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Author Topic: Which Nevada SH system was better? Pre 1976 or Post 1976?  (Read 8633 times)

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Which Nevada SH system was better? Pre 1976 or Post 1976?
« on: April 25, 2010, 07:10:38 PM »

Nevada's SH system has been made up of 3 digit routes since 1976. But, before that, there were two digit routes.
I'd prefer a 1 digit & 2 digit Primary Highways scheme, with 3 digit routes reserved for urban routes an minor routes.
If anyone has any opinions, let me know!
« Last Edit: April 25, 2010, 07:11:53 PM by agentsteel53 »
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Re: Which Nevada SH system was better? Pre 1976 or Post 1976?
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2010, 08:14:24 PM »

I've always found it funny that Nevada has no* routes with one or two-digit numbers.

*two that continue California route numbers, and one - state highway 34 - that may or may not be on the books, as the signage left in the field might be old enough to predate the system change

I do wish there were some smaller route numbers, especially given that similar route numbers are placed geographically very close together.  For example, I can never keep track of which route is 375 and which is 376 out in the middle of nowhere - one is the Extraterrestrial Highway, the other one is not, but could just as likely be. 

A system like Washington's, where the primary routes are one- or two-digit numbers, and the three-digit routes branch off of them, would be marginally better, but even then, who can keep track of highway 536 vs highway 537 or whatnot.  But having widely disparate route numbers would defeat any geographical classification.  Maybe just use up all the two-digit numbers like Florida does, for instance?  I can tell apart 77 and 79... for the most part.
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Re: Which Nevada SH system was better? Pre 1976 or Post 1976?
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2010, 12:08:12 AM »

Quote
I do wish there were some smaller route numbers, especially given that similar route numbers are placed geographically very close together.  For example, I can never keep track of which route is 375 and which is 376 out in the middle of nowhere - one is the Extraterrestrial Highway, the other one is not, but could just as likely be.  

That's like the Wyoming system. The Washington system I was quickly able to memorize, but the Wyoming one becomes "Wait, does 153, the spur that dead ends at some railroad tracks the middle of nowhere branch off of 152, the spur that dead ends at some cows in the middle of nowhere, or is it the other way around?"

The Washington system at least says what branches off what, so that's cool- but I don't think it's possible to have a geographically coherent but memorable highway numbering scheme in a middle of nowhere state like Nevada or Wyoming.

I guess I like the Nevada system then, because it at least gives one a general idea of what county something's in. If the Wyoming 153 were Wyoming 47, I don't think I'd be any more or less capable of remembering it, because the route just isn't that memorable*

*I do remember this one though, because that was like my second ever drive in my Wyoming highway clinching project, the first one with pointless spurs, so I remember it because it was the first of many highways in which I would say "Wow, what a pointlessly unnotable highway""
« Last Edit: April 26, 2010, 12:15:23 AM by corco »
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Re: Which Nevada SH system was better? Pre 1976 or Post 1976?
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2010, 12:38:47 AM »

Nevada does have one of the stranger state route systems with all of the 3 digit numbers. Generally, I prefer lower numbers for primary routes which make it easier to distinguish between primary and secondary routes. I'd have to see a map of the old system to know whether it's better than the current system though. And while it does have its merits, I don't really like clustering systems because to me it's harder to distinguish between monor routes that are numbered so close together. I find the collection of routes numbered close together in the 580s and 590s in the Las Vegas area to be particularly confusing. Of course since they all have street designations too, the numbers themselves probably aren't all that important and I'm guessing aren't used much by locals.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2010, 12:50:36 AM by huskeroadgeek »
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Re: Which Nevada SH system was better? Pre 1976 or Post 1976?
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2010, 02:04:37 AM »

then and again, why did Nevada renumber their routes in '76?
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Re: Which Nevada SH system was better? Pre 1976 or Post 1976?
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2010, 02:35:43 AM »

Quote
Nevada does have one of the stranger state route systems with all of the 3 digit numbers. Generally, I prefer lower numbers for primary routes which make it easier to distinguish between primary and secondary routes.

