US 44A was an alternate route to US 44, extending from the Wilbur Cross Highway (now I-84 in Manchester) to US 44 in Ashford. It was originally part of US 44, and is now part of US 44 today; the same route change that created US 44A in 1948 was reversed in 1982.
A Note on AASH(T)O
For the most part, even for Interstate and U. S. routes, the individual states plan, design, and build them. To ensure a relatively cohesive and useful numbering system, the states need to coordinate their plans with the Route Numbering Committee of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Before 1973, when the "and Transportation" was added, the group was known as AASHO.
In 2021, AASHTO published an online archive of decisions and correspondence dating back to the 1920s. If you have any interest in American highway history, this is a gold mine.
The birth of US 44A
In 1948, the Wilbur Cross Highway (part of I-84 today) was completed from East Hartford to Tolland, as a four-lane freeway connecting to the two-lane "Super 2" road continuing to Massachusetts. At the time, US 44 followed the same route it does today from Manchester through Ashford via Bolton, Coventry and Mansfield, and the Wilbur Cross Highway was part of Route 15.
To encourage motorists to use a newer, more direct route, the state moved US 44 to the Wilbur Cross Highway, overlapping Route 15 from US 6 in Manchester to Route 74 in Willington. Then, US 44 replaced Route 74 east of that interchange, continuing to Ashford. The bypassed segment of US 44 became US 44A.
About 10 years later, the Wilbur Cross Highway gained another route number, I-84, creating a triple overlap of 84, 44, and 15. The state was also developing plans for a US 6 freeway bypass of Manchester to the south, which would improve access along the original US 44 path through Bolton Notch. As the years progressed, the idea of routing US 44 along the Wilbur Cross Highway was less of an advantage.
By 1967, the state was mulling changes to US 44 numbering, which was likely a return back to the pre-1948 alignment. In 1971, this was made clear in an application to AASHO. However, AASHO denied the request, saying that the geometric standards of the proposed route (the original US 44) were not acceptable. (And – see below – there were no records of US 44A ever being approved.)
In 1980 the state truncated Route 15 at East Hartford to remove that overlap; and meanwhile continued working with AASHTO (formerly AASHO) to get approval to move US 44.
On Dec. 1, 1982, the state succeeded, returning US 44 to its original alignment, and deleting US 44A. Both US 44 and Route 74 reverted to their 1947 alignments.
In 1948, AASHO approved moving US 44, but it appears that the topic of creating US 44A fell between the cracks and was never approved.
In an August 1948 letter to AASHO, the Connecticut State Highway Commissioner wrote: "The portions of the present route, except for those sections designated as Route U. S. 6, would be given a Conn. state route number if the U. S. Route 44 change is approved." The change was approved, and Connecticut posted US 44A along old US 44.
In May 1952, AASHO Executive Secretary noted some discrepancies between their records and some signed routes, including a route marked as US 44A in Connecticut, and quoting Connecticut's written intent to assign a state route number.
In August 1967, State Highway Commissioner Howard S. Ives, noting that the 1955 "U. S. Numbered Highways" log mentions a Route US 44A intersecting US 6, but has no entry for US 44A, asked AASHO: "it would be appreciated if you could advise us of the official status" of the route. AASHO replied: "We have searched our files and can find no record of having approved an alternate route designated as US Route 44A in the State of Connecticut."
At that time -- 1967 -- Connecticut mentioned it was planning to make route numbering changes in the area, most likely the 44/44A swap finally achieved in 1982.
In 1968, AASHO remarked: "It would appear that rather than removing the US 44 signs and redesignating as a state number that the signs were merely changed to indicate an alternate route."
The intent here is not to go Woodward and Bernstein what appears to be a paperwork issue more than 70 years ago; but having not officially existed at least gives us something interesting to say about US 44A.
(In at least one case, a state has defied AASHTO: Oklahoma extended US 377 without approval, and the consequences are pretty minimal. AASHTO cannot withhold highway funding, prosecute highway commissioners, send in SWAT teams, and so on.)