Part 1; the history of US Route 91 and US Route 466 through Baker
As noted in the intro Baker was a siding of the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad which incorporated on July 19th, 1904. The Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad was spurred by interests by the Francis Marion Smith of the Pacific Coast Borax Company. The Pacific Coast Borax Company would locate the Lila C. Mine in 1901 in the Black Mountains near the eastern outskirts of Death Valley. The Lila C. Mine was located 135 miles from the nearest railroad line in Ivanpah, California. The Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad was plotted with the intent to reach the Lila C. Mine and eventually northward towards the Bullfrog Mining District, Goldfield and Tonopah. The Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad intended to eventually reach San Diego hence why "Tidewater" appears in it's name.
What ultimately became the US Route System was first discussed during the American Association of State Highway Officials ("AASHO") annual 1924 meeting. The AASHO recommended to the Department of Agriculture to work with the States to develop a system of Interstate Highways to replace the many Auto Trails in use. The Joint Board on Interstate Highways was ultimately commissioned by the Department of Agriculture and it's branch agency the Bureau of Public Roads in March of 1925. The Joint Board on Interstate Highways first met in April of 1925 and decided on the new interstate road network would be known as "U.S. Highways."
During the drafting phases of the US Route System in 1925 the Joint Board on Interstate Highways decided several facets of what would become it's numbering convention:
- Odd one or two digit numbers would denote a north/south route.
- Even one or two digit numbers would denote a east/west route.
- X1 numbers would denote major north/south routes.
- X0 numbers would denote major east/west routes.
- Spur highways of one or two digit routes would be assigned a third digit. Example; US Route 199 ("US 199") is a child route of US 99.
- Odd numbers would begin at 1 on the East Coast and ascend westward.
- Even numbers would begin at near the Canadian Border at 2 and ascend southward.
- The numbering of the US Route System would ultimately infer a position within the Country to aid navigation.
By October of 1925 the Joint Board on Interstate Highways submitted a final report to the Secretary of the Department Agriculture. Part of the final report regarding the US Route System would be a list of routing points for all purposed US Routes. The full list of the US Routes originally submitted in October of 1925 can be viewed on the link below:
Report of Joint Board on Interstate Highways; October 30th, 1925
While the US Route System submitted in October of 1925 was fairly close to what was implemented in November of 1926 there was some significant differences. The most glaring or "well known" difference is that US 60 was planned on the routing which ultimately became US 66. Regarding US 91 the routing points were clear aside from the southern terminus in the Mojave Desert of California. In the October 1925 report submitted by the Joint Board on Interstate Highways US 91 is shown simply as ending at US 60:
The US Route System within California was approved by California Highway Commission with no changes recommended which can be seen in the January 1926 California Highways & Public Works. US Route 91 was stated to enter California and end near Needles.
The planned route of US 91 south from Great Falls, Montana to Las Vegas, Nevada is very clear in the 1925 Report. That said, south of Las Vegas the routing of US 91 was at best open to interpretation. Ultimately two existing roads south of Las Vegas to what was planned as US 60 were immediately available; the Los Angeles-Salt Lake Road towards Daggett or the Arrowhead Trail which was aligned directly south into California to Bannock. The Arrowhead Trail was multiplexed with the National Park-to-Park Highway and Evergreen National Highway which can be seen on the 1924 Rand McNally Map of California. Below the Arrowhead Trail is listed as "18," the National Park-to-Park Highway as "64" and Evergreen National Highway as "20."
The Arrowhead Trail was a Auto Trail which was plotted out in 1915 when Charles H. Bigelow (race car driver and promoter) drove the entire route planned route between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. The Arrowhead Trails Association would incorporate as an Auto Trail organizer based out of Los Angeles in December of 1916. The Arrowhead Trail largely followed the path of the Los Angeles-Salt Lake Road but detoured significantly south of Las Vegas via Nevada State Route 5 ("NV 5") towards Bannock. By 1920 the "Silver Lake Cutoff" of the Arrowhead Trail was proposed as a means of to saving 90 miles by connecting the highway from Las Vegas directly southwest to Daggett. The Silver Lake Cutoff was similar to the previous Los Angeles-Salt Lake Road but followed a more northern path to utilize the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad siding of Silver Lake as a waypoint. This new routing of the Arrowhead Trail via the Silver Lake Cutoff was ultimately paved with oiled earth in 1925 by San Bernardino County.
Ultimately what drove the decision to route US 91 via the Arrowhead Trail to Daggett appears to be the extension of Legislative Route 31 ("LRN 31") by the California Legislature. According to CAhighways.org LRN 31 was first adopted as a State Highway during the 1916 Second State Highway Bond Act between the San Bernardino County line northeast to Barstow. In 1925 the Legislature approved an extension of LRN 31 from Barstow to the Nevada State Line.
The new extension of LRN 31 from Barstow to the Nevada State Line appears as an unbuilt Legislative Act Road on the 1926 California Highway Commission Map. Notably the planned route of LRN 31 appears to have been originally proposed to enter the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad siding of Soda Lake (now Zzyzx) via Soda Lake instead of Baker or Silver Lake.
The 1927 National Map Company Sectional Map shows US 91 entering California via NV 6 southwest over what had been the Arrowhead Trail. US 91 is shown by bypassing Baker through the Mojave Desert via; Francis Springs, Silver Lake, and Bitter Spring headed southwest to Daggett and US 66. LRN 31 is shown as being graded between Barstow northward to Baker.
The 1927 State of Nevada Department of Highways Map shows US 91 entering California via NV 6 and using the Arrowhead Trail via Silver Lake.
US 91 was joined by US 466 between the Nevada State Line southward to the outskirts of Barstow. US 466 ultimately would split west from US 91 at the outskirts of Barstow towards Tehachapi Pass. The first documents acknowledging the existence of US 466 in California can be found during October/November 1933 in the AASHO Database.
The 1934 Division of Highways Map of California shows US 91paved and fully graded on LRN 31 between Barstow and Baker. Notably US 466 does not make an appearance on the 1934 Division of Highways Map.
During May of 1974 Caltrans petitioned the AASHO to truncate US 91 from California. This request by Caltrans was made alongside additional requests to truncate US 91 from Nevada and Arizona which were heard during the June 1974 AASHO Executive Committee Meeting. This ultimately led to US 91 being truncated from CA 127 in Baker northward to Brigham City, Utah.
Former US 91/466 on Baker Boulevard enters the community of Baker as the I-15 Business Route. South of the Van Ella Road intersection the notable Alien Fresh Jerky can be located on Baker Boulevard.
Alien Fresh Jerky is a novelty beef jerky store which has an obvious alien motif. Alien Fresh Jerky was originally established in 2000 Crystal Springs, Nevada and moved to Baker in 2002.