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California State Route 123/San Pablo Avenue; a trip down Old US Route 40 and the US Route terminus points in the Oakland Area.

While on two recent Bay Area I wanted to get a sample of all the local State Highways, freeways and Historic Highway alignments that I haven't covered in previous blogs.  One such former alignment caught my eye on my second trip; former US Route 40 along San Pablo Avenue/California State Route 123 to the original western US 40 terminus at Oakland City Hall.


When US 40 was created along with the rest of the US Route System in 1926 the original western terminus was in downtown Oakland.  Specifically US 40 ended on San Pablo Avenue at a shared corner with 14th Street and Broadway. 

Early US 40 was routed from the Benicia-Martinez Ferry over Carquinez Straight into Contra Costa County.  In Contra Costa County the route of US 40 followed Legislative Route 14 through San Pablo where it picked up San Pablo Avenue.  US 40/LRN 14 followed San Pablo Avenue to the Alameda County Line where State Maintenance terminated.  US 40 followed San Pablo Avenue south through Berkeley and Emeryville into Oakland on San Pablo Avenue where it ended at Oakland City Hall.

The 1928 State Highway Map below shows the end of State Maintenance of US 40/LRN 14 in Albany at the Contra Costa County Line.

1928 State Highway Map

LRN 14 was one of the early run of State Highways that were created as part of the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act which were approved by voters in 1910.  As originally defined LRN 14 ran between Martinez to Albany.

CAhighways.org on LRN 14

By 1927 the original Carquinez Bridge from Vallejo to Crockett opened to traffic.  The Lincoln Highway was rerouted in 1928 from the previous alignment over Altamont Pass into Oakland where it multiplexed US 40 on San Pablo Avenue.  Interestingly the Carquinez Bridge was originally not part of a State Highway definition until 1931 when LRN 7 was extended to Crockett.

CAhighways.org on LRN 7

US 40 may have been moved to the Caquinez Bridge by 1927 but appears unlikely due to State Maintenance not being extended legislatively on LRN 7 until 1931.  Interestingly the 1930 State Highway Map shows the Carquinez Bridge under State Maintenance whereas the 1928 Edition above does not.  That being said, it is unclear when US 40 was routed over the Carquinez Bridge.

1930 State Highway Map

By 1929 the terminus of US 40 was joined by US 101E after US 101 was split into E/W routes along San Francisco Bay.  US 101E likely entered Oakland from the ferry docks on San Francisco Bay.  US 101E was likely signed on 7th Street and Broadway where it would have met US 40 at San Pablo Avenue.  Given that early US 40 was signed on locally maintained roads in Oakland it is unknown if there was signage from 1926-1929 directing traffic from Oakland City Hall on San Pablo Avenue down Broadway and 7th Street to the ferry docks bound for San Francisco.  The 1930 State Highway Map City Insert shows the implied routes of US 40 and US 101E in Oakland. 

1930 State Highway Map City Insert

Construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge began in 1933.  The 1934 State Highway Map shows the planned path of the Bay Bridge over San Francisco Bay west of Oakland.

1934 State Highway Map City Insert

Interestingly the 1934 City Insert shows US 50 reaching US 101E in Hayward but does not show it being extended on the Stockton nor Sacramento sections.  The full 1934 State Highway map shows US 48 intact between Hayward and Lathrop.

1934 State Highway Map

1935 was a banner year in Alameda County regarding the State assuming highway maintenance.  Maintenance of LRN 14 was extended along San Pablo Avenue to 38th Street (now MacArthur Bouelvard) in Emeryville.  LRN 5 had a branch added from Hayward to the Bay Bridge approach from the Oakland side of San Francisco Bay via 38th Street.  LRN 68 was also expanded to include the approach to the Bay Bridge from the San Francisco end of San Francisco Bay.

The result of all the 1935 State Maintenance changes in Alameda County had a profound effect on the alignments of US 40, US 50 and US 101E.  The 1935 California Division of Highways Map shows State Maintenance of LRN 14 and LRN 5 ending together at San Pablo Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard.  It is likely by 1935 that US 40 and US 50 met a common terminus at San Pablo Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard.  US 101E/W was eliminated and US 101 was routed solely through the western  extend of San Francisco Bay.

1935 Alameda County Highway Map

This 1935 Division of Highways Map of Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda shows the State Maintenance changes above much more clearly.

1935 Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda Highway Map

Given that signage in Oakland was on previously locally maintained roadways it isn't truly clear when US 40 and US 50 may have shifted or for that matter when US 101E was eliminated.  Some reports have US 50 consuming US 48 to Hayward and US 101E by 1932 but the above State Highway Map from 1934 contradicts this.  To complicate the matter more so highways at the time in Northern California were actually signed by the California State Automobile Association (CSAA) rather than the Division of Highways. 

