US Highway 97

97-99_interchange.jpg (15813 bytes)
US 97 at its former terminus at US 99 in Weed.

Background

US 97 is one of the more obscure historic US highways in California, although it is a very important highway for commerce to the Pacific Northwest. This road is heavily used by truckers since it has a gentler grade than I-5 through the Cascades, which saves considerable amounts of fuel. It runs from I-5 (US 99) in Weed to the Oregon border near Calor. US 97 does have the distinction of being one of only three US highways in California to have remained completely intact since its commissioning (US 95 and US 199 are the others.) It was a relative latecomer to California, not having been commissioned until 1934. In fact, it was not even built until 1934 as part of a bill passed in 1931 that added many other new highways. In the past few years, US 97 was upgraded from what a Caltrans engineer termed a "pig trail" with narrow lanes and no shoulders to a safe, modern road. Even so, US 97 remains as a window to the past since little else has changed on this highway.

The following is an article titled "Governor Rolph Signs Bills Providing Orderly Additions to State Highways" from California Highways and Public Works, the in-house publication of Caltrans' predecessor, the Division of Highways. It discusses the addition of several hundred miles of new highways, some of which became other US highways.

A highway from State Highway Route 3 [US 99] near Weed to the California Oregon state line near Calor; 55 miles: Siskiyou County.

Geographic controls establish routing for the Pacific Highway through the north central portion of California. To reach the Klamath Lake Basin from this artery on improved roads requires a salient easterly through Oregon. The logical course for cutting this salient is a northeasterly diagonal departing from the Pacific Highway after the latter passes north of the summit near Mount Shasta. This diagonal has been recognized as a natural course on both railway and highway location. The highway routing proposed is 44 miles shorter than via the Shasta Canyon Highway over the Siskiyou Mountains.

It would depart from State Highway Route 3 near Weed and finds light construction conditions on a direct course to the Oregon Highway near Calor. The several intermediate summits are negotiated on moderate grades without losing direction and avoid adverse snow conditions better than on alternative routes.

The highway qualifies as an important interstate connection, as a route which will carry a large volume of state traffic and as one which is an economic alternative to another state route.

US 97 at a Glance

Original Routing

US 97 has followed the same routing since its commissioning in 1934. It goes from I-5 in Weed northeasterly to the Oregon border.

Current Status Outside of California

US 97 is also unchanged outside of California except where it has been routed with Interstate Highways.

Current Status in California

As mentioned before, US 97 is only one of three US highways that has remained unaltered since 1964; the other two are US 95 and US 199.

Intersections With Other US Highways

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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.
 
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