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US 395, Part 28: Spokane and Northern Spokane County (US 2/US 395 and US 395)

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Go to: Part 27 | Main 395 page | Part 29

As the Bible says, the last shall be first, and in this case, the first last. Part 28 begins the original US 395 as designated during the initial formulation of US highways in 1924. From here it proceeds to the Canadian border in nearly the same fashion as it did during its first signage in Washington state. This portion of US 395 was originally signed/co-signed as WA 3 (PSH).

[US 395 in Spokane, 1926.] US 395's original terminus doesn't exist in its original form after the 1951 reconfiguration of 2nd and 3rd Avenues, but we saw its rough approximation in the last Part at the corner of 3rd Ave and Monroe St. Its earliest routing during its initial signage was then north over the spectacular Spokane Falls along Monroe St for several miles, then right on W Garland Ave, and left onto N Wall St to continue NB. The fabulous Monroe Street Bridge, first constructed as a primitive wooden crossing in 1888, is one of Spokane's best scenic spots over the falls and we'll visit it. The old routing past the city limits has since been disturbed by new construction, but is roughly approximated by continuing on N Waikiki Rd, veering right (east) onto N Mill Rd, and then rejoining present-day US 395 at the intersection of US 395, N Little Spokane Dr and N Mill Rd. This routing persisted at most until 1937; around 1930 the southern end moved up to Sprague and Monroe, where it stayed until US 395 was moved east. We will spend only a little time on it due to its discontinuity. US 195, for its part, ran slightly further to the east through what was then Hillyard (now part of Spokane); the 1926 map at left shows it on Division St crossing the Spokane River, then heading east along Mission, Hamilton and Illinois to leave town as Market St. Outside of town, Market St then intersects the Newport Hwy, modern US 2, at WA 206 and old US 195 continues north along on modern US 2.

By 1937, US 395 had been shifted to modern Division St also. The southbound lanes were transferred to Browne St south of the Spokane River sometime in the 1950s, probably around the same time as the 2nd/3rd Avenue conversion. US 195, and now US 2, then diverged east north of the city limits along what is now the Newport Hwy as described above.

[WSDOT right-of-way for US 395 freeway, 2005.] US 395 from I-90 north is due for significant changes, some of which have occurred already. North of Mill Rd/Little Spokane Dr, US 395 has been widened into expressway for a short portion with a grade-separated interchange. The portion between mile 167 and 172.6 was completed in 2001; the original road is now the southbound lanes. There are plans to expand this section for an additional seven miles in the future. A bypass of Deer Park was also completed, which is now a single exit. Within Spokane itself, there are plans to move US 395 to a freeway alignment "North Spokane Corridor Freeway" just west of the existing Thor/Freya interchange, running north and west to cross the Newport Hwy (throwing off US 2) and connect to the expressway already constructed north of town. Some grading and reconfiguring work has already been completed along the freeway right-of-way as of this writing (see the WSDOT photograph at right); the new US 395 freeway is expected to reach completion in the next decade, opening after 2011.

[The first link of this new bypass is open between Francis/Freya and Farwell Road, opened for traffic 22 August 2009. These pictures do not reflect the new routing, which will be shown after its completion.]


NB Division St EB US 2/NB US 395.

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Under the railroad overpass, coming up into north Spokane.

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Keep right. During the one-way portion of Division St, WB US 2 and SB US 395 are on Browne St one block west. This is near the intersection with Trent Ave, unsigned WA 290.

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The Spokane River. The bridge US 2 and US 395 cross on is the Senator Sam C. Guess Memorial Bridge, who was the local state senator for the 6th District during the 1970s.

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Crossing the bridge.

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Looking east along the river.

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And now, west, just a few miles from Spokane Falls.

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The falls come in two parts; this one is the upper Spokane Falls and the 1920 Upper Falls Dam, generating 10 megawatts, with a 30' height. However, the larger, more spectacular, lower Spokane Falls (and the 1890 Monroe Street Dam) are best appreciated from Monroe St, US 395's first and earliest alignment. This majestic bridge is a civic landmark and joy, so we will take this moment to shift over to Monroe St and ...

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US 395: The Prequel Strikes Back (1926-1937)

Let's head back to Monroe and 3rd (if you don't remember this junction, look back at Part 27). Heading north into Spokane, we cross under this fascinating old bridge for the railroad.

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The old Fox theatre, enshrined in clouds.

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Sprague and Monroe, the terminus of US 395 during the early 1930s.

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Several landmarks are around the junction of Riverside and Monroe, including the stately Masons' Hall and the statue of John Robert Monaghan, a naval ensign born in Chewelah (Part 29) who died defending his injured superior officer from Mataafa'a forces in the Samoas in 1899.

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One of the most imposing structures along Riverside Avenue is the Thomas S. Foley U.S. Courthouse, named for Rep. Tom Foley (D-Spokane), who served from 1965 to 1995 and was Speaker of the House from 1989 to 1995 during the terms of President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. Foley later became Ambassador to Japan under Clinton, and was awarded the Washington State Medal of Merit, its highest honour, by Governor Gary Locke in 2003.

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Immediately north of Riverside Avenue, we reach the famous Monroe Street Bridge. The first crossing over the falls corresponding to the modern bridge was a wooden bridge built in 1888; that was followed by a steel truss, and then the concrete arch shown here in 1910. Opened officially in 1911, it was the largest concrete arch bridge in the entire United States (with a span of 896') and third largest in the world. Even though US 395 is no longer routed along it, it is an important crossing in the city supporting nearly 25,000 vehicular and 650 bus crossings daily.

