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The historic path of US Route 75 between Tulsa and the Kansas state line is one of the oldest and most complete driveable bypassed routes remaining in Oklahoma. The entire segment was designated as part of the original State Route 12 in 1925, with all save the portion between Collinsville and Ochelata already paved at that time. The remaining piece was paved by 1926, and the roadway was designated as part of US 75 when the federal routes came into existence in 1927. Since the later four lane highway was constructed along a much straighter path to bypass the towns, the original route has survived essentially unaltered to this day. There is quite a bit of historic infrastructure to enjoy along the way as one travels the relaxing classic drive between Tulsa and Kansas.
Our starting point for this journey is on 2nd St in Tulsa, and we cross first the former path of the Midland Valley Railroad and then the tracks that were once the MKT before leaving the original platted town and crossing the modern expressway. After a slight diversion caused by the expressway, we can again follow the original highway east; the roadway is wide, giving an old boulevard feel even though the area has been redeveloped substantially over the years. At Lewis Ave, we turn north, but we are forced because of the Crosstown Expressway to take Admiral Blvd instead of the true path of old US 75, Admiral Pl. The two Admirals are one way frontage roads for the expressway here, so eastbound travelers must delay rejoining the old route until Harvard Ave, where Admiral Pl becomes a two way road again; on the other hand, if traveling westbound, it is possible to follow the old route precisely toward downtown until one actually reaches the city core, where one way streets again thwart a perfect path. Continuing on our path east, even after rejoining the old route there is almost nothing in the way of infrastructure to give the feel of a classic highway due to the decades of development. However, the proliferation of businesses does resemble what has happened along surface level highways that still exist as four lane roads through larger towns today; a vigilant traveler might also note the Admiral Twin drive-in theater north of the expressway at 73rd E Ave. At the Mingo Rd traffic circle, once the junction of original State Routes 7 and 12 as well as the site of Cyrus Avery's gas station, old US 75 finally turns north to begin its journey to Kansas. The roadway becomes an old style four lane divided parkway with a low brick median as it travels north past Tulsa International Airport toward the former site of the town of Mingo, which gave this road its name. The highway crosses the former Frisco tracks north of Pine St, utilizing a plate girder railroad underpass which leaves no doubt as to the identity of the railroad that built it; the Frisco crest is used as the outline for the underpass's date stamp in the concrete abutment.
At the former site of the Mingo school, old US 75 becomes a two lane road, with the appearance of possible Bates concrete underlying the modern asphalt. Shortly after crossing the old Santa Fe tracks, old US 169 joins the road at a wye junction and the two routes continue together toward Owasso. Before long, the roadway sprouts shoulders and begins curving east to cross Bird Creek; the older routing of the highway continued straight to a truss bridge over the creek, which is unfortunately long gone. According to some photographs we were able to locate in an online archive, the old bridge was a Parker through truss main span flanked by Warren pony truss approach spans at either end. An undriveable remnant of the original Bates pavement from the old bridge's alignment can be found slightly west of the realigned roadway, going north from 66th St N. Further north, though a major reconstruction has obliterated all traces of the original banked curve, the treeline can still be seen following the path of the old curve as the highway turns east. After crossing the Santa Fe tracks again, the highway passes through the center of Owasso, jogging along various streets as it makes its way north.
The old highway continues north along the section line, passing through the rapidly filling suburban sprawl of Owasso before curving to the east to align with the approaching Santa Fe line. At a railroad crossing, old US 169 splits off to follow a bypass route, but old US 75 heads directly into the heart of Collinsville. We believe that both highways originally traveled into the center of town before splitting, with US 169 being moved onto the bypass routing at some unspecified date; we will discuss this further on the forthcoming US 169 Tulsa to Coffeyville page. The original path of US 75 heading into Collinsville shows strong evidence of old paving underneath the modern asphalt, but it is unclear what exactly the old pavement is. After passing through town, the old highway travels along modern SH 20 for a few miles before turning to the north once more; the roadway is two lanes with no shoulders, evidence of its original age, with some possible Bates telltales appearing as one travels west.
