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Evolution of Florida's State Road System

Florida Primary State Road System

Florida's State Highway system was laid out in 1917 under the supervision of George Barnes. The numbering system then was haphazard and roads were numbered according to the order they were built, which meant that the northernmost roads were numbered first. These route numbers were legislatively defined starting in 1923.1 To see a map of the original 15 state roads, this 1917 Florida Map shows the approximate location of each route.2

At that time, the state roads were signed with a blue pyramid sign with the word "FLA" above and the road number below the state abbreviation. These shields were posted by the early to mid-1920s, and they remained unchanged for the remainder of that decade. However, in the 1930s, the state route marker was modified significantly to include the state outline on a square shield. The state route shield has since undergone several changes through the years, as evidenced by the examples in the following table.

1917(?)-1930s

1930s-1940s

1940s-1950s

1960s-1980s

1970s-Present

In 1941, the state decided to create a new state numbering system, since several officials found original system to be "utterly confusing." The new state numbering system was easier, and laid out according to an easy to use grid pattern. The grid pattern would make travelling easier and group similar-numbered roads around the same city. Because of World War II, however, most of the roads did not get around to being renumbered until 1946.

The 1946 numbering system combines the grid pattern with a clustering system. All major north-south routes would have an odd numerical designation, and all major east-west routes would have an even east-west designation. The east-west highways would separate the state into zones, so that like-numbered three-digit routes would serve as connectors and secondary routes. For instance, three-digit routes located between Routes 2 and 10 would be Route 1xx; between Routes 12 and 20, three-digit routes would be Route 2xx; between Routes 22 and 40, three-digit routes would be Route 3xx; between Routes 42 and 50, three-digit routes would be Route 4xx; and so on. Additionally, there would be seven diagonal routes that would receive the route numbers 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, and 700.

To see a map of the revised state route system, check out this 1946 public service announcement and map of the new state highway grid.

Another major change to the state road system occurred between 1977 and 1982, when the state of Florida transferred jurisdiction of many secondary state roads to the counties. For this reason, the route numbering of many (but not all) of the county routes mirrors the original state highway grid system that was established in 1941.

Florida Secondary State Road System

At one time, Florida had two state road systems. The state secondary system existed between 1955 and 1977. The primary state routes were identified by the state as higher traffic, higher maintenance roads - the secondary state routes were identified by the county and required less maintenance, and had lower traffic counts. Each system had a mileage cap of 11,000 miles - giving the total state road system a total of 22,000 miles.

The secondary route system was signed with an additional S- before the route name. The state outline on secondary signs was rounder, with no Cape Canaveral and a rounded western panhandle. The road numbers on secondary signs were almost half as short as the regular state road numbers. At the begin and end of many secondary state roads was an accompanying sign indicating that the road was maintained as a secondary road.

When the secondary system was done away with in 1977 - the signs were changed as well. The "S-" was replaced with a "C-" for county, and sometimes a county sticker was placed on the bottom left to identify these former state roads, as county roads. For a few years, until about 1982, some secondary roads were maintained by the state for federal funding purposes. Few of these 20 year old signs remains, mostly in rural areas. During the two decades thereafter, standard blue and gold pentagon shields generally replaced most of the "C-" signs.

Footnotes

  1. Blue Diamonds: The Old Florida State Road System (1917-1946) by Robert V. Droz
  2. Map prepared by Justin Cozart based on content from the 1917 official state map of Florida

Page Updated February 16, 2005.