Friday, March 4, 2011

The Route 6 Government Historian, Richard Weingroff

Before California went rogue, renumbering many roads in the crazy-mod 60’s, US Route 6 had been the longest transcontinental road for several glorious decades, stretching out at an impressive 3652 miles. The Federal Highway was created in stages beginning in 1926 when the unfortunately acronym’d ASSHO (American Society of State Highway Officials) deemed it necessary to number a just- emerging federal highway system. Until then, roads were privately owned and named, and competition for tolls and notoriety between highway moguls was intense.  During the 1920’s, advances in cars and roadway technology boomed.  In 1912, there were 900,000 cars on American roads.  By 1920, there were 7.5 million.  At the same time, improvements in asphalt and road engineering made it simpler to pave those bumpy, uneven paths that served as thoroughfares. 

Over ten years elapsed before US Route 6, extended and patched together from existing routes in 14 states, was finally designated the longest transcontinental federal road in 1937. 

According to Richard Weingroff, who maintains a webpage of highway development history for the Federal Highway Administration, US Route 6 was not born to run coast to coast. "No one was thinking transcontinental when U.S. 6 was created.  If it were intended to be transcontinental it would have had a number ending in zero.  Instead, it was a short route given a number appropriate to its location in the numbering grid.  As the State highway agencies improved roads connected to the western end of U.S. 6, they asked AASHO to extent the number along the improved roadway -- and eventually it reached Long Beach, California." 

And though, in 1953, historian George R. Stewart wrote, “Route 6 runs uncertainly from nowhere to nowhere, scarcely to be followed from one end to the other except by some devoted eccentric,” there are plenty of eccentrics, and non-eccentrics who wish to follow this historic road. Just wait........

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