For many years before the Great California U.S. Highway Mass Extinction of July 1964, U.S. Route 6 was the longest highway in the 1926 U.S. Federal Highway system.
It stretched an official 3,652 miles coast to coast from (eastbound) downtown Long Beach, California to the tip of Cape Cod at Provincetown, Massachusetts.Needless to say, a lot of history exists along U.S. Route 6 and, east of Bishop, California, it remains a major east-west transportation corridor.
Please join me as I try, ever so briefly, to share a tiny bit of what I’ve learned and seen of eastbound U.S. Route 6 starting at it’s historic western terminus in Long Beach, California.
Above: This is today’s corner of Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway in downtown Long Beach. For many years this was the western terminus of U.S. Route 6 (which went to the upper left here on its way to Massachusetts) and the southern terminus of U.S. Route 91 (which went to the lower right on its way to the U.S./Canada border north of Sweetgrass, Montana).
Above: While U.S. Route 6 is gone in Southern California, it isn’t completely forgotten. This Historic Route Marker is on the old highway (signed today as “Sierra Highway”) between the San Fernando Valley and Saugus.
Above: This marker on southbound U.S. Route 395 south of Bishop is left over from when this roadway was shared (“co-signed”) with U.S. Route 6. U.S. 6 no longer exists here, but the sign marking it’s unofficial name as the “Grand Army of the Republic Highway” remains.
Above: This is the westernmost U.S. Route 6 sign today. It’s on the north edge of Bishop, California. The historic highway can take you from near here all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, and what a ride it is!
Above: U.S. Route 6 is fairly easy to find in west-central Utah. That’s because it, Interstate 80 and the John Wesley Powell River History Museum are about the only games within a hundred or so miles of this sign. But the countryside is starkly beautiful and can only remind us what the original settlers must have experienced as they came through here by horse and wagon not so many years ago.
Above: U.S. Route 6 crossed Loveland Pass in central Colorado long before the nearby I-70 Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel complex was completed in 1979. Officially 11,990 feet above sea level, Loveland Pass remains the highest point in the 1926 U.S. Federal Highway system. See the snow in the far background? I took this photo in July.
Above: U.S. Route 6 crosses Nebraska corn country running generally parallel to Union Pacific railroad tracks. Since the railroad civil engineers had already figured out the best way to get from point A to point B, many U.S. highways were built nearby, like example this east of Minden, Nebraska. We’re looking west. The railroad is on the left and co-signed U.S. Routes 6 and 34 are on the right.
Above: Today, some segments of U.S. Route 6 are co-signed with I-80 as shown here in Iowa. The earlier highway alignment is usually nearby, commonly still serving as the principal street in a nearby village or small town. It could also be buried beneath the Interstate Highway. Only time on the ground with some old road maps will tell the full story.
Further east, where the cities are more dense and developed, it’s a challenge to stay on U.S. Route 6 or, more specifically, to recognize it as a U.S. highway. But it’s there and, if this sampling is representative, a cross-country drive on U.S. Route 6 would be a great way to spend a couple of weeks.