California 76

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California 76

The New Bonsall Bridge carries California 76 over the San Luis Rey River. The bridge on the left (built 1990) carries westbound traffic over the river, while the newer bridge (built 2012) on the right carries eastbound traffic. Not shown is the original Bonsall Bridge, a concrete arch bridge that was built in 1925 and carried north-south U.S. 395 until it was rerouted to the current Interstate 15 corridor in the 1950s. This older bridge is located just west (to the left) of the two bridges shown here, and it still open for pedestrian and bicycle use. Photo taken 11/11/12.

Routing

California 76 is a major, 52.32-mile long, east-west state highway through northern San Diego County. The highway originates at its intersection with Coast Highway (San Diego County Route S-21 and Historic U.S. 101) and extends east through Oceanside, Bonsall, Pala, and Pauma Valley before ending at California 79 southeast of Palomar Mountain near Lake Henshaw. California 76 also connects to Interstate 5 and Interstate 15. A connection to unincorporated Fallbrook is available via San Diego County Route S-13 (Historic U.S. 395)/Mission Road north from Bonsall, and the connection to Palomar Mountain is made via either San Diego County Routes S-6 (South Grade Road) or S-7 (East Grade Road).

Expressway

California 76 is an expressway (with at least four lanes with regularly spaced, signalized intersections), and plans call for the expressway to extend from Interstate 5 in Oceanside to Interstate 15. This segment of state highway is known as the San Luis Rey Mission Expressway (as it generally follows the San Luis Rey River and links with the San Luis Rey Mission). As of November 2012, California 76 is an expressway from Interstate 5 east to San Diego County Route S-13/Mission Road, where it reverts to a two-lane state highway.

California 76 was upgraded to expressway standards in the following phases:1, 2, 3, 4, 5

  1. Interstate 5 and Coast Highway interchange east to Foussat Road (on new alignment) - started construction in Spring 1994 and completed/opened to traffic in November 1995
  2. Foussat Road east to Melrose Drive and Jeffries Ranch Road (on new alignment) - started construction in Spring 1996 and completed/opened to traffic in 1999
  3. Melrose Drive and Jeffries Ranch Road to San Diego County Route S-13/Mission Road and Sweetgrass Lane (upgrade to existing alignment including the dualization of the New Bonsall Bridge) - started construction in January 2010, westbound completed/opened to traffic on October 18, 2012, and eastbound to open to traffic by December 2012
  4. San Diego County Route S-13/Mission Road and Sweetgrass Lane east to Interstate 15 (mostly on new alignment) - started construction October 25, 2012, and is slated for completion to expressway standards by 2015

The initial construction of California 76's western segments (#1 and #2) on a new alignment required traffic signals with the following intersecting roadways: Loretta Street, Benet Road, Airport Road, Foussat Road, Douglass Drive, Rancho del Oro Drive, Old Grove Road, Frazee Road, Towne Center North Drive, College Boulevard, North Santa Fe Avenue (San Diego County Route S-14), Guajome Lake Road, and Melrose Drive. In the initial project, grade separations were made at two crossings with Mission Avenue as well as El Camino Real. While the original expressway was built to four lanes, the expressway was graded for two additional lanes for a total of six lanes. Funding for the western two segments included funds from the November 1987 TransNet one-half cent sales tax.

Segment #3 (called the "middle segment") was largely an upgrade of the existing, five-mile roadway from two to four lanes. A jersey barrier separates the two directions of traffic, and some significant cuts were made into adjacent hillsides to accommodate the new lanes. This project included the installation of a new, 2012 bridge to carry eastbound California 76 traffic over the San Luis Rey River, which made the 1990 bridge into a westbound-only bridge (the bridge uses four million pounds of steel bars in its construction).6 (The 1925 Historic U.S. 395/Old Bonsall Bridge was not affected by this project.) Traffic signals were installed or improved at several intersections, including Old River Road/Vista Way and Mission Road. Funding for the middle segment of the 76 expressway came from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the November 2004 TransNet one-half cent sales tax.

The easternmost segment (#4) is currently under construction. Three alternatives were considered for the easternmost segment of the California 76 expressway: widening and realigning along existing California 76, realigning California 76 onto a new corridor staying on the south bank of the San Luis Rey River, and constructing a split with three lanes on the north bank of the river and three lanes on the south bank of the river. In June 2011, the improvement of the existing alignment was identified as the preferred alternative.7 Funding for the eastern segment of the 76 expressway came from the November 2004 TransNet one-half cent sales tax. A toll road option was considered if the TransNet had not been passed by San Diego County voters. A project to improve the Interstate 15 and California 76 interchange began on October 25, 2012, and the connecting expressway segment between Segment #3 and Interstate 15 is scheduled to begin construction in early 2014, with completion to follow in 2015.4, 5

More on the California 76 Expressway project can be found at Keep San Diego Moving: State Route 76 (by San Diego Association of Governments).

Future Aspirations

The section of California 76 between S-13/Mission Road and Interstate 15 began construction in 2012 and is planned to continue until 2015. Due to the pressing traffic on California 76 between Interstate 5 and Interstate 15, calls have been raised to bring this road at least to expressway standards, if not full freeway standards, in this area. For a time in the early 2000s, a webpage called www.fixthe76now.com (Fix the 76 Now!) was organized to advocate for upgrades to the route earlier; the effort was disbanded once TransNet 2004 passed county voters and funds were earmarked in an "early action" program to improving California 76. Some have called for conversion of segments of California 76 to freeway standards by modifying existing some signalized intersections into interchanges, although no plans for such a conversion are imminent.

