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ORoads: Interstate 7

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Interstate 7
US Highway 395Oregon Route 19US Highway 26Oregon Route 126US Highway 97
also known as: Oregon Highway #4 (The Dalles-California Highway) #70 (High Desert Freeway)
I-7 Navigation:
Info | History | Zoom-ins: Ritzville, Tri-Cities, Bend, Klamath Falls, Weed

Interstate 7 Info

Approximate Length: 540 miles
Type: Freeway
Cities Served: Ritzville, Tri-Cities, Umatilla, Prineville, Bend, Klamath Falls, Weed
Termini: I-90 Exit 220 Ritzville, WA,
I-5 South of Exit 747 Weed, CA
Intersects: WA-21, WA-26, WA-260, WA-17, I-x90, US-12, WA-397, I-y07, WA-14, US-730, OR-74, OR-27, US-20, OR-31, OR-58, OR-138, OR-62, OR-39, OR-66, OR-140, CA-161


Ritzville, WA to Umatilla, OR


Spray, OR to John Day Scenic Waterway, OR


Mitchell, OR to near Prineville, OR


Prineville, OR to near Powell Butte, OR


near Deschutes, OR to Bend, OR

Oregon Highway Name/Number: The Dalles-California Highway #4 (California Border to Bend)
High Desert Freeway #70 (Bend to Washington Border)

Interstate 7 "History"

As you may know if you came here from my Interstate 82 page, there was talk in 1999 of extending I-82 further south into Oregon. Right now, it currently ends near Hermiston (specifically, the railroad stop of Ordnance) at I-84, but allegedly ODOT was looking into expanding the Interstate through the entire state and enter California. Here were the three possible routes, illustrated with approximate routing descriptions below:

Here are the various plans for extending Interstate 82 further into Oregon
  1. The Madras Route from Hermiston through Heppner, Condon, Fossil, Antelope, and Madras, where it would replace US-97 from Madras through Bend and Klamath Falls to the California border, possibly to I-5.
  2. The Prineville Route from Hermiston through Heppner, Hardman, Spray, Prineville, Powell Butte, and Bend where I-82 would replace US-97 from Bend through Klamath Falls to the California border, possibly to I-5.
  3. The John Day (US-395) Route from Hermiston through John Day, Burns and Lakeview to the California border, possibly to I-80.

Naturally, there are some problems with each of the routes that were proposed, as well as the concept of building the highway in the first place. Sure, the highway would increase tourism, but it would also increase pollution of the pristine Central Oregon air, as well as increase developement along the corridor. For cities like Bend and Klamath Falls, already in the midst of expansion and a population boom, this would be a positive; conversely, for cities along the routes like La Pine, Crescent, or Mitchell, it may bring an unwanted, seedy element to town and destroy the livelihoods of their small burgs. The new freeway would cut through National Forest Land and some alignments would come close to Crater Lake National Park and the John Day Scenic Waterway. Finally, the three West Coast states won't budge on this until the current budget defecits are erased; in Oregon's case, it won't be for awhile due to the campaign to bring major league baseball to Portland (which I support, but that's another story).

Aside from all those routes, each has something about it that makes it undesirable, although some are much better than others. The plan I'd dismiss first would be the plan to route the extension along the John Day Route, as neither John Day, Burns, or Lakeview has a significant need for a new freeway now, if ever. Furthermore, where would this route end? If it followed US-395 into California, where would it go from there? It would have a little difficulty going to I-5 over the Sierra Nevadas; I just assume it would follow US-395 all the way to Reno, where 395 south of Interstate 80 to Carson City will become Interstate 580 soon. If I recall correctly, 580 won't be extended through Sparks because there's no political motive to do so, and because California already has a 580 and doesn't need or want another one. For these reasons, I doubt an interstate along that stretch would ever surface in the near future.

