Sunday, November 1, 2009

U.S. 460 Revisited

When we were dating in the early 1980s, Beth and I used to meet in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, to spend Saturdays together. We lived in two different locations, and the small town was about halfway between us. With a mall, an art gallery, a decent downtown, and several antique stores, we could spend a nice day together.

I’ve a small collection of highway signs; since most are 24” x 24” and in so-so condition they’re impractical to collect and display, but they’re fun to me. They’re fun for others, too; for instance, the website features dozens of pictures of signs. Looking over that site, I noticed a photograph from Mt. Vernon which intrigued me. I recognized state routes 37 (a favorite highway) and 148, and I knew state route 15 passed through town, but I’d never heard of U.S. 460. I would’ve remembered a U.S. highway there.

Turns out, the road was a major highway at one time. Today, 460 runs from Frankfort, KY to Norfolk, VA, but between 1946 and 1977, 460 began in downtown St. Louis, crossed the old MacArthur Bridge, and traveled across Illinois and Indiana into Louisville before proceeding, along U.S. 60, over to Frankfort and beyond. Here are two other sites, and

I’ve traveled on the now-state highways that comprised this busy, pre-interstate road. The former route of 460 is Illinois 15 from East St. Louis to Mt. Vernon, south through Mt. Vernon on Illinois 37, then southeast on Illinois 142 to McLeansboro, east Illinois 14 to the Wabash River, and then Indiana 66 to Evansville and finally Indiana 62 across that state. Beautiful countryside! I’d also traveled a lot on U.S. 60 in Louisville, not realizing that this spur route had once also been signed along the same highway, en route to Frankfort. Pre-interstate, St. Louis-to-Louisville travelers must’ve taken U.S. 50 and U.S. 150, but travelers also had this more southerly route. I could imagine a traveler requiring much longer to drive 460 than the five or so hours upon the modern I-64, which supplanted the older road (see my 8/9/09 entry).

Southern Illinois two-lane countryside south of U.S. 40 and east of U.S. 51 shines in my memory: country drives with Beth, drives by myself, and earlier, antiques-hunting trips with my parents. Studying old maps to discover the route of 460 makes me nostalgic for that area, truly “landscapes of the heart”. Perhaps I’ll take a couple days this winter or spring to reconnect memories and country vistas.

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