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State Route 120

Click here for a key to the symbols used. An explanation of acronyms may be found at the bottom of the page.


Routing Routing

  1. Rte 120 Seg 1From Route 5 near Mossdale to the west boundary of Yosemite National Park via the vicinity of Manteca and Oakdale, and via Big Oak Flat and Buck Meadows.

    Post 1964 Signage History Post 1964 Signage History

    This segment is unchanged from its 1963 definition. There is a adopted but unconstructed 20 mile portion from Route 99 to Oakdale that is parallel to the existing traversable route.

    Route 120 Bypass

    The Route 120 bypass dates back to 1976, when state funding for the construction was approved by the CTC. An article in the Manteca/Ripon Bulletin explored the history. It notes that, originally, both Caltrans head Adriana Gianturcco and the CTC were against the route. What turned the tide was persistent grassroots pressure including blanket distribution of information to travelers caught in hellacious Manteca traffic jams on Fridays and Sundays and an aggressive effort to enlist the support of media outlets in the influential Bay Area. Additionally, Jack Snyder — the Manteca councilman who had taken the point in the community effort to end the five-mile plus long traffic jams that paralyzed Manteca from Bay Area residents going to and from the Sierra — worked with Gov. Jerry Brown to convince him to support the routing. Although businesses were originally against it, it turned out to be the catalyst for economic development in Manteca. It was responsible for getting outside residents to spend money in Manteca from retail to hotel rooms thanks to venues such as Big League Dreams and Bass Pro Shops that have highly visible freeway locations with easy access. The Route 120 Bypass also played a key role in Manteca snagging Great Wolf Resorts’ attention and their proposal to invest up to $200 million in what could ultimately be a 600-room hotel, 70,000-square-foot indoor water park, and 60,000-square-foot conference center. The 120 Bypass was built with ample room for expansion and widening of bridges across the freeway.
    (Source: Manteca/Ripon Bulletin, 12/31/2010)

    The Caltrans design for the original bypass was a route that alternated over a five-mile stretch from four lanes to three lanes to two lanes and back to three lanes. The result was deadly head-on crashes from unsafe passing maneuvers that quickly earned the Manteca 120 Bypass the dubious title of “Blood Alley.” During a period of several months, the bypass was averaging a fatality a week. The death toll in 18 months reached 32. Local leaders lobbied the state extensively to secure barriers down the center of the bypass to separate traffic and virtually eliminate head-on collisions.
    (Source: Manteca/Ripon Bulletin, 7/25/2020)

    Scott Parker (Sparker) on AAroads noted: When the alignment opened to traffic in spring 1980, it was configured as a "super two" with a few overpasses and a couple of interchanges. The overpasses were quite short, consisting of a single span over the roadway, which was a single lane in each direction with a double-yellow line down the center (this preceded the later prevalence of K-rails). The scaling down of Route 120 was one of the actions taken by Caltrans under Adriana Gianturco, who openly preferred to provide as few amenities to the driving public as possible to discourage private automobile usage. In the mid-1980's, after Gianturco was out of office, the existing single carriageway was widened to provide an alternating passing lane to accommodate the high volume of truck traffic on that facility. When the decision was made to expand the highway to a full 2+2 freeway, the crossing single-span overpasses had to be razed because there wasn't room to place twin carriageways through them; they were replaced with conventional CA-standard overpasses with a supporting bent in the median. The very wide 3-lane carriageway that preceded the freeway upgrade can still be seen today as an extra-wide inner shoulder on the EB lanes of the current freeway.
    (Source: Scott Parker (Sparker) on AAroads, "Re: CA 120 Freeway; a legacy of US 99W, US 48 and US 50", 3/7/2019)

    A 1992 San Joaquin county planning document noted that Route 120 was primarily a two-lane facility, portions of which were a freeway and portions of which were a conventional highway. The Western segment between I-5 and Route 99, had the greatest traffic volumes, ranging from 18,000 to 24,500 in 1987. Traffic conditions, at that time, were at a level "F" level of service. In July 1992, the three "priority" projects identified in the Council of Governments (COG) Regional Transportation Improvement Plan (RTIP) included the following:
    (Source: San Joaquin COG Community Development Plan, Volume III, Chapter II.C (Transportation), June 1992)

    • (#1A) Upgrading the Route 120 connector between I-5 and Route 99 (The Manteca Bypass) to a full four lanes;
    • (#1B) Constructing a new two lane Route 120 expressway between Route 99 and the Stanislaus County line (the Escalon/Oakdale Bypass)

    It noted that the Manteca Bypass project would widen the existing 3-lane facility to 4-lanes, as well as constructing a new interchange at Union. The Escalone Bypass would be an extension of the Manteca Bypass on a new alignment S of the existing Route 120. Under a joint agreement between the San Joaquin COG and the Stanislaus County Association of Area Governments, the agencies advocate funding to complete the Route 120 improvements, consisting of a bypass constructed around the City of Oakdale. The new Manteca Bypass facility will require a major reconstruction of the existing Route 99/Manteca Bypass interchange. In the 2010 COG model, the Escalon Bypass is assumed to be a 2-lane expressway rather than a freeway. A single grade separation is assumed at Austin Road.

    The report also notes that the most significant freeway and State highway projects, which may be required to accomodate planned growth over the twenty year period, in addition to the projects identified in the seven year RTIP, included:

    • The additional widening of Route 120 from four to six lanes (Manteca Bypass), and from two to four lanes (Escalon Bypass)

    The Manteca Unified School District put up some money toward making the Union Road crossing possible. The state originally only wanted to provide crossings that were actually interchanges at Airport Way and Main Street. The state didn’t favor Union Road being extended across the freeway. The school district was concerned about bus service to areas south of the Route 120 Bypass. It wasn’t until 1995 that the Union Road overcrossing was turned into a full blown interchange.
    (Source: Manteca/Ripon Bulletin, 12/31/2010)

    See the STATUS section below for information on safety improvements being made to the bypass.

