Interstate 5

Interstate 5 travels north-south through San Diego County, connecting the international border, downtown San Diego, and the coastal cities in the northern part of the county. This view of Interstate 5 looks northeast from Soledad Mountain as it passes through Rose Canyon en route toward the University of California at San Diego. Photo taken 02/27/11.


Interstate 5 begins at the San Ysidro Port of Entry at the International Border with Mexico and extends north through or near several cities, including San Diego, Santa Ana, Los Angeles, Coalinga, Tracy, Stockton, Sacramento, Redding, and Yreka. It continues into Oregon and Washington en route to Portland and Seattle before ending at the International Border with Canada near Blaine, Washington. Interstate 5 is arguably one of the most important highways in California, connecting the state from the rural extremes of the north to the farm land of the Central Valley to the vastly populated urbanscape of the Southland. The freeway is the lifeline of the state, connecting to most of the major population centers, including Southern California, the Central Valley, and Northern California.

This freeway was built in stages between the 1950s and the 1980s, with the last segment opening along a rural stretch north of Redding. Interstate 5 replaced U.S. 99 for much of its journey in the state, from downtown Los Angeles north to the Oregon State Line. Even though California 99, the successor to U.S. 99 in the Central Valley, is still an extant freeway of its own, most through traffic opts for Interstate 5, including the Los Angeles to San Francisco traffic.

Interstate 5 Highway Guides


San Diego County

The following provides a brief overview of the history of Interstate 5 in San Diego, as well as a glimpse into some future projects recently revealed for the freeway:

