Historic US Route 20 & the United States Highway System
Stretching from just west of the Atlantic Ocean in Boston,MA - through 12 States to the Pacific Ocean at Newport, OR, US Route 20 is the longest US Highway in the country at 3,365 miles.
The Federal Highway Act of 1921
The history of US Route 20 starts with the passing of the Federal Highway Act of 1921. This act appropriated $75 million for road construction through out the country. The Act stated that the money "spent in cooperation with the States sand that to obtain any part of it , a given State shall provide a sum at least equal to that secured from the Federal Government. Any State, to procure its share of Federal money, must establish a 'State Highway Department' satisfactory to the Federal Government. This state agency and the Federal Government many cooperate in the building of roads not to exceed 7 percent of the total highway mileage of that State"
The road building continued and improvements were made. During this time, several States created their own highway designations, while private businesses were springing up as "Road Organizations promoting "Trail" routes. For the history of these roads, please visit our Pre-Route 20 History section.
The Joint Board on Interstate Highways 1925-1927
As the 1921 Act gave money for the State's to build and improve highways across the country it had become increasingly clear that there had become a non uniform system of various markers, Auto Routes and signs, at times, overlapping each other, that aided in confusion for the traveling motorist. The plan was to standardize a whole highway system so that drivers could travel from one coast to another, or even within a specific region of the country and simply follow a numbered highway.
- April 20-21, 1925 Creation
The Joint Board on Interstate Highways met on April 20-21, 1925 and in their first meeting agreed to create a group of highways, that would be known and United States Highways. The board designated that a series of regional meetings of public works and highway officials would designate which roads should be designated as a US Highway. Also during this meeting the board adopted the policy of the American Association of State Highway Officials to allow already existent highway trail associations to continue their activities and to be recognized only if their policies and activities did not interfere or conflict with State or Federal policies following the creation of the US Highways system.
Throughout May and June the various regions consisting of highway officials met and decided on what routes, already in existence,they felt would be designated as a US Highway. The general consensus was to expand and take into consideration the 1922 New England Interstate Highway Plan which used numbers in an increasing order starting in the north and east and working westward.
The roads that would become US Route 20 were officially designated in the meetings in:
The states however needed to wait until all the regions met in Washington in August to officially begin designating highways in their regions.
- August 3-5, 1925 Selection
The Joint Board on Interstate Highways convened again after each region had selected their routes to adopt, connect, number and map out the routes for which had been chosen. The first day of meetings on August 3, 1925 was a preliminary review session. The second day saw the adoption of the US Route Shield. This shield was modeled after the shield of the United States. More information on the shield history itself can be found here.
On August 5, 50,000 miles of highway were selected to become US Highways and be numbered and signed with the uniform markers picked the previous day. It was decided that the final numbering system would be delegated to sub-committees and voted upon at a later date
- November 18, 1925 Route Numbers Assigned
On November 18, 1925,the Joint Board issued its approval of the complete preliminary United States Highway System. The states could still make suggestions or ask for any changes until a final approval would be ready the following year.
- November 11, 1926 The Official Birth the United States Highway System
The final map of the US Highway System as it was announced on November 11, 1926.
- January 1, 1927 The Final Approval
The announcement came on January 1, 1927, that all the States along with the Federal Government had approved the layout of the United States Highway System.
Sources: The Boston Daily Globe, June 9, 1918 to January 2, 1927