Q: Whatever happened to U.S. Route 460, and when did they build Frank Scott Parkway?
Claude T. Cable, of Fairview Heights
A: Are you still getting your kicks on Route 66?
Probably not — at least, not officially. Even though it was once called the Mother Road and the Main Street of America, the legendary highway of TV, movies and song no longer exists except for the decorative historic markers that keep its romantic memory alive in various spots along its 2,500-mile route from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif.
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Why? It became antiquated, a quaint two-lane back street left in the dust by Dwight Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System. What was once the pride of the U.S. road system was officially removed from the U.S. Highway System in 1985. Now, you’ll find segments designated only as Historic Route 66 or as (insert state name) Route 66.
That’s what happens to highways that fall into disuse because they have been supplanted by a nearby interstate. They are decommissioned by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and they wind up either being demolished or their upkeep is taken over by a state or county government.
In a nutshell, that’s what happened to U.S. 460 in our area. After the Poplar Street Bridge began carrying traffic over the Mississippi on I-64 and I-55/70, commuters no longer had to battle the tedious maze from the MacArthur Bridge and through those horrible trains in East St. Louis just to finally enjoy the short stretch of four-lane joy from basically Alorton to Eckert’s Country Store. So, on Nov. 15, 1975, the AASHTO decommissioned U.S. 460 from St. Louis to the Indiana line, and Illinois designated it as Illinois 15. Eight months later, much the same was done with the stretch from Evansville, Indiana, to Frankfort, Kentucky.
But if you want to relive old memories, you still can. What’s left of U.S. 460 picks up just east of Frankfort, Ken., and runs 655 miles east to Norfolk, Va.
As for Frank Scott Parkway, the road named after the first enlisted man in the U.S. armed forces to die in an aircraft accident, construction started in 1998, and most of it opened in May 2001 followed finally on Sept. 1, 2001, by the 2.4-mile stretch from Hartman Lane to Cross Street in Shiloh. Now work could begin in a few months to widen Frank Scott East to four lanes from Illinois 159 to North Green Mount Road. Eventually a two-lane extension from Cross Street in Shiloh to Illinois 158 is expected to be constructed as well. Work to widen the intersections at Old Collinsville, Hartman Lane and North Green Mount has been ongoing.
Q: You can find all kinds of stories saying that humans share 98 percent of their genetic material with chimps, 80 percent with cats — even 24 percent with the lowly table grape. Is all of this really true?
A.F., of Tilden
A: While such comparisons provide juicy Internet click-bait, knowledgeable scientists seem to agree that such stories are at best simplistic and at worst meaningless because you wind up comparing rutabagas to kumquats rather than oranges to oranges.
Here’s why: It’s inevitable that we’re going to share some genetic material with just about everything from dandelions to gorillas. That’s because scientists believe animals, plants and fungi all share a common ancestor that lived about 1.6 billion years ago, give or take a hundred million or two. Everything that evolved from this ancestor retained part of that original genome so it’s no surprise some similarities are still found today. And it’s no surprise that the higher up the chain you go — comparing pigs and humans, for example, the more similarities you’ll find.
After that, however, all bets are off. The numbers you see probably are comparing only that portion of your DNA that “code for” — or result in the production of — various proteins our bodies need for various biochemical and physiological functions. So, for example, since all mammals need the same types of proteins, it’s only logical they’re going to share a large number of the roughly 20,000 protein-encoding genes. But while 20,000 sounds like a lot, only 1 percent to 2 percent of mammalian genes are thought to encode proteins with similar basic functions. We’re still trying to uncover what many of the other 98 percent do and this is where those comparisons fall apart.
“Depending what it is you are comparing, you can say, ‘Yes, there’s a very high degree of similarity, for example, between a human and a pig protein-coding sequence,” Chris Moran at the University of Sydney once told ABC News. “But if you compare rapidly evolving non-coding sequences from a similar location in the genome, you may not be able to recognize any similarity at all. This means that blanket comparisons of all DNA sequences between species are not very meaningful.”
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Answer to Friday’s trivia: Sometimes getting out of bed truly might be the hardest — and last — thing you ever do. According to the Centers for Disease Control, falling out of bed was the underlying cause in an average of 737 deaths a year from 2005-2014. That’s far more than lightning (31) or even being hit by a bus (264).