    Pre 1964 Signage History Pre 1964 Signage History

    Route 120 was cosigned with Route 108 (and was LRN 40) between SW of Jamestown and Moccasin. It was then Route 120 into Yosemite National Park. This portion was defined in 1899.

    Currently, Route 120 enters Yosemite National Park in Tuolumne County via the modern Big Oak Flat Road. Originally Route 120 entered Yosemite National Park via the Old Tioga Pass Road and Route 140 entered via the Old Big Oak Flat Road. The Big Oak Flat Road is the second oldest highway into Yosemite just behind the Old Coulterville Road. Much of the alignment of Route 120 follows the path set out by the Big Oak Flat Road. Details on the history of the entrance into Yosemite and the changes in routing may be found in the Gribblenation Blog "Old California State Route 140 and California State Route 120 entrances to Yosemite National Park".
    (Source: Gribblenation Blog "Old California State Route 140 and California State Route 120 entrances to Yosemite National Park")

    Tom Fearer on AAroads notes that the alignment of Tioga Pass Road used to be very different in the early days of the state highway system. Route 120 took a turn on what is now Evergreen Road to Aspen Valley Road which used to be the original routing of Tioga Pass Road. Route 140 from Evergreen Road used the modern alignment of Route 120 to Yosemite National Park. The alignments can be seen very easily on the 1935 Tuolumne County Map. Tioga Pass Road originally traversed Aspen Valley way north of the modern road where it met up with the modern alignment of the road via White Wolf Road. Sometime between 1942 and 1944, Tioga Pass Road was moved to the modern realignment which resulted to changes to Route 120 and Route 140. Route 140 was cut back to the El Portal Entrance of Yosemite on the Merced River while Route 120 was rerouted off of Evergreen Road onto Big Oak Flat Road where Route 120 enters Yosemite today. The changes are reflected on the 1954 and 1955 state highway maps.
    (Source: Tom Fearer (Max R) on AARoads, "Re: Tioga Pass Road", 7/8/2017)

    Status Status

    I-5 to Manteca (Route 99)

    As of 1995, the section from I-5 near Mossdale to the junction with Route 99 (~ SJ R0.67 to SJ T6.618) is a four-lane freeway.

    In late 2010, it was noted that the mayor of Manteca believes an effort may have to get underway in the next four years to push for adding a third lane in each direction. The biggest roadblock is the need to have two transition lanes onto southbound Route 99 to ease the daily commute slowdown. That could happen once the city is able to secure a new interchange on Route 99 south of Austin Road (99 SJ 4.895). Such a move would eliminate the on and off ramps at Austin Road.
    (Source: Manteca/Ripon Bulletin, 12/31/2010)

    McKinley Ave Interchange (PM SJ R2.0/R2.6)

    The SAFETEA-LU act, enacted in August 2005 as the reauthorization of TEA-21, provided the following expenditures on or near this route:

    • High Priority Project #1775: Construct full-access interchange at Route 120 and McKinley Avenue, with auxiliary lanes, Manteca. $3,200,000.

    The 2018 STIP, approved at the CTC March 2018 meeting, appears to show $12.3M allocated for construction from the 2016 STIP for PPNO 3046 Rt 120/McKinley Avenue, new interchange. In Manteca, at McKinley Avenue. Construct new interchange. This project will convert the existing grade separation at McKinley Road to a full interchange at Route 120 to provide an acceptable level of service (LOS) for the projected traffic volumes that would result from planned developments within the City of Manteca and surrounding interchanges. Local roads would not support the projected increase in demand under their existing conditions. The proposed project is needed to provide more efficient access to and from Route 120 and to accommodate traffic volumes for the planned growth areas in the vicinity of McKinley Avenue.

    The 2020 STIP, approved at the CTC March 2020 meeting, continues the programmed funding for PPNO 3046 "Rt 120/McKinley Avenue, new interchange"
    (Source: March 2020 CTC Agenda, Item 4.7, 2020 STIP Adopted 3/25/2020)

    Union Road DDI Project (SJ R4.321)

    In June 2019, it was reported that despite the claims of Ceres on Route 99 to have the first DDI (Diverging Diamond Interchange), that honor may go to Route 120 at Union Road. The City of Manteca recently broke ground on construction of California’s first Diverging Diamond Interchange, at Route 120 and Union Road. The Diverging Diamond Interchange, commonly abbreviated DDI, is a cutting-edge design that reduces conflict points between vehicles and moves traffic more efficiently through the interchange. DDIs have been gaining popularity throughout the United States since the early 2000s, but until now, one had not been constructed in California. The DDI is unique in that traffic on the freeway overpass is shifted to the left side of the road, before being shifted back to the right. Construction of the DDI at Route120 and Union Road will modify the existing interchange to add additional traffic capacity and improve operations. As the prime consultant in charge of design of the modification, Mark Thomas worked closely with the City of Manteca and Caltrans to gain project approval for the DDI. Caltrans guidelines and approval processes were being developed as design work on Route 120/Union Road Interchange progressed, so we partnered with Caltrans District 10 and Headquarters to gain acceptance for the design. Union Road is a key crossing of Route 120 in the City’s bicycle master plan, and there is not currently any sidewalk or bike path through the area. The new Class I path will provide a 12-foot wide grade-separated trail that eliminates all bicycle/vehicle conflict points within the interchange to provide safe and efficient passage for bicycles and pedestrians.
    (Source: Mark Thomas, 6/25/2019; UnionRoad Project Page)

    Route 120 Bypass Safety Improvements (SJ R4.321 to SJ T6.699)

