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Historic US Highway ends in Long Beach CA

Photo credits: Chris Elbert; Andy Field; Karin and Martin Karner; Alex Nitzman
Additional research: Steve Riner

Highway Approx. time period
US 6 1937-1964
US 91 1947-1965

During the quarter-century when US 6 went all the way to the Pacific Ocean, "westbound" travellers actually got only as far west as the San Fernando Valley. From there, the route was co-signed along with US 99 back southeast to downtown Los Angeles. There those two designations diverged, and US 6 traffic was routed southward via Figueroa Street. At Pacific Coast Highway (which was known as "State Street" until sometime in the 1940's), drivers were directed east (along with southbound US 101A), towards downtown Long Beach. That's right: travellers at the western terminus of US 6 were actually heading due east. While that was an unusual (but not entirely unique) situation, it's even more interesting when you consider that - some 3600 miles to the east - travellers at the east end of US 6 were actually heading west around the spiral of Cape Cod!

So anyway: where exactly in Long Beach did US 6 end? It's not an easy question to answer, primarily for this reason: US 6's entire PCH segment was co-signed with US 101A, so even detailed street maps from the time period leave some guesswork on the matter. For example, check out this 1940 map:

It's clear that US 6 came down Figueroa (upper left) and then joined with US 101A eastward at least to Santa Fe Avenue. But that's the last US 6 marker on the map, so it's not obvious where the designation ended. When I was researching for this page, I compliled a list of Long Beach intersections which various websites had set forth as historic endpoints of US 6... there were five altogether! Some of them claim that US 6 ended at the Los Alamitos traffic circle (at right, where State intersects Lakewood Boulevard, Ximeno Avenue, and Hathaway Avenue). At this point, all I can say is that may have been true. Although I've never seen a map with a US 6 marker further east than Atlantic Avenue, some people have informed me that they seem to recall US 6, US 91, and US 101 all being signed at Los Alamitos Circle. If you have evidence supporting that endpoint, please let me know.

Barring that, I'm going to opine that the original Long Beach endpoint of US 6 was on State at Atlantic. Even if not, this intersection almost certainly marked the terminus at some point - the most compelling proof I've seen of that is the 1953 map below:

This map strongly suggests that US 6 ended at its junction with CA hwy. 15, or Atlantic. By this time, US 91 had also been extended into Long Beach (note that old "State Street" was now known as "Pacific Coast Hy"), and this map seems quite clear that designation was signed westward on PCH to the same intersection. Below is a photo from there:

Elbert, Mar. 2005

That's looking west on PCH at Atlantic; for many years this was northbound US 101A. At one point, this would've been the south end of US 91. The west beginning of US 6 was straight ahead, and CA 15 began to the right.

Now, note that the map above doesn't indicate any signed highway south of PCH. I bring that up because some have suggested that US 6 used to be signed south from PCH on Long Beach Boulevard, ending at Seaside Boulevard. As far as I know, this idea stems from the fact that the original location of the bronze US 6 plaque shown below was at the historic Municipal Auditorium:

Karners, July 2010

The auditorium was indeed situated at Long Beach and Seaside. However, it doesn't necessarily follow that US 6 was ever officially signed to the location of this plaque. In fact, this sentence from the Route 6 Tour website appears to back that up (emphasis mine):

"[In 1953] ...the Long Beach City Council authorized the placing of temporary U.S. Route 6 signs along Long Beach Blvd. in order to direct [Grand Army of the Republic] encampment traffic to the Auditorium."

Obviously it's not the city council's job to sign state highway routes. My take on that is: if US 6 had been officially extended down Long Beach Blvd, then it wouldn't have been necessary for the city council to take any action, and the signs wouldn't have been "temporary". So, despite the plaque's location at the Municipal Auditorium, I've never seen any evidence that US 6 itself was actually located there.

Apparently the auditorium was torn down in the 1960s, and the bronze plaque was moved to its current location at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center (which was then known as the Terrace Theater). Again, this has led some to believe that US 6 once ended at the location of this venue (Long Beach Blvd and Ocean Blvd). But, as with the old auditorium, I don't think that's necessarily true. Actually, I think it's more likely that these two buildings were simply appropriate public locations on which to mount the plaque, but their locations had no bearing on the actual routing of US 6. Please let me know if you have evidence to the contrary.

Back to the map above: note the Long Beach Freeway at far left. At some point after that was completed (perhaps when the CA 15 designation was changed from Atlantic to the LBF), the US 6 designation was cut back a bit, such that it ended on PCH at its interchange with the LBF. Steve writes, "I remember a sign at Pacific Coast Highway and the Long Beach Freeway marking "END US 6." The 1961 map below was probably made when that was the case:

Steve also recalls that during the 1950s and '60s, US 6 was signed east/west throughout the state (despite its generally north/south direction), and that this was a continual source of complaints to the highway department. The situation was particularly confusing in the area shown on these maps, approaching Long Beach: travellers heading east would see signs posted "West US 6" and "South US 101A"!

Anyway: when US 6 was truncated to LBF, was the US 91 designation lengthened by the same amount, such that it also ended on PCH at the LBF interchange? I don't know, but the map above suggests that. Below we're looking north on the LBF (now I-710, but then CA 15, and later CA 7):

Field/Nitzman, Mar. 2003

This exit to southbound PCH was probably the south beginning of US 91 for a few years. If you continue straight ahead under the overpass, and then take the cloverleaf to northbound PCH, that was probably the west beginning of US 6. At any rate, it wasn't long before both routes were significantly shortened: in the mid-1960's, US 6 was truncated to its current terminus in Bishop CA, and US 91 was cut back to Barstow for a few years before it was completely eliminated from California, Nevada, and most of Utah. At about the same time, the south end of US 101 was changed to downtown Los Angeles, and since then Long Beach has not been served by a US route.

The historic route of US 6 is beginning to be recognized in California, much like historic US 66 and US 99. Heading "east" from Long Beach (which is really more north and west at first), the first sign is posted where the Sierra Highway enters the Santa Clarita city limits:

Karners, July 2010