The Preston By-pass was Britain's first motorway. It was conceived, promoted, built and initially operated by its engineer, James Drake. The by-pass was opened on 5 December 1958 by the Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan. It later became part of the M6 motorway.
The 8 1/4-mile motorway runs around the east side of Preston between Bamber Bridge, which is just south of Preston, and Broughton, which is to the north of Preston. The road was originally built with two lanes in each direction, but with space in the central reservation (median) for an extra lane to be added each way at a later date. Initially, the shoulders were hardened with gravel but not paved, a fact still reflected in the British term hard shoulder. A hedge was planted along the length of the central reservation to help eliminate dazzle from the headlights of oncoming traffic at night. An extra lane was added in each direction in 1966 without any need to modify any of the existing bridges.