    In September 2020, it was reported that there are increasing concerns about safety along the Route 120 Bypass approaching Route 99, especially for drivers heading south toward Ripon and Modesto. This is leading Caltrans to set in motion the first phase of a $131.5 million project at the intersection of the Route 120 Bypass and Route 99  to improve vehicle movements and capacity. The project, expected to break ground in late 2021, won’t be in place until 2023. Before then, Caltrans is taking steps aimed at reducing the potential for carnage until two lanes are in place for eastbound Route 120 heading toward Modesto. Interim improvements include placement of lane delineators and route shields on the pavement for EB Route 120 traffic as it approaches the Route 99 interchange. This is in addition to the auxiliary lanes that will open in November 2020 between the Main Street, Union Road, and Airport Way interchanges that are part of Manteca’s $28.4 million diverging diamond interchange at Union Road. The new safety measures are the outgrowth of a 120 Bypass safety committee working with Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol. In 2019. in a bid to improve safety and discourage last-minute lane changes, Caltrans installed 2,700 feet of wider, 8-inch, double-white striped lane delineation from just east of the Main Street overcrossing to the southbound Route 99 connector ramp. Crossing over double-white stripes is a traffic violation. Stay In Lane signs were installed on both shoulders, just west of Van Ryn Avenue bridge, to help reduce the frequency of vehicles queue-jumping for southbound Route 99 and sideswipe collisions. Watch For Stopped Vehicle signs were also installed on both shoulders, just west of the Main Street overcrossing, to help reduce the number of rear-end collisions. Those improvements were made after Caltrans installed advisory signs on the Airport Way and Union Road  overcrossing advising motorists of the upcoming lane splits.
    (Source: Manteca/Ripon Bulletin, 9/4/2020)

    The first phase of the projected interchange improvements in 2021 involve:
    (Source: Manteca/Ripon Bulletin, 9/4/2020)

    • Widening the eastbound 120 Bypass to southbound 120 Bypass from one to two lanes.
    • Removing the Austin Road overcrossing and replacing it with a longer span that ultimately would allow eight freeway lanes plus auxiliary lanes on Route 99. The replacement bridge would span the Union Pacific Railroad tracks as well eliminating the at-grade crossing on Austin Road.
    • Adding a new connector road Austin Road to East Woodward Avenue. The existing railroad crossing on East Woodard Avenue would be modified to confirm with the new connector road and provide access to Moffat Boulevard.
    • Modifying the existing northbound Austin Road exit ramp to conform to the higher overcrossing profile of the replacement bridge.
    • Closing the northbound onramp and the southbound off-ramp for Route 99 at Austin Road. The length of the closure is currently estimated at 9 years. Reopening of the replacement ramps will depend on the availability of funding for the third phase.

    Manteca (Route 99) to Adela

    In May 2012, the CTC authorized relinquishment of right of way in the city of Manteca along Route 120 on Austin Road (~ SJ 6.843), consisting of a collateral facility.

    French Camp Road Roundabout (10-San Joaquin-120 PM 11.6)

    In March 2020, the CTC amended the following project into the 2018 SHOPP: 10-SJ-120 11.6 PPNO 3477 ProjID 1019000084 EA 1K460 Route 120 near Manteca, at French Camp Road. Construct roundabout. Total cost: $16,204K. BC 12/16/2024. Construction and R/W acquisition not yet programmed. The CTC also approved the following financial allocation: 10-SJ-120 PM 11.6. PPNO 3477. ProjID 1019000084. EA 1K460. Route 120 near Manteca, at French Camp Road. Construct roundabout. (Concurrent Amendment under SHOPP Amendment 18H-015; March 2020.)  Financial allocation: PA&ED $1,660,000
    (Source: March 2020 CTC Agenda, Agenda Item 2.1a.(1a) #28, 2.5b.(2a) #31)

    The 2020 SHOPP, approved in May 2020, included the following Collision Reduction item of interest (carried over from the 2018 SHOPP): 10-San Joaquin-120 PM 11.6 PPNO 3477 Proj ID 1019000084 EA 1K460. Route 120 near Manteca, at French Camp Road. Construct roundabout. Programmed in FY23-24, with construction scheduled to start in December 2024. Total project cost is $16,204K, with $10,536K being capital (const and right of way) and $5,668K being support (engineering, environmental, etc.).
    (Source: 2020 Approved SHOPP a/o May 2020)

    In September 2012, the CTC vacated right of way in the city of Escalon along Route 120 at Plaza Avenue (~ SJ R16.739), consisting of superseded highway right of way no longer needed for State highway purposes. The City of Escalon was given a 90-day notice of intent to vacate, without protesting such action.

    In June 2008, the CTC relinquished right of way in the city of Escalon, on McHenry Avenue/Escalon Bellota Road, and Yosemite Avenue (~ SJ R16.754 to SJ R16.84), consisting of superseded highway and reconstructed and relocated city streets.

    Adela to Chinese Camp

    In November 2002, the CTC began exploration of construction of an expressway near Oakdale. In December 2002, the CTC considered a route adoption for a freeway location from 0.1 mi W of Valley Home Road to 2.8 mi E of Lancaster Road (10-STA-120 PM 3.0/R13.3).