Business Route 76 - Mission Avenue in Oceanside

Mission Avenue within the city of Oceanside between Coast Highway (Historic U.S. 101 and San Diego County Route S-21) and (presumably) either Foussat Road or Frazee Road is designated as Business California 76. Few if any route markers for the business route are present along Mission Avenue itself, but two markers are prominently posted, one each on Interstate 5 north and south. The business route was created in November 1995 when the initial segment of California 76 expressway opened to traffic, extending from Interstate 5 and S-21/Coast Highway (Historic U.S. 101) east to Foussat Road. The second phase of the expressway project (completed 1999) installed overpasses wherever Mission Avenue met the expressway. This project might have resulted in an extension of the business route further east to Frazee Road, but it's not clear that any signage was added to reflect this presumption. The intersection between Mission Avenue and Frazee Road was reconstructed so that Mission Avenue no longer directly merged back onto the new expressway, so the business route is essentially orphaned from its parent route even if it made it as far east as Frazee Road.3 Finally, looking at the area in 2012, no "Route 76 Business Next Left" signage is evident along westbound California 76 at either the Frazee Road or Foussat Road intersections. Given the lack of reassurance and trailblazer signage and lack of a specific eastern end, it is arguable as to whether Business California 76 still exists at all.

Highway Guide

California 76/San Luis Rey Mission Expressway east
Northbound Historic U.S. 101 and San Diego County Route S-21/Coast Highway split with California 76 at this fork in the road. Exit right for California 76 east to Bonsall, Fallbrook, and Palomar Mountain. Stay left for the continuation of Coast Highway north and for the welcome center. Photos taken 03/15/08.
These views look east along California 76/San Luis Rey River Expressway from S-21/Coast Highway (Historic U.S. 101). Photos taken 03/15/08.
A BEGIN California 76 east sign is posted in the median between the intersection with U.S. 101/Coast Highway and the Interstate 5 interchange in Oceanside. This is a rare instance of the use of a "BEGIN" banner, even though it is of the size commonly used for bike routes. Note the improved, landscaped median added between 2006 and 2008. Photos taken 03/15/08 and 06/22/02.
Eastbound California 76 next approaches Interstate 5. The first traffic signal serves the loop ramp (left turn) onto Interstate 5 south to San Diego and the International Border. Photo taken 03/15/08.
After passing under Interstate 5, eastbound California 76 meets another traffic signal, this time governing the flow of traffic onto the onramp that loops onto Interstate 5 north (right turn). Use Interstate 5 north to Santa Ana, Long Beach, and Los Angeles. Photo taken 03/15/08.
This California 76 east reassurance route marker is posted after the Interstate 5 interchange in Oceanside. The state highway follows an expressway alignment along the south bank of the San Luis Rey River (until crossing the river near Bonsall), and it will have four lanes from here east to San Diego County Route S-13/Mission Road (north intersection with S-13) near Bonsall and Fallbrook. The four-lane configuration will continue east to Interstate 15 by 2015. Photo taken 11/11/12.

