U.S. Route 421 in Virginia

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U.S. Route 421

US 421 highlighted in red
Route information
Maintained by VDOT
Length69.23 mi[1] (111.41 km)
Existedca. 1950–present
Virginia Byway
Major junctions
South end US 421 / SR 34 in Bristol
Major intersections
North end US 421 near St. Charles
CountryUnited States
CountiesCity of Bristol, Washington, Scott, Lee
Highway system
SR 420 SR 457

U.S. Route 421 (US 421) is a part of the U.S. Highway System that runs from Fort Fisher, North Carolina to Michigan City, Indiana. In Virginia, the U.S. Highway runs 69.23 miles (111.41 km) from the Tennessee state line between the twin cities of Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia north and west to the Kentucky state line near St. Charles. Between its endpoints, US 421 has lengthy concurrencies with US 23 and US 58 during its course through Bristol, Weber City, Gate City, Duffield, and Pennington Gap in Southwest Virginia.

Route description

View north along US 421 at US 11W in Bristol

US 421 enters Virginia at State Street, which follows the boundary between Bristol, Virginia, and Bristol, Tennessee, and heads north on Commonwealth Avenue, which also carries US 11E, US 19, and SR 381.[1][2] Prior to spring 2011, US 421 followed a more convoluted routing on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Cumberland Street, Piedmont Avenue, and Goode Street (all but MLK also being U.S. Route 11-19 Truck).

US 421, US 11E, US 19, and SR 381 meet the southern end of SR 113 at separate intersections: Cumberland Street carries northbound SR 113 east and Sycamore Street carries the westbound direction. The four highways continue north to east–west Euclid Avenue, where US 11E has its northern terminus. SR 381 continues north along Commonwealth Avenue to the southern end of Interstate 381 (I-381), a spur south from I-81. US 19 turns east to join US 11 on eastbound Euclid Avenue. US 421 turns west onto four-lane divided Euclid Avenue and runs concurrently with US 11W, which has its terminus at the intersection. The two highways cross Norfolk Southern's Appalachia Division rail line at grade and pass Devault Memorial Stadium, home of the Bristol Pirates. US 11W and US 421 diverge an at intersection with Tennessee State Route 1 (State Street) at the state line. US 11W continues into Bristol, Tennessee as State Street while US 421 heads northwest on Gate City Highway. The U.S. Highway passes the Bristol Mall before meeting I-81 at a partial cloverleaf interchange, where US 58 exits I-81 and joins US 421 in a concurrency.[1][2]

US 421 and US 58 exit the city of Bristol and enter Washington County as a two-lane undivided road. The U.S. Highways head northwest through gaps in Big Ridge, Walker Mountain, then curve southwest through the Rich Valley. At the Washington–Scott county line, US 421 and US 58 veer northwest again and follow a curvaceous path through Shelly Ridge and Cove Ridge, after which the highways follow Cove Creek southwest through the valley of the North Fork Holston River until the highways turn northwest, cross the river, and pass through Hilton Gap in Pine Ridge. The highways pass through the village of Hiltons and parallel the Appalachia Division rail line southwest through the Poor Valley to the town of Weber City, where the highways meet the northern end of SR 224 (Wadlow Gap Road), cross Moccasin Creek, and intersect US 23 (Main Street).[1][2]

US 421, US 23, and US 58 run concurrently with the Appalachia Division rail line through Moccasin Gap, where Moccasin Creek passes through Clinch Mountain. The U.S. Highways enter the town of Gate City; three congruent business routes pass through the center of town while the mainline of the U.S. Highways follows the flank of Clinch Mountain to the south of town. US 421, US 23, and US 58 receive their three business routes at an interchange west of Gate City. The U.S. Highways parallel the railroad and Little Moccasin Creek west between Clinch Mountain to the south and Moccasin Ridge to the north. The highways curve north and parallel the Clinch River to Clinchport, where the road meets the southern end of SR 65 and begins to follow Stock Creek. US 421, US 23, and US 58 pass by Glenita, where the railroad splits north to pass through the Natural Tunnel, the centerpiece of Natural Tunnel State Park. After passing through the Devil's Racepath, US 58 and US 421 split west from US 23 (Orby Cantrell Highway) as Daniel Boone Trail just south of the town of Duffield.[1][2]

