“Funny what the road scene looks like when people make mistakes…”

US 639 shieldLet me set the record straight. There is NO highway officially marked as US 639. For that matter, the hypothetical US 639’s logical parent highway, US 39, also does not exist. So what’s this sign about? I took this photo on my way to work with my cell phone one day (I have a camera phone), and it is indeed an authentic photo. That is a US highway shield. What happened is that the local highway department was doing work on Wayne Avenue in Stuarts Draft, which is signed as Virginia secondary route 639. That means it has a plain circle shield. Since the work required blocking off the road, they had to detour people around it. They did this by taking the route around the corner, onto US 340, and back down onto the other end of the road. And the detour was incorrectly signed! I consider myself at least a little bit of a “roadgeek”, and I find this rather interesting. Since if US 639 existed, it would be related to a US 39, which would certainly not be in western Virginia. It would definitely be a north-south road, since it’s an odd-numbered highway. But it wouldn’t be here. It would be further west, probably running through Illinois, Tennessee, and Mississippi, I’d guess off the top of my head. Around here, the primary north-south US highways are 29 and 11. And then near Washington DC there’s US 1. So we’re definitely on the low end of the numbers as US Highways go, with north-south roads being odd-numbered, and going from 1 to 101 as you go from east to west. Then east-west roads are even-numbered, and numbers get larger as you go south. Then there’s mistakes like this one that make things interesting. So for about two weeks in February 2004, we had a US 639. Something probably never to be seen again for a long timeā€¦

Date posted: February 29, 2004