• Today in Seattle History: I-5 is completed from Everett to Seattle in 1965

    By: Phil Dougherty, HistoryLink.org

    Updated:

    The Interstate 5 (I-5) corridor through the Puget Sound region will be costly for the state to maintain over the next few decades.

    A draft report by the Puget Sound Regional Council details what work will likely be required between now and 2040.

    Preserving pavement alone will cost an estimated $1.2 billion. Maintaining the state’s bridges, drainage, electrical, and barriers will cost an additional $1.3 billion.

    “Compare this with approximately $14 billion of estimated statewide preservation needs through 2040, and I-5 in the Puget Sound corridor is 18 percent or almost one-fifth of the total statewide preservation needs,” the report says.

    >> Read more: Report says maintaining I-5 through 2040 will cost state billions 

    The following is a recap of the completion of the section of I-5 from Everett to Seattle on February 3, 1965 in a HistoryLink.org essay by Phil Dougherty.

    On February 3, 1965, the section of Interstate 5 from Everett to Seattle is completed. The section runs 19.7 miles from the Eastmont interchange at the southern end of Everett’s city limits to the northern end of the Seattle city limits at NE 145th Street.

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    A Fine Day

    The Washington State Legislature adopted a plan for a Tacoma-Seattle-Everett "toll superhighway" in 1953. Though the Washington State Supreme Court declared the toll road plan unconstitutional three years later, the money problem was solved the same year by funding from the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, and plans for the superhighway went forward.

    Construction of a 19.7-mile segment of Interstate 5 from the southern boundary of the Everett city limits to the northern boundary of the Seattle city limits began early in 1963.  This section was scheduled to open late in December 1964, but its opening was delayed by more than a month because of cold weather.    

    The big day arrived on February 3, 1965, with all the appropriate pomp and circumstance. Clarence D. Martin Jr., Under Secretary of Transportation of the U.S. Department of Commerce, spoke at a noon luncheon at the Elks Home in Everett and told a crowd of about 300 that this section of freeway would benefit more people than any other highway improvement in Washington state’s history.  

    After lunch, a cavalcade of cars cruised south on the new freeway through the dark drizzly day to the Seattle city limits at NE 145th Street for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Miss Sno-King, Rose Clare Menalo, pretty in her pillbox hat, cut the ribbon at 2 p.m. Dignitaries then droned through speeches, the Queen Anne High School band played, a color guard from Fort Lewis showed the colors, and despite the dreary weather, a fine time was had by all.

    As the ceremony ended, a joker drove an old steamroller along the nearby freeway entrance road, loudly tooting its horn in an exclamation point to the end of the ceremony.

    Full of Surprises

    The freeway enjoyed several other firsts that day.  Shortly before the 2 p.m. ceremony at NE 145th Street, the first auto accident occurred -- at the NE 145th Street entrance, and right in front of onlookers gathered for the ceremony.  (The Everett Herald noted that the accident involved “a lady driver.”)

    Shortly after the ribbon-cutting, another driver returning to Everett was stopped by a state trooper, apparently for speeding. Still another hapless driver, perhaps overwhelmed by the excitement, evidently failed to properly fasten his car hood, and it flew up as he drove down the new highway, requiring a rescue by Everett Police Chief Frank Patterson, who secured the offending hood with a wire paper hanger. 

    People were thrilled with the new freeway. Many drove it the first day, not out of necessity but just to drive it. They were particularly amazed that there were no stoplights on the new freeway -- Highway 99, the previous highway between Everett and Seattle, had 26 traffic lights in its section between the Everett and Seattle city limits.  

    The new freeway was expected to cut travel time between Everett and Seattle in half during rush hour, from just over 40 minutes to about 20 minutes.

    But within days a problem became apparent.  At the freeway exit in Everett, traffic was routed onto the old Highway 99 route along Broadway Street.  The operation of the traffic light at 41st Street slowed traffic exiting the freeway to a crawl during peak use.  The resulting traffic jams were often several miles long. Finally in 1968 the “Everett section” of I-5 opened between 41st Street and the Snohomish River, alleviating the problem.

    Sources: HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington History, “Interstate 5 Is Completed From Everett To Tacoma on January 31, 1967” (by David Wilma), http://www.historylink.org (accessed March 22, 2008);  David A. Cameron, Charles LeWarne, M. Allan May, Jack C. O’Donnell, Lawrence O’Donnell, Snohomish County: An Illustrated History (Index, WA: Kelcema Books LLC, 2005), 332;  Don Davis, “New Freeway Now Ready For Public,” The Everett Herald,  February 3, 1965, pp. 1-A, 12-B;  “Vehicles Rush To Freeway,” Ibid., February 4, 1965, pp. 1-A, 5-A;  Steve Petty, “Freeway Didn’t Come For Free,” Everett Herald Western Sun, February 4, 1965, p. 1-A. 

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