U.S. 138

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U.S. 138 follows the South Platte River between U.S. 6 and SH 14 in Sterling and U.S. 30 in Big Springs, Nebraska. The route in Colorado serves the farming towns of Iliff, Proctor, Crook, Sedgwick, Ovid and Julesburg along the way. 59.82 miles of U.S. 138 travels through the Centennial State, the remaining 11.4 miles are located in Nebraska.

Since it was orphaned in 1931 (when U.S. 6 was extended over most of the original route of Former U.S. 38), U.S. 138 has the distinction of being one of the few three-digit U.S. routes whose parent was decommissioned but the child route remains. Other such routes include U.S. 199 (California/ Oregon), U.S. 166 (Kansas/ Missouri), and U.S. 266 (Oklahoma). Neither U.S. 99 nor U.S. 66 remain in service today.

Underway from April 2019 to November 2020, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Sterling S Curve Alignment on US 6, CO 14 & CO 138. reconfigured the west end of U.S. 138 in the city of Sterling. The one way couplet along 3rd and 4th Streets was eliminated. Both directions of U.S. 138 follow 3rd Street south to Chestnut Street, where U.S. 6 takes over southwest to Division Avenue. This work coincided with the realignment of SH 14 over a former railroad right of way to feed directly into U.S. 6 and 138 at 3rd and Chestnut Streets. Sterling was home to 13,735 people as of the 2020 Census and is the seat of Logan County. Nearby North Sterling Reservoir State Park and the Pawnee National Grassland offer recreational opportunities. Otherwise, Sterling is a regional city that offers amenities to the residents of several towns and rural areas within a multi-county radius. The elevation is 3,939 feet, with an average annual precipitation of about 13.42 inches.

U.S. 138 East
The initial five blocks of U.S. 138 in Sterling follow N 3rd Street. The first confirming marker for the route eastbound stands between U.S. 6 (Chestnut Street) and Oak Street. 04/22/17
U.S. 138 East U.S. 385 South
U.S. 138/385 east follow 1st Street by Downtown Julesburg. These trailblazers stand beyond Cedar Street (old SH 51), where until 1988, U.S. 385 turned south to Holyoke. 04/22/17
A gas station, restaurant, and antique store were located on the north side of U.S. 138/385 (1st Street) ahead of Oak Street. 09/05/05
Leaving Julesburg, U.S. 385 turns southward from U.S. 138 at a diamond interchange to connect the town with Interstate 76. 09/05/05, 04/22/17
U.S. 138 continues northeast into Nebraska, passing by Interstate 80, through Big Springs, and ending at U.S. 30. Parallel I-76 offers the freeway bypass around Julesburg, Ovid and Sedgwick as well as the fastest route to Denver to the west and I-80 to the east. 04/22/17
U.S. 385 spans the adjacent Union Pacific Railroad line, curves southwest to the South Platte River, and meets Interstate 76 in 1.8 miles. 09/05/05, 04/22/17
U.S. 138 West
U.S. 138 leaves the Cornhusker State of Nebraska and enters the Centennial State of Colorado. The town of Julesburg, which is the seat of Sedgwick County, comes into view on the horizon. 09/05/05
One mile into Colorado, U.S. 138 enters a diamond interchange with U.S. 385, a primary north to south route through Eastern Colorado. 09/05/05
U.S. 385 is one of the few major routes in Colorado that does not have any significant mountainous section. Established in 1959 from Big Bend National Park in Texas to Lead, South Dakota, U.S. 385 overtook a series of former state highways in eastern Colorado. 09/05/05
Prior to 1988, U.S. 385 followed Cedar Street northwest to cross the adjacent Union Pacific Railroad lines at-grade, intersecting U.S. 138 at Downtown Julesburg.1 09/05/05
U.S. 138 West U.S. 385 North
A farming community, the skyline at Julesburg is dominated by the large co-op grain elevator. The town was established during the frontier days as a trading post. Julesburg was named for the French trader Jules Beni who founded the town in 1859. 09/05/05
Julesburg is one of the lower communities in the state, with an elevation of 3,477 feet above sea level. Its location near the junction of I-76 and I-80 helped it to gain prominence as a service center for commercial traffic en route to Denver and the West Coast to and from the Midwest. 04/22/17
Downtown Julesburg occupies a four block area centered around 1st and Cedar Streets. Julesburg population numbers in the U.S. Census fluctuated from 1,295 in 1990, to 1,467 in 2000, 1,225 in 2010 and 1,126 in 2020. 04/22/17
Trailblazers for U.S. 138 west / U.S. 385 north appear after Cedar Street (old SH 51), where they formerly combined. The distance sign references Chappell, a town in Nebraska located along U.S. 30 and U.S. 385 near Interstate 80. 04/22/17
U.S. 138 West
U.S. 138 parallels the BNSF Railroad line into the city of Sterling. The route curves west along Broadway Street onto 3rd Street. Prior to construction in 2019/20, U.S. 138 split into a one way couplet with westbound taking 4th Street to U.S. 6 (Chestnut Street). 04/22/17
Chestnut Street used to carry both Business Loop I-76 and U.S. 6. The business route was decommissioned within the Sterling city limits by 2007. 08/29/04
U.S. 138 previously ended where U.S. 6 turned onto 4th Street south from Chestnut Street. The S-Curve Project realigned SH 14 east from Main Street onto Chestnut Street at 3rd Street, ahead of the U.S. 6 viaduct across the BNSF Railroad toward Interstate 76. 04/22/17
The CO 14 Sterling S-Curve project in 2019/20 constructed the new alignment for SH 14 southwest to Main Street at Division Avenue. The project also converted 4th Street to two-way traffic for U.S. 6 as it leads south to Division Avenue. 04/22/17
Business Loop I-76 overlapped with U.S. 6 southwest to Brush and east to Interstate 76 at Exit 125. 08/29/04
U.S. 138 scenes
Cedar Street south at the junction with U.S. 138 and U.S. 385 in Downtown Julesburg. A California style cutout for U.S. 138 likely dates from the original establishment of the route in Colorado. The U.S. 385 marker is someone younger, but still quite vintage. 09/05/05, 04/22/17

  1. Colorado Highways: Routes 367 to 399 (Matt Salek). http://www.mesalek.com/ colo/r367-399.html#us385

Photo Credits:

08/29/04, 09/05/05, 04/22/17 by AARoads

Connect with:
U.S. 6
U.S. 385
Highway 14

Page Updated 01-29-2022.

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