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US 395, Part 24: Washington State Line to WA 397 (Benton and Franklin Counties; Kennewick, Pasco)

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Now reaching Washington state, we will pass through several counties in this part: Benton, named for Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton, with county seat of Prosser, only 4,838 residents [2000] within a county of 142,475 [2000]; Franklin, named for Benjamin Franklin, with county seat of Pasco, named for the Pacific railroad and carrying 32,066 [2000] residents of the county's 49,347 [2000]; and Walla Walla county, described in Division 1. Our twin divisions continue through this Part and will merge at the end before the next one.

The Tri-City region of Washington state refers specifically to Richland, Kennewick and Pasco, split between Benton and Franklin counties with a combined population of 125,467 [2000]. Originally sleepy farm towns, the Manhattan Project and the nearby Hanford Nuclear Reservation would change the region forever. An overnight population explosion during World War II sprang up to support the influx of military dollars and personnel, and Richland's heritage as the town that built the bomb persists to this day. After the war, the economy diversified considerably, and while agriculture is still an important industry, aerospace and energy technology continues the region's nuclear past. Unfortunately, contamination from the Manhattan Project and the Nuclear Reservation continue to seep into the Columbia despite cleanup attempts.

US 395's most famous presence in the Tri-Cities is the Blue Bridge crossing over the Columbia River (for the second time on the modern alignment) between Kennewick and Pasco. This is amusing from a historical sense as it actually wasn't routed there until 1986-7, when it was shifted west from US 730 to run along Interstate 82 (see Part 22 for a refresher on why we're split into two Divisions, and their full respective routings). The Blue Bridge, constructed in 1954, was painted blue to contrast it from the Green Bridge, a precarious 1922 crossing to the east along which old US 410 was routed when the US highway system came into existence. Originally, US 410 entered Kennewick more or less along modern WA 224 and then south along modern WA 240, crossing modern US 395, and proceeding along or near modern W Columbia Dr to modern WA 397, which replaced the Green Bridge, and then north over the river to intersect US 395 where WA 397 does so today.

In 1967, US 410 was renumbered to US 12 and re-routed along the larger-capacity Blue Bridge. This persisted until Interstate 182 was constructed as part of the I-82 project in 1986, when US 12 was moved to it and the Blue Bridge closed for retrofitting and enhanced vertical clearance. Reopened later that year, it was given a US 395 shield instead, which remains to this day. As for the Green Bridge, attempts to declare it a historic landmark failed and it was torn down in 1990 to be replaced by the fascinating white Cable Bridge, along which WA 397 now runs.

[Lewis and Clark] On US 395's present-day alignment between the state line and its northeastern course out of Pasco, it travels on what is signed as the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. The Lewis and Clark Expedition was the first American overland expedition to the Pacific coast and back, commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 in which the young United States acquired almost 530 million acres of new territory from France. Jefferson personally selected Captain Meriwether Lewis, his private secretary, and Lewis in turn selected Second Lieutenant William Clark as his partner, who intriguingly had been Lewis' commanding officer in the Army a few years prior. Lewis and Clark set out as part of the 33-member Corps of Discovery in 1804 and followed the Missouri River westward through what is now Kansas City, MO and Omaha, NE, then turning northward into South Dakota, North Dakota and westward into Montana. From there, the party passed through Grand Falls, MT, and then west into the Bitterroot Range of the Rockies for a desperate crossing during which the men were reduced to eating three of their horses. Assisted by Nez Perce Indians, they were able to survive and reach the Clearwater River, in modern Idaho. This was the last major hurdle, as the Clearwater is ultimately a tributary of the Columbia (via the Snake River), and from there they were easily able to navigate to the sea. By the middle of November 1805, they found themselves on the Pacific Ocean and spent the winter there on the shores of the Columbia in their makeshift Fort Clatsop to return to the east in 1806. John Jacob Astor's base, Fort Astor, would be established nearby just a few years later (Part 23).

