The Historic Pacific Highway
West Valley Highway
West Valley Highway
The West Valley Highway is a section of the original Pacific Highway which began in Sumner and traveled 9.5 miles north along the west side of the Kent/Auburn Valley to 37th Street NW. From there, the road continues northward in the center of the valley for another 9.5 miles to Renton Junction near Tukwila.
The first road of sorts in the Kent Valley was the 1856 military pack trail which ran south from Fort Dent and along the east side of the Green River to Green River Road which is south of Kent. Years later in 1880, County Road #69 was established along the path of the old military trail to Kent and then it continued south along the west side of the valley to the Pierce County line.
In 1898, the concept of a trunk highway was proposed. This would be a road leading south from Seattle to the Kent/Auburn Valley, so that the farmers could transport their produce to market in Seattle on a well maintained road in a reasonable amount of time. The following is a letter written in 1898 to the Legislature, asking for such a road to be built;
"The basic idea of the trunk line road was to furnish a direct line of communication to the city of Seattle for the farmer living in the White River Valley and adjoining valleys. The road would be a direct route so that the loss of time and money that is now experienced by the present system of elbow-joint zig-zagging and round-a-bout roads would be eliminated as much as possible. This road will accommodate travel whether by foot or by team, bicycle or electric car and it was to be passable in summer and also in winter, during in high water or low water, and it will be a grand thoroughfare between a splendid valley and the metropolis of Seattle."
"This road will be built to suit the present generation which is passing, but for those that are to come and to endure while civilization and time lasts. The selfishness or shortsightedness of the individual should not be allowed to thwart the proper consummation of this great project. The road can be established now and the cost of construction spread through a series of years." This trunk road became known as the White River Road.
In 1878 the Old White River Road (County Road #8) was completed. It was the first wagon road built between Allentown and Orillia. The road was later extended further south and it stayed close to the river. The road terminated at S. 228th Street. In 1899, County Road #479 was completed between Orillia and Kent in the center of the valley. In 1909, County Road #879 was completed from Allentown to Kent. This road began at County Road #57 in Allentown and continued south on County Road #622 known as Macadam Road. The road continued south utilizing County Road #479. This road was also known as the C. L. Taylor Road, and today most of SR-181 runs along this old highway.
In 1910, the West Valley Highway was completed between Renton Junction and Sumner. This new road included 4.07 miles new right-of-way obtained from the King county line to Sumner. The road also utilized parts of King County Road #8, King County Road #879, King County Road #69 and King County Road #45. In Pierce County, Valley Avenue was designated as Permanent Highway #3 between Tacoma and the King County line. The road was paved with macadam between Orillia and Kent.
Also that year the road between Olympia and Seattle became a State-Aid highway. Between Olympia and Tacoma it was State-Aid Road #30, between Tacoma and the King county line it became State-Aid Road #70, and between the county line and Seattle it became State-Aid Road #69.
In 1913, the West Valley Highway became a section of the Pacific Highway, and that year the road was paved with brick between S. 180th St. in Orillia and 15th Street NW in Auburn.
In 1916, County Road #1004 which was known as the Seattle-Pierce county road was completed. This new road bypassed Allentown and Macadam Road, and instead followed the trolley line from the new Duwamish bridge to Renton Junction.
In 1920 the West Valley Highway was paved with concrete.
In 1924 the Pacific Highway between Fife and Tukwila was bypassed by a new "Highline" road. This new route ran through Federal Way, Des Moines, and South Park, and was chosen by the State Highway Department to eliminate the dangerous railroad and trolley crossings. This new route was also about 10 miles shorter.
Vintage photos of the West Valley Highway
Then and now - Just south of 15th Street NW., looking north.