The Late U.S. 666 (now U.S. 491), Monticello, Utah
I was fortunate to snap a photo of U.S. 666 before its name was changed to U.S. 491. The various state departments of transportation were having a problem with people stealing signs for some reason . . . .
U.S. Route 491 (US 491) is a north–south U.S. Highway serving the Four Corners region of the United States. One of the newest designations in the U.S. Highway system, it was created in 2003 as a renumbering of U.S. Route 666. With the 666 designation, this road was nicknamed Devil's Highway because of the common Christian belief that 666 is the Number of the Beast. This satanic connotation, combined with a high fatality rate along the New Mexico portion, convinced some people the highway was cursed. The problem was compounded with persistent sign theft. These factors led to two efforts to renumber the highway, first by officials in Arizona, later in New Mexico. Since the renumbering, as a result of safety improvement projects, fatality rates have decreased.
The highway runs through Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, as well as the tribal nations of the Navajo Nation and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. Features along the route include an extinct volcanic core named Shiprock, Mesa Verde National Park, and the self-proclaimed pinto-bean capital of the world, Dove Creek, Colorado.
The route was upgraded to a U.S. Highway in 1926, as U.S. Route 666. This number was appropriate, per the numbering guidelines for U.S. Highways, as the sixth spur along the highway's parent, U.S. Route 66, branching off at Gallup, New Mexico. The number was assigned by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO), a coordinating body that created the U.S. Highway system. At that time, the northern terminus of the route was in Cortez, at an intersection with then U.S. Route 450 (modern U.S. Route 160).
Over time the route became known as the "Devil's Highway", a reference to the Number of the Beast. This nickname and association made some visitors uncomfortable, as well as making the signs targets for theft. Because of the highway's number, accidents and other phenomena became repeated as legend. These legends convinced some people the highway was cursed. One unnamed highway patrol officer was quoted in USA Today as stating a drunk-driving suspect told him, "Triple 6 is evil. Everyone dies on that highway." Skeptics point out that the highway has a lower than average fatality rate in Utah and Colorado, only the New Mexico portion is statistically a dangerous highway. Skeptics further state the high fatality rate in New Mexico can be explained by an inadequate design for the traffic loads at the time. Several people suggested the highway improvements, started at the same time as the renumbering, have done more to reduce fatalities than the renumbering itself.