Interstate 5

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Northbound Interstate 5 in Southern San Diego County

Interstate 5/Montgomery Freeway north
Interstate 5 begins its northbound journey in San Ysidro, the southernmost community within the city of San Diego. Upon passing through the U.S. Customs Station, the first exit along Interstate 5 north is Exit 1A, Junction Interstate 805/Jacob Dekema (Inland) Freeway north. The original button copy signs were replaced with exit number signs in 2004. Since many travelers had waited a good amount of time waiting to cross the border, many are more than happy to accelerate to freeway speeds at this point. In addition to motorists from the border crossing, traffic may also reach this point by taking the "Last U-Turn" along southbound or by taking the on-ramp from San Ysidro Boulevard onto northbound Interstate 5. Photo taken 07/18/04.
Interstate 5 and Interstate 805 split shortly thereafter. Use the left lanes for Interstate 5 and the right lanes for Interstate 805 (Exit 1A). These signs are posted immediately after the customs station at the International Port of Entry. Interstate 5 remains closer to the bay and coast, while Interstate 805 marches the inland communities of the San Diego metropolitan area. They rejoin in the northern San Diego neighborhood of Sorrento Valley. A former business loop for Interstate 5 used to follow the Historic U.S. 101 route through San Ysidro, Chula Vista, and National City. This route today can be traced along Beyer Boulevard, Broadway, and National City Boulevard. Use Exit 1A, Interstate 805 north to San Ysidro Boulevard, turn right on San Ysidro Boulevard, then left on Center Street to Beyer Boulevard north (left turn). The business route for Interstate 5 was decommissioned in the late 1980s. Photo taken 07/18/04.
For information on traffic, construction, and traveling into San Diego, tune the radio to 1700 AM. In this photo, the split between Interstate 5 and Interstate 805 is clearly shown, and the first exit for northbound Interstate 805 (Exit 1B, San Ysidro Boulevard) can be seen to the right. Photo taken 07/18/04.
The next exit along northbound Interstate 5 is San Ysidro Boulevard, Exit 1B, one-quarter of a mile. This exit leads to both Via de San Ysidro and to San Ysidro Boulevard, hence why it is signed. San Ysidro Boulevard closely parallels Interstate 5 between California 905 and the International Border, always remaining to the east of the freeway. Photo taken 07/18/04.
This advance sign for Exit 1B, Via de San Ysidro has the distinction of being the first numbered exit in San Diego County/Caltrans District 11; it was placed in February 2002. However, the exit number signage was only placed on one roadside sign (photographed here) and the gore point sign along northbound. The southbound signs and the two northbound overhead signs were not replaced with new signs until 2004, when most overhead and roadside signs were replaced between the border and California 54. This new sign has extremely small font size for the exit number tab, and it is not easy to read at any distance. For some it may be difficult to discern whether this is Exit "1B" or "18." The transition ramp from southbound Interstate 805 to southbound Interstate 5 is the bridge behind the sign. Also note the tan Welcome to California sign. Photo taken 07/18/04.
Northbound Interstate 5/Montgomery Freeway meets Exit 1B, Via de San Ysidro to the community of San Ysidro in the city of San Diego. This overhead sign does not carry the exit number, but the gore point sign in the distance does have the exit number. This sign has been replaced with a new one featuring an exit number. Photo taken 07/18/04.

The next exit along northbound Interstate 5/Montgomery Freeway is Exit 2, Dairy Mart Road, one mile. Photo taken 07/18/04.
This mileage sign is posted along northbound Interstate 5 as it approaches Exit 2, Dairy Mart Road (three-quarters of a mile). Note that "San Ysidro Boulevard" was added to the newer sign, but a California 905 shield was not added next to "Tocayo Avenue." The tall median chain-link fence serves as part of the Interstate 5 median from the International Border north to the Coronado Avenue (Exit 4) interchange. The intent of this fence is to prevent people from attempting to cross the freeway. Although safety is the primary reason for this fence, it is also in place to assist agents attempting to apprehend lawbreakers who manage to escape the border-crossing checkpoint. The next exit after Dairy Mart Road is Tocayo Avenue (also California 905, which is curiously absent from both the old and new mileage signs!) and Coronado Avenue. Photo taken 07/18/04.
Signs such as this one may be relegated to history, as some rights groups have determined that it is offensive to certain ethnic groups. The sign in question is a large yellow sign depicting a family of three running somewhere, with the word "Prohibido" (meaning Caution) written on the sign. The intent of this sign, first placed in the early 1980s along Interstate 5 near the border and California 905, was to warn motorists of people potentially fleeing the border crossing or the Border Patrol. However, many rights group think that the days of such running illegal immigrants are no longer occurring, especially with the large median and right-of-way fences. So, this sign may become obsolete in its own right. This sign is located along northbound between Interstate 805 and California 905. Photo taken 07/18/04.
