U.S. Highway 50

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U.S. Highway 50

Looking down from Heavenly resort is this view of Lake Tahoe, looking north toward South Lake Tahoe, Stateline, and the mountains surrounded the north shore of the lake. U.S. 50 winds its way across the southern shore of this beautiful lake. Photo taken 07/22/09.

Routing

U.S. 50 begins its transcontinental journey in West Sacramento, starting together with Business Loop I-80 and Hidden Interstate 305 into California's capital city of Sacramento. U.S. 50 splits away from the business loop freeway near downtown, and it continues as its own freeway from that point east to Placerville, serving several eastern suburbs of Sacramento including Rancho Cordova and Folsom. Through Placerville, U.S. 50 loses its freeway status and regains it briefly east of town. Eventually, U.S. 50 becomes a two-lane mountain highway, passing through the American River Canyon and passing over Echo Summit before entering Tahoe Valley. The South Shore of Lake Tahoe is served by U.S. 50, and the highway enters Nevada in the shadow of massive casinos at the state line.

History

U.S. 50 no longer exists west of Sacramento; it used to extend all the way to San Francisco. From Sacramento, U.S. 50 used to travel south along a shared alignment with California 99 (then U.S. 99) to Stockton, then turned southwest to Tracy (roughly along the Interstate 205 corridor), then west and northwest via Interstate 580 to Oakland. The final distance into San Francisco via the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was designated as both U.S. 40 and U.S. 50 until the bridge was renumbered as part of Interstate 80.

Naming

In addition to local street names, portions of U.S. 50 follows a significant portion of the Lincoln Highway through California.

Lincoln Highway: The Lincoln Highway in California (U.S. 40 and U.S. 50) was established in 1913 as the first transcontinental highway in the United States. U.S. 50 carried the Lincoln Highway designation from Oakland to Sacramento (via today's Interstate 580, Interstate 205, and California 99) and took the southern route over the Sierra Nevada via Echo Pass. U.S. 40's segment of Lincoln Highway was shorter in the Golden State, including the route from San Francisco to Oakland and also the Lincoln Highway's northern Sierra Nevada branch between Sacramento and Reno via Donner Pass. Proceeding east across Nevada, the Lincoln Highway follows U.S. 50 from Fallon to Ely, then takes Alternate U.S. 93 north to Wendover, where it rejoins Interstate 80 and U.S. 40 east to Salt Lake City and Silver Creek Junction. While U.S. 40 turns southeast at Silver Creek Junction toward Denver, today's Interstate 80 (previously U.S. 189/U.S. 530 and U.S. 30S) carries the Lincoln Highway east to Granger, Wyoming. From there U.S. 30 generally follows the Lincoln Highway from Granger east to Philadelphia, and U.S. 130 and U.S. 1 take the Lincoln Highway northeast to its eastern terminus in New York City.

Auxiliary Route: Alternate U.S. 50

U.S. 50 has one bannered auxiliary route: Alternate U.S. 50. This highway is only signposted during events that close the mainline route through the American River Canyon or Echo Pass (between Pollock Pines and South Lake Tahoe). From Pollock Pines, Alternate U.S. 50 follows El Dorado County Route E-16/Sly Park Road south, Mormon Emigrant Trail east, California 88/Carson Pass Highway east, and California 89 north to rejoin U.S. 50 at South Lake Tahoe. Alternate U.S. 50 is not a permanent alternate route as typically seen elsewhere in the country. Instead, Alternate U.S. 50 in California is only signed when conditions warrant as a 66-mile Detour U.S. 50 route. It may be signed for traffic control purposes or during conditions that warrant road closure, including fires, floods, landslides, road construction, and accidents. Most of the signs for Alternate U.S. 50 appear to have been installed around 1997 in conjunction with a project to repair several landslide issues in the American River Canyon. Few if any of the signs placed then have been replaced or added since that time. Some of Alternate U.S. 50 is covered on the California 88 and California 89 pages. Pictures of the non-state maintained sections of Alternate U.S. 50 are shown below.

