The Arizona Republic

The origin of ‘Beeline Highway’ is there in its name

- Clay Thompson

From April 7, 2002:

What is the origin of the name of the Beeline Highway?

I am indebted for the answer to this question to Doug Nintzel of the state Department of Transporta­tion, who sent me portions of a history of the Beeline written by Payson historian Stan Brown. And also to my pals in the maps section of the state library. They’re always very cheerful in the maps section. It must be a cool job.

People have been trying to get to Payson from Phoenix even before there was a Phoenix or a Payson. For centuries, Native American trade routes ran between the two.

Before there was the Beeline, Arizona 87, there was the Bush Highway, and before the Bush there was the Reno Road, which the Army built in the 1860s.

The Bush Highway was the idea of a Mesa lumberman named Harvey Bush who in the early 1930s talked Maricopa

County and the U.S. Forest Service into building a new road to the Rim.

The road began at Power Road and what is now the Superstiti­on Freeway. When it was completed, you could drive to Payson from the Phoenix area in all of nine hours.

The Bush ran roughly parallel to the Beeline, and if you fly over the area in a helicopter, you can still see parts of the old road, unless you have your eyes squeezed shut tight because you hate helicopter­s.

No sooner was the Bush finished than people started pushing for its improvemen­t. In the early ’50s, a Maricopa County supervisor named Jim Hart, who had a cabin in Payson, persuaded the Salt River Pima and Fort McDowell Yavapai tribes to give up a diagonal right-of-way across their reservatio­ns.

That’s how the highway got its name. The shortcut made it a beeline from Phoenix to Payson.

The Beeline began at McDowell Road and Country Club Drive, hit the Bush at the turnoff to Saguaro Lake and followed the old highway off and on to Payson. It wasn’t paved until 1958.

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