Once again, I'm going to draw a parallel to Wyoming- I think a lot of the reason for a lack of two digit routes is a lack of primary routes to begin with. Looking at a map of Nevada, there's very few state highways that serve a primary purpose, the US Routes and Interstates cover about 90% of that traffic. Wyoming has plenty of two digit routes, but all but 7 of them wouldn't be considered primary (Wyoming has a similar numbering scheme where routes are numbered by county, they just start with 10 instead of whatever 3-digit number Nevada starts with, so WYO 35 is just a tiny little spur in Big Horn County that nobody cares about, not an important route)- and then there's a few three digit primary routes, but the vast majority of Wyoming's traffic is served by US and interstate routes.

Nevada looks to be about the same way, where there are very few "primary state routes" (without being horribly familiar with the system or the state and just glancing at a map I count somewhere between five and seven (two or three of which are either already 2-digit or 140, which is locked into its number)(I get 28, maybe 88, 140, 225, 278, 375, maybe 431) depending on one's definition of primary)- and maybe those deserve two digit numbers, but there still wouldn't be very many of them.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2010, 02:45:22 AM by corco »
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Re: Which Nevada SH system was better? Pre 1976 or Post 1976?
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2010, 06:16:59 AM »

I might as well provide some history and information here...

See also these previous threads in General Highway Talk: State numbering, Highway 420


Nevada's State Route System: 1917-1976

The formation of Nevada's state highway system began with the legislature passing the state highway law in 1917. This provided for the creation of the Nevada Department of Highways (now NDOT) and established the first four state routes:
  • SR 1 - What eventually became US 40, now largely supplanted by the I-80 corridor.
  • SR 2 - Mostly present-day US 50 in central Nevada.
  • SR 3 - A circuitous route in western Nevada comprising these present-day highways: part of US 395, all of SR 208, part of US 95 Alt, part of US 95 (including the US 6 overlap), and all of SR 266. (A spur up to Lake Tahoe on US 50 was also included as part of SR 3.)
  • SR 4 - Present-day US 6 in central Nevada.

From the passage of this law, each state route had its alignment described generally in the law.  For the most part, there was no regard for geographic location or principal traffic routes with this system--as routes were added over time, the numbers were pretty much assigned in numerical order.  Some sequential routes were near each other likely because they were added to the law around the same time (i.e. SR 27 and SR 28 serving the Lake Tahoe area; SR 63 and 64 both in southern Reno). There was a few routes that had suffixed spurs (for example, SR 3 had 3A, 3B & 3C as spurs).

A drawback with this system was that the routes were put into law sometimes with no rhyme or reason.  One aspect was spurs which didn't always make logical sense, the most egregious example is SR 8A existing in two major segments and being about four times longer than SR 8.  Another issue was the random renumbering of certain routes for no apparent reason--such as SR 70 near Round Mountain in central Nevada being renumbered to SR 92 around 1965, so SR 70 could be reassigned to what had been SR 9 north of Reno (with no reuse of SR 9).

Yet another issue seems to have been the legislative establishment of routes in the first place. There appears to be a number of routes on old state maps that didn't really prove to be logical additions to the state highway network--some were out in the middle of nowhere and others seem to have duplicated other more established routes. Even into the 1960s and 1970s, there were still a number of state highways that were not fully improved and/or paved, presumably because they received very little traffic that would justify the expense. (I've been told many of these were actually county roads with an SR designation, although this would seem to violate the highway law.)


As the U.S. numbered route system came into being, U.S. highways were extended into the state along preexisting Nevada state routes. I am not certain whether state routes were signed along with overlapping U.S. routes (official highway maps show both up until the late 1930s), but the state highway law did not account for the U.S. routes. This led to instances such as US 95 legislatively existing as (north to south): SR 8, part of SR 1, part of SR 2 (until being rerouted along SR 1A), part of SR 1A, part of SR 3, and all of SR 5.

