Thursday, October 12, 2017

Washington State Route 509



On Saturday, September 2, 2017, we drove both lengths of Washington State Route 509, from Tacoma to Seattle.

RCW 47.17.680>
State route No. 509
:

A state highway to be known as state route number 509 is established as follows:

Beginning at a junction with state route number 705 at Tacoma, thence northeasterly to a junction with state route number 99 in the vicinity of Redondo; also

From a junction with state route number 516 at Des Moines, thence northerly to a junction with state route number 99 in Seattle.



SR 509 @ I-705
With almost no signage on Pacific Avenue letting drivers know about two freeways 100 yards away, Highway 509 begins at this interchange with I-705.

SR 509 @ SR 99 southward
The light turns green and we're on our way, crossing the cable-stayed bridge opened in 1997 and heading across the Port of Tacoma. (Highway 509 used to be a mile north of here, on 11th Street, before this bridge and freeway were built.) We zip along the edge of the industrial area, paralleling I-5 less than half a mile away. But the freeway section ends fairly soon (near where a new spur connecting to I-5 will be built (scheduled for 2024)), and we curve northwest around Commencement Bay past marinas and scrap metal yards. The highway winds up the bluff under madronas and maples to Browns Point (home of a 1933 art deco lighthouse) and Dash Point. We continue along the top of the bluff, enter King County and Federal Way, rolling along the curvy road through the forest. We stop and take a right turn to stay on the highway. The highway climbs up Lakota Creek's canyon, with the guy ahead of me going 25 in a 35 because ...? At the top, we're suddenly back in civilization, left turn, roll through forested suburbia until we get to the first junction with SR 99, pictured above. This is the end of the first section of Highway 509.

SR 509 @ SR 516
In Des Moines, at this junction with SR 516, our highway resumes. ... Does it really count as a junction if the two highways are end-to-end?

SR 509 @ SR 518
We start slowly in downtown Des Moines (stop and play ping pong at a sports bar), then abruptly out of Des Moines into the city of Normandy Park. Over hill and dale on a straight road, we head as due north as some poor, 19th-Century surveyors could manage. Just when we can see the heart of Burien down the hill ahead of us, Highway 509 cuts southeast toward the airport where we loop around and suddenly we're on a freeway heading north. (The state plans to finish this freeway, connecting southeast to I-5, in 2028. Highway 509 will have six endpoints then (in two Ys), unless the state reassigns numbers or drops sections from the highway system.) We race north back to Burien and this interchange with SR 518, which the signage barely mentions.

SR 509 @ SR 99 north southward
We cruise on down the hill to Seattle on the quiet freeway. In South Park, we arrive at our section junction with SR 99.

SR 509 @ SR 99 northward
A half mile later, still in the same interchange, just before the Duwamish River bridge, SR 509 officially ends and the road ahead is SR 99.

Starting life as a quiet road up the shoreline, Highway 509 is gradually being pulled into the freeway city. It has been transitioning since the 1960s, but by 2030 the transition might be complete. One freeway for the Port of Tacoma and one freeway for Sea-Tac Airport. For now, though, it's an odd mix of freeways, city streets, and curvy forest roads.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Washington State Route 508



On Sunday, July 16, 2017, we drove Washington State Route 508, through the wilds of Lewis County.

RCW 47.17.675
State route No. 508
:

A state highway to be known as state route number 508 is established as follows:

Beginning at a junction with state route number 5 south of Chehalis, thence easterly by way of Onalaska to a junction with state route number 7 at Morton.



SR 508 @ I-5
Just outside Napavine, on the edge of Newaukum Prairie, our highway begins here at this junction with I-5.

SR 508 west of Cinebar
We head across the Newaukum Prairie and up the valley of the South Fork Newaukum River. Forests and farmland, so familiar. We arrive at the timber town Onalaska. Old barns and lumber yards. Horses and cattle. Angus bulls for sale. Hay bales. At the lower end of the Shoestring Valley, we cross the river on a bridge inside a bridge. (The 70-year-old structure is scheduled to be replaced.) Shortly thereafter, we reach the halfway point of the highway, pictured above.

SR 508 @ SR 7
After Cinebar, the valley narrows. Highway 508 twists and turns across Bear Canyon and up the narrow, green Tilton River valley. Isabelle takes a nap. Christina gives her a head massage. The valley widens again, slightly, and we're back to farmland. Morton. We roll through old town on Main Avenue and reach the end of Highway 508 at this junction with SR 7.

I'm not sure why this road is still a state highway, since is just parallels US 12, but it was a pleasant drive through the countryside.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Washington State Route 507



On Monday, April 3, 2017, we drove north on Washington State Route 507 from end to end.