Dairy Mart Road leads to Border Field State Park, a large area of green open space wedged between the border fence to the south and the cities of Imperial Beach and San Diego to the north. It is a former Navy reservation, but it is now a state park. The Tijuana River passes through the estuary at Border Field, and the much of the wetland area is protected as part of the state park or as part of the federal Tijuana River National Estuarine Sanctuary and the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge. In addition to the biodiversity, the park is also known for where the border fence extends out into the Pacific Ocean, marking the border for some distance into open water before finally terminating. A small border marker straddles the border, but the fence surrounds it, making the border friendship seem implausible given the height and ugliness of the fence. The open space on the U.S. side compares favorably with the urban environs of the playas of Tijuana. Tijuana nestles against the border fence, with housing, urban development, and traffic immediately visible through the fence. Many Mexicans visit this area, and many of them can be seen swimming and playing on the Mexican side of the fence. The American side is sedate by comparison, but this may be attributed to the relative remoteness of Border Field State Park. A visit to Border Field State Park truly shows the dramatic difference between the United States and Mexico. From Interstate 5, take Dairy Mart Road south and west until it turns into Monument Road westbound. From Monument Road, follow the signs leading to the state park. The portion of the trip closest to the ocean is via dirt road. Photo taken 07/18/04.
Northbound Interstate 5 at Exit 2, Dairy Mart Road, with connections to San Ysidro Boulevard. In a strange twist, the newly placed exit number signs approaching California 905 originally featured Interstate 905 shields, such as the second photo, but the shield was corrected (first photo). California 905 will not be promoted to Interstate 905, since the Interstate designation is viewed as an ultimate designation. Such a designation hinges with the completion of the Otay Mesa Freeway between Interstate 805 and California 125. That freeway is likely to be completed by 2006-2008 depending upon funding availability. Photos taken 07/18/04 and 2003.
Northbound Interstate 5 mileage sign approaching Exit 3, California 905 one-quarter mile. California 905 was at one time an easterly extension of California 75, and it later was California 117 during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The numbering was changed once again to accommodate a planned conversion of California 905 into Interstate 905 once the Otay Mesa Freeway is completed to the Otay Border Crossing. Photo taken 07/18/04.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches Exit 3, Junction Eastbound California 905. Note that this sign again originally featured an improper Interstate 905 shield; this has since been corrected. East-west California 905 is the primary route between the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa border communities within the city of San Diego. It connects Interstate 5, Interstate 805, Brown Field Airport, Future California 125, and the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. Currently, California 905 is a freeway from Interstate 5 east to one-half mile east of Interstate 805. From that point east to the border crossing, California 905 (Otay Mesa Road) is a four to six-lane expressway, with signalized intersections. Plans call for construction of a new Interstate 905 freeway parallel to Otay Mesa Road. Photos taken 07/18/04 and 2003.
These signs are provided along the collector-distributor ramp from northbound Interstate 5 to eastbound California 905 and westbound Tocayo Avenue. At one time, Tocayo Avenue was proposed as a western extension of California 905. The intent was for California 905 to connect directly with the Mexico 1-D toll road near Playas de Tijuana. However, with the environmental restrictions of constructing such a route through the sensitive Tijuana River Valley, including the construction of a new border crossing station, has rendered the project unlikely at best. Photo taken 07/18/04.
Another set of signs after the previous set connects the collector-distributor ramp between California 905 and Interstate 5. The next exit is Exit 4, Coronado Avenue. Generally, this section of Interstate 5 (from the Mexican border north to California 54) was built in 1973. Photo taken 07/18/04.
This mileage sign along northbound Interstate 5 provides the distance to Coronado Avenue (Exit 4), Palm Avenue/California 75 (Exit 5A), and Main Street (Exit 5B). Photo taken 07/18/04.
The city of Imperial Beach may be accessed via Exit 4 (Coronado Avenue) or Exit 5A (Palm Avenue/California 75 northbound). Photo 07/18/04.
Northbound Interstate 5/Montgomery Freeway reaches Exit 4, Coronado Avenue. Coronado Avenue leads west through the Otay Mesa-Nestor neighborhood of San Diego to connect to Imperial Beach Boulevard in the city of Imperial Beach. Along southbound, Exit 4 also connects to north-south Hollister Street. Even though this interchange is located in San Diego, the control city is listed as San Diego, perhaps because downtown is still another 12 miles north of here, and the freeway will briefly leave San Diego to pass through the cities of Chula Vista and National City before returning to San Diego. The next exit is for California 75 and Palm Avenue. Photo taken 07/18/04.
The next exit along Interstate 5 north is Exit 5A, Junction California 75/Palm Avenue (one-quarter mile). California 75 is known as Palm Avenue for most of the east-west section until the state route turns north onto the Silver Strand. The next exits are Main Street in Chula Vista (Exit 5B) and Palomar Street (Exit 6). Photo taken 07/18/04.
California 75 connects Interstate 5 with Imperial Beach, the Silver Strand, and Coronado. Imperial Beach, known as "Classic Southern California," had a population of 26,992 as of the 2000 Census. The city was founded in 1887 and incorporated on September 17, 1956. This interchange marks the southern terminus of California 75, as California 75 leads west and then north from this interchange. Palm Avenue continues east of this interchange as a San Diego city street. Photo taken 07/18/04.
