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 Everett Archives: How I-5 Forever Changed Everett

Everett Archives: How I-5 Forever Changed Everett

From the beginning, it was a mixed blessing.

The big “pro” for regional development: When it was built, I-5 cut drive time between Everett and Seattle by 30 percent.

The “con”: homeowners in several neighborhoods in Everett had to negotiate the sales of family houses that were in the path of imminent pavement.

Today, Everett’s almost unthinkable without I-5. The interstate freeway is an integral part of how our city moves, how it’s connected to itself and to surrounding areas in the region. Not long ago the main throughways in Everett were Highway 99 and Broadway Avenue, which, together, provided the main north-south arterial through Everett.

Then the city’s “circulation system” was amended in the early 1960s when I-5 was constructed.  

Let's take a look at how I-5 permanently impacted our mill town, creating changes that last to today, and continue to have an infrastructural impact on our future.

Riverside—Entire streets were lost to I-5 demolition crews as Riverside was bisected. Some historic brick buildings from downtown Riverside still stand on the east end of Hewitt Avenue, lining either side of the freeway. A good example would be the Swalwell Building (the ivy-covered brick building that today is the home of Buck’s American Cafe).  

Recently the older buildings of Riverside have seen a bit of Renaissance, thanks to eateries like Terracotta Red and Katana Sushi—both excellent places to dine.

Lowell Neighborhood—Lowell has always been its own distinct micro-community. Fiercely independent, Lowellites pride themselves on the fact that Lowell was a city before Everett was incorporated. When I-5 was proposed to run through the neighborhood, many members of the Lowell Neighborhood Association protested the proposal. The highway did end up coming through, splitting up the hillside community with tall concrete noise-blockers. Some residents are still upset about it today.

Everett Mall and South Everett—significantly, in the 1960s, I-5 connected North Everett to newly-developed areas in South Everett, providing a civic continuity. Today, North and South Everett are easy to get to and from thanks to I-5. The city itself is so large geographically, it’s cool that a freeway can make Everett feel like one big city connected by a spine of concrete.

Modern perspective

I-5 is still a mixed blessing. Yes, it’s the main arterial for our region. Also: that artery gets hopelessly clogged every day during peak commuter times.

The old problem with interstate-type freeways is that of the chicken and the egg: urbanists will tell you that it’s a perpetually escalating cycle of construction and capacity. Lanes are filled to capacity so more lanes are built, attracting more cars, then those lanes fill up and they build more lanes.

The cycle continues.

One possible solution to local interstate congestion is coming, but a few decades away: the light rail system.

No matter how you choose to get here, whether by plane, train or automobile, Everett is a great place to live and commute to! If you'd like to make a move to our wonderful city give us a call, we're always happy to help!


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