US 421 and US 58 head west as a two-lane undivided road that crosses the North Fork of the Clinch River and ascends Powell Mountain, on top of which the highways enter Lee County. The U.S. Highways descend the mountain to Wallens Creek, then pass through several sweeping curves before diverging at the hamlet of Dot. US 421 heads northwest and passes through the hamlet of Woodway before crossing the Powell River. The U.S. Highway follows the North Fork of the Powell River to the town of Pennington Gap, where the highway passes under the Appalachia Division rail line intersects US 58 Alternate (Trail of the Lonesome Pine). US 421 and US 58 Alternate head through the center of town along Morgan Avenue before US 421 heads out of town along the North Fork of the Powell River and the rail line through Pennington Gap, which is a water gap through Stone Mountain. At Stone Creek north of the gap, US 421 meets the southern end of SR 352 (St. Charles Road), which serves the town of St. Charles to the north. The U.S. Highway heads west, following Stone Creek to its source near the Kentucky state line, which coincides with the Tennessee Valley Divide, from which US 421 continues northwest toward Harlan.[1][2]


The majority of US 421 in Virginia, from Pennington Gap east to Bristol, was designated as part of State Route 10 in 1918; the rest was not a state highway until the late 1920s. The east (south) three miles (5 km) were added as State Route 104 in 1928, taking it to the present State Route 352 junction at Stone Creek; St. Charles (accessed via SR 352) was used as the eventual end.[3] However, it was instead extended west to the Kentucky state line, with 2.25 miles (3.5 km) added in 1931[4] and the rest, another 2.25 miles (3.62 km), in 1932.[5] (SR 352 was added in 1942, completing the route to St. Charles.[6])

In the 1933 renumbering, SR 104 became State Route 65. It was soon extended southeast along former SR 10 from Pennington Gap to Dot, when U.S. Route 58 was removed from it in favor of a shorter alignment. SR 65 became part of State Route 66, which continued east from Dot to south of St. Paul along former State Route 70, in the 1940 renumbering, as Kentucky had taken over its continuation as Kentucky Route 66.[7]

In the meantime, the route from Cumberland Gap to Bristol had been through several changes in numbering. It was assigned U.S. Route 411 in 1926, renumbered as part of U.S. Route 58 in the early 1930s, and supplemented with U.S. Route 421 from the 1930s to the late 1940s. By 1951,[8] US 421 had re-entered Virginia, this time splitting from US 58 at Dot to cross into Kentucky, causing State Route 66 to be truncated at Clinchport. US 58 was moved to Interstate 81 between Bristol and Abingdon by the end of 1965,[9] leaving US 421 on its own from I-81 west of Bristol to U.S. Route 11W at the intersection of State Street and Euclid Avenue west of downtown Bristol. (Its easternmost several blocks on State Street (east of U.S. Route 11E) had also been separate since its creation in the 1930s.)

Routing in Bristol

Map of US 421 through Bristol, VA

The earliest alignment in Bristol came to the state line on Pennsylvania Avenue in Bristol, Tennessee (still US 421 today) and turned west on State Street to end at U.S. Route 11E a few blocks later, at or near Edgemont Avenue. This was initially part of U.S. Route 321 but soon became US 421. When it was extended west, it was taken along US 11E to Piedmont Avenue (U.S. Route 11) and U.S. Route 11W to Euclid Avenue, where it curved northwest onto what had been U.S. Route 411. Soon U.S. Route 58 came in from the northeast along with US 11, leaving only the piece east of US 11E on its own.[10][11]

A traffic survey resulted in the creation of a one-way pair in 1952, where southbound US 421 used Shelby Street, a block south of State Street in Tennessee, between Ninth Street (Commonwealth Avenue) and Fourth Street (Edgemont Avenue). US 58 eastbound moved to the same alignment, but turned north at Seventh Street to reach Piedmont Avenue.[12] With the completion of Euclid Avenue in 1967, US 421 was realigned again to use Euclid Avenue from the west end of State Street northeast (with US 58 and other routes) to Piedmont Avenue. There it turned southeast on Piedmont Avenue and Mary Street and southwest on Goodson Street, crossing the state line directly onto Pennsylvania Avenue. This had been State Route 76-Y along Mary Street east of Oakview Avenue (old U.S. Route 11, new State Route 113) and part of State Route 76 along Goodson Street.[13] The present alignment of US 421 through Bristol, using Commonwealth Avenue, Goode Street, Piedmont Avenue, Cumberland Street, Randall Street, and State Street, was adopted in 1984, at the same time as U.S. Route 11/19 Truck was established along much of the same routing.[14]

