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Paper Highways: US Route 90 to Gila Bend, Arizona


From 1955 through 1957 the Arizona Highway Commission attempted to extend US Route 90 into the state from Van Horn, Texas.  Originally the proposed extension of US Route 90 was intended to continue through Arizona all the way west to San Diego, California.  Ultimately the proposed extension of US Route 90 into Arizona was scaled back to a western terminus at Gila Bend.  The proposal to extend US Route 90 to Gila Bend was planned to be aligned from the New Mexico state line over Arizona State Route 86, US Route 80 and Arizona State Route 84.  This blog will examine the history of the failed proposal to extend US Route 90 to Gila Bend, Arizona. 



The proposed extension of US Route 90 from Van Horn, Texas to Gila Bend

On October 17, 1955, the Arizona Highway Commission submitted a request to the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) to extend US Route 90 from Van Horn, Texas west to a terminus at US Route 80 in Gila Bend.  The proposed routing of US Route 90 in Arizona would enter the state from New Mexico state line and follow Arizona State Route 86 to Benson.  From Benson, proposed US Route 90 would multiplex US Route 80 through Tucson to Arizona State Route 84.  Proposed US Route 90 would follow the entirety of Arizona State Route 84 from the Tucson area to a terminus at US Route 80 in Gila Bend.  The proposed end point of US Route 90 in Gila Bend was handwritten over a lined-out San Diego, California. 


The proposed extension of US Route 90 was authorized by the Arizona Highway Commission on October 3, 1955.  The application notes that on March 6, 1953, the Arizona Highway Commissioner asked for a proposal to extend US Route 90 through the state to be submitted to AASHO annually until approved.  The Arizona Highway Commission noted the full-scale goal was for US Route 90 to be extended through Arizona to the California state line by way of Yuma.  




Rationales by the Arizona Highway Commission for requesting an extension of US Route 90 into Arizona are noted as the following on the application to AASHO:

-  The entire proposed route was already part of the Interstate system of highways. 
-  Arizona State Route 86 and Arizona State Route 84 were prime candidates to be included into the US Route System.  Arizona State Route 84 in particular was frequently used to bypass the Phoenix area whereas Arizona State Route 86 was often used to bypass Bisbee.  
-  The proposed US Route 90 corridor averaged 3,228 vehicles a day. 
-  The proposed extension if pushed to San Diego, California would create a fully coast-to-coast US Route 90. 
-  Most of the towns along the proposed corridor were agreeable to US Route 90 but not the alternatively proposed extension of US Route 180.  

The rationales justifying US Route 90 can be seen below as they were typed on the October 17, 1955, proposal to AASHO.  


The application to extend US Route 90 included a letter from the Arizona State Highway Engineer to the AASHO Executive Secretary that noted it was not made in concurrence with Texas and New Mexico.  The Arizona State Highway Engineer noted contact Texas, New Mexico and also California regarding US Route 90 was being sought.  



The AASHO Executive Secretary replied to the Arizona State Highway Engineer on October 20, 1955.  The AASHO Executive Secretary noted like proposals to extend US Route 90 would need to also be received from California, New Mexico and Texas before it could be considered by the Executive Committee.  


An Arizona Highway Commission resolution dated February 21, 1956, noted that New Mexico and Texas had agreed to help extend US Route 90.  California had declined to join in the proposal during November 1955.  The new legislative resolution agreed the proposed extension of US Route 90 should terminate at US Route 80 at Gila Bend.  



The extension of US Route 90 to Gila Bend was considered by the AASHO Executive Committee on June 27, 1956.  The Executive Committee declined the proposal due to the lengthy multiplex US Route 90 would need to unitize along US Route 80 from Van Horn, Texas to Steins Pass, New Mexico may potentially lead to motorist confusion. 


On June 29, 1956, the Federal Highway Aid Act of 1956 was signed into law on the Federal Level.  The Federal Highway Aid Act of 1956 was the genesis point of the Interstate Highway System.  The planned corridor of US Route 90 in Arizona would be added to the Interstate system as chargeable mileage comprising Interstate 10 and Interstate 8.  

On August 6, 1957, the Arizona State Highway Engineer sent a letter to the AASHO Executive Committee Secretary requesting the proposed extension of US Route 90 to be considered again.  The rationale for the letter was that due to Interstate locations being planned the corridor of US Route 90 would only be concurrent with US Route 80 in Arizona for twenty percent of the mileage in Arizona (in reality nothing had changed).  



The AASHO Executive Secretary replied to the Arizona State Highway Engineer on August 19, 1957.  In the letter the Executive Secretary noted that for the extension of US Route 90 to be considered again new applications needed to be obtained from all states involved with the proposal.  The Arizona State Highway Engineer never responded to the letter the proposal to extend US Route 90 to Gila Bend was abandoned. 



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