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JPR Feature
Oregon Highways   
Friday April 22, 2005
By Marjorie O'Hara

Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson

As you drive along Interstate 5, from Ashland north to Roseburg, it seems as though there is some sort of construction happening every few miles. Frustrated motorists abound.

But in 1900, there were no paved highways in Oregon yet the need was growing.  Automobiles had been bouncing around Portland since 1899. By 1910 there were 350 of them in Medford, Oregon, alone.

Recognizing the need for better connection through improved transportation, the Pacific Highway Association began to promote construction of a highway between Mexico and Canada. In 1913, the Oregon State Legislature declared it was time to "Get Oregon Out of the Mud." The Oregon State Department of Transportation was put in charge. The first 13 miles of the Pacific Highway in Oregon were paved-in Jackson County-in 1914.

Construction continued throughout the state, and by 1924 pavement smoothed the entire 345-mile route from the California border to the Columbia River. The Pacific Highway - officially renamed Highway 99 - now stretched from Mexico to Canada and, at that time, was the longest paved highway in the world.

So next time your cursing at the traffic, or the construction slowing things down to a crawl, think what it would have been like driving from here to there on a dirt road.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Marjorie O'Harra, the program engineer is Raymond Scully.  I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society.  To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org

"The Oregon Book - Information AtoZ" by Connie Battaile; "Made In America," by Bill Bryson; "Land in Common: Medford" by Terry Claflin

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