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US 395, Part 26: Interstate 90 in Lincoln County and Western Spokane County (I-90/US 395, I-90/US 2/US 395)

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Go to: Part 25 | Main 395 page | Part 27

Now for our second fork, which rewinds back to Ritzville (Part 25), but instead takes Interstate 90, which is the alignment on which US 395 is carried today. This routing is very poorly signed, and except for a sign out of Ritzville and the deviation signage in Spokane, there is nothing between the two cities to say US 395 even runs there.

Spokane (say spoh-KAN, not SPOH-kayn) county is named for the Spokan (or Spokane) Indian tribe (meaning 'children of the sun'), the original settlers of the region who continue to live in the county today in reservation lands near the Idaho border. Its population numbers 417,939 [2000], of which 195,629 [2000] live in Spokane, the county seat (and over 500,000 in the total metropolitan area). Its history as a county is quite irregular, considering that it ceased to exist in a legislative sense for almost 15 years after its original creation due to temporary merger in 1864 with Stevens county to the north (although first declared in 1858, Spokane county would not be formally organized until two years later). Spokane county went through several seats before settling on Spokane itself, first Pinkney City at its birth, then Colville with Stevens county from 1864 to 1879, then Cheney until 1886, and finally Spokane Falls, which was renamed to Spokane in 1891.

Spokane is an important trading point and distribution centre for much of eastern Washington state and western Idaho. It sits at the foot of a valley along the Spokane River, an important tributary of the Columbia River that runs spectacularly through the north end of town, and near its confluence with the Hangman River which crosses the town on the southwest side. The falls in Spokane have been known since antiquity and were a common fishing site for the local Indians due to the rich salmon population; we will visit them in Part 28. As settlers pushed west, the river valley similarly attracted additional occupants for its ample fishing and hospitable land tracts. By 1881, the Northern Pacific Railway reached the site, and the floodgates opened to many more looking to stake their claim. The city was founded the same year. Although damming of the Spokane River would effectively flatten the salmon industry in 1908, the area remains a significant focus for farming, horticulture and agriculture, and logging; it is the major Washington-side hub of the Palouse region.

Spokane is also of personal interest to me, as some nut computer geek I call my best friend has in-laws in the region. Irritatingly, he got it on the first try when I called him leaving town and asked him to guess where I was. ("Oh, you'll never guess where I am! ... Oh, crud, you did.") Although Spokane has a very hard-bitten aspect to it on first blush, once you start playing around and driving through it, it has a surprisingly strong, roughened beauty made more acute by the rivers and gorges it nestles inbetween. If you give it a bit of attention, you will not be disappointed; the Interstate does not nearly do this surprising city justice, however, and so it will have to reveal its allure in the next section along old US 395.

[Spokane Valley Freeway, 1966 (US 10, TEMP I-90)] Spokane's original freeway, what is now signed Interstate 90, was first built as the US 10 Spokane Valley Fwy east from Liberty Park roughly 1956-8. This original layout can be seen in the map inset at right from 1966. Interstate 90 was built through Spokane in 1966-7 and connected to the Spokane Valley Fwy, and US 2 and US 395 were transferred to I-90 in 1967 to resume their old alignments in the middle of old downtown. I-90 runs through the city on a primarily elevated alignment. We'll look at the old surface street routing in the next Part. It should be noted that US 395 was never routed over the original Spokane Valley Fwy during its history.


Fork 2: Modern US 395 (Interstate 90)

Back to EB I-90/NB US 395. Curiously, this is the only US 395 shield along the Interstate I saw, at least in the north/eastbound direction.

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Distance signage.

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First milepost, at Mile 223.

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Exit 231 for Tokio. Amerika-jin wa baka n da ... 'Tokyo' o tadashiku tsuzuru koto ga dekinai ...

This is where old US 395 crossed the highway, and the end of BR 90 (see Part 25).

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Mile 235.

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Some of the overpasses announce the road on them with small signs such as these. This convention is not observed consistently.

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Lake Sprague, from the west.

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Lincoln county line.

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Free coffee at rest stops. Only in Washington, land of Starbucks. Pity that I think coffee is disgusting and revolting, no?

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Looking at the lake and showing I-90/US 395 stretching back west.

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A fun perspective on three roads (top to bottom: a local road, I-90/US 395 WB/SB and I-90/US 395 EB/NB).

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The silt dunes were a little chopped off, making strange small mesas at the shore.

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But it's a lake.

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Exit 245, WA 23 into downtown Sprague.

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US 395 still isn't signed anywhere.

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Mile 251. As we start to climb a bit higher, the landscape changes from scrub to trees and green.

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At mile 254, we meet old US 10/old US 395 coming up from Sprague, and both of our forks from Part 25 merge as the eastbound lanes for a few miles.

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Spokane county line.

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Advance signage for WA 904, the old routing of US 10/US 395 into Cheney.

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Junction WA 904 at exit 257. At this point, old US 10/old US 395 diverges off again; this is also a chance for us to clinch a Washington state highway in its entirety, so how can I refuse?

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Fork 1: Old US 10/Old US 395 (WA 904)

Exiting from Interstate 90.

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Turning right at the offramp to begin WA 904.