  • 1954. $1,335,000 was spent on 1.4-mile segment of U.S. 101 to bypass Mission Bay Drive around Balboa Avenue (California 274). This section of the U.S. 101 freeway is commonly referred to as the "Balboa Avenue Bypass" until it is linked with the Pacific Highway segment of the U.S. 101 freeway by 1959.
  • 1955. The last of several contracts for the construction of the U.S. 101 freeway between the south city limits of Carlsbad and Camp Pendleton was completed.
  • 1957-1958. Montgomery Freeway (U.S. 101) between Mexican Border and National City upgraded to full freeway status with completion of interchanges at Dairy Mart Road, 27th Street, and Palomar Street. Planning between the Federal General Services Administration and the California Department of Highways and Public Works begins for an expansion of the Port of Entry (POE) at San Ysidro border crossing.
  • 1958. Planning begins on construction of U.S. 101 freeway between north city limits of San Diego and south city limits of Carlsbad, via Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, and Leucadia with the approval of the State Highway Commission. There are no budgeted plans to convert U.S. 101 through Camp Pendleton into a four-lane freeway at this time.
  • 1958-1959. Pacific Highway segment of U.S. 101 under construction to be converted to full freeway standards between Laurel Street and Barnett Avenue. During the 1960s, this alignment is abandoned in favor a new alignment over India Street. This section of Pacific Highway is still maintained as a freeway by the City of San Diego today, complete with old signage.
  • 1959-1960. U.S. 101 freeway under construction between National City and San Diego. This freeway will connect several discontinuous segments of San Diego regional freeways, including California 94 (Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway), U.S. 80 (Interstate 8), U.S. 395 (SR-163), and the City of San Diego's Wabash Boulevard (California 15). The U.S. 395 four-level interchange is considered to be the most extensive and complex interchange of the new U.S. 101 freeway construction. The section of U.S. 101 between Market and Laurel Streets is projected to cost $13,000,000 in Fiscal Year 1960.
  • 1962. A Texaco Map shows U.S. 101 at freeway grade along the Montgomery Freeway in the South Bay, at the Balboa Avenue Bypass, and around Carlsbad and Oceanside. U.S. 101 is routed along current Gilman Drive, which used to bisect the University of California at San Diego campus. Today, this old alignment is removed from service.
  • 1966-1967. Entire Interstate 5 (U.S. 101) freeway complete between National City north to Rosecrans Street, while it is under construction through Rose Canyon north of Balboa Avenue Bypass. Ardath Road and future California 52 interchange also under construction as a part of this project. Old Mission Bay Drive near Balboa Avenue commissioned as Business Loop I-5, which is still signed today.
  • Late 1960s. Interstate 5 constructed and opened to traffic between Friars Road and De Anza Cove on east bank of Mission Bay.
  • 1971. Entire Interstate 5 freeway completed; remaining U.S. 101 signs are removed.
  • 1970s. Business Loop I-5 routed along Pacific Highway and Harbor Drive briefly in the early 1970s, although some maps show this designation as late as the 1990s. Signage is gone by the late 1970s.
  • Mid-1995. Phase One of Interstate 5/805/California 56 interchange upgrade ($52,000,000).
  • Early 1996. Southbound auxiliary lanes completed along Interstate 5 in Del Mar area ($8,000,000).
  • 1999. Interstate 5 High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV/Carpool) Lanes at Interstate 5/Interstate 805/California 56 merge under construction, and direct connections from northbound Interstate 5 to eastbound California 56 and from westbound California 56 to southbound Interstate 5 are completed. Other direct transitions at this interchange (southbound to eastbound and westbound to northbound) are proposed but remain unfunded. As for the HOV lanes, the lanes between Interstate 805 and Del Mar Heights Road are completed, additional HOV lanes will be constructed between Del Mar Heights Road and Birmingham Drive. By 2020, HOV lanes are planned extend all the way to California 76 in Oceanside.
  • Spring 2000. Plans announced to realign the Interstate 5/San Ysidro border crossing into Mexico with an unspecified completion date.
  • Summer 2000. Additional details provided on the proposed dual freeway for Interstate 5 from Interstate 805 north to Del Mar Heights Road. The local planning agency, SANDAG, hopes to widen the existing eight-lane freeway by adding two HOV express lanes and a six-lane outer separation ("dual freeway") for all trucks and local traffic exiting at Carmel Valley Road or California 56. This project, conducted in five stages, will cost over $170 million. The construction of the dual freeway began with the two new northbound lanes between Carmel Mountain Road and Del Mar Heights Road along Interstate 5. This construction started in 1995 and is ongoing with the recent completion of the first connections to California 56. Plans call for this segment of Interstate 5 to be 12 to 14 lanes wide. By 2003, there will be three lanes on either side of the main freeway. These three lanes will handle local traffic, while the main four lanes handle through traffic. Right-of-way for this expansion has already been secured, although some sound walls may need to be constructed as mitigation to the freeway's neighbors.
  • Spring 2001. Caltrans announces a signage replacement program for all Interstate highways in the state, and these signs will feature exit numbers. The first such sign along Interstate 5 in San Diego County is for Exit 1B, Via de San Ysidro, along northbound.

Many thanks to Merle F. McClelland for his assistance in creating this historical chronology.