    Oakdale Bypass

    Rte 120 Recission in OakdaleIn January 2012 (and again in April 2012), the CTC approved a notice of consideration to rescind a freeway adoption (the actual recission occured in May 2013). As background, in the early 2000s, a consensus was reached to construct a freeway on a new alignment along Route 120 to bypass the City of Oakdale, also known as the Oakdale Bypass/Expressway. On December 11, 2002, the Commission adopted the current Route 120 corridor. Numerous parcels, but not all, were purchased to obtain the necessary right of way for the adopted Route 120 Oakdale Bypass. Since that time, a lack of funding and changing traffic patterns have resulted in a community and Department agreement to drop the pursuit of the Oakdale Bypass in favor of an alternative route. Consequently, the Department is proposing to rescind the Route 120 freeway route adoption, from Valley Home Road to a point approximately 2.8 miles east of Lancaster Road in Stanislaus County. Route 120 and Route 108 are the main routes to the fast growing Tuolumne County, carrying a adediverse mixture of commercial, agricultural, recreational, commuter, truck and local traffic. Traffic on both Route 120 and Route 108 into and through Oakdale has been growing for several decades which led to a growing traffic congestion problem. The Department and the local community have been struggling to address it for many years. Congestion is most severe on weekends due to recreational traffic traveling to Yosemite National Park, the Jamestown and Sonora areas, and points east. The elevated interregional traffic demand often conflicts with local demand resulting in congestion, increased noise and air pollution. The area most severely affected is at the junction of Route 120 and Route 108 (Yosemite Avenue and F Street) in downtown Oakdale where the level of service in 2001 was classified as “F”, representing heavily congested traffic with long delays. The level of service was projected to continue to degrade to „very high delays‟ by the year 2020 in the absence of any system improvements.

    North County ConnectorIn 1990, a Value Engineering study for the Route 120 Oakdale Bypass project identified a need to further study the development of a Route 108 southern bypass as well as the need for the Route 120 Oakdale Bypass itself. The Department and local entities identified the preferred alternative for the Oakdale Bypass as a northern corridor expressway starting across the Stanislaus River near Twenty Six Mile Road and ending eight miles east of Oakdale. The Route 120 Oakdale Bypass was adopted by sthe Commission in 2002. During this same time period, changing traffic patterns in Stanislaus County were fostering a growing realization that a southern bypass of Riverbank and Oakdale (i.e. the NCC) was in critical need and should perhaps be given a higher priority than the northern Oakdale Bypass. As a result, StanCOG, the Cities of Modesto, Riverbank, and Oakdale, and the County of Stanislaus identified the NCC as a priority corridor. In 2007, following several years of project delay due to inadequate funding of the Oakdale Bypass, the Commission redirected the Oakdale Bypass project Interregional Transportation Improvement Program (ITIP) funds under the authority of the resolution approving the 2006 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) Augmentation, with the understanding these funds would be restored to a viable replacement project in the future. In May 2008, the Commission deleted all programming from the Oakdale Bypass project under the authority of Resolution G-08-08 approving the 2008 STIP adoption and recognizing the NCC project as the viable replacement project. In May 2010, the Commission approved the Route Adoption of the NCC Route 108 East under authority of Resolution HRA 10-02 Commiand HRA 10-03.

    Yosemite Junction (~TUO 12.101)

    In June 2015, it was reported that Tuolumne County transportation officials are proposed their own construction project preference to Caltrans proposed plans for improving safety and congestion problems at Yosemite Junction (where Route 108 and Route 120 meet). Caltrans has proposed two options; one involving a stop light and the other a roundabout. Both would include adding additional lanes in both directions on Route 108. The county is concerned about the limited site distance coming down the hill into the intersection. They are also concerned, for the eastbound traffic, that once past the intersection, must go directly up a steep grade with a single lane that widens to a passing lane farther up the highway. They would like to see the second lane start before the intersection so trucks can cue up there. They also suggested, if there is a light, it should be coordinated with the light at O’Byrnes Ferry Road and perhaps use technology to identify, when trucks are going in the eastbound direction, to hold the light green so they can keep their momentum going up the hill.
    (Source: MyMotherLode, 6/11/2015)

    In April 2019, it was reported that Caltrans was preparing a highway improvement project that will upgrade the junction of Route 108 and Route 120 at Yosemite Junction. Road construction starts in early May 2019, with the project expected to finish in August 2019. Caltrans will make roadway improvements and install a traffic signal, using a “High-T” intersection configuration. This is similar to a typical signalized intersection, except that westbound traffic on Route 108 would only be forced to stop when a pedestrian or cyclist is crossing. Because few pedestrians are anticipated and bicycle volumes are low at this location, the “High-T” signal for these westbound vehicles will be green most of the time. The signal will have a greater impact for vehicles on westbound Route 108 turning left onto Route 120, and vehicles on eastbound Route 120. Currently, vehicles turning left at the intersection have to wait for a suitable pause in traffic before turning. There are times traffic is so intense that CHP directs vehicles through the intersection. Caltrans’ project also will benefit motorists approaching the three-way intersection from westbound Route 120 – a busy route, as Route 120 delivers visitors to and from Yosemite National Park and foothill towns that dot the highway. After the project is completed, a traffic signal will provide ample opportunities for vehicles turning left while staying on Route 120. As added safety measures, Caltrans will extend the left-turn lane on Route 108 and the ‘refuge’ lane for vehicles on westbound Route 120 turning left onto Route 120. That ‘refuge’ lane provides time and space for vehicles to match the flow of traffic before entering the mainline. A cement curb will separate the left-turn and ‘refuge’ lanes from the mainline. George Reed Inc. of Modesto will perform this work for $3.3 million.
    (Source: Caltrans District 10 FB Post, 4/25/2019)

    Chinese Camp to Yosemite National Park

    Tuolumne River Bridge (120 TUO 19.61)

    In May 2016, it was reported that Caltrans is spending nearly $21-million into a project on Route 120 to provide updates and upgrades to the Tuolumne River Bridge. The bridge has not had a major overhaul since it was built 46 years ago, in 1970. The bridge deck will be replaced entirely. The bridge rails will be upgraded. The structure will be strengthened to improve its ability to withstand an earthquake. These improvements will help provide an additional forty years of service life to the bridge. Work on the 1,400 foot long bridge, which spans the Don Pedro Reservoir, is scheduled to begin after July 4, 2016, and wrap up in November 2017 before Thanksgiving.
    (Source: MyMotherLode.Com, 5/11/2016)