Northbound Interstate 5 at Junction California 75/Palm Avenue (Exit 5A). On the original sign that preceded this one, the directional banners on each approach sign were covered; at one time, they read "North." It is likely that the north banner was removed because California 75 leads due west from this interchange toward Imperial Beach before turning north along the Silver Strand on its way to Coronado. Photo taken 07/18/04.
The next exit along northbound Interstate 5/Montgomery Freeway is Exit 5B, Main Street, three-quarters of a mile. This sign is mounted on the Palm Avenue overpass; note the flyover ramp that connects eastbound Palm Avenue with northbound Interstate 5. Photo taken 07/18/04.
This reassurance shield for Interstate 5 north is posted after the onramp from California 75/Palm Avenue. Photo taken 07/18/04.
This mileage sign is located along northbound Interstate 5 as it approaches Exit 5B, Main Street. This is the first of several exits from Interstate 5 in Chula Vista, one of the largest suburbs of San Diego. With the recent development of Eastlake and Otay Ranch, Chula Vista has seen a massive influx of people in search of newer homes and more affordable housing when compared to Northern San Diego County. The next exits are for Palomar Street (Exit 6) and L Street (Exit 7). Photo taken 07/18/04.
Northbound Interstate 5/Montgomery Freeway reaches Exit 5B, Main Street, near downtown Chula Vista. Photo taken 09/01/07.
The next exit along northbound Interstate 5 is Exit 6, Palomar Street (one-half mile ahead) per this sign mounted on the Main Street overcrossing. The Chula Vista city limits sign is located just beyond the Main Street interchange. Interstate 5 briefly leaves San Diego, but it will return to San Diego just prior to the Division Street/Main Street exit. Many of these button-copy, non-reflective signs date to the original freeway, and they have thus been serving motorists since the 1960s. All button-copy signs along this stretch were replaced with the newer, reflective green signs, as shown in the second photo. Photo taken 09/01/07.
Interstate 5 briefly leaves the city of San Diego to pass through the western sections of Chula Vista and National City. The city of Chula Vista incorporated on October 17, 1911, and it has grown substantially since then as newer communities such as Eastlake and Otay Ranch east of Interstate 805 have developed. The largest suburb of San Diego, Chula Vista had a population of 173,556 as of the 2000 Census. Photo taken 09/01/07.
This mileage sign along Interstate 5 north provides the distance to Exit 6, Palomar Street; Exit 7A, L Street; and Exit 7B, J Street and Marina Parkway. Photo taken 01/31/05.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches Exit 6, Palomar Street. Photo taken 09/01/07.
This white mile sign is posted for motorists to check their speedometers; it is the fourth such sign in a series of five. Maybe someday this system will become part of a larger green milepost system in California. Photo taken 09/01/07.
The next exit along northbound Interstate 5/Montgomery Freeway is Exit 7A, L Street (one-half mile). Photo taken 01/31/05.
High-voltage power lines (San Diego Gas & Electric) cross over Interstate 5 between Exits 6 and 7A. These lines connect the South Bay power plant with a substation near the foot of Mt. San Miguel near California 125. Photo taken 09/01/07.
This mileage sign along Interstate 5/Montgomery Freeway north provides the distance to Exit 7A, L Street; Exit 7B, J Street and Marina Parkway; and Exit 8A, H Street. Photo taken 01/31/05.
Northbound Interstate 5 meets Exit 7A, L Street in Chula Vista. The next exit is for J Street and Marina Parkway (Exit 7B). A power plant owned by the San Diego Port District is located just west of the freeway along the bayshore. To the east, Interstate 5 now parallels the San Diego Bay, and it will continue to do so until reaching approximately Exit 19 (Old Town Avenue). The bay itself is seldom if ever visible from Interstate 5, primarily due to the obstructions (such as shipping, maritime, industrial, military, and transportation facilities situated between the freeway and the bayshore). Photo taken 09/01/07.
A variable (changeable) message sign showed travel times along Interstate 5 north to downtown and California 56 (Exits 33A-B). Photo taken 09/01/07.
This mileage sign along Interstate 5/Montgomery Freeway north provides the distance to Exit 7B, J Street and Marina Parkway; Exit 8A, H Street; and Exit 8B, E Street (Junction San Diego County Route S-17 east to Bonita). Photo taken 09/01/07.
Use Exit 7B, J Street to Chula Vista's harbor. Photo taken 09/01/07.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches Exit 7B, J Street. Photo taken 09/01/07.
This mileage sign along Interstate 5/Montgomery Freeway north provides the distance to Exit 8A, H Street; Exit 8B, Junction San Diego County Route S-17 and E Street; and Exit 9, Junction California 54/Filipino-American Highway (South Bay Freeway). Photo taken 01/31/05.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches Exit 8A, H Street. This compact diamond is unlike most others found in the San Diego region, as the road dips under the overcrossing to accommodate the interchange. H Street is a major east-west thoroughfare in Chula Vista, as it leads through the older parts of town on its way west into Eastlake. Photo taken 07/18/04.