California 76 is designated as the San Luis Rey Mission Expressway between Interstate 5 in Oceanside and Interstate 15 to the northeast. The first at-grade intersection along California 76 east is with Loretta Street (next traffic signal). Photo taken 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76/San Luis Rey Mission Expressway meets Loretta Street at this traffic signal. Photo taken 11/11/12.
California 76 is also designated in memory of Oceanside Police Officer Tony Zeppetella, who was shot and killed on June 13, 2003. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Another California 76 east reassurance route marker is posted after the Loretta Street intersection. Photo taken 11/11/12.
California 76 will stay on the south bank of the San Luis Rey River between Interstate 5 and Old River Road/Vista Way (San Diego County Route S-13 south). Photo taken 11/11/12.
The next traffic signal along California 76 east is with Canyon Drive. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76 meets Canyon Drive. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Palomar Mountain comes into view as California 76 proceeds east through the San Luis Rey River valley. California 76 will pass along the southern edge of the mountain near Pala and Pauma Valley east of Interstate 15. Photo taken 11/11/12.
California 76 continues with two eastbound lanes between Canyon Drive and Benet Road in Oceanside. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Another California 76 east route marker assembly is posted prior to the intersection with Benet Road. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76 meets Benet Road at this traffic signal. Turn left here to the Marlado Highlands residential area. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Immediately thereafter, California 76 approaches another traffic signal, this time with Airport Road. Turn left here to the Oceanside Municipal Airport, which has a runway that parallels California 76 between Benet Road and Foussat Road. Look on the north side of the expressway for low-flying aircraft taking off from or landing at the airport. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76 next approaches north-south Foussat Road. To Business California 76/Mission Avenue, turn right (south) on Foussat Road, and connect to Mission Avenue at the first traffic signal. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Turn left from California 76 east to Foussat Road north to Marlado Highlands. To the south, Foussat Road links to Mission Avenue and ultimately Oceanside Avenue, where it ends. Photo taken 11/11/12.
This California 76 reassurance shield is posted after the signalized intersection with Foussat Road. Ahead will be an overpass carrying the California 76 expressway over its former Mission Avenue alignment. Photo taken 11/11/12.
California 76 crosses over Business California 76/Mission Avenue with no direct access between the two roadways. A set of San Diego Gas & Electric 230kV power lines cross over the freeway at the same point. These lines are supported by wooden poles that keep the conductors lower to the ground in order to prevent a conflict with air traffic associated with the nearby municipal airport. A typical 230kV structure for San Diego Gas & Electric would be on a much taller, steel monopole or lattice tower. This particular line travels north to San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and south to Encina Power Station in Carlsbad. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Another set of 230kV power lines crosses over the expressway soon thereafter. These lines are also supported by wooden poles and are kept lower to the ground than typically found with the taller, steel poles (due to adjacency to the airport). California 76 proceeds east as an expressway and approaches its next intersection with Douglas Drive. Photo taken 11/11/12.
The next intersection along California 76/San Luis Rey Mission Expressway east will be with Douglas Drive in Oceanside. Photo taken 11/11/12.
After the Douglas Drive intersection, the next left (to Rancho del Oro Drive) will connect California 76 with the San Luis Rey de Francia Mission, which was founded on June 13, 1798. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76 meets Rancho del Oro Drive at this traffic signal. Photo taken 11/11/12.
California 76 is an established safety corridor, as noted by signs such as these. Note the oddly tall California 76 shield with a seat belt on it. Photo taken 11/11/12.
A California 76 route marker follows after the Rancho del Oro Drive intersection. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Between Rancho del Oro Drive and Old Grove Road, eastbound California 76 will again cross over Business California 76/Mission Avenue with no direct connections between the two roadways. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Skipping ahead, eastbound California 76/San Luis Rey Mission Expressway approaches Old Grove Road. The California 76 expressway from Interstate 5 east to Melrose Drive opened in 1999. Quite a bit of residential development ensued along the California 76 corridor through the following decade, resulting in housing clusters on both sides of California 76 through here. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76 meets Old Grove Road at this traffic signal. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Another California 76 east route marker is posted soon thereafter. Photo taken 11/11/12.
The median along California 76 seems to vary between a narrow jersey barrier (K-rail), raised hardscape (concrete with curbs), manicured and landscaped, and this style of median with no apparent landscaping theme and a more "natural" look. Photo taken 11/11/12.
The next intersection along California 76 east is with Frazee Road. Turn right onto Frazee Road to connect with the eastern terminus of Business California 76/Mission Avenue. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Long left-turn pockets along the California 76 expressway allow for fast-moving traffic time to slow down and stop prior to the green arrow signal for left turns. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76 next approaches Town Center Drive at this traffic signal. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Traffic picks up a bit as eastbound California 76 approaches and meets College Boulevard at this traffic signal. Note the California 76 route marker mounted on top of the traffic signal pole. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Another California 76 east route marker is posted after the College Boulevard intersection. Photo taken 11/11/12.
This scenic view looks east along California 76 between College Boulevard and North Santa Fe Avenue in Oceanside. Photo taken 11/11/12.
The next intersection along California 76 east is with San Diego County Route S-14/North Santa Fe Avenue southeast. This mileage sign points the way to Vista (four miles southeast via S-14) and Bonsall (five miles east via 76). Photo taken 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76 approaches San Diego County Route S-14/North Santa Fe Avenue. Photo taken 11/11/12.
As of 2008, San Diego County Route S-14 is well signed along Santa Fe Avenue through Vista, but it is almost unsigned through San Marcos and Escondido. S-14 ends at Business Loop I-15/Centre City Parkway in Escondido. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76 meets San Diego County Route S-14/North Santa Fe Avenue. Turn right here for access to downtown Vista. Photo taken 11/11/12.
A California 76 east reassurance route marker is posted shortly after the intersection with San Diego County Route S-14/North Santa Fe Avenue. California 76 is a four-lane expressway with evenly spaced intersections and auxiliary lanes for turning traffic. Photos taken 06/07/08 and 11/11/12.
