They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me


Things I Did Not Know

There are Interstate highways in Alaska.

A friend of mine was off to get the old teeth cleaned -- and Facebook's location cheerfully provided a map:

Clearly, more investigation was required...

Now sometimes maps get things wrong. Or the labels aren't sufficient. I've seen Grand Rapids downtown maps marked with I-296 where US-131 goes between I-96 and I-196. But we've been down here since the early 90s and I've never seen an I-296 marker. Turns out -- both are right:
Interstate 296 (I-296) is a part of the Interstate Highway System in the US state of Michigan. It is a state trunkline highway that runs for 3.43 miles (5.52 km) entirely within the Grand Rapids area. Its termini are I-96 on the north side of Grand Rapids in Walker and I-196 near downtown Grand Rapids. For most of its length, the Interstate is concurrent with U.S. Highway 131 (US 131), which continues as a freeway built to Interstate Highway standards north and south of the shorter I-296. The highway was first proposed in the late 1950s and opened in December 1962, but the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has since eliminated all signage for I-296 and removed the designation from their official state map. The designation is therefore unsigned, but still listed on the Interstate Highway System route log maintained by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Nor did I know that I-196 was once US-16, or that I-196 and I-96 designations were flipped:
The US 131 freeway was officially opened at 10 a.m. on December 17, 1962, between Pearl Street and (at the time) the I-196/US 16 freeway north of downtown. This freeway section encompassed all of I-296, which would connect I-196 north of town with I-96 downtown.[1] (The I-96 and I-196 designations were later flipped west of Grand Rapids.[10]) M-37 was relocated in Grand Rapids to utilize I-96 around the northeast side of town instead of I-296/US 131 in 1969.
This was presumably during some of the realignments to route the major trunk lines out of downtowns in some area? Or maybe just so I-96 would become a Muskegon-Detroit corridor, while I-196 would be a bridge between I-96 and I-94. (The early maps of Michigan's Interstates look very different than what we've got today.)

Growing up as a student of maps (DW) (LJ), the Hawaiian Interstates (H1, H2, H3) all on the island of O'ahu were always special. I mean, it wasn't like there weren't Interstate highways wholly in a single state (I-4 in Florida) or ones with letters (35E, 35W, 80N, 80S and even 69E, 69C and 69W near the Mexican border -- Texas has always been special). But the Hawaiian roads were magical -- out of reach of the casual driver. And they are "real" Interstate freeways, with signage (see below) and everything. There was a plan for H4, but they were cancelled.

However, there is a fourth Hawaiian Interstate -- H201. The Moanalua Freeway has been known as Route 78, but while designated an Interstate in 1989, it didn't get the Interstate shield signs until 2004. Why? In part because of the "inability to render the new route number in a legible manner (it is necessary to use the thinnest font to render the number, and the shield is wider than the standard Interstate shield)". Gee, only two widths of signs for 1- and 2-character Interstates and 3-character Interstates? It would kill you to make a wider shield? (shaking-head-grin) There's a part of me who thinks they missed a great opportunity -- they could have designated this auxiliary Interstate as H20 instead of H201. "H-two-oh", get it? Cause Hawaii is surrounded by... Oh forget it. Never mind.


So, back to Alaska. Turns out that there are four Alaskan Interstates (A1, A2, A3, A4). 1,082.22 miles. Some are freeways, some are two-lane highways -- they do not have to be built to full Interstate standards. Now, I can sort of see the Fed's idea here. Interstate highways mean something. But... Hell, A-1 beats H-1 by meeting up with the Alcan Highway and the Canadian border. An international crossing is as good as a state crossing in my book.

And certainly out east there are some miserable roads grandfathered into the Interstates. I-70 squished into the tunnel into Wheeling WV. The old I-40 through Winston-Salem NC. Many of the freeways and even toll roads in NY, PA, etc. Some have gotten downgraded designations, especially after newer bypasses were built -- Business I-40 in Winston-Salem now, for example -- but other places there just isn't room in the old built-up areas.

And then there were the two-lane interstates. I-95 in northern Maine I've been on, where they built half the Interstate, except for the overpasses and some of the exits. And they had 24-hour headlight rules, wide lanes and much wider shoulders. You could even pass. (grin) Great fun. Best two-lane road I've ever been on. And the old West Virginia Turnpike, had sections of I-77 with two- and three-lanes through the mountains. The new I-77/WV Turnpike is arguably a MUCH faster and safer road, but the old one was FUN and had real charm. (And a tunnel... which shot out onto a bridge from the side of a mountain.) I loved it. I'm pretty sure I remember seeing other two-lane sections of Interstates out west as I pored over the Rand McNally atlases... (ah-hhh, youth)

So personally, I think that Alaskans would embrace their rugged, more manly, Interstate highways. They've earned their shields. Get those signs up!

For completeness, I will add that Alaska was brought into the Interstate Highway System along with Puerto Rico, which has three Interstates (PR1, PR2, PR3) which, like Alaska, are unsigned as such and are not required to meet Interstate highway standards in order to receive the Federal funding. No doubt they remain unsigned as much as to stave off consideration of Puerto Rico as a "state", if it had Interstate highways. (evil-grin) NOTE: I am not dissing Puerto Rico by using such a tiny PR1 shield marker here -- the Wikipedia article on Puerto Rican Interstate highways doesn't include the same sized shields at the others. I had to use a tiny .PNG from a table. And it looked terrible blown up 3x to a comparable size. Not enough pixels.

So there you have it. All these years I thought there were Interstates only in 49 states. Now it's 50 states and 1 territory. Though to be truthful, the two added areas are in name only. Even if Google Maps seems to think otherwise.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
Tags: alaska, hawaii, highways, maps, united states

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