The 10 Longest Highways in the United States

February 23, 2024

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Stretch of US highway route 66

Route 66 is one of the most famous roads in the United States and the world. It’s inspired countless road trips and has been the setting for several films, books, and television shows. Aside from Route 66, most people will probably be able to name other famous highways, such as the Pacific Route Highway and the historic Lincoln Highway.

While not as famous as the likes of Route 66, there are various other highways across the US that draw attention due to their sheer scale. Some of these highways stretch over 3,000 miles from coast to coast.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the ten longest highways in the United States. We’ll look at which states they pass through, the history, as well as significant features of these magnificent roads.

1. U.S. Route 20

Length: 3,365 miles | 5,415 km
States: Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts

Running 3,365 miles through 12 states, U.S. Route 20 is the longest highway in the United States. The highway runs from Newport, Oregon, in the west to Boston, Massachusetts, in the east. It passes through several major cities, such as Cleveland, Ohio, and Chicago, Illinois.

The ‘0’ in Route 20 indicates that the highway is a major coast-to-coast route. Highways that feature an even number run east to west, as indicated by the ‘2’ in the name. Meanwhile, highways that feature an odd number run north and south.

According to Google Maps, it takes approximately 52 hours to drive the entire Route 20. However, drive times vary depending on traffic and average speed. You also need to factor in rest and sightseeing stops!

The highway was opened in 1926 under the orders of Henry Ford (founder of the Ford Motor Company). Ford was the owner and proprietor of the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, which is the oldest continually operated Inn in America. He was worried the heavy truck traffic on the nearby Boston Post Road was damaging the foundations of the Inn and so he commissioned the mile-and-a-half-long Route 20 bypass. After the road was completed, Ford sold it to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for $1, although he never cashed the check.

2. U.S. Route 6

Length: 3,199 miles | 5,148 km
States: California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts

Next up is Route 6, the 3,199-mile-long highway that runs through an impressive 14 states. The current route begins in Bishop, California, and runs east-northeastย to Provincetown, Massachusetts. However, the route has been modified several times. Between 1936 to 1964, the route was 3,652 miles, making Route 6 the longest highway in the US. This is the greatest length of any highway in the US, past and present.

The highway was first opened in 1926 but was restricted to New England and southeastern New York. It was soon given various extensions and expanded into other states. US Route 6 absorbed some pre-existing routes, such as U.S. 32 (which ran 505 miles from Chicago to Council Bluffs) and U.S. 38 (which ran 598 miles from Omaha to Greeley).

U.S. Route 6 is called The Grand Army of the Republic Highway in honor of the Union forces during the Civil War. As multiple states owned the highway, each state had to give their approval for the name. In 1937, Massachusetts was the first to approve the name, but Pennsylvania didn’t adopt the name until 1948.

3. U.S. Route 30

Length: 3,073 miles | 4,887 km
States: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts

U.S. Route 30 runs 3,073 miles eastโ€“west from Astoria, Oregon, to Atlantic City, New Jersey. The highway was opened in 1926 and served as the first paved transcontinental highway in the U.S. It’s the only U.S. highway that has been coast-to-coast since the beginning of the U.S. Route system.

Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway in the US, was incorporated into Route 30. The historic highway originally ran from New York City to San Francisco after opening in 1913. Some parts of U.S. Route 30 are still referred to as ‘Lincoln Highway’.

Some of the notable places along Route 30 include the Amish country towns of Bird in Hand, Vintage, and Paradis. The Rock Ford Plantation is also near the highway in Lancaster. The plantation is the site of Revolutionary War reenactment encampments.

4. Interstate 90

Length: 3,021 miles | 4,862 km
States: Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts

Interstate 90 is the longest interstate highway in the US. It runs 3,021 miles from Seattle, Washington, to Boston, Massachusetts. The highway passes through 13 states and 15 auxiliary routes (used for speed changes, turning, and other purposes to aid traffic movement). The auxiliary routes mainly pass through major cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, and Buffalo.

The highway was opened in 1956 to replace a pre-existing series of highways. The route also features various toll roads that existed before the Interstate Highway System (formed in 1956). This includes the likes of the Indiana Toll Road, Ohio Turnpike, and New York State Thruway. The final section of Interstate 90 was completed in 1993, while an eastern extension was added in 2003.

