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End of US highway 101

View a map showing this route.

Additional research and/or photo credits: Casey Cooper; Nathan Edgars; Chris Elbert; Andy Field; Jeff Jensen; Karin and Martin Karner; Eric Lindberg; Mark Long; Stephen Taylor

Approx. time period North terminus South terminus
1926-1966 Olympia, WA San Ysidro, CA
1966-1990s (near Olympia, WA) Los Angeles, CA
1990s-present South Terminus North Terminus
Los Angeles, CA Sappho, WA
West Terminus East Terminus
Sappho, WA Discovery Bay, WA
North Terminus South Terminus
Discovery Bay, WA (near Olympia, WA)

US 101 was an original 1926 route; at the time its south end was at the Mexico border in San Ysidro CA, south of San Diego. The segment between there and Los Angeles has since been decommissioned, but the old route is now recognized in some areas with historical signage:

Karners, Jan. 2012

In the photo below, we're looking north into the US from Mexico; the white line starting in the lower right corner and going diagonally left is the international boundary:

from a 1955 article in California Highways and Public Works magazine, submitted by Cooper

At the time of this photo, US 101 began on the north (top) side of that line, veering off to the upper left corner - that's San Ysidro Boulevard. I-5 was built pretty much parallel to that, but just to the west (left). That's served by a more modern border crossing, so the original one is closed, and now old US 101 ends at a turnaround just shy of the border:

Karners, Jan. 2012

That was the historic south end of US 101...

...but in 1966, the south end was truncated to the East Los Angeles interchange; this shot shows the last reference on the mainline to US 101...

Google Maps Street View, 2009

...even though it could be argued that the designation continues ahead for another mile or so. The photo below shows the first northbound mention of US 101...

Karners, Jan. 2012

...and a little ways ahead it splits off on its own:

Field, Dec. 2001

You can view lots of other photos from US 101 in L.A. - plus maps and interesting information - onĀ Mike Ballard's page.

Since US 101 is beloved among highways, my opinion of it is rather unpopular. I'm sorry, but I just think it's full of mistakes. First of all - geographically speaking - its number is arguably the worst violation in the US highway system. The number "101" implies a branch of US 1 - which is some 3000 miles to the east. I can easily think of two numbering scenarios that would've worked better:

1.) US 101 could have been US 99. US 99 could have been US 97. US 97 could have been US 197. US 197 (which wasn't an original US route anyway) could have been US 297.

2.) Or - if you think the distinctive number "99" was appropriately reserved for the highway that went from Canada to Mexico - then US 101 could have been US 199. That way everything else could've stayed the same - except US 199 would've been, say, US 499.

Anyway, besides that, it can cause a lot of confusion to use a single highway number for a road that turns around and heads the opposite direction for a significant distance - as US 101 does in the Olympic Peninsula. David Barts informs me that, until the 1990s, Olympia-bound traffic was signed "North" along the entire route, while the opposite direction was signed "South"... even the segment that heads north from Olympia for nearly 100 miles. Of course that was perplexing to drivers, so now US 101 is signed "North" from Olympia to WA hwy. 20 at Discovery Bay, then "West" from there to WA 113 at Sappho, and then "South" through Aberdeen and into Oregon. (At least that's what I've gathered from what I can make out on SRweb [WA DoT's web-based state route viewer]. But signage doesn't appear to be 100% consistent, and even if it was, it would still be a pretty tricky situation in my opinion.) But let's move on, shall we, to photos of the "northern southern" terminus of US 101 in Washington. The photo below is approaching the south end of US 101 near Olympia:

Long, June 2004

Next thing you'll see is the fork shown below:

Taylor, 2000

That's where US 101 ends in Washington; the right fork goes to southbound I-5, and the left goes to northbound. Until recently there was no "End" sign, but in 2005 Chris observed one on the northbound ramp:

Elbert, Feb. 2005

Below is a close-up...

Elbert, Feb. 2005

...but Chris reports that was gone by 2009. However, a replacement was installed in 2013:

Lindberg, July 2013

The shot below is from southbound I-5, at the south beginning of US 101...

Long, June 2004

...and this next one is from northbound I-5:

Elbert, Feb. 2005

Those signs demonstrate how the "north" terminus of US 101 is actually another south terminus. If you take that exit, the first confirming marker looks like this:

Elbert, Feb. 2005

That interchange is actually in Tumwater city limits, but the US 101 designation originally ended in Olympia proper. The photo below is looking east on 4th Avenue at Capitol Way:

Jensen, 2001

That's from the perspective of a driver at the historic end of US 101. Nortbound US 99 traffic came in from the right and then turned straight ahead. In other words, the car has just passed the historic terminus of US 101 and is now on historic northbound US 99.

Jeff reports that, shortly after an earthquake in 1949, Olympia began using one-way streets. After that time, 4th and Capitol still marked the end of US 101, but the beginning moved one block north, to State Avenue and Capitol. The photo below was taken looking west on State:

attribution unknown, formerly posted on WSDOT website, c. 1951

At the time, that was southbound US 99 (which continued to the left on Capitol; control city says "Portland") and westbound US 410 (which continued straight ahead, towards "Aberdeen" and "Port Angeles"). Also ahead was the beginning of US 101. The service station in the foreground (NE corner of the intersection) has since been cleared out in favor of a parking lot, but the building across the street (NW corner) is still standing (as of 2012). The shot below was looking north on Capitol:

Jensen, 2001

From this perspective, southbound US 99 traffic came in from the right (west on State), and then turned towards the camera (south on Capitol). But if a driver continued straight on State (to the left), they would've been at the beginning of US 101. Below is a closeup of the remnant signage:

Jensen, 2001

The control cities are quite faded; they're "Aberdeen" and "Shelton".