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Hunting the early Lincoln Highway and US Route 48 from French Camp west of Altamont Pass

On a recent weekend I sought to locate and photograph the original alignments of US Route 48 and the early Lincoln Highway from French Camp west over Altamont Pass.


Travel over the Diablo Range via Altamont Pass was not a regular occurrence between San Joaquin Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area until the Central Pacific Railroad began construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1863.  The original route of foot and wagon traffic over the Diablo Range within the vicinity of Altamont Pass was to the south via the 1,600 foot Corral Hollow Pass on El Camino Viejo.  Altamont Pass ultimately proved to be a far better grade over the Diablos than Corral Hollow Pass due to the favorable terrain and very low crest elevation of 741 feet above sea level.  The Transcontinental Railroad was completed over Altamont Pass by 1869.  The Western Pacific Railroad was formed in 1903 and joined the previous Central Pacific line through Altamont Pass on a new alignment.

Modern road transportation over Altamont Pass didn't begin until 1910 following voter approval of the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act.  The 1909 First State Highway Bond Act greatly expanded the roster of State Maintained Highways and the route from French Camp west over Altamont Pass ultimately became part of Legislative Route Number 5.

CAhighways.org Highway Chronology Chapter 1

In October of 1913 the Lincoln Highway was formally dedicated.  The Lincoln Highway was routed from French Camp over Altamont Pass on the following alignment:


-  Ash Street to Harlan Road. 
-  Harlan Road through Lathrop to Manthey Road
-  An older crossing via Manthey Road through Mossdale which is up river south of the current roadway. 
-  Manthey Road through the present right of way of I-5 to 11th Street/I-205 BL.
-  11th Street to Grant Line Road/CR J4.
-  Grant Line Road/CR J4 to Banta via G Street.
-  Likely 7th Street and F Street through Banta.
-  F Street to Banta Road.
-  Banta Road to 11th Street.
-  11th Street to Byron Road.
-  Byron Road (which becomes CR J4 north of I-205) to Grant Line Road
-  Grant Line Road to Altamont Pass Road
-  Altamont Pass Road over Altamont Pass
 
The above alignment of the Lincoln Highway between French Camp over Altamont Pass can be seen on the 1917 CSAA Highway Map of California.

The Lincoln Highway appears to have been shifted out of Banta by 1918 onto the 11th Street Bypass which can be seen on the State Highway Map of the same year.  The 1918 map appears to show straightening of the Lincoln Highway around Mossdale at the San Joaquin River as well.

1918 State Highway Map

The route of US 48 was ultimately selected to be routed from French Camp west over Altamont Pass and by proxy San Jose in 1926.  In the initial planning stages of the US Route system US 48 was planned as US 42 which can be seen on a 1925 Rand McNally Highway map of California and Nevada.

1925 Rand McNally Junior Map of California and Nevada

US 48 ultimately appears between French Camp and San Jose on 1926/1927 commercial maps.

1926 American Association of State Highway Officials US Route Map

1927 Rand McNally Map of Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles areas

It is not completely clear when the California State Automobile Associate ("CSAA") began signing the US Routes but it either in 1927 or more likely 1928.  In 1928 State Maintenance of LRN 4 out of Stockton shifted to Mariposa Road.  This eventually led to US 48 being truncated to Lathrop at US 99W.  It is not clear if the truncation of the east terminus of US 48 to Lathrop occurred in 1928 or 1929 much less if the route had even been signed to French Camp at all.  1928 was also notable for the Lincoln Highway being shifted off Altamont Pass directly west out of Sacramento on the alignment of US 40 to the San Francisco Bay Area.

1928 State Highway Map

Most sources also cite 1929 as the year US 101 split into E/W routes around San Francisco Bay.  This led to the truncation of US 48 to Hayward, however this does not appear on any maps until the 1930 State Highway edition.

1930 State Highway Map

In 1934 US 50 is shown on the Bay Area City Insert section extended to Hayward.  US 48 still appears on the overall map and no extensions of US 50 show on the Stockton or Sacramento City inserts.

1934 State Highway Map

1934 State Highway Map City Insert

It appears that US 48 was truncated to Hayward by 1930-31 with US 50 being extended according to page 127 this Division of Highways report from 1931-1932.

