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Former US Route 101 on Y Road near Betabel siding

Y Road is a former segment of US Route 101 in northern San Benito County located near the former Southern Pacific Railroad siding Betabel.  Y Road prior to 1932 was where US Route 101 would have crossed southbound over the San Benito River towards San Juan Highway and San Juan Bautista.  US Route 101 was realigned to the west along the Prunedale Cutoff which eventually left Y Road out of the State Highway System.  Featured as the blog cover is the end Y Road southbound where US Route 101 would have originally crossed the San Benito River.  Below is a scan of the 1935 Division of Highways Map of San Benito County which depicts Y Road east of US Route 101 as a spur of Legislative Route Number 2. 


Part 1; the history of US Route 101 on Y Road in the Betabel area

Betabel siding was located near Y Road to the west over the Pajaro River in Santa Clara County.  Betabel lies on land which was once part of Rancho Juristac.  By 1869 the Southern Pacific Railroad coast line reached the relocated town site of Gilroy.  The Southern Pacific Railroad coast line would be constructed through Chittenden Pass by 1871 which passed by through Rancho Juristac.  The Southern Pacific Railroad plotted a siding known as Betabel near the confluence of the Pajaro River and San Benito River.  Betabel never seems to have been a popular siding as nearby Sargent Ranch also constructed a siding a couple miles to the north.  The siding of Betabel rarely is depicted on maps of Santa Clara County. 

Betabel and Y Road were ultimately incorporated as part of the American El Camino Real which began being signed as an Auto Trail starting in 1906.  The era of State Highway Maintenance through Betabel would ultimately 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").  During 1913 the Pacific Highway was plotted as a major Auto Trail which had Betabel along it's planned route.

The May 1913 California Highway Bulletin describes the selected corridor of LRN 2 passing near Betabel by way of Gilroy and Sargent towards San Juan Bautista.  



LRN 2 can be seen crossing the San Benito River near Betabel north of San Juan Bautista on the 1920 Denny's Pocket Map of San Benito County.


During November 1926 the US Route System was created by the American Association of State Highway Officials.  US Route 101 from the San Benito/Santa Clara County line crossed the San Benito River near Betabel towards San Juan Highway.  US Route 101/LRN 2 can be seen connecting Gilroy and San Jaun Bautista by way of Sargent and Betabel on the 1927 Rand McNally Highway Map of California.  


The opening of the Prunedale Cutoff as the new alignment of US Route 101/LRN 2 was featured in the August 1932 California Highways & Public Works.  The Prunedale Cutoff was opened to traffic on July 20, 1932, upon the completion of a dedication ceremony.  The Prunedale Cutoff is shown to have a terminal elevation of 473 feet in the Gabilan Range compared to the 1,016 feet on the San Juan Grade. The Prunedale Cutoff bypassed San Juan Grade, San Juan Bautista and the bridge over the San Benito River to the west.  The older alignment of US Route 101 was initially retained as a spur of LRN 2.  



The San Juan Grade and the bridge over the San Benito River is shown to be retained as a spur of LRN 2 east of US Route 101 on the Prunedale Cutoff on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of San Benito County.  


The September 1935 California Highways & Public Works discusses the new route of LRN 22 west of San Juan Bautista to US Route 101/LRN 2 at the Prunedale Cutoff and new Y junction (the San Juan Bautista Y).  The original route of LRN 22 on Rocks Road is referred to as "a winding county road" that was immediately improved temporarily with an oiled earth application upon being adopted in 1933.  The new routing of LRN 22 west of San Jaun Bautista is noted to negate the need for traffic to use the original routing of US Route 101 via the San Juan Grade.  The San Juan Bautista Y is noted to be in line for future beautification which would include mission style walls, a campanile and a cross.  








The completion of LRN 22 west of San Juan Bautista led to the relinquishment of the San Juan Grade and the San Benito River Bridge from the State Highway System.  The San Juan Grade no longer appears on the 1936-37 Division of Highways Map.   


It is unclear when the San Benito River Bridge was removed.  The structure is not shown as being present connecting Y Road and San Juan Highway on the 1955 United States Geological Map of Chittenden.  Aerial images on historicaerials.com depict the San Benito River Bridge present during 1952 and gone by 1953.   Later images show a ford of the San Benito River being present during the 1980s connecting San Juan Highway and Y Road.  According to Wanda Guibert of the San Juan Bautista Historical Society the ford over the San Benito River was washed out during 1998 and never restored.  



Part 2; a drive on former US Route 101 on Y Road

Y Road can be accessed from US Route 101 Exit 349.  Y Road lies east of modern US Route 101 whereas Betabel Road lies to the west.  Betabel Road and the Betabel RV Campground are among the last remaining traces of the railroad siding of the same name.




Y Road southbound initially follows a modern asphalt grade and merge in with the original alignment of US Route 101 where the surface becomes Portland Cement.  The Portland Cement along Y Road was in common use on California State Highways during the 1st through 3rd State Highway Bond Acts. 








Y Road ends at the San Benito River where US Route 101 would have crossed a bridge to San Juan Highway.  Evidence of the ford of the San Benito River is still easy to observe.  





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