An END California 905 route marker is posted on westbound California 905 on the offramp to Exit 1B, which connects to Tocayo Avenue west and Oro Vista Road north. Photo taken 02/21/11.
California 905 is the east-west connector between Interstate 5 near San Ysidro and the Otay Mesa Port of Entry (POE), with a connection to Interstate 805, Otay Mesa, and Brown Field. The full California 905 freeway opened to traffic on July 30, 2012.
A state highway that was in transition through the 1990s and 2000s as segments of freeway were funded and constructed on Otay mesa, California 905 completed its dramatic conversion to a freeway with the final segment opening on July 30, 2012. A complete freeway corridor now exists from Interstate 5 to the Otay Mesa Port of Entry (border crossing with Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico).
Prior to 1999, California 905 existed in two parts -- one between Interstate 5 and about a half mile east of Interstate 805 and a second north-south segment between Otay Mesa Road and the International Border. Around 2000, the state took over Otay Mesa Road, linking California 905 into a unified route. In 2005, an interchange was built at California 905 and Siempre Viva Road, making the north-south segment of state route (Camino Internacional) into a freeway. In 2010, the freeway was extended from Siempre Viva Road west to Brittania Boulevard. The final segment to link Brittania Boulevard with Interstate 805 opened in July 2012.
California 905 can be divided into five segments:
- Segment One - The unconstructed section between the International Border near Border Field State Park - this segment passes through some environmentally sensitive areas and will likely never be constructed.
- Segment Two - Between the Interstate 5/California 905 junction and one-half mile east of the Interstate 805/California 905 junction.
- Segment Three - The last segment of freeway to open (in July 2012), this segment connects Interstate 805 with Brittania Boulevard. The expressway segment was bypassed with this newest freeway opening.
- Segment Four - The third freeway section opened (in November 2010), this segment connects Brittania Boulevard with Segment Five near Airway Road with links to California 125 planned in the future. This segment does not include a direct link from California 905 to California 125 (local roads must be used for this connection until funds are identified to complete the link).
- Segment Five - The second freeway section built (between 2005 and 2008 including the Siempre Viva Road interchange), this segment connects California 125 and the Otay Mesa border crossing and Port of Entry.
For information on the progress of constructing the middle segment of 905 freeway and improving the freeway linkages, visit San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) or Caltrans District XI. Both agencies have California State Route 905 information.
The following list provides a chronological history of California 905:
- 1975 - California 117 freeway under construction between Interstate 5 and Interstate 805. Plans call for the freeway to continue eastward to the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.
- 1984 - California 905 commissioned to replace California 117, which was previously part of California 75. Designation is changed to reflect future plans to add California 905 into the Interstate Highway System. Since Otay Mesa Road between I-805 and the future California 11-125 interchange is not maintained by Caltrans, this section is not signed as California 905.
- 1997-1999 - The City of San Diego widens the existing Otay Mesa Road as a stop-gap measure until the full freeway is built parallel to and south of Otay Mesa Road. After this construction is completed, Otay Mesa Road will be maintained by the state until after the freeway is constructed in the new century.
- 1998 - California 905 included in federal High Priority Corridor 30 in the hopes the designation would bring additional funding for the upgraded border crossing and freeway.
- 1999 - Initial Environmental Impact Reports were completed for the future 905 freeway; final documents were completed five years later.
- Spring 2000 - Work is completed on interim, temporary California 905 expressway along Otay Mesa Road between Old Otay Mesa Road just east of Interstate 805 to the future California 11-125 freeway interchange. This new expressway is built to Caltrans standards, with six lanes, Botts Dots, standard signage, and a special fence-like median strip to prevent pedestrians from attempting to cross the highway. Signalized intersections with protected left turns are installed at Heritage/Otay Valley Road, Cactus Road, Britannia Boulevard, Alisa Court, La Media Road, and Otay Mesa Road near the future California 125 interchange/connector. Planning continues for a permanent Interstate 905 freeway south but parallel to the existing California 905 expressway. Traffic continues to escalate as all trucks must use the Otay Mesa Border Crossing. The freeway segment is planned to begin between 2000 and 2004, according to the 2000 SANDAG Regional Transportation Plan.
- September 2004 - Final Environmental Impact Statement approved for the remainder of the freeway construction project.
- Spring 2005 - The California 905 interchange with Siempre Viva Road was completed and opened to traffic.
- 2006 - the total project cost to complete California 905 is $670 million; of this amount, $348 million was identified by early 2008.
- 2007 - Due to funding shortfalls, the project to finish California 905 is divided into two phases: Phase 1A is the eastern segment of 905 from Siempre Viva Road to Britannia Boulevard, and Phase 1B is the western segment from Britannia Boulevard to just east of Interstate 805.
