US 50 History
Whoever referred to US 50 a "lonely" place has never traveled through its Sunrise Boulevard intersection during the afternoon commute. Regardless, Highway 50 has indeed been called "The Loneliest Road in America." But, this transcontinental highway which begins in Ocean City, Maryland, has many names and distinctions.
The US 50 route, which then traveled from New York to San Francisco, was once named the Lincoln Highway.. In 1895, the California legislature created the State Bureau of Highways renamed the western part of the Lincoln Highway to Lake Tahoe State Wagon Road (February 28, 1895), making it the first official state road.
Also called "The Backbone of America," US 50 has the distinction of being the only remaining United States highway that has not been designated as an interstate. Its 3,073 miles passes through Washington D.C., Cincinnati, St Louis, Kansas City, Central Colorado, Carson City and South Lake Tahoe before reaching its terminus in West Sacramento.
In 1997, TIME Magazine loaded its best writers on a bus to travel coast to coast on US 50 to "listen to what is really on people's minds."
"If we can write about the backbone of America, both what unites us and what has the potential to divide us, then we will be able to explain what kind of country we're becoming," wrote TIME Managing Editor Walter Isaacson. What they found along US 50 were the major themes of change facing the nation as a whole. (Click here to read excerpts of the TIME feature.)
From the west, US 50 originally started in San Francisco at the intersection of Harrison and 10 th Street and went over the Bay Bridge to Oakland. Legislation in 1972 shortened US 50, making its most western point West Sacramento. This western section in Sacramento County has been built as a freeway/expressway, though east of Placerville in El Dorado County, it follows the same general routing as the original route through the Sierras, with the high point still being Echo Summit.
The freeway portion of US 50 was built in three segments: the first in 1962 from the Sacramento County line to Sunrise Blvd.; the second in 1972 from 34 th Street to near Watt Avenue and the third and final stage in 1975. Prior to the 1970s, beginning with the 1940s, Highway 50 ran primarily along Folsom Boulevard. In 1949, a new alignment was added which bypassed downtown Folsom and shorted the highway 3 miles.