The next exit along Interstate 5 north is Exit 8B, Junction San Diego County Route S-17/E Street east to Chula Vista and Bonita. Photo taken 01/31/05.
This mileage sign along Interstate 5/Montgomery Freeway north provides the distance to Exit 8B, Junction San Diego County Route S-17 and E Street and Exit 9, Junction California 54/Filipino-American Highway (South Bay Freeway). Photo taken 01/31/05.
Use Exit 8B (E Street east) to the Chula Vista Civic Center and downtown tourist information center/chamber of commerce. This exit also leads to Sweetwater Marsh. Photo taken 09/01/07.
Northbound Interstate 5/Montgomery Freeway reaches Exit 8B, Junction San Diego County Route S-17/E Street. San Diego County Route S-17 is not signed from Interstate 5, but an end shield is present along westbound E Street as E Street approaches Interstate 5. E Street becomes Bonita Road east of Interstate 805 near Plaza Bonita. San Diego County Route S-17 follows E Street and Bonita Road east, then turns north via Sweetwater Road to connect to California 54. San Diego County Route S-17 and California 54 more or less follow the same path through Spring Valley into El Cajon, although neither route is well signed due to the various jurisdictions that maintain the patchwork of routes between Spring Valley and El Cajon. Photo taken 09/01/07.
The next exit along Interstate 5 north is Exit 9, California 54/Filipino-American Highway east to Spring Valley, Rancho San Diego, and El Cajon. This freeway leads east and bit north, connecting Interstate 5 with Interstate 805 the vicinity of National City/Chula Vista and California 125 near Bonita. California 54 roughly parallels Sweetwater Road and Bonita Road. Note that in this overhead, the cardinal direction is omitted and the control city (San Diego) is included. The next picture shows the cardinal direction but no control city. Photo taken 01/31/05.
Access to Interstate 5 north and California 54 east may be obtained from the onramp from E Street/San Diego County Route S-17, as seen by this picture of the overhead guide signs along the collector-distributor lanes. The interchange with California 54 was built from 1988 to 1991. Interstate 5 between California 54 and Harbor Drive (former business loop) opened in 1965. Photo taken 01/31/05.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches Exit 9, California 54 (South Bay Freeway). Unfortunately the exit sign is mostly cut off in the first picture, but it does show a close advance of the Mile of Cars exit (Exit 10) as well as the northbound Interstate 5 reassurance overhead sign. The Mile of Cars/Bay Marina Drive sign was placed in 2001 after 24th Street was renamed Mile of Cars Way. The second photo shows the original 24th Street signage. Photo taken 07/18/04.
The freeway departs Chula Vista and enters the city of National City, "in the Center of It All." The city limits are located just south of the Sweetwater River bridge crossing and the California 54 interchange. National City was founded in 1868 and incorporated on September 17, 1887. The population of National City was 54,260 as of the 2000 Census. Photo taken 09/01/07.
A streetscape project added decorative rock arrangements at the interchange between Interstate 5 and California 54; plants had a hard time growing here due to high soil salinity. Photo taken 09/01/07.
This mileage sign provides the distance for the next three exits along northbound: Exit 10, Mile of Cars Way (24th Street)/Bay Marina Drive; Exit 11A, Harbor Drive (Old U.S. 101)/Civic Center Drive; and Exit 11B, Plaza Boulevard. Photo taken 01/31/05.
Interstate 5 crosses over the Sweetwater River in the middle of the interchange with California 54. A pair of connecting ramps fly over Interstate 5. Photo taken 09/01/07.
As Interstate 5 proceeds north under the transition ramp from California 54 west to Interstate 5 south, more decorative rock arrangements can be seen on the right side of the freeway. Photo taken 09/01/07.
The next exit along northbound is Exit 10, Mile of Cars Way (formerly 24th Street). Twenty-fourth Street was renamed in 2000 in order to advertise the Mile of Cars, a stretch of old U.S. 101 in National City that is locally famous for all the car dealerships in close proximity to one another. Nothing like good old sales tax generation to keep those local governments happy! This is another example of the fiscalization of land use, which has become far too common in many California cities today. The second photo shows the replacement sign. Interestingly, the bottom says "next exit" rather than "next right," which appears to be a common thread for the newer exit number signs. Note the exit number for Exit 11A, Harbor Drive; this sign was placed in 2003. Photo taken 07/01/04.
These power lines parallel Interstate 5 between Exit 7A, L Street and Exit 14A, Junction California 75 South/Coronado Bridge. They feed power from the South Bay Power Plant with a substation south of downtown and interconnect with the rest of the system via a line that traverses the Greater Golden Hill and North Park communities (mostly underground). Photo taken 07/18/04.
