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Paper Highways: US Route 789 the Canada-to-Mexico Highway

US Route 789 was a proposed US Route which was known as the "Canada-to-Mexico Highway."  US Route 789 was formally proposed to the American Association of State Highway Officials by the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana during November 1950.  The application was ultimately rejected but led to the formation of Multi-State Highway 789 between the Mexican border at Nogales, Arizona and Canadian border in Sweetgrass, Montana.  Much of Multi-State Highway 789 would be removed by the mid-1960s but the routing does remain fully intact within Wyoming.  Pictured as the blog cover is the multiplex of Wyoming State Route 789 and US Route 30 Business in Rawlins as seen in 2007 (picture taken by Jake Bear).  


The history of the US Route 789 proposal and Multi-State Route 789

Conceptual US Route 789 was borne out of a desire by the Canada to Mexico Highway Association to obtain a new US Route designation through the states of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.  The organization based out of Billings, Montana, had been organized during 1933 with the goal of obtaining a US Route designation for their promoted Canada-Mexico corridor.

A June 11, 1950, letter from the Wyoming State Highway Engineer to the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) Executive Secretary requested insight on how to request a US Route designation on the behalf of the Canada to Mexico Highway Association.  The letter notes that the Canada-to-Mexico Highways had been proposed numerous times with the last instance being during 1946.  The letter noted an agreement had been made between Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona towards pursuing a US Route designation for the Canada-Mexico Highway.  The Wyoming State Highway Engineer suggested a proposed number of "US Route 777" for the Canada-to-Mexico Highway.  

The Wyoming State Highway Engineer sent another letter to the AASHO Executive Secretary on July 21, 1950, requesting a follow up to the letter sent on June 11, 1950.  


The AASHO Executive Secretary replied to the Wyoming State Highway Engineer in a letter dated July 24, 1950.  The Executive Secretary explained that State Highway Departments would need to submit an application for a new US Route to be reviewed during the next semi-annual AASHO Meeting coming during December 1950.  The Executive Secretary noted the proposed number of "US Route 777" for the Canada-to-Mexico Highway would be unacceptable due to it falling outside of the conventions of the US Route System.  The Executive Secretary suggested an application be made with the number US Route 787 or US Route 387 to fit in with the existing US Route 87 family of highways.  



The application for US Route 789 was submitted to AASHO for consideration during their December 1950.  The application was ultimately rejected and does not appear on the list of December 1950 US Route approvals.  No specific reason is cited for the rejection of US Route 789.  It is unclear why an application was made for "US Route 789" as opposed to US Route 787 or US Route 387 as suggested by AASHO.




The Montana State Highway Engineer on October 14, 1952, sent a Western Union Telegram to the AASHO Executive Secretary requesting a status update to their November 20, 1950, application for US Route 789. 


A member of AASHO acting on behalf of the Executive Secretary replied to the Montana State Highway Engineer via Western Union Telegram on October 14, 1952.  In telegram the Executive Secretary noted the committee did not feel during the December 1950 that proposed US Route 789 merited inclusion into the US Route System.  Reasons cited were significant multiplexes of existing US Routes, a lack of high traffic counts in the proposed corridor and questionable origin points for the highway.  


The above telegram was sent in concurrence with a written letter which went into greater detail as to why US Route 789 was rejected.  The letter noted AASHO had received a second request for US Route 789 from Montana dated February 29, 1952.  The second request from Montana could not be considered due to it not having been made in concurrence with Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.



Following the rejection of US Route 789 the states involved with the proposed corridor commissioned Multi-State Route 789.  Multi-State Route 789 begins to appear on several mid-1950s maps.  

