In 1911, cars were only just becoming popular, and the government was not yet motivated to build interstate highways for the limited number of people who would use them. So Automobile Associations across the country made their own highways. This article describes the efforts of two private groups to build a highway connecting New York and Washington, better than the current route which was circuitous and in disrepair.
The New York-Washington project is for a highway consisting of six roadways, two of which are to be for trolley cars, two for automobiles, and two for other vehicles and pedestrians. Each of these roadways wil be for one-way traffic only. The total width of the highway will be 144 feet.
The two roadways set aside for general traffic will be on the outside, and will cross railroads at grade, but the four inner sections — the two for trolleys and the two for automobile traffic — will be so constructed that they will pass over or under the railroads encountered along their course, thus entirely doing away with grade crossings.
It is the plan of the company which proposes to build this highway to charge toll on the four inner sections of road and throw the two outer sections open to traffic free of charge. When sufficient earnings have been received to pay costs of building, equipping, and operating the highway, together with other expenses, the company intends to cease charging toll for the use o the above-mentioned sections of road to automobiles owned and operated by individuals. Automobiles used for public or commercial transportation purposes will still be charged the toll.
When the highway is complete, the plan is to increase the speed limit from a sluggish 20 miles per hour to a more reasonable 24 miles per hour.
Eventually, privately built highways popped up all over the country, each with their own style of signage and naming conventions. So Congress passed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1925, which created US Highways operated by the states instead of automobile associations, and formalized their names and indicias.
BIG HIGHWAY PLANNED FROM NEW YORK TO WASHINGTON: The Only Routes Now Necessitate a Wide Detour — Gen. du Pont’s Gift of a Hundred-Mile Road to the State of Delaware (PDF)
From March 12, 1911