Interstate 238

Interstate 238 is a short, 2.23-mile freeway connector between Interstates 880 and 580 in San Leandro and Hayward. The route functions as a freeway connector between Interstate 580 east to the Central Valley and Interstate 880 to San Jose and Oakland. Interstate 238 also serves as part of the truck route into Oakland, as trucks are prohibited on portions of Interstate 580 in the city of Oakland. The route is signed north-south for continuity with adjacent California 238; however, Interstate 238 really travels east-west on the short freeway section.

History and Planned Improvements

Interstate 238 is the only freeway segment built of a much longer corridor. The legislative route 238 is assigned to California 238 from Interstate 680 north to Interstate 580, Interstate 238 from Interstate 580 to Interstate 880, and unconstructed California 238 from Interstate 880 to California 61.

The first segment is signed California 238 and follows Mission Boulevard and Foothill Boulevard from Interstate 680 north to Interstate 580. Historically, plans called for Mission Boulevard to be bypassed by a freeway on an alignment in the foothills; however, local opposition, lawsuits, and funding concerns delayed action on this route. By 2005, plans were to sell the right of way previously acquired for this new alignment and use the proceeds from the land sales to improve existing road facilities. These funds would construct a new grade separation at the junction of California 92-185-238 intersection in downtown Hayward and add more lanes to the corridor. However, these improvements will not result in a limited access route.

The middle segment is the freeway section. It is mostly four lanes wide, but it is planned for widening in the coming years through the same 238 project designed to improve the surface street through Hayward. The freeway is often very congested to the point that it is stop and go for the entire length of the freeway depending on the direction of the rush hours. The freeway closely parallels east-west Lewelling Boulevard.

The third segment was conceived to connect Interstate 880 and Interstate 580 with the often-proposed but never-constructed Southern Crossing. The Southern Crossing, which appears on several mid-1960s General Drafting and Gousha maps, would have had approaches from Interstate 238 and Interstate 980; the freeways would have converged at a point near Oakland International Airport on a new alignment of California 61 that likely would have been built on fill or causeway. The Southern Crossing, which does not have a state route designation, would then cross the bay, connecting with unconstructed California 230, Interstate 380, and U.S. 101 near San Francisco International Airport.

238: An Unusual Number for an Interstate Highway

Unlike most other three-digit Interstate routes, Interstate 238 has no parent route (there is no Interstate 38). Whereas Interstate 880 and 580 both have Interstate 80 as their parent routes, Interstate 238 does not. The reason why Interstate 238 exists as an Interstate Highway is due to the timing of its acceptance into the Interstate Highway System; at that time, all "children" routes of Interstate 80 (180 through 980) were reserved for other routes.

Interstate 238 was created in 1984 as a result of California State Assembly Bill 2741, which modified the route numbering for California 17 and Interstate 580 in the state highway system. This legislation introduced Interstate 238 and Interstate 980 in Oakland, as well as provided for an extension of Interstate 580 to Marin County and creation of a new Interstate 880 between San Jose and Oakland. Although no numerical change was made to 238, it became an Interstate route. In 1985, the resignage of the routes affected by AB 2741 was completed. Signs were erected along the short route of Interstate 238 to proclaim its newfound status. The freeway portion of California 238 was resigned as Interstate 238 at this time. It is likely that Interstate 238 was commissioned because there were no other x80 designations available.

Two Interstate x80 designations are not in use currently: the 480 designation (former Embarcadero Freeway in downtown San Francisco), which has been removed from the state system, and the 180 designation, which refers to the long east-west state route through Fresno. The number 480 is synonymous with the unloved Embarcadero Freeway, so that number is really not a good choice politically. Since California does not duplicate its state routes, Interstate 180 is not available either, even though Interstate 180 briefly emerged in the mid-1980s as the designation for the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (which is now part of Interstate 580). Therefore, Interstate 238 is the best choice given the circumstances. Even so, it gives road enthusiasts heartburn since it does not comply with the accepted numbering structure.