The second route I'd cut would be the Madras route. This route is much better than the John Day route, but it seems a little awkwardly outlined. As soon as the freeway would cross I-84, it would double-back to US-97 (the highway I-82 ditched in Yakima) very quickly; it would essentially parallel Interstate 84 for awhile before diving down around Madras, then follow US-97 to Weed, California. Because of the route's counter-intuitiveness, I deem this one infeasible.

Which leaves us with one more possible alignment: The Prineville Route. As far as I'm concerned, this route has the best chance of being adopted; this makes the entire alignment of the Interstate more north-south in appearance, and would look the best of the three routes, even though both the Prineville and Madras routes would utilize Bend's new Bend Parkway and Klamath Falls' freeway. The only forseeable problems would be the problems all the routes would face in the end, as well as some problems getting the freeway through some Central Oregon mountains.

Here is the map of my Interstate 7 Proposal.  Click any of the red rectangles to jump to a close-up of that area.

According to AA, the route wouldn't be Interstate 82 because all the plans call for north-south alignments, warranting an odd number. This is where I have formed the basis for creating a new freeway called: Interstate 7. But I've taken it a step further with regard to the actual route; I've planned bypasses, intersections, renumberings, decommisionings, multiplexes, and even figured out the highway's name and approximate distance. To the left is a map of the proposed Interstate 7 from Ritzville, Washington to Weed, California.

The route would more or less take a direct route, following an upgraded US-395 from Ritzville to and around the Tri-Cities of Washington, rejoining the current I-82 south of Kennewick. Then, upon crossing into Oregon, the freeway would ditch US-395 and continue along I-82 to I-84, where it would then follow a new roadway to Heppner. Across the mountains, the road would roughly follow OR-207 through Hardman to Spray, multiplexing with OR-19 until the eastern boundary of the John Day Scenic Waterway, where OR-19 departs. Once again following OR-207 until it ends in Mitchell (OR-207 would be decommissioned from Heppner to Mitchell), the Interstate would duplex with US-26 southwestward to Prineville, where the freeway would bypass the city to the south. It would then meet up with OR-126, multiplexing with it until somewhere between Powell Butte and Redmond, at which point it would follow a new route from there to the north of Bend. It would then multiplex along US-97 from that point all the way to Weed, California, where a new bypass to the east of the city would junction with Interstate 5.

Because Washington and California (and to a lesser extent, Oregon) do not allow for the duplication of route numbers, and all three states have SR-7's already under their jurisdictions, some route renumberings would have to occur for the new freeway to be labelled as Interstate 7. Currently, CA-7 is a mostly-built freeway spur from the Mexican Border near Calexio to Interstate 8 in El Centro. To accomodate Interstate 7, this would be renumbered as CA-97 as US-97 from Bend to Weed would be decommissioned, but this may be a temporary renumbering, as the corridor is also slated as an extension of CA-115, but, according to California Highways, this is far off. Oregon has a history of allowing interstate/state route duplication (I-82/OR-82 and I-205/OR-205), as maintenance is done by highway number, not route number (Click here to learn the difference), but if it ever were a problem, then OR-7 could be relabelled OR-9 so as not to break Oregon's pattern of increasing odd route numbers from east to west. At long last, I-7 would conflict with WA-7, a route that goes from Morton to Tacoma. So as not to cause route duplication and follow Washington's route branching system, the portion from Morton to Spanaway could be renumbered WA-120 and the portion from Spanaway to Tacoma could be an extension of WA-507. Or the whole thing could be an extension of WA-508, or as WA-511, or WA-514 (decommissioned along another road in 1992). The possibilities are endless, except that maybe the WA-507 extension may be avoided so as not to cause confustion with Interstate 705 in Tacoma.

In the interest of an in-depth explanation of this route, I have highlighted five different cities on the map: Ritzville, WA; Tri-Cities, WA; Bend, OR; Klamath Falls, OR; and Weed, CA. All of these cities has a more nuanced role of this highway than my explanation above, which is why I have branched these cities off. I may add Prineville to the list once I figure out what to do with it. Either way, for further explanation on these cities, click inside the red boxes to zoom in on the city.

