The Longest Road on the Longest Night
December 21 is the winter solstice. In addition to marking the first official day of winter, it is an astronomical phenomenon indicating the longest night of the year, and therefore the shortest period of daylight. Moving forward into winter, the days will start gradually lengthening.
At Colony Limo, we’re always thinking about great drives. And the longest night of the year made us think about the longest roads. In the United States, the longest road is U.S. Route 20.
US 20 was constructed in the 1920s and opened to drivers on Nov. 11, 1926. Its total length is now 3,365 miles long. It runs east to west, stretching from New England all the way to the Pacific Northwest. The highway begins in Boston, Massachusetts, and ends in Newport, Oregon, just a mile from the Pacific Ocean.
Numbering and Parallels
Per traditional highway numbering convention, the “0” in the route number indicates US 20 is a coast-to-coast route. However, US 20 and US 30 break the general U.S. route numbering rules in the state of Oregon, where US 30 runs north of US 20 and remains that way throughout the state. The two highways eventually overlap and begin to follow the correct north-south positioning order near Caldwell, Idaho.
The discrepancy on the western part of the highway is because US 20 was not originally planned and built as a coast-to-coast route like US 30, which happens to be the third longest road after U.S. Route 20 and U.S. Route 6. The route for US 20 roughly parallels I-90 across most of the country, which is also the longest interstate in the U.S. at 3,020.5 miles long.
One more side note on US 30: Like US 20, it also runs parallel to an interstate highways, but it has avoided decommissioning, unlike other long haul routes such as U.S. Route 66. Also, much of the historic Lincoln Highway, which stretches from New York City to San Francisco and was the first road across America, became part of US 30.
Originally, US 20 came to an end at the eastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. It was extended in 1940.
Now, there is a discontinuity in the official designation of US 20 through Yellowstone, as the road is frequently unnumbered throughout the park. It continues as the western entrance of the park, running for less than 10 miles in Montana before creating the Idaho state line.
In total, the highway goes through Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts. If you enjoy evening road trips, the winter solstice offers plenty of long nights to make this coast-to-coast trek.