Caltrans Facts/Information


Little known facts

Highway Names/Locations


The following are definitions of terms used by Caltrans employees to facilitate our work. Often, as in all complex fields, our use of certain words will differ from accepted general usage. This list will be added to as we go along. This one was updated in September, 1996.

Cement The gray powdery stuff that binds together the aggregate, sand and water to make concrete. Not to be confused with concrete as in cement sidewalk - it should be concrete sidewalk. Cement is made from lime and clays and resembles rock mined in Portland, England - thus its name, Portland Cement.

Concrete A mixture of various sizes of rock (aggregate), sand and cement or oil. When using lime-based cement, it is called PCC or Portland Cement Concrete. When using oil to bind it, it's called asphalt concrete and is black in color.

Elephant Tracks The wide, closely spaced, broken striping that indicates that the lane to the right of these stripes will be forced to turn or exit.

Fast Lane The number 1 lane - nearest the center of the freeway.

Fog Line The white line that runs along the right edge of the roadway. This line breaks off and trails to he right and then restarts to designate an upcoming exit.

Freeway Any highway with total access control. That is a road that cannot be accessed except at designated interchanges. In other words, if you lived next to a freeway, you would not be able to build a driveway out to the edge of the road in order to get onto the freeway. The term does not refer to the road being without toll.

Gore Point The sharp angled point between the right lane and off or on ramp of a freeway.

Highway Any publicly maintained roadway, whether a rural two-lane or full freeway.

HOV Lane High-Occupancy Vehicle lane. A carpool lane. A lane designated with diamonds for vehicles carrying more than one person. In California, the maximum requirement to use one of these lanes is three. Most places require two persons. Fines for violating this requirement are at least $271.00!

Interstate Highway A highway that meets federal interstate standards and is designated as part of the Interstate system. These highways are designed, built and maintained by Caltrans. Interstates have historically received the highest percentage of federal participation in construction costs.

Jersey Barrier Common term for safety barrier. It's the concrete, angled barrier used in the middle of freeways and sometimes conventional highways that is designed to deflect vehicles back in the travel direction. The Jersey barrier was first used in California in the 1950's on Grapevine (now Interstate 5). This barrier is intended for use where traffic is in close proximity. When traffic is a distance from the center divider a metal beam barrier is used. The temporary variety used on construction projects are referred to as K-rail.

Median The middle of a freeway. Not to be confused with medium (a psychic).

Mile post A marker along a state highway indicating a location using the postmile designation. This is the distance in hundredths of miles that the given location is from the county line measuring from the south to the north or from the west to the east. Postmiles ascend in the northerly and easterly directions as determined by the route. South-north routes usually have an odd number and west-east routes usually have an even number. There are exceptions. This occurs because a route may start out as a generally east - west - such as Route 84 in San Mateo and Alameda Counties - but after some revisions and simplification is better defined the other way. Route 84 now terminates near Sacramento giving it a primarily south-north orientation. Three digit Interstates are auxiliary to longer highways, such as 280, 580, 680 that feed to Interstate 80. These routes do not adhere to the directional rules.

Number 1 Lane The lane nearest the center of the freeway. There is always a number 1 lane. There is almost always a number 2 lane. Sometimes a 3 and 4.

Little Known Facts

Botts Dots (those white, raised lane markers) were made possible through the work of Elbert Botts of Caltrans. He was trying to develop a paint that would be so reflective that it would work even in heavy rain. He tried raised markers held in place with a spike but the ceramic markers would brake apart in the traffic and the spikes would remain as a hazard. A former student of Botts', Herb Rooney, developed a fast-setting, tough epoxy that solved the problem. The first markers were placed on I-80 in Solano County and Highway 99 in Fresno in 1966. The rumble effect of the raised markers, warning drivers that they are drifting from their lanes, was an unplanned advantage of the Botts Dots. Today they are used on most highways throughout the country except where snow removal equipment would pop them off. (From Invention and Technology , Fall, 1996 - Michael Lamm.)

There is a troll/gargoyle on the Bay Bridge. It is a steel sculpture placed in a location that is inaccessible except to maintenance crews. It was called a gargoyle by its creator but it does not carry any drain water.

There is a plaque on the Bay Bridge Center Anchorage that commemorates its blessing by Eugene Cardinal Pacelli, then Papal Secretary of state in October, 1936 who later became Pope Pius XII.

