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California State Route 17

Monday morning I had a chance to drive a highway I had never entirely completed before; California State 17.






CA 17 is 27 mile route from CA 1 in Santa Cruz north to the junction of I-280/I-880 in San Jose.  CA 17 is a heavily trafficked highway with approximately 54,000 to 197,000 vehicles a day in the 1990s according to CAhighways.org.  CA 17 was once a far larger route previously using corridors now occupied by I-880, I-80, and I-580 to reach US 101 in San Rafael.  CA 17 is somewhat infamous due to its haggard expressway design in the Santa Cruz Range which begins north of CA 1.  From CA 1 I jumped onto CA 17 north which still has Oakland as a control city 75 miles away.









Unfortunately I was on a time limit and the lighting conditions weren't the best for my camera in the Santa Cruz Range.  After a very brief freeway section north of Santa Cruz CA 17 drops to a divided expressway with at-grade intersections.  Santas Village Road actually went to a theme park of the same name in Scott's Valley which apparently had opened in 1958 but has since closed.





CA 17 is known for sharp curves in the Santa Cruz Range.  The speed limit is posted at 50 MPH and 35 MPH for trucks.  There are several large advisory speed signs which are no doubt in place where drivers have hit the center divider.  The southern terminus of CA 35 is at an overpass junction on Summit Road but my photos were too blurred up to capture a clear image.







At Bear Creek Road most of the at-grade junctions disappear and CA 17 begins to drop towards Los Gatos and San Jose.  The yellow lights are apparently for Cats Restaurant which had been a source of traffic control issues.  My understanding as was reported to me on AAroads the high accident rate out of Cats forced Caltrans to route traffic leaving to head southbound to Bear Creek Road.  Cats is the location where the 35 MPH truck speed limit ended.








In Los Gatos CA 17 junctions CA 9 which is on Saratoga-Los Gatos Road.






In north Los Gatos CA 17 junctions the CA 85 freeway.  There are actually several 511 travel time signs but this was only one I caught a clear picture of.




CA 17 northbound passes through Campbell before terminating at I-280/I-880 in San Jose.  I didn't notice any "END" placards at the end of CA 17 but the old button-copy Interstate shields on the guide signs were a nice throwback.









Today the most exciting thing about CA 17 is the Santa Cruz Range expressway segment.  CA 17 used to be far more grand in scope before the advent of the Interstate era as I mentioned above.  Originally CA 17 was signed as CA 13 back in 1934 but was likely changed to CA 17 by 1936.  CA 13 appears to have replaced US 101E north of San Jose as it last appears on the 1934 State Highway Map,  The alignment between Santa Cruz and San Jose was part of Legislative Route 5 which was adopted back in 1909.  CAhighways.org details the history of CA 13 and the previous alignment of the Santa Cruz Range in Santa Clara County before the modern expressway built.

1934 State Highway Map City Insert

CAhighways.org on CA 17

Which can be seen on the 1935 Santa Clara County California Division of Highways Map.  The alignment north of Los Gatos  to San Jose via; Main Street, Los Gatos Boulevard, Bascom Avenue, San Carlos Street, and likely Race Street to US 101 which would have been at The Alameda/Santa Clara Street can be seen as well.

1935 Santa Clara County Highway Map

Much of the original CA 13/CA 17 alignment is still used today as local roads in Santa Cruz County.  North of Santa Cruz the alignment on the 1935 Santa Cruz County Map shows CA 13 on; Market Street, Branciforte Drive, Granite Creek Road, and Glenwood Drive to the Santa Clara County Line.

1935 Santa Cruz County Highway Map  

The 1938 State Highway Map shows the former corridor CA 17 once occupied north to Oakland.

1938 State Highway Map

In 1956 The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was completed in the northern waters of San Francisco Bay.  There appears to be no signed route over the bridge in 1957-1959 but in 1960 state maintenance is shown implying that CA 17 was finally routed north to US 101 via multiplex of US 40.

1957 State Highway Map

1960 State Highway Map

Initially the CA 17 designation survived the 1964 renumbering north of San Jose and has a proposed extension west to near Point Reyes Station via Sir Francis Drake Boulevard at a proposed extension of CA 37.

1964 State Highway Map

I-580 replaced CA 17 north of Oakland to US 101 while I-880 replaced it between Oakland and San Jose in 1984.  The change from CA 17 to I-880/I-580 can be seen by comparing the 1982 and 1986 state highway maps.

1982 State Highway Map

1986 State Highway Map  


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