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Named Highways and Structures
Named Highways and Structures (Index)


Originally, highways were not numbered; they were named. The names were acquired by local usage or promoted by highway committees. Later, to eliminate confusion and simplify signing, numbers were used. Yet names have continued to be attached to highways.

Names are acquired in different ways. Some highways acquire their names informally, through the vernacular use of the highway's users. Still others are formally named by the legislature, typically through Assembly or Senate resolutions. Highways can also be named by the California Highway Commission or a local jurisdiction.

Highways were named for a variety of reasons, and the policy differed by Caltrans district:

To address this, in 1962, Senate Concurrent Resolution 8 requested a study and report regarding the naming of freeways, highways, and expressways. The report made recommendations and suggested criteria for naming highways and freeways in the State Highway system. In response to the report, the legislature in 1963 (SCR 12) placed a moratorium on assigning further highway names until there was more study. In 1967, subsequent legislation directed Caltrans to update and expand the report. Caltrans did, and recommended the following:

Of course, the legislature being the legislature ignored the recommendation. Since then, there have been numerous naming bills and resolutions. Currently, highways get named either through general usage or through legislative action. The latter typically occurs when a legislator introduces a resolution naming a piece of freeway after someone. Since such a resolution would have to be approved by the Senate Transportation Committee, that body's policy on naming is generally followed. The criteria it supposedly practiced are as follows:

There was no requirement that the person being honored be deceased. Sponsors of the highway dedication must raise the funds for at least two roadside signs, one in each traffic direction. According to Caltrans, the total cost for two signs ranges from $800 to $1,200, depending on the length of the name inscribed on them.

During the 2009-2010 legislative session, the state Senate and Assembly transportation committees formalized this by adopting the following policies:

Of course, these are also not consistently followed either, in particular, the list item about a minimum 5 mile length. An example of this is the Deputy Sheriff Danny P. Oliver Memorial Highway, on US 50, which is between the Cambridge Road Over Crossing 2583 (PM 4.962) to Cameron Park Drive Under Crossing 25-84 (PM 6.570) -- under 5 miles.

The Senate and Assembly Transportation Committee’s during their 2019–2020 sessions have recommended the following policy for naming or designating State highways or highway structures:
(Source: 2020 Named Freeways, Highways, Structures and Other Appurtenances in California)

  1. Any person being honored must have provided extraordinary public service or some exemplary contribution to the public good and have a connection to the community where the highway is located.
  2. When a resolution names a highway or structure in honor of an individual, the designee must have been deceased, except in the instance of elected officials, in which case they must be out of office.
  3. The naming must be done without cost to the State. Costs for signs and plaques must be paid by local or private sources.
  4. The author or a co-author of the resolution must represent the District in which the facility is located, and the resolution must identify the specific highway segment or structure being named.
  5. The segment of highway being named must not exceed five miles in length.
  6. The proposed designation must reflect a community consensus and be without local opposition.
  7. The proposed designation may not supersede an existing designation unless the sponsor can document that a good faith effort has uncovered no opposition to rescinding the prior designation.
  8. The author’s office has contacted the Caltrans Legislative Affairs office to ensure that the highway segment and/or structure meet the requirements.

There is also a Victim's Memorial Sign Program. Under this program, Caltrans will, upon request from an immediate family member of a person who was killed by a driver intoxicated with drugs or alcohol, place and maintain a sign in memory of the victim. This program began in January 1, 2002, thanks to AB965 in 2001, which added Streets and Highways Code Section 101.10, directing Caltrans to place and maintain memorial signs along state highways that read "Please Don't Drink and Drive" followed by: "In Memory of (deceased victim's name)." A state highway is any freeway, expressway, or conventional highway operated by the State of California.

Memorial Signs[Historic Route][Structure][Naming]The following pages provide an index to the names given to highways and structures in and on the state highway system. It also includes information on memorial signs. For each name, a link is given to the page for that highway, where more details about the name can be found. Clicking on the link should take you to where the name is defined in the file (typically, these are either in the Naming, Structures, Memorial, or Historic Route section for the highway—see the symbols to the right).

Highways named after individuals are ordered by the individual's last name. Some of the names refer to previous highway designations, such as US 66. These are shown with the present day routes corresponding to that highway in parenthesis after the original number, i.e., US 80 (I-8).

And, because I'm asked: Yes, there are individuals who have subsequently besmirched their good names after having a highway named after them. The naming "hall of shame" includes: Richard T. Silberman Bridge (I-15), Oscar Rios Highway (Route 129). As for the Richard M. Nixon freeway (Route 90), well, we won't go there*.
*: Well, we will go there in terms of driving on Route 90, but we won't judge whether the name falls into the Hall of Shame. The same is true for any structure named after the 45th President.

Note: The same route number may be listed multiple times with a name. Typically, this is because the base name (such as "Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway") occurs multiple times along the route with different words in front of it, such as "Los Angeles County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway" and "Orange County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway". Sometimes it occurs because the same name is used for multiple segments within the route.





























Other Named Structures

The following structures are officially named by the state, but not on any state highway:

Local Street Names:

Although local street names are not a focus of, here are some pointers on where you can find some information on the web:


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