U.S. Route 101: Wikis


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U.S. Route 101 shield
U.S. Route 101
Length: 1540 mi[1] (2,478 km)
Formed: 1926[1]
South end: I-5 in Los Angeles, CA
I-405 in the San Fernando Valley, CA
I-80 in San Francisco, CA
US 20 in Newport, OR
US 30 in Astoria, OR
US 12 in Aberdeen, WA
North end: I-5 in Olympia, WA
United States Numbered Highways

U.S. Route 101, or U.S. Highway 101, is the second most important north–south U.S. highway that runs through the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, on the West Coast of the United States. It is also known as El Camino Real (The Royal Road) where its route along the southern and central California coast approximates the old trail which linked the Spanish missions, pueblos, and presidios. It merges at some points with California Highway 1.

According to the AASHTO's numbering scheme for U.S. Highways, three-digit route numbers are generally subsidiaries of two-digit routes. However, the principal north–south routes were assigned numbers ending in 1. Rather than lose four available north–south numbers (93, 95, 97, and 99) or assign the primary west coast highway a "lesser" number, the AASHTO made an exception to its two-digit rule. Thus, U.S. 101 is treated as a primary, two-digit route with a "first digit" of 10, rather than a spur of U.S. 1. Thus U.S. Route 101, not U.S. 99, is the westernmost north–south route in the U.S. Highway system.

Though U.S. Route 101 remains a major coastal north–south link along the Pacific coast north of San Francisco, it has been replaced in overall importance for transport through the West Coast states by Interstate 5, which is more modern in its physical design and has more direct placement due to significantly easier geography over much of the route. Route 101 is a major parallel freeway or highway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and is an alternative to the Interstate for most of its length. In 1964, California truncated its southern terminus in Los Angeles, as Interstate 5 replaced it. The old road is known as county road S-21 or Historic Route 101 in northern San Diego County.

The highway's "northern" terminus is in Olympia, Washington, though the northernmost point on the highway is in Port Angeles. The southern terminus of U.S. 101 is in Los Angeles, California at the East Los Angeles Interchange, the world's busiest freeway interchange.[2]


Route description

U.S. Route 101 may be called the "Oregon Coast Highway" in Oregon, and the "Pacific Highway" in parts of California. It is also called "The 101" (pronounced "the one oh one") by residents of Southern California or simply "101" by residents of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. From north of San Francisco and continuing almost to Oregon it is also referred to as the "Redwood Highway". Urban portions of the route in Southern California are named the Santa Ana Freeway, Hollywood Freeway, and Ventura Freeway at various points between East Los Angeles and Carpinteria, California[3]. In 2008, the portion of the freeway that runs from the Conejo Grade to the Old Town district of Camarillo was dedicated as the Adolfo Camarillo Memorial Highway to honor the city's namesake and extends through the boundaries of the original Camarillo family rancho.[4] Urban portions of the route in the Bay Area are called the James Lick Freeway, Bayshore Freeway, and Central Freeway. A portion of the route north of Salinas, California is named Sig Sanchez Highway. Street routings in San Francisco are more commonly referred to by their street names rather than the route number. Portions of the route between Southern California and the Bay Area are named El Camino Real or El Camino Real Freeway, but such names are rarely used colloquially in lieu of the route number.



In Southern California, the highway is a heavily traveled commuter route serving the Northwest portion of the Greater Los Angeles area; this includes Ventura County communities in the West Conejo Valley and in the Oxnard Plain, along with Los Angeles County communities in the East Conejo Valley and San Fernando Valley. The route is the Santa Ana Freeway from East Los Angeles to Downtown Los Angeles. It becomes the Hollywood Freeway north of Downtown Los Angeles through the Cahuenga Pass, before turning west and becoming the Ventura Freeway. Communities along the alignment include Hollywood and the southern edge of the San Fernando Valley, and the cities of Hidden Hills, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks (includes Newbury Park), Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura, and Santa Barbara. US 101 also integrates with the southern part of the historic El Camino Real.

The Golden Gate Bridge carries US 101 across San Francisco Bay.

In Northern California it is the primary coastal route providing motorists access in and out of the San Francisco Bay Area. It is also the primary commuter route carrying residents of Marin and Sonoma into San Francisco. For commuters of San Mateo County, San Jose, and other cities that make up Silicon Valley it shares this duty with Interstate 280. The route proceeds northward (via Van Ness Ave., Lombard St., and Richardson St.), leaving the City of San Francisco by crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. It then departs the immediate coast and continues through wine country and Redwood forests until it re-emerges coast-side at Eureka. The route provides access through the extraordinary terrain of the North Coast and into vast groves of protected Redwoods in area parks, including Redwood National and State Parks before reaching the Oregon State Line.

Unlike Washington, California does not sign the long east–west section of U.S. 101 between Point Conception and its junction with California State Route 134 and 170 in North Hollywood as "West" and "East." Instead, Caltrans observes the overall direction of the highway and marks these portions as "North" and "South". Local references to this portion of the freeway, including traffic reports, refer to the directions on this section as east for southbound lanes and west for northbound lanes. In the late 1990s, Caltrans began placing guide signs on local streets in the San Fernando Valley adjacent to the 101 which identified eastbound and westbound entrances to the freeway. Other than replacing older guide signs which previously referenced the official northbound and southbound designations of the freeway, Caltrans made no other changes to mainline or street signing, and as such, pull-through signs, overhead signs, and freeway entrance signs all still reference north and south instead of east and west.


