950s expressway temporarily terminated at exit 102. From Trosper, the original 99 alignment crossed over the I-5 alignment and back. A 1915 vintage concrete arch bridge a block south of Custer Way, still open to traffic, caried US 99 over the Deschutes River. A 4 lane bridge on a more direct alignment was completed across the river around 1937-38. This bridge, part of Capitol Blvd, has totem poles and ornate lightposts. Inside Olympia, Capitol Blvd crosses a 1957 plate girder bridge across I-5. Originally, I-5 was 4 lane beneath Capitol Blvd. When I-5 was widened in Olympia in the late 1980s-early 1990s, the original concrete piers under the plate girder were replaced by a steel arch. A block or so from I-5, Capitol Blvd meets and becomes Capitol Way. Old 99 followed capitol Way past the state capitol campus to downtown Olympia. At 4th and Capitol, US 99 intersected with US 101 and was joined by US 410. From Capitol to Pacific Ave, 4th is the older side of what is now a one way couplet. Olympia was one of the earlies cities in the state to have one way streets, supposedly because debris from the 1949 earthquake temporarily partially blocked downtown streets. Where 4th, Pacific, and Martin Way intersect, old 99 originally followed Pacific thru Lacey to the Nisqually River. The circa 1920 concrete arch across the Nisqually was replaced in 1998 with a new bridge. On the Pierce County side of the river, old 99 is called Old Nisqually Rd to I-5 exit 116. Martin Way became the newer 4 lane route of US 99 around 1936. The 1936 4 lane bridge across the Nisqually now carries northbound I-5. The Olympia freeway from exit 102 to exit 109 was opened in 1958 as both US 99 and I-5, with US 410 joining the freeway at exit 104. From exit 109 to exit 114, I-5 opened in 1968, shortly before US 99 was decertified in Washington State. The exit 114 to exit 116 portion of I-5, including a second bridge across the Nisqually, was upgraded around 1970.
DuPont to Fife
Old US 99 and I-5 follow the same route as each other thru Fort Lewis. Originally 2 lane, widened to 4 lane in the later 1930s, upgraded to freeway in the late 1950s, and widened to 6 lane in the early 1970's, the basic alignment is pretty much the same. At Ponders Corner, exit 124, I-5 leaves the old 99 alignment. Old 99 continues as Pacific Hwy SW. At the RR bridge between Bridgeport Way and South Tacoma Way, 99 originally stayed to the west of the RR tracks, crossing the tracks at 90 degrees via Steilacoom Blvd before joining South Tacoma Way. The RR bridge over Pacific Hwy SW was built in the late 1930s. The N-S portion of South Tacoma Way was originally called Union Ave. The South Tacoma district, centered near the intersection of South Tacoma Way and S 56th St, was at one time second only to downtown Tacoma as a retailing center in Tacoma. N of the South Tacoma district, South Tacoma Way curves to the right and heads E to Pacific Ave. Crossing Pacific, South Tacoma Way becomes S, then E 26th St. Curving to the left past the Tacoma Dome onto East G St, old 99 crosses under the Milwaukee Road RR tracks and passes the Tacoma Dome Station transit center, site of the former Hamilton Candy Company, home of Broken Bars. At Puyallup Ave, old 99 turns right and heads east on Puyallup to the Portland Ave-Bay St intersection. Old US 410 left US 99 at this jct, following Bay to River Road. US 99 continued straight ahead across a 1926 narrow 4 lane multi span thru truss bridge over the Puyallup River. By the mid 1960s this bridge had been restriped as 3 lane. From exit 125 to exit 127, the I-5 US 99-410 freeway was open to traffic by late 1959. The freeway was extended N to the vicinity of M St between exits 132 and 133 in late 1960. A temporary bridge and roadway connected the freeway with South Tacoma Way. The freeway from M St to the vicinity of exit 136 opened in 1966. Northbound truck traffic was routed across the I-5 Puyallup River Bridge a year or so before the freeway was completed.
