Going Beyond Main: How Streets Get Their Names
Have you ever wondered how to get your name on a street sign? Generally, the process is that street name possibilities are submitted to their cities for approval, then the city allows public services, such as the post office or fire department, to veto the name possibility if it doesn’t make sense or causes confusion.
While more often than not the names of streets are submitted by builders and developers of subdivisions and new neighborhoods, anyone can share their name with a road. Some streets are named to highlight someone late and great - surely, you’ve seen a “Washington St.” or “Jefferson Dr.” at some point. Other streets are named in honor of a nearby landmark, local industry, or as a part of an overarching theme.
We took a deep dive into every primary and secondary road in America to look at each of their road names. We counted the occurrences of each street name regardless of the street suffix (for instance, Main St., Main Rd., and Main Dr. were all counted as Main St.) and found the most common road names both by state and nationwide. Here’s what we’ve found.
Unsurprisingly, in 45 of the 50 states, Main St. was the most common street name by a long shot. The remaining 5 states and the District of Columbia each had a different most common road name. Funnily enough, New York Avenue wasn’t the most popular road name in New York, but it was for Washington D.C. However, New Jersey St. (Road, Turnpike etc.) was the most popular road name in New Jersey.
The second most common road names in each state were much more diverse. First St. was the winner in 8 states, while there was a 3-way tie between Broadway, Main, and Washington for second place in 3 states apiece.
To find out which road names were most common across the US, we compiled all of the data and counted how many total occurrences each road name had. The big winner was, of course, Main St., with State St. coming in second and Washington St. trailing just behind.
Roads named after presidents were a very common occurrence nationwide. George Washington was the favorite, with 966 roads named after him across the country. Lincoln came in a far away second place with 533 roads nationwide, and Jefferson came in 3rd with 374 roads.
Roads named after presidents occurred in most states, but interestingly enough, our nation’s capital did not make the list of top ten places with most presidential road names. Pennsylvania was the winner, with Illinois right behind. Surprisingly, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa beat out some of the larger states for most presidential roads.
For each of the 50 states and DC, we selected a road named after a person whom we had never heard of to see what kind of achievements tended to get a street named after you. The big winners were politicians, with 15 states opting to name a road after a local political figure. Interestingly, a few states chose to name roads after astronauts – all the more reason to make “Fly to the moon” one of your life goals.
As we were going through our research, we periodically ran across road names that made us chuckle, starting with Mud Lick Flippin Road in Kentucky and running all the way to Poppin Bottoms Road located in Arkansas. Just for fun, we looked through every state to find the more colorful street names out there and our team voted on our favorites. Perhaps you are familiar with Massachusetts’ Podunk Pike or Washington’s Chuckanut Drive?
We are collectively jealous if your GPS has, at one point, told you to merge onto Superstition Freeway in Arizona. Remember to toss salt out of the left car window and rub a rabbit’s foot for good luck.
While Main St. is indeed the most common road name in America, our research showed that the competition for runner-up was close. But the best part was of our experiment was finding the road names that were flat-out funny. Next time you’re on a road trip, if you’re looking for something to do, try checking out the town’s Main St. or, if you feel like being more original, visit the wackiest street you can find. But wherever your journey takes you, buckle up and drive safe!