Statewide Opening Dates of Interstate 5

  • Mexico Border to Interstate 805 - July 13th, 1973
  • Interstate 805 to Coronado Avenue - Circa 1955
  • Coronado Avenue to E Street - Circa 1952
  • E Street to 24th Street - November 15th, 1991
  • 24th Street to 18th Street - August 19th, 1965
  • 18th Street to Vesta Street - September 1st, 1965
  • Vesta Street to Island Street - February 28th, 1964
  • Island Street to India Street - Circa 1963
  • India Street to Pacific Highway - August 30th, 1965
  • Pacific Highway to Old Town Avenue - April 17th, 1967
  • Old Town Avenue to San Diego River - July 21st, 1969
  • San Diego River to Sea World Drive - July 26th, 1967
  • Sea World Drive to De Anza Road - June 2nd, 1969
  • De Anza Road to Damon Street - Circa 1954
  • Damon Street to Interstate 805 - June 21st, 1966
  • Interstate 805 to Poinsettia Avenue - Circa 1963
  • Poinsettia Avenue to Palomar Airport Road - June 21st, 1966
  • Palomar Airport Road to north city limits of Oceanside - Circa 1953
  • North city limits of Oceanside to Las Pulgas Road - October 23rd, 1967
  • Las Pulgas Road to San Onofre Creek - May 23rd, 1968
  • San Onofre Creek to Cristanitos Road - November 20th, 1968
  • Cristanitos Road to El Camino Real - Circa 1958
  • El Camino Real to San Juan Road - Circa 1960
  • San Juan Road to Junipero Serra Road - Circa 1958
  • Junipero Serra Road to El Toro Road - Circa 1959
  • El Toro Road to Red Hill Avenue - Circa 1958
  • Red Hill Avenue to California 22 - Circa 1955
  • California 22 to Orange/Los Angeles County Line - Circa 1957
  • Los Angeles County Line to Shoemaker Avenue - Circa 1955
  • Shoemaker Avenue to Pioneer Boulevard - Circa 1954
  • Pioneer Boulevard to Washington Boulevard - Circa 1953
  • Washington Boulevard to Indiana Street - Circa 1951
  • Indiana Street to California 60 - Circa 1948
  • California 60 to Fourth Street - Circa 1960
  • Fourth Street to Interstate 10 - Circa 1959
  • Interstate 10 to Pasadena Avenue - Circa 1960
  • Pasadena Avenue to California 110 - Circa 1962
  • California 110 to Glendale Boulevard - Circa 1961
  • Glendale Boulevard to Alameda Avenue - Circa 1957
  • Alameda Avenue to Magnolia Boulevard - Circa 1959
  • Magnolia Boulevard to Roscoe Boulevard - Circa 1960
  • Roscoe Boulevard to Lankershim Boulevard - Circa 1961
  • Lankershim Boulevard to Interstate 210 - Circa 1963
  • Interstate 210 to Weldon Canyon Road - Circa 1955
  • Weldon Canyon Road to Calgrove Boulevard - October 13th, 1967
  • Calgrove Road to Valencia Boulevard - October 19th, 1967
  • Valencia Boulevard to California 126 - February 11th, 1965
  • California 126 to Lake Hughes Road - November 20th, 1968
  • Lake Hughes Road to Templin Highway - August 27th, 1970
  • Templin Highway to Gorman Road - October 23rd, 1967
  • Gorman Road to Grapevine Creek - September 1st, 1966
  • Grapevine Creek to California Aqueduct - Circa 1960
  • California Aqueduct to California 99 - December 23rd, 1969
  • California 99 to California 119 - March 1st, 1972
  • California 119 to Rowlee Road - February 4th, 1970
  • Rowlee Road to California 46 - August 21st, 1967
  • California 46 to Weiser Road - November 11th, 1970
  • Weiser Road to California 41 - February 25th, 1972
