Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bridge to the Past

I have uploaded many of my bridge photos to a Flickr photo album. Some of these photos date back as far as 2004 while one of the bridges dates back to 1913 (well, OK, it's actually more of a culvert). I will be adding more photos to the album as time permits (I have a CD full of photos from 2005-2006 that I've misplaced, plus lots of bridges I still want to photograph). So feel free to stop by every once in a while and see what's new.

You can follow this link or click the link on the sidebar that says US 71's Bridge Photos.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Rare Find

I spent last weekend in Memphis at a Sci-Fi /Fantasy Convention. On my way home, I opted to drive US 70 between Hazen and North Little Rock. I had driven the Interstate on my way to Memphis and decided I wanted a change of scenery on the way home.
Just east of Kerr, I spotted an old concrete culvert next to the highway. My curiosity getting the better of me, I stopped to investigate. It obviously had seen better days judging by the piece broken off the east end. I figured the culvert went back 60 years or so to the time before US 70 was completely paved. Imagine my surprise when I found a date on it: 1913. This plain looking concrete culvert actually pre-dates US 70 by 11 years.
Well, I pulled out my old maps and found this road was once called the Airline Route and followed what's now US 70 from Little Rock to near Widener (paralleling the Chicago-Rock Island Railroad) then modern-day Arkansas 50 to near Simsboro.
In an era when old bridges are destroyed without a second thought to make way for new ones, it's refreshing to see this old piece of highway history still standing after nearly 95 years.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Conway to Eudora on US 65

I recently had the opportunity to travel down US 65 south of Conway, Arkansas on my way to an SCA event. My trip started the usual way: following the Interstates. As I approached Conway, I opted to follow old US 65.

Through Conway, old 65 is posted as Bus US 65 (the "mainline" following I-40). At the south end of town, Bus 65 turns into AR 365 passing through Maumelle and Morgan on its way towards Little Rock.

If you look closely, there is an even older alignment of US 65 that parallels 365 south of Conway. This road only lasts a few miles (to near Mayflower), but is just to the west, across the railroad tracks.

Beyond Maumelle, 365 crosses I-40 the first time and continues southeast. Entering North Little Rock, 365 travels over the Amboy overpass which passes over the Union Pacific RR and Parkway Dr (an even older alignment of US 65). Just past here, 365 crosses Arkansas Highway 176 to Camp Robinson then crosses Interstate 40 again as it continues along its leisurely path.

Approaching US 70 Business, 365 appears to end, but actually continues along south Business 70 across the Arkansas River into Little Rock, then along Broadway St through the old downtown area. Eventually, 365 turns east along Roosevelt Road then south along Springer Blvd (formerly Comfederate Blvd) passing through Sweet Home, Woodson and White Hall on its way towards Pine Bluff ending at the Martha Mitchell Expressway (Business US 65). Here, there are 2 different alignments of old 65: I opted for Bus 65 (built as US 65 in the mid 1960's) which is a 4 lane divided roadway with numerous traffic signals and side roads. The other route is along Blake Street to 6th, then east along Arkansas Highway 190 (the original alignment of US 65). The 2 roads meet each other in southeast Pine Bluff at the southern end of Interstate 530 which is also posted as US 425 for approximately 3 miles.

After 425 turns off on its own , US 65 starts its on again/off again divided segments. With a few exceptions, US 65 is 4 lanes all the way to Lake Village. At Grady, 65 goes back to being 2 lanes, a bypass is under construction just to the north of town that will make US 65 a 4 lane road in this area all the way to Varner.

Just north of Mitchellville an older alignment of US 65 parallelis the current roadway about half a mile to the west. This road passes through old downtown Dumas before eventually becoming dirt road. Even though I opted to to head back to the main road, the dirt road parallels US 65 to at least Tillar, possibly McGehee (my best guess without driving the whole road is this is the original alignment of US 65). At Dumas, US 65 again becomes a divided highway, though there are a few short undivided sections around Tillar, Winchester and McGehee. US 165 joins 65 at Dumas and the two run together to around 5 miles south of McGehee. A couple miles south of McGehee are green signs proclaiming "Future Corridor Interstate 69", though no work has yet to begin in this area.

At the junction of US 82 in Lake Village, the 4-lane abrubtly stops. Though I skipped them this trip (having travelled them once before) part of the old highway into town is posted as Arkansas 159. It crosses 65/82 at the south end of town, then continues to
Eudora 15 miles south. Arkansas 159 is a paved road for approximately 2 miles south of Lake Village, then becomes an unpaved county road becoming paved again just before the Eudora city limits.

How did I find all the old alignments of US 65? Lots of research. My main ways are : #1 comparing old maps to current ones, #2 observing the railroads (many early US highways closely paralleled the railroads). It's not as easy as it looks, though. A lot of my discoveries have been through trial and error: following leads that sometimes turn out to be dead-ends.

There is one additional old section of US 65: this just south of Eudora along Arkansas 8. Passing next to cotton fields on its way towards Grand Lake, this section or old 65 is not very well maintained: it's narrow, full of potholes and poorly patched in places. There are also sections of roadway that look washed away. It was, needless to say, NOT a smooth ride (I daresay I've travelled smoother dirt roads). Eventually, AR 8 returns to 65 about a mile north of the Louisiana state line.

As far as my adventures in Louisiana, well, I'll leave those for another blog.