This Exit Only signage for Exit 10 (Mile of Cars Way) is found along northbound after traffic from California 54 merges onto northbound. The exit gore is just ahead (see next picture). The large power lines to the right (east) of the freeway provides electricity transmission service between the South Bay Natural Gas plant and downtown, as well as the naval and industrial facilities located along Harbor Drive (old U.S. 101) south of the Coronado Bridge (California 75). Photos taken 08/23/10 and 07/18/04.
Use Mile of Cars Way west to the Port of San Diego, Berths 24 1-11. Photo taken 09/01/07.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches Mile of Cars Way and Bay Marina Drive (former 24th Street) (Exit 10). The next exit is for Harbor Drive, which is the original alignment for U.S. 101 between National City and downtown San Diego. Both of these signs are the newer, reflective signs. Photos taken 08/23/10 and 07/18/04.
The next exit along northbound Interstate 5 is Exit 11A, Harbor Drive and Civic Center Drive. Harbor Drive is the original alignment of U.S. 101 from National City to San Diego. At one time, U.S. 101 used to pass over the freeway here at an angle, but Harbor Drive was turned 90 degrees to connect into Civic Center Drive (which leads east into downtown National City). So now, people following historic U.S. 101 must follow an S-curve to get into downtown National City that did not exist prior to the construction of the freeway. Photos taken 09/01/07 and 01/31/05.
Following Exit 11A, Harbor Drive/U.S. 101 and Civic Center Drive, the next exit is Exit 11B, Plaza Boulevard as indicated by this sign. When passing over Civic Center Drive, motorists can see the original Interstate 5 bridge, which extends out about two or three lanes further to the right than needed. Apparently they built a much wider bridge than was needed. A new overhead was added here in 2007 after a new auxiliary lane was added through here. Photos taken 08/23/10 and 07/18/04.
Use Exit 11A, Civic Center Drive eastbound, to reach the National City civic center. Photos taken 09/01/07 and 07/18/04.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches Exit 11A, Harbor Drive and Civic Center Drive. The section of Interstate 5 from Harbor Drive (Old U.S. 101) north to California 15 was built in 1964. For a time starting in the late 1960s, Harbor Drive was known as Business Loop I-5, but that designation was eliminated by the 1980s. No shields for the former business route remain on Harbor Drive or Pacific Highway. Photos taken 08/23/10, 09/01/07, and 07/18/04.
This mileage sign, located after Exit 11A along northbound, provides the distance to Exit 11B, Plaza Boulevard and Exit 12, Main Street and Division Street. It was removed in 2007 when the signs in the previous photograph were added at the Exit 11A gore point. Photo taken 01/31/05.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches Exit 11B, Plaza Boulevard. A set of high voltage power lines carry power from the South Bay power plant north toward the shipyards and downtown San Diego. Photo taken 09/01/07.
A second sign (old-style "butterfly gantry") shows the gore point for Exit 11B, Plaza Boulevard to downtown National City. Photo taken 09/01/07.
The next exit along northbound Interstate 5 is Exit 12, Main Street and Division Street, three-quarters of a mile. Not to be confused with Exit 5B (Main Street in Chula Vista), this exit connects to San Diego's Main Street, which passes through the Barrio Logan community. Division Street marks the boundary between National City and San Diego. The next exit is the California 15 freeway (Exit 13A). Photo taken 01/31/05.
Main Street parallels Interstate 5 to the southwest between Sigsbee Street and Interstate 5 along the northeastern boundary of the 32nd Street Naval Station, while Division Street acts as the east-west boundary between the city of San Diego (Shelltown neighborhood) and National City between Interstate 5 and Highland Avenue/43rd Street. Photo taken 01/31/05.
In addition to Main Street and Division Street, Exit 12 also connects to National City Boulevard, which heads south from this interchange into downtown National City. As noted earlier, National City Boulevard carries old U.S. 101 through downtown National City and reconnects with the freeway at this interchange. Exit 12 is also the northern terminus of the business loop for Interstate 5 that used to run from the border north to National City. Photo taken 09/01/07.
An Interstate 5 north reassurance shield is posted after the onramp from former Business Loop I-5/Historic U.S. 101 National City Boulevard. Photo taken 09/01/07.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches Exit 12, Main Street and Division Street. The next exit is California 15, Exit 13. Division Street, per its name, is the city limits between National City and San Diego. Passing by Exit 12, motorists enter the city of San Diego for a second time since leaving the Otay-Nestor community. Note the lack of control city now that Interstate 5 reenters San Diego. That changes once motorists reach the Coronado Bridge (California 75/Exit 14A). Photo taken 08/23/10.
The next exit along northbound Interstate 5 is Exit 13A, Junction California 15 north to Interstate 15 north to Riverside. With the completion of the 40th Street Freeway through the Mid-City community of San Diego, California 15 is very close to becoming Interstate 15. One area of improvement that remains is the reconfiguration of the California 15/California 94 interchange, with its left exits, tight turns, and narrow underpass for California 15. This improvement is scheduled as funds become available. In the meantime, Interstate 15 terminates at Interstate 8 in Mission Valley, and the freeway continues as California 15 south to this point. Photo taken 07/18/04.