U.S. Route 101 enters Oregon four miles (6 km) south of Brookings, and is seldom out of sight of the Pacific Ocean except the northern end near Astoria; the major exception being a significant inland stretch south of Tillamook, Oregon. It crosses the Siuslaw River Bridge in Florence. The stretch between Florence and Yachats is considered one of the more attractive segments of this highway. There are a number of Oregon state parks along the Pacific coast, including the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Because U.S. 101 forms the main street of almost all of the coastal towns in Oregon (with the exception of Cannon Beach and a few others), traffic is frequently, though not always, congested and slow. The highway crosses the mouth of the Columbia River over the 4-mile-long (6-km) Astoria-Megler Bridge at Astoria into Washington, and follows the Columbia downstream to Ilwaco.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge carries US 101 over the Columbia River.


From Ilwaco, U.S. 101 follows the Pacific coastline as far as Raymond, from which it proceeds directly north to Aberdeen, offering access from this city into the Olympic National Park. While the AAA has designated this segment north and then east to Port Angeles and Sequim as a scenic byway, some clear-cut logging in the early 1990s has diminished the scenic value of the highway where it crosses the Quinault Indian Reservation and the Olympic National Forest. An expressway goes through Sequim. East of Sequim, Route 101 turns southward, leading to Shelton and its "northern" terminus in Olympia, the state capital. Upon reaching Shelton, U.S. 101 turns into a two lane bypass that changes to a freeway at the junction of State Route 3, merging with State Route 8 and finally ending at Interstate 5.

The highway runs north through Washington, running parallel to the Pacific Coast, all the way up the western side of the Olympic Peninsula. In the northwestern part of the peninsula, the highway turns east, and runs along the peninsula's northern edge, parallel to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In the peninsula's northeast corner, the highway then turns south, running along the eastern edge of the peninsula and along the western shore of Hood Canal, until the highway terminates at a junction with Interstate 5 in Olympia. Between the intersection with State Route 112, on the western edge of the Olympic Mountains, U.S. 101 is signed east/west, and roughly south of the intersection with State Route 20, U.S. 101 is signed north/ south but having turned around 180 degrees. The direct route between the towns of Aberdeen (on the coast) and Olympia is US 12 and State Route 8.

The Washington section of U.S. 101 is defined at Washington Revised Code §47.17.165.[5]


Former US 101 in northern San Diego County.

Parts of Historic Route 101 can still be found in San Diego County between Oceanside and the border with Mexico under a variety of different names. Through Oceanside it is called Coast Highway. In Carlsbad it becomes Carlsbad Blvd, but to the south in Encinitas it is Coast Highway 101. Solana Beach keeps it consistent with Highway 101, but Del Mar changes it to Camino Del Mar. All of those together make up San Diego County Route S21. From there it continues along Torrey Pines Road to Interstate 5 in La Jolla. The old 101 routing continues on I-5 in San Diego until Pacific Highway, the old U.S. 101 freeway a little west of current I-5. It then continued on Harbor Drive and Broadway through Downtown San Diego and Chula Vista, then onto National City Blvd in National City. The southern parts of I-5 were U.S. 101 for a period before I-5 was completed also. All have been decommissioned, but the roadways still exist and are occasionally signed as Historic 101.

Historic Route 101 in Solana Beach.

Most of Historic 101 between Gilroy and San Francisco is still active, either signed as Business 101 or as State Route 82. The 101A bypass, however, is mostly discontinuous and is paralleled by the actual freeway, in some cases serving as an access road to the freeway.

Large parts of the old U.S. Business 101 and State Route 82 surface roads between San Francisco and San Diego are designated El Camino Real (The Royal Road), a designation originally given any thoroughfare under the direct authority of the King of Spain and his viceroys. These portions constitute the first major road in California.

Before the Golden Gate Bridge was completed, Highway 101 was divided in the San Francisco Bay Area. 101-W (west) followed the same general right-of-way of today's 101 from San Jose to San Francisco. 101-E (east) generally followed the right-of-way taken by today's I-880 from San Jose to Oakland. Since there was no Golden Gate Bridge yet, 101-W became a ferry ride across the Golden Gate Strait. As today, 101-W proceeded up Van Ness, but without any left turn at Lombard, ending at the Hyde Street Pier. From there, motorists would drive onto a ferry boat which would cross the Golden Gate to Sausalito, where they would drive off the ferry directly onto the main street of Sausalito, which was signed for U.S. 101 once again.[6]

The 101-E designation was removed by the 1940s and became state Route 17 (later Interstates 880 and 580) between San Jose and Santa Rosa. As the Bayshore Freeway was built along the east side of the San Francisco peninsula in the early 1950s, old U.S. 101 along the El Camino Real was posted as U.S. 101 Alternate or 101-a, and the freeway was marked U.S. 101-Bypass or 101-B. In 1964, when California renumbered numerous state highways, El Camino was renumbered California 82 and the Bayshore Freeway lost the Bypass designation.

Popular culture

The US Route 101, has become internationally renowned over the years in film, popular culture and song. It is often quoted alongside other legendary roadtrip routes; such as Route 66, as a recognised symbol of American culture and lifestyle. The highway itself is depicted in several episodes of The O.C., set in South California, and is both the feature and focus of its theme song "California" by Phantom Planet. It is also referenced in Albert Hammond Jr.'s track "101", Canadian hip-hop artist Buck 65's track "Highway 101", and in Social Distortion's track "Highway 101"

See also


External links

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