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  1. Default OH to WA: I-80 vs I-90

    I'm moving from Dayton, OH to Seattle, WA in a few weeks and will be driving my car there. I-80 and I-90 seem to be the two most common routes. 90 is a little bit shorter, but not by a significant amount, and the speed limits are pretty close, too. But there are plenty of other factors to consider. I've done some research, but still have some questions to help me decide which I'd prefer. Can anyone help me answer these? Any other general advice/opinions about them would be appreciated, too.

    • Which is more crowded?
    • Which has better scenery?
    • Which has stricter speed enforcement? *
    • Which has more tolls?

    * I'm not looking to be an obnoxious jerk, weaving in and out of traffic at 100mph or anything, but I don't mind doing 80 or 90mph when the conditions are safe. It'd be nice to be able to do that from time to time, but I don't want to get a ticket, either.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default similarities

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    You're right that they are going to be pretty similar in a lot of ways.

    For crowded, I'd say you'll probably see a little more truck traffic on I-80, but I really wouldn't think it would be all that different. Traffic across the plains on the northern route can be split between I-90 and I-94, while I-80 really is the number one route from the east coast to San Francisco. I-90 does go through Chicago, while I-80 just runs across the south edge of the area, so that's a factor, but otherwise, I-80 does go through more mid-sized cities that can see the occational slowdown if you hit the wrong time of day (Des Moines, Omaha, Lincoln) but we aren't talking about any major problems.

    Scenery, I-90 would be my choice, just because there is easy access to so many easy detours like the Badlands, the Black Hills, and Yellowstone, but there is a lot of history and a lot of things you can see on I-80 too.

    I've never seen any significant difference in how the different states enforce speed limits on freeways. Put simply, its pretty rare to get a ticket for doing 5 over anywhere, and pretty rare to get a warning if you are doing more than 10 over anywhere. As soon as you go one mph over the limit, you're putting yourself at risk of getting a ticket, and the faster you go, the more likely you are to catch a cops attention. I'd say the bigger spots you really need to watch out for are the non-interstate roads right as you come into town (especially if you are coming in off an interstate exit) as those areas are where you'll see the occational "speed trap" where the speed limit either changes suddenly, or is significantly lower than it would appear to be needed for safety and gets heavy enforcement and generates a lot of extra revenue for a town.

    You actually shouldn't have to see any tolls on this trip - but that depends upon where you plan to join either I-80 or I-90. Once you get to Illinois, I-80 only has one small toll booth on the south end of Chicago, while I-90 is tolled all the way to the Wisconsin border. However, after that, there are no more tolls on either highway.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I was stopped for doing 81 in a 75 out in the middle of nowhere on I-94 in Montana on a clear sunny day. Do more than 4 mph over the limit anywhere at your own risk.

  4. Default

    GLC-you pretty much posted exactly what I was going to! We were pulled over going 80 in a 75 in Montana on the 94 also. The cop told us that the speed limit is already so high that they don't expect or allow speeders. Which makes sense, I mean 75 is fast and I don't see anytime where 90 is a "safe" speed as the original poster stated.

    Tickets while on vacation are expensive since you are not going to show up for your court date and hopefully get it reduced to a parking violation. If you are in such a hurry that you feel 90 is safe and okay then you should just give yourself an extra day to make your trip-everyone on the road will thank you.

  5. #5


    My vote is for I-90. Better variety of scenery. FYI - Those aren't sleeping bison along the highway in Buffalo, WY but decorative landscape boulders. You might also notice in WY and MT ranchers mowing and baling the grass along the roadside. Take a break and visit Wall, SD for grins. Keep an eye on the ridges just this side of Vantage, WA for the galloping herd of horses. If you have time there are several sidetrips (as suggested earlier) you should make. Yes, I-90 definitely has my vote. Enjoy and enjoy the drive. Suzi

  6. Default

    Thanks for the advice guys, I think I'm gonna go with I-90.

    As far as speeding goes, I haven't taken a lot of road trips, but I do remember several times where I've been going with the flow of traffic and everyone seemed to increase their speed shortly after crossing a state line (KY to TN, for example). I've done 80-90 for extended periods of time through TN with no problems, but maybe I was just lucky.

    I do think that 90 can be a safe speed, under certain circumstances. Like i said in my original post, I'm not talking about weaving in and out of traffic, or even going faster than anyone else. I'm talking about keeping up with the flow of traffic when the road is mostly empty and there aren't any adverse weather conditions. For example, the average speed on the Autoban is around 83mph and they have a very good safety record --

    Thanks for the tip about doing more than 75 through MT, that's definitely good to know.

  7. #7

    Default Go I-90, but watch out for.......

    ...........the Sturgis bike ralley, scheduled for Aug 9-15 2010.

    On my last cross-country RoadTrip, back in 2002, coincidence had me driving to Montana during the week before the Sturgis ralley, and I joined the flood of eastbounders about 100 miles east of Sturgis on the Sunday it ended. Not that it was in any way a bad experience, but traffic was heavy and campgrounds crowded for hundreds of miles around. Very few of the attendees actually rode bikes to Sturgis, so most of the traffic was groups of motorhomes, campers, pickups, and SUVs towing enclosed trailers. Fairly slow going, and every rest area and travel plaza was jammed with people.

    If that can be avoided, I'd say I-90 for certain. From Billings, MT to the ID line, it's a beautiful drive.


  8. Default

    Thanks Foy, I'll definitely try to avoid that. I'm hoping to set out in the next 2-3 weeks :)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    If you need to avoid Sturgis, you can take I-94 through MSP and rejoin I-90 in MT. My mapping software actually says this saves you 30 minutes over staying on I-90 all the way, but this does not account for possible traffic delays around MSP.

  10. Default

    There are a couple places on the directions that I got where it says to take the "I-90-BL". Does the BL stand for bilateral? Could anyone explain what that is, and if I'll need to do anything special to take it?

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