State highway numbers are out of order

The in basket: I encountered Jean Lenihan at the Willows retirement complex in East Bremerton recently, and she said she had been meaning to e-mail me a question for several years. She told me what was on her mind, and it’s a dandy that I had never been asked before or wondered about on my own.

Why, Jean asked, are the numbers of state highways radiating out from Highway 3 in Kitsap County not in sequential order? From Bremerton north, you come to Highway 304, then 303, 308 to Keyport and finally 305 to Bainbridge.

She didn’t even mention Highway 302 farther south just across the county line, or Highway 300 out to Belfair State Park, both of which intersect Highway 3 in reverse order.

The out basket: I recall when I was a kid here the renumbering of our local highways, and the fact that Highway 3 used to be Highway 21. Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for this region of state highways, says he has no idea what guided the choosing of numbers. “As these highways were renamed 50 years ago, I doubt there is anyone around here that would,” he said.

I don’t think Highway 303 was a state highway until well after  the county built it with federal Trident money in the 1970s. It became one about the time the state swapped a bunch of roads with local jurisdictions, notably taking over Sedgwick Road as Highway 160, creating Highway 166 from Gorst to Port Orchard, part of 160’s old route, and leaving the county with the remainder.

The state wouldn’t have had a natural choice when it took over 303, as it lay between 304 and 305.

About the best we can hope is that some old-timer recalls what the rationale was back in the original renumbering and lets us know.

One thought on “State highway numbers are out of order

  1. Travis,
    I suspect that the reason for the numbers you mentioned in your 1/25/12 column is based upon the Interstate Highway numbering system. Odd numbered inter-states run N/S(eg.I-5); even numbered inter-states run E/W(eg. I-90). Loops which connect to the main freeway on both ends are three digit numbers beginning with an even number (eg. I-405); spurs which connect with the main freeway at only one end are three digit numbers beginning with an odd number (eg. I-705). This system began 50+ years ago in 1956 when construction of the Interstate system began. US highways which predated the interstate system follow a similar pattern (“Route 66 headed West”-Corvette optional)
    This would correspond with the time period your column mentioned as the beginning of the 300 numbered highways in Kitsap County which branch off of Highway 3. Although the numbers are not in numerical order based upon geography, I would suspect that their original numbers were and that subsequent designation of a road as a state highway led to the insertion of a highway number between two numbers which were originally in numerical order. A process which was less costly and confusing than renumbering all the highways for the sake of numerical order.
    You will notice that highways branching off of Highway 3 begin with the number three, the highways that branch off of highway 16 begin with 16 (eg. Hwy. 160). While the loop/spur distinction may not apply exactly to each highway in question, the general principle holds.
    Mike Cassidy

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