[Portion of Lewis and Clark's map] Miraculously, only one man was lost during the trek (to appendicitis), and the expedition brought back exceptional new information on the geography of the West (such as their careful cartography, a portion depicted at left), 178 new plants and 122 new species and subspecies of animals, and established the groundwork for the Oregon Trail and Army exploration to come. It was also a model of diplomatic and peaceful relationships with Indians tribes occupying the lands, including the Shoshone (and the Shoshone/Hidatsa native Sacagawea, who accompanied the party with her French-Canadian husband Touissant Charbonneau and was an integral part of its guidance and local relations), Nez Perce and Flathead. Finally, it strengthened the American claim to the west and Oregon Territory, an inestimably important note for those of us who live there now.

As a footnote, Lewis and Clark had very different paths after the successful conclusion of the expedition. Lewis' end was sorrowful and rapid. Receiving a reward of 1500 acres near Saint Louis after his return, he ascended to governorship of the Louisiana Territory (of which St. Louis was then the capital). In 1809, Lewis was found dead; his wrists were slit, and he had been shot in the head and chest in an apparent suicide. As for Clark, with his experiences with Indian nations in the West, he was appointed superintendant of Indian affairs for the Louisiana Territory in 1807. Setting up shop in Saint Louis as well, he became governor in 1813 when the Missouri Territory was formed, and established a post in Wisconsin during the War of 1812. Continuing as superintendant after the war's conclusion, he took various military and sometimes diplomatic approaches to the complex relationships with the various tribes in the region and won wide respect and influence for his careful considerations. He died in 1838, and his family erected a 35' obelisk to mark the site in St. Louis (which was rededicated in 2004 by his descendants and leaders from the Osage Nation and the Shoshone).

[Co-signage of PSH and US 395, 1946.] In Washington state, we will cast-off the highway and route number disconnect of Oregon and (old) California, but for the history of certain routes we will need to introduce two points of notation: Primary State Highways and Secondary State Highways (before the modern unified numbering system legislatively replaced them in 1970, despite being signposted as early as 1964). The first designation of state routes "State Roads" in 1923 used one or two digit route numbers, and occasionally name only; in 1937, a second set introduced by the state legislature added letter-suffixed routes christened Secondary State Highways (SSH) as opposed to the earlier trunk routes, which were officially made Primary State Highways (PSH) and were all numbered at that point, even named-only routes. All Federal US highways and subsequently Interstate highways were co-routed with a state highway number -- not necessarily PSHes, mind you -- until the system was unified in 1964 and finally legislatively eliminated in 1970. Convention usually tacks the SH classification onto the route number to denote this old designation and I will do the same. As with California, these are historical and I will mention them only parenthetically; US 395 was internally WA 11 (PSH) "Central Washington Highway" from the Oregon state line to just outside of Spokane, where it intersected US 10 and (later) ALT US 10 and (later still) US 2 -- see Part 25 -- to enter town as WA 2 (PSH) "Sunset Highway." From Spokane, it diverged north, accepting WA 3 (PSH) "Inland Empire Highway" from US 195 up to the Canadian border. Despite being typically unsigned, these route numbers did appear on some maps (such as the 1946 map at right, which we will examine in Part 29), quite unlike the Oregon Highway system or the Californian Legislative Route Numbers which were nearly totally internal. Regardless, they are now obsolete.

One other note on the Washington state route numbering system: watch three digit routes carefully. Notice anything that might lead you to suspect a parent (such as WA 902 and WA 904 from I-90 in Part 26, WA 397 from US 395 in this Part, etc.)? Most trunkline routes have a numbering prefix from which spurs are based in WSDOT's highway system; US 395 has two such spur prefixes, namely 39x and 29x.


Division 1, Cont'd: Old US 395 via Holdman (US 730/US 12)

Continuing north from the stateline into Walla Walla county. Walla Walla county is named for the Walla Walla tribe (from which the city of Walla Walla, the county seat (29,686 [2000]), also hails), which originally occupied the territory near the Walla Walla River and around the Snake and Columbia Rivers in this region. Part of the Sahaptin-speaking tribal group, they were one of the tribes Lewis and Clark encountered and traded with on their trek through the area. Today, with the Cayuse and Umatilla tribes (Part 22), they are part of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The county has a population of 55,180 [2000].

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Like in Oregon, US 730/old US 395 is tightly hemmed in by the high escarpments.

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Along the route are several interpretive points where you can stop off and do like Lewis and Clark, if Lewis and Clark had A/C, tunes and good gas mileage. And power windows. That cheapskate Jefferson never sprung for power windows.

