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California State Route 204; former US Route 99, US Route 399 and US Route 466 in Bakersfield


California State Route 204 is part of the old surface route alignments of US Route 99, US Route 399 and US Route 466 within the City of Bakersfield.  California State Route 204 is a 5 mile State Highway which co-signed as the California State Route 99 Business over Union Avenue and Golden State Avenue.   




Part 1; the history of US Route 99, US Route 399, US Route 466 and California State Route 204 within the City of Bakersfield

The founding of Bakersfield traces it's origins back to the Kern River Gold Rush of 1851.   The Kern River Gold Rush led directly into the emergence of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road by 1853.  The Stockton-Los Angeles Road was a replacement of the earlier El Camino Viejo.  Unlike El Camino Viejo the Stockton-Los Angeles Road avoided the dense Tule Marches of western San Joaquin Valley in favor of the Sierra Nevada Foothills.  The Stockton-Los Angles Road stayed close to the Sierra Nevada Foothills near the new mining claims on the Kern River watershed.  The Kern River Gold Rush spurred the California State Legislature to split Buena Vista County from Tulare County during April of 1855.  

South of the White River the Stockton-Los Angeles Road crossed Poso Creek where it continued to the Kern River.  The Stockton-Los Angeles Road crossed the Kern River at Gordon's Ferry which was located in what is now the eastern outskirts of Bakersfield in close proximity to China Grade Road.  Gordon's Ferry and the Stockton-Los Angeles Road can be seen in Buena Vista County on the 1857 Britton & Rey's Map of California.  


By 1859 Buena Vista County had not been formally organized which led to it's lands being spun off into Tulare County and Los Angeles County.  In 1860 a handful of settlers led by Christian Bohna constructed cabins on the Kern River in what is now Bakersfield.  These cabins were wiped out by a flood on the Kern River in 1861.  Thomas Baker would later settle along the Kern River in 1863 and founded a alternate Stockton-Los Angeles Road ferry crossing to Gordon's Ferry known as Baker's Ferry.  In 1865 underground oil reserves were found to be near Baker's Ferry which increased the importance of the developing community.  In April of 1866 Kern County was founded with Havilah being selected as the first County Seat.   

By 1870 what was now known as "Bakersfield" reached a population of 600 and was quickly becoming a major community in Kern County.  The Central Pacific Railroad selected Bakersfield as a stop on it's new San Joaquin Valley Line towards Tehachapi Pass during the early 1870s.  The increasing importance of Bakersfield saw it incorporate as a City during 1873 and it would replace Havilah as the Kern County Seat in 1874.  The emergence of the Central Pacific Railroad within San Joaquin Valley led to flood control measures which rendered the corridor the Stockton-Los Angeles Road unnecessary.  During the late 1870s road based transportation would shift west from the Sierra Nevada Foothills to the frontage roads and sidings of the Central Pacific (later Southern Pacific Railroad) which included Bakersfield.  Bakersfield can be seen on the 1873 Bancroft's Map of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona immediately west of the mainline Stockton-Los Angeles Road along the incomplete Central Pacific Railroad.  


Bakersfield would disincorporate in 1876 but would again incorporate as a City on January 11th, 1898.  Approaching the 20th Century Bakersfield was well established as a main corridor of travel and freight through California.   The emergence of the automobile in the early 20th Century in California led to the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act which was approved by voters during 1910.  The majority of the highways approved as part of the First State Highway Bond Act were largely well established routes of travel.  One such highway was Legislative Route Number 4 ("LRN 4") which was defined as a highway from "Sacramento to Los Angeles."  

According to the January 1915 California Highway Bulletin LRN 4 from Bakersfield north to Lerdo was paved and completed to State Highway standards during 1914.  


A very early LRN 4 in Bakersfield can be seen on the 
1917 California State Automobile Association Map.  LRN 4 south from Saco can be seen following Roberts Lane and Chester Avenue over the Kern River into Bakersfield.  LRN 4 can be seen following Chester Avenue, what appears to be 19th Street and Union Avenue southward through Bakersfield.  


LRN 4 through Bakersfield can be seen signed as the Inland Route and National Park-to-Park Highway on the 1920 Clason Highway Map of California.   