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It can therefore be understood why there was tremendous consternation in 1998 when an inspection study revealed the bridge was heavily damaged by water and likely to fail standards within five years. Not only was the deck itself badly weakened, but constant freeze and thaw cycles had hastened the deterioration of the concrete and corrosion was nearly universal. For this reason, the restoration project was actually nearly a complete reconstruction, with only the three main support ribs and part of the southern approach span still remaining which were cleaned and patched in place. The remainder were all newly constructed components but done with a keen eye to detail (similar lighting, similar design motif and even including the concrete buffalo skulls and covered wagons that graced the original) in order to preserve the bridge's historic facade. The $18 million, two-and-a-half year project was wildly successful and heavily lauded when the bridge opened back up for traffic on 17 September 2005. The renovated bridge is expected to last up to an entire century.

Incidentally, my best buddy popped the question to his bride on this bridge. Please tip your hat.

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Dedication plaque, rather good for its age.

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Looking west along the Spokane River off the bridge.

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Finally, the lower Falls themselves, looking east off the bridge this time; these are the lower falls, is the best-known with a height of approximately 60'. During the spring when the snowmelt occurs, the falls are at their most spectacular; this shot was taken mid-fall when the flow had slowed somewhat but does show a little more of the topography as a consolation prize. The power plant at right uses the flow via the 1890 Monroe Street Dam for electrical generation.

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The Falls, like many geologic features in eastern Washington state, were formed by the effects of the tremendous Lake Missoula, a 2,000-foot deep, 3,000 square foot glacial lake formed by a large ice dam wedged in the Clark Fork River (in modern Idaho) during North America's last great ice age some 13,000-plus years ago. Most of eastern Washington was originally drowning in lava some time before that, approximately 15 million years ago, leaving a large basalt layer sometimes thousands of feet thick. When Lake Missoula filled to a critical level and burst the restraining ice, it released a terrible onslaught of water at a rate more than ten times all the rivers on earth today. This thunderous cataclysm literally ripped through the basalt and crust on its way to the sea, draining Lake Missoula in barely two days and sending a shock wave of water at some sixty miles an hour across much of the Pacific Northwest into the ocean. Staggeringly, the process repeated itself practically dozens of times, each time generating a gigantic pent-up lake that violently sought release and each time gouging out deep canyons and valleys on its headlong rush for the Pacific. Among the many geologic features that owe themselves to the many Lake Missoulas include the Spokane Falls, Grand Coulee, the Willamette Valley and the Quincy Basin. Some of the basalt rock, now worn down by millenia of intense flow, can be seen better on this view.

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Some of the Spokane skyline, also shot from the Monroe Street bridge.

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And a little more from Monroe St as we head back to the later routing.

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End Prequel

Back to modern US 2/US 395, leaving town on Division St after crossing the river.

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For a period north of the river crossing, the northbound lanes shift one block east to Ruby St (the shift shown here) and the southbound lanes stay on Division. Note the large unified signage on the lightpole.

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Handy that they also give you the dimensions, just in case.

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Turnoff for Gonzaga University along US 395, a Jesuit Catholic university that was founded in 1887.

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This is another case where the bike routes do occasionally lie (as in Part 12); US 395 was never routed on Foothills, let alone US 2. We continue straight ahead.

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Rejoining Division Street for two-way traffic once again.

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Continuing NB Division St, EB US 2/NB US 395.

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Francis Avenue, unsigned junction WA 291.

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Pull-through signage, of a sort.

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Advance signage for the US 2 Newport Highway separation.

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Separation. The Newport Hwy alignment heads east from here. We continue on Division St NB US 395.

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Unified shield just past the separation.

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Last chance (also just past the separation).

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Our bike route comes back to join US 395 from the turnoff we indicated in the last photograph (facing WB perpendicular to Division St US 395).

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Distance signage through north Spokane.

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Mile 165.

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On the north end of town, Division turns into this quasi-expressway alignment.

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Advance signage for Wandermere Rd. The new US 395 freeway will connect into this alignment north of Wandermere Rd when finished.

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Wandermere Rd exit and the beginning of the northern US 395 expressway.

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Upgrade to divided highway.

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This stretch of US 395 is virtually full freeway, with interchange.

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Hatch Rd exit to the northern housing areas.

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Mile 172. At this point, US 395 comes down into a quasi-Super 2, with some (somewhat) grade-separated interchanges but lax access control.

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Mile 177, showing one of the at-grade crossings.

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Deer Park, which US 395 just skirts at the present. A charming city of 3,017 [2000], it was founded when entrepreneur William Hopkins Short set up a sawmill with his brother-in-law. Already known as a veritable "deer park" due to the abundant whitetail deer population, Short and his family settled down in the pleasant lightly forested region and other settlers followed. The modern city was incorporated in 1908. I am not sure of US 395's old routing but it seems to have gone something like along this exit (Main Ave), over to Railroad Ave and becoming North Avenue, crossing the tracks on 4th St and then Northwest Avenue to exit the town as Dahl Rd where it rejoins modern US 395. As the routing is uncertain, we will simply press on.

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Continuing NB US 395.

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Stevens county line.

Continue to Part 29

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