*Field Checked and Verified*
For part one, Arkansas City to Perry, click here.
We continue our look at US Route 77 in Oklahoma with the second piece of the northern half, the stretch of route between Perry and Edmond. As mentioned in the writeup for the first piece, US 77 has moved very little over its lifetime in the north half of Oklahoma. The only real movement in this particular segment comes from a realignment onto the limited access interstate when I-35 encroaches to within half a mile of old US 77. It is thus still incredibly easy to follow the original paved route of US 77, giving one a rare chance to follow almost exactly in our ancestor's tire tracks.
We begin on US 77 in the center of Perry, at what is now a junction with US 64 as it continues west toward the interstate. There is some debate among those of us in the Historic Bridge and Highway Group about the historic routing of US 64 through Perry, but we are sure that in the past, US 64 and US 77 left Perry together heading south. For more on the US 64 in Perry question, please see the US 64 Pawnee to Enid page. For this page, let us simply say that in the classic highway period we concern ourselves with here, US 77 and US 64 both followed the curving path south out of Perry that we find ourselves on. The roadway has been completely reconstructed, but we are very close to the original alignment, and we remain so as we resolve onto an east-west section line. Several miles after crossing I-35, we come to a modified wye interchange where we curve south while old US 64 continues west. After the interchange, we are on original concrete pavement that has been layered over with asphalt as we continue south.
We continue south on the overlaid Bates pavement for several miles, passing through some very nice and open feeling farmland. The scenery in this area is what those who don't know any better think all of Oklahoma looks like. Just before we reach Orlando, the road curves west away from the approaching Santa Fe railroad tracks before resolving to north-south again as we travel through the center of town.
Leaving Orlando, the highway aligns itself with the Santa Fe tracks, still using original pavement with several overlays. After a few miles, we begin an S-curve to approach an underpass for the railroad tracks; unfortunately, we are interrupted in our approach by a frankly awkward and dangerous intersection with State Highway 51. Southbound US 77 traffic is obliged to stop near the end of the approach curve to the underpass and check back over their right shoulder at a very awkward angle to yield to eastbound SH 51 traffic cresting a hill, while also checking for westbound SH 51 traffic coming up out of the underpass. Use extreme caution at this intersection; we hope ODOT will come to their senses in the future and adjust this intersection to make it safer for all traffic.
After negotiating the junction with SH 51, we can concentrate fully on the railroad underpass. This example is what we at the Bridge and Highway group would classify as a second generation underpass; the approach curves are longer and more sweeping than a first generation underpass, and the underpass itself is slightly wider and noticeably skewed relative to the tracks rather than nearly perpendicular. Also, this example is a steel beam bridge rather than a concrete slab like the early underpasses tended to be.
As we climb out the east side of the underpass, we come to a much more sensible intersection with eastbound State Highway 51, where SH 51 is clearly subordinate to the curve and the US route, as it should be. One consequence of this improved intersection, however, is visible to the inside of the curve. The original, bypassed pavement from the original curve can be clearly seen inside the present curve with the intersection. Still, the new curve is a very nicely swept and banked curve, preserving the feel if not the exact path of the original route. In an instance such as this, such slight realignment seems acceptable for the additional safety it provides.
As the S-curve ends, we find ourselves back alongside the Santa Fe tracks, now neatly on the other side as we continue south toward Mulhall. The pavement between the underpass and Mulhall clearly shows evidence of the Bates standard concrete underneath, as the expansion joints, center crack, and even the edges where the asphalt extensions begin have propagated clearly through all the overlays. This is another excellent place to familiarize oneself with what to look for to locate Bates pavement under years of overlays.
Just south of Mulhall, as we cross Beaver Creek, we must pause to lament a lost truss bridge; the old veteran was replaced with a boring concrete beam bridge within the last few years. Happily, we soon rejoin overlaid original pavement, and within a few miles, we come across something wonderful to take our mind from the loss of the bridge. About two miles south of Beaver Creek, we come to a segment of original, unmolested Bates standard concrete pavement still in use as the wearing surface of US Route 77. The pavement dates to 1928, and is in better condition after over eight decades than some modern pavement is in after eight years. As with the segment near Marland in the first piece of the north half of US 77, this situation is frankly amazing and should be appreciated while we still can. As the original pavement disappears underneath asphalt overlays again, we begin curving down toward the Cimarron River valley.