Northbound Interstate 5/Montgomery Freeway reaches Exit 13A, Junction California 15. This marks the southern terminus of California 15, which is so designated between Interstate 5 and Interstate 8. It is a continuous freeway from here all the way to Interstate 8; the freeway was completed in 1999. After this interchange, Interstate 5 heads due west (between Exits 13A and 13B) before turning northwest again toward the Coronado Bridge and downtown. Photo taken 07/18/04.
This bridge carries traffic from southbound California 15 onto southbound Interstate 5. Note the grassy/ice plant area to the right (east) of the interchange. This area was to be the location of unconstructed California 252 to join Interstate 5. Since California 252 was canceled in 1980, the extra land is left for additional freeway landscaping. The section of Interstate 5 from California 15 to California 75 was built and opened to traffic in 1963. Photo taken 07/18/04.
This mileage sign along northbound Interstate 5/Montgomery Freeway provides the distance to the next two exits, Exit 13B, 28th Street and National Avenue and Exit 14A, Junction California 75/San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge west to Coronado. The 2004 sign picture does not include California 75 but instead shows Cesar Chavez Parkway (Exit 14B). A green overlay covers the original name of Crosby Street, which was renamed as Cesar Chavez Parkway in 2002. California 75 (Coronado Bridge) was not on the 2004 sign photo, as the older sign likely predated the bridge (which opened in 1969). Photos taken 09/01/07 and 07/18/04.
Use Exit 13B, 28th Street south to the Port of San Diego at the 28th Street Pier. This port is located just north of the 32nd Street Naval Station. Photos taken 09/01/07 and 07/18/04.
An exit number sign was added here in 2007 for Exit 13B. Photo taken 09/01/07.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches the 28th Street and National Avenue exit, Exit 13B. 28th Street is a north-south city street leading toward North Park and Mid-City. This is also a primary exit to reach several U.S. Navy facilities, including a recruit depot and a variety of bases. Motorists should use Cesar Chavez Parkway (Crosby Street) to reach the 10th Avenue Port Terminal and other port facilities. Photo taken 07/18/04.
The next exit along northbound Interstate 5 is Exit 14A, California 75/Coronado Bridge. This mileage sign in the median was first replaced in late 1999/early 2000 when most California 94 overhead freeway signs were replaced to include the official name, "Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway." This sign was among the first to be replaced with a reflective sign (see 2004 photo). Since then, Crosby Street (Exit 14B, just after the California 75 exit), has been renamed as Cesar Chavez Parkway (in April 2002). So this new sign was rendered obsolete within three years of placement. A replacement mileage sign was in place by 2007. Photos taken 09/01/07 and 07/18/04.
The best way to access the San Diego Convention Center from northbound is to exit at Cesar Chavez Parkway/Crosby Street (Exit 14B) and take it west to Harbor Drive, then turn north along Harbor Drive to the center. This sign is obsolete due to the renaming of Crosby Street to Cesar Chavez Parkway. The Convention Center itself is routinely booked, but most traffic for it comes from the north (since many come into San Diego from Lindbergh Field, the airport). Photos taken 08/23/10, 09/01/07, and 07/18/04.
The next two exits along Interstate 5 north are Exit 14A, Junction California 75 west to Coronado and Exit 14B, Cesar Chavez Parkway to Barrio Logan and Logan Heights. No exit number was added to this sign when it was replaced in 2007. This old overhead sign (see 2004 photo) features "Crosby Street" covered up below "Coronado" (the "y" is still visible in the older porcelain enamel sign). Thanks to our correspondent Dain for unraveling that mystery! The interchange with California 75 was built in 1969, the same year the bridge was opened. Photos taken 08/23/10 and 07/18/04.
California 75 is the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge, a sweeping bridge that forms an arc over the blue waters of the San Diego Bay. It was a toll facility until July 2002, when the tolls were lifted and rides between San Diego and Coronado were made free. By August 2002, most of the old toll fixtures were removed, much to the chagrin of the residents of Coronado, who were more than happy to keep the toll to reduce the amount of traffic invading the community at the tip of the Silver Strand. California 75 itself is the primary arterial for Coronado, but it often sees early morning traffic as it, together with California 282, is the primary route to the North Island Naval Air Station. Photo taken 09/01/07.
The direction banner for California 75 is omitted (to would say south or west) primarily because California 75 crosses the Coronado Bay Bridge in a westbound direction before entering the city of Coronado. From the bridge, stellar views of the downtown San Diego skyline, Hotel del Coronado, San Diego Bay, Pacific Ocean, Point Loma, and shipyards are visible. This overhead sign is still in place as of June 2009. Photo taken 07/18/04.
