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California State Route 163; Old US Route 80/395 on the Cabrillo Freeway

While recently in San Diego I drove a portion of California State Route 163 which is otherwise known as the Cabrillo Freeway.  CA 163 is largely known for the scenic freeway stretch through Balboa Park and being a historic section of US Route 395.


The present CA 163 is the second highway to carry said route number.  The initial CA 163 was an old unrelinquished section of US 99 of San Fernando Road between Colorado Boulevard in Glendale to   Figueroa Street in Los Angeles.  The initial CA 163 was deleted by 1965 but does make an appearance on the 1964 State Highway Map City Insert.

1964 State Highway Map City Insert

The section CA 163 was enacted in 1969.  Current CA 163 is routed on a 11 mile designation of what was US 395 on the Cabrillo Freeway between I-15 and I-5 in San Diego.  The legislative designation swapping from US 395 to CA 163 on the Cabrillo Freeway can be seen by comparing the 1969 to 1970 edition.  Even though the legislative designation of the Cabrillo Freeway changed to CA 163 the route remained signed US 395.  On the 1970 State Highway Map City Insert US 395 is shown signed on 11th/10th Avenue and Market Street to former US 101 at Harbor Drive.

1969 State Highway Map City Insert

1970 State Highway Map City Insert

Interestingly US 395 seemed to have been co-signed with CA 163 post-1964.  Both US 395 and CA 163 ended at the approach for the San Diego-Coronado Ferry.  While the ferry wasn't maintained as a State Highway traffic would land in Coronado on the pre-Coronado Bridge alignment of CA 75 and later CA 282.  US 395/CA 163 signage directing traffic towards the San Diego-Coronado Ferry can be seen on this 1970 video of Pacific Highway.

1970 Pacific Highway Video

According to CAhighways.org US 395 remained signed on the Cabrillo Freeway and into downtown San Diego until 1973.  After the US 395 designation was removed the legislative number of CA 163 was signed in field.  USends.com cites a date of possibly late 1970 for the truncation of US 395.

CAhighways.org on CA 163

The signage change from US 395 to CA 163 in San Diego and the Cabrillo Freeway can be seen on the 1975 State Highway Map City Insert.

1975 State Highway Map City Insert

According to CAhighways.org the legislative definition of CA 163 was pulled back from downtown San Diego the south end of the Cabrillo Freeway in 1984.  The truncation of CA 163 to I-5 can be seen on the 1986 State Highway Map City Insert.

1986 State Highway Map City Insert

US 395 apparently had been extended into California by late 1935 and consumed several of the 1934 State Highway Routes.  What became US 395 in San Diego was first signed as part of CA 71 on LRN 77 (which was adopted as a State Highway in 1931).  CA 71 can be seen on a 1934 Department of Public Works guide announcing the Signed State Highway.  

1934 Department of Public Works publication announcing Signed State Highways

CAhighways.org on CA 71

The initial route of US 395 is first shown in clear detail on the 1936 State Highway Map City Insert.  US 395 entered the San Diego area southbound using the following route:

-  Fairmount Avenue to US 80 on El Cajon Avenue.  It is unclear if US 395 ended at US 80 (LRN 12) at El Cajon Avenue or multiplexed into downtown.
-  A possible multiplex of US 80 on El Cajon Avenue to Park Boulevard.
-  A possible multiplex of US 80 on Park Boulevard through Balboa Park which became 12th Avenue in downtown San Diego to US 101 on Market Street.

1936 State Highway Map City Insert

The above map makes it unclear where State Maintenance is located.  The 1935 California Division of Highways Map below shows State Maintenance on Park Boulevard/12th Avenue.  It is likely US 80 and US 395 had a mutual terminus at Market Street on 12th Avenue in common terminus points had a precedent in other locations in California. 

1935 Division of Highways Map of San Diego 

The 1938 State Highway Map City Insert clarifies route maintenance and that US 395 and US 80 did multiplex into San Diego.

1938 State Highway Map City Insert

The planned route of the Cabrillo Freeway first appears on the 1942 State Highway Map City Insert.

1942 State Highway Map City Insert

The complete Cabrillo Freeway first appears on the 1948 State Highway Map City Insert.  While it isn't explicitly shown it is likely US 80 utilized the Cabrillo Freeway via El Cajon Avenue.

1948 State Highway Map City Insert

The 1954 State Highway Map a new alignment of LRN 12 via Camino del Rio is shown.  There is no clear indication if US 80 followed the new route of LRN 12 to US 101, was multiplexed with US 395 on the Cabrillo Freeway or ended at it on El Cajon Avenue.

1954 State Highway Map City Insert

On the 1955 State Highway Map City Insert US 80 is shown shifted north to Camino del Rio.  It is not clear but likely that US 80 ended at US 101 at Pacific Highway and didn't utilize the Cabrillo Freeway/US 395 into downtown San Diego.  There are unconfirmed rumors that at some point US 80 may have ended along LRN 12 in Point Loma but this has only ever been seen on unofficial commercial maps.

1955 State Highway Map City Insert

The alignment of US 80 is clearly shown on Camino del Rio reaching US 101 on the 1957 State Highway Map City Insert.

1957 State Highway Map City Insert

With the history of the Cabrillo Freeway in mind my approach to it was via I-805 south.  I turned onto CA 163 south from I-805 south Exit 21.




Exit 5 on CA 163 south accesses Genesee Avenue.


CA 163 south begins to descend southward towards I-8.  CA 163 south meets Friars Road at Exit 4.






CA 163 south crosses the San Diego River approaching I-8, exit 3A/B access I-8.  Exit 3B also accesses Hotel Circle.  Former US 80 on Camino del Rio is split onto frontage roads of I-8.





CA 163 south enters Cabrillo Canyon for which the freeway is named.  At Exit 2C CA 163 accesses 6th Avenue/University Avenue whereas Exit 2 A/B accesses Washington Street.








South of Robinson Avenue CA 163 south enters Balboa Park.  The land Balboa Park now sits on was set aside during 1835 in Mexican Alta California and approved by the San Diego Board of Trustees in 1868.  Although Balboa Park is mostly known in modern times for the San Diego Zoo it does contain numerous historic structures and well renown gardens.

CA 163 south traverses the bottom of Cabrillo Canyon and underneath the 1914 Cabrillo Bridge.  The Cabrillo Bridge was built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition which celebrated the opening the Panama Canal and promoted San Diego as a port of entry.  The Cabrillo Bridge now carries El Prado to a complex of museums known as "El Prado Complex" within Balboa Park.  The Cabrillo Bridge has a 120 foot height and towers above the Cabrillo Freeway.














CA 163 meets I-5 at Exit 1B.  Unfortunately I had to turn onto I-5, the view southward towards the terminus of CA 163 is a sudden change from Cabrillo Canyon into a scene of high rises in downtown San Diego.  CA 163 south has an access point via Exit 1A onto Ash Street and merges into 10th Avenue.


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