Fife to Seattle
The earlier route of the Pacific Highway from Fife to Seattle followed what is now Valley Ave in Pierce County and West Valley Highway in King County. About the time that the US highway numbering system was first used (1926) Pacific Highway E in Pierce County and Pacific Hwy SW in King County were opened to traffic. These roads were opened from Fife to Des Moines first with Des Moines Memorial Drive temporarily used as US 99 from Des Moines to the south end of Seattle until the rest of Pacific Hwy S was completed. I am not certain if the Valley Ave/West Valley Hwy route was ever posted as US 99. The Fife to Midway (Exit 149) portion of I-5 was opened to traffic in Fall 1962. This freeway was posted as both I-5 and US 99. Pacific Hwy E/S was reposted as Business Loop 5. In the late 1960s, about the time 99 was decertified as a US route in Washington State, the Business Loop 5 designation was dropped. State Highway 99 oficially starts at Fife Exit 137, heads N on 54th Ave E from I-5 to Pacific Hwy E, and then follows Pacific Hwy E/S towards Seattle. South of of Boeing Field, Pacific Hwy S meets E Marginal Way S. Interurban Ave connects the West Valley Hwy with E Marginal. 99 went past Boeing Field on E Marginal Way. North of Boeing Field, 99 may have followed E marginal all the way to Spokane St before heading E on Spokane to 4th Ave S. The 1st Ave S and 4th Ave S bridges over the UP RR yard were not built until the mid 1930s. By the late 30s, 99 followed 4th Ave S directly north to downtown Seattle. In downtown, 99 took 4th Ave to Westlake. The original route of US 99 to Everett went via Bothell along what is now WA 522 and 527. Aurora Ave N/ Hwy 99 SW from Seattle to Everett was built in stages in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Dexter Ave, the Fremont Bridge, and Fremont Ave were used as the temporary route of 99 until the Aurora (George Washington Memorial) Bridge was opened to traffic February 22, 1932. In the mid 1950s, the first stage of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the Battery Street Tunnel were completed. US 99 followed 1st Ave S and a diagonal connection near the Kingdome to get from E Marginal to the Viaduct. In the Late 1950s, the route incorporationg the viaduct was called Bypass US 99. About the time that the viaduct opened, one way streets were introduced to downtown Seattle. 4th Ave became one way northbound, 2nd Ave, southbound. These streets were reposted as US 10 and Business US 99. The western terminus of US 10 was shifted from the intersection of 4th Ave S and Airport Way to the north end of the Battery St Tunnel. In the early 1960s, part of the West Marginal Way Freeway was built from the south end of the first Ave S Bridge to Des Moines Way S (later renamed Des Moines Memorial Drive). When this freeway was extended S to Pacific Hwy S in the later 1960s, 99 was shifted to W Marginal and the First Ave S Bridge.
Seattle to Marysville
The first section of I-5 to open in Seattle was the Lake Washington Ship Canal Bridge in late 1962. More of I-5 opened about the time the Evergreen Point (Albert D Rosellini) Bridge was completed in August 1963. By later 1964, one could take I-5 from around Denny Way/Olive Way (Exit 166) to Bothell Way (later renamed Lake City Way within Seattle) (Exit 171). There were US 99 shields placed backwards posted below the I-5 shields on this section of the freeway. Since this section of I-5 did not yet function as a thru route, 99 continued to use Aurora Ave N. In January 1965, I-5 was opened to traffic from Exit 171 to the vicinity of Everett Mall (Exit 189) Instead of being turned around to face traffic, the US 99 shields on I-5 in central Seattle were removed. The route of 99 approaching Everett from the south changed more than once. As mentioned earlier, 99 first used the Bothell Everett Hwy, today's WA 527. From the Everett Mall area, 99 continued to downtown Everett along Colby. Evergreen Way became 99 in conjunction with the construction of Hwy 99 SW/Aurora Ave N circa 1930. From downtown Everett, the Pacific Hwy originally headed east on Everett Ave and crossed the Snohomish River valley via Ebey Island, turning north to follow Sunnyside Blvd along the east edge of the valley to Marysville. In 1926, a series of 2 lane bridges was built along a more direct route from Everett to Marysville. All except the northernmost bridge were paralleled in 1954. In the later 1940s, a 2 lane bypass was started around the SE side of Everett. From Evergreen to the Everett Mall area, this road is now WA 99, Everett Mall Way. The Everett Mall to Exit 192 portion is now one side of I-5.
Marysville to Mount Vernon
Old 99 follows State Street thru Marysville towards Smokey Point and Jct WA 530. Outside the city limits, the name changes to Smokey Point Blvd. At SR 530, old 99 turns left and heads west along WA 530 to I-5. Crossing I-5, WA 530 ends and the old highway continues with the name Pioneer Highway. The 1919 vintage thru truss on this route across the Stillaguamish River was replaced by a new bridge in the 1980s. Stanwood used to be two separate cities, Stanwood and East Stanwood, The original Pacific Highway headed west from East Stanwood to Stanwood, then north to Conway. A realignment of 99 circa 1931 avoided (west) Stanwood. A more major realignment around 1933-34 avoided East Stanwood-Stanwood altogether. Starting between Smokey Point and WA 530, a more direct route following today's I-5 was built. Although 2 lanes when first opened, this route included a 4 lane 3 span thru truss bridge across the Stillaguamish. Back at Marysville, a 4 lane expressway was built from the south end of town to the south end of Smokey Point in the mid 1950s. This expressway was upgraded to 6 lane I-5 freeway around 1970. Smokey Point itself was not bypassed until around 1959 with an expressway. The 1930s highway from north of Smokey Point to Conway was paralleled in the mid 1950s with a one way 2 lane expressway. This 2 lane expressway was continued north from Conway to the south end of Mount Vernon. Interchanges were added to US 99/I-5 at Smokey Point and Jct WA 530 in the mid 1960s. I-5 was upgraded to 6 lane freeway to the south end of Mount Vernon in the early 1970s. Most of the 1930s US 99 from WA 530 to Conway is now a frontage road. The 1933 Stillaguamish River Bridge now caries 3 lanes of southbound I-5.
