HISTORIC HIGHWAY 80

Historic Designation

El Cajon Boulevard is no longer just any boulevard. We’re historic! U.S. Highway 80 cut a path from San Diego County to the east coast in the 1920s. Replaced decades ago by newer highways, the route remains a nostalgic draw with quaint towns dotting the land beyond its shoulders. On October 21, Route 80 received its historic designation.

The Story of Highway 80

In the early 1900s El Cajon Avenue was the main wagon road connecting San Diego to the east county. With the growing popularity of the automobile there was a movement to link local roads to form intercontinental highways. In 1912, interstate highway 80 joined the eastern end of El Cajon Avenue at the San Diego city limits.

Over the years El Cajon Avenue was paved and widened. In 1937 the city council voted to change its name from avenue to boulevard to note it's significance as a major thoroughfare. As part of the project, the boulevard was widened by 100-feet and pavement was extended from Park Boulevard to Euclid Avenue. Ornamental lighting was also added as part of the project.

In 1937,the El Cajon Boulevard Civic Association hosted The El Cajon Boulevard of Progress Festival to celebrate the new boulevard and the official acceptance of the street as the terminus of Highway 80.

California Governor Frank Merriam was on hand to lead a parade of 80 floats and decorated automobiles down the boulevard. "In praising the completion of El Cajon Boulevard, Governor Merriam predicted that all highways would soon follow the model of separating the two directions of traffic by a center divider. That arrangement, a modern trend in highway construction, he claimed, would reduce the hazards of travel."

Source: ONCE UPON A TIME IN NORTH PARK
by Donald Covington


(The following is from Casey Cooper’s U.S. 80 pages http://gbcnet.com/ushighways/US80/)

1926 - 1947

US 80 followed several different alignments through its existence in the City of San Diego. Originally, US 80 started at US 101 and was co-signed with US 395 to Balboa Park. Its terminus was at Market St. and Pacific Hwy. This interchange has been modified in recent years, so it now looks quite different. The San Diego terminal for the Coronado Ferry was located just to the south at the foot of Pacific Highway, the location of today's Seaport Village, and operated until the opening of the San Diego - Coronado Bridge in 1969. Before the opening of the Cabrillo Fwy through Balboa Park US 80/US 395 followed Market St. to 12th St., then headed north. Both routes followed 12th St., then Park Blvd. to the intersection with Washington St./El Cajon Blvd. Here US 80 and US 395 headed east along El Cajon Blvd. remaining co-signed to Fairmont Ave. At that intersection, US 395 headed north on Fairmont Ave while US 80 continued east along El Cajon Blvd.

For a while, US 80 had its western terminus at the end of Point Loma, at least as Legislative Route 12. It continued north with US 101 (Pacific Hwy) from the 80/101/395 intersection to Barnett Ave. It followed Barnett Ave to Rosecrans St. (SR-209 today) which it followed to the end of the present highway at the Cabrillo monument. It is unclear the dates US 80 took this routing or even that it was signed. However, it has been verified as accurate that it or at least its legislative route took this routing; I have seen this mentioned in California Highways and Public Works among other places.

1947 - 1953

With the opening of the Cabrillo Freeway in 1947 along what had been a canyon with a meandering stream, US 80 and US 395 were rerouted. From Market St. to the southern terminus of the freeway, they followed 10th St. (Southbound) and 11th St. (Northbound). From there the two routes followed the current SR-163 (Cabrillo Fwy) to the intersection with Washington Street. This freeway is one of the oldest in California, as it was built between 1942 and 1947. This freeway is designated as a California Scenic Route and lives up to this through Balboa Park. The freeway is still a four lane divided parkway type of road with all the original concrete and looks the way it did over 50 years ago. Note the historical Laurel St. bridge, built in 1915 for the Pan American Exposition. The intersection with Washington St. is designed so there is a direct connection for US 80 from the street to the freeway.

US 80 separated from US 395 at Washington St. and headed east to El Cajon Blvd. To drive this routing, exit at Washington St. and follow it until it turns into El Cajon Blvd. Continue east on El Cajon Blvd. to the intersection with I-8. Before I-8 was built, US 80 followed El Cajon Blvd. all the way to El Cajon on a separate alignment from the current freeway, although a portion of El Cajon Blvd. has been replaced by I-8. This part has changed little since US 80 was moved from it, although some would say this section of town has grown seedier. An interesting fun fact is that this portion of El Cajon Blvd. is the inspiration for Bob Seger's song, "Main St.". The intersection of El Cajon Blvd and I-8 marks where the later routing rejoined with this routing.

1957 - Decommissioning

In June of 1953, US 80 was transferred to the present routing of I-8, which was then called Mission Valley Rd., later called the "Alvarado Fwy.". Even though this routing was changed in 1953, it appears that the Alvarado Fwy had no route designation for a couple of years until around 1956-7. This conclusion is based on Auto Club and gas company maps I have seen. The terminus of US 80 at US 101 has been replaced by the current interchange of I-8 and I-5, completed in 1969. To see this routing, exit to I-8 eastbound (sign reads "El Centro") from I-5. After about 1/2 mile, the concrete turns to asphalt: this is where the 1959 US 80 freeway picks up. When this was originally built in 1954, it was only four lanes wide and Mission Valley was almost completely undeveloped with the exception of some farm land and the rock quarry located where San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium currently stands. This was later converted to the present freeway in 1959 and further widened in the 1980s.