Speed limits (except the maximum 65/70) are set by the people who use the road. Traffic speeds are measured with radar and the speed limit is set at the 85th percentile speed of the cars in free-flow conditions.

The official name of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is the James "Sunny Jim" Rolph Bridge. James Rolph was mayor of San Francisco for 19 years from 1911 to 1931. He was elected Governor of California in 1931 and served until his death in 1934.

Highway 35 between Highway 9 and Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains is called the Goat Trail by Caltrans workers. It is basically a dirt road and not maintained to normal State highway standards.

Highway Names/Locations

Highways get named in generally two ways. One way is from general usage and the other through legislation or other official naming. The MacArthur Freeway in Oakland got its name through legislation passed in 1968 naming the freeway for the famous general. The name was undoubtedly chosen because the freeway runs parallel to and sometimes over the top of MacArthur Boulevard through the City of Oakland. There are also locations that are commonly referred to that come about through general usage. These include places like Big Moody Curve on highway 17 in Santa Cruz Mountains and the Hospital Curve in San Francisco.

The following list is alphabetized by the first letters of the actual name of the highway. J. Arthur Younger is among the J's, not the Y's. Use the find or search feature on your browser to find particular names when your not sure of the first name.

There are two or three names who have not been identified. That will be remedied soon. Also additional information will be added as time permits.

280 Extension Term commonly used by traffic reporters to describe Interstate 280 in San Francisco between Route 101 and Sixth Street.

Alto Hill Rise on Route 101 between Mill Valley and Corte Madera. From the old Alto Wye where Blithedale met the Redwood Highway (101).

Arthur H. Breed Jr. Freeway. Route 580 between Castro Valley and Livermore. Mr. Breed was a state legislator. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 5, Chapt 73 in 1983.

Bayshore Freeway Route 101 from San Jose to San Francisco. Named for its locations.

Benicia-Martinez Bridge General Mariano Vallejo's wife was named Francisca Benicia. Martinez was named for Ignacio Martinez, commandante of the Presidio at San Francisco and then owner of Rancho El Pinole that extended from San Pablo Bay to Martinez.

Big Moody Curve The Largest curve on Highway 17 over the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is halfway between the summit (Santa Cruz/Santa Clara County line) and the Alma Fire Station at the Lexington Reservoir near Los Gatos. Moody Creek runs beneath the road.

Cabrillo Highway Route 1 from Las Cruces in Santa Barbara County to San Francisco. Cabrillo was an early California explorer. Named by Assembly Bill 1769, Chapt. 569 in 1959.

Caldecott Tunnel Highway 24 between Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Caldecott was an Alameda County Supervisor when the tunnel was built. It was originally called the Broadway Low-level Tunnel (the former tunnel through the Oakland hills was at a much higher elevation.) Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 8 in 1969.

California Delta Highway Route 4 from Interstate 680 in Martinez to Interstate 5 near Stockton. Route 4 runs through the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 11, Chapt. 46 in 1987.

California Park Hill (Cal-Park Hill) The hill on Route 101 between Greenbrae and San Rafael. California Park was housing development begun about 1910 in this area.

Carneros Highway Route 121 from Route 37 to Route 29 in Sonoma and Napa Counties. The road is named for the wine-growing region south of the Napa Valley. Carneros refers to the area's cattle ranching history. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 62, Chapt. 29 in 1992.

Carquinez Bridge Named for the strait it crosses. From the Karquin Indians.

Cats, The Two large clay cats next to Highway 17 just south of the Los Gatos (The Cats) Interchange.

Colonel William R. "Bill" Lucius Highway Route 101 from south of Healdsburg to the Sonoma/Mendocino County line. Bill Lucius served on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the California Transportation Commission. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 73, Chapt. 15 in 1990.

Commander Isiah Nelson Memorial Hanging Gardens The large retaining wall on Interstate 280 between Army/25th Street and Mariposa. Commander Nelson was a highly regarded officer of the San Francisco Police Department. He was killed in a motorcycle accident on I-280 near this location. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 75, Chapt. 10 in 1994.

Congressman Don Clausen Overpass Overcrossing of Route 101 in Rohnert Park. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 24, Chapt 57 in 1983.

H. Dana Bowers Memorial Vista Point The vista point on Route 101 at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Dana Bowers served as the Chief of Landscaping for Caltrans.

David S. Karp Overcrossing Overcrossing of Route 880 in San Leandro. Named for Mayor Karp of San Leandro. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 72, Chapt. 111 in 1993.