Mount Vernon to Bellingham
At I-5 Exit 224, the South Mount Vernon interchange, old US 99 switches to the west side of I-5, passing thru Mount Vernon on S 2nd , crossing over I-5 between Exits 226 and 227, and continuing as Riverside Drive. Riverside Drive crosses the Skagit River on a 1938 vintage thru truss bridge with a swing draw span. This bridge has pylons on the 4 corners with the US 99 designation on one of the pylons. The 1938 bridge is being replaced by a new 4 lane concrete bridge immediately to the west. An attempt to save the pylons will be made. Concrete piers from an older bridge are visible upstream between the 1938 bridge and the BNSF railroad bridge. These older piers were from an electric interurban railway that ran from Mount Vernon to Bellingham. The pre-1938 US 99 bridge must have been located approximately where the present bridge is. North of the Skagit River, old 99 continues thru Burlington and returns to I-5 at Exit 231, Chuckanut Drive. In the mid 1950s, a 4 lane US 99 expressway was built in the Mount Vernon-Burlington area. The Skagit River bridge on this expressway was built higher than the 1938 US 99 bridge, eliminating the need for a draw span on the expressway. This expressway was upgraded to freeway and is now I-5. At Exit 231, the earlier route of US 99 followed Chuckanut Drive to Bellingham. This route had been built as part of the Pacific Hwy, State Hwy 1, in the teens. A newer US 99 alignment opened from the north end of Burlington to Bellingham in the mid 1930s. For the most part, this alignment stays to the east of I-5. In Skagit County, it is known as Old 99 N, in Whatcom County, Samish Way. The teens and 30s alignments meet at the intersection of State and Holly in Downtown Bellingham. The I-5 Freeway in Bellingham from Exit 252 to 258 opened to traffic around 1960. This route was at first signed as both I-5 and US 99. When the Burlington (Exit 231) to Bellingham (Exit 252) section of I-5 opened in two stages in 1966, this freeway section was posted as just I-5. The Chuckanut Drive portion of old 99 was posted as Alt US 99 into the 1960s.
Bellingham to Blaine-Canadian BorderFrom downtown Bellingham, old US 99 followed Prospect, DuPont, Elm, and Northwest Ave to the north end of town. 99 originally continued for a few miles on Northwest before heading west to Ferndale. A more direct route to Ferndale was built via Maplewood in the 1930s. Two lanes built to expressway standards from Bakerview Rd to Ferndale were added in the 1950s. Two freeway lanes were added and the expressway lanes upgraded to I-5 freeway in the 1970s, with the 1930s lanes from Bakerview Rd to Ferndale becoming a frontage rd. From Ferndale, the Pacific Hwy first headed NNW on Vista Dr, west on Bay Rd, and north on Blaine Rd to Blaine. Portal Way was constructed circa 1929-30 as a newer alignment of US 99. I believe that this construction included a bridge across the Nooksack River where I-5 now travels. This bridge was paralleled in the mid 1950s when Us 99 became 4 lanes. The circa 1929-30 bridge was replaced by a wider bridge around 1970. I-5 was opened from Ferndale to the south end of Blaine around 1965 with the Blaine bypass completed a year or so later. In Blaine, US 99 originally headed east from downtown, probably on D St, and then headed north to what are often called truck customs. Trucks are not allowed to use the I-5/BC 99 customs but must use the border crossing a mile or so to the east where today WA 543 and BC 15 meet. These customs are open to cars as well as trucks. Originally the Pacific Highway crossed the US-Canadian border here. British Columbia had lettered rather than numbered highways until around 1940. The Pacific Highway was BC Highway R north from the border via Cloverdale to the Fraser River Highway, BC Highway A. The Peace Arch had been built in 1920 at today's I-5/BC 99 crossing. There was no crossing there until the 1940s when the King George Hwy, BC 99 was built south from the Fraser River Hwy, renumbered as BC 1 around 1940 and now BC 1A. With the completion of the King George Hwy, the route north from the border via Cloverdale became BC 99A. Between the late 1950s and circa 1963, a freeway was opened in stages between Vancouver, BC and the border. The earlier stage from Vancouver and Richmond via a tunnel under the Fraser River to Delta was signed as BC 99B. When the later stage was completed in 1963, it was renumbered BC 499. Around 1973, BC 499 was renumbered BC 99 and the route via Surrey, New Westminster and Burnaby to Vancouver renumbered BC 99A. BC 99A overlaps BC 1A fro central Surrey to Vancouver. The BC 99 a via Cloverdale became BC 15. WA 1B, heading straight north to the border via Lynden, became an extension of Alt US 99 in 1964. This route, connecting with BC 13 at the border, became WA 539 when US 99 was decertified in Washington State in 1969.
I'll be elaborating my description of US 10 next.
Return to US 99 index
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