Historical marker #2634 in Ft. Wright, Kentucky, commemorates the 3-L Highway. The road connected the horse racing cities of Lexington, Louisville, and Latonia in the early twentieth century.
As horse racing became a leading tourism and economic category for Kentucky, jockeys, horse owners, and spectators struggled to safely travel between the major tracks in the state: Churchill Downs, the Association Track in Lexington, and the Latonia Racetrack. Motorists followed the Independence Turnpike in Northern Kentucky to reach Latonia, but the poor conditions and the many turns on the road made it less than ideal for moving horses. Multiple accidents and lost drivers led Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati businessmen to work together to mark the 3-L Highway. Initially pitched as a tourism investment, the project gained traction and support by tying in the horse racing industry and commerce into the overall navigation of the highway.
Signage marking the 3-L highway began appearing in 1921. The small placards were white with blue letters and were placed along roads to help travelers get from track to track and town to town. The 3-L connected horse country to the river and helped small towns thrive for the few decades before state and federal roads became the dominant form of car travel in Kentucky. Roadside stands, restaurants and fuel stations sprung up along 3-L and provided sustenance and assistance to travelers.
In the 1930s, Kentucky began the long process of standardizing roadways, and with the help of the federal highway department, began to rename and reroute many turnpikes. Parts of the 3-L became US 60, which runs east to west across Kentucky, connecting Lexington and Louisville, while much of US-27 between Falmouth and Paris was also part of the 3-L.
In Northern Kentucky, KY-17 or Madison Pike is still called the 3-L by locals. While the road was renamed when the numbering system was introduced, longtime residents and their children continue to provide directions using the 3-L name and Ft. Wright maintains one sign with the 3-L label, at the intersection of Dudley Road and KY-17.
The historical marker was dedicated on September 26, 2021 at the intersection of KY-17 (formerly 3-L) and Old Madison Pike.
3-L (LLL) Highway
The route was tagged as the 3-L
Highway in 1921, before state or
federal roads were in Ky. To help
tourism by car, white signs with
blue Ls were placed along roads
connecting Louisville, Lexington,
& Latonia. Travelers could reach
Churchill Downs, the Association
Track, & the Latonia Racetrack on
3-L, passing through horse country.
Presented by the Kenton County Historical Society