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First shield and Washington state route marker, which is, of course, President George Washington's head in profile.

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This isn't a long drive, but hey, it's still one more to check off the route log, right?

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WA 904 is the Lt. Col. Michael P. Anderson Memorial Highway, named for the local (Cheney) hero and astronaut who perished in the 2003 STS-107 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Born 1959 and graduating from Cheney High School in 1977, he obtained his B.S. in physics and astronomy from U Washington and was commissioned as a second lieutenant afterwards in the US Air Force, obtaining his pilot's wings in 1986. He returned to school in 1990 to get his M.S. in physics and became an instructor pilot, logging over 3,000 hours in combined flight on the KC-135 and T-38A aircraft (hi Dad!). Selected by NASA in December 1994, he became a mission specialist for the Space Shuttle program and first served on the STS-89 "Endeavor" mission in 1998 to the Russian Mir satellite. He logged over 211 hours in space before his untimely demise with the remainder of the brave crew of the Challenger at the age of 43, leaving behind a wife and two children.

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First milepost, at Mile 1.

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Mile 6, getting into more meadow-like territory in towards Cheney.

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I know I'm on the right road when my name is on it.

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Outskirts of Cheney.

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Turnoff to Eastern Washington University on the west side of the city.

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Turnoff to the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge (established 1937), approximately 16,000 acres reserved for waterfowl impacted by loss of normal migratory patterns and their habitat. The Refuge incorporates several diverse ecosystems, running from the dry grasslands of the western Columbia Basin into the Bitterroot range in the east and some 3,036 acres of actual wetland.

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Downtown Cheney. Cheney is, of course, named for the exceptional and illustrious vice president of George W. Bush. (Oooh, I see C.C. is furiously typing a reply ... ;) Just kidding. Like Sprague, Cheney was originally a railroad town, established first as Depot Springs and later renamed for Boston railroad magnate Benjamin P. Cheney, one of the founders of the Great Northern Railroad (between St. Paul, MN and Seattle, WA) and a booster of EWU, then Eastern University State College. The modern city was incorporated in 1883; its population in 2000 numbers 8,832. At one point (1879-86) it was the county seat, but we'll talk about that in Part 26.

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In town, old US 10/old US 395 is 1st St.

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Continuing on EB WA 904 1st St.

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Turning into the northern limits of the city and some of the newer development.

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Leaving town, we enter a special enforcement area.

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Keep safe, people! Only you can prevent workpla ... road accidents!

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Holdover signage from when the route was continuous to Spokane (i.e., pre-Interstate 90).

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No-pass zone in the special enforcement area.

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Mile 16.

It seems the earliest routing of US 395 proceeded nearly due north from here instead of slightly skewing west as WA 904 does today. A small remnant of this routing persists as S Hayford Rd (and possibly S Merriney Rd) with some older dirt tracks connecting them. We'll look at a traverseable portion of this old routing in the next Part.

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Entering Four Lakes, just before we get to I-90 again. This small town is named for the multiple small lakes nearby.

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Turn-off to Medical Lake, a few miles to the west.

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Junction I-90 and the end of WA 904.

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WB I-90/NB US 395.

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Fork 2: I-90/US 395 Freeway

But first, let's do the freeway alignment we missed while we were on WA 904 in the previous part. Since this is all continuous and old US 395 in Spokane will connect to us at the end, we'll shoot all the way through into Spokane to the union of the two forks, and then backtrack to cover old US 395.

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Westernmost junction WA 902 (Cheney only indirectly via WA 904, which we traveled in the last section).

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The eastern end of WA 904. Our forks now merge temporarily.

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It was quite foggy that morning, so I apologize for the less optimal quality of the remaining photographs (until the fog burned off).

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Eastern junction WA 902. We'll be coming back to this.

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Mile 276 and exit BR 90. Business Route 90 along Geiger Blvd represents the old alignments of US 2, US 10 and US 395. We will also look at this in the next Part.

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Double merge, seen a few places around here.

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Advance signage for the freeway/expressway alignment of US 2 to the local Air Force base and airport.

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Junction US 2. EB US 2 now joins the highway.

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Spokane city limits, an All-American City.

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Advance signage for US 195 as we descend down the pass into the city.

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Junction US 195. For a very brief period, US 195 also joined the Interstate into Spokane (to run as I-90/US 2/US 195/US 395!) and exit north. Only the bike routes remember this; US 195 was cut down to this northern terminus in 1969, as we will discuss and demonstrate in the next Part too. Oh, the suspense is killing me.

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So don't park on the freeway, dummy! Crossing the Hangman Creek into the city. We're going to get a much better view of this crossing in a second.

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Metropolitan Spokane on Interstate 90's elevated alignment.

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Some of the skyline, continuing as EB I-90/EB US 2/NB US 395.

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Advance signage for the US 2/US 395 separation. US 395's control city is now given as Colville (not Coleville in Part 9), which we'll get to in Part 29.

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This alignment is signed as Division St.

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US 2/US 395 separation.

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Coming around the off-ramp (with the hotel I stayed at in the background).

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On EB US 2/NB US 395 Division St.

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Looking back at the I-90 interchange.

Continue to Part 27

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