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Enjoy Magazine

A Little Bit of Highway Trivia

12/22/2017 11:00AM ● By Patrick John

On the Road Again

January 2018
By Patrick John

We’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately. I’ve lived in California my entire life, and I can’t keep up with all the changes. From Southern California to the Bay Area to the Oregon border, the miles are adding up. All that travel has sparked some discussion, research and a few disagreements about our California roadways.

First, I still haven’t embraced exit numbers.  When I give directions, I still use the exit street name. How about you? Most other states have been using numbers for a very long time. California is so big, and the cost was so great, exit numbers didn’t come about until 2002, and it took six years to post all those new signs. Also, I always thought the exit signs were totally sequential. Wrong!  For example, Interstate 5 runs from exit 1A just north of the Mexican border to exit 796 at Hilt Road just south of the Oregon border.  They ARE sequential, but based on actual miles from where the route begins.  (I lost a bet on that one, and boy did I feel dumb). If you watch the exit numbers in areas where off-ramps are few and far between, you will see big gaps in those numbers.   

Most travelers are used to bridge tolls, but what’s with the toll roads?  Many Orange County residents use one of the four tollways regularly, but compared to tollways in other states, they are still relatively new, with the first opening only about 20 years ago.  The Southbay Expressway in San Diego is only 10 years old.  The truth is, Californians just don’t like paying tolls!  FYI, it costs $7.75 to cross

the Golden Gate Bridge now, and the tollbooths are gone. They snap a picture of your license plate, and you get a bill in the mail. The Oakland Bay Bridge is $6, and the remaining Bay Area spans are $5.

Travel Tidbits

• There are more than 15,000 miles in the California highway system.

• Which lane has the fewest potholes and overall damage?  If you said the left lane, you are correct!

• Using a three-lane highway as the model, which lane is the most dangerous? More accidents occur in the right-hand lane.

• The longest highway in California is debatable.  It’s a tossup between Interstate 5 and Highway 101.  Exit miles show 797 and 794 feet, but travelers clock Highway 101 at 807 miles.  The shortest is the Tower Bridge in Sacramento, officially named Route 275 and only .14 miles long (737 feet).

• There are more than 25 million registered automobiles and over 889,000 registered motorcycles in California.

• A standard highway lane is 12 feet wide. (This varies, depending upon the area.)

Here’s to hoping you have a travel itch inspired by reading this and are ready to take on a new adventure in our great state.  One last tip – can the GPS (at least until you get lost). A good old-fashioned folding paper map makes it so much more fun!