USends.com offers a different take on the terminus points of US 40 and US 50 based off Goshua commercial maps.   The Goshua Maps shown on USends have US 50 reaching downtown Oakland co-signed with US 101E by 1933.  US 40, US 50 and US 101E all are shown to have a common terminus point at San Pablo Avenue and 14th Street.  The 1935 Goshua Maps shows a similar route but US 101E as US 101A.  An early 1936 Goshua Map shows US 40 ending at CA 24 (which I find very suspect since the CA 24 corridor is almost universally accepted to have been originally routed along Ashby Avenue in 1935) at San Pablo Avenue and Broadway whereas US 50 is shown on 38th Street.

USends.com Bay Area US Route end points

What is universally accepted is that by November 1936 when the Bay Bridge opened both US 40 and US 50 were extended into San Francisco.  Both US 40 and US 50 were co-signed to a western terminus at US 101 at 10th Street in San Francisco.  US 40/US 50 west met US 101 along Harrison Street whereas US 40/US 50 east headed towards the Bay Bridge via Bryant Street.

US 40 also was routed on a bypass of Oakland off of San Pablo Avenue onto what was known as the East Shore Highway/LRN 7/LRN 69.  The US 40 Oakland bypass route on the East Shore Highway began from 55th Street and San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito.  The 1938 State Highway Map City Insert shows the new route of US 40 and the common terminus of US 40/US 50 in San Francisco.

1938 State Highway Map City Insert

US 40 was moved onto a new bypass of El Cerrito in 1958.  This new alignment can be seen by comparing the 1958 State Highway Map to the 1959 Edition.

1958 State Highway Map City Insert

1959 State Highway Map City Insert

Former US 40 on San Pablo Avenue/LRN 14 apparently was signed as US Route 40 Business until 1964 after the mainline was moved to the East Shore Highway.  By the 1964 State Highway renumbering LRN 14 south of El Cerrito to MacArthur Boulevard was assigned CA 123 while mainline US 40 was co-signed with I-80.  I-80 was also co-signed over the Bay Bridge with US 40 and US 50.  The new designations can be seen appears by comparing the 1963 State Highway Map to the 1964 edition.

1963 State Highway Map City Insert

1964 State Highway Map City Insert

By 1967 US 40 was removed from California.  US 50 remained co-signed over the Bay Bridge with  I-80.

1967 State Highway Map City Insert

By 1970 US 50 appears to have been was cut back to Oakland co-signed with I-580.  Most sources show US 50 pushed back to Sacramento by 1972.

1970 State Highway Map City Insert

As presently defined CA 123 still runs along San Pablo Avenue from I-80 in El Cerrito to I-580 in Oakland.  CA 123 virtually has no variance from the alignment of US 40 Business on LRN 14 as it was configured in 1958.  The present CA 123 is only 7 miles in length.

CAhighways.org on CA 123

With all the historical context for US 40, US 50 and US 101E out of the way my route down San Pablo Avenue began on CA 13 east on Ashby Avenue in Berkeley.  I made a right hand turn from Ashby Avenue/CA 13 onto San Pablo Avenue/CA 123.


Despite there not being junction signage there is reassurance shields for CA 123 headed south on San Pablo Avenue.


CA 123 south almost immediately enters Oakland south of CA 13.  There are various signs directly traffic onto I-80 from CA 123/San Pablo Avenue such as this one at Stanford Avenue.  Interestingly the I-80/I-580 multiplex appears to be fully omitted from CA 123.


South of 47th Street CA 123 south enters Emeryville where US 40 would have met US 50 at 38th Street.  38th Street was renamed MacArthur Boulevard Post World War II and the name is now carried by I-580 on the MacArthur Freeway.  This point on San Pablo Avenue at MacArthur Boulevard is where US 40/US 50 likely shared a common terminus in 1935.


CA 123 south terminates as a State Highway at I-580.  San Pablo Avenue continues onward into downtown Oakland.



At Grand Avenue San Pablo Avenue crosses under I-980.



Oakland City Hall can be seen on San Pablo Avenue south of I-980.  San Pablo Avenue continues 16th Street where it is no longer a through road but rather a city plaza.






Former US 40 on San Pablo Avenue between 16th and 14th Streets is now Frank Ogawa Plaza.




Continuing south to what was the corner of San Pablo Avenue, 14th Street and Broadway there is no real indication that US 40 was present.  Usually I don't inject personal opinions into these blogs but it kind of sad that City of Oakland doesn't even acknowledge (if there is a historic marker please send me a message regarding where it is) a grand Trans-Continental highway like US 40 once terminated in front of City Hall.




San Pablo Avenue doesn't even get a mention on the street blades located at Broadway and 14th Street.  US 101E once would have continued up and to the left on 14th Street.


Looking back towards what was San Pablo Avenue and the beginning of US 40 eastbound one can almost envision early automotive travelers staking out towards New Jersey.


From what was the terminus of US 40 the 320 foot Oakland City Hall is obvious.  Oakland City Hall was completed in 1914 and was at the time the tallest building on the West Coast.  Oakland City Hall was meant to resemble New York City high rises and used to feature a 12th floor jail complete without out yard (talk about a jail with a view).  Oakland City Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 but the structure was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.  Since the Loma Prieta Earthquake Oakland City Hall has been retrofitted.




Returning to 16th Street the road ahead of San Pablo Avenue appears to resemble an early era US Route again.



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