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End of US highway 266

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Additional research and/or photo credits: Robert Brooks; Nathan Edgars; Jeremy Lance; Jeff Morrison

Approx. time period East terminus West terminus
1926-1930 Warner, OK Oklahoma City, OK
1930-present Warner, OK Henryetta, OK

Today US 266 seems like a strange little highway: it's only 42 miles long, it's entirely within the state of Oklahoma, and it doesn't even connect with historic US 66... all of which lead to the question: why is this even a US route?

An historical understanding is helpful. In 1926 there was no US 62. West of Henryetta, US 266 followed what is now US 62 for another 90 miles or so, ending at its junction with US 66 in Oklahoma City:

OK DoT, c. 1930

So that explains its number... and its existence: it was the precursor to I-40 between OKC and Warner. The intersection where US 266 ended (Lincoln Boulevard and 23rd Street) has changed tremendously since the 1920s: Lincoln is now divided into one-ways that straddle the State Capitol; 23rd is below grade; and cloverleafs connect the two. Perhaps the photo below, looking north on Lincoln, tells the story best: ahead was northbound US 77 and eastbound US 66; to the west (left) on 23rd was southbound 77/westbound 66; and to the right on 23rd was the west beginning of US 266:

Nelson, Apr. 2006

The photo below was taken from the southbound Lincoln overpass, looking east along 23rd:

Nelson, Apr. 2006

This would've been northbound US 77/eastbound US 66, which went north (left) on Lincoln. Ahead was the west beginning of US 266.

Four years later, when US 62 was commissioned, it swallowed up most of US 266: the segment from OKC to Henryetta. The remaining portion was still important, but since it no longer connected with its implied parent, perhaps its designation should have been changed to US 162 or 262. Anyway, here's where US 266 ends today:

Morrison, Aug. 2010

Note how US 62 is signed as if it's a north-south route here. There used to be an "End" sign there...

Lance, 2000

...but Robert reports it was gone by 2005. Those signs are/were posted where US 266 intersects US 62/US 75. Both of those highways are routed on I-40 as they approach Henryetta from the west. Then they head north together to Okmulgee, on a segment which allows travellers northbound on the Indian Nation Turnpike to continue on to Tulsa. Below is a different perspective of that same intersection:

Brooks, 2004

There we're looking south on US 75 (which is also westbound US 62); the west beginning of US 266 is to the left. That intersection has always been the terminus, but straight ahead is a newer road, connecting to the Indian Nation Turnpike. Originally, US 62/75 continued to the right, through downtown Henryetta. The photo below was taken heading eastward out of Henryetta, via historic northbound US 75/eastbound US 62:

Brooks, Sep. 2005

US 62/75 continued by turning left, and US 266 began straight ahead. It still does, even though US 62/75 has been rerouted to the right. The first eastbound confirming marker is barely visible in the distance; it's shown close-up below:

Brooks, Sep. 2005

From there, US 266 roughly parallels I-40 all the way to its eastern terminus in Warner. But before I-40 was built, US 266 came into town via what is now Old State Highway 2 and 3rd Avenue. And until the early 1930s, US 64 didn't cut across town diagonally, but rather stayed on 8th Street. So US 266 originally ended on 3rd Av at 8th:

Google Maps Street View, Mar. 2014

That's looking north on 3rd, and 8th is the crossroad. US 266 originally ended here at US 64. A couple blocks to the left, US 64 used a now-vacated curve to head north on Culwell. But in the 1930s US 64 was changed to use its modern routing through town, so US 266 was extended a block or so ahead. Traffic wanting eastbound US 64 was probably directed to curve right at the wye just visible ahead, but drivers destined for westbound US 64 would've stayed straight on 3rd, with the US 266 designation ending at US 64:

Google Maps Street View, Mar. 2014

Traffic heading east on US 64 would've used the slip ramp at far left to turn onto US 266. But westbound US 64 traffic wanting US 266 probably wouldn't have reached this intersection, instead turning off about a block to the right via the wye road shown below:

Google Maps Street View, Mar. 2014

When I-40 was constructed through the Warner area, apparently an interchange could not be built at the location of US 266's orignal alignment. So US 266 was changed to its modern configuration south of town, and I'm assuming this is also when the alignment running just west of Culwell was built. Where that alignment meets US 64 traffic is where US 266 ends today:

left: Lance, 2000 -- right:
Morrison, Aug. 2010

US 64 comes into Warner from the east (right in those photos), but then turns north (straight ahead) to Muskogee and Tulsa. Below we're looking the opposite direction (south on eastbound US 64):

Morrison, Aug. 2010

US 64 continues to the left here, while straight ahead is the east beginning of US 266. Initially it heads south through an interchange with I-40. After about 3 miles, it begins heading westward - and soon crosses the path of I-40 again. Below is the perspective from westbound US 64:

Morrison, Aug. 2010

US 64 continues to the right, and US 266 begins to the left. If you turn that direction, you soon encounter the first westbound confirming marker:

Morrison, Aug. 2010