In this article we examine the history of California State Route 255 and the Humboldt Bay Bridge.
Part 1; the history of California State Route 255
The history of CA 255 is somewhat modern by California State Highway standards. CA 255 was adopted as part of Legislative Chapter 1898 of 1963 according to CAhighways.org. Interestingly CA 255 was also assigned Legislative Route 294 but it was effectively nullified by the 1964 State Highway Renumbering. The original definition of CA 255 was; "Eureka across Humboldt Bay to the Samoa Peninsula." CA 255 first appears as a planned highway on the 1964 Division of Highway State Map.
Prior to CA 255 automotive access to the Samoa Peninsula was either via ferry or taking a long drive around Arcata Bay. The Samoa Peninsula traditionally has been the head of what was until recent decades a large lumber industry in Humboldt County. The community of Samoa has origins back during 1865 when it was settled as the lumber community of Brownsville. The construction of CA 255 across Humboldt Bay included three structures which are unofficially known as the "Humboldt Bay Bridge." The Humboldt Bay Bridge in actuality consists of three bridges:
- The Eureka Channel Bridge at Post Mile 0.20. The Eureka Channel Bridge is presently named the "Meyer Bistrin Memorial Bridge" which was adopted during 1977.
- The Middle Channel Bridge at Post Mile 0.67. The Middle Channel Bridge is presently named the "Carl L. Christensen Memorial Bridge" which was adopted during 1977.
- The Samoa Channel Bridge at Post Mile 1.37. The Samoa Channel Bridge is presently named the "Richard R. Denbo Memorial Span" which was adopted during 1980.
During 1970 Legislative Chapter 881 extended the planned route of CA 255 from the Samoa Peninsula back to US 101 in Arcata. During 1971 the three structures of the Humboldt Bay Bridge opened as the "Samoa Bridge." The completed CA 255 can be first seen on the 1975 Caltrans State Map.
Part 2; a virtual drive on California State Route 255 northbound
From US 101 northbound CA 255 is accessed by left hand turn from 5th Street onto R Street in the City of Eureka. Note; all the below photos are ripped from Google Street View.
Interestingly CA 255 doesn't officially begin until the intersection of R Street and 4th Street (US 101 southbound). The "Begin" placard below the CA 255 shield is something of a rarity among California State Highways.
CA 255 is signed as a northbound highway and as noted above approaches Eureka Channel Bridge at Post Mile HUM 0.20. CA 255 over the entirety of the three Humboldt Bay Bridge structures is a limited access Super Two Freeway.
CA 255 crosses Woodley Island and has an Exit accessing Startare Drive.
At Post Mile HUM 0.67 CA 255 begins to cross the Middle Channel Bridge to Indian Island.
CA 255 doesn't have any exits on Indian Island. Indian Island was the home to about 100 Wiyot tribal members who were massacred by settlers during 1860. Wiyot Island was home to a ship repair facility between the 1870s until it shuttered during the 1980s. During October 2019 the City of Eureka gifted the entirety of Indian Island back to the Wiyot Tribe.
At Post Mile HUM 1.37 CA 255 begins to cross the Samoa Channel Bridge to the Samoa Peninsula.
At Post Mile HUM 2.029 CA 255 north makes a right hand turn onto New Navy Base Road. New Navy Base Road is named after Naval Auxiliary Airfield Eureka ("NAAF Eureka") which was an auxiliary of Moffett Field. NAAF Eureka was commissioned during August 1943 and was closed during October 1945. NAAF Eureka's facilities were converted into Eureka Municipal Airport after World War II.
CA 255 on New Navy Base Road becomes a conventional highway as it continues north on the Samoa Peninsula. US 101 is signed as 7 miles away in Arcata.
At Post Mile HUM 4.007 CA 255 passes through the community of Manilla.
At Post Mile HUM R4.855 CA 255 crosses the Oregon & Eureka Railroad and begins to follow it towards Arcata. At Post Mile HUM R5.13 CA 255 crosses the Mad River Slough Bridge.
CA 255 briefly expands to four lanes approaching Arcata.
CA 255 enters Arcata as Samoa Boulevard and terminates at US 101.
Part 2; a drive on California State Route 255 southbound
CA 255 southbound begins from US 101 southbound Exit 713 in the City of Arcata.
CA 255 southbound follows Samoa Boulevard initially west through Arcata.
CA 255 southbound follows the northern banks of Arcata Bay traveling initially westward before turning south upon crossing Mad River Slough at Postmile HUM R5.21.
At Post Mile HUM R4.855 CA 255 crosses the Oregon & Eureka Railroad and enters the community of Manilla via New Navy Base Road. At Postmile HUM 2.029 CA 255 makes a eastward left hand turn onto the Samoa Bridge.
The Samoa Cookhouse can be found south of CA 255 by continuing on New Navy Base Road.
Some of the structures associated with NAAF Eureka can be found in the vicinity of the Samoa Cookhouse.
The derelict Oregon & Eureka Railroad is easily accessible on the Samoa Peninsula as seen below from the Samoa Cookhouse.
Some fantastic views looking east towards the Samoa Bridge can be found from Vance Avenue.
CA 255 southbound crosses the Samoa Channel Bridge from the Samoa Peninsula to Indian Island. As CA 255 climbs onto the Samoa Channel Bridge there is a placard that notates that it is a freeway.
CA 255 crosses Indian Island and the Middle Channel Bridge to Woodley Island.
CA 255 southbound crosses Woodley Island and the Eureka Channel Bridge onto R Street in Eureka.
CA 255 south follows R Street across US 101 southbound at 4th Street and terminates at northbound US 101 at 5th Street.
Some additional views of the structures comprising the Samoa Bridge can be found through Eureka. This view can be found from the Waterfront Trail at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center.
A small marina is located underneath the Samoa Bridge on Waterfront Drive.