The highway continues through eastern Oceanside, curving generally northeast as it continues to follow the San Luis Rey River. Aside from its routine intersections with major roadways and heavy traffic volumes, California 76 could almost look like a rural freeway. Photos taken 06/07/08 and 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76 approaches Guajome Lake Road, which travels southeast to serve Guajome County Park. Photo taken 11/11/12.
California 76 meets Guajome Lake Road. The 2012 picture shows the repaving and advance signage for the highway expansion project underway at that time. Photos taken 06/07/08 and 11/11/12.
The four-lane expressway built in 1999 continues, with a nice open stretch between Guajome Lake Road and Melrose Drive. Photo taken 06/07/08.
Another California 76 east route marker is posted shortly thereafter. Photo taken 11/11/12.
The next traffic signal along California 76 east is with Melrose Drive. Back in 2008, the 76 expressway ended just after this intersection. However, high traffic volumes and a higher than average accident rate ensured more funds would be allocated toward improving California 76 from Melrose Drive east to Interstate 15. At the time of this writing in November 2012, the effort to expand and realign California 76 to expressway standards continues yet remains incomplete. The westbound lanes between Melrose Drive and Sweetgrass Lane opened on October 18, 2012.1 The eastbound lanes followed in November 2012. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76/San Luis Rey Mission Expressway meets Melrose Drive at this traffic signal. Photo taken 06/07/08.
After the intersection with Melrose Drive, California 76 used to narrow to two lanes. This 2008 picture shows the old configuration with only two lanes (one in each direction). However, as of Fall 2012, this highway had been expanded to four lanes as far northeast as Bonsall. Photo taken 06/07/08.
Now looking at the 2012 configuration of California 76, the expressway expansion resulted in two eastbound lanes, although when we visited on Veteran's Day 2012, the right lane remained closed to traffic. A barrier now separates the two directions of traffic. Photo taken 11/11/12.
A California 76 east route marker is posted soon thereafter. Photo taken 06/07/08.
The next intersection along California 76 east is with Jeffries Ranch Road. Photo taken 06/07/08.
The original route of California 76 between Oceanside and Bonsall featured only two lanes and limited sight distance, such as what is shown in this scene. However, California 76 was realigned onto a new path in order to provide the four-lane expressway alignment. It is around this point that California 76 leaves the city of Oceanside and enters unincorporated San Diego County. Photo taken 06/07/08.
This series of pictures shows the then-newly constructed California 76 expressway as of fall 2012. The expressway was aligned onto a new configuration that doesn't exactly follow the original roadway. It features two lanes in each direction as well as spacing between signalized intersection. A new traffic signal was installed for left turn access. Some very large hillside cuts were needed to achieve expressway speeds while climbing toward Bonsall. Photos taken 11/11/12.
The next major intersection along California 76 east is with San Diego County Route S-13/Vista Way and Historic U.S. 395 south. Turn right here for S-13 south to downtown Vista. Ahead, California 76 west, S-13 north, and Historic U.S. 395 north share pavement as they lead northeast toward Bonsall, where they diverge. S-13 and U.S. 395 will continue north to Fallbrook, while California 76 will continue east toward a junction with Interstate 15 and ultimately California 79 with connections to Palomar Mountain and Lake Henshaw along its way. Photos taken 11/11/12 and 06/07/08.
A California 76 trailblazer shield is mounted on the mast arm for the San Diego County Route S-13/Vista Way northbound traffic signal. Photo taken 06/07/08.
Eastbound California 76 meets San Diego County Route S-13/Vista Way and Historic U.S. 395 south. Turn left here for Old River Road. Photo taken 06/07/08.
California 76 east, San Diego County Route S-13 north, and Historic U.S. 395 north
Eastbound California 76, northbound San Diego County Route S-13, and northbound Historic U.S. 395 cross the San Luis Rey River on this bridge. The project to add a second carriageway and expand the road to four lanes resulted in a second bridge opening at this location in 2012 (not shown). In addition to the two bridges that carry California 76 over the river at this location, Old U.S. 395's original bridge also parallels the current bridge pair to the west of here; it is open to pedestrians and bicyclists but closed to vehicles. (To visit the historic, 1925, open spandrel, multiple-arch bridge, turn off California 76 at the northern end of the bridge and park alongside the road, then walk onto the old bridge. We have pictures of the old bridge elsewhere on the California 76 page.) Photo taken 06/07/08.
Back in 2008, the 1990 New Bonsall Bridge carried California 76 over the San Luis Rey River. This bridge has since been twinned, with a new span built for eastbound traffic to accommodate the increasing traffic along this section of state highway. Note the long line of westbound traffic crossing the bridge. Photo taken 06/07/08.
And in 2012, the 2012 New Bonsall Bridge now carries California 76 eastbound (actually heading due north) over the San Luis Rey River. Construction barricades were still up when we passed through the area. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Again looking at 2008, California 76 is actually traveling due north as it crosses the river, but it will again resume its journey toward the northeast after reaching the north bank of the river. Photo taken 06/07/08.
Looking again at 2012, the 2012 New Bonsall Bridge narrows as we approach the north bank of the San Luis Rey River. Photo taken 11/11/12.
In 2008, eastbound California 76 used to connect direct with Holly Lane and Old Mission Road, and one could turn left here for access to the Old Bonsall Bridge. With the expressway construction, this access was eliminated, and now eastbound travelers have to U-turn at River Road to make the connection to Holly Lane. Photo taken 06/07/08.
At the north end of the new Bonsall Bridge in 2008, eastbound California 76 used to meet the turnoff to Holly Lane. Ahead, California 76 will curve east to follow the north bank of the San Luis Rey River. Photo taken 06/07/08.
Eastbound California 76 next approaches North River Road at a traffic signal. This configuration has changed with the expansion of California 76 into a four-lane expressway through here in 2012. Photo taken 06/07/08.
California 76 east and San Diego County Route S-13 north meet North River Road at this traffic signal. Some major changes occurred at this intersection to accommodate the 76 expressway through here. Photos taken 11/11/12 and 06/07/08.
This mileage sign along California 76 east and S-13 north provides the distance to Bonsall (two miles), Pauma Valley (23 miles), and Lake Henshaw (40 miles). This sign was gone when we visited in 2012. Photo taken 06/07/08.
Now on a new alignment, eastbound California 76 approaches a traffic signal with Via Montellano. Turn left here to connect to the old alignment of California 76. Photo taken 11/11/12.
This section of California 76 and S-13 was bypassed entirely by the construction of the four-lane California 76 expressway in 2012. Photo taken 06/07/08.
Some fairly major rock cuts were made to allow the realigned sections of 76 expressway to be constructed. Photo taken 11/11/12.
California 76 and S-13 merge back to the alignment of the expressway, which was completed in 2012. Check back later for pictures of the new expressway. Photo taken 06/07/08.
