By Beth Treffeisen
Bridging together two coastal communities, Boston, Massachusetts and Newport, Oregon, are two mileage signs that mark each end of Route 20, the longest continuous road in the country.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) sign will mark the eastern end of the historic Route 20 in Kenmore Square. Meanwhile, the City of Newport, Oregon is installing a similar mileage sing marking the western end of Route 20.
A related celebration happened on the other side of the country, as Boston officials revealed the sign here on the chilly morning of Thursday, December 8.
“It’s really cool how just the placement of these two signs serve as a linkage between the great states both in Oregon and here in Boston, Massachusetts,” said Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin.
Route 20 is the oldest road in the country linking the east coast to the west coast, despite many believing that is Route 66 that travels along the southern part of the country.
The sign in Kenmore Square sits three miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The route then travels through 12 states, 3,365 miles and ends in Newport, Oregon a mile from the Pacific Ocean.
Here in Massachusetts, it stretches over 153 miles, covering five counties and 25 municipalities, linking Kenmore Square to Sudbury, Framingham, Worchester all the way to the Connecticut River in Pittsfield State Forest.
“I was talking about how there are so many issues that divide this country, now Route 20 is a constant over almost 90 years connecting this country – that’s pretty exciting,” said Tinlin.
Speaking to representatives in Oregon, Tinlin said they are little concerned over the increase in traffic when people realize all of the great destinations they can go to off of Route 20.
“This is just another way to make a connection between cities,” Gina Fiandaca the Boston Commissioner of Transportation Department at the unveiling ceremony who hopes to see an up tick of people traveling to this end of the route. “We are looking forward to welcoming you into our home.”
Inspiration for the signs began when State Representative David Gomberg had visited West Sacramento, California where he saw a similar mileage sign referencing the sister city to Ocean City, Maryland.
According to Tinlin, when he returned from Newport, he said, wouldn’t it be cool to something similar here to Boston.
“I think we rely so much on Google Maps to GPS that we forget that back in the days people had a really good idea to connect this country with a roadway system,” said Tinlin. “This portion is almost 90 years old now, at first it terminated in Yellow Stone Park and then some other people said ‘no, no let’s not stop there’ and in the 1940’s extended it onto Oregon.”
Working with representatives across the country, Tinlin said they hope that this will spark people’s curiosity and realize that Route 20 goes way beyond what is outside their door.
“We talk about transportation being less about what it is, bridge, tunnels, and roads and more about what it does,” said Tinlin. “Linking it to economic opportunity, families and friends and in this case strangers that will hopefully allow this partnership to continue to thrive, build some curiosity and make people do a little research.”