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The history of the US Route System in Alamogordo


The city of Alamogordo is located in the Tularosa Basin of southern New Mexico and is the Otero County seat.  Alamogordo is presently served by US Routes 70, 54 and 82.  When the US Route System was created during November 1926 the only US Route serving the city was US Route 366.  US Route 366 was replaced by a realigned US Route 70 during 1931.  During 1934-1935 US Route 70 was extended to California and US Route 54 was extended through Alamogordo to service the previous routing to El Paso, Texas.  US Route 82 was extended to Las Cruces during 1963 which brought it through Alamogordo.  During 1990 signage of US Route 82 was withdrawn to the end of the Cloudcroft Highway in Alamogordo.  During 2002 the mainline of US Route 70 and US Route 54 were relocated off White Sands Boulevard to the then new Alamogordo Relief Route.  

Pictured as the blog cover is the 1931 Clauson's Road Map of New Mexico which depicts the city being served by US Route 366.  US Route 366 from La Luz passed through Alamogordo utilizing La Luz Road, Florida Avenue, the grade of the Cloud-Climbing Railroad and White Sands Boulevard.  




Part 1; the history of the US Route System in Alamogordo

During June 1898 the El Paso & Northeast Railroad (EP&NE) founded the town and siding of Alamogordo in Tularosa Basin of Dona Ana County.  Alamogordo was settled nearby the earlier settlement of La Luz.  La Luz had been founded in the first decade of the 1700s.  

The Alamogordo & Sacramento Railway and the spur Alamogordo & Sacramento Mountain Railway (Cloud-Climbing Railway) can be seen om the 1899 George Franklin Cram Railroad Map of New Mexico.  The map displays Alamogordo as part of Dona Ana County.  Otero County was formally created on January 30, 1899, out of portions of Dona Ana County and Lincoln County.  Alamogordo was selected the initial Otero County seat.  Alamogordo would later incorporate as a city during 1912.  


Alamogordo is shown to be at the crossroads of New Mexico State Routes 3, 24 and 50 on the 1920 National Map Company New Mexico edition.  New Mexico State Route 3 is shown to originate near Las Cruces and connecting to Alamogordo via San Augustin Pass.  New Mexico State Route 3 is shown to pass through Alamogordo where it continued north through La Luz and Tularosa.   New Mexico State Route 50 is shown to originate in Alamogordo and branching south towards El Paso, Texas.  New Mexico State Route 24 is shown branching east from La Luz towards Cloudcroft via the Cloudcroft Highway.  

The 1924 Rand McNally Auto Trails Map of New Mexico displays numerous Auto Trails passing through Alamogordo.  The Bankhead Highway, Southern National Highway, Ozark Trail and Dixie Overland Highway are all shown entering Alamogordo via La Luz on New Mexico State Route 3.  From Alamogordo all the Auto Trails are shown following New Mexico State Route 50 towards El Paso, Texas.  





The US Route System was formally created by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) on November 11, 1926.  Alamogordo was initially serviced by US Route 366 which entered the Tularosa Basin west of Roswell via Ruidoso.  US Route 366 began a multiplex of New Mexico State Route 3 in Tularosa which continued south through La Luz and Alamogordo.  US Route 366 and New Mexico State Route 3 split south of the Alamogordo city limit.  From Alamogordo the routing of US Route 366 south to the Texas state line consumed what had been New Mexico State Route 50.  

The initial description of US Route 366 can be seen contrasted to an updated variation provided by the New Mexico State Highway Department on February 24, 1927.  The letter updating the description US Route 366 included a map of the entire US Route System in New Mexico.  





During 1928 the Cloudcroft Highway designation would be swapped to the new designation of New Mexico State Route 83.  New Mexico State Route 83 as originally configured in 1928 would begin at US Route 366 at La Luz and terminate to the east at New Mexico State Route 34 near Maljamar.  New Mexico State Route 83 can be seen on the 1931 Clauson's Road Map of New Mexico.  US Route 366 from La Luz is shown to follow La Luz Road and Florida Avenue towards Alamogordo.  At the time appears that Florida Avenue appears to have followed the Cloud-Climbing Railway grade directly towards White Sands Boulevard.  US Route 366 pass through downtown Alamogordo via White Sands Boulevard.  


During the December 1931 AASHO Meeting US Route 70 was realigned from a western terminus in Holbrook, Arizona to El Paso, Texas.  The new alignment of US Route 70 consumed the majority of what had once been US Route 366 in New Mexico.  US Route 70 can be seen passing through La Luz and Alamogordo towards the Texas state line on a planning map the New Mexico State Highway Department provided AASHO showing the US Route changes for 1932.  



A letter from the AASHO Executive Secretary to the New Mexico State Highway Engineer dated March 6, 1934, acknowledged a desire by the state to realign US Route 70 from Alamogordo towards Las Cruces.  The rerouting of US Route 70 to Las Cruces was part of a larger extension which proposed to extend it to Los Angeles, California.  The extension of US Route 70 to Los Angeles was ultimately approved by the AASHO Executive Committee which left the previous alignment south of Alamogordo to El Paso needing to be addressed.  



