ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (Reuters) — Oh heck. You can’t drive on the Devil’s highway in New Mexico anymore. Route 666, often referred to by locals as the “Highway to Hell” or “Satan’s Highway” was formally re-christened Route 491 Wednesday. Several prominent voices wanted new numbers for one of the state’s deadliest roads that lacked associations with the biblical beast. “After 77 years of concern and discontent we have finally removed any reference to the devil from this highway,” said Gov. Bill Richardson in a ceremonial dedication.The tortuous stretch of road runs through mountain valleys from Gallup to Shiprock for just over 100 miles in the northwest part of the state. It has some of the highest fatalities per mile of any highway in New Mexico because of its poor condition.
In 2002, 11 people were killed in crashes on U.S. 666 in New Mexico, while in the first six months of this year, six have perished, the state transportation department said.
The number 666 is called the number of the beast because of a passage in the New Testament — from Revelations — and over the centuries triple sixes have become associated with Satan.
The road was renamed Route 491 because it is the fourth route off U.S. 191.
Most of the 666 highway signs were stolen after the name change was announced in May. Officials blame thieves looking for souvenirs and not the Devil.