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Call it what you will - the path to purgatory, the road to ruin, the highway to hell.

Disbelievers need only read the signs: U.S. 666 is labeled unmistakably with the mark of the beast, a distinction that's made the desert highway the object of a push to rename it.Transportation officials in the three states the 198-mile road runs through are hesitant so far, however, to alter the designation because the cost and logistics of doing so could be substantial.

The Utah Department of Transportation weighed in on the topic last year when it came up during a routine meeting with highway administrators from Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.

"They thought it would not be worth the effort," said UDOT spokesman Kent Hansen.

The subject has resurfaced in New Mexico, though, where Leroy Sandobal, planning division director for the state Transportation and Highway Department, said last week that a handful of residents are still lobbying for a change.

"They're concerned about all these accidents on the road . . . and the evil signage," said Sandobal.

Word is there's a connection between "666," the satanic symbol from the biblical Book of Revelation, and crashes that occur now and then on the desolate byway, which connects the small San Juan County town of Monticello with Gallup, N.M., via the Mesa Verde National Park region of southwest Colorado.

Part of the dark lore of U.S. 666, said Robert Sakaguchi, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Transportation, includes "some claims of sightings of old women and things like that."

Witches, in other words, not to mention the occasional warlock.

Sandobal said New Mexico is running a name change up the flagpole again to see whether Utah and Colorado will entertain the proposal, but Sakaguchi said the costs of exorcism might outweigh any benefits.

"People and businesses would have to change mailing addresses . . . we'd have to change all references on signs and maps and other documents," said Sakaguchi, adding that "lengthy public hearings" would occur before a name change could be implemented.

Hansen noted, too, that any rechristening would have to be done formally by the U.S. Department of Transportation, although that agency generally follows recommendations made by a group called the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials.

Sandobal said the issue is resurrected periodically in New Mexico, and the current movement is being sparked by a group of American Indians in the Shiprock area of the state's northwestern corner.