End of US highway 54

View a map showing this route.

Additional research and/or photo credits: Chuck Bell; Rich Carlson; Chris Elbert; Don Hargraves; Karin and Martin Karner; Jeff Morrison; Alex Nitzman; me

Approx. time period East terminus West terminus
1926-1935 (w of Pittsfield, IL) Vaughn, NM
1935-1942 (w of Pittsfield, IL) El Paso, TX (Alameda)
1942-1953 Chicago, IL (Lake Shore) El Paso, TX (Alameda)
1953-1972 Chicago, IL (Jackson) El Paso, TX (downtown crossing)
1972-1974 (w of Pittsfield, IL) El Paso, TX (downtown crossing)
1974-1990s (w of Pittsfield, IL) El Paso, TX (Cordova crossing)
1990s-present (ne of Pittsfield, IL) El Paso, TX (highway 375)

US 54 was an original 1926 highway. At the time, its west end was in Vaughn NM (more info on this page).


In 1926, the east end of US 54 was not far from where it ends today: 4 miles west of Pittsfield IL, at its junction with US 36 (which used to follow what is now IL hwy. 106 from Hannibal MO through Pittsfield):

me, Oct. 2002

Back when US 36 ran along IL 106, the US 54 designation ended here. (left is to Barry and Hannibal, straight is to Pittsfield). Below we're looking at what used to be the east beginning of US 54 as seen from historic westbound US 36:

me, Oct. 2002

I wouldn't be surprised if the alignment used to be different here, with US 36 (now 106) the mainline, and US 54 a left turn. But now US 54 is the mainline to the left, while continuing west on old US 36 requires a right turn.


In 1942, US 54 was co-signed with US 36 further east: through Pittsfield and Jacksonville, to Springfield. From there, US 54 followed what is now IL hwy. 54 northeast to Onarga. North of there, it was co-signed with US 45 to Kankakee, and then northeast on a complicated (but almost entirely still driveable) route into downtown Chicago. US 54 ended up on Michigan Avenue; here is a vintage photo taken looking north:

unknown attribution, 1946 (see this page)

That was at Wacker Drive, approaching the bridge over the Chicago River. From there, the US 54 designation continued ahead for about a mile before ending at its junction with Lake Shore Drive (US 41):

Hargraves

That's also north on Michigan; Lake Shore comes in from behind the building on the right, and continues ahead. So that was the east end of US 54. Below, we're looking the opposite direction: south on Lake Shore (which goes left here; Michigan is straight ahead):

Hargraves

That would've been the historic east beginning of US 54, until 1953. At that point, US 14 was extended south on Michigan to Jackson (where it junctioned with US 34 and 66), so US 54 was truncated to the same intersection (you can view photos from there on this page).


In 1972 - for reasons I don't understand - the US 54 designation was truncated back to its original east terminus west of Pittsfield (see photos above). I can see how the segment north of Onarga might be considered unnecessary, but what was the point in removing the US route designation between Springfield and Onarga? I think US 54 should end here:

me, Oct. 2002

That's at US 45 in Onarga. Anyway, in about 1990, US 36 was re-routed onto a new freeway running between Springfield and Hannibal. That made it necessary to extend the US 54 designation along old US 36 into Pittsfield itself, and then to where it ends today (about 5 miles northeast of Pittsfield):

Carlson

It was about 1996 that the I-72 designation was extended west of Springfield and applied to the US 36 freeway. At first, it looks like the DoT simply added an extra post...

me, Oct. 2002

...but now that assembly has been replaced - compare more recent signage at this same location:

Morrison, Apr. 2008

Interesting how the new assembly still has a smaller shield for US 54. Anyway, that's now interchange 35 on I-72/US 36. Here's a view of the east beginning of US 54 from westbound I-72:

me, Oct. 2002

Alex reports that had been replaced with a Clearview version by 2010. Below is an interesting assembly heading south at the end of IL 107 and the beginning of US 54:

me, Oct. 2002

The I-72 interchange is just ahead, and that's where US 54 begins. But this signage seems kind of unusual to me - and potentially misleading. One could get the impression that both 107 and 54 end here. I guess I'd prefer to see the "WEST" tab replaced with either a "JCT" or a "BEGIN" tab. If you continue, the first westbound confirming assembly looks like this:

Morrison, Apr. 2008


Ever since a southward extension in 1935, the west terminus of US 54 has been in El Paso TX. Its endpoint there has shifted around a few times - you can get more info about its earlier endpoints on this page. In 1974, US 62 and US 85 were extended to the crossing that was first served by US 54, and US 54 was redirected to the second border crossing in El Paso:

Elbert, Mar. 2007

I don't know when things changed, but that's no longer the case - US 54 is no longer directed to the Cordova crossing. However, as of 2012, signage is rather unclear exactly where US 54 is directed, because the last mention of the route is at the approach to the I-10 interchange:

Karners, Dec. 2011

That's posted on the Yandell Drive overpass. The next signage ahead used to mention US 54...

Elbert, Mar. 2007

...but the new Clearview version of that has changed significantly: there is no US 54 panel anymore. Also, I-110 to Juarez used to be a "hidden" designation, but it's signed now. However, all of US 54's last highway junctions (I-10, I-110, and US 62) are signed as "Exits", so we can assume the mainline is still US 54, until it ends at the interchange with TX hwy. 375:

Elbert, Mar. 2007

Heading west on TX 375 (or the Border Freeway), there's a US 54 marker strangely posted on the mainline, just before you reach the exit ramp to US 54:

Nitzman, Jan. 2006 (overhead signage since replaced with Clearview version)

Once you exit to the west beginning of US 54, the first confirming signage looks like this:

Karners, Dec. 2011

Just a bit ahead, at the I-10 interchange, there used to be a cool old button-copy shield on one of the overhead signs:

Elbert, Mar. 2007

The backside of that sign is the one that was visible in the first "Juarez Mexico" photo above.