End of US highway 99

View a map showing this route.

Photo credits: Michael Ballard; Mark Bozanich; "Charpy"; Andy Field; Jeff Jensen; Karin and Martin Karner; Alex Nitzman; Matt Salek; Mike Wiley; SRweb (WA DoT's web-based state route viewer)

Approx. time period North terminus South terminus
1926-1928(?) Blaine, WA El Centro, CA
1928(?)-1964 Blaine, WA Calexico, CA
1964-1969 Blaine, WA Los Angeles, CA

There is no official "US 99" anymore. It used to be one of the country's main north-south highways, serving many cities in California, Oregon, and Washington. But, as was often the case with major US routes, an interstate was later built alongside of it. Many segments of Interstate 5 were created by expanding the existing US 99 into an interstate-quality road. In most other areas, I-5 ran right alongside US 99, or at least roughly paralleled it. By the late 1960s, US 99 was obsolete - and its US highway designation was removed.

Ballard

Today, the old road segments that form historic US 99 are enjoying a rather significant revival. In fact, public awareness of old 99 may well be second only to historic US 66. So I'm not going to say much more about it, other than to point you to two of the best websites I've seen that deal with historic US 99 (and there are many other links from these sites):

Grant "Casey" Cooper's "Historic California US Highways."

Michael Ballard's "Historic Highways of Central and Southern California."


US 99 was an original 1926 route; for the first few years its south end may have been at US 80 in El Centro CA. If so, then I believe this photo shows the spot:

Karners, Dec. 2011

That's looking north on Imperial Avenue. The cross street is Adams Avenue, designated county road S-80, which is the modern equivalent of old US 80. However, US 80 traffic may not have used Adams to the east (right). Instead, westbound US 80 may have come in from the right on Main Street (a couple blocks behind the camera), then north on Imperial to this point, and then continued via Adams to the left. US 99 followed what is now CA hwy. 86 north of Calexico, so either way it probably would've begun straight ahead.


It probably wasn't long before the south end of US 99 was extended to the international border at Calexico. US 99 essentially followed what is now CA hwy. 111 southward into Calexico... but just shy of the modern border crossing, US 99 went east on 2nd Street. If you do that today, you'll see the signage shown below:

Salek, Jan. 2006 (unchanged as of 2011)

I'm glad to see that the historic route is marked, but the placement of that particular "End" assembly is a bit strange. The Karners report there are another two "Historic 99" signs ahead on 2nd. US 99 actually continued ahead another three blocks, and upon reaching Heffernan Avenue, traffic was directed south for one more block, ending at the historic border crossing:

Karners, Dec. 2011

That's since been closed in favor of the modern port of entry, just to the west (right). If you were to face the opposite direction from that point, you'd see the assembly shown below:

Salek, Jan. 2006 (unchanged as of 2011)

That's heading north on Heffernan from the old crossing. Nice sign, but unfortunately the Karners report that there are no further signs directing travellers onto 2nd, nor to Imperial. If you'd like to see several interesting photos from the location of the old customs area, please visit Andy Field's page.


In 1964, the south end of US 99 was truncated to Los Angeles, because I-10 had been completed east of there, and south of Indio US 99 was renumbered as CA 86. North of L.A., US 99 probably continued to be truncated in bits and pieces as various segments of I-5 opened to traffic; at any rate, the US 99 designation was completely gone by 1969.


From 1926 to the highway's decommissioning, the north end of US 99 was at the Canada border in Blaine WA. Let's begin with a photo from northbound I-5 approaching Blaine:

Field/Nitzman, Aug. 2006

The upcoming exit (to WA hwy. 543, which heads due north to connect with British Columbia highway 15) leads to what's known as "Truck Customs". Commercial traffic cannot use the I-5/B.C. 99 ("Peace Arch") border crossing. WA 543 was the original US 99 in Blaine. The shot below is looking north on WA 543, approaching the end of old US 99:

Jensen, 2001

Ahead at customs you would see the sign shown below, at the original terminus on the Canada border:

Jensen, 2001

The photo below is looking the other direction, and it shows the north beginning of WA 543 (which was the north beginning of original US 99) from Canada:

Jensen, 2001

The "Peace Arch" crossing was opened in the 1940's, and at some point the US 99 designation was routed onto the new road leading to it (which is now I-5). Heading south from Canada, drivers who look closely at the Peace Arch might notice this inscription:

Field/Nitzman, Aug. 2006

The photo below was taken just ahead from the Arch, where you can see the north beginning of I-5 (and the former north beginning of US 99) at US Customs:

SRweb

The shot below shows northbound I-5 at the Canada border:

SRweb

The white car in the middleground is parked right by one of the little obelisks that mark the international boundary - that was the northern terminus of US 99 when it was decommissioned. Note the Peace Arch at far left, for which this border crossing is named. Ironically, one of the last remaining reminders of US 99's existence is in Canada: straight ahead is British Columbia hwy. 99. Below is a better shot of the Peace Arch:

Bozanich, Oct. 2001

That straddles the 49th parallel, upon which the international boundary was surveyed. Another face of the arch bears the inscription "Children of a Common Mother". See the stone marker in the lower right corner? The inscription on it is shown close-up below:

Bozanich, Oct. 2001

I point this out, of course, because of the "Highway No. 99" part. What you may find even more interesting is that there's a "Jefferson Davis Highway" in Washington state, and that the Daughters of the Confederacy has a presence there! Mark reports that the UDC managed to get all kinds of highways named after Davis, and that this particular one runs from Blaine to San Diego. Not surprisingly, this marker has been the focus of much political posturing. I'm not taking sides, but I will report that Marjorie A. Reeves, an historian with UDC, e-mailed me in August 2002 to let me know that there is indeed a chapter still active in WA - and to explain that Davis, as Secretary of War, directed funds to the exploration and expansion of the Northwest. Someone else e-mailed me in June 2003 to let me know that this marker has been removed (at least temporarily, perhaps permanently) as the state legislature tries to decide what their position is going to be. It appears Ms. Reeves is one of the central figures in this battle. Feel free to let me know if you hear of further developments.


There are a few old US 99 signs still posted on the road. One is in Seattle, at 1st Avenue and Columbia Street, above the onramp to the Alaskan Way Viaduct:

Charpy