Entering the unincorporated community of Bonsall, the next traffic signal along California 76 east and S-13 north is with Olive Hill Drive north (left) and Camino del Rey east (right) to Interstate 15. Photo taken 06/07/08.
Eastbound California 76 meets Olive Hill Drive, now on the expressway alignment. Photo taken 11/11/12.
California 76 approaches San Diego County Route S-13 in Bonsall. The county route marker is abnormal, since most county shields do not employ the hyphen between the "S" and the "13." S-13 will travel north along with Historic U.S. 395 to Fallbrook. California 76 will proceed east toward Pauma Valley and Palomar Mountain. Photo taken 06/07/08.
Eastbound California 76 and northbound San Diego County Route S-13 split at a signalized intersection in Bonsall; this has changed due to highway expansion activities. County Route S-13 travels from Bonsall north along Mission Road (Historic U.S. 395) to Fallbrook, where it meets County Route S-15. North of Fallbrook, the highway curve east along Mission Road, rejoining County Route S-15 at their mutual junction with Interstate 15 and Old Highway 395. Photo taken 06/07/08.
Now in 2012, eastbound California 76 meets San Diego County Route S-13 at this traffic signal. Turn left for U.S. 395 and S-13 north; continue ahead for California 76. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Back in 2008, eastbound California 76 meets San Diego County Route S-13 and Historic U.S. 395 north. These routes travel north to Fallbrook. Photo taken 06/07/08.
Caltrans District XI placed a San Diego County Route S-13 route marker on the traffic signal mast arm sign. This sort of sign is unique to this area. Photo taken 06/07/08.
California 76 east
After the S-13 intersection, California 76 (temporarily) narrows to two lanes. Here, eastbound California 76 meets the left turn onto Sweetgrass Lane. Photo taken 11/11/12.
The 2012 construction zone ends on eastbound California 76 as we leave the developed areas of Bonsall. Ahead, California 76 reverts to its original condition, although ground breaking occurred in 2012 to begin converting the remaining old section of 76 between Bonsall and Interstate 15 into four-lane expressway. So these pictures showcase the route as it was; we'll be back later to review the expressway once it's been constructed. Note the green sign marking California 76 as a safety corridor; these signs are also found east of Interstate 15. Photo taken 11/11/12.
More rural and agricultural areas are found along the two-lane section of California 76. Several orchards and ranches line the highway as we continue northeast toward Interstate 15 and Pala. This roadway sees quite a bit of traffic volume despite its rural location. It is part of the primary route from Oceanside to Riverside County (via a connection with Interstate 15). Photos taken 11/11/12.
California 76 stays on the north bank of the San Luis Rey River as it proceeds northeast toward its eventual rendezvous with Interstate 15. A left turn to Via Monserate Road leads northwest to connect with S-13/Mission Road. Look for this area to change once the expressway expansion is complete. Photos taken 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76 intersects both Flowerwood Lane and Gird Road. A traffic signal governs the flow of traffic at Gird Road. Photos taken 11/11/12.
California 76 proceeds northeast through more rural lands. Photos taken 11/11/12.
A roadside farmer's market was operating at the time this picture was taken. More roadside stands such as this can be found on the east side of Interstate 15. Photo taken 11/11/12.
The lines of trees on the distant hillside are rows of avocado trees. Avocados are a very common crop from northern San Diego County. Photo taken 11/11/12.
As we approach the interchange with Interstate 15, watch for slow or stopped traffic. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Rounding a curve, the first signs of the interchange with Interstate 15 come into view. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76 approaches its junction with Interstate 15 (0.50 mile). Photo taken 11/11/12.
The next traffic signal connects California 76 with Old Highway 395, which is not to be confused with Historic U.S. 395. While Old Highway 395 was indeed signed as U.S. 395 at one time, it was the second generation of the route when 395 was realigned out of Fallbrook. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76 meets the right turn onto Interstate 15/Avocado Highway (Escondido Freeway) south to Escondido and San Diego. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Certain vehicles are restricted from California 76 east of the freeway interchange. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Construction was underway to expand the interchange to expressway standards. Photo taken 11/11/12.
The next left turn from eastbound California 76 connects to Interstate 15/Avocado Highway (Escondido Freeway) north to Temecula, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Riverside, San Bernardino, Corona, Ontario, Victorville, Barstow, and Las Vegas. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Eastbound California 76 meets the left turn onto Interstate 15/Avocado Highway (Escondido Freeway) north. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Leaving the Interstate 15 interchange, eastbound California 76 initially proceeds with four lanes before narrowing back down to two lanes. Widening of this segment of California 76 was completed in 2009-2010. Photo taken 11/11/10.
This mileage sign along California 76 east provides the distance to Pala (six miles), Pauma Valley (15 miles), and Lake Henshaw (31 miles). Not listed on this sign are the distances to Palomar Mountain via San Diego County Route S-6 north and Julian via California 79 south. Photo taken 11/11/10.
California 76 serves several Indian reservations: Pala, Pauma, Rincon, San Pasqual, and La Jolla. Photo taken 11/11/10.
Unique signs such as this one designate California 76 as a safety corridor, especially on the two-lane segments east of Interstate 15 and west of California 79. Photo taken 11/11/10.
This series of pictures follows California 76 as it travels east through the end of its four-lane stretch and beginning of the two-lane configuration that will carry the route from here east to California 79 near Lake Henshaw. Photos taken 11/11/10.
California 76 narrows quite a bit and has many curves (some sharp) as it follows the north bank of the San Luis Rey River. A notable intersection is with Rice Canyon Road. Photos taken 11/11/10.
Between Interstate 15 and Pala, California 76 sees some agricultural development, including farms and orchards. Note how the road continues to have a winding, narrow path, while power lines take the most direct path. Photos taken 11/11/10.
The state highway narrowly fits between the foot of the hills and cliffs and the banks of the river. Photos taken 11/11/10.
The power lines supported by a wood pole connect with a much large steel lattice structure. California 76 proceeds east toward Pala. Photos taken 11/11/10.
Eastbound California 76 enters the Pala Indian Reservation. Photo taken 11/11/10.
In front of the Pala casino, eastbound California 76 approaches its junction with San Diego County Route S-16/Pechanga Parkway north to Temecula. Ahead, California 76 will proceed east through Pala en route to Pauma Valley and Palomar Mountain. Photo taken 11/11/10.
Eastbound California 76 meets San Diego County Route S-16/Pechanga Parkway north and Pala Casino Driveway south at this traffic signal. Photo taken 11/11/10.
California 76 crosses over Pala Creek on this old bridge. Photo taken 11/11/10.
Eastbound California 76 bypasses most of Pala by staying to the south of the town. S-16 serves the heart of Pala. Photo taken 11/11/10.
Continuing east, the bypass of Pala is a two-lane highway that can be quite busy and congested. Photo taken 11/11/10.