RCW 47.17.670
State route No. 507
:

A state highway to be known as state route number 507 is established as follows:

Beginning at a junction with state route number 5 in Centralia, thence northerly by the most feasible route by way of Bucoda to Tenino, thence northeasterly by way of Rainier, Yelm and McKenna to a junction with state route number 7 in the vicinity south of Tacoma.



SR 507 @ I-5
Just a couple years ago, WSDOT modified this interchange so the north (east) bound beginning is nearly a half-mile south of where it used to be. So old Mellen Street changed from two-way to one-way south (west) and our journey starts at this new bridge over I-5.

SR 507 @ SR 510
We start by turning north on a frontage road, until we're back to Mellen Street, then we turn east and head into Centralia. We slowly roll through the big, old downtown, a block from the Burlington Northern railroad tracks, but then we cross the Skookumchuck River and we're into farmland and residential. We cross the Skookumchuck again and we're flying north, parallel to the railroad again. But then we cross the Skookumchuck a third time and the highway turns into a lumpy farm road on its way to Bucoda, a small town where we rejoin the tracks. When we get to Tenino, we come to a T with old highway 99 (no longer a state route) and turn right, under the tracks. Tenino has an small, quiet old downtown, compared to Centralia. Old 99 curves left and Highway 507 curves right. We catch a glimpse of Mt Rainier as we accelerate out of town on the fast and straight highway. An old branch of the Burlington Northern, now a bike trail, is beside us. We zoom past a lake and river, a little slower through the town of Rainier, find an active railroad to cross (the old Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul & Pacific), then we follow the rail trail through the hills all the way to Yelm and this junction with SR 510, where we need to turn right to stay on Highway 507.

SR 507 @ SR 702
Yelm is big suburbia compared to everything before it. We get into a long line of cars behind an empty semi truck. The highway bridges over the still-active Milwaukee Road railroad then bridges over the Nisqually River. We enter the town of McKenna and find a junction with SR 702.

SR 507@ SR 7
We cross the Milwaukee tracks, then parallel them north. Mt Rainier looms on the horizon. We separate momentarily from the Milwaukee Road to go through the town of Roy, one-sided beside the Burlington Northern tracks. But we get back to the Milwaukee (crossing the tracks again) and roll north through the forest of Fort Lewis. The empty semi pulls off the road in the middle of nowhere, presumably to let everyone go by. After a couple odd street intersections in the dense forest, we abruptly emerge from the woods and arrive at the Y with SR 7. Welcome to Spanaway.

It may take longer, but Highway 507 is more pleasant to drive than I-5. One can imagine the world before the interstate freeways, a nation tied together by winding two-lane roads following the twin steel ribbons that came before them.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Washington State Route 506



On Tuesday, March 28, 2017, we drove curvy little Washington State Route 506 from end to end.

RCW 47.17.665
State route No. 506
:

A state highway to be known as state route number 506 is established as follows:

Beginning at Ryderwood, thence by way of Vader northeasterly to a junction with state route number 5 west of Toledo.



SR 506 in Ryderwood
Once upon a time, the town of Ryderwood was a company logging town. Now it's a 55+ retirement community. "Golfcart zone"!

SR 506 @ I-5 southward
After the straight start, Highway 506 quickly becomes a narrow, twisty road as we head down the valley known as Cougar Flat. Young trees hug the fog line, farms and forest all around. We cross the railroad tracks and arrive at the old town of Vader. We continue east through the farmland and along the Cowlitz River. Cows ignore us. We follow a semi-truck of chickens as we reach an interchange with I-5.

SR 506 @ I-5 northward
Our highway then turns north and runs parallel with the freeway for a couple miles, before curving away, then crossing above I-5 to reach the end of Highway 506. It makes sense when you realize that our highway is older than I-5. SR 506 used to be Secondary State Highway 1-P, the Toldeo-Vader Road, but the section from here east to Toledo is no longer a state highway.

Thus we are done. Another quick but slow drive in rural western Washington.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Washington State Route 505



On Tuesday, March 28, 2017, we drove the length of Washington State Route 505.

RCW 47.17.660
State route No. 505
:

A state highway to be known as state route number 505 is established as follows:

Beginning in Winlock, thence via Toledo, easterly and southerly to a junction with state route number 504 in the vicinity north of Toutle.



SR 505 in Winlock
Just down the street from the "World's Largest Egg", Highway 505 begins here in Winlock. This used to be a junction with SR 603, but SR 603 doesn't exist anymore. It's just Old Hwy 603.

SR 505 @ I-5
We head up the hill, 35 mph in a 50 thanks to the local guy in front of us. Then a hilly road in a straight line across the Grand Prairie to I-5.

SR 505 @ SR 504
We then curve south across the Cowlitz Prairie to Toledo. The high school is letting out as we pass by, a line of diesel pickups waiting to get out of the student lot. We head west out of town on the Layton Prairie, farms farms forest farms. The trees are blooming in lichen, bright grayish green. We roll south through the forested hills. Lots of blowdown trees line the shoulders of the highway, cleared out of the lanes but not much farther. And then down by the North Fork Toutle River, we reach the end of Highway 505 at this junction with SR 504.

