Former US Route 99 was originally aligned through the city of Madera via Gateway Drive. This blog examines the history of US Route 99 in Madera and how it developed into the modern freeway corridor now occupied by California State Route 99.
This blog is part of the larger Gribblenation US Route 99 Page. For more information pertaining to the other various segments of US Route 99 and it's three-digit child routes check out the link the below.
Part 1; the history of US Route 99 in Madera
Madera was not one of the 1872 sidings established by the Central Pacific Railroad on it's line in San Joaquin Valley. Madera was plotted out by the California Lumber Company in 1876 as the end of it's 63-mile logging flume. Madera was settled between the Central Pacific sidings of Borden and Berenda. Borden and Berenda can be seen along the Central Pacific Railroad on the 1873 Oregon, California, & Nevada Railroad Map. When Madera was settled in 1876 it was in what was the northern extent of Fresno County.
Madera thrived along the Central Pacific Railroad despite not being one of it's sidings. The Central Pacific was absorbed by the larger Southern Pacific Railroad during 1885 but not much changed along the line through the heart of San Joaquin Valley. Madera County split from Fresno County in 1896 and Madera was selected as the new County Seat. Madera would later incorporate as a City in 1907.
The Central Pacific Railroad and the later Southern Pacific Railroad laid out a road network which served as a frontage facility through the heart of San Joaquin Valley. The ease of using the Southern Pacific in addition to it's frontage road rendered the Stockton-Los Angeles Road functionally obsolete to anything other than localized travel. As the 19th Century gave way to the 20th Century the age of the automobile began. The emergence of the automobile 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. In the case of Madera it was along the path of what would become Legislative Route 4 ("LRN 4"). According to CAhighways.org the original definition of LRN 4 was simply a route from "Sacramento to Los Angeles."
Within San Joaquin Valley much of LRN 4 incorporated what was the Southern Pacific Railroad frontage roads. Within Madera the implied route of LRN 4 was aligned over Gateway Drive. Early LRN 4 through Madera can be seen on the 1917 California State Automobile Association Map.
During the Auto Trail era LRN 4 through Madera on Gateway Drive was part of the National Park-to-Park Highway. The National Park-to-Park Highway can be seen on the 1924 Rand McNally Highway Map of California.
During November of 1926 the US Route System was approved by the AASHO. US Route 99 was aligned over the entirety of LRN 4 between Los Angeles north to Sacramento thus making it the signed highway through Madera on Gateway Drive. US Route 99 can be seen aligned on LRN 4 through Madera on the 1926 Rand McNally Highway Map of California.
In 1933 US 99/LRN 4 was joined in Madera by Legislative Route 126 ("LRN 126") which was added to the State Highway System by Legislative Chapter 767 according to CAhighways.org. LRN 126 was aligned through Madera northbound on Madera Avenue where it joined US 99/LRN 4 at Gateway Drive. US 99/LRN 4 and LRN 126 multiplexed north on Gateway Drive where the latter split eastward on Yosemite Avenue. LRN 126 can be seen for the first time on the 1934 Division of Highways Map.
US 99/LRN 4 and LRN 126 can be seen in far greater detail on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Madera County.
Beginning in 1949 LRN 126 was signed as California State Route 145 ("CA 145") through Madera. CA 145 first appears on the 1949 California Division of Highways Map.
The construction of the Madera Freeway (Golden State Freeway) around downtown Madera is discussed in September/October 1958 California Highways & Public Works. The surface alignment of US 99/LRN 4 on Gateway Drive is described as being a heavy bottleneck point, especially during holiday weekends. Gateway Drive is further described as the last remaining segment of two-lane US 99/LRN 4 with in Division of Highways District 6.
The Madera Freeway is cited to have been opened in the January/February 1959 California Highways & Public Works. US 99/LRN 4 moved to the new Madera Freeway alignment whereas CA 145/LRN 126 remained on Gateway Drive between Madera Avenue and Yosemite Avenue.
The new alignment of US 99/LRN 4 can be shown upgraded to freeway status around Madera on the 1960 Division of Highways Map.
All the Legislative Route Numbers were dropped during the 1964 State Highway Renumbering. US Route 99 remained for several years in California but was replaced with California State Route 99 ("CA 99") on the 1967 Division of Highways Map. CA 99 is presently aligned on the Golden State Freeway through Madera.
This custom map below depicts how US Route 99/LRN 4 would have been aligned through Madera. US 99/LRN 4 followed the northbound lanes of the Golden State Freeway onto Gateway Drive via Exit 153A. Former US 99/LRN 4 would have followed Gateway Drive through Madera where it would have rejoined the northbound lanes of the Golden State Freeway at Exit 156.
Part 2; a drive on former US Route 99 on Gateway Drive in Madera
My approach to former US 99 on Gateway Drive was from the northbound lanes of the Golden State Freeway. Golden State Freeway Exit 153A empties onto Gateway Drive approaching downtown Madera. Presently the Golden State Freeway is being expanded to six lanes through Madera.
Gateway Drive is referred to sometimes as CA 99 Business. Below a CA 99 shield can be seen along with a long faded placard on Gateway Drive approaching CA 145/Madera Avenue.
CA 145 is still carried on northbound Gateway Drive between Madera Avenue (Postmile MAD 9.302) and Yosemite Avenue (Postmile MAD 9.68). At Yosemite Avenue CA 145 splits from Gateway Drive eastward towards CA 41.
North of Yosemite Avenue the route of Gateway Drive crosses the Fresno River and intersects Cleveland Avenue.
Gateway Drive north of Cleveland Avenue drops to two lanes and merges into the northbound lanes of the Golden State Freeway.
Continuing north of US Route 99 to the Chowchilla area?
Continuing south on US Route 99 to the Midway Palm and Pine?