*Partially Field Checked*
The highway between Ada and Coalgate is one of those wonderful examples where the vast majority of the bypassed old route remains driveable; the original paved alignment only began to be bypassed in the 1970s, and the new road was far enough away so as not to disturb the classic route. Though the late date of the bypassing likely saved the road, it also had the unfortunate effect of ensuring that no bare original pavement remains along this stretch of highway. Fear not, though, as the original pavement is still there, just overlaid by asphalt as in so many other places. There is also quite a bit of other classic infrastructure along this portion of highway as it makes its path through the gentle hills.
Our journey begins in the heart of Ada on Main St and heads east, then south. We are unsure when the highway was moved onto this alignment in town; we suspect the road may have originally gone south on Broadway before turning east somewhere near the modern bypass expressway, but this theory requires further investigation, and indeed development may make verification impossible. In any case, we are sure that Ahloso Rd is part of the old highway, and was actually part of SH 99 as well as SH 3. This status is made quite obvious by the presence of the original Bates concrete pavement, making its presence known under the later asphalt overlays. At Ahloso, we come to a rather unique interchange as old SH 99 splits off to head south; through traffic on one or the other of the highways is clearly favored, but provisions exist at the south end of the interchange for travelers wishing to switch from one route to the other. As Route 3 continues east, the Bates pavement continues to be very evident under the asphalt. After a few miles we reach an obvious realignment, where the old curve was truncated to allow connection of the old route to the bypass of Ahloso. After negotiating the realigned intersection, we find ourselves once again on overlaid Bates pavement, actually on the piece of the original route which was bypassed last. We continue on the old route, which was not bypassed until the mid 1990s, as we travel toward Stonewall.
The overlaid original Bates pavement continues all the way to Stonewall, offering an excellent opportunity to perfect one's knowledge of the various Bates underlay telltales. The clues are extremely evident along this stretch of road, being obvious enough to clearly generate the beloved "click-click" as one drives along. The drive is a classic highway experience, the road laying almost directly on the natural grade as it follows the terrain and gentle curves toward Stonewall. After passing through town we follow a gentle curve to the south and eventually come to a battle scarred truss bridge. Soon thereafter we cross the modern highway at an intersection which shows obvious signs of the multiple stage realignment that occurred along this segment of highway. On the south side of the modern highway, the old route was interrupted by the sizeable cut made for the modern route, but the old pavement remains, leading directly to the edge of the cut. Amazingly, there exists no barrier or even signs at the dropoff to prevent an inattentive northbound driver from simply driving off the edge of the cut and landing on the later highway. As we continue south, the overlaid Bates pavement ends and we find ourselves on possible overlaid Modified Bates as we reach the next bridge. From this point, the pavement is in fair shape; certainly not glass smooth, but not rough beyond reason either.
One mile west of Tupelo, we encounter yet another multiple stage realignment. This example is actually the most difficult to negotiate, as the continuation of the old highway is not readily visible as one actually traverses the intersection. If a traveler keeps in mind that the road actually went straight through before the realignment, it is somewhat easier to find, but one must remain aware as they wind around a power substation. After crossing the old Santa Fe railroad right of way, we pass through Tupelo and continue east along the rolling terrain. As we cross modern SH 3, we again see evidence of multiple stage realignment. Studying the various intersections and maps, we believe the road was realigned in large segments over approximately 20 years, moving from east to west. Following the old route, we pass through Centrahoma, which was the first town bypassed and has thus unfortunately fared the worst.
The old highway continues east from Centrahoma, crossing several small stringer bridges with the classic fence style guardrails as it makes its way toward US 75. Shortly before reaching the federal route, the old driveable pavement ends and one is compelled to join the modern routing of SH 3. There is still old infrastructure to see, however; the old pavement remains, undriveable, alongside the new roadway. A classic stringer bridge with fence style guardrails can be seen just east of the junction with the modern pavement, then the old roadway remains alongside the new until just before the reprofiled junction with US Route 75.
After US 75 joins SH 3, the two highways travel together toward Coalgate on completely new pavement. The old roadway was very near the present path, but enough dirtwork occurred during the reconstruction that the evidence of its existence has been almost entirely removed. Before long, we reach Coalgate, our chosen endpoint for this highway segment.
The amount of remaining driveable old alignment alone makes the highway segment described above remarkable, but there is even more history contained within its length. This corridor has been part of a numbered highway since 1925; when the original state network was created, Route 19 was designated to travel through this region. When the old roadway described above was paved and the bridges built, the highway was still State Route 19; the number was not changed to its current 3 until 1938. Of course, this renumbering, while removing the historic original status, anointed this portion of road as part of Oklahoma's new great diagonal route from northwest to southeast. To this day, the "new" SH 3 remains the king of all Oklahoma state highways, taking a traveler from mesas to plains to mountains all following one number. All of these factors make this segment of road well worth exploration. Thanks for reading.
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Base Map Data Copyright DeLorme USA, http://www.delorme.com
State Highway Shields created by Ken Parker of Oklahoma Bridge & Highways Group.