The Cities of Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande are both located on US Route 101 in southern San Luis Obispo County. Within the City of Pismo Beach the original alignment of US Route 101 can be found on Price Street. The City of Arroyo Grande has two historic alignments of US Route 101; one that follows Branch Street and Bridge Street over the 1908 Arroyo Grande Creek Bridge and the other which follows Traffic Way. Pictured above is the then new US Route 101 freeway in Pismo Beach as it was in 1961. Depicted below is the alignment of US Route 101 through Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of San Luis Obispo County.
Part 1; the history of US Route 101 through Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande
The area that is now Arroyo Grande Valley was surveyed on September 4th, 1769 during the Portola Expedition. Arroyo Grande Valley was found to have soils which would lead to being an established locale on what would become El Camino Real when Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was founded in 1772.
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 21 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. The Missions of El Camino Real were established from 1769 through 1823. In the case of Mission San Francisco Solano it was established two years after Mexico had won it's independence from Spain in 1821. Each Mission was meant to be approximately 30 miles apart from each other which would require a single day of travel by horseback.
Following the secularization of the Spanish Missions during period of Mexican Alta California the lands of Arroyo Grande Valley were granted to Francis Ziba Branch as Rancho Santa Manuela during 1836. Branch attempted to graze the lands of Arroyo Grande Valley but ultimately sold off much of his holdings as California became an American State. In 1862 the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors established Arroyo Grande Township. The formation of Arroyo Grande Township led directly to the development of a town site on what is now Branch Street. Arroyo Grande received a railroad depot in 1882 and the community would incorporate as a City on July 10th, 1911.
The City of Pismo Beach is located on land which was part of Rancho Pismo of Mexican Alta California. Rancho Pismo was granted to Jose Ortega in 1840 who in turn sold it to Issac Sparks in 1846. Sparks later sold the lands of Rancho Pismo to John Michael Price after California had become an American State. Price would subsequently go on to plot the town site of Pismo along the Southern Pacific Railroad during 1891. Pismo Beach would later incorporate as a City on April 25th, 1946.
In 1904 the American El Camino Real Association was formed with the goal to mark a modern highway that corresponded to the historical route between the Spanish Missions. Ultimately the path of American El Camino Real was to be marked by the signature bells the corridor is known by today. The first bell marking the American El Camino Real was placed in 1906 and it is estimated by 1915 that there may have been anywhere from 158 to 400 placed in-field. Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande being along the main highway at the time were signed as part of the American El Camino Real. The American El Camino Real was one of the earliest analogs of what would become the signed Auto Trails. The background of the American El Camino Real is covered extensively on CAhighways.org.
CAhighyways.org on the American El Camino Real
The era of State Highway Maintenance through Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande would 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"). In 1913 the Pacific Highway was plotted as a major Auto Trail which had Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande along it's planned route.
Early LRN 2 in Pismo Beach can be seen in the October 1912 California Highway Bulletin.
The January 1915 California Highway Bulletin notes LRN 2 between Arroyo Grande to Pismo Beach was constructed to State Standards during 1914. LRN 2 between Arroyo Grande and Pismo Beach is stated to have been paved in 15 foot wide concrete slabs.
Early LRN 2/American El Camino Real/Pacific Highway can be seen passing through Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande on the 1917 California State Automobile Association Map.
The 1924 Rand McNally Map of California shows the California Banff Bee-Line Highway co-signed with the Pacific Highway on LRN 2 through Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande.
The December 1927 California Highways & Public Works announced US 101/LRN 2 between Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo was in the process of being reconstructed.
The September/October 1928 California Highways & Public Works notes the reconstruction of US 101/LRN 2 between Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo was nearing completion.
The January/February 1929 California Highways & Public Works notes US 101/LRN 2 between Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande was in the process of being reconstructed. Reconstruction of US 101/LRN 2 from Pismo Beach north to San Luis Obispo is stated to have been completed.
The July/August 1929 California Highways & Public Works announced the reconstruction of US 101/LRN 2 from Pismo Beach to Arroyo Grande had been completed. The new concrete road deck between Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande is stated to be paved in 20-30 foot wide concrete slabs.
The August 1931 California Highways & Public Works announced US 101/LRN 2 between Arroyo Grande and Berros Creek was slated to be reconstructed. The scope of the project would realign US 101/LRN 2 off of Branch Street and Bridge Street in downtown Arroyo Grande. The new alignment of US 101/LRN 2 in Arroyo Grande was slated to be shifted to a new bridge over Arroyo Grande Creek via what is now Traffic Way.
The June 1932 California Highways & Public Works announced reconstruction of US 101/LRN 2 in Arroyo Grande towards Berros Creek had been completed. US 101/LRN 2 in Arroyo Grande had been shifted to a new alignment along Traffic Way. In total 32 curves between Arroyo Grande and Los Berros Creek had been eliminated along US 101/LRN 2. Former US 101 on Branch Street east of Traffic Way to Bridge Street was incorporated into LRN 147 during 1933 according to cahighways.org.
The August 1934 California Highways & Public Works announced initial run of Sign State Routes. California State Route 1 ("CA 1") was announced as a highway which followed the entire planned route of LRN 56 from from US 101 in Fortuna back to US 101 at Las Cruces. CA 1 as originally defined followed LRN 56 into San Luis Obispo via Santa Rosa Street southbound where it picked US 101/LRN 2 at Monterey Street. US 101/CA 1 as originally defined multiplexed southward via Santa Rosa Street and Higuera Street on LRN 2 through downtown San Luis Obispo towards Pismo Beach. CA 1/LRN 56 departed US 101/LRN 2 from Price Street via Dolliver Street. LRN 56 had been extended from San Luis Obispo south to Las Cruces during 1933 according to cahighways.org.
As noted in the intro the 1935 Division of Highways Map of San Luis Obispo County depicts US 101/LRN 2 in Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande.
US 101/LRN 2 south of Pismo Beach as depicted in the October 1938 California Highways & Public Works.
The November/December 1949 California Highways & Public Works announced the opening of a four lane segment of US 101/CA 1/LRN 2 from Pismo Beach north to Miles Station. The upgrade of US 101/CA 1/LRN 2 one mile north of downtown Pismo Beach incorporated the existing highway into the southbound lanes towards the Shell Beach area. Through Shell Beach US 101/CA 1/LRN 2 had been moved to a bypass of Price Street/Shell Beach Road.
The pre-1932 alignment of US 101 southbound followed CA 227/Branch Street and turned right onto Bridge Street.