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EB US 730. Washington likes to use this unified signage in which directional banner and shield are incorporated into a single sign. Acquaintances of mine who drove this route when it was still US 395/US 730, though, remember that US 730 was little posted in Washington and virtually all of these signs only said US 395 instead.

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The river gorge starts to separate about here as we travel towards the northern portion of Lake Wallula and the Wallula Gap, where the Walla Walla River empties. The Wallula Gap is a National Natural Landmark, as declared by the US National Park Service, believed by modern geology to have been created out of the surrounding basalt by folding of the southern and western Columbia Plateau. As the ancient Salmon-Clearwater River flowed through the region, approximately 10 to 17 million years ago the riverwaters cut through the volcanic basalt as the surrounding ridges started to tilt up, leaving the characteristic gap. By 6 million years ago, the old course of the Columbia was shunted east by the continued tilt and joined the Salmon-Clearwater. Approximately 1400 BC, the gap was significantly widened by the Missoula Floods of the Salmon, Snake and Columbia Rivers, in the process heavily constraining their waters and forming the ancient Lake Lewis in the modern Pasco Basin by the rivers' impoundment. Nevertheless, the huge water volume greatly eroded the gap and left the sheer walls that remain; some estimates give the water flow during the Floods in excess of 10 million cubic meters/second.

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Curving around to the north. Both US 730 and the parallel railroad literally cling to the cliff in some places.

In the distance can be seen one of the Two Sisters, another geologic consequence of the Missoula Floods, as a "prong" of basalt sticking up out of the ground.

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Finally, about then, the sun crept out as we look at the northern lip of the Wallula Gap.

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EB US 730/old US 395.

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Distance signage on the WB side of the road, back to Umatilla and Pendleton, and by extension Portland (originally via our old friend US 30).

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The terrain flattens out more here, replaced with proper rocky beaches instead of the precarious dropoffs that characterized the southern portion of the route.

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Advance signage for the end of US 730 at US 12, in what is called Wallula Junction. US 12, as mentioned above, incorporates most of former US 410 which originally ran from US 95 in Lewiston, ID to Aberdeen, WA, so this was the former junction of US 395 and US 410 as well.

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It's hard to say along which fork US 730 "travels" to its "end," so for convenience we will take the most direct route to the left.

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Towards US 12.

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"END US 730." Old US 395 traveled with US 12 to the west, so on paper we will appear to be backtracking despite the fact that initially we will be traveling nearly due north.

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Crossing the Walla Walla River, near its confluence with the Columbia to our left.

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On our right (east) is the old US 395/US 410 bridge. As you can see, there's a very good reason we're not using it.

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Despite that, it seems to still be used by pedestrians and fishermen. The other half is visible to the left. It is not known to me what wrecked the old crossing.

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Looking back at US 730, we go back over the river, ...

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... and see our separation, with Pendleton logically as the control city.

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North of the Walla Walla River, we skirt the McNary National Wildlife Refuge, named, of course, for the dam (Part 23). Established at 3,600 acres, it now encompasses over 15,000 acres of wetland and slough regions with as many as 100,000 migratory waterfowl that breed and feed in the various habitats.

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Headlight zone.

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First milepost (Mile 307).

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Distance signage leaving Wallula Junction.

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Wallula itself is just north of the aforementioned Junction. Its location at the confluence of the Walla Walla and Columbia Rivers was clearly advantageous in antiquity, and indeed was established as a trading fort (Fort Nez Perce) as early as 1818 by the Northwest Company. In 1821, NWC was merged with the Hudson's Bay Company (a parenthetical note: many people don't realize that the modern HBC is in fact the same corporate entity as the original Hudson's Bay Company, and has been in continuous operation as a business since 1670), renaming it as Fort Walla Walla. Despite it burning down in 1841 and subsequently rebuilt nearly from nothing, HBC continued to maintain a successful local trading business until the Indian uprising of 1855 damaged the fort considerably and HBC abandoned their operations. The US Army's arrival later that year put down the skirmish, and the remnants of Fort Walla Walla were occupied by the military until around 1860. Settlers started to move into the region during the later half of the 19th century and the original town was laid out in 1862, with railroad service extended from Walla Walla in 1875.