- January 2008 - Construction began on Phase 1A, from Siempre Viva Road to Britannia Boulevard.
- November 10, 2010 - Completion of Phase 1A with a grand opening ceremony.1 Phase 1B construction is underway, with anticipated completion of this phase in July 2012.2, 3
- July 30, 2012 - As scheduled, Phase 1B is completed, and the final link of California 905 between Interstate 805 and Brittania Boulevard opens to traffic.7 Along with improvements to the Interstate 805-California 905 interchange, the final two phases will be improvements to the Heritage Road and California 125 interchanges at a cost of approximately $163 million.
Prior to Spring 2000, California 905 existed in two segments. One was the freeway segment between Interstate 5/Tocayo Road and 1/2 mile east of Interstate 805, and the other was the multi-lane conventional highway between the then-future California 125 interchange and the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. During that time, the City of San Diego maintained Otay Mesa Road between the two segments of state highway.
In an agreement inked between the City of San Diego and Caltrans from 1998, the City paid to upgrade Otay Mesa Road to six lanes with turning lanes by the end of 1999, and Caltrans would maintain the road as a temporary state facility until the California 905 freeway is built. Construction was completed in early 2000, and signs for California 905 were erected shortly thereafter.
Planning continues for the future California 905 freeway between one-half mile east of Interstate 805 and the future California 11-125 junction. Plans call for a six-lane freeway that will remove international truck and vacation traffic from Otay Mesa Road. Early estimates indicate that this road will cost $220 million, but they were raised to $255 million in 2000. Plans called for project to begin prior to 2004, but the lack of funding slowed progress. SANDAG forecasts call for an average of 70,000 to 100,000 vehicles to use the road per day once it is built.
Once the California 905 freeway is constructed, it will be redesignated as Interstate 905, per an agreement between the FHWA, Caltrans, and SANDAG.4, 5 California 905 was approved as Interstate mileage in 1984, but it will be signed as an Interstate highway after the freeway is complete. Otay Mesa Road, which is currently serving as the temporary alignment of California 905, will be returned to city of San Diego control once the freeway is complete.6
With the opening of Segments 3 and 4, the following improvements are proposed for the corridor as defined by Caltrans:2
- Phase 2 - Improvements to the Interstate 805/California 905 Interchange
- Phase 3 - Construct California 125/California 905 direct access/freeway-to-freeway interchange
- Phase 4 - Construct Interchange at Heritage Road
While Phases 1A and 1B are fully funded, Phases 2, 3, and 4 remain partially funded or unfunded. Additional funds will be sought to improve the California 905 freeway corridor.
The Temporary Solution to Filling the California 905 Gap
The controversy surrounding California 905 is the completion of the missing freeway link of Segments Three and Four. City of San Diego officials constructed the interim expressway as a temporary fix to close the gap (until the final freeway alignment opened in July 2012). The original Otay Mesa Road was an under-developed City street that became California's busiest trade route with Mexico. People wanted Otay Mesa Road upgraded to expressway or freeway status for several reasons:
- The road was designed for a maximum of 35,000 vehicles a day, but traffic often exceeds 50,000 vehicles.
- From 1990 until around 1998, 25 people had been killed and 350 others injured on the five-mile eastern stretch of Otay Mesa Road that runs just south of the Brown Field cargo airport and across rolling hills, between Interstate 805 and the Mexican border.
- The Federal Government opened the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, approved the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and shifted all cross-border truck traffic onto the road in a span of fifteen years. Prior to these actions, Otay Mesa Road only handled 4,300 vehicles per day.
As a short-term solution (in lieu of a full freeway), the City of San Diego and Caltrans appropriated $17 million in Fiscal Year 1998 to widen Otay Mesa Road to three lanes each way, add a concrete median, and widen the shoulders. This was approved in December of 1994. The City and Caltrans hoped to begin work immediately thereafter (in 1995), but an Environmental Impact Study was required. Construction did not begin until August 1997, and it was delayed at several points. It was completed by late 1999/early 2000.
By 2015, it had been expected that the widened and improved California 905/Otay Mesa Road expressway would be inadequate for the demands placed on that road, so Caltrans constructed a parallel freeway-grade road that opened to traffic on July 30, 2012. Otay Mesa Road, meanwhile, will remain in the state highway system until the city of San Diego is ready to accept the roadway.