Though traces of the original banked curve for the highway's turn north are still faintly visible on satellite imagery, the grade is almost impossible to see from ground level. Of some consolation is the fact that, as we travel north, the original Bates pavement is clearly evident under the asphalt, which, while not glass smooth, is in fine condition for a local road. The speed limit is also a highway-befitting 50 mph, which allows for a more authentic experience than many other old alignments. Old US 75 follows straight along the section line on the old pavement as it crosses into Washington County bound for Vera.
Passing through Vera a somewhat less exciting part of the authentic highway experience ensues, as the town imposes a lower speed limit within its boundaries. Just past the north end of town, we come to the first truss bridge on this highway segment, a state standard Parker pony truss as found on many old and current highways. Just before reaching the next section road, the highway begins curving in a familiar way, but the graceful curve is interrupted and we are forced onto a later roadway that simply makes a 90 degree turn at the section corner. The old pavement continuing the curve is clearly visible when we are forced to turn away from it, and in the winter it is even possible to catch a glimpse of exactly what has been bypassed here; the classic first generation railroad underpass on the old Santa Fe line was bypassed at some point and replaced by a grade level crossing, but the old concrete structure is still there, giving evidence to the former importance of continual traffic flow on this road. After negotiating the somewhat clumsy modern bypass, we see the old highway pavement rising back out of the underpass as we rejoin the S-curve and eventually find our way back to the section line. Just past the next section road, we come to the third piece of old infrastructure in three miles as we cross the bridge over Bevan Creek. Shortly thereafter, we follow the old pavement as it curves away from the section line and begins angling across the cultivated fields toward Ramona.
The old highway cuts diagonally across the section, yielding a very interesting view when the crops are growing as the planted rows seem to strobe alongside a traveling vehicle. At the next east-west section line, another curve takes us back onto a section boundary as the road travels to Ramona. The highway curves to the northwest just before entering town to align briefly with the old Santa Fe tracks before turning due north again. Shortly, we cross another truss bridge, this example having a very attractive installation with gently curved approaches and trees surrounding the area. The highway continues north for a few miles afterward before curving west just as it crests a hill, making for a rather striking experience at speed. The ensuing diagonal segment is highly entertaining, as the road lays almost directly on the ground while rising and falling over a number of small hills and valleys, a classic highway experience if ever there was one. Unfortunately, the fun ends temporarily as we are forced around an interchange for the modern highway before we can rejoin the old route.
After crossing modern US 75, the old alignment is easily rejoined as it continues northwest; at the north end of the diagonal roadway, the curve west has been obliterated by a new intersection which favors the east-west section road, but the curve's path can still be easily inferred, as the road crosses an original culvert at the beginning of the old curve just before the realignment starts. After passing through Ochelata (and another speed zone) old US 75 continues north, angling east briefly before turning due north again at another rather striking curve on a hillside. After a few miles traveling straight along the rolling hills, the highway crosses the Caney River for the first time.
Before long, the old route reaches the first banked section corner curve still in use on this segment. The classic curve facilitates the old highway's turn to the east and, after a mile, a mirror image of the curve enables us to easily turn north again. The one mile jog allows the route to avoid the Caney River, which winds wildly through the terrain just beyond the trees at the first curve. As the old highway continues north along the section line, we pass several large and interesting older homes as the structure density increases and we enter the outskirts of modern Bartlesville.