Eighth Biennial report of the Division of Highways

State Highway maintenance was added in the City of Oakland by 1935 in anticipation of the Bay Bridge being completed.  US 50 was likely extended over all of remaining US 48 in 1935.  More detail can be found on the CA 123/Old US 40 blog.

California State Route 123/Old US Route 40 in Oakland

USends offers a similar take to the truncation of the east terminus of US Route 48.

USends.com on US 48 (i)

USends has a different take on the ultimate discontinuation of US 48 in favor of US 50.  Commercial maps of the San Francisco Bay Area apparently show US 50 being extended first to Hayward and to Oakland possibly as early as 1932.  Given that the CSAA was managing signage at the time it is plausible that actual field signage might have been different than on official State Highway Maps.

USends Bay Area End Points

The six custom maps below show the earliest route of the Lincoln Highway compared to that of US 48 based off of all known State Highway map data from French Camp west over Altamont Pass.







While drawing the above maps I was unaware that the Lincoln Highway Associate has a fully interactive map showing every alignment of the Lincoln Highway.

Official Map of the Lincoln Highway

My drive on the Lincoln Highway and US 48 began at what was the eastern terminus of the latter at French Camp Road (former US 99) and Harlan Road.  US 48 originally would have turned left and began its westward trek towards Altamont Pass from US 99 north in the photo below.  The Lincoln Highway would have continued directly ahead toward I-5 onward to Stockton via was an ultimately an easterly route.


US 48/Lincoln Highway followed the railroad tracks on Harlan Road.  Originally the Lincoln Highway continued on French Camp Road where it doubled back towards Harlan Road via Ash Street.  Ash Street can be seen in the second photo below.



Harlan Road runs along the eastern flank of I-5 south from French Camp.  Harlan Road has numerous Historic Lincoln Highway shields, the first can be seen in the third photo below.




Harlan Road traverses through Lathrop as a frontage road of I-5.  The alignment of Harlan Road is shifted on elongated alignments away from I-5 at roadways that carry ramps to the Interstate.  The older alignments of US 48 and the Lincoln Highway are largely present as service drives to local businesses.












At Louise Avenue the alignment of Harlan Road straightens one final time approaching a dead end at a Home Depot Distribution Center.






Ahead the junction of the CA 120  freeway and I-5 can be seen to the south.  The Lincoln Highway originally ran directly south towards the railroad tracks and turned right towards Manthey Road.  When the route of LRN 5 was straightened the alignment of Harlan Road would have eased over what is I-5 to what is Manthey Road.  This second alignment would be inherited by US 48 and US 50.


The former convergence point of Harlan Road at Manthey Road is marked by a Lincoln Highway shield on the western flank of I-5. 


The Lincoln Highway would have originally run alongside the railroad tracks in the photo below until the underpass was constructed.  Just beyond the underpass the second eastern terminus of US 48 can be seen.


Emerging from the underpass the route of CA 120 west ending at I-5 south can be seen ahead.  The ground up road on the left was once Yosemite Avenue and where US 99W would have met the second eastern terminus of US 48.  US 99W south would have turned left onto Yosemite Avenue.


The former alignment of US 99W on Yosemite Avenue is much more obvious looking back to the north.  One can almost envision US 48 east ending at US 99W at this junction.  Yosemite Avenue would eventually become the beginning of CA 120 east until it was moved to a freeway alignment.


What was US 99W on Yosemite Avenue can now be walked as a trail underneath the junction of CA 120 and I-5.





Approaching the San Joaquin River the route of Manthey Road enters what is generally considered to be Mossdale.  Just east of the San Joaquin River there is a historical marker detailing the 1846 landing of the ship known as the Comet.  The Comet was the first sail propelled ship to traverse the San Joaquin River.  The landing site of the Comet would later become a ferry crossing of the San Joaquin River in 1848.




There is a small boat launch to the San Joaquin River along Manthey Road known as Mossdale Crossing.  From Manthey Road the 1926 Manthey Road Bridge can be seen along with the 1949 Mossdale Highway Bridge on the left.  The Mossdale Highway Bridge was part of of a four lane expansion of US 50 and is now part of the ramp of CA 120 east onto I-5.



