On October 26, 1927, a new highway connecting Seattle and Everett opens. The new route runs north out of Seattle on the old North Trunk Road, then crosses into Snohomish County west of Lake Ballinger and proceeds northeast to Everett. It represents a considerable improvement over the old highway, which ran through Lake City and Bothell and was on a longer and more dangerous road. The new route will become part of the Pacific Highway, later US Route 99, which will run from Vancouver, British Columbia, to San Diego, California, and serve as the main West Coast transportation artery before it is surpassed by Interstate 5 in the 1960s.
The North Trunk Road
The earliest iteration of a road leading north out of Seattle was known as the North Trunk Road. It was a rough, eight-foot-wide wagon road that stretched from just north of Green Lake to the Snohomish County line, and it served travelers in the late nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth. The advent of the automobile led to the widening and other upgrades to the road in the early 1910s, and it was paved with bricks in 1913.
By 1917 a paved highway that went through Lake Forest Park and Bothell had been completed from Seattle to Everett, but within a few years it became obvious that a more direct route was needed. In 1923, the state highway committee announced that the North Trunk route had been adopted for a new highway from Seattle to Everett. A new road adjacent to the North Trunk Road would be built in King County, while in Snohomish County a road would be built from Everett through southern Snohomish County to join the North Trunk Road at the Snohomish County line.
By the end of 1923 a preliminary design of the new road in Snohomish County had been approved, and by the end of 1925 most of the new route had been graded. Paving began in March 1927, and by late summer a section of the new road from the King-Snohomish County line to Beverly Park (about three miles south of Everett) was open to traffic. Parts of the North Trunk route were rerouted for the new highway, and a couple of slivers of the original brick road remain today just east of Aurora Avenue N on either side of N 175th Street in Shoreline.
New and Improved
Completion of the final strip proved to be the most vexing. It was paved on September 14, and an opening date for the new highway was set for October 9. However, rainy weather delayed completion of some shoulder and gutter work. This pushed the completion date back to October 15, but further inclement weather pushed it back another 11 days. By this time, there were a few drivers who weren't willing to wait. They drove through the barricades at Beverly Park and Everett and boldly sallied forth, leading the highway patrol to issue a stern admonition threatening jail time if the transgressors were caught.
The highway finally opened without ceremony on October 26, 1927. The new route from Seattle to Everett was 27.6 miles, nearly four miles shorter than the old route, but the biggest improvement was the road itself. The old route through Bothell had multiple twists and turns, while the North Trunk segment passed directly over the interurban rail tracks in at least two spots. The new route had underpasses for the interurban, but more significantly, it was a much straighter, safer road.
There was more to come. When the highway opened, work was already underway to add a second road next to the new highway. In King County, this just meant regrading, widening, and paving the old North Trunk Road. Work was completed in 1931, and the new four-lane highway was dedicated to the public on August 20, 1931. The two roads each became one-way, with the old North Trunk Road handling northbound traffic in King County.
Representatives from local auto clubs attended the opening, as did commissioners from both King and Snohomish counties as well as representatives from the cities of Seattle, Everett, and Tacoma. Why Tacoma? Because with this opening there was now a four-lane road stretching between Everett and Tacoma, and in 1931, this was a big deal. Though it was colloquially called a highway, it wasn't entirely -- the route followed city streets through Seattle, complete with stoplights -- but it was a start.
Today, we know the old North Trunk Road as Aurora Avenue North.