Zoom-In: Ritzville

A close-up of the I-90/I-7 interchange near Ritzville
Blue indicates current or upgraded freeways or ramps
Translucent Blue indicates new freeways or ramps

This interchange marks the northern terminus of Interstate 7. This interchange needs to be redone so as to provide direct freeway-to-freeway connection with I-7 from both directions of I-90, as well as a ramp into Ritzville along 1st Ave. (probably old US-395). As 1st Ave. becomes I-7, you'll notice that there's only a westboubnd connection to I-90; that's because I figured that if anyone wants I-90 east, they can take Weber Street to its junction with I-90. The northbound I-7 ramps to 1st Ave. and I-90 east, as well as portions of I-90 east's ramp to I-7 south will utilize current roadways; all other ramps will be brand-new.

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Zoom-In: Tri-Cities

A close-up of the Tri-Cities
Blue indicates current or upgraded freeways or ramps
Translucent Blue indicates new freeways or ramps

The only new building that would need to occur in the Tri-Cities would be a new Pasco-Kennewick bypass from just north of current I-182 Exit 14 around east of Pasco and Kennewick to a new interchange south of current I-82 Exit 114, as well as a slight extension of current I-182 along US-12 to meet up with the I-7 corridor. Aside from that, the most major shake-ups in Tri-Cities would be the renumbering and realignment of highways. Here's a complete list:

  • What was I-82 from Ellensburg to suburban Richland and I-182 from suburban Richland to Pasco will be renumbered as an I-x90, or a spur of I-90. Even though it will connect to an interstate at both ends, an odd number seems more appropriate than an even one. Numbers available for this spur are: 190, 390, 590, 790, or 990. I think I-390 would be appropriate as it would connect to US-395, following Washington state route branching rules; I-790 also would work, as it would connect I-7 to I-90.
  • What was I-82 from suburban Richland to southern Kennewich will be renumbered as an I-y07, or a bypass of I-7. Numbers available for this spur are: 407, 607, or 807, as WA-207 already exists and could not be duplicated. I-407 would be the most likely choice.
  • The rest of what was I-82 from southern Kennewich to the Oregon border and beyond will be renumbered as I-7.
  • US-395 will be realigned to I-7.
  • What was US-395 will be called I-7 Business from its junction with I-y07 (current I-82) to WA-240, possibly all the way back to I-7 along old US-395.
  • WA-240 will be extended along old US-395 across the Columbia to I-x90 (current I-182).
  • WA-397 will be either shortened to its junction with I-7 and decommissioned along the rest of its route or extended along the old part of US-395 north of I-x90. If extended, it may or may not be part of I-7 Business.
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Zoom-In: Bend

A close-up of Bend

Since Bend has had the enormous foresight to build the Bend Parkway through the city, I-7 would be conveniently routed across it. US-97, who occupies the Parkway currently, will be shifted back to its pre-Parkway alignment down NE 3rd St. through eastern Bend, briefly multiplexed with US-20. However, since I-7 will follow US-97's alignment from southern Bend all the way to Weed, US-97 will be decommissioned until its junction with I-7 in Bend. North of Bend, US-97 will multiplex with I-7 until Deschutes, halfway between Bend and Redmond.

Also, you may have noticed the green-colored state of Oregon with a number inside of it on the Bend Map. No, that's not my new design for Oregon's route markers; that's how I distinguish state highway numbers from state route numbers. Click here to lean more about the difference.

