California Highways: Route by Route History,Legislative (LRN),Pre-1964,US Highways Episode 1.02: Building a State Highway System: The 1920s

Episode 1.02: Building a State Highway System: The 1920s

This first season of California Highways: Route by Route establishes the background listeners will need for our subsequent route by route podcasts. We’re starting with a history of the state highway system. In Episode 1.01, we discussed how the highway system started and got through the first three bond acts that created a large number of today’s routes. This second episode explores the 1920s: the start of the gas tax, the Melville Act that allowed the state to take over traversable highways through small cities that cannot afford them, as opposed to just rural highways between cities, the impact of the Breed Bill, and the establishment of the Division of Highways (today’s Caltrans). We’ll go over some of the major highways added during this time period, and most importantly, we’ll discuss the start of the Federal Highway system, better known today as the US Highways. We’ve got a special interview related to that subject: Joel Windmiller, President of the California Chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association.

Here’s the link to the show:

Here’s a link to the show on

Here are some relevant links:

We welcome your comments on the episode. We’re also looking for someone to donate or provide more appropriate theme music.

We’re looking for interviews for the remaining set of Season 1 episodes, as indicated. If you’ve got a lead on a speaker, please let me know.

  • 1.04: Building a State Highway System: Expanding the System: Someone to talk on the 1956 Interstate Highway Bill
  • 1.05: Building a State Highway System: The Great Renumbering and New Freeways: Someone to talk on the construction boom of the 1960s and/or the impact of the great renumbering.
  • 1.06: Building a State Highway System: CEPA and Reality: Someone to talk on the impact of budget cuts and the California EPA/EQA on highway construction
  • 1.07: Highway Numbering: State Highways: Someone to talk on how the state numbers state highways — in particular, anything official on numbering patterns, or the rules for signing things.
  • 1.08: Highway Numbering: US Highways: Here I’d like someone to talk on the role of AASHTO on numbering US highways
  • 1.09: Highway Numbering: Interstates: This is Interstate numbering, so again an expert on Interstates — either numbering, the federal aid highway acts, or the chargeable/non-chargeable distinction
  • 1.10: Highway Numbering: County Routes: This is numbering of county highways, so anyone from a county public works department on the signed route system
  • 1.11: The Naming of Highways: A state legislator on highway naming resolutions
  • 1.12: The Organizations of State Highways: Someone from the California Transportation Commission on the role of the commission.

1 thought on “Episode 1.02: Building a State Highway System: The 1920s”

  1. You guys commented on why there is much more nostalgia for US 66, 99 and the Lincoln Highway than there is for US 101. I think the main reason for that is that 101 still exists as a main road.

    101 has had some historic interest in California as El Camino Real. But It’s also still heavily used by a broad population of sightseers, unlike the more nostalgic routes.

    The dust bowl connection to 66 and 99 is good point though.

    Thanks for the great podcast!

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