At the time this picture was taken, the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge was free of tolls. Photo taken 09/01/07.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches Exit 14A, Junction California 75. As noted earlier, this sign has been amended to reflect the fact that their is no toll over the bridge. In the late 1990s-early 2000s, this interchange, as well as the entire Coronado Bridge, was retrofitted for earthquake protection. However, retrofitting the bridge was not as easy as it normally would be, because many of the support pillars for the interchange and bridge land in Chicano Park. Through the years, locals have painted large murals on many of the pillars, and engineers were required to find a way to avoid damaging these colorful murals while improving the integrity of the bridge. These murals may be seen by exiting on Cesar Chavez Parkway, Exit 14B. The retrofit was a success, and most murals remained intact. Photos taken 08/23/10, 09/01/07, and 07/18/04.
Immediately thereafter, northbound Interstate 5 meets Exit 14B, Cesar Chavez Parkway, which was known as Crosby Street until 2002. Cesar Chavez was an activist who championed the rights of Latino farmers in the Central Valley; his influence is still felt throughout the Latino community as well as the state of California. The next exit along northbound is Exit 15A, J Street (with a connection to California 94 east). In 2004, the exit number was affixed to this sign (which was originally installed in 1999 when the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freeway designation was made prominent on most California 94 overhead and roadside signs). By 2007, the exit number sign was gone and oddly was replaced with another sign that had no exit number. Photos taken 08/23/10 and 07/18/04.
This view shows Interstate 5 north as it passes through the Coronado Bridge interchange complex. Photos taken 09/01/07 and 08/23/10.
The offramp to Exit 14B, Cesar Chavez Parkway is shadowed by the towering pillars holding up the eastern approach to the Coronado Bridge. Photo taken 01/31/05.
Upon exiting, the first traffic signal is the connection to Cesar Chavez Parkway. Photo taken 01/31/05.
San Diego's skyline comes into view as Interstate 5 approaches Exit 15A, Junction California 94/Martin Luther King Freeway and J Street. There is no direct transition from northbound Interstate 5 to eastbound California 94, so traffic must take 19th Street (frontage road) north for a half block to reach J Street and about four blocks to reach the onramp to California 94. The section of Interstate 5 (U.S. 101) from California 75 north to California 94 was built in 1963. Photos taken 09/01/07 and 07/18/04.
Much of the original California 94 signage was replaced in 1999 when the signs were made to emphasize the fact that California 94 is the Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway. In a period of time when such named freeways were falling out of favor, one oddity was the addition of Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway signs along California 94 between Interstate 5 and California 125. However, more recent initiatives (such as the restoration of the Arroyo Seco Parkway designation to California 110) may indicate another change in this practice. This sign was replaced between 2007 and 2010. Photos taken 08/23/10, 09/01/07, and 07/18/04.
Traffic from northbound California 75 merges onto Interstate 5 north as the freeway approaches Exit 15B, Junction California 94 east. In the first exit numbering sign of its kind, this roadside sign indicates that traffic en route to the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, museums, and Naval Hospital should use Exit 15B, Pershing Drive north to Florida Street north. This is the most direct route from northbound Interstate 5. Photos taken 09/01/07 and 07/18/04.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches Exit 15A, J Street and California 94. Note that the directional arrow for this sign is missing. This reflective sign was placed in 1999, but it did not have an exit number added to the sign. J Street is an east-west city street that leads west into downtown and east into the neighborhood of Sherman Heights. This sign was replaced in early 2005. Photos taken 09/01/07 and 07/18/04.
In addition to Pershing Drive, Exit 15B also serves east-west B Street. Use B Street west to enter downtown, with connections to San Diego City College, the downtown financial district, Gaslamp Quarter, and the Padres' PETCO Ballpark. Photos taken 09/01/07 and 07/18/04.
This mileage sign for the next two exits (Exit 15B, Pershing Drive/B Street and Exit 16A, Junction California 163) is mounted on the J Street overpass at the onramp from Imperial Avenue/19th Street. Photos taken 09/01/07 and 07/18/04.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches Exit 15B, Pershing Street and B Street. Pershing Street leads northwest along the once-proposed and now-canceled California 171/Switzer Canyon Freeway, and it serves most locations in Balboa Park, including the Zoo and Museums via Florida Street and Balboa Park Golf Course. B Street is an east-west city street that leads one-way into the financial district of downtown San Diego. It is regularly busy, and it carries commuter traffic from the freeway toward the Civic Center and other downtown locations. Photos taken 09/01/07 and 07/18/04.
Now on the ramp to B Street and Pershing Drive, this high-speed connector was planned to be the direct access to proposed California 171, the Switzer Canyon Freeway. Since that freeway was removed from planning documents in 1994, the connecting ramps now provide fast access to Pershing Drive and Balboa Park. Photo taken 09/01/07.
Still on the Pershing Drive offramp, the ramp splits, with the left lane connecting to B Street west to City College and the financial district of downtown San Diego. The right lane connects to Pershing Drive and Balboa Park; the right lane would have been part of the connector to unconstructed California 171. Photo taken 09/01/07.
The two-lane ramp to Pershing Drive passes under Broadway. Photo taken 09/01/07.
