Why's it called the 3L Highway?


Newer, and younger, residents likely know it better as Route 17, but longtime residents of the area understand that the “3L” Highway runs from Covington, down through Independence, Piner, Falmouth, and points south. Why is it called that?

First, the four old wives tales that DO NOT explain it, but are frequently told:

1. Margie Prindle's Independence, Kentucky, the Heart of Kenton County, from 1992, cites an interview she had with Mr. Herman McClanahan of Cynthiana, who worked on the construction of the road in the early 1920's. McClanahan said that a Mr. Linus Lamb Liebus, who was a weigh master for the rock used to build the road called it the L.L.L. Highway, after his own initials, since it had no other name.

2. You can read that there was a bartender in Sandfordtown (roughly where I-275 crosses the 3L these days) that named it. Why he named it 3-L is a little hazy.

3. The name represents the three biggest cities of the area - Louisville, Lexington and Losantiville (an early name for Cincinnati). Given the age and the history of the name Losantiville, this one just can't be - the name Losantiville is too old - and it was discontinued many decades before.

4. A more frequent explanation of the name is that it was derived from the racing association that traveled regularly between the tracks at Latonia and Louisville and Lexington. They refer sometimes to the LLL Racing Association. The flaw in this one is that there was never any such association. We would direct you to exhaustive research by Robert Webster as noted below.

And now for the real story: Mr. Webster offers a page from the Rand McNally Auto Trails Map, the page on Kentucky, from 1925. On it, is a key to the road signs of the era (shown on the prior page), and we get this explanation: Notice that Highway 20 runs from Louisville to Lexington, through Shelbyville and Frankfort, and turns north, thru Cynthiana and Falmouth, on its way to Latonia. Also note that the key to this map, shown on the prior page, says that for Highway 20, the three L's are for Louisville-Lexington-Latonia. 


Northern Kentucky Views has extensively augmented it's original article on the L.L.L. with the research Robert Webster did, and wrote of in the May/June 2010 issue of the Bulletin of the Kenton County Historical Society. The “smoking gun” proving how the 3L got it's name was an item long elusive to Northern Kentucky historians, and congrats to Webster for finding it.