The Reason One Street Can Have Two Different Names

Changing street names can be a problem for drivers.
Changing street names can be a problem for drivers. / Oran Viriyincy, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’ve ever followed driving directions, you’ve probably gotten flustered at the confusion that can be generated by a street having multiple names. Oak Street can become Pine Street before going back to becoming Oak Street; Chipmunk Cheek Road can morph into Squirrel’s Nest Drive at an intersection.

It all seems unnecessarily complicated. So why do street names suddenly change?

While different cities have different criteria for naming streets, the most likely explanation for streets with an identity crisis is that they didn’t begin as a single road. An Oak Street that turns into Pine Street, for example, could have once been separate Oak and Pine Streets that were later joined due to development. Rather than have one street absorb the name of the other, they hold on to their original name.

What’s the big deal about changing the name? Think of all the people living on Pine Street who would be affected by a new residential address. Rather than force a change on dozens of people, it’s considered more practical to have the merged streets keep separate names.

A second explanation involves changing street names to honor individuals. If a street were renamed after George Washington, it might only be changed for a specific stretch before it becomes, say, John Adams Way.

If you’ve ever felt compelled to petition for a name change for a stretch of road, you’ll probably need the support of residents who would be affected by the change. And bring your checkbook. In Columbus, Ohio, anyone hoping for a new street name will have to pay for the new signs.

[h/t The Press-Enterprise]