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The modern Wallula shown here is actually the third incarnation of the town; the original Wallula was moved north with the Northern Pacific Railroad when it rolled along a new northern line in 1882 (the town followed in 1883). This second Wallula flourished from the railroad traffic and became a significant transport hub for local agriculture and postal mail. However, the hopes of the citizens of the second Wallula were dashed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the McNary Dam. Townspeople were bitter over the appraisals and payouts in 1949, although the Corps did let people buy back their homes and move them at a salvage price; some did just that and moved further north towards Pasco, but others moved simply more inland from the rising waters of the new Lake Wallula and thus was this third town of Wallula formed, in 1953. The old routing of US 410 and US 395 through the second Wallula no longer exists (thus this is the only alignment remaining), and despite the construction of the nearby Boise-Cascade paper mill in 1958, the town never fully recovered. Here is a detailed history of Wallula. The modern town has 197 residents [2000].

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Lewis and Clark trail signage, using the spade variety, at the Wallula turnoff.

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Fort Nez Perce historic signage.

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The remaining plants and railroad traffic, however, still hearken back to Wallula's salad days.

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Upgrade US 12/old US 395 to divided highway. We will remain on expressway and freeway until we reach Pasco.

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Mile 304.

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Turnoff for the local Port of Walla Walla.

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Overlooking the wildlife refuge out the passenger window as we start to curve northwest.

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WB US 12/old US 395. It really isn't clear what (if any) of the old US 410 alignment survives due to the encroachment of Lake Wallula, but a possible old alignment is Hanson Loop Rd to the southwest.

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Turnoff for Burbank, as the Snake River crossing is faintly visible in the background. Burbank was founded out of the dashed machinations of William H. Perry, who created the Burbank Power and Water Company named after Luther Burbank (1849-1926), the famous horticulturist (which interestingly is not the namesake of the much bigger Burbank, California, which was named for local dentist and entrepreneur David Burbank instead), who bred such fascinating flora as the Shasta daisy, the Freestone peach, the Burbank potato (later bred with the russet to yield the Russet Burbank, the most popular potato for modern food processing), and even a spineless cactus for cattle feed. Perry's attempt to attract business for his irrigation company was a general failure, but a small contingent of settlers established Burbank Station and the local post office in 1909, aided greatly by the presence of the Northern Pacific RR. Ironically for Perry who died in 1923, the first large scale irrigation project for the region did not occur until 1950 and was highly successful, significantly expanding the local economy. With most of its growth thus occurring after the formation of Lake Wallula in 1953, Burbank did not suffer the withering gyrations of Wallula to the south and today numbers 3,303 [2000]. Author Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club) grew up in Burbank. Here is another detailed history of Burbank.

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Junction WA 124 and our first look at the Washington state highway marker, a stylized bust of President George Washington. Three-digit routes simply use smaller type rather than unattractively distorting the presidential profile. As its number would indicate, it is a spur of US 12, heading east from here through Prescott back to US 12 itself in Waitsburg.

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Past WA 124 is the US 12/former US 395 crossing over the Snake River near its confluence with the Columbia, of which it is the primary tributary. Originating from its source in Yellowstone National Park, its watershed drains 108,000 square miles over its total length of 1,040 miles; it is the Columbia's largest tributary with an average discharge of over 50,000 cubic feet per second. The derivation of the name is unclear, but may have come from an S-shaped hand gesture the Shoshone made to indicate salmon.

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Looking southwest at the parallel rail crossing.

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Upstream. After a short northeasterly course, the Snake actually will turn south back towards Oregon, making up over half of the border between Oregon and Idaho before leaving Oregon for good.

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Mile 295. The Snake River bridge is named the Vaughn Hubbard Bridge, first built in the 1950s as a single carriageway on the "westbound" side which we are entering. The second matching "eastbound" crossing was not opened until 1986, when the westbound bridge was similarly renovated. The Vaughn Hubbard is the second US 410 crossing, replacing the earlier 1920s-era bridge which was damaged by fire. Vaughn Hubbard was a former member of the state transportation commission.

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Through the bridge as the clouds and twilight fall.

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Pasco city limits and Franklin county line.