Interstate 238 north
Interstate 238 begins as a left exit from Interstate 580 (Exit 34) in the city of Hayward, the "Heart of the Bay." Encompassing 62.55 square miles, Hayward is the third largest city in the East Bay (only after Oakland and Fremont). Total population as of the 2000 Census was 140,030. Hayward was incorporated as a town in 1876 and as a city on September 18, 1928. While Interstate 580 turns northwest along the MacArthur Freeway corridor (Old U.S. 50), Interstate 238 continues due west to meet Interstate 880 in San Leandro. Photo taken 11/27/05.
Transition ramps overhead carry Interstate 580 eastbound traffic over Interstate 238. Ahead is the merge point where traffic from California 238 merges onto Interstate 238 west. Photo taken 11/27/05.
The first exit on Interstate 238 west is Exit 15, California 185 (East 14th Street) and Mission Boulevard. Use California 185 south to Hayward and north to Bayfair Mall and San Leandro. Photo taken 11/27/05.
Northbound Interstate 238 reaches Exit 15, California 185 (East 14th Street). Photo taken 11/27/05.
An Interstate 238 reassurance shield is posted shortly after the on-ramp from California 185 (Exit 15). Only two through lanes serve this section of Interstate 238, making this a very busy route with plenty of congestion during commute hours. Photo taken 12/27/01.
The final exits on Interstate 238 are: Exit 16A, Interstate 880/Admiral Nimitz Freeway south to California 92/San Mateo Bridge; Exit 16B, Hesperian Boulevard to San Lorenzo; Exit 17A, Washington Avenue; and Exit 17B, Interstate 880 north (left exit). Photo taken 11/27/05.
Westbound Interstate 238 approaches Exit 16A, Interstate 880/Admiral Nimitz Freeway south to California 92/San Mateo Bridge. This connection is part of the most direct route from the Central Valley to the Peninsula cities of San Mateo, Foster City, and Belmont. A direct flyover ramp carries traffic from Interstate 238 west (north) to Interstate 880 south. Photo taken 11/27/05.
The right lane of Interstate 238 west (north) connects to Exit 16A, Interstate 880/Admiral Nimitz Freeway south to California 92/San Mateo Bridge. The next exit is Exit 16B, Hesperian Boulevard to San Lorenzo. Through traffic is now signed for Interstate 880 north, which is part of the truck bypass for Interstate 580/MacArthur Freeway. Photo taken 11/27/05.
A two-lane transition ramp carries motorists from Interstate 238 west to Interstate 880/Admiral Nimitz Freeway south. This ramp is tall enough to be visible from planes flying into Oakland International Airport. Photo taken 11/27/05.
After the Interstate 880 south exit, northbound Interstate 238 next reaches Exit 16B, Hesperian Boulevard/San Lorenzo. Interstate 238 will end shortly, as the northbound (westbound) lanes swing north and prepare to merge onto Interstate 880 north. Photo taken 12/27/01.
Now transitioning from Interstate 238 north to Interstate 880 north, a side ramp allows access to Washington Avenue at Exit 17A. This ramp serves the city of San Leandro. Home to 79,452 people per the 2000 Census, San Leandro is a southern suburb of Oakland, located between Oakland and unincorporated San Lorenzo. Incorporated as a town on March 21, 1872, San Leandro functioned briefly as the county seat of Alameda County prior to the 1868 Earthquake (when the courthouse at the intersection of Clarke Street and Davis Street was destroyed, and the county seat moved to Oakland). Photo taken 12/27/01.
Shortly thereafter, Interstate 238 north ends and transitions onto Interstate 880 north at Exit 17B. There is no end shield present. Photo taken 12/27/01.
Interstate 238 south
Interstate 238 south (eastbound) at the point where the Interstate 880 south collector distributor lanes split, with the left two lanes turning onto Interstate 238 east and the right lane returning to Interstate 880 south. Through traffic on Interstate 880 south should merge right. Interstate 238 begins in the city of San Leandro but departs that city and enters unincorporated Ashland after passing Hesperian Boulevard. Photo taken 07/04/06.
The left two lanes pass under Interstate 880 and follow Interstate 238 east to unincorporated Castro Valley, Stockton, and Fresno. Notably, Interstate 238 does not even come close to entering either of these cities, and neither does Interstate 580. However, Interstate 580 offers connections to California 99 north to Stockton and south to Fresno. Interstate 238 is signed "south" because it changes into California 238 after the interchange with Interstate 580; California 238 follows Mission Boulevard south to a junction with Interstate 680. Photo taken 07/04/06.
Most of Interstate 238 east is a two-lane freeway. A tall flyover ramp crosses the eastbound lanes; the ramp connects Interstate 238 north (west) with Interstate 880 south. Photo taken 07/04/06.
