Alphabet Highways of Wisconsin

One thing Wisconsin does very different than the rest of the US is the way they name their highways. County roads are named with letters instead of numbers. I think the only other place I’ve seen this is Missouri. I’ve heard people refer to these highways as, “Alphabet Highways.” In fact, I even grew up on one of these alphabet highways. That highway is County Road N.

Now when I try to mail something to my parents or explain the address to a non-local, they get confused. County Road North? County Road <insert something that starts with an N>? It seems people can’t fathom that a road could just be named a single letter.

Once you know how the roads work in Wisconsin, it seems a bit more straightforward. US and state roads are still named with numbers. The numbers follow the even for east/west and odd for north/south standard. They also have the same convention in signage indicating if it’s a state or federal road.

Now the county roads are a bit more confusing. They are usually 1-3 letters. You can have a County Road A, AA, or AAA. I don’t think they follow a standard north\south and east\west convention. I just know I’m getting onto a county road if it’s lettered instead of numbered.

The nice thing about knowing this scheme is knowing when your GPS is being stupid. You know when it’s taking you down back roads in the middle of nowhere. I knew this instantly when my GPS took me far from civilization in an effort to avoid tolls.

I guess this is a huge quirk about Wisconsin. I thought every other state did it the same way, but I was wrong. I end up doing a lot of explaining to people when I say I grew up on County Road N. In many ways I like the alphabet highways. I know I’m getting the extremely scenic route when I take them. I also know when I need to give my GPS a swift kick in the butt if that’s the calculated route for long distances.

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