This mileage sign along California 76 east provides the distance to Pauma Valley (seven miles), Lake Henshaw (24 miles), and Palomar Mountain (26 miles via S-6 north). Photo taken 11/11/10.
A denuded hillside like this was probably impacted by fire in years past and never fully recovered. Perhaps with more time, the knoll's natural vegetation will return. Photo taken 11/11/10.
Soon thereafter, California 76 east leaves the Pala Indian Reservation. Photo taken 11/11/10.
California 76 proceeds east along the foot of the adjacent mountains and hills, creating beautiful scenery along the way. Photo taken 11/11/10.
A bit further east, California 76 next enters the unincorporated community of Pauma Valley. Photo taken 11/11/10.
Eastbound California 76 approaches Adams Road. Photo taken 11/11/10.
Turn left from California 76 east to Pauma Reservation Road. Photo taken 11/11/10.
Eastbound California 76 approaches Cole Grade Road (right turn). Photo taken 11/11/10.
Orchards and ranches line both sides of California 76 in Pauma Valley. Photo taken 11/11/10.
Similar to a restriction sign posted on the Interstate 15 overpass, California 76 has bus and motor home restrictions east of Pauma Valley. Photo taken 11/11/10.
The next major intersection along California 76 east is with San Diego County Route S-6/Valley Center Road south to Valley Center, Rincon Indian Reservation, and San Pasqual Indian Reservation. Turn south (right) here on S-6 for Harrah's Rincon Casino and Valley View Casino. Photo taken 11/11/10.
This mileage sign along California 76 east provides the distance to Palomar Mountain via San Diego County Route S-6 north and Valley Center and Escondido via S-6/Valley Center Road south. Photo taken 11/11/10.
San Diego County Route S-6 follows Valley Center Road south to Valley Center, then turns into Valley Parkway as it enters the city of Escondido. After passing through that city's center, S-6 then proceeds southwest along Del Dios Highway into Rancho Santa Fe and then to Del Mar/Solana Beach. Ahead, S-6 will join with California 76 for several miles, then separate at South Grade Road. S-6 will proceed up the southern grade to Palomar Mountain, while California 76 will proceed east toward Lake Henshaw. Photo taken 11/11/10.
Eastbound California 76 meets San Diego County Route S-6/Valley Center Road at this intersection. There used to be S-6 shields here in 1997, but they were gone by 2010. Photo taken 11/11/10.
California 76 east and San Diego County Route S-6 north
Watch for a winding, twisting road for the next 19 miles along California 76 east ... and San Diego County Route S-6/South Grade Road takes a similarly twisting route up Palomar Mountain. Photo taken 11/11/10.
Speaking of Palomar Mountain, we have several nice views of the mountain as we proceed east/northeast/southeast on a twisting route to the South Grade Road (S-6) turnoff. Photo taken 11/11/10.
This mileage sign along California 76 east and San Diego County Route S-6 north provides the distance to Lake Henshaw (15 miles via California 76 east), Palomar Mountain (16 miles via S-6 north), and Julian (33 miles via California 76 east and California 79 south). Photo taken 11/11/10.
California 76 east and San Diego County Route S-6 north proceed through scenic areas between Pauma Valley and the Palomar Mountain turnoff. The two routes will divide at the South Grade Road intersection. Watch for sharp turns along the way! Much of this section of highway is all uphill. Photos taken 11/11/10.
Eastbound California 76 and northbound San Diego County Route S-6 enter the La Jolla Indian Reservation. Photo taken 11/11/10.
Palomar Mountain continues to come into view as we proceed east on California 76. Photo taken 11/11/10.
Eastbound California 76 and northbound San Diego County Route S-6 prepare to split at this intersection. S-6 travels north up the Palomar Mountain grade to serve private residences on the mountain as well as Palomar Mountain State Park and Palomar Observatory. The county route shield is barely noticeable on this sign due to low lighting conditions. Photo taken 11/11/10.
A second S-6 route marker is posted on eastbound California 76 to confirm the left turnoff to Palomar Mountain. Photo taken 11/11/10.
Eastbound California 76 and northbound San Diego County Route S-6 divide at this intersection. Turn left for S-6 north to Palomar Mountain or continue ahead for California 76 east to Lake Henshaw, Santa Ysabel, and Julian. Photo taken 11/11/10.
California 76 east
We currently have no coverage of California 76 eastbound between San Diego County Route S-6/South Grade Road and San Diego County Route S-7/East Grade Road near Lake Henshaw. Check back again later for updates!
Leaving the intersection with San Diego County Route S-7/East Grade Road, eastbound California 76 proceeds toward Lake Henshaw. This reassurance route marker is posted after the intersection with S-7. Photo taken 06/16/06.
California 76 fairly remote state highway with recreation traffic and traffic linking communities in San Diego County's backcountry with the urbanized areas closer to the coast. The highway stays on the south side of Lake Henshaw. Photo taken 06/16/06.
This California 76 east reassurance route marker is posted near Lake Henshaw Resort, which is located on the south side of the highway. Photo taken 06/16/06.
California 76 proceeds east along the south edge of Lake Henshaw, which is not easily visible from the highway but is located to the north of here. Photo taken 06/16/06.
Eastbound California 76 approaches the turnoff to Mesa Grande Road to the Mesa Grande Indian Reservation (next right). Photo taken 11/11/10.
More scenic views abound, but we are in the final mile or so before the state highway ends at California 79. Photo taken 06/16/06.
Eastbound California 76 approaches its eastern terminus at its junction with California 79. Turn left for California 79 north to Warner Springs, Sunshine Summit, Temecula, Interstate 15, and Hemet. Turn right for California 79 south to Santa Ysabel, California 78, Julian, Cuyamaca, and Interstate 8. Photo taken 06/16/06.
An END California 76 route marker assembly is posted at the intersection with California 79. Phots taken 06/16/06.
This is a close-up view of the END California 76 and California 79 trailblazer route marker assembly. Photo taken 06/16/06.
At the intersection with California 79, a mileage sign points the way to Warner Springs via California 79 north (left turn) and Santa Ysabel via California 79 south (right turn). Photo taken 06/16/06.
California 76 west
Leaving the intersection with California 79, this view shows the westbound beginning of California 76 including its first reassurance route marker shield. Photo taken 06/16/06.
Westbound California 76 meets San Diego County Route S-7 at this intersection near the eastern slope of Palomar Mountain and the western shore of Lake Henshaw. Photo taken 06/15/02.
Unique signs such as this one designate California 76 as a safety corridor, especially on the two-lane segments east of Interstate 15 and west of California 79. This particular sign is located west of Pala, prior to the Interstate 15 interchange. Photo taken 06/27/09.
Westbound California 76 passes over the modern San Luis Rey River Bridge near Bonsall. The white sign used to identify the river, bridge number, route number, county, and mileage used to be commonly found on San Diego's roadways, but they are increasingly difficult to find on state highways in urban areas, perhaps in an effort to reduce sign clutter. Nevertheless, it is very helpful to know the mileage and river/overcrossing name when traveling, so signs such as this one are appreciated. This white bridge identification sign has an error: only the tenths of miles is called out (a larger 9 before the "95" is missing). Thanks to Mark Furqueron for pointing this out. Photo taken 06/15/02.