After traffic from Interstate 880 north merges onto Interstate 238 east, this reassurance shield for Interstate 238 south is posted. Beyond that is the first sign for the only independent exit on Interstate 238, which is Exit 15, California 185/14th Street north and California 185 (Mission Boulevard) south. This brief section of southbound (eastbound) Interstate 238 is three lanes wide. Photo taken 07/04/06.
The right lane becomes exit only for California 185, a major arterial route that begins in downtown Hayward and extends north along Mission Boulevard, 14th Street, and International Boulevard to the California 77 (42nd Avenue) junction in Oakland. Much of the route keeps former California 17 in the state highway system. Photo taken 07/04/06.
Southbound Interstate 238 reaches Exit 15, California 185 (Mission Boulevard) south to Hayward and north to unincorporated Ashland, the city of San Leandro, and Oakland. In the distance, the freeway stack interchange between Interstate 580, Interstate 238, and California 238 (Foothill Boulevard) can be seen. Photo taken 07/04/06.
The next and final exit on southbound (eastbound) Interstate 238 is Exit 14, which is signed as California 238 (Foothill Boulevard) south. However, technically Exit 14 is the left exit to Interstate 580/Arthur Breed Freeway east to Stockton/Tracy and Interstate 580/MacArthur Freeway west to Oakland/San Francisco. Photo taken 07/04/06.
A second and final Interstate 238 south reassurance shield assembly is posted after the California 185 on-ramp. The right lane will provide an exit to California 238 (Foothill Boulevard) south, while the left two lanes will transition directly onto Interstate 580 east. Use the California 238 exit to Castro Valley Boulevard, which travels east along the old alignment of U.S. 50 through Castro Valley. Photo taken 07/04/06.
Southbound Interstate 238 ends as California 238 south departs from the freeway to follow Foothill Boulevard south. California 238 was intended to be a freeway along the Foothill Boulevard and Mission Boulevard corridor south to Interstate 680. While some advocate construction of this freeway to this day, there are no plans to construct it. One of the side effects is that Mission Boulevard is an extremely busy road from Hayward south to Interstate 680. Photo taken 07/04/06.
The off-ramp to California 238 quickly divides, with the right lane connecting to California 238 (Foothill Boulevard) south and the left lane connecting to Castro Valley Boulevard east. Photo taken 07/04/06.
As the massive Interstate 580 interchange comes into view, the right lane becomes exit only for a loop ramp onto Interstate 580/MacArthur Freeway northwest to Oakland and San Francisco. The left two lanes continue onto Interstate 580/Arthur Breed Freeway east. Photo taken 07/04/06.
The ramp to Interstate 580 divides, with the left two lanes connecting to eastbound Interstate 580 and the right lane departing for Interstate 580 west. There are issues with the numbering of the routes through here, since it seems odd that the "through" route here changes numbers from 238 to 580. Moreover, Interstate 238 should be signed as east-west, and one could argue that Interstate 580 between Interstate 238 and Interstate 80 should be signed as north-south rather than east-west considering it roughly parallels Interstate 880 between those two points. But for now, it is what it is. Photo taken 07/04/06.
A massive ramp carries Interstate 580 east traffic over the traffic incoming from Interstate 238. The two routes merge ahead. Photo taken 07/04/06.
The two lanes of incoming traffic from Interstate 238 south becomes the two left lanes of Interstate 580 east. Near the point where Interstate 238 merges with Interstate 580, the freeway comes close to the city limits of Hayward. The city of Hayward is known as the "Heart of the Bay." Encompassing 62.55 square miles, Hayward is the third largest city in the East Bay (only after Oakland and Fremont). Total population as of the 2000 Census was 140,030. Hayward was incorporated as a town in 1876 and as a city on September 18, 1928. Photo taken 07/04/06.
Due to the lack of a truck bypass, all the trucks that use the Interstate 880 route between Oakland and Hayward must now accomplish a lane change to the right in order to stay within the law that requires trucks to use the right lanes. Photo taken 07/04/06.
One could argue that Interstate 238 ends here, as Interstate 238 and Interstate 580 merge into a five-lane freeway. From here, Interstate 580 travels east to Dublin/Pleasanton, Livermore, Tracy (via Interstate 205), Fresno (via Interstate 5 and California 152) and Los Angeles (via Interstate 5). Photo taken 07/04/06.
Interstate 238 scenes
Interstate 238 freeway entrance signage as seen from Lewelling Boulevard. Photos taken 12/27/01.

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Page Updated September 24, 2007.

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