Reasons to Build the California 905 Freeway
Funds to build the future California 905 freeway (Segments Three and Four) were secured in the late 2000s. This allows a new freeway to be built parallel to the existing Otay Mesa Road and provide six- to eight-lanes of traffic between Interstate 805 and California 125. In August 1997, U.S. Representative (Pa.) Bud Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, visited the border region and pledged to help secure money to complete the California 905 freeway. Route 905 was listed as a High Priority Corridor in BESTEA, the House-approved ISTEA Reauthorization bill, and it was finally added to the final TEA-21 bill signed into law in 1998.
Funding for the California 905 freeway has been difficult to obtain. In the mid-1990s, state and federal officials weren't even sure whether to build a $130 million four-lane expressway or a $255 million six-lane freeway (figures as of 2000 SANDAG Regional Transportation Plan). The feasibility study and Major Investment Study for the 905 freeway was completed in spring 1998, and the Environmental Impact Study was made public in 1999. Upon completion, California 905 will be designated as Interstate 905, as part of an obligation that is included in an agreement between the FHWA and the State of California.
However, decisions have since been made that have already completed the expressway, and a freeway plan has been approved for four key reasons:
- Otay Mesa Port of Entry (POE). The only border crossing trucks may use in southwestern San Diego County is the Otay Mesa crossing. The San Ysidro (Interstate 5/805) POE prohibits trucks. There are signs telling truckers to take California 905 to cross the border. Otay Mesa Road's congestion is caused by a higher than expected accident rate as a result of trucks having to use the Otay Mesa POE to enter and exit Mexico. Compounding the problem is the relatively high rate of trucks (16% is considered high for a city street). The increased truck traffic on an inadequate road impedes border access. California 905 will also connect to California 11, the future toll road that will link to a second border crossing on Otay Mesa.
- Industrial Area. Otay Mesa is a primarily industrial area. Widening Otay Mesa Road to six lanes is a temporary solution with short-term relief. A full freeway is needed to handle maquiladora traffic and increased commercial activity projected in the Otay Mesa area. Right across the border, Mexican maquiladoras are churning out all kinds of products that are shipped to the U.S. and other countries. Currently the trucks serving those factories must use the Otay Mesa POE or go to the Tecate (California 188) or Calexico (California 7) crossings via the Mexican 2-D Cuota (Toll Road). Mexico Route 2-D is the Mexican toll road that parallels the border between Tijuana and Mexicali. It is the Mexican equivalent of Interstate 8, except Interstate 8 is free of tolls.
- NAFTA. Officials expect a sharp increase in truck traffic due to the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. They see commerce between the two countries increasing dramatically "as the barriers come down." Average daily traffic is currently 44,000 vehicles per day; it is expected to rise to 68,000 by 2020. Border crossings at Otay Mesa are expected to triple during that period, to 85,000 crossings in 2005 and 230,000 crossings in 2020.
- Brown Field. The Brown Field airport is located along Route 905 just west of the Otay Mesa POE. This is important because the airport is being expanded, with plans to dramatically increase its cargo load. As Lindbergh Field (San Diego International Airport) gets busier and busier, Brown Field has picked up a lot of the slack. Many seem to think that Otay Mesa would be a great place to build a replacement airport should planners decide Lindbergh is not big enough to accommodate the increasing passenger air traffic. This idea of a border-area airport is not new. "TwinPorts," a proposal that proposed a major binational airport with around 400 passenger flights a day, was advocated in the 1980s, but the Brown Field proposal does not include additional passenger flights.
California 905 is considered necessary both for a current safety need and also for a future transportation need. It is part of an intermodal plan for the border region -- the planned San Diego and Imperial Valley Railroad (SD&IV) is supposed to have a link directly to the Otay Mesa area, including Brown Field. Some local officials have called for cross-border connections to Tijuana's General Abelardo L. Rodr-guez International Airport. California 11, a planned toll road that would connect to a second Otay Mesa Port of Entry and to the Tijuana 2000 beltway, would add to the multimodal nature of this major transportation hub.
