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What is U.S. Route 1?

U.S. Route 1 is a major north-south highway that offers a scenic journey through the heart of America, stretching from Maine to Florida. It connects diverse landscapes and communities, revealing the country's rich history and evolving culture. Discover the unique stories and hidden gems along this iconic road. What will you uncover on your Route 1 adventure?
Jason C. Chavis
Jason C. Chavis

U.S. Route 1 is the main highway running along the East Coast in the United States. It covers 2,400 miles (about 3,800 km) north to south from Fort Kent, Maine, to Key West, Florida. As one of the largest coastal highways in the country, it passes through nearly every major city on the Atlantic, enabling drivers to conveniently connect to some of the major population centers in the U.S. The biggest cities located along U.S. Route 1 include Boston, Massachusetts; New York City, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; and Miami, Florida.

The precursor to U.S. Route 1 was the Quebec-Miami International Highway, a north-south highway built in 1911 shortly after cars became prominent fixtures on the roadways of America. It became officially known as the Atlantic Highway in 1915. During the 1920s, designations of many roads were being changed as permanent stretches were being established. New England renamed the section of the Atlantic Highway Route 1. This eventually was extended to New York City in 1924.

U.S. Route 1 runs as far south as Key West, Florida.
U.S. Route 1 runs as far south as Key West, Florida.

In 1925, the federal government established the Joint Board on Interstate Highways, a panel overseen by the U.S. Department of Transportation. This group organized the existing roadways around the country into a concretely numbered system. Each north-south highway would receive odd numbers, while west-east highways were to be even. This board designated the stretch along the Atlantic as U.S. Route 1.

Washington, D.C., lies along U.S. Route 1.
Washington, D.C., lies along U.S. Route 1.

Route 1 quickly became one of the busiest roadways in the country, particularly between Boston and Washington, D.C. By the 1950s, the Interstate Highway System was in the midst of being constructed. This was an attempt by the federal government to create an intricate system of roads and highways that would connect every state and major population center with logical transit methods. Since Route 1 was so busy, it was deemed that some sort of secondary highway needed to be built to relieve the stress.

US Route 1 passes by Philadelphia.
US Route 1 passes by Philadelphia.

Interstate 95 is the primary bypass for U.S. Route 1. It runs parallel with the coastal highway and is situated between Route 1 and Route 2 further west. Construction on the highway began in the 1950s and continues today. Most notably, a section of roadway between Pennsylvania and New Jersey is scheduled to be completed in 2014.

U.S. Route 1 varies between two-lane and four-lane configurations in different areas. Logically, the most populated areas generally have larger sections, while the less populated require less traffic space. Due to the age of the highway, many sections are under construction for repair at all times. While much of the funding for the maintenance is handled by payments from the federal government, the overall cost requires additional income from the states to keep Route 1 from disrepair. Most of the states in which the highway runs have added tolls at various points to help pay for this construction.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the significance of U.S. Route 1?

U.S. Route 1 is a major north-south highway that serves as a critical artery for the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. It runs from Key West, Florida, to the Canadian border in Fort Kent, Maine, covering over 2,369 miles. This highway connects many major cities, including Miami, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston, playing a vital role in commerce and daily transportation for millions of Americans.

How long is U.S. Route 1 and what regions does it traverse?

U.S. Route 1 spans approximately 2,369 miles, making it one of the longest north-south routes in the United States. It traverses diverse regions, starting from the tropical climate of Key West, Florida, and stretching all the way to the temperate forests of Fort Kent, Maine. Along its journey, it passes through 14 states, including major urban areas, coastal towns, and rural communities, showcasing a wide array of American landscapes and cultures.

Are there any notable landmarks along U.S. Route 1?

Yes, U.S. Route 1 is home to numerous landmarks and attractions. Travelers can visit the historic St. Augustine in Florida, the nation's oldest city, or explore the bustling streets of Times Square in New York City. The route also passes near the nation's capital, Washington D.C., where landmarks like the White House and the Smithsonian Museums can be found. Additionally, scenic spots like Maine's Acadia National Park are accessible from U.S. Route 1.

What is the history of U.S. Route 1?

U.S. Route 1 has a rich history dating back to 1926 when it was officially designated as a United States Numbered Highway. However, its roots can be traced to pre-existing trails and post roads used during the colonial era. Over the years, it has undergone numerous realignments and improvements. It was once the primary route for travelers along the East Coast before the construction of the Interstate Highway System, which provided faster alternatives for long-distance travel.

How does U.S. Route 1 compare to the Interstate Highway System?

U.S. Route 1 predates the Interstate Highway System and was once the main thoroughfare for east coast travel. While the Interstate System, developed starting in the 1950s, offers limited-access, high-speed roadways designed for long-distance and heavy traffic, U.S. Route 1 often passes directly through towns and cities, providing local access and a more scenic, albeit slower, route. Interstates like I-95 have largely supplanted U.S. Route 1 for speed and efficiency, but Route 1 remains a vital connector for many communities.

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Discussion Comments


Hey Jester I & A1A in Fla. Rte 1 can be tedious but it is a real taste of Americana. Strip malls, burger joints it's all on this road. (5 is great but so desolate). When we were kids, highway traveling had some interest. Now the car has to be loaded up with videos, games, etc.

I saw everything from chain gangs to a rodeo from the backseat of my parents' car! Plus the rest stops many times were located on roads with beautiful vistas such as skyline drive.


Some USA roads are historically important and worth driving...US 1 is definitely one of them!

I love the east coast from north to south and US 1 is a great way to taste the culture of each state.


If you take route 1 through the USA, it will be slow-going but beautiful through the state of Florida.

If you get on Route 1 beginning at the southern tip of Key West and travel north, you will see the most amazing and glorious water vistas as you travel north to Miami.

US 1 and Route 66 have incredible stories to tell if you have the time and the patience (and gas money!).

Get out your camera and get ready for some fun!

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    • U.S. Route 1 runs as far south as Key West, Florida.
      By: SeanPavonePhoto
      U.S. Route 1 runs as far south as Key West, Florida.
    • Washington, D.C., lies along U.S. Route 1.
      By: rabbit75_fot
      Washington, D.C., lies along U.S. Route 1.
    • US Route 1 passes by Philadelphia.
      By: SeanPavonePhoto
      US Route 1 passes by Philadelphia.