Highway Guides

Historic U.S. 50/Lincoln Highway east (Altamont Pass)
Old U.S. 50/Lincoln Highway follows the shadow of massive Interstate 580 closely in some areas and far away from its replacement in other areas. For the most part, U.S. 50 retains the charm of a country road, with ranch access and connections to the wind farms and power plants common on Altamont Pass. Photo taken 08/21/03.
Several older railroad bridges cross over Altamont Pass, including these bridges on old U.S. 50/Lincoln Highway. Photos taken 08/21/03.

Scenes Pertaining to U.S. 50
Business Loop I-80, California 99, and U.S. 50 shields on northbound Stockton Boulevard at the U.S. 50 interchange in Sacramento. Photo taken by Dominic Ielati, 03/00.
This U.S. 50 trailblazer shield is posted on southbound 57th Street at Elvas Avenue in Sacramento. Elvas Avenue travels south to 65th Street en route to U.S. 50. Photo taken 12/29/04.
Westbound J Street approaches northbound 57th Street and southbound Elvas Avenue in Sacramento. This is a trumpet interchange between J Street and Elvas Avenue, which travels south to 65th Street en route to U.S. 50. Photos taken 12/29/04.
Southbound 65th Street approaches S Street and U.S. 50 in Sacramento. Note that the overhead sign for U.S. 50 west is for Business 80 and California 99 but does not list U.S. 50 (except on the freeway entrance signs). Photos taken 12/29/04.
This U.S. 50 trailblazer shield is found on 59th Street in Sacramento. Photo taken by Dominic Ielati, 03/01.
Northbound Zinfandel Drive approaches the onramp to the westbound U.S. 50 freeway. Photo taken 08/22/03.
This is a typical U.S. 50 freeway entrance shield assembly found in the greater Sacramento area. All of U.S. 50 is a freeway between West Sacramento and the outskirts of Placerville. Photo taken by Joe Rouse, 03/01.
This U.S. 50 shield is found as a reassurance marker along the mainline freeway. Photo taken by Joe Rouse, 03/01.
Southbound Prairie City approaches its junction with U.S. 50/El Dorado Freeway in Folsom. The first right connects to U.S. 50 west to Sacramento, and the second right flies over U.S. 50 to merge onto eastbound U.S. 50 en route to Placerville. Photos taken 06/20/09.
This overhead sign and freeway entrance shield assembly are posted along northbound East Bidwell Street in Folsom at the U.S. 50 interchange. Photos taken 01/15/06.
This shield assembly erroneous shows an Interstate 50 shield in lieu of a U.S. 50 shield. This mistake has since been corrected with normal U.S. 50 route markers. Photos taken 03/01 by Joe Rouse.
South Lake Tahoe, Heavenly Village, and Stateline
Nearing the California-Nevada State Line, U.S. 50/Lake Tahoe Boulevard approaches the "downtown" area of the city of South Lake Tahoe, which features Heavenly Village and a variety of shops, restaurants, and hotels located near the Stateline casinos. Access to the lakeshore is available via several local roads leading north from U.S. 50. A plaza on the south side of U.S. 50 makes for pedestrian access and a venue for events such as Hot August Nights and concerts. Photos taken 07/28/12, 07/29/12, and 07/30/12.
Explore Tahoe: An Urban Trailhead is located on the south side of U.S. 50/Lake Tahoe Boulevard just a few blocks west of the California-Nevada State Line. Inside are exhibits that showcase the natural wonder that is Lake Tahoe, including fascinating imagery that showcases the lake's depth and unusually clear waters. Photos taken 07/30/12.
This series of pictures showcases the incredible view as seen from a platform view on the gondola ride to the top of Heavenly. Views below include the mountains ringing the alpine lake, the Heavenly Village/Stateline area, and the south shore of Lake Tahoe. Photos taken 07/30/12.
High clouds brought on a gorgeous sunset at Heavenly Village in downtown South Lake Tahoe. These views look north past U.S. 50/Lake Tahoe Boulevard, which can be seen in the second picture. The last picture shows the blue sky before the sun went down for the day. Photos taken 08/03/12.
Historic U.S. 50/Lincoln Highway: Manthey Road north
Between the Interstate 5-Interstate 205 split and California 120, Manthey Road (which runs parallel to Interstate 5 through Lathrop) is the old alignment of U.S. 50/Lincoln Highway. This series of pictures follows Manthey Road as it crosses two sets of bridges. The first is a 1932 bridge (note date stamp) that crosses the Paradise Cut. The second, much more substantial bridge, carries Manthey Road over the San Joaquin River. Photos taken 09/05/10.
