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US 101 Photo Gallery


City of San Diego

Pacific Highway

US 101: Mission Bay, 1934

This map from  1934 shows the old and new alignments of Pacific Highway. (California Highways and Public Works)

The section of US 101 called Pacific Highway through San Diego has an extensive history. The first routing went through downtown La Jolla, then over two extremely steep and narrow grades: "Biological Grade" and Torrey Pines Grade. These grades were bypassed between 1930-33 by a much improved three lane alignment that went from Broadway to just south of Del Mar, as shown on the map at right. This was later widened to four lanes divided in 1938 to accommodate the ever increasing traffic. In 1942-43, a large portion of Pacific Highway north of downtown San Diego was converted into a semi-freeway as a part of the war effort; some of this remains to this day. This section of Pacific Highway was finally bypassed and superseded by Interstate 5 between 1965 and 1968.

1933 Widening and Realignment

Before 1930, travelers going into San Diego from the north had to negotiate a very treacherous road that followed the route of old El Camino Real. The route was similar to the Ridge Route north of Los Angeles as it was a 16' wide road that went over steep grades, with slopes of up to 18%. The new route, built between 1930 and 1933 was a significant improvement, as it had three 10' wide lanes over a straighter alignment with far gentler grades. While most of this alignment has been covered up by later revisions, there are still some remnants which offer a very interesting glimpse to how this road looked.

San Diego River Bridge

This bridge was built in 1933 and is notable because it had 4 10' lanes and that it was made of steel and not of concrete as many other were at the time. Some time between its completion and 1943, its concrete arch guardrail was replaced by the current whitewashed wood guardrail.

Right:  The bridge soon after its completion in 1934.

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Above and Right: The San Diego River bridge in 1997. During construction of the original interchange between US 101 and Alvarado Canyon Rd in 1943, the concrete arch railing was replaced by the wood railing. In 2000, the City of San Diego replaced the railing with a standard concrete barrier that has the metal pedestrian rail.



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"A JUBILANT CAVALCADE of motor cars, three abreast, sped along the beautiful, curving shores of Mission Bay upon the opening and dedication of the new Atlantic Ave. entrance to the city."


1938 Widening

While the widening to three lanes was a marked improvement for vehicular traffic, it soon became obsolete. Within five years of its opening, the three lane road was converted into a four lane divided highway. The new highway incorporated the latest in safety technology, especially with the use of reflectorized curbs with recessed panels. It was also one of the first highways to use 12' wide lanes, a feature that significantly reduced accidents.
(Photographs courtesy of Caltrans)

Right:  Fully divided highway along Mission Bay built in 1943 demonstrating the advances in  highway technology.

Below:  Pictures showing the 1938 widening. The recessed panels in the curbs were later reduced in number to groups of five every 15 feet.

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Old and new US 101 split looking south (1937). This intersection is now covered by the UC San Diego campus with absolutely no trace left. However, the eucalyptus trees, which where brought in for railroad construction, still adorn the campus.

Same location as at left, but looking north. One would never have guessed there used to be a service station where today there are college dormitories.


Torrey Pines

Much of the work done to old US 101 north of the City of San Diego prior to the construction of its bypass (I-5 in 1966) was completed before 1941. By 1915, the first incarnation of the road - a 15 foot strip of concrete hugging the beach was completed. Within fifteen years what had once been a technological marvel had become outdated. During the 1930s the road was rerouted to a straighter alignment along the shore and the road going up the Torrey Pines Grade was placed on a high speed alignment with gentle curves. This was initially three lanes wide, but at the time it was constructed was graded for an additional two. These lanes were added within ten years and the road has changed very little since. (Photographs courtesy of Caltrans)

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Left: 1920s vintage postcard showing Torrey Pines Lodge. Today it is the headquarters for Torrey Pines State Park.

Below Left: A wonderful shot from the 1920s showing a Ford Model "A" with the beach and Torrey Pines Grade in the background.

Below Right: Aerial photograph of both alignments up Torrey Pines Grade taken in 1955. The lodge is in the upper middle of the photograph, but is more visible in the zoom photograph. The old alignment is the white line that snakes its way parallel to the wider road.

Left: 1920s vintage Ford Model "A."
Right: Close-up of sign extolling the virtues of Carlsbad. It says "Living conditions / Profits in farming / Beyond comparison / That's Carlsbad."

Left: View of old concrete road (top) and newer 101. They both appear much the same today.
Right: Zoom shot of Torrey Pines Lodge, showing overview of what appears in the postcard.


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If you have any questions, comments, or if you would like to send me any updates or pictures, please contact me at: casey@gbcnet.com.