Most local freeway exits still unnumbered

The in basket: Sally Murphy asks, “Why the inconsistency in numbering the exits off Highway 16?  As one comes across the Narrows, there is an exit sign, number 7, then after three Gig Harbor exits, with no numbered exits, one comes upon Exit 20, Burley-Olalla.  Nothing in between and nothing afterward.
“My nephew was visiting from Texas and I told him to take Exit 20. He called and said he has passed Exit 7 and then saw no other numbered exits and thought he had made a wrong turn. Why the lack of consistency?”
The out basket: Actually, there is something afterward, but not until you leave Highway 16 for Highway 3 and get to Silverdale, where Bill Vale noticed the same inconsistency in 2009.

Only the exits at the Highway 3-303 intersection were numbered on those freeways, he noted.

Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region public affairs staff for state highways, says the explanation given then by region Traffic Engineer Steve Bennett applies this time too.

““For years, maybe decades,” Steve said then, “we numbered only Interstate route exits.  Several years ago, we decided that policy didn’t make sense and began, as new construction came to a corridor, to add exit numbers to all multi-lane divided freeways.”

“The Highway 3-303 interchange is the most recent one substantially modified here,” he said. “I would assume the Burley-Olalla Road interchange will have its exits numbered, corresponding with the nearest milepost marker, when it opens later this year.”

Which is what happened. No other interchanges in our area have been modified in the meantime, so still have no exit numbers.

Claudia elaborated this week to say exits, “are numbered according to the milepost location (within our state’s boundaries) at which the exit is located.  (Highway 16’s)Exit 7 is located seven miles from where the highway begins (in this case, I-5), and Exit 20 at Burley Olalla is located 20 miles from that same beginning point.

“As such, exit numbers are a great reference point for drivers. Let’s say you’re headed northbound from Oregon to Washington, and you know you need to take Exit 165. If you understand the exit numbering system, you know that I-5 at the Oregon border is milepost 0.  Exit #165 would be 165 miles north of that beginning point.

“On north/south highways, the mileposts increase in the northbound direction, and on east/west highways, the mileposts increase in the eastern direction.

“There are two notable exceptions to this rule,” she said, ” both in our neck of the woods: 1) US 101, which is unusual because it’s a loop road where milepost numbers increase north up the coast and then continue to increase even when the highway is headed back south to Olympia; and 2) SR 16, where mileposts increase east to west (the opposite of our conventional numbering system). Not sure why.”

4 thoughts on “Most local freeway exits still unnumbered

  1. I’ve always thought of Hwy 16 as a North/South route, so maybe that’s why the exit numbers increase to the “west” (north).

    If you look at a map, it really is more north than west going from Tacoma to Bremerton.

  2. Ah good ol’ Hwy 16, and even number and therefore an east/west route, except the mileposts, and exits, are numbered as if it’s north/south.

    Not really sure where exit 7 would be… as exit 4 is Jackson in Tacoma followed by exit 8 for 24th St in Gig Harbor on the other side of the bridge. Exit 7 would be in the “wormhole”, 16 was shortened resulting in 2 1/4 miles missing with the mileposts left mismatched over the bridge. (I’m certain Travis covered this in the past.)

    Variations like this happen when roads are changed, so be careful if you look at your odometer instead of the mileposts.

    Also, 101 is numbered clockwise like any other loop, so it doesn’t seem unusual.

  3. No, it is not more “north.” Look again and take note of the latitude and longitude numbers. Measure it using Google Earth. It is about 55% East/West and 45% North/South, easily qualifying it for an E/W designation.

    Also, you have history working here. Before Interstate 5 was built and opened in the mid-sixties, SR-16 connected not with I-5, but with SR-99. In Tacoma, 99 comes into town from Fife and makes a 90 degree turn south onto Pacific Avenue, which is a couple of miles further (you guessed it) EAST than the current intersection onto 5 at South 38th street, but more or less the same distance North/South. So when SR-16 was first designated as such, the highway was even more East/West than it is now. Incidentally, the mile post markers still reflect this and are “off” as a result.

  4. Who remembers driving the route from Bremerton to Tacoma, around Gorst, to Port Orchard, out Bethel-Burley, through Purdy, then up the hill to the NEW 2 lane road to the New Narrows bridge?

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