    In July 2016, it was reported that travellers may encounter significant delays on Route 120 until some time in 2017 as the California Department of Transportation works on the James E. Roberts Memorial Bridge. The bridge, on Route 120 at Don Pedro Reservoir, is along the stretch of road that is both Route 120 and Route 49 before Route 120 breaks off toward Yosemite. Workers are scheduled to replace the bridge deck and retrofit the structure, adding an estimated 40 years of service. Traffic will be limited over the bridge to one way at a time throughout the $20.8 million project, according to Caltrans. Completion is scheduled for November 2017.
    (Source: Roadnet.Com, 7/11/2016)

    In December 2017, it was reported that the James E. Roberts Memorial Bridge was essentially completed and was reopening to two-way traffic.
    (Source: MyMotherLode.Com, 12/22/2017)

    Near Groveland, there are some interesting markers that have similar physical characteristics to a postmile marker, but instead read "ESA Begin" and "ESA End". This mark Environmentally Sensitive Areas. The sign code is G11-10, and it is illustrated here. These markers are used to mark the limits of an environmentally sensitive area within the State highway right of way. In this case, these are likely lengths of the highway where runoff has the potential to end up in the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct.

    Business Routes Business Routes

    Although there is no mention of Business Route 120 through Manteca, all portions of Yosemite Avenue through Manteca that are not currently signed as Route 120 are actually old Route 120.

    Suffixed Routings Suffixed Routings

    The portion of this segment that was cosigned as US 50 was once part of I-5W.

    Naming Naming

    Officer Justin KeplerThe portion of Route 120 in both directions between Sexton Road (SJ 120 14.834) and Brennan Road (SJ 120 15.860) in the County of San Joaquin is named the Officer Justin Kepler Memorial Highway. It was named in memory of Justin Kepler, who was born in April 1988, in San Jose, California. Justin Kepler excelled in academics. At the age of 14, he passed the California High School Proficiency Examination and received his high school diploma. Justin Kepler went on to attend Modesto Junior College, where despite having talents and interests that included music, language, and auto mechanics, he received an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification and studied criminal justice to pursue his dream of becoming a police officer. Justin Kepler grew up in a family of law enforcement. His father, uncle, and cousins were police officers for the San Jose Police Department. Justin wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, as did his brothers, who both are currently California Highway Patrol officers. On April 16, 2012, Justin Kepler was hired by the Stockton Police Department and attended the South Bay Regional Public Safety Training Consortium academy in the City of San Mateo, California. On September 27, 2012, Justin Kepler was sworn in as a Stockton police officer by the Chief of Police of the Stockton Police Department, Eric Jones. During his four-year career as a police officer, Justin Kepler obtained the status of field training officer and specialized in impaired driving enforcement. Justin absolutely loved his career and was proud to follow in the footsteps of his father and older brother. On August 20, 2016, Justin Kepler, 28, was riding his personal motorcycle home on Route 120 from the City of Manteca, California, where, upon approaching the intersection at Brennan Road in the City of Escalon, he was hit by a sport utility vehicle (SUV) and thrown approximately 35 feet. The driver of the SUV fled the scene without reporting the accident, and Justin died on the scene. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 119, Res. Chapter 38, 09/14/20.
    (Image source: Modesto Bee)

    The portion of this route from the San Joaquin county line near Escalon to Yosemite National Park (~ SJ R16.855 to TUO R56.51) is named the "Northern Yosemite Highway". It was named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 27, Chapter 69, in 1989.

    CDF Firefighter Eva Marie Schicke Memorial HighwayThe portion of Route 120 from the Mariposa/Tuolumne County line to the Rim of the World Vista (~ TUO 0.000 to TUO R44.641) is named the "CDF Firefighter Eva Marie Schicke Memorial Highway". It was named in memory of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) Firefighter Eva Marie Schicke, who passed away in the line of duty on September 12, 2004, at the age of 23, while battling a fire in the Stanislaus National Forest. Schicke was born in Turlock, California, in 1980 and moved to Placerville with her family in 1988. She was a two-sport standout in basketball and volleyball at Ponderosa High School in Shingle Springs, California. In 1998, Schicke returned to Turlock, California, to attend California State University, Stanislaus (CSUS), where she received a degree in criminal justice in 2002. Schicke was an outstanding collegiate athlete. She played basketball at CSUS for four years, was a three-year starter for the CSUS Warriors, and was the second leading team scorer during her senior year. A highly versatile player, Schicke played forward, point, and off-guard positions. On the court, Schicke showed the toughness, drive, and physical prowess that made her a leader among her teammates and later contributed to her successful firefighting career. Schicke began her career with CDF in June 2000; her first assignment was at the CDF station in Arnold, California. Schicke proved to be an outstanding employee and quickly developed into a topnotch firefighter. Her sense of humor, determination, work ethic, and mental and physical toughness all contributed to her success with CDF. Schicke was held in high regard by all who worked with her and was proud to have earned the respect of her fellow firefighters. In recognition of her outstanding abilities as a firefighter, Schicke was selected to join the crew of Copter 404 in June of 2004. These highly coveted assignments are typically reserved for the most experienced firefighters who demonstrate outstanding job knowledge, work ethic, and physical conditioning. Schicke thrived on the challenges presented by fighting wildland fires and loved the camaraderie that she found in the station and airbase. On September 12, 2004, Schicke and the crew of Copter 404 were engaged in firefighting efforts on a fire near Groveland, California, when Schicke and six other firefighters were overrun by the fire. Schicke was completing her fifth season with CDF at the time of her death and was the first female firefighter from CDF to die in the line of duty. Schicke personified the professionalism, work ethic, and dedication for which CDF firefighters are known. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 156, Resolution Chapter 166, on 9/19/2008.
    (Image source: 2881 Fire Wire Winter 2015; CFN California Fire News;

    Historically, the portion of this route between Route 108 and the Yosemite Valley (~ TUO 12.349 to TUO R56.51) was named the "Big Oak Flat and Yosemite Road". The portion betwen Oakdale and Yosemite via Groveland was locally called the "Big Oak Flat Road.

