This should have been easy search. Seriously, in the decade of satellite surveying and phones that argue with you, one would think that simple street measurements were more readily available – especially for those that claim to be the widest. In order to sift through the claims, the most important task was to complete was to establish a single set of parameters from which to compare each claim. From there, any measurements weren’t available from reliable sources had to be made via my computer’s tape measure.
Parameters for verifying the widest Main Streets:
- They must fall into my definition of Main Street, which is “the most important street in a community.” I do not necessarily limit main streets to small towns.
- Measurements are taken from building front to building front. The building edge is typically the storefront, but if the street is completely lined with covered porches, the building front is considered the outer face of the porch. This measurement includes the sidewalks, because quite often they cover the original street.
- They must feel like a single unified space or zone.
Widest Urban Main Street: Canal Street, New Orleans, LA
At 170 feet wide, Canal Street is often called the widest road in America still classified as a street, as opposed to an avenue or boulevard typically associated with larger cities. The city originally envisioned it as a grand avenue with a canal, but the canal never developed past a dry ditch, and the ditch was eventually filled in for streetcars.
Widest Main Streets (with a railroad)
- Front St., Cobden, IL: Front Street’s widest point is around 380 feet wide, though this was not its original width. After the Illinois Central Railroad track literally split the main street into two parts and pushed them outward, the main street technically became the nation’s widest.
- Ennis, TX: At its widest block, Main Street measures at approximately 340 feet. Ennis was planned and built exclusively to support the Houston and Texas Central Railway, and it still uses the railroad.
Widest Rural Main Streets (without a railroad):
- Iowa Avenue, Onawa, IA: The city claims loudly that it has the widest main street in the United States, but it’s difficult to determine because there are no actual dimensions stated anywhere online. My crude measurements show 152 feet, but with my +/- 4-foot margin of error, they may be right.
- Grand Avenue, Plains, KS: Despite the fact it’s called avenue, this street, including the 12 foot wide sidewalks, measures 155 feet, 5 inches.