A growing nation needed a highway that connected East and West. So thought the promoters of the Lincoln Highway, the nation’s first transcontinental highway which crosses Donner Summit. The highway was the first national commemoration of President Lincoln.
You can walk the Lincoln Highway in many places on Donner Summit today, as well as the 1914 underpass beneath the railroad which made travel over the summit safer than going through the snow sheds. Hikers can still see advertisements which were painted on rocks more than a hundred years ago.
Donner Summit also played a critical part in the early days of American aviation, when pilots flew by what they could see. In the early 20th Century, the United States was sparsely populated. It was difficult for pilots to know where they were and where they were heading.
The Federal Government built weather stations across the country along with emergency landing strips and beacons. Donner Summit had a number of beacons that guided pilots through the pass. The weather station on Donner Summit had a "15" painted on the roof along with "SF-SL" for San Francisco (back the way you came) and Salt Lake (keep going in this direction).
That station was manned until 1953, providing weather information to pilots. The foundation of the station is still there on the rocks. The winds are so strong on Donner Summit that the station had steel cables anchored into the granite to hold it down and prevent it from blowing away. One of the beacons is still visible at the top of Signal Hill, the peak of Donner Ski Ranch Along with other transcontinentals came the first transcontinental telephone line, completed in 1914 and first used during the Panama Pacific Exhibition in 1915.