Individually and as a group, the history of these early highways is closely linked to the history and growth of Arizona as a special place. Historic highways are fascinating sources of information about indigenous communities and nonnative travelers and settlers who came to Arizona as early as the 16th century.
Historic highways can tell us a story about where people explored, lived, worked and played and when different portions of the state were developed. A study of roads can also tell us why highways occur in different locations. In some cases, historic highways followed the route of ancient American Indian trails and 19th-century equestrian trails and wagon roads. In other cases, 20th-century engineers constructed new routes and roads to facilitate the development of economic resources, such as mines or hydroelectric dams, and link newly established human settlements with existing roads and communities.
Road histories can also tell us stories about who or what was responsible for their construction and demise. Some well-traveled highways, such as US 66 or US 80, created opportunities to begin new businesses and adjacent communities. When alignments changed along these same highways, however, many of the roadside enterprises and associated settlements withered for lack of traffic and income.
In short, creating and sharing stories about Arizona's historic roads can tell us much about the distribution of Arizona's natural resources and its history of human settlement and land use.