Turning toward the north, the ramp passes over B Street and will soon land to merge onto northbound Pershing Drive. Photos taken 09/01/07.
Prior to merging with Pershing Drive north, this sign advises of the pending intersection with Florida Drive north to the zoo and museums on the central mesa of Balboa Park (left turn). A right turn on 26th Street connects to the Balboa Park Golf Course and the community of Golden Hill. Photo taken 09/01/07.
Northbound Pershing Drive approaches Florida Drive north and 26th Street southeast. Photo taken 09/01/07.
Had the Switzer Freeway (California 171) been built, it would have turned northeast here to cross the golf course and then follow Switzer Canyon through the community of North Park to join Interstate 805 just south of the Interstate 8 interchange. This freeway was removed from the city's planned network of freeways due to the damage it would have caused to Balboa Park and the community of North Park. Now cancelled, the freeway through Switzer Canyon will not be built. Photo taken 09/01/07.
Returning to mainline Interstate 5 north, we see this truck allocation signage. As a result of the merging ramps, trucks are recommended to use the number three ramp as shown by this sign mounted on the F Street overpass. This keeps the trucks away from the multiple merges and ramps on the right lanes. Photo taken 01/31/05.
Mileage sign along northbound as it enters the "Downtown S-Curve," where the freeways turns sharply west and then north again. This section of Interstate 5 (from California 94/Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway to Sassafras Street) was built in 1962; overhead porcelain enamel guide signs are very common along this stretch. To reach the financial district and the western edge of Balboa Park, use Exit 16B, 6th Avenue. Photo taken 01/31/05.
As noted above, the exit only lanes for California 163 are the same lanes used by the California 94 entrance ramp along southbound. It is best to use the far right lane, since it will exit north onto the Cabrillo Freeway. The only movements that keep the Interstate 5/California 163 interchange from being a symmetrical stack are the lack of northbound Interstate 5 to southbound 10th Avenue connection and northbound 11th Avenue connection to southbound Interstate 5. This interchange fits the mold of an original symmetrical stack interchange. Photo taken 01/31/05.
Use Exit 17, Hawthorne Street, to reach the Embarcadero, Cruise Ship Terminal, Maritime Museum, and Cabrillo National Monument (via Harbor Drive northbound). Photo taken 07/24/07.
The right two lanes of Interstate 5 north connect to California 163/Cabrillo Freeway north. The pedestrian overpass connects San Diego City College (a community college located to the east of 11th Avenue) and San Diego High School with Balboa Park to the north of Interstate 5. 11th Avenue northbound transitions into northbound California 163 after Ash Street, which is just a short distance south of the Interstate 5/California 163 stack interchange. Ash Street is an east-west city street that leads from 10th/11th Avenue west to the bayfront at Harbor Drive, thus providing a through route. Photo taken 07/24/07.
Use Exit 17, Hawthorn Street, to reach San Diego International Airport (third exit, after Exit 16A and Exit 16B). Photo taken 07/18/04.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches Exit 16A, Junction California 163/Cabrillo Freeway north. This exit marks the southern terminus of California 163, which was at one time known as U.S. 395. With the decommissioning of many U.S. routes in California beginning in 1964, U.S. 395 was removed around 1972. As such, California 163 is a fairly short route, leading from downtown San Diego north to Interstate 15 near Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. Photo taken 07/18/04.
The next exit along northbound is for Sixth Avenue. This major city street leads south into the Gaslamp Quarter, made famous in the 1990s and 2000s as downtown's premier entertainment district. What was once a derelict district full of illegal activities (such as prostitution and gambling) became the region's entertainment mecca. Northbound along Sixth Avenue leads to the western fringes of Balboa Park, and it also provides access to several older neighborhoods in San Diego, including Bankers Hill and Hillcrest. Photo taken 07/24/07.
Interstate 5 skirts the north edge of downtown as it briefly heads due west between Exits 15B and 17. It resumes traveling northwest after the Hawthorn Street exit (Exit 17). At this point, Interstate 5 is on top of the four-level stack interchange; California 163 forms the lowest level. Photo taken 07/24/07.
Northbound Interstate 5 reaches Exit 16B, Sixth Avenue. Interstate 5 intersects Sixth Avenue, a north-south city street, because it follows an S-Curve through the downtown area. From the California 94 onramp, northbound Interstate 5 turns due west, intersecting with California 163 (Cabrillo Freeway) and Sixth Avenue. It then turns north again right around the Hawthorne Street (Exit 17A) exit ramp, thus forming the "S." The two turns are rather sharp for an Interstate-standard freeway, and the "S-curve" is routinely mentioned in traffic reports as a source of traffic congestion during rush hours because of the convergence of so many freeways at this location. Photo taken 07/24/07.
A narrow two-lane bridge connects Exit 16B with Sixth Avenue. A traffic signal ahead allows for a left turn onto Sixth Avenue south into downtown, or motorists may continue straight on Elm Street west to Fifth Avenue north to Uptown and Hillcrest. Photos taken 07/24/07.

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Page Updated August 28, 2010.