Also, when the Federal Aid highway program was initiated, there appeared to be yet another numbering system in place for this. For some reason, the primary routes numbers were not consistent with other route numberings. So in Clark County, you had US 91 which was legislatively SR 6 and also classified as Federal Aid Primary route 5. Some routes had multiple federal aid designations, depending on urban/rural status and


Nevada's State Route System: 1976-present

This whole operation seems to have been one giant pain in the neck. The renumbering that took place in 1976 seems to have been an attempt to consolidate numbering schemes and otherwise clean house for the Department of Highways. The Nevada Legislature removed state route alignment definitions from the Nevada Revised Statutes around the same time as the state highway renumbering process started, which appears to have given NDOT the ability to number routes as they saw fit.

Nevada's appears to have taken the opportunity to reconfigure the numbering of its federal aid routes. New designations were based on the road type and where primary funding sources came from:
  • Federal Aid Primary (FAP)/Federal Aid Interstate (FAI): U.S. Highways and Interstates, numbered to match the U.S. Route or Interstate Route number
  • Federal Aid Secondary (FAS): roads of regional importance, numbered 100-499
  • Federal Aid Urban (FAU): roads of importance in designated urban or small-urban areas, numbered 500-699
  • State Aid Routes (SAR): secondary roads of regional importance, numbered 700-899

The numbering of federal aid routes was clustered by county or urban area, with number blocks progressing through the county or city names alphabetically and leaving room for expansion. Thus, Carson City (an independent county) had FAS's in the low 100s and SAR's in the low 700's, while White Pine County had FAS's in the high 400's and SAR's in the high 800s.  The situation was similar with cities, Boulder City starting at FAU 500, Henderson and Las Vegas having FAU's in the mid-high 500s & low 600s, and Reno-Sparks having FAU routes in the mid-high 600s.

This numbering system included most of the major roads within a county or urban area, even if not maintained by the state--if a road was state maintained, however, it was assigned a state route number matching its FAS/FAU/SAR designation (i.e. FAS 160 was also SR 160).


The problem with this system is that a road's classification could change, and NDOT highway logs from the 1980's indicate much of this.  For example, Rainbow Boulevard in Las Vegas was assigned to both FAS 153 (more rural sections) and FAU 595 (within city limits). As a state maintained roadway, the mileage of Rainbow was mostly designated FAS 153 but was gradually transferred to FAU 595 as the urban limits of Las Vegas area expanded in the 80's; the route is now SR 595.

Ultimately, the federal aid classification appears to have been abandoned in 1991, as NDOT's 1992 route log only lists state maintained roadways and makes no reference to any federal aid or state aid routes not owned by the department of transportation.  However, the state route numbering scheme was retained after this change in the route logs.
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Re: Which Nevada SH system was better? Pre 1976 or Post 1976?
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2010, 07:21:07 AM »

For those that like a 2-digit primary, 3-digit branch/spur layout...


The layout of Nevada doesn't really lend itself to this kind of route numbering system.

If your definition of "primary" highway is simply "to serve major population centers", a primary highway system would be useless. Nevada's Interstate highways and U.S. Routes connect all but about four of the state's cities and towns with a population over 1,000.

If the definition is expanded to "linking major population centers and promoting mobility and commerce within the state" you might end up with a few more primary routes.  Existing routes I'd classify as primary under this description would include SR 28, maybe 88, 160, 163, 208, 225, 227, 278 or 305, maybe 318, 375, maybe 376, and maybe 431--parts of certain other routes would have to be included, such as SR 445 in Sparks.

When you look at this grouping of possible primary routes, SR 208 would likely be the route with the most branches (at least 5, only one or two significant ones). No other route would have more than two branch routes (431 could be a child of 28), and 163 wouldn't have any.  Of those routes listed, only SR 160, 163 & 227 receive enough traffic to have been paved to four lanes (although 28 and 431 would likely be four lanes if they could be easily expanded).