The Union Pacific San Joaquin River Bridge can be seen from Mossdale Crossing.  Interestingly the First Transcontinental Railroad wasn't fully completed in Promontory, Utah but rather here when the first San Joaquin River Bridge opened in September of 1869.  The first alignment of the Lincoln Highway would have crossed the rails into the boat launch area in Mossdale Crossing.


The 1926 Manthey Road Bridge shared a location with the 1917 Mossdale Highway Bridge.  Both the Lincoln Highway and US 48 would have crossed the San Joaquin River here.






The Lincoln Highway is well signed west of the San Joaquin River along Manthey Road.






Former US 48/Lincoln Highway at Manthey Road has a gap through the junction of I-5 and I-205.  The alignment essentially can be followed by jumping onto I-5 and taking to 11th Street which is part of the I-205 Business Loop at Exit 458A.






US 48 followed 11th Street all the way into Tracy.  The Lincoln Highway originally split west from 11th Street towards Banta on Grant Line Road/Signed County Route J4.





The Lincoln Highway is well co-signed on CR J4 west to G Street in Banta.





The Lincoln Highway turned left at 7th Street in downtown Banta.  From downtown Banta the Lincoln Highway originally followed F Street and Banta Road back to 11th Street on the outskirts of Tracy.  Banta was a siding of the First Transcontinental Railroad and the community still has some structures dating back to it's heyday such as the 1879 Banta Inn.






US 48 never was routed through Banta and always used the 11th Street Bypass.


US 48 would have followed 11th Street into Tracy on the 1936 11th Street Rail Overpass.  Lincoln Highway signage on 11th Street resumes west of Banta Road.












Tracy has similar rail siding roots dating back to the Central Pacific much akin to Banta.  Whereas Banta never really grew beyond a rail siding Tracy is now a City which essentially is the eastward most suburban extension of the San Francisco Bay Area.  11th Street at Central Avenue in particular still resembles an early US Route from the nearby building motif.



West of Tracy Boulevard the route of 11th Street crosses a set of rails.  Both US 48 and the Lincoln Highway would have turned immediately right after crossing the rails onto Byron Road.  Byron Road no longer connects all the way to 11th Street.



Accessing Byron Road now requires a northward turn on Corral Hollow Road/CR J2.




Both US 48 and Lincoln Highway followed Byron Road northwest out of Tracy all the way to west Grant Line Road where a western turn was made.  The alignment of US 48 and Lincoln Highway is briefly signed as part of CR J4 between east Grant Line Road and west Grant Line Road.








Both US 48 and the Lincoln Highway followed Grant Line Road west into Alameda County approaching Altamont Pass.








Grant Line Road crosses the Delta-Mendota Canal almost immediately upon entering Alameda County.


US 48 and the Lincoln Highway followed Grant Line Road west over what is now the location of the California Aqueduct to Altamont Pass Road.  US 48 and the Lincoln Highway made a right hand turn onto Altamont Pass Road as did US 50 until 1937.  After 1937 the route of US 50 followed Grant Line Road onto an expressway grade presently on an alignment over what is now New Altamont Pass on I-580.  Amusingly Altamont Pass Road was signed as a I-580 detour route when I took my photos.






US 48 and the Lincoln Highway followed Altamont Pass Road to the 741 foot Altamont Pass.
















From Altamont Pass the grade of the Western Pacific Railroad ascends above Altamont Pass Road.  The flat grade on the left is the former route of the Central Pacific First Transcontinental Railroad.  The Altamont Pass Rail Overpass dates back to 1907 when the Western Pacific was building it's line through Altamont Pass.  The Western Pacific Railroad was added to the Union Pacific in 1983 which already had control of the former Central Pacific grade through Altamont Pass.  The former Central Pacific line was abandoned in 1984 in favor of the Western Pacific grade.




Immediately west of Altamont Pass the route of US 48 and the Lincoln Highway passed through the siding community of Altamont.  Interestingly Altamont Pass takes it's current name (formerly Livermore Pass) from the siding and not the reverse.  Not much from Altamont remains aside from a scant number of structures such as the Summit Garage.


US 48 and the Lincoln Highway followed Altamont Pass Road west into Livermore.  The descent from Altamont Pass offers fantastic views of the Western Pacific bridge work and I-580 descending from New Altamont Pass.  The former route of US 48 and the Lincoln Highway merges into what is now the eastbound lanes of I-580 upon entering Livermore.















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