    Named Structures Named Structures

    Bridge 32-0018 (TUO R019.61), at the Tuolumne River in Tuolumne county, is named the "Jacksonville Bridge". It was built in 1971, and named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 99, Chapter 124 the same year. The Jacksonville Bridge is named for the historic gold rush town of Jacksonville, founded by Col. Alden A.M. Jackson in 1849.

    James E. (Jim) RobertsThe Tuolumne River Bridge on Route 120 (again, Bridge 32-0018 (TUO R019.61)) in Tuolumne County is named the "James E. Roberts Memorial Bridge". It was named in memory of James E. "Jim" Roberts, in recognition of his exemplary career with the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) as a structural engineer for a half-century. James Roberts had a BS Civil Engineering, and began his engineering career with Caltrans in the summer of 1953, but was deployed six weeks later to active duty in Korea as a commissioned 2LT in the Army, where he was involved in the rebuilding of damaged bridges after the war ended. He remained in the Army Reserves until he retired as a colonel in 1985 after 33 years of active and reserve duty. He returned to Caltrans in the summer of 1955 to what was then the Bridge Department, Construction Branch, and began working on the US 101 Bypass in Cotati and eventually was moved to work on the "Grapevine" project in Bakersfield, where he began a four-year trek over the hill after work, to the University of Southern California (USC), returning home around midnight, to earn his MS Structural Engineering from USC in 1966. Jim Roberts worked his way up through the ranks at Caltrans, until in 1981 he was promoted to Deputy of Engineering, and then became the project director representing Caltrans in working with the City and County of Sacramento and the Sacramento Regional Transit District to build the light rail project. Roberts returned to Caltrans in 1985 as the manager of bridge design, and on July 1, 1987, became the Division Chief of the Division of Structures, equivalent to Assistant State Highway Engineer. Jim Roberts then became the Chief Bridge Engineer, and was instrumental in establishing seismic performance criteria following the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989. Jim Roberts recognized the need for a better training program for young engineers and established the Bridge Design Academy, and was instrumental in creating opportunities for women to promote into higher positions in engineering. He was active in over 17 professional organizations, including State President of the Professional Engineers in California Government in 1972; wrote over 50 papers and publications on bridges and other transportation issues; and was the recipient of over 20 professional awards during his career. He retired in 2001 from Caltrans, and died on July 6, 2006. Named by Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 4, Resolution Chapter 83, on 7/10/2007.
    (Image source: National Academies Press)

    National Trails National Trails

    Lincoln Highway Sign Victory Highway Sign This portion of this segment from I-5 to Route 99 (i.e., former US 50) was part of the coast-to-coast "Lincoln Highway" and the "Victory Highway".

    The portion of this segment from Route 108 to Yosemite National Park has historically been part of the "Mark Twain-Bret Harte Trail".

    Freeway Freeway

    [SHC 253.6] Entire portion. Added to the Freeway and Expressway system in 1959.

    Scenic Route Scenic Route

    [SHC 263.6] From Route 49 near Chinese Camp to Route 49 near Moccasin.


  2. Rte 120 Seg 2From the east boundary of Yosemite National Park to Route 395 near Mono Lake.

    Post 1964 Signage History Post 1964 Signage History

    This segment is unchanged from its 1963 definition.

    Pre 1964 Signage History Pre 1964 Signage History

    This segment was signed as Route 120 in the initial signage of state routes in 1934 (Jct. US 99 at Manteca to Jct. Route 168 (later US 6) at Benton, via Groveland and through Yosemite National Park). It was LRN 40, defined in 1915. It includes Tioga Pass.

    As for the Tioga Pass Road itself, the eastern section up Lee Vining Canyon to the Tioga Mine was built in 1883. The connecting section of the Tioga Pass Road from Big Oak Flat Road was built as a wagon trail from 1902 to 1910. The National Park Service purchased the Tioga Pass Wagon Road in 1915, which was when the era of automotive travel over the road began. Surprisingly Lee Vining Canyon has only a 7% grade which is a hell of an accomplishment for a roadway in the eastern Sierras.
    (Source: Tom Fearer (Max R) on AARoads, "Re: Tioga Pass Road", 7/8/2017)

    Note: The paragraphs marked with ° are summarized and excerpted from Gribblenation Blog (Tom Fearer), "The Tioga Pass Road", September 2020. See the article for much more detail on the history of the pass.

    ° The road across Tioga Pass began life as the "Great Sierra Wagon Road", proposed by the Great Sierra Company. It had an estimated cost of $17,000 dollars in 1881 for the road from the Big Oak Flat Road near Crane Flat east to the Tioga Peak mines.  In 1882 the Great Sierra Company authorized a survey for a wagon road and railroad to the mines of Tioga Ridge which was completed by August during said year.  In July of 1882 the California & Yosemite Short Line Railroad was incorporated with the intended goal of also building a rail line to the Tioga Mining District. By September of 1883 the Great Sierra Wagon Road had been completed east from the Big Oak Flat Road to the Tioga Mining District. As the years wore on the Great Sierra Wagon Road remained in periodic use but began to fall into disrepair due to a lack of maintenance. In 1896 an appropriations bill to purchase the Great Sierra Wagon Road was proposed but never gained traction in the House of Representatives.  In 1899 the Army was directed by Congress to survey the Great Sierra Wagon Road.  The Army determined the Great Sierra Road, while in a state of disrepairm had been well engineered with an average gradient of 3%.  A recommendation was made by the Yosemite National Park commissioners that the Great Sierra Wagon Road could be repaired for $2,000 dollars, versus the cost of constructing a new highway for an estimated cost of approximately $61,000 dollars.  Yosemite National Park thusly formally recommended that the Federal Government acquire the Great Sierra Wagon Road. In 1911 the Federal Government brought a lawsuit against the franchise holders of the Great Sierra Wagon (referred to as the "Old Tioga Road").  The Federal suit argued that the Tioga Road had been long abandoned and sought to condemn the franchise rights so it could be incorporated as a Park Road.  Ultimately the law suit found that the owners of the Tioga Road had maintained it enough that their claims to ownership were valid. Stephen Mather, Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior sought to improve automotive access to Yosemite National Park.  Mather learned that the purchase price of the Tioga Road within Yosemite National Park was $15,500 dollars.  Mather along with several other private contributors purchased the Tioga Road with Yosemite.  The Tioga Road was subsequently purchased by the Federal Government for $10 dollars on April 10th, 1915.  The Tioga Pass Road was repaired and was opened to automotive traffic on July 28th, 1915. As noted in the discussion of LRN 40, in 1915 Legislative Chapter 306 and 396 changed the definition of LRN 40 to include all of the segments Tioga Pass Road and Big Oak Flat Road that were not in within the boundary of Yosemite National Park.
    (Source: Yosemite.Ca via Gribblenation Blog (Tom Fearer), "The Tioga Pass Road", September 2020)

