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Highway History

U.S. 52 Charleston, South Carolina, to Portal, North Dakota

by
Richard F. Weingroff
Federal Highway Administration

When the Joint Board on Interstate Highways issued its report, the proposed U.S. highway network included U.S. 52:

From Newport News, Virginia, to Richmond, Burkeville, Lynchburg, Lexington, Covington, Lewisburg, West Virginia, Charleston, Huntington, Ironton, Ohio, Portsmouth, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Indiana, LaFayette, Fowler. [Bold added. All spellings as in original.]

The Secretary of Agriculture forwarded the report to the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO), which represented the State highway agencies that owned and operated the roads proposed for the new system. Over the next months, State highway agencies contacted AASHO and the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads regarding desired changes.

Based on these changes, U.S. 52 had been altered by the time AASHO adopted the U.S. highway system by State ballot on November 11, 1926. The first official log of the approved system described U.S. 52 as:

United States Highway No. 53
Total Mileage, 343

West Virginia Beginning at Huntington on the West Virginia-Ohio State line.
Ohio Beginning at Chesapeake, opposite Huntington, West Virginia, via Ironton, Portsmouth, Manchester, Ripley, New Richmond, Cincinnati to the Ohio-Indiana State line at Harrison.
Indiana Beginning at the Ohio-Indiana State line at Harrison via Brookville, Rushville, Indianapolis, Lebanon, LaFayette to an intersection with United States Highway 41 northwest of Fowler.

The eastern portion of the original route had been shifted to U.S. 60 following one of the most contentious battles of the numbering phase. Kentucky had objected to the fact that the Joint Board had assigned U.S. 60, which should have begun on the East Coast and traveled through the State, to a route from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California. After numerous proposals were considered for resolving the dispute among the States, a compromise was worked out. The original U.S. 60 became U.S. 66, while the number 60 was shifted onto a highway from Newport News to an intersection with U.S. 66 at Springfield, Missouri, incorporating some of the original mileage of U.S. 52.

On June 8, 1931, AASHO approved a shift in the eastern terminus of U.S. 52 to Bluefield via Lavalette and Williamson. This change was reflected in the next log of the U.S highway system, which indicated that U.S. 52 was now 547 miles long.

By the 1935 log, AASHO had approved an extension of U.S. 52 on both ends of the route. The log now read:

United States Highway No. 52
Total Mileage, 2,123

North Dakota Beginning at the International Boundary at Portal 100, Minot 84, Harvey 63, Carrington 44, Jamestown 95, Fargo 3.
Minnesota Moorhead 52, Fergus Falls 53, Alexandria 25, Sauk Center 44, St. Cloud 37, Elk River 11, Anoka 15, Minneapolis 10, St. Paul 22, Farmington 17, Cannon Falls 44, Rochester 87, Preston 25.
Iowa Burr Oak 12, Decorah 11, Calmar 18, Postville 28, Garnavillo 24, Luxemburg 25, Dubuque 25, Bellevue 22, Sabula 1.
Illinois Savanna 11, Mt. Carroll 39, Dixon 30, Mendota 8, Troy Grove 42, Morris 20, Wilmington 22, Kankakee 38, Sheldon 7.
Indiana Kentland 13, Fowler 29, La Fayette 35, Lebannon 27, Indianapolis 40, Rushville 30, Brookville 18.
Ohio Harrison 23, Cincinnati 21, New Richmond 34, Ripley 20, Manchester 41, Portsmouth 30, Ironton 19, Chesapeake 1.
West Virginia Huntington 8, Levalette 64, Williamson 69, Welch 39, Bluefield 22.
Virginia Bland 23, Wytheville 9, Fort Chiswell 20, Hillsville 23.
North Carolina Mt. Airy 12, Pilot Mountain 27, Winston-Salem 21, Lexington 40, New London 7, Albemarle 30, Wadesboro 13.
South Carolina Cheraw 15, Society Hill 16, Darlington 10, Florence 9, Effingham 29, Kingstree 41, Moncks Corner 31, Charleston.

The figures following the name of a city indicate the mileage between that city and the next one given.

Although U.S. 52 has continued to shift within its termini as better roads or bypasses were built, the termini remain the same as approved in the mid-1930's.

Updated: 10/17/2013
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000