"If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again." This old saying could well describe the history of US Highway 48. Three disparate stretches of roadway have carried this number over the last eighty years.
The Joint Board on Interstate Highways proposed the first US 48 in 1925, and in November 1926 the American Association of Highway Officials, now AASHTO, commissioned the route. This US 48 existed solely in the Bay Area of northern California. Its western beginning was in San Jose, today the very heart of Silicon Valley. The route followed what later became
highway 17 north to Hayward and a junction with US Highway 101E.
From there, it turned east along what would later become US Highway 50 through Livermore and Tracy. At Tracy, US 48 turned northeast and ended at US Highway 99 in French Camp. Sometime in 1930, US 48’s western end was truncated back to the US 101E junction at Hayward. The US 48 designation was gone by 1934, replaced by a westward extension of US 50.
Nearly forty years later, the second iteration of US 48 appeared. The year was 1973, and the states of Maryland and West Virginia had started construction of a new freeway. It was planned to run across the northern part of Maryland and continue on into northern West Virginia. This new US 48, called the National Freeway, started in the east at an interchange with Interstate 70 at Hancock, and ran through Cumberland, Maryland. It continued on to a western terminus at an interchange with Interstate 79 south of Morgantown, West Virginia.
The freeway was built in stages due to the difficulty of construction through the hills of Maryland (such as the now-famous cut through Sideling Hill). Though each completed section received US 48 signs, AASHTO planned to give the freeway an Interstate number upon completion. The freeway was completed in 1991 and it became Interstate 68, thus retiring US 48 a second time.
The US 48 designation was revived once more in 2002. The Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership designed to improve conditions in the Appalachian states, had designated as ‘Corridor H’ a section of highway to be built in northern Virginia and West Virginia. This highway would run from Interstate 81 near Strasburg, Virginia, to Elkins, West Virginia. The section from Elkins to Weston, West Virginia already exists and carries US Highway 33. After some debate, AASHTO agreed to assign US 48 to the Corridor H highway, and signs were posted along the Virginia section in early 2003. West Virginia has yet to post US 48 signs along the section from Weston to the Virginia state line.
Strong, Dave, "Mapmikey's Virginia Highways Page", US 48
. July 2004. <http://www.angelfire.com/va3/mapmikey/US48.html> (September-October 2004)
Prince, Adam, "Old Dominion Roads", Virginia's Newest US Highway:
The Corridor 'H' Saga Solved?
. May 2003. <http://www.gribblenation.com/vapics/corrh/> (September-October 2004)
Kozel, Scott M., "Roads To The Future", National Freeway (I-68)
. 1997-2004. <http://www.roadstothefuture.com/I68_MD.html> (September-October 2004)