  • California 41 to Avenal Cutoff - May 1st, 1969
  • Avenal Cutoff to California 33 - September 29th, 1970
  • California 33 to California 152 - March 1st, 1972
  • California 152 to Whitworth Road - June 13th, 1966
  • Whitworth Road to Gaffery Road - November 1st, 1967
  • Gaffery Road to Paradise Cutoff - November 23rd, 1971
  • Paradise Cutoff to Roth Road - July 1st, 1972
  • Roth Road to Eighth Street - October 25th, 1971
  • Eighth Street to Stockton Viaduct - September 30th, 1972
  • Stockton Viaduct to Benjamin Holt Drive - July 18th, 1970
  • Benjamin Holt Drive to Hammer Lane - November 23rd, 1971
  • Hammer Lane to Thornton Road - February 7th, 1978
  • Thornton Road to Walnut Grove Road - September 21st, 1979
  • Walnut Grove Road to Dierssen Road - October 12th, 1979
  • Dierssen Road to Beach Lake Road - October 22nd, 1975
  • Beach Lake Road to California 160 - November 22nd, 1974
  • California 160 to Sutterville Road - January 2nd, 1975
  • Sutterville Road to Business Loop I-80 and U.S. 50 - July 15th, 1970
  • Business Loop I-80 and U.S. 50 to California 275 (Tower Bridge) "Boat Section" - January 21st, 1971
  • California 275 to Sacramento Viaduct - July 15th, 1970
  • Sacramento Viaduct to Richards Boulevard - February 11th, 1969
  • Richards Boulevard to Garden Highway - October 17th, 1968
  • Garden Highway to California 99 - August 7th, 1968
  • California 99 to WN Canal - December 18th, 1968
  • WN Canal to County Road 22 - July 9th, 1969
  • County Road 22 to County Road 102 - September 19th, 1969
  • County Road 102 to California 16 - April 3rd, 1973
  • California 16 to Interstate 505 - August 6th, 1970
  • Interstate 505 to County Line Road - October 10th, 1968
  • County Line Road to Meyers Road - November 21st, 1967
  • Meyers Road to North Maxwell Road - December 2nd, 1971
  • North Maxwell Road to County Road 60 - June 23rd, 1970
  • County Road 60 to County Road 33 - August 12th, 1966
  • County Road 33 to Glenn/Tehama County Line - June 16th, 1966
  • Glenn/Tehama County Line to Corning Road - August 29th, 1966
  • Corning Road to South Main Street - December 21st, 1965
  • South Main Street to North Red Bluff Road - November 11th, 1965
  • North Red Bluff Road to Bowman Road - May 1st, 1964
  • Bowman Road to Cottonwood Road - August 7th, 1964
  • Cottonwood Road to Riverside Avenue - December 9th, 1966
  • Riverside Avenue to California 273 - August 19th, 1966
  • California 273 to Pit River Road - December 21st, 1967
  • Pit River Road to Obrien Road - October 21st, 1968
  • Obrien Road to Antler Summit Road - November 21st, 1966
  • Antler Summit Road to Roadside Rest Area - August 22nd, 1972
  • Roadside Rest Area to Sims Road - Circa 1957
  • Sims Road to Sweetbrier Road - Circa 1962
  • Sweetbrier Road to Mott Avenue - Circa 1960
  • Mott Avenue to Mount Shasta Road - October 16th, 1964
  • Mount Shasta Road to North Weed Boulevard - August 6th 1973
  • North Weed to Julien Creek Bridge - October 30th, 1969
  • Julien Creek Bridge to California 96 south junction - October 9th, 1970
  • California 96 south interchange to California 96 north junction - July 1st, 1968
  • California 96 north interchange to Bailey Hill Road - August 22nd, 1974
  • Bailey Hill Road to Oregon State Line - June 3rd, 1966