Some distance west, we find California 76 meeting its western terminus at Historic U.S. 101 and San Diego County Route S-21/Coast Highway. Turn left for Coast Highway south to downtown Oceanside or right for Coast Highway north to Oceanside Harbor. Photo taken 03/15/08.
A Historic U.S. 101 trailblazer sign is posted at the intersection of California 76 and S-21 (Historic U.S. 101)/Coast Highway. Photo taken 03/15/08.
Business California 76/Mission Avenue (Oceanside) east
Business California 76/Mission Avenue (Oceanside) west
Business California 76 follows former California 76 along Mission Boulevard through Oceanside. Not many shields have been placed for the business route, but Business California 76 is well signed from Interstate 5. Photo taken 07/25/04.
The Pacific Ocean comes into view as westbound Business California 76/Mission Avenue meets the onramp to Interstate 5 south. Photo taken 07/25/04.
Westbound Business California 76/Mission Boulevard enters downtown Oceanside. The coast highway is shared between Historic U.S. 101 and San Diego County Route S-21. Photo taken 07/25/04.
Here is a close-up of the San Diego County Route S-21 shield. Photo taken 07/25/04.
One block prior to reaching Coast Highway, this historic U.S. 101 shield greets westbound travelers. The intersection ahead is the former western terminus of California 76 before it was relocated to the San Luis Rey Mission Expressway. Photo taken 07/25/04.
This is a close-up of the U.S. 101 historical shield found on westbound Business California 76/Mission Avenue near the Coast Highway intersection. Signs of this type have been placed in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach, and Del Mar through the late 1990s and 2000s; however, some of the signs in these cities seem to have disappeared after their installation. Business California 76 ends at Coast Highway (and no signs are posted for the termination of the business route). Photo taken 07/25/04.
Scenes Pertaining to California 76: General
Westbound San Diego County Route S-14/Santa Fe Avenue approaches its northwestern terminus at California 76. Turn left on California 76 to Mission San Luis Rey. A mileage sign is posted along westbound San Diego County Route S-14/Santa Fe Avenue just before meeting California 76. S-14 is posted with an END shield. Turn left for Oceanside or right for Bonsall and Fallbrook. Photo taken 06/07/08.
Northbound Old Grove Road meets California 76 at this traffic signal in Oceanside. Caltrans uses a green sign blade to indicate that this road is "Highway 76." This is a standard commonly found on expressways and conventional state highways in Caltrans District XI, but it is not as common in other parts of the state. Photo taken 11/11/12.
Scenes Pertaining to California 76: New Bonsall Bridge (San Luis Rey River)
A pair of bridges (built in 1990 and 2012) carries California 76 over the San Luis Rey River. These bridges are parallel to the Old Bonsall Bridge, which was built in 1925 and carried old U.S. 395 until it was rerouted to the Interstate 15 corridor between Escondido and Rainbow. The first New Bonsall Bridge was built in 1990 and today carries only westbound traffic. The second New Bonsall Bridge was built in 2012 as part of an effort to convert California 76 to expressway standards and now carries eastbound traffic. These pictures show the New Bonsall Bridges as seen from Old River Road looking north. Old River Road passes underneath both bridges alongside the south bank of the San Luis Rey River. The last picture shows the then-recently opened, 2012 eastbound bridge. Photos taken 11/11/12.
Scenes Pertaining to California 76: Historic U.S. 395 Bonsall Bridge
Prior to the construction of the 1990 and 2012 San Luis Rey River (New Bonsall) Bridges along California 76, an older bridge known as the Historic (Old) Bonsall Bridge used to carry motor vehicles over the San Luis Rey River. This long arch bridge, profiled in this series of pictures, was in use as California 76 (and as U.S. 395 before it) until the early 1990s when the new bridge was opened. Functionally obsolete, with very tight approaches and no shoulders on the bridge itself, the Bonsall Bridge now functions as a bikeway and pedestrian crossing over the river. This first set of pictures show the bridge looking north/east. Photos taken 06/22/02.
Old Bonsall Bridge, which was built in 1925, is still accessible for walkers and bicyclists. It is also signed for Historic U.S. 395. This series of pictures look at the old bridge from the south bank of the San Luis Rey River near Old River Road. Photos taken 11/11/12.
Arched, concrete bridge railing lines the Old Bonsall Bridge. This bridge was in service until 1990; it is difficult to imagine modern traffic and speeds accommodated on this narrow bridge. A sharp turn awaits at the north end of the bridge, where Old U.S. 395 and California 76 curved east to follow the north bank of the river. Photos taken 11/11/12.
This suite of pictures shows the approach of the Bonsall Bridge from the north bank of the river. We first look southward, then cross the bridge itself. As clearly shown in these pictures, a sharp curve makes the approach from the north onto the bridge very tight. Even though there are a few remnant road signs, this area is not open to motorized vehicles. Most views of the bridge are looking west, but the last picture shows the bridge looking east. Mark Furqueron writes, "I'll never forget driving over that tight old bridge ... back in 1975. Most of the railing on that bridge has been replaced a chunk at a time over the years as people hit it. The curves leading into it had a 25 mph advisory speed limit. ... There used to be a produce market (see top picture of this group) on the east side of the bridge that was a death trap if you were trying to get back on the westbound roadway." Photos taken 06/22/02.
The old Bonsall Bridge (1925 vintage) is a deck spandrel arch bridge. Most of the arches are hidden by foliage in the river bottom and adjacent floodplain along the San Luis Rey River. Photo taken 06/22/02.
This view looks east from center of the old Bonsall Bridge toward the 1990 Bonsall Bridge, which currently carries westbound California 76. The Bonsall Bridge was at one time part of U.S. 395, back when U.S. 395 followed a somewhat convoluted path north of Escondido. Rather than heading due north along the Interstate 15 corridor, U.S. 395 at one time followed San Diego County Route S-14 west to Vista, then turned north along San Diego County Route S-13/Vista Way. At California 76, U.S. 395 turned northeast along with California 76 to cross the Bonsall Bridge and then split away from California 76 at San Diego County Route S-13/Mission Road. U.S. 395 then followed Mission Road north into Fallbrook, then curved east to rejoin Interstate 15 near Rainbow. From Rainbow, Historic U.S. 395 turned north via Rainbow Valley Boulevard toward Temecula. Photo taken 06/22/02.
Many of the old roads in California were marked by rectangular monuments with the letter "C" inscribed in them. Commonly known as "C-blocks" or "C-monuments," these partially buried concrete pillars mark the state right-of-way along older highways, and they are very helpful in determining alignments of roads. Joel Windmiller advises that C-blocks were commonly placed along state rights of way between 1914 and 1934 (some California Division of Highways districts used C-blocks after the 1930s). This C-block is located at the northern end of the abandoned Bonsall Bridge (Historic U.S. 395) on the west side of the approach road. Photo taken 06/22/02.
Scenes Pertaining to California 76: Oceanside Pier
Oceanside Municipal Fishing Pier was built in 1925 and restored in 1987. The pier offers plenty of sightseeing opportunities and allows visitors to fish. The pier is located in Oceanside west of Old U.S. 101/Coast Highway near the west end of Mission Avenue (former California 76). Some terrific storm swells brought great surf. Photos taken 01/31/10.

