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Legacy of US Route 466 Part 1; California State Route 46

This past Wednesday I made it back out on the road to try out some routes along the coast I hadn't clinched before.  To get to those coastal routes I took California State 46 from CA 99 west to US 101 which had been part of US 466.  This will be a three part series on US 466 west of Bakersfield and the several branches of state highways it spawned from being decommissioned.


US 466 was commissioned as a nearly 500 mile route from Morro Bay, CA east to Kingman, AZ in 1934 and had the distinction of being the first US Route over the Hoover Dam.  USends provides more detail on the exact endpoint of US 466 in Arizona and general information about the highway outside of California.

USends on US 466

US 466 actually briefly survived the 1964 California Highway Renumbering but it's days were numbered as new state highways were assigned to it's various segments.  CA 41 was assigned on the stretch from CA 1 in Morro Bay east to US 101, CA 46 east from US 101 to US 99, and CA 58 east from US 99 to US 91.  By 1965 all traces of US 466 disappeared from the California State Highway map which can be easily observed by comparing it to the 1964 map.

1964 State Highway Map

1965 State Highway Map

CA 46 continues west of US 101 to CA 1 but that segment was originally part of CA 41 before it was realigned.  In total CA 46 is a 111 mile highway which traverses Kern and San Luis Obispo Counties.  CA 46 is still an important crossing of the Diablo Range west to US 101 and is probably the most popular route for traffic north to CA 152.

I began my drive on CA 46 westbound from CA 99 in Kern County.  The ramp for CA 46 is located at exit 44 on CA 99.  The ramp is currently undergoing improvements which generally didn't help getting adequate photographs.



Wasco and CA 43 are located 7 miles west of the eastern terminus of CA 46.



CA 46 west quickly crosses the Friant-Kern Canal.  The Friant-Kern Canal was completed in 1951 and spans 152 miles from Millerton Lake south to the Kern River.


As CA 46 enters Wasco it briefly picks up CA 43 and crosses a rail underpass.  CA 43 splits south from CA 46 at F Street in downtown Wasco.






West of Wasco CA 46 crosses through the heart of San Joaquin Valley using a couple soft curves before reaching Interstate 5 in Lost Hills.  There are plenty of oddly named roadways like "Main Drain Road" and "Gun Club Road."  My favorite and one I missed while trying to pass a car was the infamous "Brown Material Road."  Brown Material obviously refers to the oil wells in the area but the choice of name was very poor given that it could be assumed it is a reference to fecal waste.







Downtown Lost Hills is actually 2 miles west of I-5 and all the major gas chains.



West of Lost Hills CA 46 crosses over the California Aqueduct where it is signed as a Safety Corridor and passes through the Lost Hills Oilfield.  The Lost Hills Oilfield is the primary industry for the community of Lost Hills which is primarily worked by Chevron.




CA 46 blows out to a four-lane expressway west of Lost Hills.  The eastbound lanes are the original alignment of US 466.



CA 46 meets CA 33 in Blackwell's Corner.  Blackwell's Corner was the last place James Dean was seen alive before his infamous cross to the west in Cholame.  There is actually a large James Dean billboard located at the Texaco Station on southwest corner of CA 46/CA 33.  CA 33 used to cross directly over US 466 in a straight line but now it curves around it.  The previous alignment of CA 33 can easily be seen on the northwest and southeast corner of CA 46.



Cholame is located 27 miles west of Blackwell's Corner.  CA 46 begins to ascend towards the Diablo Range and Polonio Pass.  CA 46 has significant junctions with Bitterwater Valley Road which continues southwest to Bitterwater Road and Kecks Road which hears northeast near CA 33.





There is a split in the CA 46 expressway ascending westward to Polonio Pass.  The expressway re-converges and drops down to three lanes as CA 46 enters San Luis Obispo County.








Interestingly CA 46 in Kern County appears to use the exact same alignment (aside from the added expressway lanes) that US 466 would have back in 1934.  The alignment of US 466 can be seen on the 1935 California Division of Highways Map of Kern County.

1935 Kern County Highway Map

CA 46 westbound continues to ascend up to Polonio Pass.  There is an older alignment of US 466 which can be seen south of the eastbound lanes that is partially now incorporated into Antelope Road.  Polonio Pass crests at 1,750 feet before descending downhill to the junction with CA 41.  The older alignment of US 466 is most obvious descending Polonio Pass and there is even an old bridge which can be seen.  Both the eastbound and westbound grades have a second passing lane on both flanks of the ascent of Polonio Pass.








The original alignment of US 466 over Polonio Pass can be seen in detail on the 1935 California Division of Highways map of San Luis Obispo County.  The original alignment of US 466 can be seen passing through Shandon and Creston west towards Atascadero but I'll touch on that more when I get to portions of this series featuring CA 229.

1935 San Luis Obispo County Highway Map

The CA 46/CA 41 junction is extremely busy with lots of heavy truck traffic.  There is even a major local junction with Cholame Valley Road which heads north to Parkfield.  CA 41 multiplexes onto CA 46 west towards Shandon.





The junction of CA 41 and US 466 was the location of the crash that killed James Dean on September 30th 1955.  Dean's Porsche 550 Spyder was essentially t-boned by a driver making a left turn.  The junction of CA 46 and CA 41 remains infamously dangerous with fatality rates three times the state average.  Approximately 260 million in funds were just approved to improve the junction of CA 46/CA 41 which can be seen on this article below.