After passing several modern housing developments, we pass a park and soon arrive at a junction with modern US Route 60. The old curve for US 75 to turn west at this location has been almost completely obliterated, but a keen eye will note its former path through the trees southwest of the modern intersection. US 60 has been widened to four lanes, but we only share the road with the modern federal route briefly before taking an exit to cross one of the crown jewels of this segment of old highway. The Veterans Memorial Bridge (which has been named thus since its construction) is a beautiful open spandrel concrete arch bridge built in 1923 and dedicated to the memory of the Washington County soldiers who lost their lives in the Great War. Crossing the Caney River on this wonderfully preserved bridge is a singular experience; we highly recommend that travelers take the opportunity to stop in the parking area at the west end of the bridge and examine the details of the structure, including the columns at each corner of the crossing that support plaques naming every brave soldier who gave their life fighting for the freedom of others. After crossing the bridge, we turn north and then west to head toward downtown Bartlesville; before reaching the heart of town, however, we turn north to cross the Caney yet again. This time, we cross a truss bridge that is among the most elegant installations yet found in the state of Oklahoma, with a wonderful setting that is also worth stopping to appreciate. The old road then continues north toward Dewey, having been relabeled as modern State Highway 123; when the modern highway turns east, we instead continue north and pass through the old business district.
At the north end of Dewey, the road curves to the east and quickly runs into the modern routing of US 75; as we make the left hand turn to continue north, the bypassed original routing is visible just to the east of the modern highway. The old road is still in use as an access/frontage road for several homes and businesses, and can be driven if one wishes for the short distance before the modern four lane jogs east slightly and rejoins the original alignment. For the next few miles, the original pavement has been completely obliterated by the modern pavement, but for the first time in this highway segment, modern US 75 still runs along the alignment it has since 1925. Just before the modern four lane begins curving east, the historic route breaks off to climb a hill and travel atop a ridge toward Copan.
After resolving onto a half section line, old US 75 crosses the modern four lane and continues through Copan. At the north edge of town where modern SH 10 turns east away from old US 75, a very interesting county standard concrete railing is visible on the southeast corner of the intersection; the variations in the old concrete railing standards we have encountered in the many counties of Oklahoma offer almost enough material for a website of their own. After leaving Copan entirely, we encounter some lightly overlaid concrete pavement that appears to be a second generation concrete standard; the asphalt patching makes this the roughest roadway yet encountered on this highway segment, but should still pose no problem for any vehicle at a reasonable speed. The road bends east and eventually runs into the modern highway again; as we are forced to turn away and join the modern route, the old pavement continuing straight is clearly visible as it disappears under the fill for the modern roadbed. We are forced to travel along the modern alignment for approximately a mile while the old pavement runs just to the east, inaccessible, at a lower elevation subject to inundation by the waters of Copan Lake.
Eventually, the old route rises from the flood prone elevation and the roadway is available for travel again, so we take a short connector road over to rejoin the old highway and continue north. After a few miles, the old route crosses a large culvert with classic concrete "fence" style guardrails as it begins curving west, but almost immediately thereafter we are forced away from the curve and onto a short length of gravel road to take us around the corner instead. We shortly rejoin the old highway at the other end of the curve, but are soon compelled to instead join the modern highway once again. Unfortunately, the classic routing of US 75 between this point and the Kansas state line lies entirely within an area subject to inundation by Copan Lake and is thus closed to traffic. It appears from aerial imagery that much of the old pavement remains intact, but sadly inaccessible. Before the lake and the modern highway were built, the roadway continued west for a short distance, then curved north to align with the old route of the Santa Fe tracks for a mile or so before turning due north to enter Kansas. Today we are forced instead to follow the modern routing of US 75 across the state line, but we can take a connector road to rejoin the old route as it enters Caney, where we reach our chosen endpoint for this old highway segment.
End: Caney, KS
Traveling along old US 75 over this segment of road, especially between Tulsa and Dewey, offers a highly entertaining glimpse of what highway travel used to be. The much straightened path of the later bypass highway allowed the old road to remain largely in place, still serving the towns it has since the beginning and offering a much more relaxed way to travel north from the Oil Capital to the Sunflower State. The wealth of old infrastructure along the highway, the varied terrain, and the overall good condition of the pavement make this one of the more enjoyable old highway routes to travel in our opinion. If only there were some exposed Bates standard pavement and a few more curves along this route, we would likely call it the perfect segment of old highway for an enthusiast to explore. As it is, we highly recommend that any individual interested in old highways take the drive we have just described and experience it for themselves. Thanks for reading.
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