The highway winds down toward the river valley floor through a series of sweeping first generation highway style curves. It is obvious they fully deserve the "first generation" title, as the Bates pavement remains clearly visible under the asphalt all the way down to the water. As we reach the bottom, we briefly follow along the north bank of Skeleton Creek, then turn south along a section line to cross the creek. Unfortunately, this is yet another location where a truss bridge has recently been demolished. The bridge over Skeleton Creek served faithfully for over 80 years, but fell victim to the modern vendetta against truss bridges in 2008. After we cross the creek, we follow roughly along the west bank of the Cimarron River, again following the Santa Fe tracks on overlaid original pavement. As both roads swing west to begin aligning to cross the river, the tracks split away from the highway again.
Just as the highway turns to the southeast to cross the bridge, old pavement is visible continuing straight ahead. The old alignment visible would have led to the old bridge across the river, which was replaced sometime in the 1930s with the current bridge. The stubs of some of the piers for the old bridge are still visible in the river if one looks to the west when crossing the river. Unfortunately, since the original "fence" style railings have been replaced with 1960s type guardrails, the current bridge has lost much of its 1930s charm. South of the bridge, we rejoin the first paved alignment and continue south into Guthrie. As we enter the original capital of Oklahoma, we follow along through the business district, which retains much of its original flavor. As we continue south out of town, however, we lose some of the "old highway" feel, as US 77 has been widened over the years. Still, there are nice surprises from later eras, such as the drive-in theater along the east side of the highway near the airport, which appears well-kept.
Eventually, the modern four lane road turns to join the interstate for its run toward Edmond and eventually Oklahoma City, taking modern US 77 with it, but an obvious straight ahead continuation of the old highway makes itself visible and easily followed. Very soon after turning to follow the old alignment, bare Bates standard pavement is again encountered, still bearing the faint striping and asphalt width extensions from when it was still the highway before 1962. The pavement remains the uncovered original for approximately two miles until, shortly after crossing a stringer bridge with single rail "fence" style guardrails, it disappears again under layers of asphalt at an intersection.
The old highway continues following the section line, rising and falling through gentle hills, until reaching a slightly larger hill that presents a steeper grade. The road makes a few gentle first generation curves to compensate, and easily soars up and back down the hillside without the vulgarity of a large cut through.
The road continues rising and falling gently over the hills, following the section line, all the way to a junction with old US 66. In the past, this point, where US 66 and US 77 met and then continued together toward Edmond and Oklahoma City, was known as Bradbury Corner. Unfortunately, the original interchange, whatever form it took, has been completely obliterated by the interchange with I-35 that exists at the location now. We strongly suspect the interchange would have been a wye of some sort, but there is no way of knowing which variety without photographs or construction plans. After we junction US 66, the modern alignment of US 77 rejoins the old alignment as it heads west into Edmond and comes to the endpoint of this segment.
Thus, we reach Edmond, and our chosen endpoint for the north half of US Route 77 in Oklahoma. Starting from the Kansas state line, we have traveled through many towns, seen vast rich farmlands, and encountered many interesting landmarks as we drove along the centerline of our great state. Along the way we encountered a few slight realignments of the highway and one major realignment, but we were mostly able to follow the old route (and mostly original pavement) by simply following highways from the north state line to almost the center of Oklahoma. This is a rare opportunity, and while we leave the significance to your judgement, your humble author finds it quite remarkable. We hope you enjoyed these pages, and we hope you will enjoy the forthcoming pages on the south half of US 77 in Oklahoma, as we continue our trip toward the Red River. Thanks for reading!
For part one, Arkansas City to Perry, click here.
For the historic route of US 77 through the Oklahoma City area from Edmond to Moore, click here.
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