*Partially Field Checked*
In the initial 1926 plan of the US Highway system, US Route 70 was the only one of the "major" east-west routes (ending in 0) to pass through Oklahoma. Yes, in practice US 66 was a "major" route, and US 60 came to Oklahoma within a few years, but US 70 holds the distinction of being the only formal major east-west route from the original plan in the state. To this day, US 70 is a major corridor traveling along the southern edge of Oklahoma, linking together the many towns and cities along the north side of the Red River. The segment of Route 70 between Durant and Hugo currently follows a quite old alignment, but also contains a lengthy stretch of even earlier bypassed road. Much of the road described below was not paved before 1939, but there is a fair amount of historic infrastructure remaining that makes it a quite entertaining segment of highway.
We begin this journey in Durant, at a junction with old US 69 (the current business loop) and head east out of town along the easily followed old alignment. This alignment between Durant and Bokchito was used until 1940, when the highway moved onto its present alignment. The road is paved now from Durant to Blue, and snakes along a winding path for a few miles before crossing the old Frisco tracks, who will be our constant companions on this excursion. The crossing is currently grade level, but examination of aerial imagery reveals the possible scar of an S-curve for an old underpass on the ground. We will attempt to verify this upon our next visit; if any readers make the journey beforehand, please contact us with your findings. After crossing the tracks, the old highway continues east toward Blue.
Shortly before turning north, we cross an early highway truss bridge over the Blue River; this bridge served faithfully until it was replaced by the bridge on the "modern" 1940 alignment, which is also worth a visit if one has time. After crossing the river, we travel into and through the town of Blue, and we can simply continue east on the old alignment without much trouble. Be advised, however, that the old highway between Blue and Bokchito appears to be gravel, not pavement. After a few miles on the gravel alignment, we come to a through truss bridge over Caddo Creek, which was also bypassed by a truss bridge on the new for 1940 alignment. Shortly east of the bridge, the highway bends north and then aligns with the Frisco tracks for the run into Bokchito.
After crossing to the north side of the Frisco tracks west of Bokchito, old US 70 is rejoined by its modern routing for the journey eastward through and out of town. Just over a mile east of town, a reprofiled curve just east of a bridge has left some orphaned pavement from the former curve; the old pavement appears to be accessible from the north-south section line road at its east end, but is unfortunately undriveable as part of a through route. After the old curve rejoins, occasional patches of "alongside bypassed" pavement sporadically appear just south of the modern highway. The segment of highway between Bokchito and the Choctaw County line was paved in the classic period, so these bits of abandoned pavement appear to be our old favorite, the Bates Standard concrete. After a few miles, the old highway turns south through an first generation style railroad underpass and travels through Bennington, then rejoins the modern routing.
The modern routing of US 70 remains on the historic alignment traveling east from Bennington toward the Choctaw County line. The road appears to have been completely reconstructed, removing most evidence of the original infrastructure, but we are quite close to the old alignment.
The modern alignment, which in this case dates to 1934 and qualifies as old alignment for our purposes, continues through Boswell, aligns with the Frisco tracks, and carries on toward Soper. As one enters Boswell, it is possible to follow the pre-1934 alignment by going straight on and following the section road. After crossing the Frisco tracks, one can continue east along the section line and follow the path of original State Route 5 and the original path of US 70, but the road is again mostly gravel and rejoins after only a few miles. The choice is yours.
The pre-1934 alignment presently dead ends just after a section road, forcing through travelers to rejoin the modern (1934) routing, but evidence of the old path remains approximately 3/4 mile east of that point. As one travels east on the 1934 alignment, a railroad underpass that has been abandoned for 75 years appears on the south side of the highway where the early alignment crossed to the north side of the tracks; evidence of the old S-curve for the underpass is still visible on satellite photos even after the intervening decades. As we approach Muddy Boggy Creek, the alignment that once led to the old highway bridge can be seen going straight as we turn north, but we must follow the modern alignment as the old span has disappeared. A consolation exists, however, in the through truss Frisco railroad bridge that can be easily seen if one only glances to the south while crossing the creek. From that point, we continue to follow the 1934 alignment into Soper.
A few miles east of Soper, the highway makes a small jog to the south, which is a sure sign of slight realignment. Sure enough, shortly before the interchange with US 271, old "alongside bypassed" pavement appears just north of the modern pavement and continues on past the interchange. At the interchange itself, which in the distant past was a junction between original State Highways 5 and 10, the classic wye interchange has recently been removed in favor of a more simplistic T junction, but the grade for the wye is still visible if one looks carefully.
The "alongside bypassed" pavement remains visible until just before the angle south toward Hugo, when the modern highway jogs back onto the old alignment. Shortly thereafter, US 70 crosses under the Indian Nation Turnpike, then the old route continues straight along the Frisco tracks while the modern route bends slightly north. After a few blocks, the modern route rejoins the historic for the final run into the center of Hugo and the end of this old highway segment.
The segment of US Route 70 between Durant and Hugo is an interesting one, because the entire modern routing of the highway is actually quite old itself. Indeed, except for the loop through Bennington and the slight realignment in Hugo, one could simply follow modern US 70 and follow a routing created only one year later than our customary 1939 cutoff date. Indeed, one would even encounter the same number of truss bridges following the modern route, but that would mean missing the fun of the first generation winding of the older route near Durant. The large amounts of interaction with the Frisco line also make this segment of highway quite enjoyable, including the rare instance of an abandoned underpass that has not been removed by the railroad. We hope you enjoyed this look at one of southeast Oklahoma's mainlines. Thanks for reading.
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