10 November 2007

[liff, or_geography] The State Hwy 69 That Wasn't-Well, Not Quite, Anyway

1103. The story of the Secret Oregon Highways isn't one of mystery and myth, but something rather more prosaic.

For some odd reason, Oregon highways have always carried two numbers. One, (which everyone knows about), and what we all call the "State Highway" number, is what ODOT calls the Route number (which we will hence designate with the notation "OR"). That's like the OR 99E on McLoughlin Blvd, SW Pacific Hwy in Tigard being OR 99W, OR 217, and such as that. Those are Routes. The other number, the actual Highway Number, is the so-called "secret" number (along with a specific name) that ODOT assigns for internal record keeping. Such roads are unsigned (N. Portland Rd and N. Marine Dr here in Portland form what's called Highway #120, or the Swift Highway) and signed (Route 99E, is Highway #1E, Pacific Highway East, and US 26 west from town is Highway #2W, and its offical ODOT name happens to be the Sunset Highway). Some Highways have more than one Route number; Highway #140, the Hillsboro-Silverton Highway, is signed OR 219 from Hillsboro though Newberg to Woodburn, and OR 214 from Woodburn to Silverton.

Why anyone anywhere should see a logical connection between Hillsboro and Silverton kind of escapes me, considering the geography, but there it is.

Anyway, I told you all that to tell you about this...

Back in 2002 someone in ODOT, apparently annoyed at all the un-badged state Highways, decided that this should not stand, and every unsigned state Highway would henceforth be Route-badged with the Highway number (for instance, sometime in the near future there will be a signed OR 120 in north Portland). Any already-badged highway would, of course, keep its orignal Route number. The great exception is any Route whose badge number would conflict with an existing route somewhere else in the state would have a "5" affixed. This is why the Hubbard cut-off, which wyes off I-5 just south of the Boone Bridge at Wilsonville now is OR 551; its ODOT designation is Highway #51-Wilsonville-Hubbard Highway, and there's already a OR 51, connecting OR 22 just west of Salem to Independence.

Until recently, OR 551 was the highest-numbered Route in the Oregon system. Then, after some thought, came the Beltline Highway.

Eugenians know what that is. For those who don't, the Beltline is a slightly-misnomered road. It does only about a quarter-orbit around Eugene but forms a pretty effective bypass around the northwest side of the city, from the outer stretches of West 11th Avenue to I-5 just north of Eugene/Springfield's Gateway district.

The Beltline Highway was also in the ODOT inventory as Highway #69-Beltline Highway. Badging it with the Highway number would make it OR 69.

From 2002 until now, the Beltline has remained unsigned, presumably because ODOT figured it had better things to do with its money than replace Route signs that are constantly being nicked by the dirty-minded.

Thus, as KVAL-TV's website explains here, despite that we have no OR 69 (and that we wish to keep it that way) we have OR 569–ready for primetime, and no naughty connotations to speak of, showing once again that government can take all the fun out of just about anything–which is the only valid reason, I think, to object to teaching sex ed in schools, but that's taking it really close to the edge, mah people, so I think we ought to leave it at that.

Note to road geeks–perhaps the best website about the Oregon Highway System is ORoads, which we have bookmarked, and we suggest you do, too.

Safe and sanitary dreams, peoples...

NB: the piccy was nicked from the KVAL article illo.

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