Many thanks to C.J. Moon for his assistance in providing this historical chronology.

Interstate 5 scenes
These trailblazer shields for Interstate 5 and Interstate 8 are posted on northbound Congress Avenue in Old Town San Diego prior to the Taylor Street intersection near the transit center. Photos taken 03/18/09.
A massive viaduct carries ten lanes of Interstate 5 over the Old Town Transit Center parking lot and Pacific Highway in Old Town San Diego. These pictures were taken looking east from Pacific Highway toward the viaduct, then looking south while under the viaduct. Photos taken 03/18/09.
These trailblazer shields for Interstate 5 are posted along westbound Rosecrans Street at Pacific Highway (Old U.S. 101 and Old Business Loop I-5). Follow Pacific Highway south to Interstate 5 south or north to Interstate 5 north (via the Sea World Drive interchange). Photos taken 03/18/09.
Now traveling on Sea World Drive in San Diego's Morena District, this series of signs follows Sea World Drive west to the connection to Interstate 5. Note the state-named button copy Interstate 5 shield still in use at the interchange; the sign also includes Interstate 8 shields since that freeway is less than a mile south of this interchange. A bridge carries Sea World Drive over West Morena Boulevard, the railroad, and Interstate 5 itself. Photos taken 03/17/09.
This suite of photos provides views looking from Soledad Mountain down to Interstate 5, downtown San Diego, and the Pacific Ocean. Palms line the coastline at La Jolla Shores, which is also visible from Soledad Mountain. In most of these pictures, you can see Interstate 5 wending its way through Rose Canyon, which is generally between Exits 23 and 27 (Balboa Avenue/Mission Bay Drive north to La Jolla Colony Drive/Gilman Drive). Soledad Mountain sits above Exit 26 (interchange between Interstate 5 and California 52). Photos taken 02/27/11.
At the top of Mount Soledad is a cross and war memorial is located at a scenic vista point surrounded by a public park. The cross is visible from Interstate as it travels south into Rose Canyon. The park can be accessed off of La Jolla Scenic Drive. Photos taken 02/27/11.
This trailblazer route marker shield assembly is posted on east/westbound Las Pulgas Road near the Interstate 5 interchange in Camp Pendleton north of Oceanside and south of San Onofre. These pictures show the shields from both directions of Las Pulgas Road near a parking area for those wishing to bicycle or hike Old U.S. 101. Photos taken 06/12/01.
Westbound Lyons Avenue approaches Interstate 5 Exit 167. At this interchange, Lyons Avenue leaves the city of Santa Clarita and changes into Pico Canyon Road en route to Stevenson Ranch. The first right connects to Interstate 5 north to Magic Mountain, Castaic, and Sacramento; the next left connects to Interstate 5 south to Los Angeles. Photos taken 11/25/04.
This Interstate 5 south trailblazer shield is posted on the Lyons Avenue and Pico Canyon Road overpass prior to the left turn to Interstate 5 south in Santa Clarita. Plenty of motorist services (food, gas, lodging) are available at this interchange (Exit 167). A guide sign is posted after the trailblazer shield. Photo taken 11/25/04. Second photo taken 11/25/04. Third photo taken 04/06/12.
This unusual Interstate 5 sign shows the lane allocations along northbound Chiquella Lane prior to the intersection with Pico Canyon Road for access to the freeway as well as Pico Canyon Road west and Lyons Avenue east. Photos taken 04/06/12.
Eastbound Smokey Bear Road approaches its interchange with Interstate 5/Golden State Freeway. These signs are a relic to when Bakersfield was the northbound control city for Interstate 5. As noted earlier (see California 126 photobox above), the control city was changed to Sacramento because Interstate 5 does not actually enter Bakersfield. This control city was more accurate from the days when this freeway was designated as U.S. 99. Photos taken 11/28/02.
The Central Valley looms as we look north on Interstate 5/Golden State Freeway on the Grapevine grade. The eight-lane freeway is one of the busiest rural freeways in the state, as it serves part of the main route from Northern California to Los Angeles. Photo taken 09/25/05.
Now looking south from the same vantage point, Interstate 5 climbs the Grapevine grade toward Fort Tejon. Photo taken 09/25/05.
A 1933 concrete culvert provides drainage under the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 on the Grapevine section of the Golden State Freeway. This particular culvert is located just south of the water turnoff. Photos taken 09/25/05.
Interstate 5 travels through the Grapevine in order to ascend from the Central Valley into the Tehachapi Mountains. This view of the Grapevine grade is seen from Digier Road near the Fort Tejon interchange (Exit 210). The single-slab, concrete segment can be seen in the next suite of photos. Photo taken 09/25/05.
