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"Now he is somewhere here. Further on, then, a road numbered 23 will go off to his left-no, his right. That goes up and over and back into Pennsylvania but at this place, Shawsville, he can take a little narrow blue road without a number. Then go down a little and over again on 137. There is a ragged curve than that this road makes with 482 and then 31. Rabbit can feel himself swinging up and through that curve into the red line numbered 26 and down into another numbered 340. Red, too; he is really gliding and suddenly sees where he wants to go." - John Updike, Rabbit Run

Maryland is the home of several highway anomalies, including an intra-county (?!) 2-digit "Interstate," routes that consist of countless old alignments, and others that begin and end in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason. But the system is, if anything, resilient; most highways carry the same number assigned nearly seventy years ago.

Beginnings of the State Highway System (or at least their numbers)
The State Roads Commission (predecessor of the current SHA) came into being on April 30, 1908. Maryland began numbering primary routes at least as far back as 1927. Although early maps do not show numbering, it is possible for numbering to have been in use at least internally many years prior. This initial state numbering appears to have come after the first US highways in 1926, as these route numbers weren't assigned elsewhere to necessitate a state number change. In addition to route numbers, Maryland relied upon an extensive place-name based signage system with guide cities and mileage at every junction. Atop these signs was a replica of the Ark, shown at left, the ship which along with the Dove brought Maryland's first settlers to St. Clement's Island (in the Potomac River, near the end of modern MD 242) on March 25, 1634. There were even billboard-sized maps of towns as you entered them. The cost of maintenance, and most certainly World War II, put an end to this practice. Not until 1942 was it required that every state highway be posted with their numbers.

The low numbers from 2-37 were spread statewide, connecting county seats not otherwise served by a US route. The first objective of the state road system was to be able to travel from one county seat to another 'without breaking a spring.' These numbers run in the still familiar pattern - 2 through 6 through Southern Maryland, 12-21 running up the Eastern Shore (swap 33 for 17 and this shows even more), and finally 22-39 running west starting with 22 in Harford County down to 28 in Montgomery County, then west to Frederick with 33 (now 17), on to Garrett County with 37 (now US 219).

The numbers from 38 up to about 380 were the next set, and these were tightly clustered by county or region with few exceptions as follows. Most of these routes remain intact; Maryland has not had a major renumbering like some other states. Some routes run through adjacent parts of a neighboring county, but near to other routes in the cluster.

Maryland's Route Numbering System 1933:

38-42: Garrett
45-52: Allegany
53-68: Washington
69-81: Frederick
83-93: Carroll
94-106: Howard
107-124: Montgomery (Northern)
125-151: Baltimore
152-165: Harford
166-181: Anne Arundel (Northern)
182-196: Montgomery (Southern)
197-221: Prince George's
223-233: Charles
234-252: St. Mary's
253-259: Anne Arundel (Southern)
260-266: Calvert
267-286: Cecil
287-299: Kent
300-309: Queen Anne's
310-319: Caroline
320-327: (state facilities)
328-334: Talbot
335-343: Dorchester
344-355: Wicomico
356-364: Somerset
365-379: Worcester

System Additions
Above 380, few routes are clustered as those below, most notably numbers in the low 500s in Calvert County and the 440s in Kent County. Routes 313 and 404 were around from the beginning, 313 being a possible alternate for US 213, and 404 extending all the way west to Kent Island. Before the exchange program of the fifties, many seemingly minor connecting roads were numbered. Of these, quite a few were merely stubs and/or noncontiguous, with transitions between state and county maintenance; the number only applied to the state sections. By 1940, the highest number was 684. With the transportation needs of World War II came new routes, increasing the highest number into the 700s. Even today, many of the 700-718 numbers appear near military installations or critical war suppliers. In the old days, Maryland almost never ran concurrent route numbers on one road, even for a few feet. If two roads met another road slightly staggered (e.g. 137 and 138 meeting 45 in Hereford), they got different numbers, even if the separation was a city block or less! Many of these routes were later consolidated into one number or the other as this rule was relaxed.

The 12-Year Program (1953-64 inclusive)
One of the main objectives of this program was to increase the capacity of the existing main highways, and prior to passage of the Interstate Highway Act of 1956, building interstate-type expressways. The minor routes, on the other hand, were too numerous. To make way for the new construction, the state had to prune down and unload mileage, and eliminated many minor routes during this time. An exchange program was implemented between the counties and the state where maintenance of a road switched from state to county in exchange for equivalent lane mileage on a new or different road. When this happened, the old number would disappear from subsequent maps. Although the transition was gradual, the critical year where most of the numbers disappeared seems to be 1956.

The total is near 1000 different roads to have at one time or another carried 841 different state route numbers from 2 to 996, yet no number has been used more than twice. It's easier to list the numbers that have never been assigned. Many good 2 digit and low 3 digit numbers have languished unused since a county-state maintenance exchange, dropping minor routes in the mid-fifties. The highest confirmed signed number is 996. There are official designations of 'primary' and 'secondary', but they're only used in official planning and studies; they don't affect numbering or other signage.

Suffixed Routes Nomenclature:
Suffixed numbers are used for very small connecting spurs to state highways. Only one (835A off Rt. 8 on Kent Island, shown at right) is posted with a suffix. Many of the route numbers used for suffixes are themselves unposted, or there may not be a non-suffixed 'main' route at all! The multi part, old alignment routes such as 7 and 144 have 'secret' suffixes for each individual section. The system is as follows:

MD 999: our imaginary route, the sections or spurs of which are designated...
999A through 999Z: lettered A-Z, usually increasing to the north or east. The letters are used for internal purposes, and thus never appear on markers; the letters 'I' and 'O' are used without legibility problems. Gaps in the lettering occur often as some lettered routes are decommissioned. In the rare case the single letters are depleted, then an additional letter (based on county) is appended after the route number. The first letter corresponds to the first letter in the county name, for example, in Baltimore County:
999BA through 999 BZ
And for Harford County:
999HA through 999 HZ

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...
Or a thousand Maryland state routes, for that matter. I've arranged the routes in order in groups of twenty a page, with the exception of the single digit numbers. Interstate and U.S. highways of a particular number are mentioned on that number's state page, but more information can be found on each Interstate U.S. highway's separate pages.

Hit the road!
Select from the links below.

1-6  7-10                 
12-21  22-39  40-59  60-79  80-99  100-119  120-139  140-159  160-179  180-199 
200-219  220-239  240-259  260-279  280-299  300-319  320-339  340-359  360-379  380-399 
400-419  420-439  440-459  460-479  480-499  500-519  520-539  540-559  560-579  580-599 
600-619  620-639  640-659  660-679  680-699  700-719  720-739  740-759  760-779  780-799 
800-819  820-839  840-859  860-879  880-899  900-919  920-939  940-959  960-979  980-999