|A "RAMP" gore point sign signifies the transition from California 905 to Interstate 805. This was replaced with an exit number gore point sign. Photos taken 02/21/11 and 08/21/04.|
|Eastbound California 905/Otay Mesa Road meets Caliente Avenue south and Ocean View Hills Parkway north. Photos taken 02/21/11 and 08/21/04.|
|Even though we are traveling due east, a "South California 905" shield was posted along Otay Mesa Road after the Cactus Road intersection. This was later corrected to "east." Photo taken 08/21/04.|
|The next traffic signal on California 905/Otay Mesa Road east is with Britannia Boulevard. At this point, California 905 temporarily turns south on Brittania Boulevard to join the new freeway alignment. Otay Mesa Road continues as the former alignment of California 905. Continue forward for the link to California 125/South Bay Expressway north. Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|Eastbound California 905/Otay Mesa Road meets Britannia Boulevard. California 905 temporarily turns right (south) here; prior to November 2010, it continued straight ahead (see below for photos of the old alignment). Photo taken 08/21/04.|
|Temporary California 905 east/Brittania Boulevard south|
|Now traveling south on Brittania Boulevard, the next left connects California 905 to the new Otay Mesa Freeway. This temporary alignment will be in place until 2012, when the remaining freeway segment opens to traffic. Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|Brittania Boulevard passes over the future California 905 freeway, set to open in 2012. Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|This view looks east along the future alignment of California 905 as seen from the Brittania Boulevard overpass. Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|California 905/Otay Mesa Freeway east|
|Leaving the Brittania Boulevard interchange, we see this California 905 east reassurance shield. Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|All trucks entering Mexico must enter via La Media Road, which connects to a southbound truck inspection station. Trucks may not enter Mexico via California 905. Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|The right two lanes of California 905 east connect to Exit 7, La Media Road. The final exit from California 905 east is Exit 9, Siempre Viva Road. Through traffic will continue across the international border into Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|Eastbound California 905/Otay Mesa Freeway reaches Exit 7, La Media Road. Since the direct, freeway-to-freeway interchange with Toll California 125/South Bay Expressway is incomplete, access to California 125 is afforded via La Media Road north to Otay Mesa Road (Former California 905) east. California 125 travels north to Chula Vista, Spring Valley, La Mesa, El Cajon, and Santee. Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|California 905 carries three eastbound lanes between La Media Road and Siempre Viva Road. The freeway continues east for another half-mile or so, then turns south toward the international border. Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|This sign bridge has room on the right side (note the lights on the overhead sign bridge with no sign and the concrete paving on the right shoulder) that suggest this will be the point where a future ramp will connect eastbound California 905 to northbound California 125. This connection will be Exit 8 once constructed. Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|Another California 905 east reassurance shield is posted soon thereafter. The next and final exit is Exit 9, Siempre Viva Road (as noted in the sign bridge shown in the prior photobox). Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|Guns and ammunition are illegal in Mexico. Variations of this sign are also posted on southbound Interstate 5 and Interstate 805 in advance of the San Ysidro border crossing. Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|California 905 gently curves from east to south. Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|An export license is required to export firearms. Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|All trucks must exit at Siempre Viva Road (Exit 9) ... trucks are not permitted to cross into Mexico directly via California 905's main lanes. Ahead, California 905 passes over Airway Road (no connection). Photo taken 02/21/11.|
|Eastbound California 905/Paseo Internacional meets Exit 9, Siempre Viva Road. This is the final exit within the United States, although a final U-turn is available just prior to Port of Entry. Photo taken 07/12/09.|
|Upon exiting, the ramp from California 905/Paseo Internacional south offers a connection to Siempre Viva Road west (first ramp) and east (second ramp). Photo taken 07/12/09.|
|Southbound California 905/Paseo Internacional passes under Siempre Viva Road and prepares to enter the port of entry associated with the International Border between the United States and Mexico. Photo taken 07/12/09.|
|Back to modern times, after passing under the Siempre Viva Road overpass, southbound California 905 approaches the International Border. Photo taken 07/12/09.|
|The California 905 freeway ends as we approach the International Border. There is no END shield assembly present. Photo taken 07/12/09.|
|A final U-turn is offered for motorists before the entrance into the federal port of entry which allows crossing the international border into Mexico. This U-Turn is still in place even after the freeway interchange was built. Photo taken 08/21/04.|