Footnotes:

  1. New lanes open on westbound State Route 76, KUSI News, October 18, 2012. Relevant quote: "Two new westbound lanes on State Route 76 between Bonsall and Oceanside opened today. The new lanes are part of a project to widen the state road across northern San Diego County, according to San Diego Association of Governments and Caltrans. The work on the middle section of SR 76 was expected to cost $171.4 million by the time it's completed. The western end of the highway, which runs through Oceanside to Interstate 5, opened 13 years ago. Work is scheduled to begin later this month on the eastern end, running to Interstate 15. The work was expected to take abut three years."
  2. Caltrans District XI Fact Sheet: State Route 76 West Widening and Realignment, September 1996. Relevant quote: "The overall plan calls for widening and realigning 17 miles of State Route 76 between Interstate 5 in Oceanside and Interstate 15 east of Bonsall. The first seven-mile section will be a four-lane expressway, primarily on new alignment, from I-5 to North Santa Fe Avenue. The remaining 10 miles, from North Santa Fe Avenue to I-15, calls for a four-lane highway on and alongside the existing alignment [although later studies modified the alignment east of Mission Road]. Grading will be done to accommodate future widening to six lanes."
  3. Caltrans District XI Fact Sheet: State Route 76 West Widening and Realignment, May 1998.
  4. SR 76 Middle Project - Construction Advisory #7 (UPDATED) by SANDAG. Relevant quote: "Due to weather conditions, the two new westbound lanes on SR 76 between Melrose Drive and Sweetgrass Lane will now permanently open to traffic the morning of October 18th. Westbound traffic will move from its current location to these newly completed adjacent lanes."
  5. SR 76 Corridor Project Construction Update #9 by SANDAG (Summer 2012). Relevant quote: "Phase I upgrades include: Widening the existing SR 76 bridge over I-15, widening the existing on- and offramps from SR 76, and adding two loop on-ramps from SR 76 to I-15. The second phase of the project will widen and realign SR 76 from two to four lanes from South Mission Road to just east of Old Highway 395. That work is expected to begin in early 2014. By the end of 2015, the improved East Segment should be open to traffic."
  6. SR 76 Corridor Project Construction Update #8 by SANDAG (Spring 2012). Relevant quote: "San Luis Rey River Bridge Fun Facts: Four million pounds of steel bars were used for its construction. Nearly 12,000 cubic yards of concrete were poured into the bridge (That’s enough to build 2,360 driveways). Each of the 18 columns is flared, so that the diameter on top is larger than the diameter at the bottom. These columns sit atop steel and concrete pile foundations. The deepest pile is anchored 90 feet into solid rock. The bridge took two years to build and is 1,700 feet in length."
  7. State Route 76 East -- Preferred Alternative: Existing Alignment by SANDAG (June 2011). Relevant quote: "In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Quality Act, a Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) was prepared. It compared and analyzed two build alternatives, the Existing Alignment and the Southern Alignment, against the No Build alternative to determine how each would impact the environment and community. The Existing Alignment would widen and realign the current highway and the Southern Alignment would create a new highway south of the San Luis Rey River. The Draft EIR/EIS was circulated for public review and comment in September 2010. After analyzing all of the comments and balancing the environmental effects, costs and project benefits, Caltrans identified the Existing Alignment as the Preferred Alternative."

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Page Updated December 8, 2012.