MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Some Roads Have Two Names

If you’ve ever had to follow directions while driving, you’ve probably ended up flustered or confused when you come across a road or street that has more than one name. Chestnut Street can become Loblolly Street before going back to being Chestnut Street; Whippoorwill Lane can morph into Hoot Owl Drive; Buckeystown Pike is also Highway 85. It all seems frustrating & overly complicated. So why do street names suddenly change?

Different cities have different criteria for naming their streets, but the most likely explanation for streets that seem to have an identity crisis is that they didn’t start out as one single road. For instance, a Wine Street that turns into Beer Street were each probably, at one time, separate Wine & Beer Streets that were later joined due to development. So, instead of having only one street absorb the name of the other, they each hold on to their original titles.

So, why should changing the name be such a big deal? Well, you have to consider all the people living on Wine Street who would be affected by a new residential address. Instead of imposing a change on dozens or hundreds of folks, municipalities consider it more practical to simply let the merged roadways keep their separate names.

Another explanation involves changing street names to honor individuals. Say that a road was renamed in honor of Abraham Lincoln; it might be changed for just a specific stretch before it would revert back to, say, Millard Fillmore Avenue.

So, if you’ve ever thought about petitioning for a particular road to get a name change, you might want to first get the support of the residents who’d be affected by the change. Oh, and have your checkbook handy, too, because, for a lot of places, anyone applying for a new street name has to pay for the new signs.

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me a message via social media (@AndyWebbRadioVoice), or shoot me an email at [email protected].

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