|At the final U-turn, Caltrans maintenance ends, yet there is no END shield for California 905. Upon crossing into Mexico, motorists enter the city of Tijuana. With a population of 1,483,992 (estimate as of 2009), the city of Tijuana ("-Tienes que Vivirla!" - "You Have to Live It!") has more people living in it than the neighboring city of San Diego. Tijuana was founded and established on July 11, 1889. The economy has grown tremendously as a result of tourism, maquiladoras, manufacturing, NAFTA-related trade, and migration to areas close to the U.S.-Mexico border. For travelers on California 905 south: Once in Tijuana, motorists can follow the signs to Tijuana International Airport (Rodriguez Field), downtown Tijuana, the Tijuana Beltway (Tijuana Dos Mil or Tijuana 2000), the Scenic Coast Highway (Mexico Federal Route 1) south to Rosarito and Ensenada, and Mexico Federal Route 2 east to Tecate and Mexicali. Photo taken 08/21/04.|
|Former California 905/Otay Mesa Road east|
|Another California 905 south reassurance shield is posted on eastbound Otay Mesa Road after the Britannia Boulevard intersection. Photo taken 08/21/04.|
|The next traffic signal on California 905/Otay Mesa Road east is with Gailes Boulevard. Photo taken 08/21/04.|
|With Otay Mountain serving as the dramatic background, a median sign for Aisla Boulevard is posted on eastbound California 905/Otay Mesa Road. Photo taken 08/21/04.|
|After passing by Ocean View Hills and Brown Field Municipal Airport, eastbound California 905 approaches Otay Mesa Center Road. Photo taken 12/03/06.|
|All trucks with cargo entering Mexican must use Otay Mesa Road (California 905) east to La Media Road south. Photo taken 12/03/06.|
|A second sign for trucks is posted after Otay Mesa Center Road. All trucks crossing the international border must use La Media Road south. Photo taken 08/21/04.|
|A long queue is provided in the number four lane for trucks turning onto La Media Road south along eastbound California 905/Otay Mesa Road. Photo taken 08/21/04.|
|Eastbound California 905/Otay Mesa Road meets La Media Road at this traffic signal. Turn right at this traffic signal to the truck port of entry to Mexico. Photo taken 12/03/06.|
|A guide sign advises of the pending junction between California 905 and the South Bay Expressway (Toll California 125). California 125 forms an outer beltway of the San Diego region by traveling from the Otay Mesa area north through Chula Vista, Bonita, Spring Valley, La Mesa, El Cajon, and Santee, ending at its junction with California 52. Photo taken 07/12/09.|
|About a half-mile east of La Media Road, California 905 meets Piper Ranch Road at this traffic signal. To the headquarters of the South Bay Expressway (Toll California 125), turn left at this signal. Photo taken 12/03/06.|
|The next traffic signal is the southern end of the southbound lanes of California 125. Traffic for California 125 north should merge left. Photo taken 07/12/09.|
|A dedicated left turn lane forms for the connection to California 125 north. Photo taken 07/12/09.|
|With the completion of California 125/South Bay Expressway, California 905 was realigned to turn southeast at this point, just east of Piper Ranch Road. Stay left to connect to California 125 north to Spring Valley, La Mesa, El Cajon, and Santee. Through traffic on 905 may either curve right here OR continue straight past the California 125 traffic signals. Photo taken 07/12/09.|
|As California 905 turns south, Otay Mesa Road turns east toward the R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility and George Bailey Detention Center. Continue straight ahead to Siempre Viva Road and Otay Mesa Port of Entry. Photos taken 08/21/04 and 12/03/06.|
|This series of photos shows the Siempre Viva Road interchange while under construction. Rampwork and bridgework were evident these 2004 photos; the bridge and exit for Siempre Viva Road were completed by 2005. Photo taken 08/21/04.|
- Ceremony to mark completion of key leg of I-905 by Robert J. Hawkins, November 9, 2010, San Diego Union-Tribune
- State Route 905 Fact Sheet - February 2010
- State Route 905/125 Interchange at Otay Mesa Port of Entry, Transportation Border Congestion Relief Program Application, California Department of Transportation, June 2008
- A San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) brochure states that when the California 905 freeway is completed, "SR-905 WILL BE DESIGNATED AS I-905, as part of an obligation that is included in an agreement between the FHWA and the State of California." This brochure came out in the late 1990s, and we will try to post a PDF if we can located it.
- U.S. grants $20.2M for Otay Mesa interchange improvements, San Diego Union-Tribune by Robert J. Hawkins, October 4, 2010. Applicable quote: "The entire east-west highway will eventually be [r]edesignate[d] [as] Interstate 905, from its connection at I-5 to the border, only the second U.S. interstate to be linked to Mexico."
- Adoption of a Traversable Highway: Resolution HRA 02-01 11-SD-905 KP T10.3/16.9E (PM T6.4/10.5E) dated October 1, 2001, by Mark Leja. On page 3, under the Conclusion section: "When the Route 905 freeway is opened to traffic, Otay Mesa Road will be relinquished to the City of San Diego pursuant to the terms in the Cooperative Agreement dated December 10, 1996."
- SR-905 opens, connects 805 to Otay Mesa border entry, CBS 8, July 30, 2012. Relevant quote: "Newly constructed state Route 905, which connects the main border crossing used by commercial truckers to the rest of the highway system, opened to motorists Monday. The six-lane, 6.4-mile highway was built using $441 million in local, state and federal funds, including about $92 million from a stimulus program funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The highway parallels Otay Mesa Road, which was previously the only street to provide access to the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. About 68,000 vehicles traveled on the road daily to reach the border crossing, according to the San Diego Association of Governments."
Page Updated July 24, 2011.