Sanluisobispo.com on CA 46/CA 41 junction improvements

The actual James Dean Memorial is located in the small community Cholame west of the CA 46/CA 41 junction.  The memorial is fairly simple displaying only the date of James Dean's death beneath a large tree.



CA 46/CA 41 junctions Bitterwater Road west of Cholame before becoming a two-lane expressway.  Bitterwater Road continues south to CA 58 and is really is the main road through the Temblor Range.



Near a rest area CA 46/CA 41 is being improved to a divided four-lane expressway.




US 466 and CA 41 originally turned here on Centre Street into Shandon.  US 466 originally continued southwest to Creston while CA 41 continued to Paso Robles via River Grove Drive over Pine Creek and Union Road.


US 466 can be seen running southwest of Shandon on Legislative Route 125 through Creston to US 101 on this 1934 California Highways and Public Works publication.

California Highway and Public Works 1934 book

The US 466 alignment through Creston is much more obvious on this 1940 census map of San Luis Obispo County.  US 466 used Rocky Canyon Road west of Creston to reach Atascadero.  Rocky Canyon Road was a dirt grade and no longer is a through route west of Creston.

1940 San Luis Obispo County Census Map

US 466 is still implied to be routed through Creston on this 1956 State Highway Map by Gousha.  I find it odd that US 466 was routed on a dirt road for long and CA 41 was allowed to have the better routing exclusively to Paso Robles.

1956 Gousha Map of California

US 466 is first seen clearly on River Grove Drive and Union Road co-signed with CA 41 to Paso Robles in 1959.

1959 State Highway Map

By 1960 US 466 and CA 41 were realigned to the modern expressway alignment west of Shandon to Paso Robles.

1960 State Highway Map

By 1963 LRN 125 was realigned onto the modern grade used by CA 41 today.  Rocky Canyon Road was deleted from the state highway system and LRN 137 was extended through Creston to reach the new alignment of LRN 125.

1963 State Highway Map

By the 1964 State Highway renumbering CA 41 was assigned to the former routing of US 466 on LRN 125 to Atascadero.  The only place CA 46 was signed was on the former alignment of CA 41 between US 101 in Paso Robles west to CA 1 in Cambria.  US 466 remained present in 1964 but was replaced by 1965 as I stated above.

1964 State Highway Map

Today CA 41 now splits from CA 46 west of Shandon on Centre Street.  CA 46 continues directly west to US 101 in Paso Robles.  The CA 46 Safety Corridor ends at the CA 41 split and it becomes a four-lane expressway again.







CA 46 crosses over the Estrella River on a double bridge.  The original alignment of CA 41 on River Grove Drive is to the left in this photo, where the 1910 Estrella River Bridge can be found.


Update 1/20/20:  The 1910 Estrella River Bridge is a single lane 160.1 foot long Park Through Truss design.  Given the low 12'8 foot clearance of the 1910 Estrella River Bridge it is likely it played a large factor in why US 466 was originally aligned through Creston.  These photos were taken in early 2020 when the 1910 Estrella River Bridge was being rehabilitated.  The rehabilitation of the 1910 Estrella River Bridge included a full deck replacement, clearance increase and replacement of both abutments.




In Paso Robles CA 46 West multiplexes onto US 101 South.



CA 46 is multiplexed on US 101 south to exit 228 where it splits away towards Cambria.  I actually headed south towards CA 227 from here but I have a much earlier series of photo albums of the rest of CA 46 to CA 1.  US 466 continued to Atascadero multiplexed on US 101 when it was realigned in 1959.




Cambria and CA 1 are 26 miles west of US 101 on CA 46.


Originally CA 41 and later CA 46 used Santa Rosa Creek Road to reach Cambria and CA 1.


The modern alignment of CA 46 can be seen as a proposed route on the 1970 state highway map and is shown as complete by 1975.

1970 State Highway Map

1975 State Highway Map

Santa Rosa Creek Road is only 14 miles long but is largely only a wide single lane.



Santa Rosa Creek Road descends a large cliff-face known locally as "The Wall" before it begins it begins to follow the course of Santa Rosa Creek into Cambria.






Santa Road Creek Road has a couple older bridges dating back to the 1940s during the CA 41 era.  Oddly wild turkeys can still be found out in the boons next to Santa Rosa Creek.




Santa Rosa Creek Road ends at Main Street in Cambria.  CA 41 would have ended at CA 1 here when both routes were in downtown Cambria.


The modern alignment of CA 46 is much more straight forward but has a fantastic overlook of the ocean before descending down to CA 1.  On this particular day there was a high coastal fog line that made the surrounding area look like a sea of clouds.


The same view on a clear day provides a clear look to the Pacific Ocean and Morro Rock.


The descent to CA 1 and the coast is fairly dramatic looking on CA 46 west.


CA 46 ends at CA 1 but doesn't have any "End" signage.


Comments

Tracy G Crouch said…
Hello there! I've got an old photo, possibly from the 50s, of a "Roundup Cafe" in shambles on Route 466. The lamp post in front of the building sports the Route sign. Wondering if you're interested in seeing it.
Challenger Tom said…
Tracy, of course. Do you know where said Cafe might have located on 466?
Tracy G Crouch said…
No idea. I know my great-grandparents took road trips a lot and that they went from Texas to California to visit family once. There are two photos of these buildings that look like they got hit by a tornado or demolition team or something serious.

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