It's surprising how quick you can get to rural Washington just off the busiest highway in the state.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Washington State Route 504



On Friday, October 7, 2016, we drove up Washington State Route 504 with a bunch of school kids.

RCW 47.17.655
State route No. 504—Spirit Lake Memorial Highway
:

A state highway to be known as state route number 504, hereby designated the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway, dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives in the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens, is established as follows:

Beginning at a junction with state route number 5 in the vicinity north of Castle Rock, thence easterly along the north shore of Silver Lake by way of Silverlake and Toutle, past a junction with state route number 505, thence by way of Kid Valley and St. Helens to the former Spirit Lake.



SR 504 @ I-5 & SR 411
In Castle Rock, here we are at the junction with I-5 below us and SR 411 behind us, ready to head east to Mount St. Helens. Do you think we'll see it?

SR 504 @ SR 505
We quickly climb away from all that, up into the forest. Back down to Silver Lake, its resorty sections and swampy sections. Welcome to Toutle Valley. Cow pasture espresso. Back into the woods. SR 505 junction with no warning.

SR 504 @ Johnston Ridge
We cross the North Fork Toutle River, roll through Kid Valley ("last gas!"), then cross the river again. The tree leaves have turned caution yellow to match the center stripe and the road signs. We are now on the new highway, built after the eruption, climbing up up up on the north side of the river. Without fanfare, we pass the section of wild forest that once was the community of St. Helens mentioned in the code above. Helicopter tours next right! We cross the highest bridge in the state, far above Hoffstadt Creek. Someone stopped their car on the long bridge to admire the mud flats of the Toutle River, sediments captured behind a dam built for that purpose. Up the mountainside into the cloud, back down briefly to serene Coldwater Lake, then back up the hill into the cloud again. Rain rain rain, viewpoints wasted. "What a pity," says Isabelle. SR 504 ends at this u-turn to the parking lot at Johnston Ridge Observatory. Spirit Lake still exists (despite the "former" in the code), a couple miles to the east, but we couldn't see it.

At Coldwater Lake and Johnston Ridge, we came across school buses full of kids from nearby middle schools. What a Friday for a field trip! Nothing but rain and gray clouds as far as the eye can see. I need to go back there one of these days, after the clouds lift.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Washington State Route 503



On Thursday, October 6, 2016, we drove Washington State Route 503 -- all the bits of it.

RCW 47.17.650
State route No. 503
:

A state highway to be known as state route number 503 is established as follows:

Beginning at a junction with state route number 500 at Orchards, thence northerly to a junction with state route number 502 at Battle Ground, thence northerly to Amboy, thence northeasterly by way of Cougar to the Cowlitz-Skamania county line; also

Beginning at a junction with state route number 503 in the vicinity of Yale, thence westerly to a junction with state route number 5 in the vicinity of Woodland.



SR 503 @ SR 500
In the suburban sprawl known as Orchards, SR 503 begins at this junction with SR 500. It's a mile north of where the signs for SR 503 start, but SR 500 was rerouted north along this same route, so the junction is here at Padden Parkway.

SR 503 @ SR 502
We leave the sprawl and enter pastures. Forest by Salmon Creek, then back to the fields and sprawl -- Battle Ground. The junction with SR 502.

SR 503 @ SR 503 spur
We leave the sprawl again, into the fields, then forest. We cross the East Fork Lewis River. Zig zag slow road through deep woods and small farms. Slow through the town of Amboy, then more farms and forested hills. We cross Lake Merwin (Lewis River) on a one-lane steel suspension bridge that was a bit of a surprise. We climb over Speelyai Ridge and switchback down to the junction pictured above, where SR 503 meets itself in the community of Yale.

SR 503 @ Skamania County
SR 503 is signed as a route from Orchards "north" to Woodland, with a spur east toward Mount St. Helens, but that's not how it's described in the code above. I thus drove the spur first, heading east on the Lewis River Road. We drive past misty Yale Lake, the little town of Cougar, and into a rain shower. At the county line, SR 503 ends even if the road doesn't.

SR 503 @ SR 503 southward
We resume heading "north" on SR 503 in Yale, while actually heading west-southwest.

SR 503 @ I-5
We zoom down the Lewis River valley. Farms and fir forests. Cliff curves and logging trucks. Maples turning colors while the cedars and firs stay green. Clouds mist through the tree-covered hillsides. The Lewis River gets big and slow as we enter Woodland. We make our way through the perennially slow set of lights at the junction with I-5, thus completing our drive of Highway 503.

Rural Clark and Cowlitz Counties are quite nice. Pity it was raining.