The initial draft of the US Route System was approved by the Secretary of Agriculture during November of 1925.  The US Route System within California was approved by California Highway Commission with no changes recommended by January 1926.  The initial alignment of US Route 99 ("US 99") was planned to follow the Inland Route via LRN 4 from Sacramento to Los Angeles.  US 99 is shown on a map published in the 1926 California Highways & Public Works following LRN 4 south from Sacramento through Bakersfield. 
 

 
During November of 1926 the US Route System was approved by the AASHO.  US 99 can be seen aligned through Bakersfield on the 1927 National Map Company Sectional Map


The original alignment of US 99/LRN 4 through Bakersfield on; Chester Avenue, 19th Street and Union Avenue can be seen on the 1930 Division of Highways Map.  Author's Note; I am aware that the Historic Route of US 99 is signed presently on 18th Street in Bakersfield.  Thus far I haven't not been able to locate any map source or photos to substantiate US 99 was ever aligned 18th Street.  The Kern County Historical Society was the body that posted Historical US Route 99 signs in Bakersfield, their article regarding the topic (which mentions 18th Street) can be found here.


The December 1931 California Highways & Public Works announced the planned realignment of US 99/LRN 4 within the City of Bakersfield.  The planned realignment of US 99/LRN 4 is shown to bypass downtown Bakersfield from Union Avenue northwest towards Beardsley Canal.  Note; the present highway alignment on the map below shows US 99/LRN 4 on 19th Street.


The January 1932 California Highways & Public Works announced construction of the realignment of US 99/LRN 4 would begin in 1932 at the site of a new bridge over the Kern River.  


The original alignment of US 99/LRN 4 over the Kern River via the 1912 Chester Avenue Bridge can be seen in this undated postcard sourced from bridgehunter.com.  


The August 1932 California Highways & Public Works describes the new US 99/LRN 4 bridge over the Kern River as having a total planned length of 2,295 feet.  The 1912 Chester Avenue Bridge is described as being too narrow and slated from removal from LRN 4.  Notably the 1912 Chester Avenue Bridge is described as being built by Kern County.  


The July/August 1933 California Highways & Public Works depicts the planned realignment of US 99/LRN 4 in the City of Bakersfield.   The realignment of US 99/LRN 4 is noted to carry the name of "Railroad Route" which was approved by the California Highway Commission on August 26th, 1932.  Five railroad crossings being eliminated is cited as being a primary benefit of the Railroad Route of US 99/LRN 4.  The Railroad Route alignment of US 99/LRN 4 is cited to include an overhead over the Southern Pacific Railroad and a new Subway of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad.  US 99/LRN 4 is shown to be realigned off of 19th Street onto California Avenue between Union Avenue and Chester Avenue to make way for reconstruction of the 1926 Union Avenue Subway.   The realignment of US 99/LRN 4 onto California Avenue would have seen it briefly pass by the Beale Memorial Clock Tower which was then located in median of Chester Avenue and 17th Street.  
 



The planned Railroad Route of US 99/LRN 4 in Bakersfield was effectively joined by US 466 in late 1933.  From Barstow US 466 was slated to follow LRN 58 over Tehachapi Pass into Bakersfield.  US 466 ultimately would reach US 99/LRN 4 via Sumner Street at Union Avenue as opposed to Grove Street like LRN 58 had originally.  The first documents acknowledging the existence of US 466 in California can be found during October/November 1933 in the AASHO Database.  


The June 1934 California Highways & Public Works announced the bypass route of US 99/LRN 4 around downtown Bakersfield via Golden State Avenue opened to traffic as of June 2nd, 1934.  The new alignment of US 99/LRN 4 on Golden State Avenue split northwest from Union Avenue at 20th Street.  US 99/LRN 4 on Golden State Avenue crossed through it's former alignment at Chester Avenue via the new 320 foot diameter Garces Traffic Circle (which had been completed in 1933).  Chester Avenue north of Golden State Avenue would be incorporated into LRN 142 which itself had been added as a State Highway in 1933.  The original definition of LRN 142 was "Bakersfield to Isabella via Glennville" in 1933.  





US 99 (US 466 does not yet appear) can be seen bypassing downtown Bakersfield on the 1934 Division of Highways Map via Golden State Avenue.  


