They say you learn something new every day.  It's even more impressive when you learn something new about something that you use every day.

We've got a couple of big highways in Western New York.  While most of the country calls them the I-90, the I-190, and the I-290, to us, they're called the 90, the 190, and the 290.  Grammarly even tried to correct me when I wrote it that way.  But if you're from Western New York, that's how you know them.

But where did they get their names in the first place?

People didn't just pick random numbers out of the sky and determined that we would refer to our highways that way.  There was a method behind the madness.  Have you ever heard where they got their names?

The United States Numbered Highway System

It's called the Interstate Highway System.  The first federally funded roadways came in 1916 with the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916.  Then in 1921 (yup...5 full years later) they decided that it would be a good idea to name them.  But to make it easy they decided to name them with numbers.  That became known as The United States Numbered Highway System.

So How Are They Numbered?

Most roads that go north and south were numbered with odd numbers.  Roads that go east and west were numbered with even numbers.  Interstate majors that run east west are double-digit numbers that end in zero.  And if you look at the majors across the country, the most southern major that goes from Jacksonville to Santa Monica is named I-10.  They go up in increments of 10 as you go north.  Because the 90 is the furthest north of the majors, it's obviously named I-90.

The same is true for routes that go north-south.  The lowest-numbered major (I-5) is on the west coast and (I-95) is on the east coast.

What About The 3 Digit Highways?

So where did the three-digit numbers come from (190,290, 390, etc)?  Those roads are called Interstate Minors.  They're considered "spur routes of parent highways."  So obviously the 190 is a spur route of the 90.

So Why Do We Do It That Way?

Quite simply, it's what made it easiest to know which direction we were going without looking at a map!

This might explain it even further for you...

 

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