US 101 Photo Gallery
City of San Diego
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 This section of Pacific Highway was finally bypassed and superseded by Interstate 5 between 1965 and 1968.|
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.
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
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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