Silly Little Highway

On May 12, 2009 · 5 Comments

Mrs. Howder’s Mothers Day gift — at her request — was to have me and the kids leave the house for a few hours. I had to find the right enticement for short attention spans so I offered to take the kids on a tour of the "World’s Shortest Highway." as a part of our morning of outdoor activities.

I’d become aware of a list of highways in the United States shorter than a mile. I couldn’t imagine anyone having the time, energy or inclination to compile such a list but I’d hate for such a thing to go unappreciated so I tucked it away for future possibilities. One of the routes ran near my home. I’d ridden it dozens of times but I’d never realized its exalted status until I saw it on the list. I knew instinctively that I’d need to return someday to document it for posterity. It’s a compulsion.

In a city filled with some of the most amazing tourist sites and free museums in the world, with a history bristling with geopolitical significance and a vibrant center of activity on a grand scale, I planned to take my darling children to the airport. Yes, the airport. Never mind the Smithsonian or the White House or the National Mall, because when you’re a Howder child you get to experience the obscure and unusual attractions instead. Someday they’ll understand. [1]

Behold the magnificence of Virginia Route 233, the National Airport Access Road, captured in its entirety on video for the first time. I spared no effort or expense recording this extremely rare footage of an actual highway spanning a mere 0.36 miles in its natural element, consuming my entire production budget of nearly thirty seconds of daylight and few cents worth of gas. I’m sure I’m on some government watch list now for filming near an airport. I’ll let you know the next time I have to fly somewhere.

View Larger Map

Route 233 is an official state highway maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation. It is a convenient connection between Jefferson Davis Highway and the entrance to National Airport.[2] serving 18,000 vehicles daily.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to consider such a small length of elevated concrete a spur of the larger highway? Perhaps. Bear in mind that Jefferson Davis Highway is a segment of U.S. Route 1 (the same one I visited at its terminus a thousand miles away in April) which puts it within the jurisdiction of the Federal government. If VA Rt. 233 were to become a spur of U.S. Route 1 then the Federal government would have to assume greater responsibility for its maintenance and upkeep along with associated expenses. That’s not going to happen, so the result is an incredibly short connector masquerading as a limited access highway. There’s apparently no reason whatsoever.

It’s not the world’s shortest highway by the way. That’s a ruse I used to shoo the kids out of the house. Neither is it the shortest highway in the United States, nor even within the Commonwealth of Virginia for that matter. It’s possibly the second shortest highway in Virginia depending on how one defines a highway and the accuracy of the list I consulted.

I don’t know what highway would actually qualify as the world’s shortest. When I Googled the term I got a bunch of highways that were actually longer that VA Route 233. Go figure.

My kids were similarly unimpressed.

[1] Before you send Child Welfare after me, you’ll want to note that I’ve already taken them to see the better-known cultural and educational sites one would normally encounter in the Washington, DC area, multiple times. We’ve reached a been-there-done-that saturation and I wanted to try something new.

[2] Yes I realize the full name is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport but it’s just easier to call it National. It’s an abbreviation thing not a political thing. A little further north there’s a Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, but I still call it BWI. I’m an equal opportunity abbreviator reaching across all sides of the political spectrum.

On May 12, 2009 · 5 Comments

5 Responses to “Silly Little Highway”

  1. Randolph Clark says:

    I can’t believe you captured the whole route. Were you alone or with a slug?

    • Bravo and extra points for your local knowledge, Randolph! No slugs were necessary on a Sunday morning but the two kids riding along would have met HOV-3 on 395 if it had been a workday.

      If you’re wondering what we’re talking about, you can take a look at my earlier article on slugging, an odd and nearly unique practice that developed organically within the Washington area to get around traffic congestion. Several of the slug lines, as Randolph hints, do indeed terminate within a half-mile or so of Rt. 233 in Crystal City.

  2. Joel says:

    US Highways are maintained by the states, as are the Interstates and the state highways (which you’d expect anyway).

  3. Bob says:

    There are quite a few of these “Silly Little Highways” here in Connecticut. They’re known as “Secret Routes”. A website called explains this and it may be the reason for classifying the short stretch as 233.

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