SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — With hundreds of miles of major roadways and highways crisscrossing the Sacramento region it can be hard to imagine a time before them, but there was.
It was not until the 1960s and 1970s that many of the state capital’s major interstates and highways were completed and ready for drivers.
One of the earliest coast-to-coast highways that made its way through the Sacramento region was the Lincoln Highway, which opened on Oct. 31, 1913 to connect New York and San Francisco.
This nearly 3,400-mile stretch of road was the nation’s first federal memorial to President Abraham Lincoln. The iconic Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. did not open until May 30, 1922, according to Caltrans.
One of the major funders of the project and then-president of the Packard Motor Car Company Henry Joy said the Lincoln name “conveyed a patriotic appeal to the highway,” according to Caltrans historical records.
The road was projected to cost $10 million (or $298,050,515 in today’s money), Caltrans records show.
The highway was projected to cut down travel times for coast to coast travel from 60 days to 30 days with an average speed of 18 mph, according to the Official Lincoln Highway Guide.
In 1919, future United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower led a motor convoy across the Lincoln Highway towards Placerville and Sacramento averaging 53 miles per day.
The military supplied several of its trucks to test its fleet, and when trucks were seen passing over the Sierra Nevada on the Pioneer Branch of the Lincoln Highway it changed the way freight vehicles crossed the county.
Two branches of the highway were made: the southern Pioneer Branch that runs parallel to Highway 50 and the northern Donner Branch that runs parallel to Interstate 80.
The iconic road markers with the singular “L” and the red, white and blue color design were introduced during a campaign in 1928 by the Boy Scouts of America, who placed nearly 3,000 concrete markers along the roadway.
Some of these concrete markers can still be found in California, but many were destroyed during the construction of new highways, vandalized, or preserved in museums like the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento.
The groundbreaking roadway remained a popular means of transportation for motorists until the 1950s as it offered motorists the ability to traverse mountain passes, deserts, plains and urbanized cities.
However, its popularity would diminish in 1956 with the passage of the Federal Highways Act, which sparked the creation of the modern interstates and highways that we have today.
Sections of the old route can still be found, labeled as Historic U.S. Highway 40 and Lincoln Highway.
The Lincoln Highway Association guide map shows that both branches met at the intersection of F Street and 12th Street in Downtown Sacramento.