Given the layout of the state, parent/branch route numbering just won't work. The way routes have been laid out around the mountainous topography makes a grid system impractical. Clustering state route numbers is really the only viable option, other than just assigning numbers randomly.


I've always found it funny that Nevada has no* routes with one or two-digit numbers.

*two that continue California route numbers, and one - state highway 34 - that may or may not be on the books, as the signage left in the field might be old enough to predate the system change

SR 28 and SR 88 retained their pre-1976 numbers, presumably to retain route number continuity with their California counterparts in the Lake Tahoe area.

SR 34 was removed from the system with the 1976 renumbering. If I had to guess, I'd say the signage up in the field is from after the renumbering and purposefully not posted with typical county pentagon shields for some unknown reason--I say this due to the presence of combined signs clearly showing the modern 447 number in a typical Nevada shield alongside a 34 in a circle.

For example, I can never keep track of which route is 375 and which is 376 out in the middle of nowhere - one is the Extraterrestrial Highway, the other one is not, but could just as likely be.

The Extraterrestrial Highway is SR 375.  SR 376 is referred to in NDOT's logs as "Tonopah-Austin Road".

Nevada does have one of the stranger state route systems with all of the 3 digit numbers. Generally, I prefer lower numbers for primary routes which make it easier to distinguish between primary and secondary routes. I'd have to see a map of the old system to know whether it's better than the current system though. And while it does have its merits, I don't really like clustering systems because to me it's harder to distinguish between monor routes that are numbered so close together. I find the collection of routes numbered close together in the 580s and 590s in the Las Vegas area to be particularly confusing. Of course since they all have street designations too, the numbers themselves probably aren't all that important and I'm guessing aren't used much by locals.

You can still make the distinction between primary and secondary Nevada routes, though. "Primary" routes are 100-499, "Urban" routes are 500-699, and "Secondary" routes are 700-899.

The routes in the Las Vegas area (which range from 562 to 612) were laid out under the FAU classification during the renumbering. The 560s are east/west streets in Henderson; 570s and 580s are east/west streets in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and unincorporated Clark County area; 590s thru 610s are north/south streets in the valley.  However, as only portions of these streets are NDOT maintained and they aren't well signed to begin with, nobody uses the state route number for navigation purposes--possible exceptions being SR 146, 147, 159, and 160.  It's similar in the Reno-Sparks area, as nobody cares about the 600 series routes that have other street names, but SR 431 & 445 are somewhat used for navigation purposes.
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Re: Which Nevada SH system was better? Pre 1976 or Post 1976?
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2010, 10:43:31 AM »


SR 34 was removed from the system with the 1976 renumbering. If I had to guess, I'd say the signage up in the field is from after the renumbering and purposefully not posted with typical county pentagon shields for some unknown reason--I say this due to the presence of combined signs clearly showing the modern 447 number in a typical Nevada shield alongside a 34 in a circle.

what's odd is that the 34 shields have numbers patched on.  Perhaps Nevada DOT issued 447/blank-circle signs and the county filled in the 34?

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Re: Which Nevada SH system was better? Pre 1976 or Post 1976?
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2010, 01:48:45 PM »

Thanks for the clarification and background on the Nevada system.  I didn't realize there was a difference between how primary, urban and secondary routes are numbered, but I see it now when you look at the map. Makes more sense when you know that. I guess I still wonder why they chose to not use any 1 or 2 digit numbers(except for the exceptions already pointed out), but I guess it was to make a complete break with the old system. It also makes me wonder why since Nevada is so well-served by Interstate and US routes, that there are still so many state routes on the system, most of which are of pretty minor importance and don't seem to go anywhere. A question that I wonder about Wyoming too, mentioned above which has similarities to Nevada's situation.
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Re: Which Nevada SH system was better? Pre 1976 or Post 1976?
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2010, 01:56:03 PM »

Quote
It also makes me wonder why since Nevada is so well-served by Interstate and US routes, that there are still so many state routes on the system, most of which are of pretty minor importance and don't seem to go anywhere. A question that I wonder about Wyoming too, mentioned above which has similarities to Nevada's situation.