A letter from the AASHO Executive to the Roswell Chamber of Commerce dated January 26, 1935, referenced US Route 54 being extended to El Paso, Texas.  The routing south of Alamogordo to El Paso is explicitly noted to have been reassigned as part of US Route 54.  US Route 54 began a multiplex of US Route 70 in Tularosa which extended to the southern city limit of Alamogordo. 


During the mid-1930s the Cloudcroft Highway would be extended west of La Laz via Alamo Street to the new bypass alignment of US Route 70 and US Route 54.  This extension of New Mexico State Route 83 and realignment of US Route 70/US Route 54 bypassing La Luz can be seen on the 1937 Gousha Map of New Mexico.  


Beginning during 1949 the Cloudcroft Highway would begin to be rebuilt to modern standards.  During said year the only highway tunnel (sometimes referred to the "Highway 82 Tunnel," "Cloudcroft Tunnel," and "High Rolls-Mountain Park Tunnel") in New Mexico opened to traffic west of High Rolls and Mountain Park.  The new highway tunnel rerouted New Mexico State Route 83 south of Fresnal Creek and ended at US Route 54/US Route 70 near Alamogordo.  The new alignment of New Mexico State Route 83 bypassed Fresnal Canyon Road, Laborcita Canyon Road, Section Road and La Luz.  Alamo Road west of La Luz would be eventually reassigned as New Mexico State Route 545 (which was deleted in 2005).

The nearly complete highway tunnel west of High Rolls and Mountain Park can be seen below in a photo by Ray C. Emens.  


The new alignment of New Mexico State Route 83 south of Fresnal Creek west of High Rolls and Mountain Park can be seen on the 1950 United States Geological Survey Map of the Alamogordo area.  


The new alignment of New Mexico State Route 83 and the Cloudcroft Highway can be seen bypassing La Laz on the 1951 Shell Highway Map of New Mexico


On April 5, 1960, the state highway departments of New Mexico and Texas submitted an application to the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) to extended US Route 82 from Lubbock, Texas west to Las Cruces, New Mexico.  The submitted extension of US Route 82 would cross the Sacramento Mountains via New Mexico State Route 83.  The initial application to extend US Route 82 was rejected by AASHO on November 26, 1960.   





A letter from the Texas Highway Department dated December 21, 1961, reveals the initial application to extend US Route 82 to Las Cruces was rejected due to two substandard sections of New Mexico State Route 83.  The letter notes the offending segments of New Mexico State Route 83 had recently been improved.  


On April 8, 1963, the state highway departments of New Mexico and Texas submitted another application to AASHO to extend US Route 82 from Lubbock to Las Cruces.  AASHO approved the application on June 19, 1963, which officially made the Cloudcroft Highway a component of US Route 82.  US Route 82 multiplexed US Route 70/US Route 54 through Alamogordo via White Sands Boulevard.  






During 1990 the New Mexico Department of Transportation opted to no longer sign numerous multiplexed highways.  US Route 82 signage from Las Cruces to the beginning of the Cloudcroft Highway was pulled from field service.  This action effectively made the eastbound signed origin of US Route 82 begin at the start of the Cloudcroft Highway near Alamogordo.  Despite the signage of US Route 82 being withdrawn no formal truncation application was submitted to AASHTO by the New Mexico Department of Transportation. 



On December 15, 2002, the AASHTO Executive Committee approved the realignment of US Route 70 and US Route 54 in Alamogordo onto the Alamogordo Relief Route.  The previous routing on White Sands Boulevard was approved by secondary request to become US Route 70 and US Route 54 Business.  








Part 2; a drive on the Alamogordo Relief Route

As eastbound US Route 70 enters the city of Alamogordo traffic wishing to reach US Route 82 is directed to stay straight onto US Route 70/US Route 54 Business along White Sands Boulevard.  Mainline US Route 70 is directed to follow signage to junction US Route 54 eastbound at the Alamogordo Relief Route.  





The Alamogordo Relief Route crosses under White Sands Boulevard and traffic is advised that there are three at-grade exits to the Alamogordo Business District.  





The first at-grade intersection along the Alamogordo Relief Route is located at 1st Street. 


The second at-grade intersection along the Alamogordo Relief Route is located at 10th Street. 


The third at-grade intersection along the Alamogordo Relief Route is located at Alamotero Lane.


A fourth at-grade intersection along the Alamogordo Relief Route is located at Scenic Drive.  Scenic Drive can be used to access the New Mexico Museum of Space History and former New Mexico State Route 2001.  



North of Scenic Drive traffic is warned about the 16 miles of 6% grades ahead on US Route 82 and the Cloudcroft Highway.


The Alamogordo Relief Route ends at White Sands Boulevard north of downtown Alamogordo.  Traffic wishing to continue onto eastbound US Route 70/US Route 54 is directed to turn left towards Tularosa.  Traffic heading east towards Cloudcroft is directed to continue ahead onto US Route 82 and Cloudcroft Highway.  




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