Devil's Slide A portion of Highway 1 midway between Pacifica and Montara in San Mateo County. Origin of name is not confirmed but believed to come from the practice in prohibition days' gangsters using the once-deserted area to dispose of their enemies into the sea at this precipitous location.

Doyle Drive The approach to the Golden Gate Bridge from Lombard/Marina ramps. The road was named for Frank Pierce Doyle an early Bridge District member from Marin County.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Highway Interstate 80 - San Francisco to Nevada State line. Dwight Eisenhower was U.S. President from 1952 until 1960. He has been called the father of the Interstate Highway System. Named in the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973 (Public Law 93-87), Section 159(a).

East Shore Freeway Route 880 and 80 from San Jose to Richmond. This section of freeway was named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 99, Chapt. 229 in 1968.

El Camino Real Route 101, Interstate 280 and Route 82 in Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco. The actual street is Route 82 from San Jose to Daly City. "The Kings Highway" represents the route of Father Junipero Serra and others who established the Missions of California. The first is in San Diego and the last in Sonoma. Named by Assembly Bill 1769, Chapt. 1569 in 1959.

Eugene A. Doran Bridge Bridge on Interstate 280 at San Mateo Creek just north of Route 92. Eugene Doran was a Hillsborough Police Officer who was killed in the line of duty. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 34, Chapt. 173 in 1969. This beautiful, award-winning bridge must be seen from below to be appreciated.

Gambetta Memorial Bridges Bridges on Route 101 over First Street in Cloverdale. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 117 Chapt. 101 in 1994.

Gary L. Hughes Memorial Interchange. The Route 80/Route 37 Interchange in Vallejo. On May 23, 1976, California Highway Patrol Officer Gary L. Hughes, was killed in the line of duty at the age of 37 years. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 100, Chapter 124, August 20, 1998.

General Douglas MacArthur Tunnel Tunnel on Route 1 in San Francisco through the Presidio of San Francisco between Lake Street and Golden Gate Bridge (Route 101). Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 86, Chapt. 94 in 1986. General MacArthur served World II and Korean War. This tunnel had been known as the Presidio Tunnel.

George F. Butler Memorial Bridge Napa River Bridge on Route 29 near Napa. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 23, Chapt. 48 in 1991.

George M. Francis Memorial Bridge Route 121 at Imola Avenue in Napa. Dedicated in May, 1932.

George Miller Jr. Bridge The Benicia-Martinez Bridge, Route 680 Between Martinez and Benicia. George Miller was a State Legislator. His son is a Congressman. Named byAssembly Concurrent Resolution 59, Chapt. 84 in 1975.

Gillian Cichowski Memorial Overcrossing Bridge over Route 17 near Los Gatos at Lexington Reservoir. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 32, Chapt. 70 in 1994. Gillian Cichowski was killed in an accident at this location. This overcrossing will eliminate the necessity for left turns.

Golden Gate Bridge Freeway Routes 1 and 101 from Lake Street (at Route 1) in San Francisco to Waldo Point (Jct 1/101, north end of Sausalito) across the Golden Gate Bridge. Named by the State Legislature in 1954.

Golden Gate Strait where San Francisco Bay meets the Pacific Ocean. They named the bridge after it.

Harold "Bizz" Johnson Interchange The Routes 92/101 Interchange in San Mateo. Bizz Johnson was a State Legislator. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 42, Chapt. 155 in 1985.

Helen Madere Memorial Bridge. The Rio Vista Bridge, east of the town of Rio Vista on State Route 12. Helen Madere was a community activist and vice-mayor of Rio Vista who did much to make Highway 12 safer in that area. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 100, Chapt 124, August 20, 1998.

Hospital Curve Route 101 in San Francisco just north of Army Street to just south of Vermont Street. So named because the highway runs behind San Francisco General Hospital.

Incline Section That upper deck part of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge from the flats near the Toll Plaza in the east bay up to the through truss portion of the bridge. The incline brings traffic from water level up to the bridge that provides 191 feet of clearance for ships. The decline is the same section on the lower deck (eastbound).

J. Arthur Younger Freeway Route 92 from Route 1 to the San Mateo/Hayward Bridge. J. Arthur Younger was a U.S. Congressman. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 78, Chapt. 188 in 1967.

Jack D. Maltester Mario Polvorosa Bridge Bridge (Overhead) on Route 112 (Davis Street) in San Leandro. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 52, Chapt. 10 in 1978. Maltester and Polvorosa were city council members for San Leandro.