    ° Note that the original Tioga Pass Road diverged from the Big Oak Flat Road at the South Fork Tuolumne River via modern Evergreen Road.  The Tioga Pass Road followed Evergreen Road to Aspen Valley Road.  The Tioga Pass Road entered Yosemite National Park via what is now Aspen Valley Road to Aspen Valley.  From Aspen Valley the original Tioga Pass Road followed the Old Tioga Road Trail to the White Wolf Lodge.  From the White Wolf Lodge the Tioga Pass Road followed modern White Wolf Road back to the modern Tioga Pass Road. In 1940 the current route of the Big Oak Flat Road in Yosemite National Park was opened between Crane Flat and Yosemite Valley.  The Old Big Oak Flat Road from Tuolumne Grove to Yosemite Valley was largely converted into a one-way scenic alternate. Sometime between 1942 and 1944 Route 140 was cut back to the El Portal Entrance of Yosemite on the Merced River while Route 120 was rerouted off of Evergreen Road onto the Big Oak Flat Road to Route 120 via the current Carlon Day Use Area.  In 1956/1957,  the New Big Oak Flat Road between Evergreen Road and Crane Flat was opened to traffic.  After the new alignment of the Big Oak Flat Road between Evergreen Road and Crane Flat opened the Old Big Oak Flat Road from the Carlon Day Use Area to Tuolumne Grove was abandoned or turned into trails.  The portion of the Big Oak Flat Road from Crane Flat to the Tuolumne Grove became part of the Tioga Pass Road.
    (Source: Gribblenation Blog (Tom Fearer), "The Tioga Pass Road", September 2020)

    ° With respect to the eastern extension to Mono Lake, in 1899 what would become LRN 40 was added to the State Highway System. This was "a free wagon road from the Mono Lake Basin to and connecting with a wagon road called the Tioga Road and near the Tioga Mine". The Department of Public Works first considered building the eastern extension of the Tioga Road to Mono Basin first via an established pack trail over Bloody Pass.  By 1902, a new route via Lee Vining Canyon had been selected and construction began.  By 1910 construction through Lee Vining Canyon to the Tioga Mine had been completed to State standards. 
    (Source: Gribblenation Blog (Tom Fearer), "The Tioga Pass Road", September 2020)

    Naming Naming

    This route was officially designated the "Great Sierra Wagon Road" and "Tioga Road". It was named by Chapter 306 in 1915.

    Chiura ObataThe portion of Route 120 from post mile MNO R0.898 to post mile MNO R4.766 in the County of Mono is named the Chiura Obata Great Nature Memorial Highway. It was named in memory of Chiura Obata, who was born in November 1885 in Japan and raised in the city of Sendai. At seven years of age, he began his formal training in the art of sumi-e, Japanese ink and brush painting; at fourteen years of age, Obata began an apprenticeship with a master painter in Tokyo, and in 1901, he received a prestigious art award in Tokyo. In 1903, Obata boarded a steamship for the United States as a teenager with a desire to see the world and study art, eventually finding a home in San Francisco, California. He found the California landscape to be a true inspiration for his painting.  Upon coming to the United States, Obata not only was the recipient of intense racial epithets; he was even hit and spat upon by people on the streets of San Francisco simply because of his ethnicity, but he also encountered the institutionalized racism that existed in many laws of the time that restricted the rights of Asian-born immigrants like himself, including prohibitions from owning land and becoming a United States citizen. Obata became an avid baseball player, playing many games at Golden Gate Park, and was one of the founders of the Fuji Club, the first Japanese American baseball team on the American mainland. In 1921, Obata cofounded the East West Art Society in San Francisco with other American, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese artists to promote a uniting of Asian and Western art traditions. In 1927, Obata made a six week camping trip to Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada Mountains that proved to be a defining moment in his professional life, about which he would later say, “This experience was the greatest harvest for my whole life and future in painting”. Obata’s art is infused with his reverence for nature, which he viewed as a powerful spiritual force; he thought of nature as dai-shizen, or Great Nature, reflecting his belief that it is an essential source of inspiration and peace for all human beings. In 1932, Obata began his career as an influential educator, teaching in the art department at the University of California, Berkeley for nearly 20 years. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the President’s Executive Order No. 9066 resulted in the forced removal of all Japanese Americans on the west coast of the United States; Obata lost his job at the university and his art supply store. In April 1942, Obata and his family were sent to the Tanforan Racetrack near San Francisco and eventually to the Topaz War Relocation Center in central Utah; firmly believing in the healing power of art, in less than a month he and his fellow artists were able to create an art school with over 600 students. While Obata was director of the Topaz Art School, he continued to paint images of life in the camp as well as the beauty he saw in the desert landscape; even in the face of such confinement, Obata proved to be a figure of peace and resilience. In 1943, Obata and his family were released from the relocation center in Topaz, Utah, and returned to California in 1945 at the end of World War II; after 1945, Obata continued to visit Yosemite and the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains to paint his landscapes. In 1954, two years after the United States government allowed Japanese immigrants to become citizens of the United States, Obata and his family became naturalized American citizens. In that same year, Chiura and his wife, Haruko Obata, led the first of the "Obata Tours" to Japan, introducing many Americans to Japanese arts, architecture, and culture; the tours fostered understanding through the arts between the two countries that had previously been at war. From 1955 to 1970, until he was 85 years of age, Obata traveled throughout California, giving lectures and demonstrations on Japanese brush painting and in 1965, in Japan, Obata received the Emperor’s Award, the Order of the Sacred Treasure, 5th Class, in recognition of his efforts to spread cultural understanding. Obata’s life and work have been celebrated and exhibited throughout the world, and his legacy in connection to our National Parks remains an inspiration for all Californians. Named by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 112, Res. Chapter 37, 09/14/20.
    (Image source: The Rafu Shimpo, 8/26/2019)