Major intersections

City of Bristol0.000.00

US 11E south / US 19 south / US 421 south (Volunteer Parkway)
Continuation into Tennessee

SR 1 west (State Street)
South end of SR 381 overlap

US 11 Truck / US 19 Truck north (Goode Street)
South end of US 11 Truck / US 19 Truck overlap

US 11W begins / US 11E / US 11 Truck / US 19 Truck end / US 11 / US 19 north (Euclid Avenue east) / SR 381 north (Commonwealth Avenue north) to I-81
North end of US 11E / US 19 / US 11 Truck / US 19 Truck / SR 381 overlap; south end of US 11W overlap
US 11W south (State Street / SR 1)
North end of US 11W overlap
I-81 / US 58 east – Knoxville, Roanoke
I-81 exit 1; south end of concurrency with US 58
see US 58 (mile 95.67-42.51) and US 23 (mile 2.92-20.85)
US 58 west (Wilderness Road) – Jonesville, Cumberland Gap
North end of concurrency with US 58
Woodway SR 642 (Hickory Flats Road / Old Woodway Road)Former SR 65 east
Pennington Gap61.3398.70

US 58 Alt. east (East Morgan Avenue) – Big Stone Gap, Norton
South end of concurrency with US 58 Alternate

US 58 Alt. west (East Morgan Avenue) – Jonesville
North end of concurrency with US 58 Alternate
Stone Creek
SR 606 (Boblink Drive) to SR 68 – Robbins Chapel, Keokee
SR 352 north (Saint Charles Road) – St. Charles
US 421 north – Harlan
Continuation into Kentucky over the Tennessee Valley Divide
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "2010 Traffic Data". Virginia Department of Transportation. 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
  2. ^ a b c d e Google (2011-10-24). "U.S. Route 421 in Virginia" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
  3. ^ "Minutes of the Meeting of the State Highway Commission of Virginia, Held Richmond, Virginia, August 9th and 10th, 1928" (PDF). (638 KiB), page 12
  4. ^ "Minutes of the Meeting of the State Highway Commission of Virginia Held in Lynchburg Virginia, December 18, 1930" (PDF). (207 KiB), page 3
  5. ^ "Minutes of the Meeting of the State Highway Commission of Virginia, Held in Marion, Roanoke and Richmond, July 27, 28, and 29, 1932" (PDF). (281 KiB), page 13
  6. ^ "Minutes of the Meeting of the State Highway Commission of Virginia, held in Richmond March 20, 1942" (PDF). (377 KiB), page 24
  7. ^ "Minutes of the Meeting of the State Highway Commission of Virginia, Held in Richmond, October 10, 1940" (PDF). (332 KiB), page 12
  8. ^ "Minutes of the Meeting of the State Highway Commission of Virginia, Held in Richmond, February 20, 1951" (PDF). (1.00 MiB), page 22
  9. ^ "Minutes of Meeting of State Highway Commission of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia, December 16, 1965" (PDF). (757 KiB), page 43
  10. ^ "Minutes of the Meeting of the State Highway Commission of Virginia, Held in Richmond, July 19, 1932" (PDF). (234 KiB), page 8
  11. ^ Map of Washington County, revised July 1, 1936
  12. ^ "Minutes of the Meeting of the State Highway Commission of Virginia, Held in Roanoke and Richmond, May 4-7, 1952" (PDF). (616 KiB), pages 17-18
  13. ^ "Minutes of Meeting of State Highway Commission, Richmond, Virginia, December 15, 1966" (PDF). (376 KiB), pages 17-18
  14. ^ "Minutes of Meeting of State Highway Commission, Natural Bridge, Virginia, October 24, 1984" (PDF). (1.05 MiB), pages 13-15

External links

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