James Lick Freeway Route 101 in San Francisco from the San Mateo County line and the junction of I-80. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 37, Chapt. 122 in 1951. James Lick (1796-1876) was a piano and organ maker from Pennsylvania who financed the observatory atop Mt. Hamilton. He moved to San Francisco in 1848 and made his fortune in real estate. (The 200th anniversary of Lick's birth is being celebrated at the observatory.)

John B. Williams Freeway Interstate 980 in Oakland. John B. Williams was an Oakland community leader. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 52, Chapt. 61 in 1977.

John F. Foran Freeway Interstate 280 from the San Mateo/San Francisco County line to 6th Street (end of Freeway). Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 73, Chapt. 49 in 1986. John Foran was a State legislator.

John F. McCarthy Memorial Bridge The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, Route 580 between Richmond and San Rafael. Jack McCarthy was a State Legislator. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 19, Chapt. 76 in 1981.

John Muir Parkway Route 4 between Interstate 80 and Interstate 680. John Muir was a naturalist who wrote of the natural beauty of California and the west. This name is not official though the highway passes in sight of his home - an historic landmark - in Martinez.

John T. Knox Freeway Interstate 580From Interstate 80 to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge through Richmond. John T. Knox was a State Legislator. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 50, Chapt. 78 in 1980.

Junipero Serra Freeway Interstate 280 from the Junction of Route 17/880 in San Jose to the Junction with Route 1 in Daly City. Junipero Serra founded the missions of California in the 18th and 19th centuries. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 140, Chapt. 208 in 1967.

Kent D. Pursel Memorial Freeway Interstate 80 from the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge through Alameda County to the Contra Costa County Line.. Mr. Pursel was a Berkeley druggist and councilman. Not to be confused with Charles Purcell who oversaw the construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 99, Chapt. 229 in 1968.

Leslie Charlene Curtis Memorial Bridge Route 92 at Route 101 in San Mateo. Leslie Curtis was killed in an auto accident at this location. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 84, Chapt. 129 in 1985.

Linus F. Claeys Freeway Interstate 80 from Route 4 to the Carquinez Bridge in Contra Costa County. Linus Claeys was a local landowner, businessman and philanthropist. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 85, Chapt 80 in 1990.

Luther Burbank Memorial Highway Route 12 from Santa Rosa to Sebastopol. Luther Burbank (1849-1926) was a famous horticulturist. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 4, Chapt. 11 in 1940.

Luther E. Gibson Freeway Interstate 680 from Interstate 780 to Interstate 80 in Solano County. Luther Gibson was a State Legislator. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 21, Chapt. 160 in 1967.

MacArthur Freeway Interstate 580 from San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge distribution structure in Oakland to Route 238 in Hayward/Castro Valley. Named for General Douglas MacArthur of WW II and the Korean War. Also named for MacArthur Boulevard which the freeway follows and was for the general in the 1950's.

Maze The I-80/580/880 Interchange at the east end of the Bay Bridge. We call it the distribution structure.

Military Servicewomen's Memorial Highway Route 101 in San Mateo County between the Santa Clara County line and the Ralston Avenue exit. In recognition of the contribution made by our country's women in the defense of the United States. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 171, Chapt. 154, September 1, 1998.

Nimitz Freeway Interstate 880 from Route 101 in San Jose to Route 80 at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in Oakland. Named for Admiral Nimitz of WW II who lived for many years on Yerba Buena Island. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 23, Chapt. 84 in 1958. The Garden Clubs of America have designated this route as a Blue State Memorial Highway.

Parker B. Rice Memorial Bridge Route 12 in Santa Rosa just east of Route 101. Parker Rice was a leader in veterans' and other service organizations. He was an Army Air Corps Mechanic in World War II. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 68 in 1996.

Puerto Suelo Hill Rise on Route 101 in San Rafael between Central San Rafael and San Pedro Road. Gate to the Valley.

Portola Freeway Interstate 380 from Route 101 to Interstate 280. Gaspar de Portola was California's first Spanish governor. He was first European to discover San Francisco Bay. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 113, Chapt. 217 in 1970.

Posey Tube The tube (Route 260) between Alameda and Oakland that goes beneath the Oakland Estuary. It is named for the engineer who devised its construction. The tube runs beneath the floor of the estuary and was built in 1927.

