This piece was originally posted on MyNorthwest on September 23, 2015.
With the near constant focus on traffic problems in and around Seattle these days, and with the Chinese president in town this week only adding to the daily headaches, it may help to take a deep breath, and consider how far we’ve come with roads and highways in our region’s history.
It may also help to note that complaints about transportation around here are nothing new. The earliest settlers in the Puget Sound area were focused on improving transportation (beyond canoes and steamers), and some historians argue that one of the main reasons Washington Territory split off from Oregon in the 1850s was to more effectively lobby the federal government to build better roads here.
Even American novelist John Steinbeck complained after visiting Seattle in 1959, when he later wrote, “The highways, eight lanes wide, cut like glaciers through the uneasy land … [t]he traffic rushed with murderous intensity.”
As a result of those settlers and their progeny, there remain all over this region the traces of earlier routes and forgotten roads. There’s the old brick road near Wayne Golf Course in Kenmore from 1913, the rapidly disappearing “ramps to nowhere” along 520 from 1963, the original “high rise” spans on the southernmost I-90 floating bridge from 1940, and the…