It was called “The Main Street Across America”. It created an economic boom for the cities in which it crossed. It was the first national memorial to Abraham Lincoln. It was the very first improved highway for cars from the East to West Coasts. It predated interstate highways by decades. I am talking about the Lincoln Highway, a roadway that started in Times Square, New York and finished at Lincoln Park in San Francisco. It was a highway that was first completed and dedicated on Halloween of 1913. It changed our country.
Back in the early 1900s, railroads dominated interstate travel. Automobile travel was relatively new and improved roads were mainly designed for local travel.
Defensive driving techniques were as new as the paved roads. But all of that changed with the creation of The Lincoln Highway.
In those days, highways had romantic names like Lincoln Highway, National Old Trails Road and the Dixie Highway. It was 13 years later in 1926 that our highway replaced names with numbers and the Lincoln Highway become parts of U.S. Route 30, U.S. Route 1, U.S. Route 40, U.S. Route 50 and U.S. Route 93. While U.S. 30 today still carries much of the tradition of the old Lincoln Highway, improvements and bypasses have led to U.S. 30 actually being only about a quarter of the actual path of the original Lincoln Highway. Red, white and blue markers sit along the original road and historic concrete mile markers can still be found along the original road. This was a time in which the automobile became a more and more popular way in which to travel the country. It was a time of transition from train to automobile.
Today, there is even a Lincoln Highway Association, created for the express purpose of keeping the history of the highway alive. In recent years the Association has helped develop the promotion of the roadway. For those seeking an adventure, there are multiple historic stops along the way. They include:
- A piece of roadway made with original brick is a part of the road near Omaha, Nebraska.
- A thirteen-foot bronze statue of Lincoln marks the high-point of the highway east of Laramie, Wyoming.
- The words “Lincoln Highway” are spelled in concrete on a bridge in the town of Tama, Iowa.
In June of 2013, to mark the 100th anniversary of the roadway, 140 vehicles, both new and old, left New York and San Francisco and met at the approximate mid-way point of the highway in Nebraska. It took about a week for each group to meet half-way. With ribbons of 70 mile per hour highways crossing the country, The Lincoln Highway is now the road less traveled.