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Interstate 5: Artery of Commerce in Western North America

By: Elliott Smith

Did you know: I-5 is the only road in the USA’s Interstate Highway system to run all the way from Canada to Mexico?

At the Peace Arch, BC Highway 99 becomes Interstate 5 and runs through Washington, I-5 Peace ArchOregon and California, passing through virtually all of the largest cities on the US west coast, before becoming Mexican Federal Highway 1 in Tijuana. Uninterrupted twin ribbons of concrete from BC to BC: British Columbia to Baja California.

With Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego and Tijanua all on the I-5 corridor, San Francisco is essentially the only large metro area on North America’s west coast that is NOT accessed via I-5.

The full proper name of the US Interstate network is the “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.” It was conceived by President Eisenhower following World War II as a means to facilitate troop movements and national defense, as well as commerce. Contrary to popular myth, the Interstates were NOT designed to act as emergency airstrips in time of war. Although, small planes do sometimes make emergency landings on the freeway. One such landing occurred near Bellingham in 2012.

In Washington state, Interstate 5 largely follows the route of old US Highway 99, which connected to BC Highway 99 at the Peace Arch. The cross-border numerical continuity ended with the adoption of the Interstate numbering system.

In the US, mainline Interstates are numbered 1-95. North/South routes are assigned odd numbers, East/West routes even. For North/South routes, numbers start low on the West Coast and get progressively higher. For East/West routes, numbers start low closer to the Mexican border and get higher the closer to the Canadian border.I-5

As such, I-5 is the lowest numbered North/South route, and I-95, which links the East Coast from Maine to Florida is the highest. Interstate 10 is the southernmost East/West route, linking California and Florida. Interstate 90, which runs from Seattle to Boston is the second-highest numbered East/West Interstate in the US, only Interstate 94 reaches closer to the Canadian border.

A three digit interstate indicates a smaller route that links to a mainline interstate. On a three digit interstate, an even first number indicates a loop around a city, an odd first digit is a spur into the heart of a city. In Washington state, for example, Interstate 405 loops around Lake Washington, bypassing the urban core of Seattle. In Pierce County, Interstate 705 is a short spur into the center of downtown Tacoma.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, between 10,000 and 35,000 trucks travel on I-5 every day. The agency predicts that by the year 2035 average daily traffic on I-5 will include 22,000 trucks.

In addition to providing access to many of the West Coast’s major seaports, including Vancouver, Seattle, Tacoma, and Long Beach I-5 and its connecting routes also link most of the West coast’s large international airports. YVR, SeaTac, PDX, and LAX are all located in the I-5 corridor. Additionally, many smaller airports important to cargo operations are located right along the route, including Bellingham International and Paine Field.

Access to I-5 is a big part of the reason UCanTrade, Inc. chose to locate in Ferndale, Washington. UCanTrade’s facilities are located only 500 yards from I-5, giving our clients direct access to Western North America’s artery of commerce. Trade moves by truck, and in Western North America, trucks move on I-5. Our Ferndale facilities with easy access to I-5 are ideally suited to handle cross-border shipping and logistics, with quick connections to all major sea and airports in the Lower Mainland and Puget Sound region.

TradeTips blog is published by UCanTrade, Inc., your cross-border experts since 1984.
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