Speaking of state highways, this is about where the northern portion of I-7 (the High Desert Freeway #70) ends and joins the Dalles-California Highway #4 for I-7's southern portion. To accomodate this change, The Dalles-California Highway's mileposts will have to be renumbered so that 0 is at the California Border with mileage increasing northward (it is currently the opposite). At the point where I-7 and US-97 depart for the final time (Deschutes, north of Bend), The Dalles-California Highway #4 will follow US-97 northward, whereas I-7 will follow the newly-created High Desert Freeway #70 (replacing I-82, the McNary Highway #70). The High Desert Freeway's mileposts will be synchronized so that they follow the mileposts of the Dalles-California Highway (something similar happens along Interstate 84). To accomodate the new freeway, some highways will be decommissioned, such as the Service Creek-Mitchell Highway #390 and the Heppner-Spray Highway #321; others will be shortened and converted, such as the Ochoco Highway #41 (eliminated between Powell Butte and Dayville; the Mitchell to Dayville Portion will be renumbered the Mitchell-Dayville Highway #390); others will remain but have their route designations switched onto the new Freeway, such as OR-19 abandoning a section of the John Day Highway #5, possibly so that another number (OR-208? OR-246?) could take its place along that stretch; and still others will be created, such as the aforementioned High Desert Freeway as well as the 3rd Ave. Highway #373 (where US-97 Business currently runs and where US-97 will be located with the creation of I-7). Of course, that one could just stay the way it is, as it's currently the Dalles-California Highway #4 Bend Business Loop.

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Zoom-In: Klamath Falls

A close-up of Klamath Falls

Klamath Falls, like Bend, had the foresight to build a freeway bypassing the city in the 1960s, I-7 would conveniently fit that corridor. Parts of it would probably have to be upgraded north, south, and even within the city limits to accomodate I-7.

Also, because US-97 has been decommissioned in Klamath Falls, the US-97 Business route there would be orphaned. Not to worry, because ODOT has made it easy to replace Business US-97 with Oregon State Routes. OR-39 is already cosigned with Business US-97 from the northern junction of US-97, and the other part is partially cosigned as Business OR-39. In my Klamath Falls plan, Business 39 would be routed down Esplanade St. to the Main-Klamath couplet from Alameda Ave. (OR-39), then turning southeastward down the 5th-6th couplet, eventually rejoining as 6th St. until it rejoins OR-39 slightly west of Altamont. Currently, the portion of Business OR-39's affiliated highway (Klamath Falls-Lakeview Highway #20) from Alameda Ave. to the 5th-6th couplet on Esplanade Ave. is considered a spur of the highway, and the main highway is routed from current US-97 to the 5th-6th couplet. With the route renumberings, the main highway would be routed up Esplanade Ave., and the spur would connect the 5th-6th couplet with I-7 (where US-97 used to be). The spur would have no route affiliation.

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Zoom-In: Weed

A close-up of Weed
Blue indicates current or upgraded freeways or ramps
Translucent Blue indicates new freeways or ramps

Weed California marks the southern terminus of Interstate 7. A bypass of Weed would need to be built if US-97 were to be upgraded most of the way; I would recommend that it would go to the east of the city. Due to the angle of I-7's junction with I-5, the interchange could only be freeway-to-freeway in two directions: Northbound I-5 to Northbound I-7, and Southbound I-7 to Southbound I-5. Any traffic wanting to go the other way would need to take the newly-created Business I-7 (currently US-97) through town. I-7's intersection with Business I-7's northern terminus will also only occur in two directions because of the angle: Northbound Business I-7 to Northbound I-7, and Southbound I-7 to Southbound Business I-7. However, the other two directions will be provided by a half-diamond interchange when I-7 passes back over Business I-7.

I also thought about naming the former chunk of US-97 as Business I-5, but according to AA's Business Route Guide, Weed already has a Business I-5, though it's poorly marked. But because the former portion of US-97 is more closely associated with I-7, I would think that CalTrans would make it Business I-7 and give I-7 some legitimacy. Also, if CalTrans still wanted to maintain the route without turning the road over to Weed, and if CA-7 becomes CA-115 (see top of page), it could keep the road on as Unsigned State Route 97, or even signed for that matter.

For awhile, I batted around the idea to multiplex I-7 with I-5 all the way to Red Bluff, where it would roughly follow CA-99 through Sacramento, Merced, Freson, and Bakersfield to its re-junction with I-5, but that would look too awkward and out of place. I think that either an I-9 along the whole route or an I-705 to Bakersfield would suffice there.

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