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California State Route 243

This past month I on the way back home on I-10 westbound from the Palm Springs Area.  In February of 2019 California State Route 243 had largely been closed in the San Jacinto Mountains of Riverside County.  The Caltrans QuickMap noted that CA 243 was accessible about 7 miles south of I-10 and the City of Banning.  I decided to detour off of I-10 to see how far south I could go on CA 243.


CA 243 is a 30 mile highway which begins in San Gorgonio Pass in the City of Banning at I-10 and traverses the San Jacinto Mountains south to CA 74 in Mountain Center.  CA 243 is a very mountainous highway which is largely aligned on the Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Highway.



Part 1; the history of the CA 243 designation

The current CA 243 is the second highway to carry the designation.  The original CA 243 was a reassignment of what had been Legislative Route 170 and during the 1964 State Highway Renumbering.   LRN 170 was added to the State Highway System in 1933 and the segment that was to be the first CA 243 was added as a highway between US 70 north to US 66 in 1959 according to CAhighways.  The unbuilt segment of LRN 170 between US 70 north to US 66 can be seen on the 1960 Division of Highways State Map.


On the 1964 Division of Highways State Map the unbuilt segment of LRN 170 is shown to be reassigned as CA 243.


The first CA 243 was intended to be a freeway between I-10 north to I-210 near Duarte.  In 1968 the original CA 243 was transferred as a new segment of the planned Interstate 605 according to CAhighways.  What had been the first CA 243 can be seen transferred to the I-605 as an unbuilt segment on the 1969 Division of Highways Map.


According to CAhighways in 1970 the Legislature created a new definition for CA 243 which was largely aligned over the existing Banning-Idyllwild Road.   The second CA 243 can be seen on the 1975 Caltrans State Highway Map.


CA 243 essentially was just a State Highway designation applied to the existing Banning-Idyllwild Road.  The route of Banning-Idyllwild Road is shown even on the 1935 Division of Highways Riverside County Map to be a well traveled highway.


Interestingly Banning-Idyllwild Road appears as Signed County Route R1 on the 1966 Goshua Highway Map of California (Credit Derrick Garbell on the California's Historic Highways Facebook Page for pointing this out).   I don't have a creation date for Signed County Route R1 but it was likely 1964 or prior given Signed County Route R2 was created in 1964 according to CAhighways.


As noted above much of CA 243 was closed in February of 2019 due to the winter storms which had damaged the highway.  On November 1st, 2019 the Los Angeles Times announced that Caltrans had reopened all of CA 243.  The publishing date of this article is amusingly close to the full reopening of CA 243 and disappointing for me as driver which I'll get into below.


Part 2; Driving CA 243 in Banning

My approach to CA 243 south was from I-10 west.  The transition to CA 243 south is at the 8th Street Exit in Banning.



CA 243 makes a left hand turn from the 8th Street Ramp southward to Lincoln Street at Post Mile RIV 29.48.  Idyllwild is signed as 26 miles to the south on CA 243.





CA 243 makes a left hand turn onto Lincoln Street towards San Gorgonio Avenue at Post Mile RIV 28.979.




Traffic on CA 243 makes a right hand turn onto San Gorgonio Avenue and is immediately advised against taking 30 foot or longer vehicles any further.


Unfortunately the Caltrans QuickMap was misleading.  While CA 243 was open to the boundary of San Bernardino National Forest it was only accessible to local traffic.  CA 243 was manned by a Caltrans worker at Post Mile 28.301 where it transitions onto Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Highway.




Not being able to proceed further I back tracked to I-10 on CA 243 northbound.  Unfortunately CA 243 is one of the many highways I used to frequent during 2011-2013 which I lost the majority of my photos for.  My hope is to be able to drive the highway again (along with CA 38 and CA 330) and make an update in the blog next year.




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