I think that's just a legislative thing. If Wyoming/Nevada were Texas, most of those routes would be FMs or RMs. If they were Virginia, most would be SSRs. In a state like Wyoming or Nevada, since counties and municipalities don't have very much money, it's up to the state to provide towns with paved links. I'm not sure about Nevada, but in Wyoming outside of incorporated cities, it is very, very rare to find a paved road that isn't state maintained- this being a function of the counties simply not being able to afford to construct a bunch of paved roads. Some states have state highways so that they can serve regional traffic (Washington, Arizona), some have state highways that are designed to serve regional traffic and every town (Nebraska, Wyoming, Nevada), and some states do both but divide that into two separate classes (Texas, Virginia).

If, for instance, Wyoming/Nevada had the same definition of what qualified as a state highway as Arizona (a state with a very limited system) does, then Wyoming/Nevada would have far fewer state highways.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2010, 02:02:40 PM by corco »
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Re: Which Nevada SH system was better? Pre 1976 or Post 1976?
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2010, 03:32:58 PM »

It also makes me wonder why since Nevada is so well-served by Interstate and US routes, that there are still so many state routes on the system, most of which are of pretty minor importance and don't seem to go anywhere.

On should keep in mind that, especially in rural Nevada, state highways are necessary for connectivity to the Interstate/US routes.  This is especially the case in central Nevada along the US 50 corridor. A person living in Austin that needed to go north to Battle Mountain would be screwed if SR 305 wasn't there, having to drive around 150 miles east or west to get to the next US highway then backtrack that distance along I-80, whereas SR 305 connects them directly.

So in that example, I wouldn't say that *most* of Nevada's state routes are of minor importance. Routes in the primary tier connect practically every populated town (no matter how small) to the state's highway network.  I would agree that a few of the secondary tier routes do seem to provide no useful purpose at first glance...although I'm not completely familiar with the conditions and topography around all of the state highways, so I can't speak with certainty to this.


I think that's just a legislative thing. If Wyoming/Nevada were Texas, most of those routes would be FMs or RMs. If they were Virginia, most would be SSRs. In a state like Wyoming or Nevada, since counties and municipalities don't have very much money, it's up to the state to provide towns with paved links. I'm not sure about Nevada, but in Wyoming outside of incorporated cities, it is very, very rare to find a paved road that isn't state maintained- this being a function of the counties simply not being able to afford to construct a bunch of paved roads.
[...]
If, for instance, Wyoming/Nevada had the same definition of what qualified as a state highway as Arizona (a state with a very limited system) does, then Wyoming/Nevada would have far fewer state highways.

There's some areas of Nevada where this situation exists. Esmeralda County comes to mind, with Goldfield (largest town and county seat) having few if any paved roads. I doubt there'd be any paved roads in the county if the state highways weren't there.  However, this is far from the case in other counties, especially the more populated counties.

It should be noted that Nevada got rid of a bunch of extraneous routes in the renumbering process, many of which were unimproved and somewhat duplicated other existing routes that were better maintained.

It should also be noted that NDOT has been turning over ownership and maintenance of some state routes to the cities/counties over the last several years. In some cases, the city/county has lobbied for these changes in order to have more complete control over a street and remove a layer of bureaucracy. The most notable case of this would be SR 604, which previously encompassed the entirety of Las Vegas Blvd along the Strip--NDOT owned the road, but Clark County maintained the plants in the median (among other things), which meant the county had to get permits from NDOT whenever they needed to maintenance on their own landscaping.  Another instance of this is trading of maintenance for other nearby highway improvements. An example of this is NDOT turning over several routes (SR 511, 512, part of 513, and 516) to Carson City last year in exchange for building part of the Carson City Bypass--other route exchanges are being discussed pending future completion of the freeway.  In the future, once the Las Vegas Beltway is fully built out to Interstate standards and is turned over to NDOT as planned, I would expect that NDOT will likely want to unload many of its urban arterial state routes in the Las Vegas area.
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