Northbound Manthey Road (Old U.S. 50/Lincoln Highway) crosses a Pratt through truss bridge to pass over the San Joaquin River. Built in 1926, the bridge has a newer, parallel pedestrian/bicycle bridge alongside it and extends for about 539 feet in length with a 15'3" vertical clearance from the bridge deck. This area is not far from Mossdale Crossing. A parallel span to allow for a four-lane U.S. 50 through here was built in 1949; today, this second span is still in use as part of the transition ramp from California 120 west to Interstate 5 south and Interstate 205 west. Photos taken 09/05/10.
Alternate U.S. 50/Mormon Emigrant Trail east
Alternate U.S. 50, which was signed in 1997-1998, begins at the Sly Park Road interchange in Pollock Pines. Alternate U.S. 50 and El Dorado County Route E-16 travel south along Sly Park Road; they will split at the intersection with Mormon Emigrant Trail. Photo taken 07/28/12.
Eastbound Alternate U.S. 50 and southbound El Dorado County Route E-16/Sly Park Road pass through the forest along a curving alignment. Most of the signs that were formerly in place along this road for Alternate U.S. 50 were gone when we passed through in 2012. Photo taken 07/28/12.
Skipping ahead, this view of eastbound Alternate U.S. 50 is taken a couple miles before the junction with California 88 near a westbound mileage sign. Photo taken 09/05/10.
Alternate U.S. 50/Mormon Emigrant Trail is a two-lane highway for its entire length between Sly Park Road and California 88 (including the narrow segment near Jenkinson Lake). Photo taken 09/05/10.
Eastbound Alternate U.S. 50/Mormon Emigrant Trail approaches its junction with California 88/Carson Pass Highway. No sign advises that Alternate U.S. 50 turns left onto California 88 east. It is likely whatever trailblazer sign was in place at the time it was installed (in 1997) has since been removed. Photo taken 09/05/10.
Alternate U.S. 50/Mormon Emigrant Trail west
Alternate U.S. 50, which is best described as a Detour U.S. 50 route in the event of weather or traffic problems along U.S. 50 through the American River Canyon, follows Mormon Emigrant Trail between Jenkinson Lake and the Iron Mountain Sno-Park. While most signs for Alternate U.S. 50 are covered up and thus not visible to motorists, this mileage sign is posted along westbound Mormon Emigrant Trail about a mile west of the split from California 88/Carson Pass Highway clearly indicates Mormon Emigrant Trail's role as part of Alternate U.S. 50. The sign shows the distance to Junction U.S. 50 (29 miles) and Placerville (40 miles). Photo taken 09/05/10.
Neither the elements nor bullets have been kind to this Alternate U.S. 50 sign, which is the only sign we found uncovered when visiting the area in 2010. Note the button copy border for the sign along with the pasted on ALTERNATE banner, U.S. 50 shield, and WEST banner. Note that this is a summer-only detour route; it is closed during winter. Photo taken 09/05/10.
Beyond the mileage sign, a second sign advises motorists that off-roading is restricted from Mormon Emigrant Trail. Photo taken 09/05/10.
Skipping ahead, westbound Alternate U.S. 50 and northbound El Dorado County Route E-16/Sly Park Road approach their junction with U.S. 50/El Dorado Freeway in Pollock Pines. Neither Alternate U.S. 50 nor E-16 is signed with an END shield. By 2012, many of the Alternate U.S. 50 shield assemblies were gone from this end of the route. Photo taken 07/28/12.
Turn right here for U.S. 50 east to South Lake Tahoe. Continue ahead (under the bridge) and turn left for U.S. 50 west to Sacramento. Continue ahead for the last distance of Sly Park Road before it terminates at Old U.S. 50/Pony Express Trail. Photo taken 07/28/12.
A freeway entrance shield for U.S. 50 east is posted soon thereafter. Photo taken 07/28/12.
Scenes Pertaining to Alternate U.S. 50
A long onramp carries traffic from Sly Park Road (Alternate U.S. 50 and El Dorado County Route E-16) through trees. This is one of our favorite pictures from this area of the state. Photo taken 07/28/12.

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Page Updated September 4, 2012.