    Scenic Route Scenic Route

    [SHC 263.6] Entire portion.

    Freeway Freeway

    [SHC 253.6] Entire portion. Added to the Freeway and Expressway system in 1959.


  3. Rte 120 Seg 3From Route 395 near Mono Lake to Route 6 near Benton Station.

    Post 1964 Signage History Post 1964 Signage History

    This segment is unchanged from its 1963 definition.

    Route 120 between US 395 and US 6, while a benign drive in the summer, is prone to severe snow drifts during the winter. While the western end of this section sits at about 6800 foot altitude, and the eastern end at Benton Jct. is even lower at about 5700 feet, the center segment rises to about 8200 foot elevation -- higher than Conway Summit to the north on US 395. The very lack of variation of the terrain around the highway contributes to heavy snow drifting during winter months -- there's not much in the way of steep hills for the snow to fall off -- it tends to stay packed up on the ground (and the highway); there's nothing stopping it from "piling on", so to speak. Plowing would be pointless -- by the time the road was plowed from one end of the snowdrift area to the other, it would have been overtaken by more drifting in the plow's wake. It's actually one of the later spring openings on a state highway in that area; the crews tend to wait until most of the pack has melted off before plowing it through. The saving grace is that it takes a sizeable snowstorm to pack it up in the first place, so it's often late November or even early December before Route 120 is closed in that area.
    (Source: Scott Parker (Sparker) at AAroads, 8/2/2016)

    Pre 1964 Signage History Pre 1964 Signage History

    This segment was signed as Route 120 in the initial signage of state routes in 1934 (Jct. US 99 at Manteca to Jct. Route 168 (later US 6) at Benton, via Groveland and through Yosemite National Park). It was an extension to LRN 40 defined in 1933.

    Naming Naming

    The portion of this segment from Route 395 to the site of Mono Mills is named the "Mono Lake Basin Road". It was named by Resolution Chapter 704 in 1917. Mono is derived from the word "Monache," a division of the Shoshonean Indians.


Classified Landcaped Freeway Classified Landcaped Freeway

The following segments are designated as Classified Landscaped Freeway:

County Route Starting PM Ending PM
San Joaquin 120 R0.07 R4.09
San Joaquin 120 R4.54 R6.33

Interregional Route Interregional Route

[SHC 164.16] Between Route 5 and Route 395.

Exit Information Exit Information

Other WWW Links Other WWW Links

Statistics Statistics

Overall statistics for Route 120:

Pre-1964 Legislative Route Pre-1964 Legislative Route

In 1933, Chapter 767 defined the route "[LRN 2] near Soledad to Pinnacles National Monument and Pinnacles National Monument to Hollister-Priest Valley Road in Bear Valley" as part of the highway system. In 1935, this was codified in the highway code as LRN 120 with the definition:

  1. [LRN 2] near Soledad to Pinnacles National Monument. The original western alignment of the road to West Pinnacles took Stonewall Canyon Road to the modern Route 146 portion of LRN 102. That alignment was replaced sometime between 1940 and 1942.
  2. Pinnacles National Monument to [LRN 119] in Bear Valley

A 1934 Division of Highways Map shows the eastern segment of LRN 120 (Route 146) running west from Route 25 into Pinnacles National Monument past the current terminus about a mile to Bear Gulch. The Bear Gulch Road is pretty much a straight to the western LRN 120 (Route 146) which makes it likely that this is what the post number gap is based off of. That means,if the map is correct, there was for a time a less than 2 mile gap between both segments of LRN 120 (Route 146). The state maps are too zoomed out really to provide any insight onto when the eastern segment of Route 120 might have been pulled back to the boundary with Pinnacles National Monument where the current Route 146 terminus is located. Route 146 in East Pinnacles still retains the same length that it had when it was a National Monument; this is because when the Monument was expanded to a Park, the boundary was expanded. That left Route 146 East maintained by Caltrans within the new National Park Boundary. From the west on Route 146 the highway segment is only 2.45 miles. Despite no reassurance markers westbound there is a Route 146 END sign at the former boundary for Pinnacles National Monument. The Eastern Segment of Route 146 has mileage markers ranging from 12.70 to 15.15. Essentially it is a straight line from the terminus of the western segment across the Pinnacles which ends at 10.19.
(Source: Tom Fearer (Max R) in AARoads, "CA 146 East",  6/2/2017)

This is the route from US 101 near Soledad to Pinnacles National Monument, and then to Route 25. It is present-day Route 146.


Acronyms and Explanations:


Back Arrow Route 119 Forward Arrow Route 121

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Maintained by: Daniel P. Faigin <webmaster@cahighways.org>.