First mention of US 399 can be found in a letter by the Division of Highways to the AASHO Executive Secretary dated September 6th, 1934.  US 399 appears as a proposed US Route which would connect US 101 to US 99.  Notably US 466 is described as having already been approved but it's existence not yet been announced to the public.  US 399 is described as having a proposed length of 131 miles beginning from a south terminus at US 101 in Ventura along with a north terminus at US 99 in Bakersfield.




The August 1935 California Highways & Public Works announced the completion of a new Union Avenue Subway on US 99/LRN 4.   The 1935 Union Avenue Subway was a replacement for the earlier substandard 1926 structure.  



The 1936-37 Division of Highways Map finally shows US 466 co-signed with US 99 on Golden State Avenue.  US 399 is shown to multiplex US 99 from Greenfield into downtown Bakersfield via Union Avenue where it would have terminated at US 466.  


The September 1937 California Highways & Public Works describes 11.7 miles of Union Avenue (US 99/US 399/LRN 4) in Bakersfield south from Grove Street as being expanded to four lanes.   


The January 1939 California Highways & Public Works describes the completion of a four-lane divided US 99/LRN 4 alignment from Grapevine Station 19 miles northward towards the outskirts of Bakersfield.  This segment of US 99/LRN 4 had been completed in late 1938 with an opening ceremony held on December 16th.  This 19 miles of newly divided US 99/LRN 4 was the final piece in a fully completed divided highway (which includes the then infamous third "suicide" lanes of Ridge Route Alternate) from Bakersfield south to Los Angeles.  During much of the previous decade US 99/LRN 4 had been upgraded from the haggard Old Ridge Route alignment westward through Piru Gorge and straightened in Grapevine Canyon.    




Former US 99 on Chester Avenue (as noted above then LRN 142) was announced in the June 1942 California Highways & Public Works as being upgraded to four lanes between Bakersfield and Oildale.  Chester Avenue is cited as having been upgraded over the course of three construction contracts.  The first contract included a second bridge to carry northbound Chester Avenue over the Kern River which began during December 1940.  Upon completion of the new bridge for northbound Chester Avenue the 1912 Chester Avenue Bridge was retained for southbound usage.  




The Garces Traffic Circle at the junction of US 99/US 466/LRN 4 and LRN 142 (Golden State Avenue and Chester Avenue) was featured in the July/August 1946 California Highways & Public Works.  The statute of Fray Francisco Hermengildo Garces located in the center of the Garces Traffic Circle was dedicated on May 7th, 1939.   Garces is most well known for a documented 2,000 mile expedition from New Mexico to southern San Joaquin Valley.  




The September/October 1947 California Highways & Public Works discusses the widening of US 99/US 399/LRN 4 on upper Union Avenue within Bakersfield to six lanes.  Expansion of US 99/US 399/LRN 4 began during May of 1946 and was completed by March 1947.  





The January/February 1949 California Highways & Public Works announced the completed expansion of US 99/US 466/LRN 4 on Golden State Avenue from H Street near the Garces Traffic Circle northwest to Snow Road.   The expansion of US 99/US 466/LRN 4 included a full interchange/rotary underpass at Pierce Road (LRN 141) along and extended the divided highway 19 miles northward of Bakersfield to Famoso.  






The January/February 1957 California Highways & Public Works announced that the relocation of US 99 in Bakersfield to a new freeway grade was being considered.  



The March/April 1957 California Highways & Public Works announced that US 99/US 466/LRN 4 on Golden State Avenue would soon be relocated to an overpass of the Garces Traffic Circle.  The Garces Traffic Circle is cited to have carried a traffic count of 55,000 vehicles a day when surveyed in 1956.  Connection to LRN 142/Chester Avenue would be made from the US 99/US 466/LRN 4 overpass via frontage roads.   The Garces Traffic Circle overpass is cited to have a scheduled opening during the month of June 1957.  





The September/October 1958 California Highways & Public Works notes that the 1935 Union Avenue Subway was expanded to six lanes and reopened to traffic by June of 1957.  The expansion of the 1935 Union Avenue Subway required US 99/US 399 be rerouted onto a temporary detour route.  


The November/December 1958 California Highways & Public Works notes an allocation of $2,343,000 dollars for right-of-way acquisition for a US 99 freeway in and around Bakersfield.  


The September/November 1959 California Highways & Public Works notes right-of-way for a relocated US 99 freeway through Bakersfield was in the process of being obtained.  The article stub is posted next to a map showing the planned routing of the US 99 freeway in Bakersfield.  



