Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On the Road: Know the Old Roads

Last week I went to do some shopping and took the interstate to get to my destination. After a couple exits the traffic began to slow down significantly.  Then I saw the sea of red tail lights ahead of me and decided I needed to take an alternate route since I absolutely hate waiting in traffic. Fortunately, I was by an exit so when the traffic stopped completely, I was able to get off the interstate and take the back roads until I could get back on the interstate at another entrance.

Before the Interstate Highway System was built, drivers had other highways they utilized to get to their destinations. Most of these highways still exist and in some places they run parallel to the interstates. Before I travel, I look at the atlas to determine which interstates I will be traveling, but I also check to see what other highways run in the same direction. An accident that involves a fatality or a semi that has jackknifed can paralyze interstate traffic for an hour or more. When I have many hours to drive before I stop for the night, I do not want to spend my time sitting in traffic. I need to be aware of alternate routes.


I was driving through Indianapolis late one night. I saw a highway advisory sign that said when the lights were flashing, motorists should turn to a certain radio channel. I realized the lights were flashing, but by that time I had driven past the sign. When I am driving by myself, I cannot try to quickly find a radio station while trying to drive safely in the dark. All cars were directed off the interstate at the next exit and since I did not know which way to go, I followed the truckers. We went through small town after small town and I did not feel safe enough to pull over to check the map to see where I was. I had to trust that the truckers knew what was happening. After a long time of driving, the truckers all made a turn and I followed them back to the interstate.

When I got home, I checked the map to see what road I had to travel for the detour. It was US 40 which is a highway that that runs from New Jersey to Utah. Sometimes this highway runs parallel to the interstate and sometimes it runs as a part of the interstate. Motorists can tell by the addition of a highway sign with the interstate sign. I-70, I-64, I-68 and I-95 are all involved at some point with US 40 which is sometimes known as the National Road. In the photo one can see that Interstate 70 runs south of US 40 at some points and in other areas north of it. In the future all I have to do is check the map quickly to see which way I need to turn at the exit if I ever have leave the interstate in case of a backup or closure. I already know that US 40 is an option for me if I need to use it.

In South Carolina, motorists had to use US 21 before construction of Interstate 77 was completed. This highway was a more direct route, but ran through many small towns where drivers had to significantly reduce their speed. US 21 still provides an alternate route for I-77 if a situation warrants the use of it. At various points in Georgia and South Carolina US 17 runs close to Interstate 95.

Every state has alternate routes to the interstate that drivers can use. When I travel I prefer to use the interstates, but I always research before each day's drive to have a working knowledge of what alternate highways I can use if I need to do so.

(Photo taken in 2014)

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