5. U.S. Route 50

Length: 3,019 miles | 4,859 km
States: California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland

U.S. Route 50 stretches 3,019 miles east to west from West Sacramento, California, to Ocean City, Maryland. The route largely pans through rural desert and mountainous areas. The section through Nevada is often called the ‘loneliest road in America’ as it has little to no sign of civilization.

The Route 50 highway was constructed over land that was originally used by Pony Express and Central Overland Route during the late 19th century and the Lincoln Highway from the early 20th century. Route 50 was opened in 1926 as part of the U.S. Highway System. However, the original 1925 plan for their highway to run from Wadsworth, Nevada, east to Annapolis, Maryland.

The highway passes through mostly rural farmland. Some of the few major cities it runs through include Kansas City, Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri, and Cincinnati, Ohio.

6. Interstate 80

Length: 2,901 miles | 4,669 km
States: California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey

This east-west transcontinental freeway runs 2,901 miles from downtown San Francisco, California, to Teaneck, New Jersey. Of all the highways in the U.S. Interstate Highways, Interstate 80 most closely approximates the original Lincoln Highway route. The highway also follows a similar route to other historic roads, such as the Oregon Trail across Wyoming and Nebraska and the California Trail across most of Nevada and California.

Interstate 80 is the second-longest Interstate Highway (after Interstate 90). Some of the major cities it runs through include Oakland, California; Reno, Nevada, and Salt Lake City, Utah. It also passes within 10 miles of Chicago, Cleveland, and New York City.

This interstate had the most split routes of any interstate highway in the US. It originally had five suffixed routes split from the highway, although none of these remain.

7. U.S. Route 60

Length: 2,655 miles | 4273 km
States: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia

U.S. Route 60 runs for 2,655 miles from east to west across nine states. It begins near Brenda in southwestern Arizona and ends on the Atlantic Ocean coast in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Before the Interstate Highway System was opened, U.S. Route 60 was a major route from the Virginia coast to downtown L.A. Interstate highways have replaced most of the highway, but some of its original roads still exist.

Route 60 was decommissioned in California in 1972 after Interstate 10 was opened in the state. However, it is still a major route in Kentucky, where it is the longest route and passes through 22 of the state’s counties.

Some major cities U.S. Route 60 passes through include Phoenix, Arizona; Charleston, and West Virginia.

8. U.S. Route 2

Length: 2,571 miles | 4,138 km
States: Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine

Running 2,571 miles east to west across 11 northern states, U.S. Route 2 is the eighth-longest highway in the country. It begins in Houlton, Maine, and stretches west to Everett, Washington. The route is separated into two segments, connected by various roads in southern Canada. The route ends in Rouses Point, New York, at the Canadian border and reemerges at Sault Sainte Marie in Ontario, Canada.

As can be seen from the highway designated number, U.S. Route 2 is the northernmost eastโ€“west highway in the US. The Joint Board on Interstate Highways wanted to avoid labeling the highway as U.S. 0 and labeled it ‘2’. Even numbered highways stretch from east to west in the country, and the single ‘2’ is the lowest primary-numbered eastโ€“west U.S. Highway.

Some of the major cities Route 2 runs through include Burlington, Vermont; Montpelier, Vermont; and Bangor, Maine.

9. Interstate 40

Length: 2,556 miles | 4,113 km
States: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina

Interstate 40 spans 2,556 miles eastโ€“west through eight southeastern and southwestern states. It is the third-longest interstate in the US after Interstate 90 and Interstate 80.

Interstate 40 begins in Barstow, California, and runs east to Wilmington, North Carolina, following roughly the same route as Route 66 through the Mojave Desert into the high desert.

Between 1963 and 1966, the US government considered plans to use atomic bombs to clear a path for I-40 through California. The plans were ultimately scrapped due to the cost and inability to find a ‘clean bomb’.

10. U.S. Route 12

Length: 2,484 miles | 3,998 km
States: Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan

The tenth-longest highway in the US is U.S. Route 12. The route spans 2,484 miles through ten states. It begins in Aberdeen, Washington, and finishes in Detroit, Michigan. While much of the route has been replaced by  Interstate 90 (I-90) and Interstate 94, the highway is still an important link for local and regional destinations.

Although the east end of Route 12 has always been in Michigan, it originally ended in Miles City, Montana, to the west. This was extended to the edge of Yellowstone Park (Silverstone Park) on the  Montana/Wyoming border in 1939. The highway was further extended over the following decades, and the starting point also varied.

U.S. Route 12 goes through several major cities, including Fargo, North Dakota; Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Chicago, Illinois.

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