Observations from the road: CA 99

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    Just drove up Hwy 99 returning from the CA desert (Bakersfield to Sacramento). This route has always been kind of the 2nd choice for N/S CA travel, and still is. What I observed was a lot road construction segments on the route, but absolutely nobody working on them during a weekday. There is some indication that some improvements are going on, but the evidence is slim. The highway is nice on some segments but like 101 north of San Francisco all the way up to the OR border, it is a patchwork of good highway mixed in with very bad. I find it interesting that our largest State (population wise) is falling behind with transportation.

    However, the first shovel event for their new bullet rail occurred this week. A whopping 29 miles may be done by 2020. LA to SF by the late 2020’s, but some say that will be impossible, and the speeds will be well below what Japan currently handles.


    And it will cost $68 BILLION. On the other side, I think a project on the history of Highway 99 might be interesting. Isn’t it the first border-to-border link along the west coast? Many cities and towns along the way owe their existence to 99, and I like to look at the old commercial development as I travel that route.


    Yes, I enjoy that kind of nostalgia as well. The original 99 in Southern CA perhaps moved its route as they were intent on making it a freeway, though I’m not certain about that. In the 60’s it indeed functioned as a freeway between the newly created split with I-5 south of Bakersfield. Much of the history of the route is now on “business 99”. But it probably is close to the current route. The problem is the 60’s 99 “freeway” was probably outdated by the time it was completed. The cities it serves, Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton, and Sacramento needed more than what was originally built. Unfortunately, you have to actually get off the original 99 to appreciate the nostalgia.

    But you are right, someone should do a book, if not done already, about these old business routes that once were the original highways. Many structures still stand on these corridors and most should be preserved IMO.


    More on my off-season trip. Driving I-5 into Oregon problem free until just north of Albany. Congestion occurs, and I am stuck in the fast lane behind someone who is driving just above the limit. Really no room to move around him on the right, so the the guy in the big white Cadillac behind me flashes his lights at me not once, but twice. Finally, I move over, and he passes by at 80+ MPH. Remember the limit is 65 here. Oregon plates, but a Seattle plate frame holder! A couple of other excessive speeders in this area, 85+, but even with some enforcement, these guys never seem to get caught. OSP needs to get a grip on this crap.


    The stretch south of Albany used to be one of the meanest speed traps in the state. OSP just doesn’t have the personnel to man it anymore. That piece between Salem and Albany has been getting a lot of work, but it needs to be widened.


    I5 needs to be 3 lines each way between Portland and Eugene.

    And while the limit may be 65, if you’re in the fast lane and doing less than 80, you need to move to the right.


    There is a set of two books on the Oregon portion of 99. “Oregon’s Main Street: U.S. Highway 99”
    The Folk History http://orheritage.org/shop/shop/oregons-main-street-u.s.-highway-99-the-folk-history/106/
    The Stories http://orheritage.org/shop/shop/oregons-main-street-u.s.-highway-99-the-stories/105/


    It’s fun to see remnants of the old Highway 99 where it has been rerouted or capped by I-5. Up at Hayden Island/Jantzen Beach, there’s still the “Pier ’99′” sign on the east side as you cross the slough, and the details on the southbound span of the I-5 bridge indicate its Highway 99 legacy. (I remember as a kid returning from Vancouver and looking out the back window of the station wagon at the signs that still hung there facing backwards from when it was the only span and carried two-way traffic)


    Ca-99 is trying to upgrade to federal freeway standards. The are trying to make an interstate highway. Either interstate 7 or 9.

    Dan Packard

    I’ve been working on a book about highway 99 for the past couple of years. I hope to have it done by 2025 [tongue in cheek].

    Taking the highway 99 route north from Portland to Seattle has some beautiful spots. There’s a section from Kalama to Kelso with incredible views of the Columbia river and some of the original 1930’s bridge architecture is visible.

    Highway 99 is a great stress free alternative from the crowded and high speed madness of I-5. Just be sure to allow more time to enjoy the geography and towns you traverse thru.


    Does that 99 route north take you through a town with a huge egg on display? Been *years* since I saw it and I am not positive about the location, but will never forget that huge egg!


    The giant egg is in Winlock, but I don’t think that’s Old 99. It IS “Military Road,” which is another old history lesson waiting to be learned.


    AAROADS is a great website. There Pacific Southwest Forum has some discussions on CA-99.



    Speaking of speeding, 45 more traffic death occurred in 2014 than for 2013 (for the state of Oregon). In addition, there were 2 separate traffic deaths recently from by people passing in no passing zones.

    So, re: Paul’s recent thread about increasing freeway speeds, we’re more likely to see the Ducks lose Monday than see a bump up from 65 in Oregon anytime soon. 🙂

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