Presidio Tunnel Tunnel on Route in San Francisco between Lake Street and the Golden Gate Bridge (Route 101). Tunnel is on Presidio of San Francisco property. Not officially named. More recently officially designated as General Douglas MacArthur Tunnel.

Redwood Highway Route 101 from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon State line. Road travels through the redwood forests of northern California. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 174, Chapt. 269 in 1957.

Richard F. Cavness Memorial Bridge On Route 101 in Sonoma County at Arata Lane. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 141, Chapt. 105 in 1994. Richard Cavness was killed near this location while assisting someone whose car had broken down.

Richard "Fresh Air" Janson Bridge On Route 37 in Sonoma County, the Sonoma Creek Bridge. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 68 in 1996. Richard "Fresh Air Dick" Janson is recognized as one of the premier decoy carvers in the American West. He worked on his ark near this bridge for most of his life. He died in 1951.

Robert L. Bishop Viaduct The Route 101 Viaduct through Santa Rosa. Bishop was Mayor of Santa Rosa and and a Highway Commission member. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 39, Chapt. 51 in 1971.

Roger Van Den Broeke Memorial Plaque At the Carquinez Bridge Administration Building. By Assembly Concurrent Resolution 105, Chapt. 99 in 1994. Roger Van Den Broeke was a Caltrans Tow Truck operator who was killed while helping a motorist.

Senator John A. Nejedly Bridge The Antioch Bridge on Route 160 near Antioch. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 146, Chapt. 140 in 1978. John Nejedly was a State Legislator.

Shoreline Highway Routes 1 and 211 from Mill Valley (Marin County) to Ferndale (Humboldt County). The portion of the route between Rockport and Ferndale (Route 211) is not constructed. The road runs along the Pacific Shore. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 91, Chapt. 239 in 1957.

Sig Sanchez Highway Route 101 through Morgan Hill. Sig Sanchez was a San Jose Councilman. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 46, Chapt. 1994 in 1994.

Sinclair Freeway Interstates 280 and 680 from Route 17 to Santa Clara/Alameda County line. Joseph P. Sinclair was District Engineer for the District 4 Division of Highways (now Caltrans) from 1952 to 1964. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 104, Chapt. 168 in 1967.

Skyline Boulevard Route 35 through San Mateo and San Francisco Counties. This road runs along the top of a ridge with Pacific Ocean to the west and San Francisco Bay to east. Named by legislation (Chapt. 46) in 1919.

Sunol Grade Route 680 between Sunol (near Pleasanton) and Mission Boulevard near Fremont. Well known for its morning peak period congestion.

Valley of the Moon Scenic Route Routes 37, 121 and 12 through Sonoma County. Valley of the Moon was the name Jack London, resident of Glen Ellen, coined for this area.

Veterans Home Memorial Bridge California Drive Bridge on Route 29 in Yountville, Napa County. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 30, Chapt. 127 in 1994. The Yountville Veterans Home is nearby.

Waldo Grade Long incline on Route 101 between about Spencer Avenue and Marin City through Sausalito.

Waldo Tunnel Tunnel on Route 101 in Sausalito. Named for Waldo Point along Richardson Bay between Sausalito and Mill Valley. Not an official name. The tunnels were built in 1937 and 1954. William Waldo ran for Governor of California in 1853's as a Whig. He lost and moved to Oregon to establish the town of Waldo. He had attempted to develop the area now known as Waldo Point

Warren Freeway (State Route 13) from Interstate 580 to Route 24 in Oakland. Named for the Earl Warren former California Governor and Supreme Court Chief Justice. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 96, Chapt 166 in 1957.

Willard F. Libby Memorial Highway Route 116 in Sonoma County From Sebastopol to Forestville. Willard Libby was a nuclear scientist and member of the Atomic Energy Commission. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 149, Chapt 128 in 1984.

William Byron Rumford Freeway State Route 24 from Interstate 580 to the Caldecott Tunnel. Byron Rumford was a State legislator. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 137, Chapt. 92 in 1980.

William T. Bagley Freeway Route 101 from the Waldo Tunnel in Sausalito to Interstate 580 in San Rafael. William Bagley was a State legislator and a member of the California Transportation Commission. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution 46, Chapt 111 in 1987.

Yerba Buena Tunnel The largest bore tunnel in the world. Route 80 on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Named for the island that it passes through. Yerba Buena (good herb) was the original name for the City of San Francisco. Yerba Buena Island was previously called Goat Island. email with comments or questions:

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