Within the Grapevine, this section of single-slab concrete old alignment of U.S. 99 is located near the "Exit 210, Fort Tejon One Mile" advance sign. While cleaning the highway in 2005, we were able to walk this rarely seen stretch of old alignment. Most of these photos are taken while walking along what would be southbound U.S. 99 except the last two photos, which face northbound U.S. 99. Photos taken 09/25/05.
This sign for Interstate 5 north is unusual because it still shows the original U.S. 99 designation on the sign. Prior to its signs being removed in the years after 1964 (the year it was officially decommissioned), Interstate 5 and U.S. 99 were cosigned in Kern County south of the Exit 221 merge. Note the outline of a former U.S. 99 shield on the right side of this sign. The sign is located on southbound Lebec Service Road near Exit 207. Photos taken 09/25/05.
At Exit 207 (Lebec), this trailblazer shield points the way to Interstate 5/Golden Freeway north on the Lebec Service Road (on the east side of the freeway; Old U.S. 99 is located on the west side of Interstate 5 at Exit 207). Photo taken 09/25/05.
In the same vicinity, now traveling north on Lebec Service Road near Exit 207, this sign points the way to Lebec by crossing over Interstate 5 to the west. To Interstate 5 north to Bakersfield (the official control city is Sacramento; this sign was added before most signs were changed from Bakersfield to Sacramento), use Lebec Service Road north. The previous trailblazer shield can be seen in context. Photo taken 09/25/05.
Eastbound Panoche Road approaches Interstate 5 in the Central Valley near Chaney Ranch. The interchange (Exit 368) is a standard diamond. The first ramp (right turn) connects to Interstate 5 south, and the second ramp (left turn) connects to Interstate 5 north. Photos taken 07/15/09.
Traveling eastbound on Louise Avenue in the city of Lathrop after the Manthey Road intersection, these signs are posted on the approach to Interstate 5. Photos taken 09/05/10.
These freeway entrance signs are posted at the onramp from the Maxwell Safety Rest Area onto northbound Interstate 5. Photos taken 08/02/11.
At Exit 657, westbound Hooker Creek Road meets Interstate 5 at a standard diamond interchange. This view looks west at the onramp to Interstate 5 north to Redding (right turn); the next left connects to Interstate 5 south to Sacramento. Photo taken 08/02/11.
Eastbound Lakeshore Drive approaches Interstate 5 at Exit 702. Turn left for Interstate 5 north to Yreka and Portland or turn right for Interstate 5 south to Redding and Sacramento. Photo taken 05/25/08.
After passing under the freeway, eastbound Lakeshore Drive approaches Interstate 5 north to Yreka and Portland. Continue ahead to Antlers Road, which parallels Interstate 5 on the east side of the freeway through Lakehead. Photo taken 05/25/08.
Eastbound Dog Creek Road approaches Interstate 5 at Exit 707. The first right connects to Interstate 5 south to Redding and Sacramento, while the second right connects to Interstate 5 north to Dunsmuir, Yreka, and Portland. Photo taken 05/25/08.
Westbound Sims Road passes under Interstate 5 and approaches the connecting ramp to Interstate 5 south to Redding. This sign is located at Exit 718 in the Sacramento River Canyon. Photo taken 05/25/08.
Also at Exit 718 and traveling east along Sims Road, we find this sign assembly for Interstate 5 north to Dunsmuir. The sign uses the name "Simms," but another sign reads "Sims." We'll go with the shorter version for the correct spelling. Photo taken 05/25/08.
An Interstate 5 north freeway entrance shield assembly (classic style) is posted along Castle Creek Road in Castella. This is at Exit 724. Photo taken 05/25/08.
Traveling east along Castle Creek Road, we find a guide sign pointing the way to Interstate 5 north to Dunsmuir. This sign looks relatively new, but ... Photo taken 05/25/08.
The back of that guide sign reveals a 1959 sign is hidden beneath it! The button copy of the word "Dunsmuir" is visible on the back side of the sign. This dates back to when U.S. 99 used to provide expressway access through here. Photo taken 05/25/08.
Westbound Soda Creek Road approaches Interstate 5 at Exit 726. Turn right for Interstate 5 north to Dunsmuir or turn left for Interstate 5 south to Redding. Photos taken 05/25/08.

Back to California 4 Return to the California Gateway Continue to U.S. 6

Photo Credits:

2001-06-12, 2002-11-28, 2004-11-25, 2005-09-25, 2008-05-25, 2009-03-17, 2009-03-18, 2009-07-15, 2010-09-05, 2011-02-27, 2011-08-02, 2012-04-06 by AARoads

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Interstate 805

Page Updated 09-16-2012.

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