The alignment of Arizona State Route 789 appears on the 1956 Gousha Map of Arizona.  Arizona State Route 789 originated at the Mexican Border in Nogales concurrent with US Route 89 and Arizona State Route 93.  From Nogales, Arizona State Route 789 followed US Route 89 and Arizona State Route 93 to downtown Tucson where the multiplex picked up US Route 80.  Arizona State Route 789 north of Tucson followed Arizona State Route 77 towards US Route 70 near Globe.  Arizona State Route 789 followed US Route 70 to US Route 60 towards Globe.  From Globe the alignment of Arizona State Route 789 multiplexed US Route 60 and Arizona State Route 77 through the Salt River Canyon to Show Low.  North of Show Low the alignment of Arizona State Route 789 followed Arizona State Route 61, US Route 666 and US Route 66 to the New Mexico state line near Lupton. 






The 1956 Gousha Map of New Mexico displays New Mexico State Highway 789 following US Route 66/US Route 666 to Gallup and US Route 666 north to the Colorado state line.  



The 1958 United States Geological Survey (USGS) map of Cortez, Colorado displays Colorado State Route 789 following US Route 666 from the Colorado/Nex Mexico state line to Cortez.  East of Cortez Colorado State Route 789 is shown concurrent with US Route 160 to Durango.  



From Durango Colorado State Route 789 followed US Route 550 north over Red Mountain Pass.  Colorado State Route 789 is shown multiplexing US Route 550 north to Montrose on transitioning onto US Route 50.  




The 1956 USGS Map of Moab displays Colorado State Route 789 following US Route 50 to Grand Junction.


The 1959 USGS Map of Durango displays Colorado State Route 789 following US Route 6/US Route 24 from Durango northeast towards High Mesa.  





The 1957 USGS Map of Rifle displays Colorado State Route 789 following US Route 6/US Route 24 to Rifle.  From Rifle Colorado State Route 789 is displayed following Colorado State Route 13 north to the Wyoming state line.  



The 1956 Gousha Map of Wyoming displays Wyoming State Route 789 beginning at the Colorado/Wyoming state line near Baggs.  From Baggs Wyoming State Route 789 is displayed heading north to US Route 30 near Creston.  From Creston Wyoming State Route 789 is displayed following US Route 30 east to Rawlins.  Wyoming State Route 789 from Rawlins is displayed following US Route 287 north to Lander.  Between Lander and Riverton Wyoming State Route 789 is displayed as an independent route.  Wyoming State Route 789 is displayed following US Route 26 east to Shoshoni and US Route 20 northwest to Greybull.  Wyoming State Route 789 north of Greybull is displayed running concurrent with US Route 310 to the Montana state line.  





The 1958 USGS Map displays Montana State Route 789 following US Route 310, US Route 12 and US Route 10 from the Wyoming state line to Billings.  Montana State Route 789 north of Billings is displayed following US Route 87. 





Montana State Route 789 followed US Route 87 north to Great Falls and split onto US Route 91 towards the Canadian border (as seen on the 1957 USGS map of Great Falls).


Montana State Route 789 is seen multiplexing US Route 91 to the Canadian border in Sweetgrass on the 1958 USGS map of Shelby. 


Arizona and New Mexico would drop their segments of Multi-State Highway 789 in mid-1960s.  Montana State Route 789 no longer appears on Montana maps by the late 1950s but the timing for the removal of the designation isn't fully clear.  Colorado would remove Colorado State Route 789 in mid-1980s.  Wyoming State Route 789 was the only segment of Multi-State Highway 789 which would never been deleted and presently covers 407.14 miles in the state.  

Below an Arizona State Route 789 shield can be seen (courtesy the AAroads shields gallery).


Below Colorado State Route 789 can be seen concurrent with US Route 160 and US Route 666.  These photos are hosted on the AAroads shield gallery and were taken by Jim Lindsay on May 28, 1970.  



Numerous vintages of Wyoming State Route 789 shields can be seen below as hosted on the AAroads shield gallery.  The third image was taken by Jake Bear in 2007, the fifth image by Michael Summa in 1979, the sixth image by David Corcoran in 2009 and seventh image by Jake Bear in 2006.   








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