The traffic counts on Interstate 90 from Moses Lake to Ritzville are not that much different than on U.S. 395 from Pasco to Ritzville. This stretch of U.S. 395 has a high percentage of truck traffic. Besides linking Spokane and the Tri-Cities (Richland-Kennewick-Pasco), this stretch of U.S. 395 is also part of a Spokane-Portland, Oregon, link. Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) has a rail line that runs from Spokane to Portland via Pasco-Kennewick and Vancouver, Washington. This route is heavily used by freight trains. Even Amtrak's Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle via the Twin Cities splits at Spokane, with the southern branch heading to Portland via the BNSF.
It seems that much of the truck traffic is regional in nature. Also, truck traffic heading from the Upper Midwest to Portland would take Interstate 90/94 rather than Interstate 80 and 84. Remember too that Spokane County has around 400,000 people. Most of the rest of Eastern Washington is farmland, with cattle ranches in the hills separating some of the river valleys. Central Washington, in the rain shadow of the Cascades, is quite dry, with less than 10 inches of precipitation a year in places. The smaller and moderate size river valleys have been irrigated for as long as 100 years. The area east of the Columbia from Grand Coulee Dam to Pasco has been irrigated only since Grand Coulee Dam was completed in the 1940s.
Grant County and surrounding areas have large circle irrigation systems. Crops such as potatoes, sugar beets, and corn are grown here. The other valleys, such as the Yakima, Wenatchee, and Okanogan have smaller scale irrigation systems. These areas grow more labor intensive crops. The hillsides are used for apple and pear orchards. The Yakima Valley is like a smaller version of the San Joaquin Valley -- the area from Spokane to Walla Walla generally has more precipitation, in some cases more than 20 inches a year. This area rolls more, and is planted with wheat. Log trucks generally travel relatively short distances from the forests to sawmills or pulpmills in nearby towns. Finished lumber is then shipped longer distances by truck or rail.
Bill Sellers adds, "Olympic Pipeline proposed to build the first ever Trans-Cascade fuels pipeline(14") to Pasco, Washington, from refineries on Puget Sound. They've been in the regulatory planning stages for some three to four years now and have about $4-5 million in sunk costs, including 80-90% of the right-of-way tied down with landowners. Intending to deliver to Chevron's terminal in Pasco on the Snake River, all grades of gasoline, diesel , and jet aviation fuel. Consruction is expected to begin during the first quarter of 2000, and will be a major boon to SE Washington/NE Oregon.
"Currently, BNSF RR just finished the repurchase and rehabilitation of their Stampede Pass route to the area to take pressure off the only other single BNSF line east out of Puget. Union Pacific RR just finished a major ($50M+) upgrading of their classification yards in Hermiston, Oregon -- 20 miles away. Both lines run thru the TriCities. The U.S. Dept of Energy also just spun off two square miles of land and adjacent buildings plus their 14 mile site-RR (connects to UPRR) inside the city limits of Richland to the local Port of Benton Court.
"So, I'd say given the massive infrastructure investment already here (we got the cheapest developable land and power in America courtesy of the dams and lone nuke), there very well could be an Interstate designation for this corridor."
The State of Oregon is evaluating several corridors for a potential southern expansion of Interstate 82 south from its current interchange with Interstate 84 to California via U.S. 97 or U.S. 395. For more information on this potential new Interstate highway, please see the Interstate 82 page.
U.S. 395 South of Reno
U.S. 395 south of Reno is also being upgraded, even though it is not part of the high priority corridor. The U.S. 395 freeway is being constructed from the South Virginia Street (Business U.S. 395) exit all the way past Washoe Lake to U.S. 50 in Carson City, Nevada.
Signs around the construction site indicate that this route may also be incorporated into the Interstate Highway System as Interstate 580, but that is not for sure. Much of U.S. 395 into western California through Bridgeport, Bishop, Mammoth, Ridgrecrest, and Adelanto has been improved in sections with climbing lanes and several expressway grade segments. It would be very expensive to make this part of U.S. 395 into a freeway due to the series of mountains the highway crosses.
Page Updated June 9, 2002.