Soledad is a city located on the Salinas River of Monterey County which is presently bypassed by the freeway alignment of US Route 101. US Route 101 originally entered Soledad northbound over the Salinas River via Nestles Road and Front Street. US Route 101 was realigned onto an extension of Front Street via an underpass of the Southern Pacific Railroad during 1936. The freeway alignment of US Route 101 in Soledad opened in 1960 and much of the former surface alignment became part of the western segment of California State Route 146 in 1964. Pictured as the blog cover above is US Route 101 on Front Street as depicted in the July/August 1958 California Highways & Public Works. US Route 101 appears below on Nestles Road and Front Street on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Monterey County.
Part 1; the history of US Route 101 in Soledad
Soledad traces its origin to the establishment of the Catholic Mission of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad on October 9, 1791, in Salinas Valley of Las Californias. Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad unlike the modern community of Soledad was located on the western bank of the Salinas River. Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad was the thirteenth Spanish Mission in Las Californias and would be an important way point on the road known as El Camino Real.
The route of El Camino Real was intended to solidify a path of travel between the Catholic Missions of Las Californias. In 1804 Alta California was formed out of the larger Las Californias. El Camino Real would ultimately connect twenty-one Catholic Missions of Alta California ranging approximately 600 miles spanning from Mission San Diego de Alcala in San Diego north to Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma.
During August 1833 in period of Mexican Alta California the Spanish Missions were secularized. The secularization of the Spanish Missions gradually led to most of their lands being granted as Ranchos. Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad was granted to Estaban and Catalina Munrás as Rancho San Vicente during 1835 by Alta California Governor Jose Castro.
Despite usage of the name "El Camino Real" declining following the secularization of the Spanish Missions the communities centered around them remained important destinations. Thusly travel along the former path of Spanish El Camino Real remained a favored corridor of overland travel through the Mexican American War and emergence of the American State of California.
Following the conclusion of the Mexican American War the land holdings granted by the Mexican Government were honored by the American Government. California would ultimately become an American State on September 9, 1850, based on the fortunes of the Gold Rush in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Estaban Munrás died during 1850 which led to Rancho San Vicente passing into the sole ownership of his wife Catalina. Mission Soledad can be seen as a major waypoint west of the Salinas River on the coastal highway to the Monterey Peninsula on the 1857 Britton & Rey's Map of California.
During the 1860s Catalina Munrás began to subdivide and donate land east of the Salinas River to establish the town site of Soledad. The Soledad Post Office would open during 1869 and Catalina Munrás would donate right-of-way to the Southern Pacific Railroad during 1872 to construct a line through the community. Soledad for several years was the southern terminus of the coastal line of the Southern Pacific Railroad which led to an economic boom based off agriculture. Monterey County would formally create the Township of Soledad on February 6, 1876. Soledad can be seen as the southern terminus of the coastal line of the Southern Pacific Railroad on the 1882 Bancroft's Map of California and Nevada.
Salinas Valley was ultimately part of the American El Camino Real which began being signed as an Auto Trail starting in 1906. The era of State Highway Maintenance through Salinas Valley would ultimately begin with the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act which was approved by voters in 1910. One of the highways approved through the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act was a 481.8-mile highway originating at the City Limits of San Francisco which terminated in San Diego. This highway would ultimately come to be known in time as Legislative Route Number 2 ("LRN 2"). Within Salinas Valley much of LRN 2 would follow the existing corridor along the frontage roads of the Southern Pacific Railroad which included the community of Soledad.
The July 1914 California Highway Bulletin notes surveys for the location of LRN 2 from Greenfield to Camphora via Soledad were complete.
Greenfield can be seen on the 1917 California State Automobile Association Map along LRN 2. LRN 2 is displayed to be aligned on what is now Nestles Road to an at-grade crossing of the Southern Pacific Railroad and Front Street.
The November/December 1957 California Highways & Public Works US Route 101/LRN 2 between Soledad and Gonzales was budgeted to be converted to four lane expressway standards.