NJ had to renumber Route 31 because the signs kept getting stolen
Stretching from Trenton north to Buttzville in Warren County, Route 31 offers a scenic drive featuring New Jersey's farmland, woodland and mountains.
Aside from the traffic circles, it's a pleasant driving experience, especially once you enter Hunterdon County.
While the highway has been around since the late 1920s, it's only been designated Route 31 since 1967. Before that, it was Route 69. But officials were forced to change the route's number due to people stealing the signs with the route's number on them.
It's exactly what you're thinking
The signs were stolen for the exact reason you're thinking: Some people just couldn't get past the fact that 69, or soixante-neuf as I like to call it, defines a specific type of sexual activity between two people.
Truly a dazzling example of how primitive men's humor can be.
One can only presume a slew of these "highway robberies" was executed by students at Trenton State College, aka modern-day TCNJ.
I'm not accusing anybody, it just seems like college is where the number 69 being hilarious has always thrived. Plus TCNJ has an entrance on Route 31.
The signs must have been stolen at an unsustainable rate to force the state to make such a change. It may not seem like such a big deal now, but this is pre-GPS, and you see how confused most drivers are now even with satellite capability.
There's speculation New Jersey tried other methods before re-numbering the route altogether. Road trip enthusiast Steve Alpert of AlpRoads.net, who owns one of these original Route 69 signs as part of his collection, points out the shield is made of wood.
Most, if not all, signs from that time period were made of metal.
It's completely possible the New Jersey Department of Transportation did this because it was cheaper to use wood every time one of the Route 69 signs was stolen.
Alpert adds "the NJDOT did not skimp on quality - you could pour red wine all over this shield and it would all drip off without leaving a stain. Weather-resistant is an understatement."
But not theft-resistant, apparently.
New Jersey isn't the only state to have to do this
Route 69 in Ohio was renumbered to Ohio Route 235 in 1968. Highway 69 in Texas was renumbered to Highway 112 in 1992. Route 69 in Utah was renumbered to Route 38 in 1994.
But there's still hope. If saying the word "nice" after you see or hear the word 69 is the type of humor that really gets you going, there are still a couple of major roadways that haven't made the switch.
U.S. Route 69 goes from Texas up to Minnesota.
Interstate 69 has existed since 1957, but the history on that one is confusing. It currently consists of many disjointed parts stretching from Texas by the gulf coast all the way up to Michigan.
The plan is to stretch I-69 from the Canadian Border to the Mexican Border, creating a "NAFTA superhighway." So good luck stealing those signs. At that point you're messing with the feds.
I'm sure a selfie would suffice.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 producer, writer, and host Joe Votruba. Any opinions expressed are his own.