Thursday, September 6, 2007

Highway History

Did you know that north-to-south highways are generally numbered with odd numbers and east-to-west routes carry even number names? It's true.

Ever wonder why State Route 16, which runs generally north to south, is considered an east-to-west highway? Me either ... but still, some people ask such great questions.

That's why really smart, historically minded people have gathered Washington State highway history resources at the main WSDOT web site. The material really is fascinating for the historically minded among us. The WSDOT Library has a great staff and they are incredibly helpful when you are looking for some information.

Remember the old days when you could call up the local library's reference desk and ask a friendly librarian a question? You can still do that with the WSDOT Library staff.

Personally, I've been asked questions about SR 16 since joining WSDOT years ago. The road earns its east-to-west label despite its more north-to-south route because it connects two north-to-south routes -- SR 3 and Interstate 5.

Here's another SR 16 item: Did you also know that the milepost numbers get out of sync around the Tacoma Narrows Bridge? Yep ... When SR 16 was re-routed in the 1980s through Tacoma, the route was shortened. You can amaze your friends at parties with that one.

Another great resource for Washington highway history is Wikipedia. It has detailed stories for nearly every state highway, even some stories on decommissioned state highways. A WSDOT employee started his own state highway history web page in 1999. It's a very cool resource.

The WSDOT celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2005. We've come a long way on the state's highways. While most of my colleagues, journalists, politicians, and motorists are interested in what's next ... and I am too ... it's some times very useful to know what used to be.