The November/December 1959 California Highways & Public Works notes that the first two units of the "Bakersfield Bypass" route of US 99 were funded for the 1960-61 fiscal year.  




The November/December 1960 California Highways & Public Works cites numerous 1962-63 fiscal year allocations for the US 99 freeway from McFarland south through Bakersfield to the Westside Freeway Junction (Interstate 5).  


The planned Bakersfield Bypass route of US 99 appears in full detail on the 1961 Division of Highways Map.   



The November/December 1962 California Highways & Public Works announced 13.1 miles of the US 99 Bakersfield Bypass was opened to southbound traffic in August 1962.  The northbound lanes of the Bakersfield Bypass were cited to be ready for traffic upon the completion of the final 5.3 mile segment which was scheduled for October 1963.  



The September/October 1963 California Highways & Public Works discusses US 99/LRN 4 moving to the completed West Bakersfield Freeway.  The completed West Bakersfield Freeway is cited to have had an opening ceremony held on July 23rd, 1963.  The West Bakersfield Freeway is stated to have originated 13 miles south of Bakersfield and extended northward 18.5 miles over a new alignment which bypassed Union Avenue and Golden State Avenue.  The West Bakersfield Freeway saw the relinquishment of Union Avenue south of Brundage Lane/LRN 141 which truncated US 399 out of Bakersfield to US 99 at Pumpkin Center on Taft Highway.  US 466 was left as the standalone mainline route on Golden State Avenue.  The US 99 Business Route followed the former alignment of US 99 on Union Avenue and multiplexed US 466 on Golden State Avenue. 






On May 1st, 1963 the Division of Highways submitted a request to the AASHO Executive Committee to remove US 399 as part of the planned 1964 California State Highway Renumbering.   This request was considered by the AASHO Executive Committee on June 19th, 1963 and met with their approval.  US 399 subsequently would effectively cease to exist come New Year 1964.  





On April 26th, 1963 the Division of Highways on behalf of the City of Bakersfield and Kern County submitted a request to the AASHO Executive Committee for a US 99 Business Route upon the completion of the West Bakersfield Freeway.  The US 99 Business Route as submitted was to be signed on Houghton Road near the community of Alameda, Union Avenue and Golden State Avenue through the City of Bakersfield..  This request was considered by the AASHO Executive Committee on June 19th, 1963 and met with their approval.






During the 1964 State Highway Renumbering what was LRN 141 on Brundage Lane, Union Avenue and Golden State Avenue were assigned as California State Route 204 ("CA 204").  US 466 east of Bakersfield to Barstow was reassigned legislatively as part of CA 58 whereas what had been US 399 had been reassigned as CA 119 and an extension of CA 33.  The new legislative CA 204 can be seen aligned over Brundage Lane, Union Avenue and US 466/Golden State Avenue on the 1964 Division of Highways Map.   Notably former US 99 on Chester Avenue was reassigned from LRN 142 to CA 155 as part of the 1964 State Highway Renumbering.



US 466 was approved for truncation from Morro Bay to CA 127 in Baker by the AASHO Executive Committee during June 1964.  This truncation would see US 466 terminate on Baker Boulevard at the intersection with CA 127/Death Valley Road.  This measure left CA 204 and the US 99 Business Route as the signed surface routes on Union Avenue and Golden State Avenue in Bakersfield.  


The changes noted the above paragraph in reference to the emergence of CA 204 as the standalone mainline route on Union Avenue and Golden State Avenue can be seen on the 1965 Division of Highways Map.  


The AASHO Renumbering database shows that US 99 was approved to be truncated out of California by the AASHO Executive Committee on June 29th, 1965.  This measure was put Bakersfield on what is now CA 99.  The US 99 Business Route on Houghton Road, Union Avenue and Golden State Avenue was reassigned as CA 99 Business. 







According to CAhighways.org the route west terminus definition of CA 155 changed via 1965 Legislative Chapter 1372 from Bakersfield to Delano.  This measure partially annexed the original CA 211 and eliminated former US 99 on Chester Avenue in Bakersfield from the State Highway System.  It is unclear when the 1912 and 1942 Chester Avenue Bridges over the Kern River were replaced. 