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It's not exactly clear from my (admittedly sparse) map data where US 410 and later US 12 went before the modern expressway bypass, but the most likely routing went down Lewis Street and threw off US 395 north along Oregon Ave. The Oregon Ave routing is now traversed by WA 397 up to the modern US 395 terminus, which we will come to in a moment. US 410/US 12 then apparently continued along Lewis west to the Blue Bridge (modern US 395), and crossed south into Kennewick from there. We will see this from the reverse angle in Division 2.

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Lewis Street. Night is falling, so we will press on.

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Junction US 395 and WA 397, with the first I-182 shield (even though it's not technically Interstate until US 395 diverges north). We'll approach this from the western side when we complete Division 2.

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Division 2, Cont'd: US 395 via Hermiston, OR

Back to I-82 and the Umatilla Bridges at Exit 131, just over the border as Washington state's first exit. During the days of the original Umatilla Bridge, this stretch of highway (then just a county road) was WA 143, a stub road to connect to this highway here. That particular highway has gone by a selection of numbers: in the 1950s, this was WA 8E (SSH); by 1964, it was WA 12 (PSH); and by 1967, when US 12 was extended into Washington state, it was renumbered to WA 14. WA 14 also includes all of old US 830 between Maryhill and Vancouver, WA.

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[Proposed I-82 from 1966.] First Interstate 82 shield, noticibly not a cut-out, along with US 395 co-signage, and the Lewis and Clark Trail designation. I-82 originally was not meant to go to the Tri-Cities region, as the larger 1966 map inset at right demonstrates; its initial routing from Yakima was down south along the Yakima River, then over the Horse Heaven Hills to Patterson and finally east to Plymouth and the Umatilla Bridge. Local pressures in the 1970s forced the adoption of the eastern route, even though Interstate 182 was already slated to serve the Tri-Cities area; the course chosen for the new I-82 routing was over WA 12 between the Umatilla Bridge to near Kennewick.

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Distance signage.

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Parallel to the freeway is a small frontage road running for some miles. This is probably the remnant of WA 12.

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Continuing NB I-82/NB US 395, with the frontage road in the narrow gorge below.

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Advance signage for the US 395 diversion. Note how it is signed with I-182.

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Separation at Exit 113.

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NB US 395 descending into southern Kennewick as the Evergreen Highway. Probable old WA 12 continues parallel.

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First solo US 395 shield in Washington state, with distance signage faintly visible in the background (just a couple more miles to get into town). Note the squared-off three-digit US 395 shield, reminiscent of the small square shields in Oregon, similar to US 730's.

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Probable old WA 12 will join us at this T-intersection as we enter the Kennewick city limits.

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Mile 14 (note how this keeps the milecount from the Interstate).

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Outskirts of town, becoming Ely St.

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Continuing NB.

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Through downtown Kennewick (and another Lewis and Clark shield marker) at Mile 17.

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At the very edge of town just before getting to the Columbia River for the second time, US 395 abruptly becomes freeway.

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The Cable Bridge (WA 397, old US 410).

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Advance signage for WA 240, and the Columbia Dr exit to the Port of Kennewick. The sun glare made the signage somewhat washed-out. Old US 410 went along something where Columbia Dr runs now. This and the next few photographs were taken on the fly as there is no safe pull-over area.

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Curving around to the left, at the WA 240 separation.

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Approach to the Blue Bridge.

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Advance signage for US 395/I-182/US 12 on the mouth of the bridge.

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Passing through the Blue Bridge.

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Pasco city limits and Franklin county line.

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Exiting the bridge.

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Advance signage again for I-182 at Mile 20. Again, note the squared-off US 395 shield (with the 395 in smaller digits to fit the suboptimal proportions). In fact, they seem to be doing that on the Interstate shield as well with I-182.

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End US 395 alignment at I-182 (now they give I-182 a wider shield, but US 395 is still on a squared one). We exit right to become EB I-182/EB US 12/NB US 395.

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Reassurance signage at Mile 13 on the new alignment.

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We don't have long to wait before we come up on Exit 14 towards US 395.

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Separation to WA 397 south along the Cable Bridge, and NB US 395 (exits 14A and 14B respectively).

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Coming around on the cloverleaf, note how US 12 is now signed by itself. The eastern US 395 interchange is the end of I-182. At this point, our two Divisions merge as we continue into the next Part, ready to start another set.

Continue to Part 25

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