The path following today’s Interstate 90 has long provided a route across the mountains, starting with an Indian Trail winding its way between Puget Sound and inland area tribes. And the dramatic cross-state passage over Snoqualmie Pass has always been a reminder of the splendor and diversity of nature in the Pacific Northwest.
But it is not only a hometown phenomenon. In 1998, the Mountains to Sound Greenway on Interstate 90 was the first interstate highway in the United States to be designated as a National Scenic Byway.
National Scenic Byways are exceptional roads that exemplify regional characteristics of the nation’s culture, history and landscape. Washington has 25 state- and federally-designated scenic byways, bringing tourism promotion and economic benefits for towns and tourist sites.
To win scenic highway designations, advocates must submit detailed descriptions and plans that show the commitment of local people to retain the road’s scenic and historic qualities and to prevent careless destruction of the natural environment with unplanned growth. The broad coalition and planning of the Greenway Trust helped advance national recognition for I-90. And much of the highway remains scenic today with attractive infrastructure designs, tree buffers, and very little bold or neon signage.
Small towns and communities benefit from I-90 as a tourist destination with an abundance of recreational opportunities and historic and cultural sites. Wildlife under- and overpasses, decorative on-ramps, conifer trees along the interstate, and many more amenities help keep this scenic byway a treasure for our state and our nation.