The 1977 Caltrans State Highway Map shows the CA 58 freeway in Bakersfield complete.  According to CAhighways.org the route definition of CA 204 changed via 1978 Legislative Chapter 287 to have it originate at CA 58 via Union Avenue.  This measure relinquished Brundage Lane from the State Highway System.   


According to CAhighways.org as of September 18th, 2006 the California Transportation Commission authorized the entirety of CA 204 (as it lies entirely within the City of Bakersfield) to be relinquished.  For such a relinquishment to come to pass the City of Bakersfield would have to be willing to accept the entirety of CA 204 under their jurisdictional maintenance.  If this measure were hypothetically to occur CA 204 would cease to be a State Highway 



Part 2; a drive on California State Route 204

CA 204 northbound beings from CA 58 Exit 112 at Union Avenue. 


CA 204 northbound on Union Avenue is co-signed as CA 99 Business.  CA 204/CA 99 Business northbound intersects former CA 204 at Brundage Lane at Postmile KER 2.07.  




At Postmile KER 3.07 CA 204/CA 99 Business northbound intersects the 1933 alignment of US 99 at California Avenue.  The intersection of Union Avenue and California Avenue was the original location of the Bakersfield Sign (more on that in Part 3). 


CA 204/CA 99 Business northbound on Union Avenue passes under the 1935 Union Avenue Subway at Postmile KER 3.34. 


At Postmile KER 3.62 CA 204/CA 99 Business northbound on Union Avenue intersects the original alignment of US 99 at 19th Street.  Presently 18th Street is signed as the main connecting road to the Central District of Bakersfield.  


CA 204/CA 99 Business northbound makes a soft transition onto Golden State Avenue at 20th Street.  Traffic is advised to continue on Union Avenue to reach the CA 178 freeway.  



CA 204/CA 99 Business northbound on Golden State Avenue crosses under the CA 178 freeway.


CA 204/CA 99 Business northbound climbs over the Garces Traffic Circle at approximately Postmile KER 4.80. 



CA 204/CA 99 Business northbound crosses the Kern River, intersects former LRN 141 at Pierce Road and terminates at CA 99.  





Part 3; the Bakersfield Sign

As noted in Part 2 the intersection of Union Avenue and California Avenue was the original location of the Bakersfield Sign on US 99/US 399.  The Bakersfield Sign was constructed in 1949 by the Bakersfield Inn which sought to expand their complex over Union Avenue.  The original structure of the Bakersfield Sign was a pedestrian overpass which included two towers located on both sides of Union Avenue.  The Bakersfield Sign was a facade affixed to the pedestrian overpass and soon became a signature for the city as it greeted traffic on US 99/US 399.   

The Bakersfield Sign can be seen on northbound Union Avenue as part of CA 204/CA 99 Business in this photo sourced from the Kern County of Old Facebook Group.  Judging by the cars this photo seems to have been taken in the late 1980s or early 1990s.  


A video of the Bakersfield Sign as seen from northbound US 99/US 399 along Union Avenue during 1955 can be found on this Wikimedia Commons Page.   

The Bakersfield Sign fell into disrepair and was no longer maintained after the Bakersfield Inn closed.  The Bakersfield Sign was purchased by Buck Owens in the late 1990s and was removed from it's overpass structure (which was demolished).  The Bakersfield Sign underwent restoration in 1999 and was erected on July 4th next to Buck Owens Crystal Palace on Sillect Avenue.   This photo is how the Bakersfield Sign appears today on Sillect Avenue.  



Article Version History

-  Originally published 12/1/2017.
-  Renovated and republished 4/22/2021

Comments

Bill H said…
All that and I didn't see a word about the west side 99 originally opening and being signed INTERIM I-5. And remaining that until the middle of nowhere I-5 was completed a year or two or three later.
Challenger Tom said…
The West Side Freeway or West Bakersfield Freeway? The West Side Freeway is the actual corridor of Interstate 5 north of Wheeler Ridge.
BakoCondors said…
Regarding when the 1912 and 1942 Chester Avenue Bridges over the Kern River in Bakersfield were replaced, the northbound bridge was replaced in 1978; the southbound bridge in 2007. I remember the 2007 work. Both directions of traffic were routed onto the northbound bridge for the year it took to build the new southbound bridge. I was too young to remember the 1978 northbound replacement.
Source: https://bridgereports.com/city/bakersfield-california/

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