Why is Highway 16 called an east-west route?

The in basket: Mel Thompson asks, “

I suspect this question has been asked many times, but why do signs referencing Highway 16 destinations use “east/west” choices when Highway 16 clearly runs in a north/south direction? At different locations, especially when somewhat distracted, these sign references are suddenly confusing when a driver has to reorient themselves directionally in a split second to decide to go east or west when the actual directional choice is north or south?”

The out basket: Highway 16 does run east-west where it begins at I-5 in Tacoma, though most of it is north-south after crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

There’s an even more basic reason, says Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways.

“Before SR 16 was SR 16, it was Primary State Highway 14,” she said. “PSH 14 went mostly east-west between Hoodsport and Gig Harbor. The east/west designation carried over when the highway was renumbered.”

I asked if there had been any discussion of changing it to recognize the current reality of SR16’s heading, and she said she’d never heard of any.


One thought on “Why is Highway 16 called an east-west route?

  1. SR-16 is labeled East/West because it IS East/West. Look at a map. If you do the math, you’ll discover it is about 55% East/West and about 45% North/South. And the old Highway 14 has nothing to do with it. The original SR-16 did not end at Interstate 5. It ended at Pacific Avenue in Tacoma, the old Highway 99, and that’s another mile or two–East. SR-16 snaked through Tacoma city streets, starting at 6th Avenue, then through Nalley Valley to get there. That was before the “new” SR-16 wiped out the iconic A&W to get there, northern terminus of “The Ave.” Interstate 5 arrived on the scene in the mid-sixties. I know because I was there on the concrete when Governor Dan Evans cut the ribbon for the opening.

    Go look at a map and you’ll see. SR-16 is East/West now and always has been. It’s an illusion to think it is North/South.

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